Russia in World War I
the War
February Revolution

World War I : Aims and Strategies

A.) Military Strategies

The Russian Empire had a population exceeding that of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary combined. The Russian General Staff therefore believed that an offensive stragegy had to be pursued, a strategy very welcome to Russia's French allies because it would at least partially relieve them from German pressure.
The offensive strategy lead to a number of successes, especially in (Austro-Hungarian) Galicia, the Bukovina, Slovakia, and later in (Ottoman) Armenia. In part the success could be explained by a local population sympathetic to the Russians. Yet in the BATTLE OF TANNENBERG the Germans had stopped the Russian advance, and over time Russian offensives became less and less effective and more and more costly in terms of casualties. In 1914 alone, Russia lost 3 million men in dead, wounded and P.O.W.s.
When it came to artillery, the Russian army was hopelessly outgunned by the Germans. Worse, they lost many guns early in the war, and for the remainder they lacked artillery shells. They did even not have sufficient rifles to give one to every soldier, telling some they had to pick the rifle of a fallen comrade.
While attacks against the equally badly armed Austrians and Turks made sense, those against German positions were merely suicidal, only pinning the respective German forces down and preventing them being deployed elsewhere. The many Russian offensives - against these odds and with heaviest casualties - were often undertaken because the French and Italian allies asked for them.

B.) War Aims

In the beginning, war aims were badly defined. Old dreams of maritime glory were resumed - control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, and Russian domination of the Baltic Sea, where EAST PRUSSIA was to be annexed. Russian domination over the Baltic Sea was the topic of two secret agreements with the Entente Powers in 1915 and 1916.

The Battle of Tannenberg, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Russia at War, 1914-1916, from Library of Congress, Country Studies (scroll down)
DOCUMENTS Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Russians surrendering in the Battle of Tannenberg, 1914
Emily Greene Balch, "Peace Delegates in Scandinavia and Russia," The Survey , 34 (September 4, 1915), pp. 506-08, posted by Women and Social Movements in the United States 1820-1940 at Binghamton
REFERENCE Irene Neander, Grundzüge der Russischen Geschichte (an Outline of Russian History), Darmstadt 1970, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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