Brusilov offensive

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Brusilov offensive
Part of: First World War
Situation development during the offensive
Situation development during the offensive
date June 4 to September 20, 1916
place Galicia , Bukovina , Volhynia
output Russian Pyrrhic victory
Parties to the conflict

German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire Austria-Hungary Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire 1844Ottoman Empire 

Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire Russia


Austria-HungaryAustria-Hungary Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf Joseph Ferdinand Eduard von Böhm Paul Puhallo Karl von Pflanzer-Baltin Alexander von Linsingen Felix von Bothmer Yakup Pascha
German EmpireThe German Imperium
German EmpireThe German Imperium
Ottoman Empire 1844Ottoman Empire

Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire Mikhail Alexejew Alexei Brusilov Dmitri Cherbachev Platon Letschizki Vladimir Sakharov Alexei Kaledin
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire

Troop strength
Beginning of June 1916 :
37 infantry divisions,
11 cavalry divisions (Austria-Hungary),
1 infantry division
(German Reich);
Mid-August 1916 :
54 divisions (Austria-Hungary),
24 divisions (German Empire),
2 divisions (Ottoman Empire)
Beginning of June 1916 :
39 infantry divisions,
15 cavalry divisions.Mid

-August 1916 :
61 divisions

Austria-Hungary: 616,000 men (including 327,000 prisoners and missing persons) German Empire: 148,000 men (including approx. 20,000 prisoners)

up to 1,000,000 dead, wounded and prisoners; 800,000 men

The Brusilov offensive ( Russian Брусиловский прорыв , Brusilov'scher breakthrough) of the Russian army on the Eastern Front of the First World War began on June 4, 1916 and ended on September 20 of the same year. The offensive, named after General Alexei Alexejewitsch Brusilov , was one of Russia's greatest military successes in World War I, but the heavy losses accelerated the demoralization of the Russian army. It was a main motive for Romania's entry into the war on the side of the Entente .


After the Russian army had occupied two thirds of East Prussia and almost all of Galicia in the initial phase of the war , it was pushed back by several offensives by the Central Powers in 1915. Galicia and the Bukovina had to evacuate them in May 1915 ( Battle of Gorlice-Tarnów ). From the beginning of July to September 1915, the tsarist army was forced to make a great retreat : Against the background of previous defeats and an ammunition supply crisis, the Russian armies gradually evacuated Poland , Lithuania and parts of what is now Belarus (“ Great Retreat ”).

In the war year 1916, the German army initially concentrated on the Western Front in France , where the Battle of Verdun began on February 21 . The German chief of staff Erich von Falkenhayn wanted to inflict so many losses on France in the trench warfare that it would be impossible for him to continue the war. In contrast, the commanders of the German Eastern Front Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff endeavored to first throw Russia out of the war. Falkenhayn was able to prevail. France was in grave distress from the fighting off Verdun and urged its allies to launch relief attacks.

The failed spring battle

Like most general staffs in the first two years of the war, the Russian army command also underestimated the technical possibilities of the modern defensive, which had radically reduced the chances of success in frontal attacks, especially through the widespread use of machine guns. In response to the request for help from the Western allies, Russian troops on both sides of Naratsch in Belarus started a direct attack on the German positions in mid-March . In the battle on Lake Narach , the Russian army lost around 100,000 soldiers without any significant change in the course of the front.

The operation on Lake Naratsch had failed despite an enormous superiority in man and material and now paralyzed large parts of the officer corps of the tsarist army, since the army leadership did not look to the tactics it had ordered, but to the troops deployed: The commander gave the reasons for this western army group, Alexei Ewert , the lack of heavy artillery, but above all the alleged cowardice of their own soldiers. To this end, he had tried to practically destroy the enemy troops in a strip only a few kilometers wide with artillery fire that lasted for days and then let the infantry push in afterwards. However, he had completely overestimated the effects of the bombing. As a little later before the Battle of the Somme , the Germans temporarily moved their units back from the firing line and brought in reserves in the meantime. When the Russian soldiers then advanced across the no man's land, which is more than 1,000 meters wide, they offered an uncovered target against the intact German defense with their machine gun nests.

In complete misunderstanding of the situation, Ewert had sent more and more soldiers into the alleged gap, which led to the catastrophically high losses in the battle. The antiquated tactics - massed attack in the smallest of spaces in battle - was not questioned by their intellectual fathers. As I said, this did not only apply to the Russian army. The German Commander-in-Chief Falkenhayn had turned it into a general plan for 1916 with his strategy of letting the French "bleed white" before Verdun; and the British High Command also believed in 1916 that a resolute frontal attack by the infantry was the best way to decide a battle.

