Brusilov Offensive
General Alexei Brusilov attacks Austro-Hungarian positions using new tactics
4 June - 20 September 1916
author Paul Boșcu, January 2016
The Brusilov Offensive was the main offensive operation of the Russian Army on the Eastern Front in 1916. The offensive is named after the Russian general who planned the attack. The attack was aimed at Austro-Hungarian positions and it was very successful at first. In the end, Russian delays during the summer, combined with German reinforcements and Romania's entry into the war forced Brusilov to suspend offensive operations.

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The Brusilov Offensive was undertaken by the Russian Army against the Central Powers on the Eastern Front of World War One. It was one of the worst crises faced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the war. The battle took place in what is today western Ukraine, in the area adjacent to the towns of Lviv, Lutsk and Kovel. The offensive was named after the Russian general who planned it, Alexei Brusilov, commander of the Southwest Front.

Brusilov’s tactical innovations marked a new level of military best practice for 1916. As such they would be closely studied by the armies of all the major combatants.

Brusilov believed victory against the weakened Austrians was possible through careful preparation, and since he requested no reinforcements, he was given permission to make his attempt.

When the offensive opened, two questions were crucial: Did the Austrians know what to expect? and How would the troops perform? The answer to the first soon became clear: they did not. The second question had less simple answers. Most troops performed well, but there was a worrying desertion rate. Thus, during three weeks of inactivity and four of a successful offensive, enough men for three full-strength divisions deserted.

The Russian armies north of the Pripet Marshes also went on the offensive, profiting from Brusilov's success, to press forward toward Baranavichy, the town where the Russian headquarters had previously been located. This offensive, opposed by German troops, was soon stopped but Brusilov's army group sustained its success over the Austrians throughout the summer.

The military problems of the First World War consisted of a number of circles to be squared. A successful offensive needed both surprise and preparation. These were incompatible: preparation of millions of men and horses took so long that surprise was impossible. In the same way, mobility and weight could not be reconciled. A huge weight of guns could be assembled. The enemy might be defeated. Then the guns could not be moved forward. In other words, armies would be mobile only if they did not have the weight to make their mobility worthwhile. Brusilov and his staff were the first to try to find solutions to these problems.

Brusilov’s staff noted that, in a breakthrough operation, there were two main problems: the breakthrough itself, and the exploitation of it. These demanded almost contradictory solutions. A breakthrough could only, it seemed, be achieved by assembly of great weight. But assembling this weight of guns and shells would mean that the enemy knew what to expect, and when. The defence would know where to put reserve troops. Consequently, even if the breakthrough were achieved, the attackers would stumble onto a new line. Counterattacks would follow; enemy artillery would enfilade the attackers in the area of breakthrough and the attack would collapse, despite its initial tactical success.

Most often this method of attack had failed during the war. Most recently, at Lake Naroch, the Russians had failed with these methods. Of these failures, various interpretations were possible. On the southwestern front, the view was taken, by Brusilov though not by some of his subordinates, that the breakthrough operation had failed precisely because strength had been too narrowly concentrated.

The essential difficulty was that attackers were not sufficiently mobile. In the circumstances, there seemed no solution at all except ‘attrition’ — to attack the enemy where he could be hit hardest, where he would be obliged to fight, i.e. his strongest point — and then make him lose many thousands of men by heavy bombardment. This was the method chosen by Falkenhayn in the summer of 1915, and executed particularly by Mackensen. This was also chosen on the Western Front by the Germans at Verdun, and by the Entente on the Somme.

Most commanders preferred to believe that the breakthrough operations had failed for a variety of other causes — not enough shell in particular; reserves not moved into support fast enough; troops lacking in ‘elan’, and so on. Each of these had sufficient validity to be convincing to many experienced observers. But they were far from being the whole truth.

After the failure at Lake Naroch, there was a general unwillingness among the senior commanders to risk their reputations further. The only general willing to step up to the mark was General Alexei Brusilov. When he discovered that eight German divisions had been withdrawn by the Germans and dispatched to the Western Front, he was more than willing to use his four armies (the Eighth, Eleventh, Seventh and Ninth Armies) to attack the Austro-Hungarians south of the Pripyat Marshes, with the intention of pushing them back through Galicia.

