Streetwise Professor

November 28, 2010

History, Again

Filed under: History,Military,Russia — The Professor @ 6:14 pm

Not surprisingly, the recent post on Russia’s new law on history sparked numerous comments. Also not surprisingly, the comments careened in a surprising direction, specifically, Russia’s role in WWI.  One skein of that argument was whether Russia saved France by eschewing in 1914 a plan to stand on the defensive against Germany, and instead mounting an offensive that distracted Germany enough to permit the French to fend off the German attack at the Marne.

This exchange spurred me to look at a couple of books on my shelf, William C. Fuller Jr.’s Strategy and Power in Russia, 1600-1914 and Kissinger’s Diplomacy.  These sources put a much less favorable light on Russia’s actions in the lead-up to Europe’s Armageddon.

Fuller argues that Russia’s agreement with France to attack Germany was part of a quid pro quo to get French assistance against Germany.  Russia was convinced that a war against Austria-Hungary was highly likely.  Moreover, it calculated that Germany would intervene on Austria’s behalf because it could not countenance the defeat of its only major ally.  But Russia could not beat Germany and Austria, so an alliance with France was imperative.  As Fuller puts it “[i]n 1912 the Russians began a desperate effort to re-cement the French alliance.”   He says further:

At the staff conversations of 1912 and 1913 the Russians tried to buy French good-will by promising to attack Germany with 800,000 men by the fifteenth day after the declaration of mobilization.”  [p. 439]

Fuller goes into more detail about the forces driving Russian thinking.  He notes that Russia’s tenuous position in Poland and its fear that Austria-Hungary would take advantage of Polish discontent led it to conclude that simultaneous attacks against Germany and Austria were imperative: “If Russia’s alliance policy compelled it to plan to attack Germany, it was its nationality policy that in the end made a simultaneous attack on Austria inescapable . . . . To attack Austria alone would be to imperil the French alliance and was consequently unthinkable.  To attack Germany alone was to risk the Austrian conquest of Poland.” [p. 441]

With respect to Russia’s ability to carry out these plans, Fuller notes how Russia’s pendulum swings between Asia and Europe led it to shift its forces to the east, thereby compromising its ability to fight Germany and Austria in the west.  Similarly, its Asian focus led it to stint on railroad building in Poland, which also compromised its ability to mass in the west.

Kissinger is even more critical of Russian policy.  Indeed, he even puts the blame on Russia for the “military doomsday machine” of responses to mobilization that culminated in the catastrophe of August, 1914.:

The first step in this direction occurred during the negotiation for a Franco-Russian military alliance.  Up to that time, alliance negotiations had been about the causus belli. . . .

In May 1892, teh Russian negotiator, Adjutant General Nikolai Obruchev, sent a letter to his Foreign Minister, Giers, explaining why the traditional method for defining the causus belli had been been overtaken by modern technology.  Obrucev argued that what mattered was how mobilized first . . .

Far from deploring the prospect of automatic escalation, Obruchev welcomed it enthusiastically.  The last thing he wanted was a local conflict. . . .

According to Obruchev, it was in Russia’s interest to make certain that every war would be general.  The benefit to Russia would be a well-constructed alliance with France would be to prevent the possibility of a localized war. . . . [a] defensive war for limited objectives was against Russia’s national interest. . . . However trivial the cause, war would be total; if its prelude involved only one neighbor, Russia should see to it that the other was drawn in.  Almost grotesquely, the Russian general staff preferred to fight Germany and Austria-Hungary jointly than just one of them.  A military convention carrying out Obruchev’s ideas was signed on January 4, 1894.  France and Russia agreed to mobilize together should any member of the Triple Alliance mobilize for any reason whatsoever.  [pp. 202-203; emphasis in original]

Kissinger notes that there were dissenting voices, notably Peter Durnovo, a former Interior Minister.  But from 1894 up through July-August, 1914 Russian policy was committed to fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary simultaneously.  Even when the Tsar tried to mobilize only against Austria-Hungary during the Sarajevo crisis, his military (“without exception disciples of Obruchev’s theories”) forced him out of it.  Kissinger also argues that Russian commitment to support Serbia was not completely rational, but was driven by concerns of reputation and honor and loss of face in the Balkans (evocative of Thucydides’s claim that men go to war out of fear, honor, and interest).