Planning, new strategy and tactics

Alexei Brusilov (1917)

On April 14, 1916, the Russian chief of staff, Mikhail Alexejew , summoned his commanders-in-chief to the Russian headquarters in Mogilew . He planned an offensive through the north-western and western sections of the front to meet further requests for assistance from the western allies. The commanders of these sections of the front, Generals Ewert and Kuropatkin , refused to do so. From the lessons of the defeat at Lake Naratsch, they concluded that they had too few reserves and, in particular, too little heavy artillery. The newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Southwest Front, General Brusilov, opposed these views . He claimed that with his materially neglected front he could carry out a successful attack against the Central Powers without needing further reserves.

Brusilov and his staff had carefully studied the last defeats of the Russian army. They found the old tactics and strategy of the tsarist army to be the main problem. In a new concept, the attack, supported by as many fake attacks as possible in many places, should take place simultaneously along a front several hundred kilometers wide. This was intended to deprive the enemy of the opportunity to deploy his reserves in a coordinated manner. Furthermore, the infantry should have the shortest possible path to the enemy positions. As a result, the soldiers in Brusilov's sector of the front drove their trenches in some places up to fifty meters from the trenches of their opponents. In order to maintain the momentum of the infantry attack, he set up his own reserves in large systems of positions directly at the front so that they did not have to march up laboriously and time-consuming as with his predecessors. He also assigned a different role to artillery. It was not it that was supposed to destroy the troops of the Central Powers, but the surprise of the infantry attack. The infantry attack was to be strengthened by infiltrating smaller combat groups into the enemy positions before the actual attack. The Russian infantrymen also tunneled under the front line of the enemy in many places. In order for this surprise to succeed, however, the element of surprise had to be preserved. Therefore preparatory artillery fire should only be brief. Likewise, in close cooperation with the infantry, it should concentrate on key targets such as machine-gun nests and eliminate mapped enemy gun positions from the air, instead of daring the hopeless attempt to defeat the well-fortified positions of the enemy with days of bombardment. At the end of April, France and Italy , which saw themselves threatened by an expected offensive by the Austro-Hungarian Army , renewed their requests for a Russian relief offensive . Alexeyev agreed to Brusilov's proposal and ordered the Southwest Front to go on the offensive.

Beginning of the offensive

The Russian breakthrough in Volhynia

Brusilov offensive, location June 4-10, 1916
Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria, commander of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army

On June 4, 1916, the 8th Army under Alexei Kaledin attacked with five corps (XXXXVI., XXX., XXXX., VIII. And XXXII.) Between the Styr bridgehead from Czartorysk to Sapanow in the direction of Kovel on the northern section of the Russian southwest front and Lutsk on. After a day's artillery bombardment of the Austrian positions, the Russian infantrymen went from their positions to attack. Kaledin's army had 200,000 soldiers and 704 guns. He faced the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army under Archduke Joseph Ferdinand with 150,000 soldiers and 600 artillery pieces. In the terms of the conservative Russian generals, this slight numerical superiority was not sufficient for a successful attack.

General Kaledin deployed around 100 battalions with 320 guns between Dubiszcze and Koryto in the main attack area. The Russian XXXIX. Corps was the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Division under Major General Sellner at Olyka , to the south, following the Russian VIII Corps, the Szurmay Group with the 70th Honved Division under General Goldbach and the Austro-Hungarian 7th Division as far as Mlynow . North of the breakthrough wedge was the 37th Honved Division under FML Tabajdi of the mass of the Russian XXXIX. Corps opposite. On June 5, Kaledin's forces succeeded in tearing open the Austrian front at Olyka completely, expanding the breakthrough to 75 km wide and 35 km deep by June 7, and pushing the enemy back from the Putilowka to the Styr. The Austro-Hungarian 4th Army lost most of its forces on its withdrawal and melted down to 27,000 soldiers within a week.

General Alexander von Linsingen

In the north near Rafalowka and at the Styr bridgehead near Kolki , the Austro-Hungarian corps units Hauer and Fath were able to defeat the attacks of the Russian 4th Cavalry Corps under General Gyllenschmidt and the XXXXVI. Corps withstand for the time being. As the Russian XXXX. Corps finally succeeded in recapturing the city of Lutsk (Łuck in Polish) on the Styr, which had been lost the previous year, on June 7th, the breakthrough was completely achieved. After the intervention of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group, Colonel General von Linsingen , the Austrian Army Leader Joseph Ferdinand was replaced by General Karl Tersztyánszky on June 7th . The commanding officer of the kuk X. Corps defeated in the breakthrough area, General Martiny , was also replaced by FML Friedrich Csanády .

