|People's Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union|
7 May 1940 – 19 July 1941
|Preceded by||Kliment Voroshilov|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Stalin|
|Born||Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko
18 February 1895
Furmanivka, Bessarabia Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||31 March 1970
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
|Allegiance|| Russian Empire
|Service/branch||Russian Imperial Army
|Years of service||1914 – 1960|
|Rank||Marshal of the Soviet Union|
|Commands||Kiev Military District
Belorussian Military District
|Battles/wars||World War I
Russian Civil War
Great Patriotic War / World War II
Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko (Russian: Семён Константи́нович Тимоше́нко, Semën Konstantinovič Timošenko; Ukrainian: Семе́н Костянти́нович Тимоше́нко, Semen Kostiantynovych Tymoshenko) (18 February [O.S. 6 February] 1895 – 31 March 1970) was a Soviet military commander and Marshal of the Soviet Union.
First World War
In 1914, he was drafted into the army of the Russian Empire and served as a cavalryman on Russia's western front. On the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, he sided with the Bolsheviks, joining the Red Army in 1918 and the Bolshevik Party in 1919.
The Russian Civil War and the 1930s
During the Russian Civil War, Timoshenko fought on various fronts. His most important encounter occurred at Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad), where he commanded a cavalry regiment, and met and befriended Joseph Stalin, who was responsible for the city's defense. This connection would ensure his rapid advancement after Stalin gained control of the Communist Party by the end of the 1920s. In 1920–1921, Timoshenko served under Semyon Budyonny in the 1st Cavalry Army; he and Budyonny would become the core of the "Cavalry Army clique" which, under Stalin's patronage, would dominate the Red Army for many years.
By the end of the Civil and Polish-Soviet Wars, Timoshenko had become the commander of the Red Army cavalry forces. Thereafter, under Stalin, he became Red Army commander in Byelorussia (1933); in Kiev (1935); in the northern Caucasus and then Kharkov (1937); and Kiev again (1938). In 1939, he was given command of the entire western border region and led the Ukrainian Front during the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland. He also became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee. As a loyal friend, Timoshenko survived Stalin's Great Purge, to be left as the Red Army's senior professional soldier.
The Winter War
In January 1940, Timoshenko took charge of the Soviet armies fighting Finland in the Soviet-Finnish War. This had begun the previous November, under the disastrous command of Kliment Voroshilov. Under Timoshenko's leadership, the Soviets succeeded in breaking through the Finnish Mannerheim Line on the Karelian Isthmus, prompting Finland to sue for peace in March. His reputation increased, Timoshenko was made the People's Commissar for Defence and a Marshal of the Soviet Union in May, replacing Stalin's crony Marshal Voroshilov as Commissar.
British historian John Erickson has written:
Although by no means a military intellectual, Timoshenko had at least passed through the higher command courses of the Red Army and was a fully trained 'commander-commissar'. During the critical period of the military purge, Stalin had used Timoshenko as a military district commander who could hold key appointments while their incumbents were liquidated or exiled.
Timoshenko was a competent but traditionalist military commander who nonetheless saw the urgent need to modernise the Red Army if, as expected, it was to fight a war against Nazi Germany. Overcoming the opposition of other more conservative leaders, he undertook the mechanisation of the Red Army and the production of more tanks. He also reintroduced much of the traditional harsh discipline of the Tsarist Russian Army.
World War II
When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin took over the post of Defence Commissar and sent Timoshenko to the Central Front, in addition to his command of the Western Front, to conduct a fighting retreat from the border to Smolensk. In September, he was transferred to the Ukraine to replace Budyonny and restore order in the Southwestern Front at the gates of Kiev. In November and December 1941 Timoshenko organized major counter offensives in the Rostov region, as well as carving a bridgehead into German defenses south of Kharkov in January 1942.
In May 1942, Timoshenko, with 640,000 men, launched a counter-offensive (the Second Battle of Kharkov) which was the first Soviet attempt to gain the initiative in the war. After initial Soviet successes, the Germans struck back at Timoshenko's exposed southern flank, halting the offensive and turning the battle into a Soviet defeat.
General Georgy Zhukov's success in defending Moscow during December 1941 had persuaded Stalin that he was a better commander than Timoshenko. Stalin removed Timoshenko from front-line command, giving him roles as overall commander of the Stalingrad (June 1942), then North-Western (October 1942), Leningrad (June 1943), Caucasus (June 1944) and Baltic (August 1944) fronts.
Between 15 August 1945 and 15 September 1945, Marshal Timoshenko traveled alone to review the Starye Dorogi recovery camp where Auschwitz Concentration Camp survivors recuperated after their liberation. Later author Primo Levi (Prisoner 174517) wrote in The Truce, how the extremely tall Timoshenko "unfolded himself from a tiny Fiat 500A Topolino" to announce the liberated survivors would soon begin their final journey home.
After the war, Timoshenko was reappointed commander of the Baranovichi Military District (Byelorussian Military District since March 1946), then of the South Urals Military District (June 1946); and then the Byelorussian Military District once again (March 1949). In 1960, he was appointed Inspector-General of the Defence Ministry, a largely honorary post. From 1961 he chaired the State Committee for War Veterans. He died in Moscow in 1970.
- Russian Empire
|Cross of St. George, 2nd, 3rd and 4th class|
- Soviet Union
- Honorary revolutionary weapon - a sword with a nominal Order of the Red Banner (28 November 1920)
- Foreign awards
|Order of the Tudor Vladimirescu, 1st class (Romania)|
|Military Order of the White Lion "For Victory" (Czechoslovakia)|
|Golden Order of the Partisan Star (Yugoslavia)|
|Medal "30 Years of Victory in the Khalkhin-Gol" (Mongolia)|
|People's Commissar of Defense
- Axelrod, Alan; Kingston, Jack A. (2007). Encyclopedia of World War II, Volume 1. H W Fowler. ISBN 978-0-8160-6022-1.
- Erickson, John (1999). The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany, Vol. 1. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07812-9.
- Glantz, David M.; House, Jonathan (2009). To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1630-5.
- Quotations related to Semyon Timoshenko at Wikiquote
- Media related to Semyon Timoshenko at Wikimedia Commons
- Portrait of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko at the UK national archives