"The Phantom Tolbukhin"  
Author Harry Turtledove
First Appearance Alternate Generals
Publisher Baen
Editor Harry Turtledove &
Roland Green
Collected Counting Up, Counting Down;
Illustrator Charles Keegan
Genre(s) Alternate History
Publication date 1998

"The Phantom Tolbukhin" is a short story by Harry Turtledove published in Alternate Generals (eds. Harry Turtledove and Roland Green), 1998; in Counting Up, Counting Down, Ballantine/Del Rey 2002 (0345442261); and in Reincarnations (Capclave, 2009). The Point of Divergence comes during Joseph Stalin's purges from 1936 to 1938, which were far more comprehensive than in OTL; in addition to many of the same military leaders that were lost in OTL, Turtledove pointedly reveals that Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Koniev, two of the most important Soviet military leaders in the defeat of Germany during World War II, were killed in the purge. In addition, we learn that Operation: Barbarossa began in May 1941, rather than June as in OTL, giving Germany more time to fully exploit the surprise attack and disorganized Red Army.

The story itself takes place in 1947, after the Soviet Union has largely collapsed in the face of the German invasion. Leningrad and Moscow have both fallen, but it does appear that Stalin is still alive. The plot follows Soviet troops under their leader Fedor Tolbukhin, called "The Phantom", on a guerrilla raid.

In this story, Tolbukhin, along with several prominent Soviet military leaders (including Nikita Khrushchev), launch a successful raid against the occupied Ukrainian city of Zaporozhye, stealing German munitions, destroying the remainder, and killing several German troops. Throughout, Tolbukhin finds himself sentimental for the pre-war days, despite the terror of living under Stalin.

Literary comment[]

Turtledove has acknowledged that the title is a pun on The Phantom Tollbooth, a popular 1961 children's fantasy by Norton Juster.

Given this story's theme of German victory in World War II, this story could very well take place in the same timeline as In the Presence of Mine Enemies. Turtledove has not explicitly said that this is the case.

Another "Nazis win" story, "The Last Article," is sometimes suspected to be set in the Presence timeline as well, however it is not set in the same timeline as "The Phantom Tolbukhin", due to conflicting references to the fate of Georgy Zhukov. In "The Last Article", Zhukov was killed by the Nazis in 1946, whereas in "The Phantom Tolbukhin", Zhukov was executed as part of the Great Purge in 1937-8. Since Zhukov is not mentioned in ItPoME, neither reference contradicts the longer book.

"Shtetl Days" is set approximately a century after a German victory in WWII. Turtledove has not stated that it is connected to any other story.

Throughout the Crosstime Traffic Series, we are told of numerous alternates where the Germans won WWII, without any specific detail.