The heroism of Russian warriors during the years of World War had its own characteristics. First, at the beginning of the war there was no ideological motivation associated with the large-scale invasion of the enemy into the territory of Russia (as in 1812 or 1941). Secondly, the war was not yet total, fierce, as in 1941 - 1945. There was no confrontation of systems, nor the deliberate destruction of prisoners of war. The Russian soldier, surrendering to captivity, understood that he was getting rid of war and would very likely survive to its end.
What made Russian soldiers die when they could surrender, preferring the interests of their army and their homeland to their own? What made the fighters in one of the fights refuse to surrender and burn alive in the house they defended, set on fire by the Germans? And what attracted the soldiers of the 20 Army Corps in the August forests to make a breakthrough in the virtually hopeless situation of the enemy's multiple superiority in firing and quantitative terms? The only answer is love for the Fatherland and loyalty to the oath and military duty.
But often the situation was such that large masses of Russian soldiers and officers were captured by the enemy - as was the case in East Prussia in August – September 1914 and in January – February 1915 for the armies of the North-Western Front and for almost all armies during the Great Retreat in May - August 1915. Many were captured in a hopeless situation or being wounded. During the battles in the "cauldrons", during the withdrawal and rearguard battles, the timely evacuation of the wounded to the rear was almost impossible - and the masses of the wounded, both on the battlefields and in field hospitals, became prisoners of war.
The Russian army suffered the greatest losses of captives in the dire situation of the Great Retreat.
Archival data [RGVIA. F. 2003. Op. 2. D. 426. L. 99, 100] reproduce the following number of missing persons in a given period of time. The South-Western Front lost officers: 544 (May), 448 (June), 101 (July), 150 (August); lower ranks: 65943 (May), 110697 (June), 17350 (July), 24224 (August). The North-Western Front lost officers: 170 (May), 167 (June), 624 (July), 383 (August); lower ranks: 36692 (May), 45670 (June), 134048 (July), 80507 (August). Total - up to 515000 people. The figures are similar to E. Falkengine (up to 750000 captured in the 3 month of summer) [Falkengine E. background. High Command 1914 — 1916 in its most important decisions. M., 1923. C. 122], Reichsarchive (850000 captives for 3,5 of the month) [Reichsarchiv. Der Weltkrieg 1914 - 1918. Bd 8. Berlin, 1932. S. 454] and N. N. Golovina (976000 captives in the period 1 of May - 1 of November) [Golovin N. N. Russia in the First World War. M., 2006. C. 182].
What are the total losses of prisoners of the Russian army in 1914 - 1917? The rate of the Supreme Commander for June 1917 gave the number of 2044000 people [Commission on the examination of the sanitary effects of the war 1914-1918. M.-Pg., 1923. C. 159]. The materials of the official bodies and the calculations of specialists determined their number in 2550000 [Frunze M. World war in the results and figures. S. 75], 2889000 (in the latter case, counting with exchanged, dead and fleeing from captivity) [Sysin A. N. Refugees and prisoners of war during the imperialist war // News of the People's Commissariat of Health. 1925. No. 1. C. 9] man.
N. N. Golovin, having carefully analyzed the issue, points to the number of 2417000 people [Golovin N. N. Decree. Op. S. 173]. This figure is recognized and domestic. historical science [Stepanov A. I. The price of war: casualties and losses / World wars of the XX century. Prince 1. The first world war. M .: Nauka, 2002. P. 629] Of this amount, 1400000 were in Germany, 1000000 in Austria-Hungary, and up to 20000 in Turkey and Bulgaria.
Russian prisoners. German photo album 1915
The conditions of life and activity of Russian prisoners of war were the most severe compared to prisoners of other allied armies (primarily in the sense of food) —this prisoner killed up to 40 thousands of servicemen. More than 25% of prisoners found use in agriculture. On average, prisoners of war worked on 12 hours per day. Up to 6% of prisoners of war were involved in front-line work (“under fire”, which was prohibited by international treaties). Prisoners of war were subjected to physical and moral torture, attempts were made of their ideological treatment. Of every 10000 ex-prisoners of war who returned from Germany, more than 6700 were sick [S. Vasilyeva. The prisoners of war in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia during the First World War. M., 1999. C. 36].
Russian prisoners on agricultural work
The torment of Russian prisoners
Penalties applied in forced labor in Austria:
Shackling of the left leg and right arm
Hanging to the post
How many prisoners did the Russian army take?