The Russian troops advanced along the railway line from Rovno to Kovel and took the Styr bridgehead at Roziszcze on June 8 , where they were stopped by the reserves of the Fath Corps Group. Between June 10th and 12th the remaining units of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army struggled to maintain the Styrlinie, the breakthrough section had spread to 85 kilometers wide and 48 kilometers deep. The new front of Army Group Linsingen , which had taken over the section of the defeated Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, now ran from Tarnawka, along the Plaszewka and Styr, northwards to Lipa, on via Gorochow and Swiniuchy to Stochod near Linjewka, from there on to Sokul, along the Styr to Kolki to Rafalowka.

General Vladimir Sakharov

In order to take advantage of the success of the 8th Army, Brusilov now also attacked the 11th Army , which was connected to the south, under Vladimir Sakharov . His troops faced the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army and the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army , which both together only had nine divisions. The attacks at Mlynow and Sapanow led to the capture of the Dubno traffic junction by June 10th . Since his northern flank was extremely endangered by the collapse of the 4th Army, the Austrian General Paul Puhallo ordered the retreat from the Ikwa to the Plaszewka and the lower Lipa, until June 15 he moved a new line of defense at Demidowka. The positions of the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army under Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli could be held east of Brody on the upper Ikwa for the time being. At the end of June and beginning of July the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army under Puhallo had to retreat from the Plaszewka-Lipa river line across the old border to Swiniuchy and Gorochow.

The attack against the southern army

In addition to the successful operations in Volhynia , the attack by the Russian center in the area west of Tarnopol failed completely on June 4th. The northern wing of the Russian 7th Army under Dmitri Cherbachev should with the XVIII. and XXII. Corps against the German " Southern Army " under Felix von Bothmer . Cherbachev, however, belonged to the conservative school of Russian generals. In response to the defeats of the army, he had adopted French tactics that did not correspond to Brusilov's ideas. So he ordered an artillery bombardment lasting 48 hours and launched a conventional infantry attack. He had to stop the attacks at Trembowla, north of Kozlow and Nowo-Alexsiniec, which he himself had only reluctantly carried out, after a few days and 20,000 men were lost without success.

Cherbachev's attack with its center was more successful: the Russian II., XVI. and XXXIII. Corps threw back the north wing of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army in the Battle of the Strypa . The defeated kuk XIII. Corps had to decline with heavy losses. The Russian XVI. Corps attacked with the 41st Division over the Strypa on Buczacz , which had to be evacuated on June 10th by the kuk 36th Division. After the loss of Buczacz, the German southern army had to extend its front to the south and the kuk VI. Support Corps under FML Arz von Straussenburg . On June 12, Bothmer's south wing on Koropiec and Nazniow had to be withdrawn. German reinforcements from the Macedonian front soon arrived here , who were able to re-establish the line in heavy fighting at Tlumatsch by the end of the month .

Combat area on the Dniester

General Platon Letschizki

Simultaneously with the 8th and 11th Armies, the 9th Army under Platon Letschizki attacked the southern end of the front on June 4th . As with the attack further north, the Russians had a slight numerical advantage here. The 9th Army fielded 150,000 men. Opposite it stood the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army with a total of 107,000 soldiers. With regard to the heavy artillery, which was regarded as the main factor in the thinking of the conservative generals, however, there was a dramatic inferiority on the Russian side. The Austrians put 150 of their own against the 47 heavy artillery of the tsarist army. Nevertheless, the Russians achieved considerable success on this section of the front as well. The front of the Austro-Hungarian 15th Division under Major General Weiss-Tihany could not withstand the pressure of the Russian II Corps at Jaslovets for long. On June 7, the kuk 29th Jaslovets Brigade had to surrender, the Russian 43rd Division also broke through south at Dulibty. The Austro-Hungarian 30th Brigade stayed in vain in the loop of the Dniester between Navale and Dolina. On June 9, the front of the kuk XIII. Corps under FML von Rhemen torn up between Mitnica-Porchowa. The connection to the Hadfy group near Koscielniki on the Dniester was lost. The Austro-Hungarian 15th Division was completely defeated, of 10,965 men lost, over 8,000 were captured by Russia. The Dniester line of the Hadfy and Benigni corps groups, which were at the center of the planter's army, were finally taken over by the Russian XXXIII. and XXXXI. Corps overrun.

