Georgi Vladimov: Генерал и его армия [The General and His Army]


The latest addition to my website is Georgi Vladimov‘s Генерал и его армия [The General and His Army]. This is a fictionalised account of the Soviet capture of Kiev from the retreating Nazis in 1943 and the Battle of Moscow in 1941. The eponymous general is General Kobrisov, based on General Chibisov. Vladimov came in for a lot of criticism for this book, despite the fact that it won the Russian Booker, primarily because of what critics saw as historical inaccuracies. However, Vladimov is not writing a historical account but a fictionalised account and various actions involving General Kobrisov, as well as place names, various characters and various events are fiction. Much of the action follows events outside Kiev (called Predslavl’ in this book) as the Soviet army is held up by German resistance. General Kobrisov persuades his superior that he needs to attack the town of Miriatin (real-life Liutezh) but, once he has affected a clever crossing of the Dnieper heads for Predslavl’/Kiev, instead of Miriatin. However, the army council, including the very real life Zhukov and Khrushchev, hold him back, not least because it is felt that a Ukrainian general should have the honour of capturing Kiev. During the earlier Battle of Moscow, he sets out for a party with a general friend but ends up in the wrong town, one occupied by the Germans, and nearly gets himself killed. As an indirect result, two regiments looking for him, find another general by mistake. This general steals the regiments, pushes back the Germans and saves Moscow. Indeed, General Kobrisov is so impetuous that a SMERSH is sent to spy on him. It is a very fine book about military manoeuvres, military politics and things that go on during a war. Sadly, it is not available in English.

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