Marshal Vasily I. Chuikov, 82, who defended Stalingrad and who received the German surrender at Berlin, died Thursday after a long illness. The cause of death was not reported.
Marshal Chuikov's defense of Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942 stands as one of the shining achievements of Soviet armed forces. In fierce house-to-house fighting, his troops withstood desperate onslaughts by the German 6th army under Field Marshal Friederich Paulus.
This allowed Marshal Georgi Zhukov to organize a counteroffensive that was launched on Nov. 19, 1942, and led to a major victory. The 6th army was trapped, the German front was broken and the Axis powers were forced back from their deepest penetration into Russia.
It was during the Stalingrad campaign that Marshal Chuikov became an associate of Nikita S. Khrushchev, then a political commissar assigned to that front. In 1961, as part of Khrushchev's de-Stalininization campaign, the city was renamed Volgograd after the river that flows by it.
Later in the war, Marshal Chuikov led his 62d army in offensives in the Donets Basin and the Crimea. He commanded the 8th guards army during the Battle of Berlin and received the surrender of Gen. Hans Krebs there on May 1, 1945.
Krebs reportedly said, "Today is the first of May, a great holiday for our two nations."
"We have a great holiday today," Marshal Chuikov replied. "How things are with you over there it is less easy to say."
In the years of Khrushchev's premiership, Marshal Chuikov's career prospered. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. He commanded Soviet forces in Germany, served as a deputy minister of defense and headed the civil defense program. He wrote two books on the war in which he emphasized his and Khrushchev's accomplishments. After Khrushchev's fall, his role in the war was minimized by Soviet historians.
In 1969, he traveled to the United States as one of Moscow's official representatives to the funeral of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The son of a peasant family, the future marshal was born in a village southeast of Moscow. He joined the Red Army during the Russian Civil War in 1918 and became a regimental commander. He participated in the occupation of eastern Poland in 1939 and fought in the Soviet-Finnish War. He was an adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at the time of the German invasion of Russia in 1941.
A stocky figure with a shock of curly hair, Marshal Chuikov had a reputation of fearlessness and good humor. His death leaves only one surviving Soviet marshal from the World War II era, Ivan K. Bagramyan, who is 84.