Russian intrusion in Bukovina

The threatened crown land of Bukovina
Colonel-General Karl von Pflanzer-Baltin

After the front of the Austro-Hungarian Corps Hadfy was breached on June 6 at Zaleszcyki, and the XI. Corps under FML Habermann had collapsed in the Battle of Okna by June 9, the front of the 7th Army on the Dniester was completely shaken. The Austrian Commander-in-Chief Karl von Pflanzer-Baltin could only withdraw his XI. Arrange corps on the line Sniatyn - Horodenka , which degenerated into flight. The Austro-Hungarian 7th Army disbanded almost completely, losing around 100,000 men during the 50 kilometer advance of the Russians. The withdrawal already reached the Prut , the northeastern Bukovina with Chernivtsi was on June 18 to the Russian XII. Corps lost. Horodenka fell to the Russian XXXIII. Corps, Kolomea lost until June 29th. At the end of June the German 119th Division was unloaded at Stanislau and strengthened the struggling group of Planters by counter-attacks in the direction of Obertyn, which had already been lost. In the south, the heights at Dorna Watra and the small towns Jakobeny, Cimpolung and Kirlibaba were the first targets of the 3rd Cavalry Corps before the Russian XII. and XI. Lechitsky Corps of the 9th Army from Sereth had advanced.

Contributing factors to Russian success

In addition to the innovations that Brusilov had introduced in his section of the front, numerous factors on the side of the Central Powers played into his hands: The defense system of the Austro-Hungarian troops was particularly susceptible to his tactics of surprise attack. It consisted of three lines at a depth of just two kilometers. In the first and second rows of the trenches, most of the active combat troops were gathered. The third line consisted of the rest positions of the reserves . These were housed in large bunkers , similar to the Russian reserves. In the surprise attacks, the first two lines were often overrun so quickly that the Russians reached the bunkers before the reserves had come out of them. In the first two lines the kuk losses were mainly caused by fighting, in the third line almost exclusively by capture.

Although it was known from the aerial reconnaissance and the Russian radio communications intercepted and deciphered by the communications department of the Austro-Hungarian Army High Command that a Russian offensive was imminent, the troops of the Central Powers had not even attempted to disrupt the Russians' preparations for attack. The Austro-Hungarian officers felt completely safe in their very well developed positions and assumed that Brusilov's front would not have enough strength to attack, because two thirds of the Russian army were in the two northern front sections. This assessment was also made in the highest command of the army of the Danube Monarchy. The Austro-Hungarian Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf saw the south of the Eastern Front as a sideline that did not require reinforcements, and therefore did not feel obliged to promote the initiative of the commanders there. “ The Russian attack was by no means a surprise, ” but the Austro-Hungarian armed forces were surprised by the “ effect of the attack ”, as Maximilian Ronge , the head of the records office of the Danube Monarchy, summed up. After the defeat, the legend of the massive desertion of Austro-Hungarian soldiers of Slavic origin was used as a justification for the failure.

General Georg von der Marwitz

In addition, disputes within the leadership of the Central Powers were detrimental to them. Hötzendorf absolutely wanted to continue his offensive in Italy, and the Germans were unwilling to help their ally any more. This problem was only solved on June 8th, when his German counterpart, Falkenhayn Hötzendorf, made it unmistakably clear that he should break off his offensive. However, the additional 10 1/2 divisions could no longer stop the success of the Russian offensive. A counter-attack under Georg von der Marwitz against Kaledin's 8th Army in Polesia failed with great losses.

Diversion attacks by the Russian Western Front

The Eastern Front in the summer of 1916

The surprising successes of the south-western front prompted the chief of the Russian general staff, General Michail Alexejew , to send further reinforcements to Brusilov. By June 16, the Lokaczy - Kisielin line had been reached in Volhynia, where the advance of the Russian 8th Army stalled.

On June 16, the first counterattack by the German Army Group Linsingen began on Stochod , which attempted in vain until the end of the month; to recapture the lost Lutsk. The corps group Bernhardi was assigned the kuk II. Corps under General der Infanterie Kaiser , the group Fath, as well as the German X. Army Corps under General von Lüttwitz .

General Brusilov now faced an ambivalent situation. The Austro-Hungarian troops facing his south-western front were seriously weakened, but he felt threatened on the northern flank by the German counterattacks and charges from the Gronau Army Detachment near Pinsk . In his opinion, this danger in the north had to be eliminated before further action could be taken against the Austro-Hungarian troops in Volhynia and Galicia . After his intervention with the Stawka, Generals Ragosa and Lesch and their armies had to carry out relief attacks to prevent further relocation of German reserves to the south. Opposite the Russian 3rd and 4th armies were the forces of the German army division of Woyrsch . General Ewert , the Commander in Chief of the Western Front, carried out the first strong attacks from June 13th until the end of the month. After a short break, a major attack followed from July 2nd in the area on both sides of Baranowitschi to tie up the German reserves in the north. These attacks, however, were carried out according to the old tactics and failed by July 29, with the loss of 80,000 men. The Russian 2nd Army under General Pyotr Balujew also unsuccessfully launched an attack against the German 10th Army between July 4th and 9th in the narrowness between the Wiszniew and Naroch lakes .

