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Born to a peasant family in Mogilev Governorate (present-day Horki Raion, Mogilev Oblast of Belarus), Kuznetsov served in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and continued his service in the Bolsheviks' Red Army. During the German-Soviet War he initially commanded the Northwestern Front during the Baltic Strategic Defensive Operation until 30 June 1941, but was relieved in early August 1941 (replaced by General Major P.P. Sabennikov), when he was appointed commander of the 21st Army until March 1942) and at a Stavka session on 12 August 1941, was given command of the new 51st Independent Army, later serving as the temporary commander of the Central Front (July–August 1941), Chief of Staff of the 28th Army, Deputy Commander of the Western Front, and commander 61st Army.
From March 1942 to June 1943 he served as the commanding officer of the Academy of General Staff, and from August 1943 to February 1944 as the Deputy Commander of the Volkhov Front and Karelian Front. In 1945-1948, he commanded the Ural Military District, retiring due to illness.
- Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks edition, p. 198-9, 256