Brusilov was assisted by a better supply of shells and guns as the Russian munitions industry slowly improved. Even the supply of rifles had at long last begun to approach the number of soldiers serving the Tsar.

Since the front to the north, from the Pripyat river to the Baltic, was the nearest to Russia's and Germany's vital centres, all but four German Eastern Front divisions were north of the Pripyat Marshes, and the preparations caused them no anxiety. The planned operation was orthodox and therefore predictable; they would have ample advance notice of its starting, and could withstand it.

Brusilov rejected the orthodox approach. Troop and supply concentrations and trench-digging could not be concealed, so he decided to confuse the Austrians by having all four armies dig trenches along their entire front. The main assault would be by the Eighth Army toward Kovel; but the Austrians could not extract this from a picture of frenzied activity everywhere. Brusilov deliberately violated the principle of 'concentration of force' to increase his chances of surprise.

The Austrians attacked on the Italian front, and their initial successes prompted urgent Italian appeals for Russian help. General Alexei Evert was still dragging his feet, but Brusilov's preparations were so advanced that Mikhail Alexeyev, the Russian Chief of Staff, asked him if he could attack alone. Alexeyev could only have done this on the Tsar's orders, and like the responses to appeals by the French in 1914 and February 1916, and the British in 1915, it put fidelity to allies above Russia's own interest. Sending the Southwest Front alone into action destroyed the entire concept of a coordinated offensive.

The four Russian armies occupied a front about 300 miles long, between the Pripyat Marshes and the Romanian frontier. Brusilov's efficient combination of aerial reconnaissance and spies kept him better informed than the enemy about the forces facing him.

Brusilov had already established a reputation as by far the most competent and aggressive of the Russian generals. He had also demonstrated a mastery of the new techniques of warfare through a combination of practical experience and diligent study. By 1916 he had managed to produce a blueprint for success, some of which predated the tactical methodology being established on the Western Front. In this he was greatly assisted by his specially selected and highly trained staff officers, who were the men who had to convert his intentions into action on the ground.

Brusilov had deduced that an offensive must be carried out on a broad front to reduce the possibility of deadly flanking fire and also to allow for multiple breakthroughs which could further confuse the opposition. He was also convinced that surprise was crucial to success. Thus, he used an advanced deception campaign involving fake wireless messages, the diversionary movement of troops and guns, and the very late deployment of the guns intended to support the ultimate attack.

There would be no long bombardment, which would give away Brusilov’s intentions. Instead his infantry would attack after a relatively short but tightly focused artillery barrage, launching their assault from trenches sapped as far forward as possible in order to reduce the amount of time they spent exposed in No Man’s Land.

One of Brusilov’s important innovations was to hold his reserves close to the front, ready to add immediate weight to faltering attacks, or indeed to respond to any breakthrough opportunities without the dreadful delays inherent in mass troop movements of any distance on the diabolical Russian railway system. These reserve troops were sheltered out of sight in a series of specially prepared earthworks and dugouts.

Brusilov recognized the importance of diligently training his gunners in all aspects of gunnery and then assigning each battery to a specific task, while the Russian Air Service was properly harnessed to provide photographic reconnaissance.

Brusilov also recognized the need to improve the training of his infantry prior to the attack; he wanted them to be more than massed cannon fodder. His men had to have a grasp of the basic soldierly skills and were given proper briefings to ensure that they knew what was required of them when the moment came. His staff even constructed scale models of the Austrian trenches to allow troops to rehearse their movements.

Brusilov’s tactics evinced a considerable degree of tactical innovation, with four distinct waves envisioned: the men in the first wave would carry large numbers of hand grenades and would capture the Austrian first line; the second wave, similarly armed, would push straight on for the second line, which Brusilov believed to be the center of Austrian resistance; after which the third and fourth waves would drag forward the machine guns for consolidation, while at the same time looking for opportunities to expand the breakthrough.

The Austrians noticed some of the preparations in front of their lines, but refused to believe that the Russians were capable of launching anything other than crude mass attacks reliant on the press of numbers alone. Indeed, Conrad von Hötzendorf, the Austrian Chief of Staff, was considerably more preoccupied with supervising the offensive he had launched on the Italian front than with what Brusilov might be planning on the Southwest Front.

The offensive was an ambitious undertaking, as the Austrian lines by this time were generally well-constructed trench systems equipped with plentiful deep dugouts and covered by copious barbed wire entanglements.

