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Czarist Army - 1914

Russia went to war in 1914 with good regiments, average divisions and corps and poor armies and fronts. With the industrialization of war, the problems of mass and mobility became infinitely more complex. The new weapons extended the breadth and depth of the battlefield, increased the lethality of fire, played havoc with well-established concepts of combined arms, and made possible the more rapid mobilization of manpower for the conduct of the campaign. The traditional definitions of tactics (the direction of forces on the field of battle) and strategy (the control of units as they maneuvered prior to engagement) broke down.

The experience of combat in the Far East during the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, brought these problems to the attention of a group of reform-minded Russian officers associated with the general staff and the Nikolaevskaya Academy of the General Staff, who became the leaders of a postwar military reform effort. For these officers the conduct of operations, as the means of linking together tactical successes into a coherent whole and setting the stage for new methods and means of troop control, became the essence of modern warfare.

The process culminated with new field regulations in 1912, an unsuccessful campaign for a "unified military doctrine," and a greater emphasis on immediate offensive operations in Russia's war plans. These interwar debates had marginal impact upon the way in which Russia went to war in 1914. The concept of a unified supreme headquarters (Stavka) was accepted, and the intermediary command was introduced to control the operations of a group of armies in a given sector of the theater. New Russian field regulations placed greater emphasis upon effective combined arms, the meeting engagement, and march-maneuver.

In addition, thanks in part to changing diplomatic circumstances, bureaucratic politics, and the emphasis upon a short, decisive war, Russian war plans shifted from General Mikhnevich's covering-force strategy to one of initial offensive actions, even before the completion of mobilization, a position in keeping with Colonel Neznamov's views on the decisiveness of initial operations. War Plans A (Austro-Hungary) and G (Germany) as drafted did not provide for a decisive massing of forces and means against either opponent. When war came in the summer of 1914, after the false start of the proposed partial mobilization against Austro-Hungary, Russian forces under Plan A were committed to immediate offensive operations against the Germans in East Prussia and Austro-Hungarians in Galicia.

Nowhere did Russian forces achieve an overwhelming superiority, which would have brought about a decisive victory. In their advances to contact and initial engagements the Russian armies found their logistical systems to be totally inadequate to sustain the pace of operations. Stavka and the fronts did not effectively coordinate the armies' actions and were slow to adjust their planning to enemy actions.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:47:12 ZULU