Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko

Rank: Marshal of the USSR
Fate: Died Moscow 1970, aged 75
Bio: Timoshenko was from a peasant family in Bessarabia, a region today split between Ukraine and Moldova. In 1915 he was conscripted into a Russian cavalry regiment to fight in the First World War. When the Russian Revolution began he joined the Bolsheviks. He commanded a cavalry division in the Civil War, fighting at Tsaritsyn where he met Josef Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov, and later served with General Budyonny’s 1st Cavalry Army.
As a faithful ally of Josef Stalin (their children were married in 1944), Timoshenko was soon promoted to positions of senior military command, as well as a seat on the Central Committee of the Communist Party. During the Finnish-Soviet ‘Winter War’ of 1939-40, Timoshenko replaced the inept Vorishilov as Minister of Defence. Where his predecessor had overseen a string of humiliating reverses, Timoshenko forced a victorious end to the war. He also began much-needed reform of the Red Army.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin replaced Timoshenko as Minister of Defence, and sent him into the field to attempt to rescue a series of military crises. But there was little Timoshenko could do to avert the disaster of the Kiev encirclement that September.
Marshal Timoshenko, who had been the Soviet Union’s senior general and Stalin’s favourite before the war, was gradually eclipsed by the rising stars of Generals Zhukov and Vasilevsky. This fall from the top tier was confirmed after Timoshenko’s Kharkov offensive of May 1942, which, after initial success, ended in disaster and the encirclement of more than 200,000 Soviet troops. He was then placed in charge of the Stalingrad Front, but proved powerless to prevent the Germans from crossing the Don River and was replaced by General Gordov.
Timoshenko then took charge of the Leningrad Front for a period, before being appointed Chairman of the Stavka High Command. Despite his defeats, Timoshenko continued to enjoy Stalin’s support, and helped co-ordinate the victorious advance of Soviet forces in the Baltic in 1944, and then in south-west Europe. He held senior ceremonial military posts until his death in 1970.