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
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
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
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.