Zhuganova was a soldier with the Russian army in the days when the virus was just beginning to spread in Russia, and most people didn’t know about it, including Zhuganova and her fellow soldiers. She was posted in a remote area, and one day, their supervisors cut off their access to the outside world by forbidding the use of radios and cellphones. The soldiers were told to search the villagers for signs of being bitten or attacked, but they didn’t know what exactly they were supposed to look for, or why. One day, a soldier named Arkady discovered an old woman who’d been infected and had turned into a zombie, and he dragged her to their barracks and showed her to the other soldiers, saying that this is what their superiors were keeping from them. He demanded that they be allowed to go home to check on their families. Suddenly, the Spetnatz commandoes appeared, shot Arkady, and re-established order by beating and shackling everyone else. Zhuganova’s superiors put the soldiers into groups of 10 and ordered each group to vote on choosing one person to kill. The soldiers carried out this cruel punishment—which was called the Decimation—and from then on, were very obedient and carried out all their orders. Zhuganova’s story shows how the Russian army shut down any sign of rebellion by breaking their soldiers’ spirits and inspiring fear in them. Ultimately, the novel shows that a broken, frightened army is not very effective in a war. Russia’s fight against the zombies is long, messy, and disorganized, and leads to the loss of many lives. In contrast, the American army, which in the novel is built on respect and concern for soldiers, is much more successful in their campaign against the zombies. Zhuganova’s experience as a Russian soldier is contrasted with Todd Wainio’s experience as an American soldier during the zombie war—while he, too, suffers in battle and experiences the consequences of policy mistakes, he is respected and valued as a soldier. In Zhuganova’s second interview, she is in some sort of government-run birthing farm in which young, healthy women like her are made to have babies to increase Russia’s population. Zhuganova denies having any qualms about this, though the narrator reveals that she says this hesitantly. Her horrific fate—in both the army and the birthing farm—show that the lack of freedom in a nation has disastrous effects on people and policies.
Maria Zhuganova Character Timeline in World War Z
The timeline below shows where the character Maria Zhuganova appears in World War Z. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Great Panic
Chapter 8: Good-Byes