The rest of Kissinger’s (and Fuller’s) discussion of the beginning of WWI makes it plain that every power made calculations that contributed to that world catastrophe.  But Russian calculations were quite important in shaping the outcome, the ultimate consequence of which was, of course, the destruction of the Russian Empire and the Tsarist system.  This ended what one commentor noted was a period of remarkable economic and social transition in Russia.

I don’t know enough about this particular subject to do more than summarize what Kissinger and Fuller state.  I’m sure there are dissenting views.  And I’m sure they will be voiced, and strenuously, in the comments.  I look forward to that with anticipation.

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  1. Prof,
    Had this question on the TALF program. How to find out more about the mark to market value of the ABS that Feds purchased? Who keeps track of whether the tax payers made money or lost money?

    Comment by Surya — November 28, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

  2. Surya–interesting post for a comment/question on TALF. 🙂 I’m not certain, but it’s a good question. I know the FRB has an inspector general that has looked at this, and GAO has also done a report on TALF. But given that it’s in the Fed, the level of scrutiny is almost certainly less than for TARP, for instance, where there is a separate IG who has been pretty critical of how that has been run.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 28, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

  3. Yes I know 😀 My comments\questions might not have any correlation with the posts! I was watching Geithner plan videos at Khan Academy ( There he outlines a convincing case on how there is a lot of incentives for the banks to offload assets to TALF and then actually buy it back at a discount from the Fed!

    The Khan academy has been getting high marks from lot of kids who seem to like the middle school math videos posted there.

    Comment by Surya — November 28, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

  4. Geithner plan videos? Man, you know how to have a good time!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 28, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

  5. Yes now that I kind of understand how the plan “works”, it is not fun anymore x-(

    Comment by Surya — November 28, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

  6. This supports what I had been saying: that Germany cannot be singled out as more responsible for the war than the other Great Powers. Also, France was hardly an innocent manipulated by the nasty Russians into an alliance against Germany. The French, too (like the Germans prior to World War II) were seething with resentment over the consequences of the previous lost war and many saw war together with Russia as a golden opportunity to retake lost territories, something that the French understood they had no chance of doing by themselves.

    Comment by AP — November 30, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  7. The nasty Habsburgs manipulated the Germans with some of the latter regretting such.

    There was definitely a pre-WW I plan for Russia to withdraw at the outset of a conflict with Germany. There’s a reasoned basis to conclude that the Russian offensive into German territory significantly eased the difficult French position with the Germans.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 1, 2010 @ 5:07 am

  8. Listen John, are you a complete idiot?

    The Russians had planned from 1910 to attack both Germany and Austria (not withdraw) the moment Germany attacked France, this was for two reasons, one the overwhelming majority of the German army would be in France, and two, to ensure the French continued in alliance with Russia, thereby putting Germany in a poor strategic position. One would more likely say that the dogged Franco-British defense in 1914 saved the Russian military from total annihilation.

    After all, look what one German army did to the Russians at Tannenberg, can you imagine what the 7 the Germans had on the western front could have achieved?

    As previously noted, history shows that the Russian contribution to WW1 was in the main negligible, the Russian army was (except for one battle against the Austrians) almost completely ineffective against the central powers in eastern Europe.

    Comment by Andrew — December 2, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

  9. @ Andrew, the “one battle” against the Austrians (the Brusilov Offensive in 1916) broke the back of the Austrian army resulting in 1.5 million Austrian and 350,000 German casualties (vs. 500,000 Russian casualties). Prior to that, in 1915, the Rusians of course defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Galicia (over 300,000 Austrian casualties) and captured that region, holding onto it for a few months.

    As for the Germans, the Russians did not do any worse against the Germans that did the British and French COMBINED, even though the latter focused most of their efforts against Germany while Russia was also heavily involved in fighting Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire at the same time. Russia lost Warsaw and parts of Poland to the Germans while the Western Allies lost all of Belgium and parts of northern France to the Germans.

    The Russians fought all three Central Powers. They also crushed the Ottoman Empire during the Caucuses Campaign, capturing a big chunk of northeastern Turkey.

    So, to summarize: Russia defeated 2 of the 3 Central Powers. Against the third, it did as well as did both western allies combined.

