Pravda on Friday published previously secret sections of the memoirs of World War II Marshal Georgy Zhukov that blast Josef Stalin's war leadership and blame him for the annihilation of thousands of Soviets.

The memoirs in the Communist Party daily shattered the Soviet image of Stalin as a war hero. The dictator depicted himself as the savior of the Soviet Union during the war, which killed at least 20 million Soviets.The image has endured despite Western studies that blame a large part of the Soviet losses on Stalin's purge of the Red Army officer corps in the late 1930s and on his refusal to believe that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler could turn on him and order a German invasion.

Zhukov was deputy commander-in-chief of the Soviet armed forces during the war, second only to Stalin himself. Zhukov is considered a hero of the defense of Moscow and Stalingrad.

Pravda quoted Zhukov's daughter Maria as saying the marshal's memoirs often have been cited by Stalinists as proof that Stalin was a magnificent leader rather than the criminal portrayed in recent Soviet publications.

But Maria Zhukova said key sections of her father's writings were left hidden in his safe for publication at some future, less dangerous date.

"Many thousands of outstanding party workers, members of the armed forces, faithful patriots of the motherland and talented leaders of the country were annihilated by the order of Stalin," from 1937 to 1939, Zhukov wrote. "Of course, one cannot forgive Stalin."

The full page of excerpts in Pravda include Zhukov's report that Stalin played no role in directing the war effort, although he often called front-line commanders to issue orders devised by the general staff as if they were his own.

Pravda said Zhukov wrote an entire chapter on Stalin's repressions of the army, but virtually all of it was deleted from publication in his original memoirs.

Pravda published only a few paragraphs on the subject itself, instead concentrating on Zhukov's memories.

The newspaper said Maria Zhukova was planning a book based on her father's newly revealed memoirs.