By mid-September, 1914 was only captured by the South-Western Front before the 3000 officers and lower ranks of the German military personnel (and also the 425 servicemen) [RGVIA. F.2003. Op. 2. D. 543. L. 2.]. By December 1 of the same year, the number of German soldiers and officers was counted as a Russian captive [X-NUMX]. F. 13500. Op. 2003. D. 2. L. 426]. At the same time, the Reichsarchiv at the end of October reports 10 Germans in Russian captivity (15000 was added in November and December) [Reichsarchiv. Der Weltkrieg 2000 - 1914. Bd 1918. Berlin, 6. S. 1929].
According to Russian archival data, by December 1914, more than 162000 Austrian servicemen were captured [RGVIA. F. 2003. Op. 2. D. 426. L. 10]. The Reichsarchive already at the end of October determines their number in 200000 people (60000 was added in November and December) [Reichsarchiv. Der Weltkrieg 1914 - 1918. Bd 6. S. 367].
The situation with prisoners in the first half of World War was as follows [RGVIA. F. 2003. Op. 2. D. 426. L. 25]. By February, the 1915 of the North-Western Front captured 439 officers and 48400 privates, and the South-Western Front 4026 officers and 357602 privates. Including 181 German officer and 18309 soldiers of the German army (the rest of the Austrians).
During the Carpathian operation in January-April 1915, the Germans and Austrians suffered a total loss in 800000 people [Österreich-Ungarns Letzter Krieg 1914-1918. Bd. Ii. Wien, 1931. S. 270]. Of these, 150000 prisoners (including only during the February 20 period - March 19 to 59000) [Ivan F. FK The Great War. M., 1915. CH 2. C. 205-206].
From the garrison of Przemysl, who surrendered to 9 in March 1915, the following number of healthy prisoners of war were sent to Russia: 9 generals, more than 2300 officers, almost 114000 noncommissioned officers and privates. In medical institutions, 6800 remained before the wounded and sick [In Przemysl / / Niva. 1915. No. 17. C. 4].
In mid-February, 1915 sent more than 18000 Turkish prisoners of war (including 4 Pasha, 337 officers, and 17765 lower ranks) [Npovyamskie losses on our southern and southwestern fronts // Niva. 1915. No. 10. S. 4 ].
As a result, by December 1915 in Russia there were the following number of prisoners of war: German - 1193 officer and 67361 soldiers; Austrian - 16558 officers and 852356 soldiers. Together with the prisoners who remained in the front line (excluding Turks), the number of prisoners rose to 1200000 people [Lemke MK 250 days in the Tsar Stake. PB., 1920. C. 328].
The Germans lost to 5000, 1500 before, and to 4000 1000 prisoners during positional battles: surgery Strypa December 14 1915 of - January 6 1916, at lake naroch offensive 5-17 1916 of March, operations at the Baranovichi May 30 - 16 July 1916 g. and Mitava operation 23 - 29 December 1916 g., respectively.
During the Offensive of the South-Western Front 1916, the Austrian troops lost prisoners to 417000 people (almost 9000 officers and 408000 soldiers) [The strategic outline of the 1914 war — 1918. CH 5. M., 1920. C. 108]. The Germans were also seriously injured - for example, the South German army A. von Linsingen lost only in May fights of this year over 82000 people (51% of the initial composition).
The Turkish army in the Erzurum operation lost more than 20000 people by prisoners, in the Erzindzhan operation - 17000 people by prisoners, etc.
The largest streams of prisoners of war on the Austro-German front moved inland through Kiev and Minsk. In particular, during the first 17 months of the war, prisoners proceeded through Minsk: 3373 officer and 222465 non-commissioned officers soldiers [Prisoners // Kuban Cossack Gazette. 1915. No. 51-52. C. 31].
Captive soldiers and officers
Russian fighters and Austrian prisoners - in a minute of rest
A total of 1917 soldiers and officers of the German bloc were captured at the end of 2100000 (Germans were more 200000, more Austrians were 1800000, Turks and Bulgarians were 100000) [Kamensky L. S., Novoselsky S. A. Losses in past wars. M., 1947; Vasilyeva S. N. Prisoners of war of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia during the First World War. M., 1999]. At the same time, the French captured 160000, the Italians 110000, the British 90000 prisoners [Budberg A.P. The Armed Forces of the Russian Empire performed all-union tasks and duties during the 1914-1917 war. Paris, 1939. C. 30].