    On what basis do you claim that “the Russian contribution to WW1 was in the main negligible”?

    Comment by AP — December 3, 2010 @ 1:30 am

  10. Absolute rubbish as usual John.

    The Austro-Hungarian empire was still in the war in 1918, unlike Russia which had surrendered to the central npowers at the end of 1917.

    As previously mentioned:

    A measure of the relative effectiveness of the Entente’s armies can be deduced by comparing German casualty figures for the two major fronts. Over the war period Germany committed slightly fewer than twice as many divisions to the Western Front as it did to the Eastern; but its 1,214,100 dead or missing in the west were 3.8 times the 317,100 dead or missing in the east. A German soldier on the Eastern Front was therefore nearly twice as likely to survive as one on the Western. He was also over five times as likely to survive as a Russian, and that is more significant.


    Like the figures for deaths, those for Russian prisoners of war and missing vary considerably. The most authoritative post-war study gave 3,409,433 captured and 228,838 missing. When the figures for captured or missing are placed alongside the figures of dead, the Russian army differs markedly from the other major belligerents. For every 100 dead in 1914-18 Russia had 251 captured or missing, Austria-Hungary 150, Italy 92, Germany 65, France 46 and British/British Empire forces 21. In other words, Russian soldiers far more often than others were either led into situations where capture was inevitable, or were very much readier to surrender than others.
    The course of events and the military censorship reports tend to indicate that failures of generalship accounted for most captures in 1914-15, and readiness to surrender for most in 1916-17. Put briefly, the early debacles eroded the soldiers’ faith in their leaders and willingness to fight for the regime that they represented. The British Military Attache, Major-General Knox, once remarked that Russian army training placed too much emphasis on dying for the country, and not enough on conquering for it. It appears to have failed in both respects; even at the lowest point in French morale, the mutineers of 1917, though refusing to attack, neither refused to defend nor abandoned the front en masse.
    Russians did both.


    It was the manpower losses of 1914-16 that caused the decline of 1917. They in turn were caused by Tsarist Russia’s inability to conduct a modern war, in which good generalship had to be supported by immense quantities of artillery and ammunition, and backed by a sophisticated logistical system, which could not only feed and supply the armies in the field, but maintain the civilian population at reasonable standards of diet and morale. Too often the Russian infantryman was called on to retake with blood what the German had taken with high explosive, and by the spring of 1917 he had had enough.

    The seeds of the revolution had been sown at Tannenberg, the Mazurian Lakes, Gorlice-Tarnow and a score of lesser disasters. In 1916 morale was finding it hard to accept even the casualties that went with victory, and when the Romanian debacle nullified the Brusilov offensive’s gains, it, too, was remembered for its casualties rather than its achievements. But the manpower losses were not caused by exceptional sacrifices. All the major belligerents except the late-arriving United States had a higher proportion of their populations killed than did Russia. But they also had far fewer surrenders.

    From Osprey Essential History No.13 “World War 1 – The Eastern Front 1914-1918”

    The majority (2/3) of all German divisions served on the western front. The overwhelming majority of all German casualties were on the western front.

    Even from your link to wikipedia (I thought you said that those that use Wikipedia have no understanding of history….) we read

    The Russian casualties in the First World War are difficult to estimate, due to the poor quality of available statistics. Some official Russian sources list 775,400 battlefield fatalities. More recent Russian estimates give 900,000 battlefield deaths and 400,000 dead from combat wounds, or a total of 1,300,000 dead. This is about equal to the casualties suffered by France and Austria-Hungary and about one-third less than those suffered by Germany.
    Cornish gives a total of 2,006,000 military dead (700,000 killed in action, 970,000 died of wounds, 155,000 died of disease and 181,000 died while POWs). This measure of Russian losses is similar to that of the British Empire, 5% of the male population in the 15 to 49 age group. He says civilian casualties were five to six hundred thousand in the first two years, and were then not kept, so a total of over 1,500,000 is not unlikely. He has over five million men passing into captivity, the majority during 1915.
    When Russia withdrew from the war, 3,900,000 Russian POWs were in German and Austrian hands. This by far exceeded the total number of prisoners of war (1,300,000 million) lost by the armies of Britain, France and Germany combined. Only the Austro-Hungarian Army, with 2,200,000 POWs, came even close.


