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Russia had lost a great deal of territory to Germany and Austria in 1915, and they wanted to gain it back. Russian General Alexei Brusilov put together a plan in April 1916 to launch a major offensive against Austria. It ended up being Russia’s greatest feat of arms during World War I, and among the most deadly military offensives in world history. Brusilov hoped to take pressure off France and Britain and hopefully knock Austria out of the war. The plan was to attack along a broad front, preventing the Austrians from using reserves and minimizing the distance between Russian and Austrian lines. The result of the Brusilov Offensive was a terrible Russian blow against Austria-Hungary, which took 1,000,000 casualties. Russia could not hold onto its land gains, but it demonstrated its military capability on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution.

  1. Background

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    1. Russia had lost a great deal of territory to Germany and Austria in 1915, and they wanted to gain it back.

    2. Russian General Alexei Brusilov put together a plan in April 1916 to launch a major offensive against Austria. He hoped to take pressure off France and Britain and hopefully knock Austria out of the war.

    3. He thought if he could attack along a broad front, the Austrians would not be able to use reserves.

    4. Brusilov also wanted to minimize the distance between Russian and Austrian lines.

  1. The Initial Attacks

    1. The first Russian attack began at 1 AM on June 4, 1916 with a 1900 gun barrage of German positions. The attacking guns stretched from the Pripet Marshes all the way to Bukovina.

    2. Instead of advancing, the Russians then shelled the German positions a second time.

    3. Then the Russian infantry attacked. By 6 PM, the Russians had captured several thousand prisoners and one-third of the Austrian artillery. The Austrians retreated.

    4. Within a few days, the Russians had taken almost 20 miles of ground.

    5. In the north also, several thousand Austrians fled or surrendered. They ceded about 50 miles.

    6. Things were looking grim for the Austrians. By June 12, the Russian army had captured about 3000 Austrian officers, 190,000 soldiers, 200 heavy guns, 650 machine guns, and 200 howitzers. They also took large numbers of supplies and ammunition.

    7. In the north, the Russians pushed the Germans back 30 miles. But they had outrun their supplies and had to temporarily halt the attack. They also had lost several hundred thousand casualties

  1. Second Wave of Attacks

    1. On July 2, the Russians under Alexei Evert attacked, but they were not fully prepared. Communications were poor or non-existent.

    2. The Austrians, backed by a German corps, fought the Russians off. The Russians took 80,000 casualties while only inflicting only 16,000.

    3. Meanwhile, in the north, Brusilov pushed the Austrians back another 100 kilometers.

    4. In late July, Hindenburg and Ludendorff took charge of the Austrian front.

    5. July 28: Another massive Russian attack drove the Austrians back even more. One Austrian unit (the 4th army) alone lost 15,000 men, which was 60% of its strength. The Austrian forces had lost their will to fight.

    6. Russian commanders did a poor job of coordinating their attacks, and this allowed the Austrians and Germans to shore up their defenses.

    7. German control of the skies allowed the Germans to bomb Russian positions and force them onto the defensive.

    8. German Marshall Hindenburg wrote “All we know is that sometimes in our battles with the Russians we had to remove the mounds of enemy corpses from before our trenches in order to get a clear field of fire against fresh assaulting waves.”

    9. On August 17, Romania joined the war on the side of the Allies. They hoped to get additional territory. The next month they invaded Transylvania (part of A-H at the time). Emperor Franz Joseph is said to have cried “The war is lost!”

  1. Results

    1. Austria-Hungary took 1,000,000 casualties in the Brusilov Offensive.

Cite This Article
"The Brusilov Offensive" History on the Net
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November 28, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-brusilov-offensive>
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