An important fact is that the prisoners captured by the Russians were taken during the heavy fighting of the 1914-1916 campaigns, while the majority of the prisoners captured by the Anglo-French-American allies of Russia were taken later - in the 1918 year, during the collapse of the armies of the countries of the German bloc (for example, German soldiers, the so-called “scabs”, began to surrender en masse in August 1918 of the year - during the post-army demoralization of the army).
What conclusions allow to make the above figures?
First, the Russian army captured almost as many prisoners as it lost by itself. Secondly, the Russian army captured most of the prisoners of the German bloc. Thirdly, on the 1917 year of only one Germans, the Russian army captured almost as many as the British and French combined. To compare the Austrians captured by the Italian and Russian armies does not make sense.
Even if we touch upon the question of the loss of only the German army for the entire war, it should be remembered that 1000000 of German soldiers was captured in total [World War in Figures. M.-L., 1934. C. 22]: 450000 to 1914-1917 (200000 in Russian and 250000 in English-French captivity) and 550000 in 1918 - mainly in August - November. That is, the Russian army even at the end of the war (in which it had not fought the last year) captured one-fifth of all German prisoners - all of its prisoners were captured not by surrender, but in battle.
Many Russian prisoners of war did not accept their position. It was possible to escape soldiers and officers from 100000 captivity (that is, 4% of prisoners): more than 60000 fled from the German camps, and about 40000 people from the Austrian camps. Those who are lucky. A large percentage of prisoners escaped, but were caught. So, only from the German camps fled, but 418 officers and 199530 lower ranks were caught [A. Budberg. Decree. cit. C. 32]. Given the strict regime of the content of prisoners and the difficulty of movement in a hostile foreign language country, this says a lot. Thus, the chief of the Austrian counterintelligence, M. Ronge, wrote that Russian prisoners of war who had escaped from the camps had become a real disaster. And “although not all of them, as General L. G. Kornilov,” managed to get to their homeland, they kept the Austrian law enforcement agencies in constant fear of sabotage attacks [Ronge M. Intelligence and counterintelligence. SPb., 2004. C. 222].
Such a significant percentage of escapes convincingly refutes the existing opinion about the lack of patriotism and love of their homeland in the Russian masses during this period.
Prisoners fled to the nearest territory of the Allied Powers.
So, according to the recollection of a Russian military agent in France, Colonel Count A. A. Ignatiev, in the summer of 1915, a big man jumped in a French trench in Alsace at night in a tunic, shouting the word: “Rus!” And the whole of France began talking about the feat of a Russian prisoner of war, a simple village the guy who broke the wire barriers to break out to the allies. Soldiers were honored, photographed, he was presented to the St. George Medal. A few days later, the flight of Russian prisoners into French territory “became common” [A. Ignatiev. 50 years in the ranks. Petrozavodsk, 1964. C. 157]. Newspapers and magazines of the war years brought a number of facts of a heroic escape from captivity and photos of heroes. The escape was a real feat, and during the flight, Russian soldiers often showed miracles of ingenuity.
Russian fighters who fled from captivity and escape means
Russian prisoners who fled from Wesel. Picture taken at the Russian consulate in Holland. Standing from left to right: senior non-commissioned officer Levchenko Andrei, shooter Vasily Shishkin, junior non-commissioned officer Lagan Aleksey, junior non-commissioned officer Andryushchenko Luka, junior noncommissioned officer Friziuk Uljan, corporal Maxim Kolesnikov, shooter Vasiliy Starik.
They are. Sit: Russian consul in Holland Peterson, Vice-Consul Fersen and Second Vice-Consul Baumgarten.
Russian soldiers who escaped from German captivity, attend the parade in the French House of Invalides.
The interrogation of a Russian soldier who escaped from captivity in the French headquarters.
As a result, it should be noted that the situation with prisoners is a clear proof of the fact that, in general, the Russian army inflicted losses on the German bloc that are comparable to their own. In 1915-1916 technically, it lagged somewhat behind the German one, but the army of all the other countries participating in the war also lagged behind the latter. Other opponents of the Russian army clearly surpassed. She stood up to the German bloc with dignity, making a more than significant contribution to the defeat of the Kaiser coalition.