East Prussia Campaign
First battles on the Eastern Front
17 August - 14 September 1914
author Paul Boșcu, January 2016
During the East Prussia fighting the forces of the Russian Empire invaded the German province with the aim of knocking the Germans out of the war. Poor tactics, combined with logistics and communications problems led to defeat for the Russian Army at the Battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes.
The Russian invasion of Eastern Prussia occurred on the Eastern Front of World War One. The offensive was a means of diverting German troops from the Western Front to the Eastern Front of the Great War, thus providing indirect support to the British and French forces. In the end, despite the fact that they had superiority in numbers over the Germans, the Russians were defeated in the battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes.

Under French pressure, and out of a genuine desire to do its best by the western allies against the common German enemy, the Russian High Command in 1914 was committed to do its part. Two-fifths of the peacetime army were in any case stationed around the great military centre of Warsaw, from which its strategic deployment against East Prussia and the Carpathians might easily be achieved. The reception there of reinforcements from the reserves mobilized in the interior was also a simple matter.

Given Germany's anticipated weakness in the east, Russian staff calculated that sufficient force could be found to mount an offensive on the East Prussian frontier that would ensure a crisis for Berlin in its backyard, which was also the historic homeland of the German officer corps. Thus an attack through Masuria toward Königsberg and the other strongholds of the Teutonic Knights from which the Germans sprang would be certain to create acute material and psychological anxiety in the German High Command.

Geography was to disrupt the smooth onset of the Russian combined offensive. Less excusably, timidity and incompetence were to disjoint it in time. In short, the Russians repeated the mistake made so often before by armies apparently enjoying an incontestable superiority in numbers: that of exposing themselves to defeat in detail, that is, of allowing a weaker enemy to concentrate at first against one part of the army, then against the other, and so beat both.

Though the Russians knew that they outnumbered the Germans, their means of identifying the enemy's location were defective. The Russian cavalry, despite its large numbers, did not seek to penetrate deep into the enemy positions, but preferred to dismount and form a firing line when it encountered resistance.

While the aviation service of the Russian army was the second largest in Europe with 244 aircraft, aerial reconnaissance completely failed to detect German movements. The German 2nd Aircraft Battalion, however, together with the two airships based at Posen and Königsberg, began to report both the strength and the march direction of the Russian columns as early as a week before they began to cross the frontier. Aircraft and airships would continue to provide vital information throughout the campaign.

The Russian Army was a huge beast. Even though the reservoir for conscription was largely restricted to the Russian Christian population, and multifarious reasons were justification for exemption, the empire was so huge that the standing army of 1.4 million would reach 5 million on mobilization. Their training had been rudimentary, concentrating on basic soldierly skills. Yet in some areas, the Russian Army was surprisingly innovative, with a large Imperial Air Service and much experimentation ongoing into the possibilities of armored cars. Yet many of these new weapons were not yet operational.

Individual conscripts served three years in the infantry on call up, then seven years in the reserve, followed by eight years in the second-class reserve, before a final period in the militia until they reached the age of forty-three. In 1914, the mobilization plans were greatly sped up by a combination of preparatory measures and the French-financed improvements to the railway system, which allowed the Russians to place 2 million men ready for action on the Eastern Front within thirty days.

The Russian officer corps was also distinctly variable in quality. The top was rife with personal animosities, professional jealousies, factionalism and regional parochialism. Many officers had also been distracted by extensive counter-insurgency duties in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution, while others were swamped by paperwork or thwarted by the innate conservatism of many of their superiors. Another dragging factor on the efficiency of the Russian Army was the illiteracy of the vast majority of the lower ranks, a result of the poor Russian educational system.

The Russian Army was better equipped than is sometimes imagined, with the standard rifle being the magazine bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifle, which was a reliable and accurate weapon. The infantry regiments were further equipped with eight machine guns of the belt-fed water-cooled Maxim M1910 type, which proved to be both efficient and practical in action. Like the British and German infantry, the Russian soldier wore a camouflage uniform, a greenish khaki which came in many different shades, especially after heavy wear.

The main field gun, the Putilov 76.2 mm, was a fine weapon, while the heavier 122 mm and 152 mm Schneider guns were the main heavy artillery – although, as with most armies, there was a severe shortage.

