Military Review

The strategy of extensive theaters

27
The Polish "ledge", "balcony", "bag" - all these are the names of a part of the territory of the Kingdom of Poland that was part of the Russian Empire and influenced both the specifics of the strategic deployment and the operations of the 1914-1915 campaigns.


In the summer of 1915, after the end of the Gorlitsk operation, the Austro-German troops began to implement the "Summer Strategic Cannes" - and the Russian troops were forced to begin the Great Retreat. The retreat was carried out according to a single strategic plan, while Russian troops launched effective counterattacks. The main reason for the strategic retreat was the need to level the front and correctly evacuate the Advanced Theater — not to allow the army located in central Poland to be locked into a strategic "boiler". We wrote about the strategic pullback as a type of maneuver in the article on VO https://topwar.ru/125527-manevr-manevr-podavay.html


Il 1. Polish balcony to 15. 07. 1915


Il 2. Retreat from Poland

Abandoning the “Polish Balcony” and retreating to the new frontiers in the summer and autumn of 1915, what is this: a strategic failure or leveling of the front?

We had a chance to get acquainted with a very interesting article by Lieutenant-General of the Russian Army Vyacheslav Borisov under the title "The Strategy of Extensive Theaters". The article, in which the military specialist offers his vision of the strategy on the Russian front of the First World War, was published in the journal "War and Peace", published in Berlin (1924 G.N. 16. C. 11 - 19).


Il 3. Magazine cover, in which the article of V.E. Borisov is published.

Analyzing the pre-war strategic planning of the Russian Empire, V.E. Borisov notes that in 1914, the Russian and French general staff relied on the conclusions of the German military doctrine, and in 1914, “we were not guided by the strategy for our own, Russian theater: we deployed the army as if they intended to quickly go through Belgium, although the German march, in space, was no longer than Samsonovsky from Lomza to Tannenberg. The Germans went to the decisive point of their theater, and we, having made the same leap as the Germans, found ourselves at the bottom of our wide ditch. ” [WITH. 11].

The general exclaims: “What kind of work, what losses did it cost us to get out of the Polish bag to our natural front 1915 of the Year (highlighted by us - A.O..) [WITH. 11].

He notes, comparing the Napoleonic invasion of 1812 with the maneuvering war on the Russian front in 1914 - 1915, that “... the railways did not change, ultimately, the vastness of the Russian theater, and the Russian commander could consider this one of the most important resources your strategy ... 1. the vastness of the Russian territory eliminates the beneficial effect of strategic fortresses; and 2. the flatness of the Russian territory necessitates tactical fortresses - as strong points when maneuvering in the plain ... " [WITH. 13].

Describing the Russian strategy in the initial period of the war, the general writes: “Our strategy, at least for the main mass of our forces (18 corps of 25), i.e. for the south-western front of the gene. Alekseev, should be divided into two periods: before 21 / 8 September 1914 and after. On this day, we finally and categorically learned about the lack of artillery shells in our country ... In the first period, before 21 / 8 in September, 1914 g ... we, believing in the power of firearms weapons, in the possibility of its full use (cartridges in abundance), having a wealth of experience of the Japanese-Russian war, and taking advantage of the features of its vast theater, could do a lot ...
... the first period of the war, we started on foreign models. On all fronts, we sought an unrestrained offensive, forgetting about the strength and benefits of defense. Why not let the Austrians break about her? We forgot about the vastness of our theater, allowing us not to be particularly embarrassed by the distance in 500 kilometers.
... in the end result, 11 strong enclosures went to a narrow front in 60 km (Zholkiev-Mykolaev). Already 30 / 17 August 1914 g., With the inclusion in the South-Western Front Guard and XVIII Corps, gene. Alekseev considered our main attack in the direction of Lublin - the mouth of the Sana River secured success, and transferred the front headquarters to Lukov. At the same time (but later realized 6 Sep / 24 Aug.) It was decided to transfer part of the forces to the left bank of the Vistula to move them to the side of Krakow-Breslavl. It was like a glimpse of true strategy in a vast theater. But 21 / 8 September, with the counting of shells with the report of the headquarters of the impossibility of us to give to replenish the loss of 400 marching mouth ... these glimpses of the strategists were suppressed ... " [WITH. 13-15].

