The eastern Front in people War One is regularly largely unknown to numerous Westerners. The case there was quite various to that on the western Front. Here, Rebecca Fachner adheres to up ~ above her short articles on Royal household squabbles here and also the spark that caused war to an outbreak here.

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The 100th anniversary the the an initial summer of civilization War One rolls onward, and with that commemorations that battles the everyone in the Western human being seems to recognize instinctively - the Marne, the Somme, Ypres… The war on the western Front is very much lively in the western consciousness, however what is so frequently forgotten is the it was actually a two-front battle in Europe. Germany to be not just fighting in the West versus the French and also British (and ultimately the Americans), but likewise in the East against the Russian Empire.


Russian troops top top the move to the front line. Native National geographic magazine, volume 31. 1917.

as a fighting force, the Russian empire was incredibly contradictory. They to be a formidable foe, however at the exact same time a really worrying ally. Their one substantial advantage in war was the sheer number of troops that they had at their disposal. It to be truly a staggering lot of men, millions upon countless Russian troops, a “mass of bodies all set to bleed” in the native of one historian of the period.<1> The key disadvantage because that the Russians was whatever else. The military had miserably bad leadership, was woefully underfunded and also was technologically backward. In the years prior to the war, the Allies, specifically France, had actually spent substantial sums of money trying to boost Russia’s technological capability.

Railroads had actually been a details target, together the activity of troops to the former as conveniently as possible was of great importance. France knew the German battle plans hinged top top Russia’s inability to mobilize their troops and also so planned on attack France first, then moving on come Russia just after the French had actually been defeated. Therefore, if Russia could respond more quickly, and force Germany to draw away troops in their direction earlier, so lot the much better for France. Their initiatives did perform some good, however not enough, together was painfully prove in the opening days that the war. It take it weeks because that the Russians to rally a fighting force along the German and also Austro-Hungarian borders.


Russia started the battle by invading east Germany. It to be able to do so together Poland was no an independent nation at this time definition that Russia and Germany to be contiguous. The very first major engagement that the battle was the battle of Tannenberg, which was a resounding loss for the Russians. The following week at the fight of Masurian Lakes, the Russians were pushed back further, and also would not fight on German soil for the remainder of the war. Despite the inauspicious beginnings, the Russians did gain some success, specifically against Austria-Hungary in the autumn of 1914. Through 1915, however, the Germans had made the eastern Front their top priority and began come hurl troops at the Russians, regulating to revolve the tide of the eastern war permanently in their own favor. Russia never ever again took pleasure in a significant advantage.

The geography of the battle in the eastern was very different when contrasted to the west. Rather than a compressed former line, the Russians and also Germans were ultimately fighting over an area of an ext than a thousand miles. This spread the fighting, put a much larger burden on army supply chains 보다 in the west, and also making Russian transportation problems an also bigger problem as they started to have actually supply difficulties soon after ~ war damaged out. One small, seemingly trivial problem added to the frustration, namely that Russian railroads were, and also still are, ~ above a different track gauge than parts of Europe further west. Railroad tracks in Europe (and virtually everywhere else) room 4 feet 8 inches personal from every other, but in Russia the tracks are 5 feet apart. This means that trains indigenous Europe don’t work-related in Russia and also vice versa; to this day, if you are travelling by railroad into Russia it causes delays at the border. This created all kinds of chaos for giving both armies and moving troops. All told, it normally slowed down the battle in the east. Additionally, because the former line extended over so huge a territory, trench warfare, something that is for this reason closely associated with the battle in the west, was no a variable in the east. There was no need for trenches, as the militaries had for this reason much more room to maneuver.

Another far-ranging and often remarked upon difficulty for the Russians to be the personality of the males making the an essential decisions. Tsar Nicholas to be a weak and also largely ineffective leader, and also enjoyed far too much command authority because that a human with minimal military experience. His two optimal commanders, Grand fight it out Nicholas and also Minister the War basic Sukhomlinov, hated every other and also constantly do the efforts to undermine the other, often to the detriment of their command. One of those commanders, it must be said, Grand duke Nicholas Nicholaievich, to be an extremely committed and able armed forces commander, irritable by the duplicity of his counterpart and also the ineptitude of his boss.


This was not a recipe because that success, and as the Russians continued to lose, blame was shifted around and around the command structure. Eventually the Tsar, frustrated and exasperated, made decision to move to military headquarters come take an individual command of the military. That hoped the his presence would accumulate both the troops and the command structure and also turn the birds of the war. On the challenge of it, this was not as bad a decision as it turned the end to be, and at least the Tsar’s heart was in the right place, so to speak. Unfortunately, Nicholas’ presence had the opposite effect, and also he was blamed by numerous for every solitary thing that went wrong through the battle from that point on. This severely undermined his authority, not simply with his military but also with his people, who had actually previously believed that the Tsar to be close come divine, and blamed all the army failures top top his generals. V his an extremely visible presence at the head the his army, Nicholas to be exposed together ineffective and also weak, and the Russian people had no choice but come blame him for the manifest fail of his strategy.

Compounding the Tsar’s image problem was the he had left his mam in control in his absence. Empress Alexandra to be dangerously unstable, and extremely unpopular, partly because of her association v the monk Rasputin; it to be widely believed that she was under his direct control. Alexandra conveniently assumed many of the government duties the her husband had actually left behind, i beg your pardon was really unfortunate, as she had small political acumen and also no suffer in government. What she did have was an unshakable faith in Rasputin, and also a stubborn refuse to grasp how widely he to be mistrusted and disliked. Alexandra careened native one terrible policy to another, dismissing experienced ministers and replacing them v self-serving correctly men. Events continued to spiral out of control, and after year of war and shortages, poor management and an ineffective monarchy, it is in reality extraordinary the the change didn’t take place sooner.

The Russian Revolution, at least the an initial one, didn’t finish the war. The an initial Russian Revolution, in February 1917, deposed the Tsar however the Provisional federal government that took his place did not desire to finish the war. Alexsandr Kerensky, the leader the the Provisional Government, had the makings the a political genius, and also it is one of the frustrating what-ifs of the Russian change to wonder what he can have achieved, yet he was intent on continuing to prosecute the war. This confirmed to be the undoing that both the Provisional Government and also Kerensky, as they underestimate just exactly how war weary Russia was, and also suffered the aftermath when the Bolsheviks released the October Revolution, promising, amongst other things, to end the war. The Bolsheviks sued for peace, and also the Germans forced them to sign a humiliating treaty, finishing the war in the east.

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A clip around the 1916 fight of Lake Narocz top top the eastern Front is easily accessible here on the site.