The commander-in-chief of the Russian army at the beginning of World War I was Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievitch, a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I. Appointed at the last minute in August 1914, he played no part in formulating the military plans in use at the beginning of the war. Nikolai Yanushkevich was his chief of staff. In the summer of 1915 the Tsar himself took personal command, with Mikhail Alekseyev as his chief of staff. In the years 1915–1917 Stavka was based in Mogilev and the Tsar, Nicholas II, spent long periods there as Commander-in-Chief.
The Stavka was divided into several departments:
Stavka of the Soviet Armed Forces during World War II, or the headquarters of the "Main Command of the Armed Forces of the USSR" (Stavka Glavnogo Komandovaniya) (Russian: Ставка Главного Командования Вооруженных Сил Союза ССР), was established on 23 June 1941 by the top secret decree signed by Joseph Stalin in his capacities both as the head of government and as the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. According to this decree Stavka was composed of the defence minister Marshal Semyon Timoshenko (as its president), the head of General Staff Georgy Zhukov, Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, Marshal Semyon Budyonny and the People's Commissar (Narkom) of the Navy Admiral Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov.
The same decree organized at Stavka "the institution of permanent counsellors of Stavka" : Marshal Kulik, Marshal Shaposhnikov, Kirill Meretskov, head of the Air force Zhigarev, Nikolay Vatutin, head of Air Defence Voronov, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Lavrenty Beria, Voznesensky, Zhdanov, Malenkov, Mekhlis.