Shortages would become apparent during mobilization and even more so when the fighting began: rifle and machine gun ammunition, shells and, frustratingly, many basic items of equipment and uniform, including an inexplicable dearth of boots – surely an easily calculable essential. The problems of the Army were deep set within the state, since Russia was still a backward, primitive society which could only ever harvest a small proportion of its huge assets even in the case of war. This was just as well for the Central Powers, for Russia’s population outnumbered that of Germany and Austria-Hungary combined.

There were human defects also. Russian regimental officers were unmonied by definition and often poorly educated; any aspiring young officer whose parents could support the cost went to the staff academy and was lost to regimental duty, without necessarily becoming thereby efficient at staff work.

The qualities of the peasant soldier — brave, loyal and obedient — traditionally compensated for the mistakes and omissions of his superiors. But face to face with the armies of countries from which illiteracy had disappeared, as in Russia it was far from doing, the Russian infantryman was at an increasing disadvantage. He was easily disheartened by setback, particularly in the face of superior artillery, and would surrender easily and without shame, en masse, if he felt abandoned or betrayed. The trinity of Tsar, Church, and country still had the power to evoke unthinking courage; but defeat, and drink, could rapidly rot devotion to the regiment's colors and icons.

The German Army on the Eastern Front would always be outnumbered, but would also always be superior in training, leadership, supply and weaponry. Its core was the belief that conscripts, if well trained, equipped and led, would provide adequate front-line troops in larger numbers than those of other belligerents that used conscript reservists only for secondary or garrison duties.

As in the West, Germany's Eastern Front infantry was backed by lavish artillery support, especially superior to Russia's in heavy guns and howitzers.

Expecting only a short and mobile war, the German High Command had not yet fully grasped the importance of machine guns, but was much closer to doing so than the Russians, and equipped its troops with them on about eight times the Russian scale. Faced with an unexpected protracted war, Germany's industrial strength and communications enabled it to adapt better and faster than Russia or Austria-Hungary.

Panic and desperation had prompted the German generals’ behaviour in July. But their mood came from factors that the First World War showed to be unreal. General Schlieffen had suffered from visions of a two-pronged invasion of Germany, from France and Russia, and his famous Plan seemed to be the only possible way of countering this threat. But the war showed, first, that armies’ mobility on the offensive was so limited as to reduce much of the danger, and second that defensive firepower was so powerful that even a superiority of three to one did not suffice to overcome it. There was, in other words, every chance for a defensive operation.

Germany declared war on Russia following the Russian general mobilization. It is ironic that Austria-Hungary, which had declared war on Serbia, only belatedly declared war on Russia. Romania and Bulgaria had resolved to stay out of the war, but the Eastern Front which was created was still immense, stretching some 1,000 miles. The distances involved in military operations were vast, forcing a dependence on railways. For the Germans and Austrians, blessed with superb railway networks, this was not a problem, but over the border in Russia the system was far more ramshackle.

Russian railway lines were a sparse resource which linked only the main population centers, while there was an additional complication in the wider track system they employed. French investment had improved matters a little, but the paucity of their railways restricted the Russians’ ability to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

The immense distances within the Russian Empire, particularly those separating centers of population at which reservists must mobilize, and the relative sparsity of rail connections between such centers and the frontier, suggested to the military technocrats of Germany and Austria that tables of mobilization measured in days by them would take weeks to complete by their Russian equivalents.

The Russian Commander-in-Chief was Grand Duke Nicholas, the Tsar’s brother. The Russian First and Second Armies faced the German Eighth Army. The plan was simple: the First Army, commanded by General Paul von Rennenkampf, would advance into East Prussia north of the Masurian Lakes, while the Second Army, under General Alexander Samsonov, would advance south of the lakes. The whole offensive would be coordinated, at least in theory, by General Yakov Zhilinsky, although communications would prove dire.

This confusion in command and control was exacerbated by a virulent personal feud between Samsonov and Rennenkampf dating back to disagreements during the Russo-Japanese War.

To all intents and purposes, Stavka's decision was to implement case A. For the time being only the First and Second Armies were to face Germany. But that was still sufficient to enable offensive operations in support of France.

The operational possibilities open to the Russians in East Prussia were rendered relatively predictable by its geography. To the north, Königsberg was a heavily fortified zone, capable of supply from the Baltic, and a potential threat to the flank of any advance from east to west. The Insterburg gap extended 69 kilometres south and east from the Königsberg perimeter to Angerburg, at the top of the northernmost of the Masurian lakes, Lake Mauer. The gap was screened by the River Angerapp, whose west bank commanded its eastern. Along the southeastern frontier the Masurian lakes presented a formidable barrier.