More than half the Austro-Hungarian troops were Slavs, mostly better disposed toward Russians than toward their Austrian or Hungarian compatriots.

German General Erich Ludendorff had advocated a unified eastern command under Paul von Hindenburg, but the Austrians opposed publicising their subservience, so no such command yet existed; the front facing Brusilov was under the Austrian Archduke Friedrich.

Brusilov finally launched his offensive. The bombardment worked spectacularly, with the field guns clearing the barbed wire while the heavier guns targeted the Austrian batteries, machine gun posts and command centers. Over the next two days, at varying times, the Russian infantry emerged to charge across the narrow No Man’s Land, often catching the Austrians unawares deep in their dugouts. Under the pressure the front collapsed, while multiple breakthroughs triggered further forced withdrawals by the units on the flanks in order to avoid being cut off.

After three hours the guns abruptly stopped, then just as mysteriously resumed again; a pattern that would be repeated several times, succeeding in confusing the Austrians as to what was happening.

In many places whole units surrendered to the Russians, especially those made up of men of minority nationalities, who were no longer willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of an empire that seemed foreign to them. Huge numbers of prisoners were taken, as the shaken Austrians surrendered to anyone who would take them prisoner.

The greatest success was achieved in the south, between the River Dniester and the Carpathians, where the Austrian Seventh Army was split in two, lost 100,000 men, mainly taken prisoner, and by mid-June was in full retreat.

Brusilov's preparations worked admirably. The enemy was genuinely surprised when the attack opened. The Russian Army overwhelmed the Austrians and pushed on to take the communication center of Lutsk, and to advance forty miles beyond the start line.

There were reserve positions around Lutsk, the pride of Archduke Joseph Ferdinand. Belts of wire had been set up, with concrete fortifications, around the place. But it was defensible only if the heights to the south, at Krupy, were free of enemy artillery. However, Krupy was indefensible — it could be approached easily, and the attackers would even be invisible as they moved through long grass. Russian guns occupied them and fired on the defences of Lutsk. The Austrians panicked, and hundreds fled over packed pontoon bridges across the river Styr.

The defenders but could not get away so easily, since they were blocked by their own wire. Austrians soldiers were even impaled on it as they ran back. In Lutsk, another huge packet of prisoners was taken by the Russians, who in two days had been able to claim 50,000 men and seventy-seven guns.

Soon the Austrians were falling back all along a 250-mile front stretching from the Pripyat Marshes right down to the Carpathian Mountains. This left only one realistic option for Conrad: appeal for help from the Germans once more. Conrad travelled to Berlin, cap metaphorically in hand, for an audience with the unprepossessing figure of Erich von Falkenhayn, the German Chief of Staff. It did not go well. In order to help them, the Germans demanded that all Austro-Hungarian units in Galicia be under direct German command. Conrad had no choice but to concede.

An incensed Falkenhayn not only brusquely rejected all thoughts of suspending his Verdun Offensive in order to divert large numbers of German divisions back to the Eastern Front, but he demanded the peremptory suspension of Conrad’s precious Italian Offensive.

Finally, Falkenhayn revealed his true price for sending German reinforcements: all Austrian units in Galicia would henceforth operate under direct German control. Conrad was furious, but had no choice but to accept this humiliation.

Just as the Germans were flexing their power over the Austrians, the Russians were demonstrating that there was a complete absence of unified direction within the Russian Army itself. While Brusilov had paused to rest his troops, he had fully expected that in mid-June Evert, who was in command of the neighbouring West Front, would launch the next phase of the attack. Instead, Evert produced a variety of excuses to justify delaying his attacks. It was the combination of the arrival of massed reserves and Evert’s obtuse inactivity that gave the Central Powers the chance to stabilize the line.

So it was that the Brusilov Offensive stalled at the very moment when the man himself was no longer in command of its destiny. In the first two weeks, Brusilov's two flank armies achieved considerable penetrations, but success in the center was more limited. Casualties in all three armies were heavy, and most of the artillery ammunition had been fired. The inner flanks of the Eighth and Ninth Armies were vulnerable to counterattacks, so the line needed to be straightened by advancing the center. This raised the issue of pinning-down attacks and the West Front's passivity.