Stabilization of the front of the Central Powers

General Walter von Lüttwitz, leader of the German counter-offensive in Volhynia

In order to stabilize the Eastern Front, the Austro-Hungarian South Tyrol offensive against Italy was canceled shortly after the Brusilov offensive began in mid-June. Several major associations, including the kuk XVII. and XXI. Corps with five divisions were relocated to the east. The defeats exacerbated the existing leadership crisis in the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian army. In order to compensate for the losses in officers, officers who had already left the service had to be reassigned to the troops. As a rule, however, they showed neither understanding for their men nor for the problems of the new warfare. This leadership deficit deepened the chasm between the soldiers of the multi-ethnic army and their predominantly German-Austrian and Hungarian superiors.

The German Reich felt compelled to support its Austro-Hungarian ally and withdrew some divisions from the Verdun area. While Brusilov was waiting for Ewert's attack, which he had delayed several times, the Germans were able to move twenty divisions to the threatened southern part of the eastern front. For consolidation, 12 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions were moved to Volhynia and a further 7 infantry divisions to the Bukovina and the Carpathian passes. The reinforced army group Marwitz was in the Kowel area of ​​the XXII. Reserve Corps , the Beckmann and Dieffenbach groups , and the kuk Kavalleriekorps Leonhardi .

The decision of the fighting had been on the knife's edge several times and it was questionable whether it would even be possible to seal off the Russian intrusion. The southern army was of great importance , although it was not initially the focus of the fighting. Nevertheless, it was uncertain whether they would have to share the fate of the 4th Army and the 7th Army : retreat under direct pressure from the enemy. The picture changed decisively when the AOK in Teschen placed the kuk VI. and XIII. Corps under the command of the Southern Army. This decision was to gain the greatest possible significance in the period that followed. It thwarted the intention of AOK 7 that these two corps wanted to withdraw to the south in order to fall into the flank of the enemy pushing after. It is doubtful whether this plan would have been feasible according to the composition of the time: reinforcements were only to be expected slowly and sparsely, although the 4th Army needed them most urgently. The danger that the Russians, advancing north of the Djnestr, could destroy the southern army in the flank and rear and thus bring down the entire southern army front was much closer. So the Southern Army took on a high and risky responsibility for the entire front and in this ungrateful task it extended its front section. A backward movement that had already been initiated was halted and a tough defensive position was taken with the two additional corps. With reserves that were laboriously saved elsewhere, especially German battalions, the defense succeeded; the front held, so that the structure of the southeast front was essentially preserved despite the two extremely threatening collapse zones.

"General Graf von Bothmer , like a rock in the surging sea, remained largely in control of further enemy attacks."

Reorganization of the areas of command

On July 26th, the German chief of the general staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, appeared at the headquarters of the Austrian army commander Archduke Friedrichs in Teschen and urged the allies to adopt a unified supreme command on the Eastern Front. On July 27 came to Pless the German generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff accompanied the German Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg with Conrad von Hötzendorf the briefing together. After the loss of the city of Brody and the Russian attacks in the Kovel area, the crisis broke out again, and decisions that had been necessary for a long time now had to be made.

On July 28th, the command areas were reorganized: Hindenburg received the supreme command over almost the entire Eastern Front, from north to south the Army Groups Eichhorn , Prince Leopold of Bavaria , Linsingen and now also the Austro-Hungarian Army Group Böhm-Ermolli. He could now uniformly coordinate the defense against further Russian attacks. From Brody to the Dniester, the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Karl, took over an army group remaining under Austro-Hungarian command, but the German Major General von Seeckt was appointed its chief of staff . The previous 7th Army on the Prut, the 3rd Army brought in from Italy and, at the end of August, the 1st Army under Colonel General von Arz, newly formed against the Romanians, were subordinated to this Army Group . The 3rd Army Köveß was inserted between the German Southern Army and the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army and reinforced by the Kraewel Corps with the 105th and 119th Divisions . Finally, the southern wing of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army was sufficiently strengthened by the intervention of the German Carpathian Corps under General Conta with the 1st and 200th Divisions in the Kirlibaba area, on the Baba-Ludowa and at Jablonitza.