Command of the Northwest Front was vested in Zhilinsky, the former Chief of the General Staff, unpopular and 'an official of the cut-and-dried type'. Zhilinsky had the merit of being familiar both with recent staff thinking and with France's needs.

There was logic in the appointment of Paul Rennenkampf, commander of the First Army, who had spent seven years as a corps commander on the potential German front, and since 1913 had been in charge of the Vilna district.

Less appropriate was the recent experience of Alexander Samsonov, to whom the Second Army was entrusted. By 1914 Samsonov was physically unfit and professionally out of touch. He had spent the preceding seven years as governor of Turkestan. His return to active duty was not eased by Zhilinsky: the Second Army's best staff officers were purloined by Front headquarters, and P. I. Postovskii, appointed Second Army's Chief of Staff, was sufficiently highly strung to be nicknamed the 'Mad Mullah’.

The Russian General Staff Academy taught only two maneuvers after 1912 — forward and back — and the men’s tactical formations were also constructed on an understanding that nothing fancy should be attempted, or the men would end up a panic-stricken mob milling around the field. The men were simply gathered in thick masses, and set to charge the enemy line, regardless of their vulnerability to artillery.

The internal strifes that had gone on within the army before 1914 resulted in an absence of a real plan for war: troops were frittered away between different operations, since there was no single authority to impose its will on the army. Moreover, when war broke out, that single authority did not emerge even when an ostensible supreme command (Stavka) was appointed. Stavka, in the early phase of the war, was a helpless victim of circumstances. Real power was held by the separate army groups, and not by Stavka itself, which was scraped together at the last moment.

The pre-war conflicts between soldiers who wanted to concentrate against Germany, and soldiers who wanted to concentrate against Austria-Hungary, had not been resolved. Instead, the army was split into two groups, and set to conduct separate operations. The construction of these separate groups was not undertaken because army leaders recognized that strategic handling of large armies needed army groups. Rather, it followed from men’s recognition that compromise was impossible; better have two different operations.

The Supreme Command itself was botched together at the last moment. Vladimir Sukhomlinov, as war minister, had been expected to assume the supreme command. But he calculated that Stavka would remain powerless — as indeed, in a short war, would have been the case — and no doubt also foresaw defeats during the first period of the war. With a show of patriotic endeavor, he offered the post to the Tsar. The Tsar calculated much as Sukhomlinov did.

There was need of ‘a great poster’ to fill the post of commander of the Stavka. It was offered to Grand Duke Nicholas, who had been expecting only the command of VI Army, along the Baltic coast. He knew neither the plans nor his subordinates. Nikolai Yanushkevitch, translated from his post in Saint Petersburg to be Chief of Staff to the new Commander-in-Chief, went to see him at his estate. The other officers met him only at field-headquarters in Baranovichi.

The Grand Duke himself was more of a figurehead. He entertained foreign military representatives, signed orders, and surrounded himself with aristocratic aides-de-camp, among them his brothers (whom he referred to as ‘my sleeping-pills’). In important matters, he was silent: at a conference of the front-commands late in September, for instance, he stayed in a different room from the generals ‘so as not to get in their way’.

Baranovichi was chosen as headquarters town because of the universal idea that headquarters would have to be mobile. It lay on railway lines running north and south, east and west, and Stavka put up with the various discomforts in the name of mobility. Baranovichi, though not much more than a collection of huts and railway carriages, became headquarters for the Russian army for the next year of war.

There was not even, in the first weeks, any convenient way of communicating with the front commands. Six men operated a morse coding machine (capable of 600 words per hour) until the end of September, when some mechanics arrived from Minsk, at the behest of the ministry of posts and telegraphs, to instal links to Rovno and Cholm. Even in October, the Council of Ministers was being asked for 161,000 roubles to help equip Stavka with the required cable.

Rennenkampf began his advance, pushing aside resistance from the German Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Max von Prittwitz, during heavy fighting at Gumbinnen. The Germans were forced to retreat by weight of numbers. Rennenkampf followed up tardily, first reorganizing his units for a couple of days and then advancing far too slowly, thereby allowing the Germans to break contact with his forces. This might not have mattered much, as Prittwitz was already panicking, concerned as he was by the threat to his communications from Samsonov’s Second Army which he knew was poised to begin crossing the Prussian border from Russian Poland.

