|People's Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union|
7 May 1940 – 19 July 1941
|Preceded by||Kliment Voroshilov|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Stalin|
Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko
18 February 1895
Furmanivka, Bessarabia Governorate, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
|Died||31 March 1970 (aged 75)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||Russian Communist Party (1919–1970)|
|Awards||Hero of the Soviet Union (twice) |
Order of Victory
Order of Lenin (five times)
Order of the October Revolution
Order of the Red Banner (five times)
Order of Suvorov (three times)
Cross of St. George
|Allegiance|| Russian Empire (1914–1917) |
Soviet Russia (1918–1922)
Soviet Union (1922–1970)
|Branch/service||Russian Imperial Army|
Workers and Peasants Red Army
|Years of service||1914–1970|
|Rank||Marshal of the Soviet Union|
|Commands||Kiev Military District|
Ukrainian Front (1939)
Leningrad 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.
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.
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.
Timoshenko fought against Polish forces in Kiev and then against Pyotr Wrangel's White Army and Nestor Makhno's Black Army. 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 invasion of eastern Poland. He also became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Due to being a loyal friend of Stalin, Timoshenko survived the Great Purge to become the Red Army's senior professional soldier.
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 the minister of Defence.
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.
Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Timoshenko was named chairman of Stavka, the Soviet Armed Forces High Command, on June 23, 1941. In July 1941, Stalin replaced Timoshenko as Defense Commissar and Stavka's chairman before sending him to the Central Front and Western Front to supervise 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 initiative in the springtime war. After initial Soviet successes, the Germans struck back at Timoshenko's exposed southern flank, halting the offensive, encircling Timoshenko's armies, and turning the battle into a major 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 on 23 July 1943, making him Chairman of the High Command. He was called back into service as overall commander of the Northwestern Front between October 1942 and March 1943. 
Between 15 August 1945 and 15 September 1945, Marshal Timoshenko traveled alone to review the Starye Dorogi displaced persons 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.
|Cross of St. George, 2nd, 3rd and 4th class|
|Hero of the Soviet Union (21 March 1940, 18 February 1965)|
|Order of Victory (№ 11 - 06/04/1945)|
|Five Orders of Lenin (22 February 1938, 21 March 1940, 21 February 1945, 18 February 1965, 18 February 1970)|
|Order of the October Revolution (22 February 1968)|
|Order of the Red Banner, five times (25 July 1920, 11 May 1921, 22 February 1930, 3 November 1944, 6 November 1947)|
|Order of Suvorov, 1st class, three times (9 October 1943, 12 September 1944, 27 April 1945)|
|Medal "For the Defence of Stalingrad"|
|Medal "For the Defence of Leningrad"|
|Medal "For the Defence of Kiev"|
|Medal "For the Defence of the Caucasus"|
|Medal "For the Defence of Moscow"|
|Medal "For the Capture of Budapest"|
|Medal "For the Capture of Vienna"|
|Medal "For the Liberation of Belgrade"|
|Medal "For the Victory over Japan"|
|Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"|
|Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"|
|Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"|
|Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"|
|Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"|
|Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"|
|Medal "In Commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of Leningrad"|
|Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow"|
|Honorary weapon – sword inscribed with golden national emblem of the Soviet Union (22 February 1968)|
|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)|
| Commander of the Kiev Military District
as Commander of the Leningrad Military District
| Commander of the Northwestern Front
as Commander of the Leningrad Military District
| Chairman of the Soviet Armed Forces High Command
| People's Commissar of Defense