Military Review

Brusilovsky breakthrough

Brusilovsky breakthrough

During World War I, Russia and its Allies in the Entente tried to coordinate the actions of their armies. In the summer of 1916, a general Allied offensive was planned. At a meeting in Chantilly (France) in February of 1916, it was decided, in particular, that Russian troops strike no later than 2 (15) of June. And no later than June 18 (July 1) was to launch an offensive by the British and the French. But in February, the Germans launched attacks near Verdun, and in May the Austro-Hungarian troops launched a heavy blow at the Italians.

Temperamental Italians were frightened and began to send panic telegrams to the French and Russians. From the former, they demanded to influence the Russians, and from the latter, to immediately launch an offensive in order to divert the Austrians from Italy. Note that the Russians have always fulfilled their allied obligations, but the allies acted as they were profitable. They, for example, did not move when the Russian army retreated in 1915, suffered heavy losses and needed support. But in 1916, the Russians were demanded to attack, in order to, among other things, pull the German forces away from the French Verdun. As it turned out, the British then refused to go to the aid of the French.

And the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III sent a telegram to Nicholas II. According to his “highest” logic, for some reason, only the Russians had to save Italy from defeat.

However, 18 (31) May the king answered the Italian king like this: “My chief of staff reported to me that on May 22 (June 4) my army would be able to launch an attack on the Austrians. This is even somewhat earlier than the date set by the military allied council ... I decided to undertake this isolated offensive in order to assist the brave Italian troops and take into account your request. ”

The Italians, by the way, even wondered if they should capitulate to the Austrians. Later it turned out that their fears were greatly exaggerated. At the same time, they diverted more than 20 Austrian divisions, and the collapse of Italy would have caused the Entente and the military, and, which was just as important for the allies, a moral blow.

The defense of the Austro-Hungarian troops was considered impregnable. Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander General of Infantry M. Alekseev 31 March (13 April) 1916 denounced the king: “The totality of the actions of the troops under modern conditions, as experience shows on the French and our fronts, indicates that you can hardly count on reception of deep penetration into the enemy's position, although a second line of buildings would have been placed behind the shock corps. " In other words, the Stavka did not plan to defeat the enemy. She posed more modest tasks for the troops: to inflict losses on the enemy. Although, it would seem, when planning a major operation, it should have clearly and clearly reflected in its directive that operational-strategic goal for which the operation was planned.

At the April meeting in the Stavka, when discussing the plan for the upcoming campaign, the generals, for the most part, also did not particularly rush into battle. The commander-in-chief of the Northern front, General A. Kuropatkin, said, for example: "It is absolutely unbelievable to break through the front of the Germans, because their fortified lines are so developed and strongly fortified that it is difficult to imagine success." In turn, the commander-in-chief of the Western Front, General A. Evert, fully agreed with Kuropatkin and said that defense was the most acceptable method of warfare for the Western Front. But the commander-in-chief of the Southwestern Front, General Brusilov, had a different opinion. He resolutely declared that the South-Western Front was not only ready for an offensive, but also had many chances for operational success.

To assert this, of course, required a commander's talent and great courage.

Unlike many generals, Brusilov kept the Suvorov rule "To fight not by number, but by skill!" He insisted on broad offensive actions for the South-Western Front.

“I firmly believe,” he said, “that we can attack ... I believe that the disadvantage we have suffered so far is that we don’t pounce on the enemy at once by all fronts in order to stop being able to enjoy the benefits of internal actions operational lines, and therefore, being significantly weaker than the number of troops, he, using his developed network of railways, moves his troops to a particular place at will. As a result, it always turns out that in the area that is being attacked, he is always stronger than us at the appointed time, both technically and quantitatively. Therefore, I urge permission and offensively by my front to act simultaneously with my neighbors; if, besides my aspirations, I had not even been successful, I would at least not only detain the enemy troops, but also attract some of his reserves to myself and in this powerful way facilitate the task of Evert and Kuropatkin. ”

Brusilov, describing this meeting at GHQ later, noted that General Kuropatkin approached him during the lunch break and made a comment: “You have just been appointed commander-in-chief, and you are lucky not to go on the offensive, and, consequently, not to risk your combat reputation, which now stands high. What is your desire to be in big trouble, maybe a shift from office and the loss of the military halo that you have managed to earn so far? If I were in your place, I would by all means disown any offensive operations ... ”

By the Bids Directive of 11 (24) on April 1916, the following tasks were defined: “1. The overall goal of the upcoming actions of our armies is to launch an offensive and attack the German-Austrian troops ... 4. The South-Western Front, disturbing the enemy throughout its location, makes the main attack by the troops of the 8 Army in the general direction of Lutsk. " The stake did not plan operations in depth, trying to limit itself to a breakthrough and the desire to inflict as many losses on the enemy. And the South-Western Front was generally assigned a supporting role. But General Brusilov thought otherwise.

Archduke Joseph-Ferdinand's forces defended the South-Western Front. Initially, Brusilov was opposed by four Austrian and one German army (448000 bayonets, 38000 sabers, 1300 light and 545 heavy guns).