In the second period of the strategy, the general notes, they had to relearn themselves under the blows of the enemy. He writes: “Of course, if we, on our territory, made mistakes against the nature of our theater, then the enemy made these mistakes more often. On our front, he acted as on his own, narrow and not deep. In the battle of Lodz, in November 1914, Ludendorff initially correctly marked a mass strike on our excessively long and inflexible front. But the strategy of the deep theater demanded a greater penetration depth, to Warsaw and into it. Then the consequences of the German victory would be great. They also turned more likely to our victory: we restored our front, and only the lack of shells made us stop and then dig in. The same mistake was made by the Germans in a battle in the August forest (February 1915) ... ”[S. 15-16].

What would happen if the Naroch operation succeeded in March 1916? - asks V.E. Borisov. The need for an offensive "over exhausted terrain, with finally destroyed communication routes that are unrecoverable due to lack of material resources; then to stand on the new front, having in front of itself a well-equipped railways B. Prussia, whence the Germans, having brought up troops from Belgium, could always suddenly strike at us; in the rear we would have a complete ruin. In addition, the transfer of a fortified line to a new place would cause us enormous material costs. And what would we win in a strategic sense? Nothing but a strip of terrain in 300 km deep. With an operation in France, this would mean that the Germans were cleansing not only French, but also Belgian territory, but nothing for us. ” [WITH. 17-18].

The author quite rightly concludes that the main goal of the attack was: “What was then the real goal of the Postavy strike? ... attach the Germans to our front and distract them from the French " [WITH. 18].

V.E. Borisov formulates extremely interesting conclusions concerning the strategy of vast theaters - that is, the strategy preferred for use on the Russian front:
“I. The vastness of the theater allows for strategic deployment into the depths of the country (our plan for 1908) and to begin operations when the enemy’s intention is fully clarified.
Ii. If ... the French theater allowed for greater flexibility in the transportation plan for concentration, then our theater allows it to an even greater degree.
Iii. Extensive theater, subject to an accurate study of its network of railways and the network currently at the disposal of the enemy, allows for such regroupings of forces by railways that are very risky for a small theater.
Iv. It allows, with the defense, to keep only the main operational directions (plan 1812 g. And Alekseev on 1917 g.).
V. Allows you to let the enemy inland until they deplete their offensive force (Napoleon in 1812, the Germans in 1915).
Vi. The conversion of the country before its front into the desert (Ludendorff in 1914 during the retreat from the Vistula to Silesia; the Alberich plan of Ludendorff in 1917) is fully applicable.
VII. Difficulty for the enemy, even with victories, to achieve a solution: the depth of the theater does not create a crisis for the defeated (Ludendorff speaks about this a little after each victory on the Russian front).
Viii. Breakthroughs (Sventsyany - Deep in September 1915), detours, coverage only get local meaning.
Ix. The air force, as an extraordinarily facilitating reconnaissance, the destruction of rare, and therefore very vital centers, receive great importance.
X. Huge distances create an exceptional value in car application. ” [WITH. 19].