At Stalluponen and Gumbinnen, the First Army pushed the Germans back, placing East Prussia's capital, Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), in danger.

The Second Army had communication and supply problems, and was being imprudently urged on by the Front (Army Group) Commander, General Zhilinsky, over sandy soil that made progress difficult for infantry and even harder for draft horses. The Russians made much use of radio, sending messages in plain text or a simple cipher that was easily broken.

Moltke was appalled by the reports of Eighth Army's sudden predicament, which undermined the whole substance of belief in the possibility of postponing the crisis in the east while victory was gained in the west. Moreover, the apparent disaster in East Prussia aroused personal anxieties there. It was from its small estates that the army's inner circle sprang, and Prittwitz's loss of nerve exposed not just the nation at large but officers' wives, children and old retainers to the mercies of the enemy.

Prittwitz had correctly calculated that lengthening the Russian First Army's advance would diminish its fighting power. Although Rennenkampf had only just crossed the frontier, his troops had been on the move for a week, and their rear services and supply organization were in complete disorder. Despite their considerable strength, the Russian cavalry failed to push ahead of the main body, to establish contact with the Germans or to feel round the German left flank. It had become too enamored of the virtues of defensive firepower: trained as mounted infantry, its inclinations were to dismount when opposed rather than to press forward.

A desperate Prittwitz resolved to retreat all the way back to the Vistula River, thereby abandoning the whole of East Prussia. This was far too much for the German Commander-in-Chief Helmuth von Moltke, who immediately dismissed the hapless Prittwitz and replaced him with General Paul von Hindenburg. He was accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Major General Erich von Ludendorff, a far more mercurial character. They would prove to be one of the great command teams of the Great War.

Hindenburg was a traditional, stolid-looking officer born in 1847, who had enjoyed a successful career. As a lieutenant Hindenburg had been wounded at Königgrätz in 1866 and fought in the Franco-Prussian War. He claimed kinsmen among the Teutonic Knights who had won East Prussia in the northern crusades, had served on the Great General Staff and eventually commanded a corps. He rose to the rank of general but then retired in 1911 before being recalled to the colors.

The two generals inherited a critical but not hopeless situation. Rennenkampf's supplies were running short, and he could not use East Prussia's railways to resupply because the Germans had removed the rolling stock, and Russia's was of different gauge. When the Germans retreated after Gumbinnen he did not pursue them, but waited two days for supplies to catch up. When he did move, he gave avoiding a German flank attack priority over supporting the Second Army, continuing west towards Königsberg instead of turning south to meet Samsonov.

Born in 1865, Ludendorff was a piercingly intelligent and exceptionally hard-working staff officer who had been involved in some of the pre-war reworking of the Schlieffen Plan, and had already earned considerable renown for his conduct during the Battle of Liège on the Western Front.

Because the outline of the Tannenberg maneuver was already in place, it is easy to diminish the role played in the battle by Hindenburg and Ludendorff. The victory established their joint reputation, and yet they were not its authors. But they were its executors, and each made a vital personal contribution.

When Hindenburg took command he was immediately offered a plan of action by the Eighth Army staff officer Colonel Max Hoffmann. Hoffmann suggested leaving only screening forces in front of the slow-moving First Army and utilizing the efficiency of the superb German railway system to switch the bulk of the Eighth Army to challenge Samsonov’s Second Army head on as it marched north and northwest into East Prussia. The plan was to defeat the superior Russian forces in detail, switching the Eighth Army from front to front, allowing it to fight in turn first the Second Army and then the First Army.

This was a risky scheme at least partially reliant for its success on the failure of Rennenkampf to advance or react with any speed as events unfolded. Yet the new command team grasped that it was their best – if not only – opportunity for success and so the Eighth Army’s retreat was stopped in its tracks and the complex redeployment begun. The German staff were much helped in their analysis of the situation by the regular interception of Russian orders transmitted without encryption over the wireless – an astounding lack of basic security. Shortly afterward, Hindenburg was pleased to discover that Moltke, under heavy pressure from various civilian sources over the perceived threat to the East Prussian homelands, had detached two corps and a cavalry division from the forces currently wheeling through Belgium.

