Ivan Konev : biography

28 December 1897 - 21 May 1973

After the victory at Kursk, Konev's armies retook Belgorod, Odessa, Kharkiv and Kiev. The subsequent Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944. The offensive was part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, commanded, respectively, by Nikolai Vatutin and Konev, trapped German forces of Army Group South in a pocket or cauldron west of the Dnieper river. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket; the subsequent Korsun battle eliminated the cauldron.

For his achievements in the Ukraine Konev was promoted by Stalin to Marshal of the Soviet Union in February 1944. He was one of Stalin's favourite generals and one of the few senior commanders whom even Stalin admired for his ruthlessness. Konev, according to Beria's son, had "wicked little eyes, a shaven head that looked like a pumpkin and an expression full of self-conceit."Berlin, the Downfall 1945, by Antony Beevor, page 16.

During 1944 Konev's armies advanced from Ukraine and Belarus into Poland and later into Czechoslovakia. By July he had advanced to the Vistula River in central Poland, and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. In September 1944 his forces, now designated the Fourth Ukrainian Front, advanced into Slovakia and helped the Slovak partisans in their rebellion against German occupation.

In January 1945 Konev, together with Georgy Zhukov, commanded the Soviet armies which launched the massive winter offensive in western Poland, driving the German forces from the Vistula to the Oder River. In southern Poland his armies seized Kraków. Konev preserved Kraków from Nazi-planned destruction by ordering a lightning attack on the city.Makhmut Gareev, , Krasnaia Zvezda, April 12, 2001 Konev's January 1945 offensive also prevented planned destruction of the Silesian industry by the retreating Germans.

In April his troops, together with the 1st Belorussian Front under his competitor, Marshal Zhukov, forced the line of the Oder and advanced towards Berlin. Konev's forces entered the city, but Stalin gave Zhukov the honour of capturing Berlin and hoisting the Soviet flag over Reichstag. Konev was ordered to the south-west, where his forces linked up with elements of the United States Army at Torgau and also retook Prague shortly after the official surrender of the German forces.

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