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Authenticity Versus Arrogance

Pictured: (far left) A. A. Grechko, L. I. Brezhnev, E. Honecker, Commander-in-Chief of the GSVG E. F. Ivanovsky, and V. I. Chuikov (far right) at a parade commemorating the 25th anniversary of the birth of the GDR. Berlin, 1974.

Recently, I started reading further into Vasily Pavlovich Bryukhov’s memoir titled True Tank Ace: Armour-piercing, Fire! He began service with Chuikov as his aide-de-camp in mid-1952. They worked together for only a few months—when Vasily Ivanovich transitioned to the Kyiv Military District in 1953, Bryukhov remained in Germany to aid Marshal Grechko (then ranked a Colonel General) as he settled into the leadership position.

From Bryukhov’s description, the contrast between Chuikov’s and Grechko’s leadership styles is almost jarring. Upon meeting his new staff in Germany, Grechko was aloof and unapproachable, and he practically ignored them. However, in saying his farewells to his former team, the personable leader Chuikov spent two days connecting with them one final time.

“Chuikov gathered and said goodbye to the leadership of the GDR, his deputy and army commanders for two days. I accompanied him to the airfield, where a mail plane was waiting for him, flying straight to Kyiv.

On the morning of the third day, I reported to the new Commander-in-Chief that General Chuikov had left and I was awaiting his instructions.

‘We’re going to headquarters,’ Grechko said dryly and, as it seemed to me, with hostility.

We drive up to the headquarters and get out of the car. All the deputies, whom I warned that I was going after the new Commander-in-Chief, lined up in one line. Grechko looked at everyone arrogantly and contemptuously and, without shaking his hand with anyone, said: ‘Bryukhov, take me to the office.’

I'm leading the way. The new Commander-in-Chief walks majestically behind me with his head held high, and his deputies trail behind him in complete silence, like mischievous boys. Even the member of the Military Council did not say a word - apparently he felt guilty for not meeting him at the airfield.”

A meticulous Chuikov, who remained closely in touch with the daily workings of events in the GDR, took time to carefully review correspondence addressed to him. Grechko could not be bothered with such mundane tasks, as is evidenced in Bryukhov’s memoirs. In essence, Grechko dodged some of his responsibilities, relying upon others to handle those matters instead. When Grechko entered his office for the first day of his new position, the following exchange took place with Bryukhov:

“[Grechko asked,] ‘What kind of pile is this?’

‘This is mail to your address. General Chuikov always analyzed it, made decisions, wrote resolutions, and I sorted it out according to the executors.’

‘What kind of fool is doing this?! Why the hell do I need this pile of dung?’ He hit it with his hand, either on purpose or mechanically, and the papers fell to the floor. Grechko looked and silently went into the restroom, returning when I had collected everything.

‘Give all these documents to the secretary of the Military Council, let him deal with it, and just prepare for me a folder with encrypted messages from the minister and from the army commanders. So that nothing else would happen. There should always be fresh newspapers and magazines in the restroom. Clear?’

‘Yes, exactly, clearly.’ I took this huge folder to the secretary of the Military Council:

‘Well, that’s it, your heavenly life is over. Find out, report to the head of the Military Council, and what decisions he will make is his business.’

It must be said that Grechko was infuriated by everything connected with Chuikov. Just a couple of weeks before his departure, Chuikov ordered the chairs in the Officers' House to be upholstered with red velvet. Grechko came: ‘What color is this?! Bright, unpleasant!’

‘Two weeks ago Chuikov ordered the upholstery to be changed.’

‘What fool came up with this color?! In two weeks to be filled with blue!’

It should be noted that after the death of Stalin, and especially during the time of Brezhnev, who declared that ‘we will spend as much money on the army as necessary,’ high-ranking military leaders, from the Minister of Defense to the commander of the district troops, stopped counting money.”



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