Further course of the offensive

The battle for Kovel

General of the cavalry Alexei Kaledin
General Vladimir Mikhailovich Besobrasov

After the failures of the Russian Western Front, Brusilov made the decision to attack Volhynia again with the 8th Army and prepared to conquer the city of Kovel . In his opinion, possession of this important transport hub would have averted the threat of a flank attack and forced the German forces against Ewert's western front to retreat. He was assigned the 60,000-strong Guard Army under General Vladimir Besobrasov . He was also given command of the 3rd Army under General der Infanterie Lesch, which was previously under Ewert's command.

The Army Group Linsingen, which had to withstand the strongest attack again, now had 30 divisions, half of them allies, and faced 33 divisions of the Russians. The full Russian divisions of 16 battalions opposed the Central Powers with only 9 to 12 battalions per division. The German army group under Friedrich von Bernhardi , which was in the main area of ​​attack, had a total of 15 divisions, around 170,000 men with 480 guns. The attacks of the Lesch Army against the right wing of the Fath Corps were repulsed by the 10th Landwehr Division under General Clausius at Stobychwa. The attack from the Stochod bridgehead near Zarecze and Hulewicze was sealed off until the beginning of August.

On July 28th, General Besobrasov's army and his two grenadier corps began the attack on the important Kovel transport hub, on the left two corps of Kaledin's 8th Army, the XXXIX. and XXIII., the front to Zaturcy. The right wing of the Bernhardi army group with the combined division Rusche and the kuk 29th division as well as the X. Corps of General Lüttwitz, reinforced by the German 121st division , defended the threatened Kovel. The Stochod line from Kisielin to Zaturcy was held by the 20th Division under Roderich von Schoeler . To the north of Trysten, however, the Russian II Guard Corps broke into the left wing of the German 19th Division , and the flanks of the Schmettau and FML Josef von Schön divisions were threatened. The 19th Division vacated their positions near Woronczyn and withdrew behind the Stochod. On June 29th, Linsingen reinforced the retreating front with the 86th Division brought up . The seam between the Schön and Schmettau divisions near Ostrow was already supported by reserves from the 121st Division under Lieutenant General Kurt von Ditfurth . The Russian general seemed no longer to heed his own innovations. One factor in the failure was that the Guard Army had not been trained in Brusilov's tactics. Likewise, Brusilov found the leadership of the Guard incapable of waging a modern war. In any case, Brusilov went over to a massive use of his forces. After the failed Russian attack, Linsingen was able to largely stabilize its front in front of Kovel.

The kuk II Corps under General Kaiser, which had meanwhile been shaken on the northern section by General Lesch, went back to a shortened position in the Stochodwinkel between Sitowicze and Rudka Miryńska with its two divisions Pfeffer (4th) and Schamschula (41st Honved) . The Russian XXX. Corps pushed hard from the area northwest of Wielick .

The attack of the Russian XXXX, presented by Kaledin on Vladimir-Volynsk . Corps meanwhile brought the worn down remains of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army under Tersztyansky into another crisis. The attacker broke into the 70th Honved Division of the Szurmay Corps and completely overran the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Division under Major General Jemrich . The south wing of the 37th Honved Division under Major General Haber was also breached by the Russians and thrown back to Cholopieczy. The Austro-Hungarian 11th Division under General Obauer was largely taken prisoner. The Austro-Hungarian 4th Army lost another 15,000 men and 45 artillery pieces. The backward movement was already spilling over to the connecting wing of the Corps Group von der Marwitz, the Leonhardi Cavalry Corps. The general command of the newly introduced XXXX. Reserve Corps under General der Infanterie Litzmann now took over command of the battle. By July 30th the situation with the 4th Army was stabilized, the battle for Kovel continued until August 12th and brought the Russians no further territorial gains.

The offensive in August 1916

Success of the Russian offensive

Tsar Nicholas II urged his generals to resume the offensive in order to support Brusilov. On August 4th the Russian 11th Army under General Sakharov attacked again between Brody and Tarnopol; their goal remained the reconquest of Lviv . It turned out that the balance of power had meanwhile changed to the disadvantage of the Russian army. The intervention of German reserves under Lieutenant General Melior prevented the attempt by the Russian VII Corps on August 6th to break through the front in the section of the Austro-Hungarian 14th Division at Zalosce and Ratyszcze. The newly established German 195th and 197th divisions fought on the upper Sereth and was then led into the area north of Zborow. The counter-attack of the troops of the General Command of the 1st Army Corps under General von Eben from the Zloczow - Zborow line, freed from Army Group Eichhorn, restored the front of the beleaguered 2nd Army by August 8th. In the course of these battles, the Turkish 15th Corps under Yakup Pascha was transferred with two divisions to Eastern Galicia in mid-August and strengthened Bohm-Ermolli's forces on the Zlota Lipa .