The Germans intercepted two plain text messages, one by Rennenkampf, giving the distances his troops were to march on the next day, the other from Samsonov with orders for pursuing an enemy he believed to be in full retreat. They showed that the First Army would not be coming to meet the Second, and were such a gift that some wondered if they were a trap. However, Hoffman had been an observer in the Russo-Japanese War and knew that Samsonov had suffered a defeat there because Rennenkampf had failed to support him, and that they had publicly come to blows over it. Hoffman claimed thereafter that this knowledge convinced him that mutual dislike would prevent them cooperating, and that the messages were genuine.

Whatever Samsonov thought was happening, reality burst upon him only in stages: first his left wing was attacked, then his right. The whole of the Second Army was cut off, at first only by a weak German force, but as the Germans pressed on the Russians found themselves effectively surrounded by a ring of steel, with no chance of escape. The Battle of Tannenberg, as it would come to be known, was an unmitigated disaster for the Russian Army. Soon the Russians had no option but to surrender.

Samsonov left his administrative staff in Ostrolenka and was accompanied by a field headquarters only. By the time he had established his command in East Prussia, at Neidenburg, messages between the two components of his staff were relayed through five stations. He had no direct contact with Rennenkampf, and little with Zhilinsky. Telegrams from the Front headquarters, whose main purpose was to hasten his progress, were forwarded from Warsaw by car. Loss of command and control was the inevitable consequence.

The various entrapped formations flailed away ineffectively, trying to punch their way out, but there was no coordinated effort and the Germans fended them off easily. Rennenkampf attempted to move his First Army south to rescue them, but by now it was far too late.

‘Cauldron’ battles were to be a repeated feature of the fighting in the Second World War, particularly in the east, where in 1941 the German Army time and again surrounded Russians by the hundreds of thousands. Victories of encirclement were almost never to be achieved in the First. That was one reason which made Tannenberg so singular.

Tannenberg became for the Germans their outstanding victory of the conflict. Not only had it saved the Prussian heartland from occupation by an enemy the German propagandists increasingly chose to depict as ‘barbarian’, but it had also averted the danger of a deeper advance into industrial Silesia and towards Berlin. The accusation of barbarism was quite unfair, for the Russian commanders, many of whom were Baltic Germans with family connections in East Prussia, had maintained high standards of behavior among their soldiers.

Tannenberg had a military importance different from and far greater than its symbolic significance. It reversed the timetable of Germany's war plan. Before the triumph, victory was expected in the west, while the front in the east was to be held as best it might be. After Tannenberg, disaster in the east no longer threatened, while victory in the west continued to elude them week after week.

Tannenberg temporarily devastated the Russians. Samsonov, overcome by the catastrophe, barely escaped with his life from the battle of encirclement. He did not keep it long. Riding with his officers, he repeatedly expressed despair: ‘The Emperor trusted me. How can I face him again?’ Finding a means to be alone for a few moments, he shot himself. His body was later recovered and buried on the family estate. It was a kinder ending than that met by so many of his soldiers, who died anonymously in the undergrowth of the Prussian forests, untended in their last hours and undiscovered in death.

Above all, Tannenberg mattered because of its propaganda effect: its impact on perceptions. Hindenburg requested the battle be so named in revenge for the defeat of the Teutonic Knights at the hands of the Poles at Tannenberg 500 years previously. Such symbols were important to the Prussian mentality. Furthermore, the impression it created, that of a decisive and historic success, helped obscure the absence of such a victory where it was actually wanted, in the west. The illusion of German military invincibility was fostered, not simply in the minds of the press-reading public but also in those responsible for the direction of policy itself.

Tannenberg was a deliverance, and was celebrated as such. After the war the colors of the regiments that fought there were displayed in a monumental Tannenberg memorial, modelled on Stonehenge, in which the body of Hindenburg was interred after his death as President. In 1945, when the Russians reappeared in East Prussia in irresistible force, it was disinterred and the monument dynamited. The Tannenberg regiments' colors now hang in the Hamburg officer cadet school while Hindenburg's body has been given a final resting place at Schloss Hohenzollern, the seat of the imperial dynasty.

Tannenberg was the most spectacular victory of the war, and generated a propaganda myth for years to come. East Prussia had been defended, seemingly against overwhelming odds: 100,000 men and nearly 400 guns were captured. In practice, the victory was overrated at the time: the Russians recovered, and invaded East Prussia again a few weeks later. But what was dangerous to the Germans was the myth that Tannenberg launched. Men supposed that Hindenburg and Ludendorff had made a brilliant strategic maneuver. There was indeed something in this, but it was distorted by exaggeration.