    Losses: Central powers:
    500,000 deaths, over 2,000,000 wounded

    Losses: Russian Empire:
    2,006,000 military deaths, over 6,000,000 wounded and captured. Over 1,500,000 civilian deaths.

    As for “Russia defeated 2 of the 3 Central Powers. Against the third, it did as well as did both western allies combined”, are you really that retarded?

    If you are referring to the Russians fighting the Ottomans on the Caucasus front, I suggest moron that you get an education and learn a little about the fighting in Palestine, the Saudi Arabian peninsular, and in Iraq, where the British defeated far larger Ottoman forces than those faced by the Russians.

    Please explain how Russia only killing 317,100 Germans is the same as the British and French killing 1,214,100 Germans? A ratio of 3.83 to one in favor of the British and French?

    Really John, you are completely ignorant.

    By the way, the numbers you give for the casualties for Brusilov are a little skewed, as you list the total losses including wounded and prisoners for the Central powers, and only give the Russian killed, but of course such cherry picking of facts, not to say outright dishonesty, is the trademark of Russophiles such as yourself.

    Let us talk about what Ludendorff had to say about 1917 for example….

    Ludendorff wrote on the fighting in 1917,
    The 25th of August concluded the second phase of the Flanders battle. It had cost us heavily … The costly August battles in Flanders and at Verdun imposed a heavy strain on the Western troops. In spite of all the concrete protection they seemed more or less powerless under the enormous weight of the enemy’s artillery. At some points they no longer displayed the firmness which I, in common with the local commanders, had hoped for. The enemy managed to adapt himself to our method of employing counter attacks … I myself was being put to a terrible strain. The state of affairs in the West appeared to prevent the execution of our plans elsewhere. Our wastage had been so high as to cause grave misgivings, and had exceeded all expectation

    Comment by Andrew — December 3, 2010 @ 2:05 am

  11. An extreme idiot like Andrew can easily overlook that AP and not yours truly made the 9th comment.

    There was in fact a Russian pre-war plan to withdraw. Andrew even acknowledged this (albeit in a misleading way) in the other thread discussion.

    At that thread, the particulars going against Andrew’s limited and inaccurate take were provided.

    Let the fool carry on as he usually does.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 3, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  12. With respect Eastern vs. Western front casualties in World War I: yes, when troops en masse are marching into machine gun fire as was typical on the Western Front the number of casualties was much higher. Brusilov’s offensive inflicted far more casualties on the Austrians and Germans (1.5 million against Austria 400,000 of whom were taken prisoner, 300,000 German casualties) than the Russians lost at Tannenburg (78,000 killed or wounded, 90,000 captured) and the Masurian Lakes (125,000 killed or wounded and 40,000 captured in the first battle, 50,000 in the second) COMBINED. The Central Powers combined lost THREE TIMES as many people during the Brusilov offensive as the French lost at Verdun. I hope you agree that Verdun was a significant battle?

    But sure – since the Germans and the western allies were marching into each others’ machine guns in obscene numbers they each killed more of each others’ soldiers than did the Russians and the Germans. By your account then, the swift blitzkrieg against France in World War II was not as successful as the German efforts against France during World War I because the world War II Germans killed fewer French soldirs than did the World War I Germans. I’m being facetious of course.

    In my comment I was quite clear that in terms of territory controlled Russia did about as well against the Germans as both the Brits and French did against the Germans COMBINED. The Russians lost Warsaw but held the Germans to basically a chunk of Polish territory, while the western Allies lost all of Belgium and parts of northern France before stopping the Germans. As I had written earlier, in addition to doing as well as the Allies vs. Germany, the Russians also managed to break the Austrian army and to defeat the Ottomans.

    So again, on what basis do you claim that “the Russian contribution to WW1 was in the main negligible”?

    Comment by AP — December 3, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  13. Just to add to what I had written – the Germans having to divert their forces to the East to stop the Russians who had taken part sof Austria and eastern Prussia is generally considered a significant controbutor to the German failure to capture Paris at the beginning of the war. So even from this perspective the Russian contribution was hardly negligible…

    Comment by AP — December 3, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  14. Really John, you are an ignorant retard, but that is no surprise.