General V.Ye. Borisov was convinced that the main strategy that Russia should have been guided by in all wars is its natural “Strategy of vast theaters”. So maybe he is right?
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  1. XII Legion
    XII Legion 7 November 2017 06: 46 New
    17
    Discussion article. You can think about it.
    On the one hand, the Advanced Theater ("Polish Balcony") is a springboard for a throw, but if you cut the flanks - for what remains in it - write is gone. Therefore, earlier (1908) the deployment in depth was planned. Like the abandonment of the Advanced Theater.
    Borisov asks: why not defend? The guarantee of the flanks of the Advanced Theater (which, based on the deployment for 1914, was not retained) required activity - just in East Prussia and Galicia
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 7 November 2017 07: 56 New
      +3
      In order to defend, it would be necessary for someone to advance, the Germans were not going to defeat France, the Austrians alone would advance before the first failure. Take the Russian defense, his god knows what would happen on the Marne, and the 2 Austrian army would go to the Danube - goodbye to Serbia. Well, the deployment of 1908, I think even the Germans would not have come up with a more convenient for themselves.
      1. XII Legion
        XII Legion 7 November 2017 08: 36 New
        16
        And the preservation of the Advanced Theater required increased activity on its flanks - in Galicia and East Prussia (this is in addition to coalition obligations and other strategic tasks).
        So everything is logical
        1. Cartalon
          Cartalon 7 November 2017 09: 01 New
          +2
          It was planned by the Hoops to deliver decisive strikes from the front-line theater to the rear of East Prussia and through Krakow to the Austrians' communications, but by the year 14 the deployment had moved east and it was the armies entering the enemy’s flanks that were weakened, hence the transformation of the Polish balcony from opportunity to problem.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 7 November 2017 07: 44 New
    +7
    V.E. Borisov-From the summer of 1917 he was in the reserve of ranks at the headquarters of the Petrograd Military District. In February 1918, Borisov participated in meetings convened in connection with the ceasefire and the advance of the German army, as well as in the writing of the general military program for the period from the conclusion of the peace of Russia with Germany to the conclusion of universal peace. November 17, 1918 Borisov was enrolled to the Academy of the General Staff of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army. In the summer of 1919 he went on vacation to Kiev, from which he did not return. At the end of 1919 - early 1920 - in the army of General Denikin. In February 1920, he was evacuated from Novorossiysk abroad. Being in exile, he was in charge of the library of the Serbian Military Academy; lived in a suburb of Belgrade. Actively collaborated with the Berlin magazine "War and Peace." E. Borisov died on May 20, 1941 in the city of Belgrade and was buried in the New Cemetery.
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 7 November 2017 17: 43 New
      +1
      Abandoning the “Polish Balcony” and retreating to the new frontiers in the summer and autumn of 1915, what is this: a strategic failure or leveling of the front?

      didn’t know the enemy’s forces in advance? and yours? and your industry?
      there was an opportunity to win and missed it - further “on snot” to reach Victory.
      history has put everything and everyone in their places (and their dreams)
  3. hohol95
    hohol95 7 November 2017 08: 20 New
    0
    X. Huge distances create exceptional value for the use of motor vehicles ”[S. nineteen].

    But there were big problems with motorization.
    1. XII Legion
      XII Legion 7 November 2017 08: 33 New
      18
      It is like a postulate of strategy. On growth, so to speak.
      Well, as I understand it, there has been progress in the matter of motorization.
      And the fleet of armored cars during the war was quite impressive
      1. hohol95
        hohol95 7 November 2017 08: 50 New
        +2
        Compared to other World War I armies, there is nowhere more impressive! But in terms of their own car production - probably were equal to Turkey - continuous purchases! One Russo-Balt for the whole country! And only 8 armored vehicles from the entire armada on the domestic chassis! In 1916 - 1917, the Moscow Automobile Partnership Plant Kuznetsov, Ryabushinsky and Kº (AMO) plant did not produce cars, but assembled them from imported car kits, as the plant’s readiness to produce cars still left much to be desired!
        Until the autumn of 1917, 432 vehicles were assembled from Italian components.
  4. BRONEVIK
    BRONEVIK 7 November 2017 10: 24 New
    19
    Thanks to the author for introducing me to an interesting kind of strategy
    The grain of truth in the general article certainly is
    Moreover, de facto, on our front during the war of 1812, in the WWII (second half) and the Second World War, the Strategy of vast theaters or its elements was applied
  5. Olgovich
    Olgovich 7 November 2017 11: 06 New
    15
    Borisov is right, but the war did not go on abstract maps, but on territories inhabited by millions of subjects, huge mat resources were concentrated there. Just leaving them was very difficult.
    The same thing was near Kiev and Vyazma in 1941.
    1. BRONEVIK
      BRONEVIK 7 November 2017 11: 59 New
      17
      Agree dear Olgovich, it is doubly difficult to leave not only the population of any part of the territory, but in addition to it a significant grouping of troops and weapons - as in September 1941 during the Kiev defensive operation.
      Thank God that the Russian command in the summer of 1915 chose to leave the territory and save troops and material assets. Competently and timely having to evacuate the Polish balcony.
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich 7 November 2017 13: 22 New
        13
        Quote: BRONEVIK
        Agree dear Olgovich, it is doubly difficult to leave not only the population of any part of the territory, but in addition to it a significant grouping of troops and weapons - as in September 1941 during the Kiev defensive operation.
        Thank God that the Russian command in the summer of 1915 chose to leave the territory and save troops and material assets. Competently and timely having to evacuate the Polish balcony.