While Evert prevaricated, the Germans moved up their reserves, with three divisions grudgingly dispatched from the Western Front, where by this time the imminent Anglo-French assault on the Somme was further adding to Falkenhayn’s woes. More divisions and numerous artillery batteries were also sent from the accumulated German reserves held on the Eastern Front, while Conrad himself was forced to dispatch several divisions from the Italian front.

Evert requested four days' postponement for bad weather, then claimed that the German concentration of troops and guns at Molodechno was too strong to beat, and proposed attacking at Baranovichi instead. The Tsar consented, but the need to regroup imposed further delay.

Brusilov protested hotly at being left unsupported, scorned Evert's Baranovichi plan as needing at least six weeks to prepare, and asked Alexeyev to persuade the Tsar to order Evert to attack as planned. Alexeyev replied that Evert had orders to attack soon, and offered Brusilov two additional corps. Brusilov grumbled that Evert's attack would fail because it could not be properly prepared quickly, that two corps were no compensation for Evert's foot-dragging and that moving them would take a long time, during which they would obstruct transport of his supplies; but he did not refuse them.

By the time Evert was ready to attack, Brusilov’s armies had already returned to the fray, although any visions he might have had of knocking Austria-Hungary out of the war were fast fading. The relative lack of tactical sophistication of Evert’s West Front armies when they did belatedly attack was also starkly apparent, and their casualties were correspondingly high. Still, Brusilov’s Southwest Front armies continued to make progress, hurling back the Austrian Fourth, First and Second Armies.

The Austrian resolve began to stiffen as German divisions filtered into the line, forming solid barriers against further Russian advances. There was also a deliberate program of Germanification of the Austrian armies, whereby German officers would take control right down to battalion and even company level.

Events justified Brusilov's scepticism, and his fears of German counter-action. When Evert finally moved, at Lake Naroch and Baranovichi, he did not even succeed in pinning any German forces down. The Germans realized that Brusilov's successes threatened a death-blow to Austria-Hungary, and began moving troops south even before Evert's offensive petered out.

The Germans' principal concern was to hold Kovel because its loss would cut the north-south railway, hampering movement between the Austrian and German fronts. A mixed German-Austrian force was assembling in the Kovel-Manevychi area to attack the Eighth Army's northern flank, but the Russians disrupted its preparations by attacking first. In the end the Germans managed to stop the Russian advance during the battle of Kovel.

Both sides now raced to reinforce. The Germans moved troops from the Western Front, the Austrians from the Italian and Serbian fronts. Stavka sent Brusilov units from the West Front and the rear. Thanks to superior railways, the Central Powers were reinforcing slightly faster, but not yet fast enough to replace their losses.

Brusilov planned to resume his offensive in two stages. The Seventh and Ninth Armies in the south were to start advancing northwest along the Dniestr, the Third, the Guard and the Eighth were to follow over the Stokhid, the first two toward Kovel, the third toward Vladimir-Volynski, also on the north-south railway.

General Alexey Kaledin was halted 25 miles short of Kovel. His advance to the river Stokhid eliminated a threat to his right flank, but brought him no nearer Kovel, now heavily protected by German forces.

The Stokhid's east bank was marshy and wooded, and the Russians were confined to three narrow causeways. They advanced with all the expected elan, driving the mixed Austro-German force across the river and taking some 11,000 prisoners. However, machine guns and marshy terrain exacted an enormous price, as did enemy use of air superiority to deny reconnaissance and impede artillery support by shooting down observation balloons.

Brusilov conferred with Kaledin and Bezobrazov at Lutsk, and decided to continue toward Kovel. It was hoped that concentrating 64 battalions against nine German and 16 Hungarian would overcome the enemy's advantage of prepared positions, and the lack of maps or photographs of the defences. The defensive positions were mostly in woodland, and German aircraft thwarted attempts to photograph those visible from the air. But the attack failed completely.

One consequence of the relative success of the Brusilov Offensive was to convince Romania that now was the time to join the Entente. Bordered by Russia, Austria-Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria, she had the misfortune to be weaker than any of them. The Romanian Army had not yet recovered from the drubbing it had received in the debacle of the Balkan Wars; nor had it undergone a program of much-needed modernization. Many members of the Romanian royal family and politicians were overtly pro-German, but the country’s best opportunities for profitable national expansion all seemed to involve the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The British had already promised Romania the acquisition of Transylvania if it joined the Entente, and the Russian successes in the summer of 1916 meant that it was now or never. The Romanians were well aware that once the Russians occupied the provinces of Bukovina and Transylvania they would never voluntarily relinquish them; these provinces were therefore the price demanded by the Romanians for joining the war on the side of the Entente.

