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The Russian Army
• This PowerPoint will give you information
on the Russian Army and the reasons
why it failed during the First World
• Use the information to complete your
flow diagram on the failure of the
Russian Army.
• You will need to summarise the
• On the outbreak of war in 1914 the Tsar
appointed his uncle, the Grand Duke
Nicholas, as Commander in Chief.
• This came as a surprise to many, not least to
the Grand Duke himself, who ‘appeared to be
a man entirely unequipped for the task.’
• However, he was very popular with the rank
and file of the army, possibly because of the
severity of his treatment of the officers
beneath him.
• His two main subordinates were the Chiefof-Staff, General Yanushkevich and the
Quartermaster General, General Danilov.
• Neither were ideally suited for the tasks
which confronted them.
“It is… neither in gallantry, nor genius, nor
knowledge, nor in experience in military arts
as proved in action that determine
promotions, but external considerations.
Under these conditions… gifted military
leaders capable of leading us to victory
seldom have reached the higher commands.”
• The Russian army had many excellent lower ranking
officers but the training and appointment of those
in senior positions worried many Russians.
• The Russian army was poorly organised, badly
armed and equipped, and directed by commanders
who mingled ignorance with incompetence.
• The rank and file peasant soldier was little better
than those above him.
• The uneducated Russian peasant population never
understood why it fought.
• The peasant fought well under competent
leadership and in favourable circumstances, but, in
the opinion of Knox, a British General at the time,
‘A higher type of human animal was required to
persevere to victory through the monotony of
• The Minister of War in 1914 was Vladimir
• His attitude to the military technical improvements
of the previous quarter of a century was one of
contempt based on a profound ignorance.
• Sukhomlinov believed that an army only required
the essential qualities of spirit and aggressiveness.
• The Russian ‘steam roller’ – the masses of peasant
soldiers – only required a bayonet and the support
of Cossack cavalry.
• As a consequence the Russian Army entered the
war deficient in rifles, machine-guns and heavy
• At the outbreak of war
Russia possessed sixty
batteries of artillery
against Germany’s three
hundred and eighty-one,
and for these few guns
there was an acute
shortage of shells.
• On numerous occasions
during 1914 and 1915 the
infantry was sent into
battle without artillery
• The main problem, however,
was that Russia lacked the
industrial base to
manufacture arms and
munitions to keep such a
huge army equipped for
• By 1914, 6,553,000 men
had been mobilised, but
only 4,652,000 rifles were
available and this
shortage grew more acute
during 1915.
• The Tsar, as Commander
in Chief, despaired, ‘If we
should have three days of
serious fighting we might
run out of ammunition
•Shortages were not confined to guns.
•The lack of boots, warm underwear, and sheepskin
coats caused many soldiers to suffer from frost-bite.
• If wounded in battle the soldier was faced with a
shortage of first aid supplies and a lack of horses and
wagons to transport him to hospital.
•If he reached hospital he might not get in.
•Observers spoke of trains of wounded without
straw, without clothing, badly bandaged and lacking
food, being abandoned in railway stations to be
attended only by civilian volunteer nurses and
• In 1914 Russia possessed only 68,200 km of
railway and that was largely concentrated in
Poland and western Russia.
• This gave rise to enormous difficulties in
transporting troops and supplies to the front,
especially after some 4,800 km of track were lost
after the German advance into Poland.
• Motor transport was almost non-existent in Russia
and goods had to be transported to the front by
horse and wagon along unpaved roads.
• The unreliability of this form of transport,
particularly in winter, explains, in part, the reason
for the shortages of equipment at the front.
Further Information
• There were early defeats for the Russian
Army at the Battle of Tanneberg and at Lodz.
• By 1916, the Russian Army had lost three
million men.
• This extremely high death rate meant that
conscription was very difficult.
• When the Bolsheviks came to power in
October 1917, they immediately started
negotiating with Germany to end the war.
• The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on
the 9th February 1918.
Adapted from Robertson, pp.5460.
All pictures reproduced from