On August 8, General Besobrasov's special army and the Russian 8th Army attacked again across the Stochod between Starny and Kovel in the north, and the newly established Siberian I Corps broke into enemy positions at short notice. The I. Guard Corps overran the battalions of the German Hahndorff Division and the connecting wing of the 41st Honved Division. The left wing of the 107th Division was pushed in, the right front section was able to hold its own. At Rudka Mirynska, Besobrasov's army and the I. Turkestan Corps entered positions of the Fath Corps. On the night of August 11, the Linsingen associations were replaced by Zarecze on both sides. General Bernhardi had the 75th Reserve Division advance to Mielnica and Krywin to reinforce the Imperial and Royal Corps of the Kaiser. The Russian II Guard Corps tried to break out of the western Stochod bridgehead at Witoniez, but was turned away by the Lüttwitz group. Then on the right the attack of the Russian XXIII. Corps at Kisielin. The further attacks were unsuccessful; here both sides went back to trench warfare.

The German 1st Division , unloaded since August 5th in Máramaros-Sziget , was diverted to southern Bukovina on August 8th and deployed at Kirlibaba. The front of the 105th Division was broken through by Russian forces at Wesola, the 119th Division , which was attacked east of Tlumatsch at the same time , could no longer hold out. General Kraewel had to take the 119th Division back to the heights north of Tyśmienica. The newly formed Imperial and Royal 3rd Army had already suffered considerable losses on August 7th, and Letschizki's forces were able to break through on Nizniow. On August 9, the Russian XI. Corps on the Upper Prut violently attacked the Austro-Hungarian 59th Division and captured the dominant position at the heights of Pirs Dora. The Russian XII. Corps penetrated almost unhindered into the area east of Nadworna , between Marjampol and Dubienko the kuk XIII. Corps go back. To the south of this the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army, exposed on the flank, had to retreat to the Ottynia - Tysmjenica line and behind the Bistritza . After the following fights, Stanislau was also lost on August 10th, and the new line on the upper Sereth was formed between Marjampol - Nadworna. As a result of the open southern wing, the German southern army had to withdraw its front between Jaroslawice and Batkow behind the Zlota Lipa between August 14 and 18, the kuk 2nd Army fighting to the north.

Leopold of Bavaria, the new Commander-in-Chief in the East

The end of the offensive

Romania's entry into the war on the side of the Allies, which took place on August 27, only brought relief for a very short time. On the contrary, the Russians had to give their new allies a large numerical support after their minor initial successes and the disastrous defeats that followed. In the Romanian theater of war , the Central Powers were victorious until the beginning of December 1916. The Russian army now had to cover an additional hundreds of kilometers, which deprived it of strength for the offensive. On August 29th General Field Marshal von Hindenburg was appointed Chief of the Army Command , and Prince Leopold of Bavaria took his place as Commander in Chief East .

At the beginning of September, at the same time as the Romanian attacks in Transylvania, the Russian 9th Army began a new offensive in western Bukovina. The attacks at Brzezany - Zlota Lipa - Narajowka were completely repulsed by the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army. General Letschizki stood on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains , but these mountains were - as in the war winter of 1914/15 - an insurmountable obstacle for the Russian troops. On September 17, the German Gerok Corps carried out a successful counterattack on the Narajowka. On September 20, Brusilov broke off the offensive due to the enormously increased losses.


If information is given, there is consensus in the literature that up to a million Russian soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during the Brusilov offensive. In contrast, the losses of the Central Powers turned out to be higher, whereby it should be noted that many Austro-Hungarian soldiers in particular were taken prisoners by Russia. In the literature, however, there is no agreement on the breakdown of the number of victims of the Central Powers, on the one hand because the information on the number of prisoners in Austria-Hungary differs greatly depending on the date, and on the other hand because the victims of the fighting on the front north of the Pripyat Marshes also belong to the Victims of the Brusilov offensive should be added. According to Keegan, the total losses of the Central Powers during the Brusilov Offensive on the part of Austria-Hungary amounted to 600,000 men, including 400,000 prisoners, and on the part of the German Reich 350,000 men. It remains unclear whether these figures only concern the losses caused by the offensive of the Russian Southwestern Front under Brusilov, or whether they also include the losses caused by the attacks of the Russian Western Front that began shortly afterwards.