The Russians were naturally dubious, doubting the worth of the Romanian Army, but the political advantages of another ally seemed to outweigh the disadvantages.

The late summer of 1916 saw a concerted move by Hindenburg to reestablish his pre-eminent position. He had been nominally in charge of the German Army in the east, but had hitherto been adroitly sidestepped by Falkenhayn. However, Falkenhayn’s position was fast deteriorating, due to the perceived failure of his Western Front strategy. Hindenburg saw his chance and demanded the appointment of a unified Commander-in-Chief on the Eastern Front. Falkenhayn’s fall was imminent and he was eventually replaced as the German Chief of General Staff by his old adversary Hindenburg. At the same time Hindenburg’s protegee, Ludendorff, was appointed Quartermaster General, putting him in de facto control of German war strategy.

Falkenhayn had appointed first General August von Mackensen and then Prince Leopold of Bavaria to command independent groups of armies in both the central and southern sectors of the front, leaving Hindenburg with direct control only of the northern armies.

By this time all Falkenhayn’s political capital had been expended and he was obliged, at least theoretically, to accept the need for a unified command. Conrad had even more reason to object, but he was just a pauper at the German table and could be safely ignored. Thus it was that at the end of July 1916, Hindenburg was confirmed as Commander-in-Chief of all the armies of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front.

The Russian troops now surged across Galicia, advancing toward the foothills of the Carpathians, although they were still nowhere near as far advanced as they had been in 1915. The offensive would continue deep into September, but the rate of Russian casualties was rising steeply. Even to Brusilov it had become apparent that ultimate victory was dependent on defeating Germany, which seemed as unlikely as ever. Failing to capitalize on their numerical advantage, the Russian attacks were either incompetently handled or, where successful, unsupported through the chaos endemic in the Russian High Command.

Perhaps even more disturbing, the incidence of desertions from the Russian armies began to escalate under the twin impacts of war weariness and excessive casualties suffered to little or no avail.

The Russian victory was simply attributed by all observers to the low quality of the Austro-Hungarian army. The opinion was widely held in Germany, beginning, of course, with Falkenhayn. But it was also, most curiously, put about by the Austro-Hungarian official historians; and some Austro-Hungarian officers. But what was said later does not at all accord with what was said at the time, by the units involved. The truth of the matter seems to be that if such troops were ably commanded, they fought well. If they were not, then they collapsed much more than other troops might have done — partly because of the language gap, partly because of the class-gap between officer and man.

The Slav soldiers are held to have surrendered at once: an opinion, naturally enough, supported by Slav propagandists. Conrad himself was usually too loyal to blame his own men for letting him down; but he slipped all too easily into such talk when the situation required.

The truth was that the Austrians had passed into a mood of almost grandiose confidence. By the middle of 1916, old tunes were being played in Vienna; in Teschen, Conrad’s headquarters, the voices of Prince Eugene and Radetzky were once more heard: the Prussians snubbed, the Balkans ruled, the Poles about to join the Habsburg Empire. An expedition against northern Italy was almost automatically the outcome of this mood, and it was toward this that Austrian efforts were now bent. It produced a fatal diversion of the Central Powers’ war-effort, from which Brusilov could greatly profit.

Neither IV nor VII Army — which faced the greatest defeats — show the slightest indication of fear for the morale or the fighting qualities of the men. If morale was as bad as it was subsequently made out to be, then clearly the commanders were not doing their jobs. As things were, sick-lists, soldiers’ letters, and discipline in general seem to have offered few signs for alarm — at least, none were reported. It could of course be that alarms were not reported by divisional and regimental officers so as to avoid trouble or discredit. But on the whole it seems unlikely.

In the records of the defeated Austrian forces, what is much more evident than concern for morale is the combination of serenity and incompetence they reveal. There were of course innumerable reports of impending Russian action. In particular, the units reported continual Russian sapping-forward. What is curious is the Austrian units’ failure to stop this sapping, which, evidently, would give the attacker an advantage. Commanders seem to have reported when they stopped it, not when it continued — no doubt for fear they would be driven into troublesome minor actions.

