Timoshenko was an experienced and effective General who took the full brunt of the German invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941. A man of peasant origins with a long career in the Cavalry and a friendship with STALIN dating back to the Civil War, he participated in the occupation of Poland and commanded Karelian troops in the Russo-Finnish War. In May 1940 he was made a Marshal and replaced the less able VOROSHILOV as Commissar of Defense in charge of reorganizing the Red Army with special reference to the training and discipline of recruits. On 23 June 1941 Stalin called the Stavka (a large committee of Soviet High Command) and Timoshenko initially chaired it. He was given command of the Western Front when the Germans invaded, but at first could do little to halt their advance and at one point his Army was encircled by the Germans at Smolensk. Nonetheless he was able to delay the Germans which prevented them from reaching Moscow before winter. In September 1941 Timoshenko was transferred to the command of the Southwestern Front but failed to prevent the Germans from breaking through to either Stalingrad or the Crimea and was unable to mount a counteroffensive. In May 1942 he mounted a major offensive at Kharkov unaware that the Germans had planned their own offensive a week later and were consequently well-prepared. Timoshenko was routed and transferred to the much quieter North-western Front. He played no further major role in the war except in planning and as Stavka representative in the Baltic and the Balkans.