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Legioner Peshkoff
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Legioner Peshkoff


Zinovi Peshkoff (born Solomon Sverdlov) was born in Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia) in 1884. His brother Jacob became the first President of the Soviet Russia in 1918; his other brother, Benjamin, was a Minister of Transportation in the Soviet Government.


Zinovi became acquainted with the great Russian writer M.Gor’ky (the pen name Peshkoff) in 1896. In 1904 Zinovi was arrested for the illegal political activity and exiled to the city of Arzamas where Gor’ky lived. The writer adopted him and gave him his pen name. To avoid drafting Zinovi moved in 1904 to England and then to Canada.


In 1907-11 he was Gor’ky’s secretary and lived with him in Italy. Here he became acquainted with many Gor’ky’s friends including Andreev, Amphiteatrov, Cherniy, Novikov-Priboy, Stanislavsky, Veresaev, Repin, Shaliapin and many Bolsheviks leaders (Lenin, Krasin, Lunacharsky, Dserzhinsky).


After the beginning of WWI Peshkoff moved to France and joined the French Foreign Legion. In 1915 he was seriously wounded and lost the right arm. He was awarded numerous French military decorations including Ordre national de la Legion d’honneur and finished the war in the rank of the Captain.


In 1917-20 he was in Russia as the French representative at the Provincial Government in Petrograd, at the Admiral Kolchak headquarter in Siberia and the General Vrangel’ headquarter in Crimea. At the end of the Civil War Zinovi fled Russia and joined French Foreign Legion again. In 1925 he published a book entitled “The History of the Foreign Legion in Morocco”. Based on this book, he wrote a scenario for a movie which was shot in Hollywood. Major Peshkoff played one of the leading roles in this movie.


In 1930-37 he was stationed in Lebanon serving as a French diplomat and secret agent in the Middle East (he was fluent in many languages including Arabic).


When WWII erupted Colonel Peshkoff went to England and joined General Charles de Gaulle, the founder of the La France libre movement. As a representative of La France libre he worked in many countries providing political, military and financial support for General de Gaulle and his movement.


When the war was over, General Peshkoff was appointed as a French Ambassador at the Far East and stationed in Tokyo.


In 1950s and 1960s he was on various diplomatic missions in many countries. He passed away in 1966 and was buried with high military honors. Only two words - Legioner Peshkoff - are written on his tomb at the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois near Paris.


E. Zaltsberg


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