Certainly, the affairs of the Austro-Hungarian IV Army command were conducted in a spirit of wonderful frivolity. The chief of staff, Berndt, left a diary that is very revealing. He had been put in this command, under Archduke Joseph Ferdinand — godson of Emperor Franz Joseph — much against his will. The Archduke subjected Berndt to continual slights: he would not use the same automobile as Berndt, he gossiped and joked with subalterns at the expense of senior officers, treated horses with savagery, and made low conversation at table before a prudish Berndt and other disapproving German officers.

What mattered more was the almost complete diversion of Germany from the Austro-Hungarian part of the Russian front. Late in 1915, Falkenhayn had decided to resume German attacks in the west, hoping to defeat the French there by a war of attrition. There was an almost complete withdrawal of German support for the Austrian front against Russia. The front against Russia, overall, was weakened greatly. The Austrians would be deprived of vital German support. There was only a vague agreement, late in May, that troops from the other parts of the Eastern Front might be sent to the Austro-Hungarian front if required.

The Central Powers’ alliance had begun to weaken toward the end of the Serbian campaign, in late 1915. Conrad had been irritated that Germany took such preponderance in the area; he resented depending on Bulgaria, feared Bulgarian ambitions in Albania and elsewhere, and even considered making a separate peace with the Serbians in order to contain these ambitions. All Falkenhayn wanted to achieve, from a military viewpoint, was some kind of passable situation in the Balkans; while indirect German control over Bulgaria, perhaps even of Albania through Bulgaria, suited him politically much better than direct Austrian control of anything.

The two powers also quarrelled over matters of peace. The Germans hoped to win the war outright. This meant an offensive in the west. The Austrians were not nearly so pledged to this end. On the contrary, an outright German victory would worry them almost as much as an outright allied victory. They were in much the same position as Italy in 1942: ‘if England wins, we lose; if Germany wins, we are lost’.

The Austro-Hungarians took a quite different view of the military situation. Conrad and Count Tisza agreed that ‘There can be no question of destroying the Russian war-machine; England cannot be defeated; peace must be made in not too long a space, or we shall be fatally weakened, if not destroyed.’ But when the Austrians charged off in the direction of peace, as they frequently did throughout the war, they were always brought up short on the Italian rope.

Relations between Conrad and Falkenhayn were very tense. Conrad complained, as ever, that the Germans were ‘brutal, shameless, ruthless’. He resented being told so little of Verdun, and resented even more the little he was told. Falkenhayn’s disapproval of the Austrian offensive against Italy annoyed him. For some time there had been such coolness in relations that Conrad was driven to send a letter of apology.

The Austrians did not want to face the total war Germany now prepared to fight; at the same time, they could see no alternative to it. They too could now see that a ‘neutral’ peace would mean the end of the Monarchy. For better or worse, this meant alliance to the bitter end with imperial Germany.

Brusilov's offensive captured 8,255 officers and 370,153 men. Including killed and wounded, it deprived the Central Powers of over 700,000, and took over 15,000 square miles (38,000 km2) of territory, by far the Entente's biggest success so far. Brusilov's unorthodoxy had been brilliantly vindicated. But the price was high. Russian casualties were over 550,000, and three-quarters of the Front's 400,000-man reserve was expended. Success also brought increased commitments in the south, where the Ninth Army's advance into the Carpathian foothills more than doubled its front line.

The German forces involved in opposing the Russian advance lost 350,000 men, and a belt of Russian territory sixty miles deep was taken back from the invaders.

Had Brusilov possessed the means to follow up his victory and bring reserves and supplies forward at speed, he might have recovered more of the ground lost in the great retreat of 1915. He possessed no such means. The rail system, which in any case favored the Austrians rather than the Russians, could not provide tactical transport across the battle zone. The roads, even if he had disposed of adequate motor transport, were unsuitable for heavy traffic. Nevertheless, the Brusilov offensive was the greatest victory seen on any front since the trench lines had been dug on the Aisne two years before.

The Russian victory, though it also cost a million casualties, sealed the fate of Falkenhayn, whose security of tenure as Chief of Staff had been weakening as the battle for Verdun dragged on. His dismissal, and replacement by Hindenburg, was disguised by appointing him to command in the new campaign against Romania.