This book would be a dream to the likes of Jack Ryan's CIA research unit or George Smiley's Connie Sachs. It is a very comprehensive biography of a man who is not too well known in the West but had a considerable influence on Russian history. He is one of the faces alongside Brezhnev on top of Lenin's Mausoleum.
- Boris Sokolov
The book is a true heavyweight in all descriptions. Its a large book and heavy. The translator has maintained the style of the author, even if this makes it a little confusing. The author does use forenames, patronymic and surname interchangeably. This necessitates a flick back a couple of pages to identify which Sergey Sergeyvich he is describing. The detail includes a complete chapter on who his father was. (He was the illegitimate son of an Odessa police chief) which a lesser level of detail would have completed in one page.
He was a big tough man who served well in France in World War 1 and remarkably joined the French Foreign Legion at one point. His true service, however, was to the Soviet Union, of which he was an ardent supporter, even to the point of betraying his lifelong friend, Khrushchev.
Of particular interest is that some of his reports to the stavka have been printed almost in entirety. The report regarding the Spanish Civil War is particularly illuminating. It displays his deep understanding of strategy and tactics.
His actions in the Great Patriotic War are equally detailed and impressive.
The book has the tag line of “Architect of the Modern Soviet Army“ and this is largely true. He set the structure to many aspects of the Soviet military. One example is how he developed the anti-aircraft defences which shot down Gary Powers.
He seemed to find contentment in his later years, and his daughter is quoted at length. He appeared to be a kindly man, with a considerable degree of empathy, rare for such a rank, and at such a point in history. He preferred dog walking (His dog was from England and was called Milord) to hunting.
Like many true servants to the Soviet Union he died of pancreatic cancer in the Kremlin hospital.
Essentially the author illuminates the murky world of the soviet higher echelons though turbulent times.