    Poland at the time was part of Russia, the Russians lost a far larger chunk of territory than the French did by 1917, losing most of Poland, parts of Belarus, Lithuania, and part of Latvia, and collapsing in surrender.

    Your constant reference to the Brusilov offensive misses one significant fact, that it failed. The Germans rapidly regained the territory captured from the Austrians, and then dealt the Russians a humiliating reverse in Romania, where they defeated over 1,000,000 Russian Soldiers and 400,000 Romanians in a text book offensive.

    The main German effort was in the west, 2/3 of the German military served there, and as for your comment that Russia “defeated” Austria and Ottoman Turkey, well it should be noted that Russia was the one who surrendered in 1917, strange form of victory that really.

    The Russian contribution to the war was insignificant, given that even after Russia surrendered, and the resulting transfer of freed up forces to the west, the British and French were able to defeat Germany.

    Britain and France inflicted a far higher number of casualties upon Germany, there were more battles fought on the western front, and the war was decided on the western front.

    And AP, the forces transferred east in 1914 had no effect on the outcome of the Schlieffen plan, that had already been decided.

    In addition, the British and French destroyed a much larger part of the Ottoman army in Palestine and Arabia than the Russians did on the Caucasus front.

    Russia in WW1 was a drain on allied resources, and turned out to be a severe liability.

    Comment by Andrew — December 4, 2010 @ 9:30 am

  15. Wiki weenie Andrew is back again with more senseless babble.

    Here is the link to the earlier discussion of (among other things) WW I:

    Comment by John Hughes — December 4, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  16. Now John, you are the one quoting Wiki, and of course I note that you are unable to argue with actual historical facts.

    1. Britain and France faced the overwhelming majority of German forces throughout the war (2/3)

    2. Britain and France killed 3.8 Germans for every one killed by Russia (being twice as effective).

    3. Britain and France killed more Ottomans than Russia, in far larger campaigns in Palestine, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsular.

    4. Russia surrendered to Germany, the Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottomans in 1917 after it’s military collapse.

    5. More Russians were taken prisoner in WW1 than all other nationalities combined, the Russian soldier preferred not to fight, but to stick his hands up at the first opportunity.

    6. Russia lost huge swathes of territory, far larger than the strip of land won by Germany in France and Belgium.

    7. World War 1 was effectively decided at 1st Ypres in 1914 when Germany failed in its offensive.

    John, your babble is not only senseless, it is without any merit whatsoever. If Russia had performed at anything like the level you claim, there would have been no Russian surrender, no revolution, and no 70 years of communist repression (which was really no different to Tsarist repression if you were a non Russian).

    The revolution was driven in the main by the absolute failure of the Russian military, the Tsar could be forgiven almost anything but military failure.

    The Russian military failed in the Russo-Japanese war which resulted in the failed revolution of 1905, its even greater failure in 1914-1917 resulted in the revolutions of 1917.

    Comment by Andrew — December 5, 2010 @ 6:00 am

  17. Oh I also notice you constantly claim to be able to go into “greater detail” but are never forthcoming.

    Of course considering the fact that every history written of WW1 contradicts your absolutely retarded view of history, this is not forthcoming, I mean you did not even know the casualty statistics for Russia or the around 6,000,000 surrenders made by Russian soldiers, hell they were even surrendering in droves during the most successful part of Brusilovs offensive……

    Comment by Andrew — December 5, 2010 @ 6:05 am

  18. You have yet to provide ANYTHING which factually and reasonably refutes what I said.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 5, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  19. The US “failed” in Vietnam. As was noted at the other thread, it’s overly simplistic to assume the withdrawing side is always doing so for reasons of extreme weakness.

    In 1905, the Japanese were the ones initially seeking peace out of knowledge that they couldn’t expect continued success. Like the Vietnamese example, the Japanese had a geographic advantage in its war with Russia.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 5, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  20. @ #16:

    1. If Russia faced 1/3 the German forces that Britain and France collectively faced that meant that at worst, Russia’s role in the war against Germany was comparable to that of either Britain or France individually. Not negligible. At any rate, do you doubt that if the Germans had 1/3 more forces to throw into combat from 1914-1917 they wouldn’t have won? Given that 2/3 of the German military was able to hold of both France and Britian, an additional 1/3 would have been like another France or Britian joining the German side. So tying up 1//3 of the German militatry was negligible?