        I agree completely.
        But the motives for the fluctuations and actions of the leadership are also understandable. hi
      2. antivirus
        antivirus 7 November 2017 17: 50 New
        0
        and having timely evacuated the Polish balcony.


        -1 ... from 4 .11.1612, now is the day of unity, 2 ... after 150 years to the sections of Poland - 3 ... after another 150 years, the departure that led to the loss of the Kingdom of Poland.
        The situation with Poland could be agreed in Versailles in the form of "neutral" Poland.
        FOR THE ROMAN DYNASTY - ONCE AGAIN A DAMAGE AFTER 300 YEARS.
        replacement of the dynasty? - for the Romanovs, this is worse than the defeat of RI in WWI
  6. Lieutenant Teterin
    Lieutenant Teterin 7 November 2017 12: 44 New
    16
    An interesting and informative article. General Borisov is in many ways right - Russia could afford to exchange the territory for the preservation of the army, but the consequences of such an exchange were extremely and extremely difficult - many refugees and the ruin of the Warsaw industrial region. So the strategy is really controversial.
    To the author - my gratitude for the work done! hi
  7. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 7 November 2017 16: 12 New
    +2
    If you compare all this with pre-war plans:
    during the year to triumphantly end the war in Berlin, then ...
    how exactly it was more correct to retreat does not, in my opinion,
    of such decisive importance. Germany has appeared - even to all allies
    taken together - obviously too tough. But the Germans exaggerated their military
    capabilities.
    1. hohol95
      hohol95 7 November 2017 16: 27 New
      +1
      The warring parties were able to destroy the plans of their opponents, but could not realize their own plans!
      1. Some kind of compote
        Some kind of compote 7 November 2017 16: 37 New
        15
        The warring parties were able to destroy the plans of their opponents, but could not realize their own plans

        Apt remark when it comes to operational planning.
        And in the field of strategy ...
        Entente the most important thing - to crush the Fourth Union - still realized
        Fresh look at the question
        Fine good
        1. voyaka uh
          voyaka uh 7 November 2017 19: 16 New
          +1
          "The Entente's most important thing - to crush the Fourth Union - is still realized" ///

          But at what cost ... France was completely bloodless. The Russian Empire collapsed.
          England has lost economic influence.
          1. Some kind of compote
            Some kind of compote 7 November 2017 19: 41 New
            16
            Well, we talked about fulfilling plans. That is, from a formal point of view - victory.
            And about the price ...
            I read somewhere (I don’t remember exactly where) - the definition of a real victory in the war. It sounded like this: when the post-war world for a particular state is BETTER than the pre-war one (according to a set of basic economic and political indicators).
            Based on this, there are two actual winners in WWI: the renewed Ataturk Turkey and the new European lender - the USA.
            1. voyaka uh
              voyaka uh 8 November 2017 11: 35 New
              +3
              "when the post-war world for a particular state is BETTER than the pre-war
              (on the set of basic economic and political indicators). "////

              This is true in essence. But not impressive to historians and posterity readers.
              If there are no figures about the devastating losses of the enemy, prisoners, etc., then
              no one will pay attention to the growth of their own GDP after the war.
  8. soldier
    soldier 7 November 2017 20: 59 New
    15
    Thus, the loss of the “Polish Balcony” did not bring any disaster. And the outline of the front, established in the fall of 1915, despite all the minuses (for example, the loss of railway roads), was not bad
    1. DimerVladimer
      DimerVladimer 8 November 2017 13: 11 New
      +1
      Quote: soldier
      Thus, the loss of the “Polish Balcony” did not bring any disaster. And the outline of the front, established in the fall of 1915, despite all the minuses (for example, the loss of railway roads), was not bad


      Not bad? How easy it is for you to write it now.

