Marshal of the Soviet Union; hero of World War II. He was the most important Russian military leader of World War II. Georgy Zhukov was conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army during the Great War. In 1918, he served as a Red Army cavalry commander in the Russian Civil War. Between the wars, Zhukov furthered his education, graduating from the Frunze Military Academy in 1931. By 1939, he was leader of Soviet forces in the Manchurian border region, and was successful against the Japanese there. He was chief of staff of the Soviet army in the Winter War against Finland (Nov 1939 to March 1940). He then commanded the Kiev military district, until appointed Chief of Staff, Red Army in January, 1941. After the Nazi invasion of Russia, Zhukov successfully defended Leningrad, then was selected as commander-in-chief on the western front. He successfully defended Moscow, then drove the Germans out of central Russia. Zhukov was further elevated to Deputy Commissar of Defense in August, 1942. He became a close military advisor to Stalin, and had a major role in planning all Soviet military operation for the remainder of the war. He successfully defended Stalingrad, trapping the German army retreating from that battle. He was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union. He oversaw the Battle of Kursk and the relentless counteroffensive that pushed the Nazis all the way back to Germany. Postwar, Zhukov was seen as a threat by Stalin, and was given unimportant assignments. After Stalin's death, Zhukov's career improved. He supported Khrushchev and was rewarded by appointment as Minister of Defense. Later, he was made a full member of the Presidium. Because he tried to make the Army more autonomous, Khrushchev was dismissed as Minister of Defense and other Party posts. Zhukov was later awarded the Order of Lenin.