    2. Casualties on the western front reflect mass marches into machine gun fire. Inflicting more casualties on the Germans in the Western front simply reflects the different nature of the war there. In terms of territory taken, German control over all of Belgium and a chunk of northern France was comparable to German control over Warsaw and parts of Poland and Lithuania. German control of French territory was not insubstantial. According to wikipedia, “The resulting German-occupied territory held 64% of France’s pig-iron production, 24% of its steel manufacturing and 40% of the total coal mining capacity, dealing a serious, but not crippling setback to French industry.”

    3. Let’s not forget Austria. Brusilov’s offensive cost the Austrians 3 times more casualties than the French lost at Verdun. 2/3 of Austria’s military was tied up trying to stave off the Russians.

    4. By tying up 2/3 of Austria’s military Russia prevented Austrian victory in Italy which could have opened up a second front in France (even though the Austrian forces were frequently outnumbered 2:1 by the Italians – most of them were fighting Russia – they were able to beat back numerous Italian offensives).

    5. Russia surrendered after it collapsed for internal reasons, reflected in mass desertion. It did not surrender after havng been defeated on the battlefield. At the time of its collapse it had rendered the Austrian military broken and controlled a big chunk of Ottoman territory, having just repulsed an attempt by the Ottomans to retake their lost territory.

    6. Speaking of the Ottoman Empire, the British lost badly at Gallipoli to the Turks. The victories in the Arab territories were largely fought by Arab rebels with Allied support and advisors, and the Allied capture of Iraq was due to the Ottomans focusing their forces elsewhere (i.e., against the Russians). From wiki: “Mesopotamia was a low priority area for the Ottomans. Regiments of the XII and XIII Corps were maintained at low levels in peacetime. Lieutenant Colonel Süleyman Askerî Bey became the commander. He redeployed portions of the 38th Division at the mouth of Shatt-al-Arab. The rest of the defensive force was stationed in Basra. The Ottoman General Staff did not even possess a proper map of Mesopotamia. They tried to draw a map with the help of some people who used to work in Iraq before the war, although this attempt failed. Enver Pasha bought two German maps scaled 1/1,500,000.” So while the Allies were fighting serious Ottoman forces in Gallipoli (and lost) and Russia in the Caucuses (and won), the Allies grabbed a lot of territory in the poorly defended low-priority areas in Iraq.

    Comment by AP — December 5, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  21. No AP, because in 1914 90% of the German army was involved in attacking France.

    Only one army from 10 was in the east, and the Germans still lost in 1914, they had a far higher manpower advantage in 1914 than at any time prior to 1918.

    Again in 1918 the Germans had 80% of their army in France, and still failed to break through.

    The Russian revolution was caused in the main by the failures of the Russian military in WW1, and the complete loss of faith in the government, this is accepted historical fact, if you think differently then you are delusional.

    Now, as to Russian successes in the Caucasus, from wiki “During the March strategic situation was stable. The completely devastated 3rd Army received new blood by the reinforcements from the 1st and 2nd Armies although these supplements were no stronger than a division. The Battle of Gallipoli was draining every Ottoman resource.” The battle at Gallipoli killed more Ottomans than were facing Russia, it destroyed the best units of the Ottoman army, and was the highest priority battle for the Ottomans in 1915 and early 1916.

    Furthermore “At the turn of the 1916, Russian forces reached a level of 200,000 men and 380 pieces of artillery. On the other side the situation was very different; the Ottoman High Command failed to make up the losses during this period. The war in Gallipoli was sucking all the resources and manpower. The IX, X and XI Corps could not be reinforced and in addition to that the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces were deployed to Mesopotamia. Enver Pasha, after not achieving his ambitions or recognizing the dire situation on other fronts, decided that the region was of secondary importance. As of January 1916, Ottoman forces were 126,000 men, only 50,539 being combat. There were 74,057 rifles, 77 machine guns and 180 pieces of artillery. Ottoman force in Caucasus Campaign was big on the paper, but not on the ground. The Ottomans assumed that the Russians would not bother to attack. This assumption turned out to be false.”

