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The Marshal as a Muse: Chuikov’s Collaboration with Evgeny Vuchetich

Pictured: A citation featuring the image of “To Stand to the Death.” The translation reads, “Comrade Yurkov Nikolai Dmitrievich—For active participation in the establishment of a monument on Mamaev Kurgan for the displacement of the German-Fascist troops in the battle on the Volga,” signed by Marshal V. I. Chuikov and Sculptor E. V. Vuchetich, 1 February 1967; Vuchetich and Marshal Chuikov.

During Marshal Chuikov’s long life of service, he had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with numerous professionals. In my studies of Vasily Ivanovich over the past 1.5 years, I have learned that he seemed to understand the importance of networking with others and developing strong collaborative relationships. In the world of social science theory, this is known as social exchange. But for Marshal Chuikov, it was much more than a professional exchange in terms of building friendships lasting many years. He had the ability to connect with people on a number of levels, for he was approachable and reciprocated well.

One such example of a collaborative friendship was his relationship with renowned Soviet sculptor Evgeny Vuchetich. In celebration of the victory of the Great Patriotic War, Vuchetich was selected to create the images of Soviet generals and marshals. His sculpted piece capturing the stunning life-like image of Colonel-General Chuikov was completed in 1947, and it won the Stalin Prize of the second degree in 1948.

The two men continued working together over the years, and the following excerpts of interviews with Chuikov’s son and grandson shed light on their collaboration. First, Marshal Chuikov’s son, Alexander Vasilievich, shared about the memorial at Mamaev Kurgan and his father’s partnership with Vuchetich in an interview with Maya Peshkova on the talk show “Unpassed Time” on 25 April 2010.

M. Peshkova: It was your father who was the protagonist when they created the memorial on the Mamayev Kurgan. He watched [and] he checked. And he considered this memorial his life's work.

A. Chuikov: In principle, Treptow Park [in Berlin] is also [my father’s] life's work. By the way, one of his closest friends was Evgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich. They were still friends in Germany, Evgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich was at home. There was a General Proshlyakov who did all the engineering preparations, materials—all this was his handiwork, [but] it was the brainchild of my father. I even remember these endless meetings, because it was a grandiose project [and] a lot of people were involved there.

Ten years later, Marshal Chuikov’s grandson, Nikolai Vladimirovich shared in an interview on 2 February 2020.

Interviewer: Is it true that the image of Chuikov served as the basis for several monuments created by Vuchetich?

N. Chuikov: Yes, and I have evidence of that. For example, Vasily Chuikov became the prototype for the monument “To Stand to the Death” (one of the sculptures on Mamaev Kurgan, created under the direction of the sculptor E.V. Vuchetich - ed.). […] For Vuchetich, Chuikov was like a muse for the poet. He believed that he had a purposeful, courageous face, which is very characteristic of a warrior hero. Therefore, he used Chuikov's appearance in three monuments. There is also a monument in the village of Pyatimorsk of the Kalachevsky district of the Volgograd region, which is called the "Union of Fronts"(a monument dedicated to the historical meeting of the troops of the Southwestern and Stalingrad fronts, which took place on 23 November 1942, near the town of Kalach in the area of ​​the Sovetsky farm - ed.). Look at the face of a man with a submachine gun and a grenade - it's the spitting image of Chuikov. I know my grandfather!


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