According to Stevenson, Austria-Hungary's losses amounted to 600,000 dead and wounded and 400,000 prisoners, which is said to have been around half of all soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Army deployed on the Eastern Front. Stevenson does not provide any information about the German losses. Other figures can be found in Bihl. He puts the total kuk losses from the offensive on the Russian Southwest Front alone at 475,000 men, of which 226,000 were prisoners. No information whatsoever about the total losses of the Central Powers can be found in the corresponding article in the Encyclopedia First World War , only information about the number of prisoners in the first phase of the Brusilov offensive. According to this, 200,000 prisoners had been taken by the Russian armed forces by June 12. Together with the other losses, this reduced the strength of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces in this area “practically by half”.


The Brusilov offensive was initially extremely successful for Russia, but caused resentment within the Russian army due to the enormous losses. The demoralization intensified in the period that followed and contributed significantly to the collapse of the Tsarist empire through the February Revolution .

The offensive also earned the Russians a political Pyrrhic victory . Numerous politicians hoped that Romania's entry into the war would ease the burden on the Russian army. The success of Brusilov was the decisive factor for the Romanian government to enter the war. High-ranking military officials, including the Russian Chief of Staff Alexejew, had blocked this option. You should be right. In the Romanian theater of war , the tsar's troops suffered a serious defeat and were permanently weakened.

From a tactical point of view, the initial phase of the Brusilov offensive was significant. While the military benefit of Brusilov's innovations was ultimately not fully recognized in Russia, the German army achieved greater successes with the comparable " raid troop " tactics since the end of 1917 . Brusilov's opponents complained that his offensive had only been successful because of the weakness of the Austrians and that his manner of waging war was useless against the German troops. Why Brusilov himself deviated from his scheme towards the end of the offensive is uncertain.


Web links

Commons : Brussilow-Offensive  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Edward J. Erickson: Ordered To Die. A history of the Ottoman army in the First World War . Greenwood Press, Westport 2000, ISBN 0-313-31516-7 , pp. 142 and 169.
  2. Michael Clodfelter: Warfare and Armed Conflicts. A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500-2000. McFarland, Jefferson (NC) / London 2001, ISBN 0-7864-1204-6 , p. 458.
  3. ^ War Archives: Austria-Hungary's Last War. Volume 5, Vienna 1934, p. 218.
  4. ^ Reichsarchiv: The World War from 1914 to 1918. Volume 10, Berlin 1936, p. 566.
  5. John Keegan: The First World War - A European Tragedy. 3. Edition. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, p. 425.
  6. Author collective: Germany in the First World War. Volume 2, Berlin (East) 1968, p. 338.
  7. ^ Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 231.
  8. ^ A b Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London, 1998, p. 247.
  9. ^ Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 250.
  10. Austria-Hungary's last war. Text volume 5, Vienna 1934, p. 398.
  11. ^ Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 251.
  12. Figures on the Austro-Hungarian 7th and Russian 9th Army: Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914–1917 , Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 250.
  13. ^ Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 254.
  14. See also Albert Pethö: Agents for the double-headed eagle. Austria-Hungary's secret service in the World War. Leopold Stocker Verlag , Graz / Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-7020-0830-6 , pp. 144-148.
  15. Quoted from Albert Pethö: Agents for the double-headed eagle. Austria-Hungary's secret service in the World War. Leopold Stocker Verlag , Graz / Stuttgart 1998, p. 145.
  16. ^ A b Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1998, p. 261.
  17. Ludwig Eberhard Freiherr von Schlotheim: The Imperial German Southern Army in the fighting during the Brusilov Offensive from June 4 to August 14, 1916, Munich 1916, pp. 80–81.
  18. My war memories 1914–1918 . Berlin 1919, p. 178.
  19. Austria-Hungary's last war. Volume 6, Vienna 1934, p. 121.
  20. Jump up ↑ This number is what both John Keegan: The First World War - A European Tragedy. 3. Edition. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, p. 425, as well as David Stevenson: The First World War. 1914-1918. 3. Edition. Düsseldorf 2006, p. 207.
  21. John Keegan: The First World War - A European Tragedy. 3. Edition. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, p. 425.
  22. David Stevenson: The First World War. 1914-1918. 3. Edition. Düsseldorf 2006, p. 207.
  23. ^ Wolfdieter Bihl: The First World War. 1914-1918. Chronicle - data - facts. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna a. a. 2010, p. 142.
  24. ^ Norman Stone: Brusilov Offensive. In: Gerhard Hirschfeld u. a. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. UTB, Paderborn 2003, p. 396.