    Well look at that, the Caucasus front was of secondary importance, surprise surprise. The Ottoman army on the Caucasus front was around the same size as that in Mesopotamia (Iraq) which you also considered a minor theater. The main Ottoman effort in WW1 was made at Gallipoli, against Romania (where they handed the Russians a tidy whipping in conjunction with the Germans), and in Palestine, where they were defeated by the British Empire.

    In Palestine the Ottomans lost more than 550,000 men, losses over 4 times the TOTAL NUMBER of Ottomans who were serving in the Caucasus front.
    Care to guess which the Ottomans considered more important? Of course they were trying to defend Jerusalem and various other holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Moslems.

    As to Brusilovs offensive, most of the Austrian “casualties” were mass surrenders. Like the Russians, the Austrians had an unfortunate tendency to stick their hands up (the Austrians were the only nation to come even remotely close to Russia’s staggering surrender rate in WW1), the Germans did not want Austrians deployed on the western front if at all possible because such unreliable troops would have been a massive liability in combat against the French or British.

    Another thing about the Brusilov offensive is that most Russophiles only count the part of the battle in which the Russians were attacking, and conveniently ignore the fact that the Germans rapidly organised a counter attack that pushed the Russians back to their start lines, and in some places well past them, and caused the total Russian casualties to exceed 2 million killed, wounded, and of course POW by November 1916. The Brusilov offensive had a good start, soon got bogged down, and then collapsed in failure. It is also forgotten that it was part of a wider offensive, the remainder of which failed utterly, have you ever heard of the disastrous attack to the north led by General Aleksi Evert? It was an unmitigated disaster resulting in the loss of 80,000 men in a single morning?

    The simple fact of the matter is that Russia was, compared to the British and French, a minor actor in WW1, its military campaign was a complete failure, it did not defeat Austria-Hungary, it did not defeat the Ottomans, and it most certainly did not defeat Germany.

    Comment by Andrew — December 6, 2010 @ 3:05 am

  22. With distortions, another grand side-stepping of what has been communicated.

    Among the unanswered points is the insignificant and weak (portrayed) Russia managed to attack into German teritory way before the Western allies.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 6, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  23. (Briefly) According to the wikipedia page: “Brusilov’s operation achieved the original goal of forcing Germany to halt its attack on Verdun and transfer considerable forces to the East. It also broke the back of the Austro-Hungarian Army which lost nearly 1.5 million men (including 400,000 prisoners). The Austro-Hungarian Army was never able to mount a successful attack from this point onward. Instead it had to rely on the German Army for its military successes. The early success of the offensive convinced Romania to enter the war on the side of the Entente, though with disastrous consequences. Russian casualties were also considerable, numbering around half a million. The Brusilov Offensive is listed among the most lethal battles in world history.” So yes, Russia effectively knocked Austria out of the war.

    And “Professor Graydon A. Tunstall of the University of South Florida called the Brusilov Offensive of 1916 the worst crisis of World War I for Austria-Hungary and the Triple Entente’s greatest victory.”

    So the country that gave the Triple Entente its greatest victory had a negligible contribution to the war? The country that won one of the most lethal battles in world history had a negligible contribution to the war effort? Really?

    What you describe as the “counterattack” is not part of the Brusilov Offensive but is a separate battle.

    The reality is that Rusia was about the equal to either France or Britian in terms of its contribution to the war effort. It not only tied of 1/3 of Germany’s troops (acordong to your earlier post) while those other twopowers tied up 2/3, but basically single-handedly destroyed the Austrian military. Germany probably would not have won a 1:1 war against Germany, but neither could have either France or Britain.

    Comment by AP — December 6, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  24. Oh – and Russia defeated Austria in a major offensive 1914, when it occupied much of the province of Galicia for 9 months and took the Przmysl fortress, capturing or killing over 120,000 Austrian troops occupying that massive fortress. So Brusilov’s offensive was not Russia’s only victory in Europe.

    Comment by AP — December 6, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  25. There’s a reason why the Germans put effort in transporting Lenin from Zurich to Petrograd, in addition to providing other support to the Bolsheviks.

    Comment by John Hughes — December 8, 2010 @ 3:18 am

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