      1. Refugees - The Kingdom of Poland, as a result of the great retreat of 1915, left more than 600 thousand people. The largest exodus of the population affected the eastern part of the Bialystok region of the Grodno province - 800 thousand people fled from there. Nobody counted how many people died on the road. (According to modern historians, up to a third of refugees died from disease, hunger, cold).
      Far from the front, the courtyards displayed sentinels with pitchforks and dogs. Newspapers wrote about the moral corruption of refugees (theft and robbery) and the fury of local residents. The atmosphere was reported to be so hot that riots could break out at any moment. The authorities of some cities (for example, Mogilev) asked the army to send Cossacks to protect property, saying that otherwise blood would be shed.

      The situation around the railway stations, where improvised camps appeared, looked pitiable.
      From there, refugees who lived in carts and huts hastily built were planned to be transported throughout Russia. Humanitarian organizations opened food outlets, saunas, hospitals, and shelters for children, but people continued to suffer from hunger, cold, illness, and lack of water. After a hot summer, cold autumn came.

      The size of the camps was astonishing: 28 refugees wandered in Roslavl with a population of 80 thousand, and 100 thousand in a similar-sized Bobruisk. In the vicinity of the city of Kobrin (10 thousand inhabitants) - 200 thousand! Through a slightly larger Rogachev in one month passed 700 thousand people!
      There were still no trains to take people away. When epidemics in refugee camps began to threaten the army, the General Staff decided to deal with this problem as soon as possible. From October 5 to October 15, the railway was supposed to find cars and pick up refugees. The peasants were ordered to hand over carts, horses and cattle, but the points that bought them were few, so many had to leave their property at the station.

      According to official figures, from April 1921 until the border was closed in 1924, 1 people returned to Poland. 100% of them were Orthodox: Ukrainian and Belarusian peasants.
      Aneta Prymaka-Onishk - author of the book “Exile of 1915. Forgotten refugees ”(2016) and the site biezenstwo.pl.
      http://inosmi.ru/history/20170316/238888174.html
      1. soldier
        soldier 8 November 2017 14: 11 New
        15
        The front line was not bad in an operational-strategic context. That's what I meant.
        And refugees are a tragedy, no doubt.
        But if prisoners from the composition of 2 armies immediately concentrated in the Polish ledge (if they had time to withdraw) were added to them - the tragedy could be even greater
  9. DimerVladimer
    DimerVladimer 8 November 2017 10: 55 New
    +1
    General V.Ye. Borisov was convinced that the main strategy that Russia should have been guided by in all wars is its natural “Strategy of vast theaters”. So maybe he is right?


    “The defensive form of war in itself is stronger than the offensive. But defense is a negative activity, because it makes you resist the intentions of the enemy instead of developing your own. ”
    - Carl Philipp Gottlieb von Clausewitz


    To paraphrase Churchill - retreats, wars are not won.
    The purpose of any operation is not the seizure of territory, but the destruction of enemy troops.
    1. Some kind of compote
      Some kind of compote 8 November 2017 11: 42 New
      16
      To paraphrase Churchill - retreats, wars are not won.

      Totally agree
      It is simply a matter of assigning strategic deployment eastward.
      And the offensive is of course the main form of battle. By the way, the Brusilovsky breakthrough began with the frontiers established in the fall of 1915.
      The purpose of any operation is not the seizure of territory, but the destruction of enemy troops.

      The only way
      You are absolutely right
      1. XII Legion
        XII Legion 8 November 2017 15: 59 New
        15
        This is what we talked about
        Preserving army manpower is more important than territory