Ivan Konev

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Our neighbors use searchlights, for they want more light. I tell you, Nikolai Pavlovich, we need more darkness.

Ivan Stepanovich Konev (28 December [O.S. 16 December] 189721 May 1973) was a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, responsible for taking much of Axis-occupied Eastern Europe, including the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin.

In 1956, he was appointed commander of the Warsaw Pact armed forces, and led the violent suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. In 1961, as commander of Soviet forces in East Germany, he ordered the closing of West Berlin to East Berlin during the building of the Berlin Wall. Konev remained one of the Soviet Union's most admired military figures until his death in 1973.


  • As for me, I had to know exactly what the situation was in Dukla Pass. Moscow had demanded it.
    • Quoted in "The Last Six Months: Russia's Final Battles with Hitler's Armies in World War II" - Page 312 - by Sergeĭ Matveevich Shtemenko - History - 1977.
  • We plan alone but we fulfill our plans together with the enemy, as it were, in accordance with his opposition.
    • Quoted in "How Wars End: Eye-witness Accounts of the Fall of Berlin" - by Vladimir Sevruk - History - 1974 - Page 27.
  • I do not want to give any orders to the airmen, but get hold of a Komsomol air unit, and say I want volunteers for the job.
    • Quoted in "Russia at War, 1941-1945" - Page 779 - by Alexander Werth - 1964.
  • Our neighbors use searchlights, for they want more light. I tell you, Nikolai Pavlovich, we need more darkness.
    • Quoted in "The Last Battle" - Page 354 - by Cornelius Ryan - History - 1966.

Quotes about Konev

Once I said to Konev, "You've made ten demands at this Council meeting that we can't meet. But suppose I should say, 'All right. We agree to all ten demands.' Then what would you do?" "Tomorrow," he said, "I'd have ten new ones." ~ Mark W. Clark
  • Konev was waiting with his staff outside the gloomy villa he had commandeered for a CP. A powerfully built man with a huge bald head, Konev took me first to his office for a moment of private conversation through our interpreters. I gave him a map I had prepared for the occasion, showing the disposition of every U.S. division across his group front. The marshal started in surprise but did not volunteer to show me his own dispositions. Had he wanted to, he probably would have had to ask permission from the Kremlin. American lieutenants were delegated greater authority on the Elbe than were Russian division commanders.
  • After dinner Konev led us into the great hall of his house. A chorus of Red Army soldiers broke into the "Star-Spangled Banner" and their resonant voices filled the room. Konev explained that the chorus had memorized the anthem without knowing a word of English. Then to the accompaniment of a dozen balalaikas, a ballet troupe danced into the room. "Why, that's splendid," I exclaimed. Konev shrugged his shoulders. "Just a few girls," he explained, "from the Red Army." Two weeks later when Konev repaid our call with one to our CP, he was enthralled with the violin virtuosity of a thin khaki-clad man. "Magnificent," cried the marshal in delight. "Oh, that," I said. "Nothing, nothing at all. Just one of our American soldiers."
    • Omar Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951), p. 551-553
  • As we left Konev's villa that afternoon, the marshal accompanied me into the garden. An orderly led out a Don Caucasus stallion whose saddle bore a Red Army star. Konev handed me the saddle and a handsomely carved Russian pistol. Anticipating this exchange of gifts, I had carried along in the rear of the Mary Q a new jeep just unloaded from Antwerp. Across the cowling we had painted this inscription in both English and Russian: "To the Commander of the First Ukrainian Army Group from Soldiers of the 1st, 3rd, 9th, and 15th American Armies." A holster was affixed to the jeep with a brightly polished new carbine. And we stuffed the tool compartment with American cigarettes. "I'll probably get stuck by the comptroller and have to pay for this thing 20 years after the war," I told Hansen when he ordered the jeep from Antwerp, "but what the dickens, I don't suppose we can go up empty-handed."
    • Omar Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951), p. 553
  • Our difficulties with the Russians increased, but I never really blamed Konev. He obviously was merely carrying out instructions. He even had a sense of humor about it occasionally. Once when we were discussing Austrian politics, the name of the Communist party leader, Ernst Fischer, was mentioned. Jokingly, I said: "Well, I don't like him because he is a Communist." Konev grunted. "That's fine," he said. "I don't like him either because he's an Austrian Communist."
  • On another occasion, I decided to give Konev, who liked to hunt, a custom-built rifle, with a silver plate on the stock inscribed "To Marshal Konev, from his friend, General Clark." I wasn't sure he would get it if I simply delivered it to his headquarters, so I had an officer take it to him. I didn't even get an acknowledgement from Konev, although I saw him on several official occasions. Finally, about three weeks after I had sent the gun, I walked to lunch with him after the commissioners' meeting. Speaking through an interpreter, I asked if he had received the gun. "Yes". "Ask the marshal whether he liked it." "Yes". "I just wondered," I said. "I hadn't received any acknowledgement." "Well, you didn't send any ammunition."
  • Once I said to Konev, "You've made ten demands at this Council meeting that we can't meet. But suppose I should say, 'All right. We agree to all ten demands.' Then what would you do?" "Tomorrow," he said, "I'd have ten new ones."
    • Mark W. Clark, in his book From the Danube to the Yalu (1954), p. 493
  • On March 31 Stalin received a message from Eisenhower, intended to improve coordination between their armies. The Allied commander stated that his troops were now thrusting toward Leipzig, south of Berlin, rather than the German capital. Given the mindset in the Kremlin, the message was probably dismissed as sinister disinformation. Next day Stalin summoned Zhukov and Ivan Koniev, his two top marshals, and asked: “Who is going to take Berlin: are we or the Allies?” There was one only possible answer, and Koniev gave it immediately: “It is we who shall take Berlin, and we will take it before the Allies.” With his flanks now secured, Stalin cannily unleashed Zhukov and Koniev—two bitter rivals—in their own personal race for Berlin. That same day, April 1, he cabled Eisenhower that Berlin had “lost its former strategic importance” and that the Soviets would send only second-rate forces against it, sometime in May. “However, this plan may undergo certain alterations, depending on circumstances.” Historian Antony Beevor has described this message as “the greatest April Fool in modern history.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the 20th Century (2007), p. 116-117
  • The engagements in which Zhukov won his reputation were so massive that, inevitably, many outstanding Soviet military men were involved- either under Zhukov's command or in coordinated and associated movements. There was then, and there continued for years to be, a raging competition for military glory in these engagements. Deep lines of political cleavage and quarrels also underlay the military disputes. Not only military glory was involved; political intrigue, intra-Party quarrels, high-level Kremlin politics were at issue. The principal military rivals of Zhukov were his fellow marshals, Ivan S. Konev, Rodion Malinovsky, V. I. Chuikov, A. I. Yeremenko, Semyon Timonshenko, and to a lesser extent men like K. K. Rokossovsky, V. D. Sokolovsky, and the staff chiefs, A. M. Vasilevsky, Boris Shaposhnikov and, later on, S. M. Shtemenko. Rivals of a different category were Stalin's cronies, men like Voroshilov and Budenny, and police generals such as L. Z. Mekhlis and G. I. Kulik.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury (editor), Introduction to Marshal Zhukov's Greatest Battles (New York: Harper & Row, 1969) by Georgy Zhukov, translated from Russian by Theodore Shabad, p. 14-15

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