Zinovy Peshkov – French general from Russia
Zinovy Peshkov was a General of the French Army. By the way, he received 50 government awards. He was an elder brother of Ya. M. Sverdlov and godson of Maxim Gorky. You know, Zinovy spoke seven foreign languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Japanese.
Zinovy Alekseevich Peshkov was born on October 16, 1884 in Nizhny Novgorod.
Maxim Gorky (Alexei Peshkov), who lived in those years in Nizhny Novgorod, often came to the Sverdlovs. In 1901, Zinovy along with Maxim Gorky was arrested on charges of using a mimeograph for the purposes of revolutionary propaganda. In 1902, Zinovy left for Arzamas, where Maxim Gorky lived in exile at that time, and took part in the reading of his new play At the Bottom. Besides, Zinovy tried to enter the Imperial Philharmonic School in Moscow, but he was not enlisted as a Jew.
In September 1902, Gorky became his godfather and gave him his surname Peshkov. However, the change of the name was not recognized by the authorities.
Then, in 1903 – 1904, Zinovy studied at the Moscow Art Theater School. And in 1904 he went to Canada, then to the United States and Italy. To tell the truth, he lived mainly with Maxim Gorky, who actually adopted him.
In 1910 Zinovy married Lydia Petrovna Burago, the daughter of a Cossack officer, but five years later they parted. Later he emigrated to France, and his wife Lydia with their four-year-old daughter Lisa stayed in Capri. With the outbreak of the First World War he entered the Foreign Legion.
In May 1915, he lost his right hand in the battle of Verdun. Zinovy was awarded a Military Cross with a palm branch. After treatment and rehabilitation, he became an officer and went as an interpreter to the United States, where he stayed until 1917.
From 1917 to 1920 he served in Russia, Romania, China, Japan, Manchuria, Siberia, Georgia, Crimea.
In 1921 he served as secretary of the International Commission for Assistance in Collecting Humanitarian Funds for the RSFSR. From 1921 to 1926 he was an officer of the Foreign Legion in Morocco, where he took part in military operations. And from 1926 to 1930 he served in the French Foreign Ministry. Later, from 1937 to 1940, he served as an officer in the Foreign Legion in Morocco.
Peshkov participated in World War II and in 1940 he went to London, where he joined the Free France movement and was its representative in South Africa from 1942 to 1943. In 1943 he became the only foreigner who received the rank of brigadier general. From 1943 to 1946 he was the head of the mission in China. What is more, from 1946 to 1949 he was an ambassador in Japan.
In 1964, he went on a special mission to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan.
By the way, he was a friend of General de Gaulle.
Zinovy Peshkov died on November 27, 1966 in Paris and was buried at the Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois cemetery. Louis Aragon, with whom he was friends, called his life “one of the strangest biographies of this senseless world.”