The Germans won because they were defenders, on whom sense was almost imposed by the layout of the land and the railways, and the nature of the task. Tannenberg nonetheless launched a myth of the brilliant strategic coup, a perpetuation of the Napoleonic myth in eastern Europe which, in the circumstances of 1914–1918, was dangerous enough. It was common sense, discipline and decentralization that won Tannenberg; just the same, Ludendorff discovered from it that he had military genius, and found a large number of Germans to agree with him.

Chastened by the destruction of the Second Army, Rennenkampf had suspended his advance and withdrawn to a more defensible line stretching from Königsberg in the north down to the Masurian Lakes to the south. The Germans concentrated on the left of his line and managed to break through. The Tenth Army was still forming up in Poland and so was unable to lend any assistance. Rennenkampf was forced into a humiliating retreat, falling back across the Prussian border he had crossed with so much hope less than a month before.

Although reinforced by the two corps from the west, the Eighth Army lacked the strength for a successful frontal attack on Rennenkampf's line north of Lake Mauer. Four corps, therefore, were to hold the Russians in the Insterburg gap from the front, while two corps and two cavalry divisions were to wheel to the south, XVII corps breaking through the Lotzen gap, and I corps passing south of the Masurian lakes and so rolling Rennenkampf up to the north.

Rennenkampf, despite the success of the frontal battle, responded to the weakness of his southern flank and ordered his army to retreat. Within fifty hours most units had covered 88 kilometres, and were back inside Russia. Rennenkampf, breaking contact both with the Front and with his corps, changed his headquarters four times in twenty-four hours.

Ludendorff and his post-war defenders liked to present the Battle of the Masurian lakes as a great envelopment operation, whose results could have matched those at Tannenberg, but whose achievement was limited by factors outside his control. The argument was justified in that Rennenkampf's precipitate retreat most certainly removed any danger of his succumbing to the same fate as Samsonov. But, as at Tannenberg, the signs are that Ludendorff's expectations of the envelopment operation were not as great as subsequent claims came to suggest. Here, as later in the war, Ludendorff's focus was not on broad strategic conceptions, of the sort so favoured by Schlieffen, but on immediate tactical circumstances; it was from the latter, not the former, that he hoped to fashion operational success.

Hindenburg described the battle of Tannenberg as 'a series of scenes'. Ludendorff told Walther Rathenau in November 1915 that victory was not due to a fixed plan, 'but rather to decisions made instinctively at the time'. But neither could wholly resist the widespread German wish to mistake effect for cause.

By the end of September the Russians were back along the river Niemen, minus over 250,000 dead, wounded or captured. Their sacrifice did, however, help France to survive. Five German divisions, rushed from the west in response to Prittwitz's panicky reports, arrived only after Tannenberg had shown they were not needed. They were immediately returned west, but arrived too late for the Battle of the Marne. Colonel Dupont, Head of French Intelligence, later said of the Russians that 'their debacle was one of the elements of our victory'.

The Russians finished the campaign in utter disarray: Samsonov was dead; Rennenkampf was rumored to be panicking under the pressure; and Zhilinsky, the man who bore ultimate responsibility, was dismissed. The Germans not only held East Prussia but now stood poised to attack.

The man held immediately responsible was Zhilinsky. But many felt Rennenkampf was to blame, for the defeat of the Masurian Lakes as well as for Tannenberg. The panic which had overtaken the First army in defeat, its failure to hold the Germans frontally while driving south against the weak German right, suggested major deficiencies in the army's command. Rennenkampf's detractors pointed to his German name and muttered about corruption and court favor.

The speed of the Russian advance had prompted OHL to withdraw two corps from France: they were thus lost to Germany on the Marne, although they did contribute to the victory of the Masurian Lakes.

The quality of the men, the relative value of cavalry, the use of artillery, the availability of railway lines — these were but tools. They became excuses to avoid confronting the main issue. Much more worrying for Russia than any of these was the problem of command. Hindenburg, Ludendorff and Hoffmann had independently contributed to the German victory. Their actions had coalesced because the principles underpinning their decisions were, broadly speaking, similar. The Grand Duke Nicholas, Zhilinsky, Rennenkampf, and Samsonov had all pulled in different and contradictory directions.

Russia's ally, France, had responded to defeat with a major restructuring of its higher command. Stavka attempted nothing comparable. The pre-war clique and the overlapping responsibilities in command were institutionalized rather than resolved.