A small numerical deficiency was compensated by the enemy with an abundance of equipment and the power of defense. For nine months, three defensive lines were installed at a distance of 5 km from one another. The first was considered the strongest - with supporting nodes, pillboxes, cut-off positions, which turned the enemy into a "bag" for extermination. The trenches had concrete visors, deep dugouts were equipped with reinforced concrete arches, machine guns were located under the concrete caps. There were also 16 rows of barbed wire, some of which passed an electric current. Bombs were suspended on a wire, mines and land mines were set up, notches, wolf holes, and slingshots were made. And in the Russian trenches, Austro-German flame throwers were waiting.

Behind the so skillfully equipped front lane there were two more, but a little weaker. And although the enemy was convinced that it was impossible to break through such a defense, he prepared another rear defensive position in 10 km from the front line. When Kaiser Wilhelm II visited the front, he was delighted: he did not see such strong positions, as it seemed to him then, even in the West, where opponents for several years of positional war were very successful in this matter. At the same time, at an exhibition in Vienna, models of defensive structures were shown from the Austro-Hungarian front as the highest achievement of German fortification. And the enemy so much believed in the inaccessibility of his defense that a few days before the Brusilov offensive even discussed the question of whether it is not dangerous to remove a couple of divisions from this front in order to defeat Italy as soon as possible. It was decided that there would be no danger, since last year the Russians were constantly haunted by failures, and this trend is unlikely to change.

However, the Germans and Austrians relied primarily on heavy artillery. Its ratio was as follows: 174 heavy guns against 76 Russians in the 8 Army sector, 159 vs. 22 in the 11 Army section, 62 versus 23 in the 7 Army section, 150 against 47 army in the 9 army.

With such superiority, the Germans still complained that too many heavy batteries had been transferred to the Italian front. But the most important thing: the enemy did not believe that after the most severe defeats of 1915, the Russians were generally capable of a more or less serious business. The chief of staff of the German army group, General Stoltzman, boastfully declared: "The possibility of Russian success is out of the question!"

Lost, you see, the Germans, with whom they are dealing. The commander-in-chief of the South-Western Front was not one of those generals who are called parquet (their entire service is in headquarters — on parquet floors, not in trenches — from second lieutenant to general). Alexey Alekseevich Brusilov (1853 - 1926) came from a kind of hereditary military. He lost his parents early and in the 4 age he was enrolled in the Page Corps, where guard officers were trained. However, he did not aspire to the elite units, and, frankly, the means for serving in the guard were not enough. After completing his studies in the Summer 1872 Corps, the young officer chose the 15 th Tver Dragoon Regiment for service, which was stationed in Kutaisi. (Brusilov, by the way, was born in Tiflis). There, the 19-year-old ensign was appointed a junior platoon officer of the 1 Squadron. When the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 began, Brusilov literally took part in hostilities from the very first days. For the military campaign he was awarded the Order of St. Stanislav 3 degree. And then there was service in various positions in the Russian Imperial Army. In the summer of 1913, the cavalry general A. Brusilov assumed command of the 12 Army Corps in the Kiev Military District.

Since the beginning of World War I, Brusilov was appointed commander of the 8 Army. The troops of his army marched to the border and soon joined the battle with the Austrian cavalry. The enemy was defeated, his remnants ran for r. Zbruch. On the river. Koropets, the enemy tried to stop the Brusilovsky troops, but again was defeated. And retreated to the Galician city of Galich. And Brusilov moved to Lviv. On the way I took Galich. The battle lasted three days. The Austrians lost more than five thousand people killed. For the capture of Halych, General Brusilov received the Order of St. George 4 degree.

Soon the Austrians tried to make a detour west of Lviv. Brusilov troops of the right flank and center gave the enemy a head-on battle (the most difficult form of hostilities), and the troops of the left flank took a solid defense. The enemy suffered massive losses, retreated and decided to gain a foothold on the Carpathian passes to block the Russian troops on the Hungarian plain.

In the Battle of Galicia, the first major battle of the Russian army in the Great War, troops of General Brusilov defeated the 2 th Austro-Hungarian army, only prisoners took more than 20 thousand people. The army of Brusilov repelled all attempts by the enemy to unblock the city besieged by the Russians in Przemysl.

In the most difficult for the Russian army 1915, the troops of General Brusilov led active defensive actions, inflicting serious losses on the enemy. Successes A. Brusilov could not go unnoticed. In March, 1916 was appointed commander-in-chief of the Southwestern Front, and in April he was given the rank of Adjutant General. The army headquarters was located then in the city of Zhytomyr. A little more than a month remained before the onset ...

The front commander, General Brusilov, wasted no time. He paid special attention to reconnaissance - from regimental to army and front-line. At the front headquarters, all the information obtained about the enemy was concentrated. For the first time in that war, Brusilov made extensive use of aerial reconnaissance data, including photographs. We add that on the South-Western Front, a fighter air group was also formed for the first time. She ensured Russian supremacy aviation in the air. Our pilots bombed, fired machine guns at the enemy, supported infantry on the battlefield.

To mislead the enemy, false radio messages were widely used on the South-Western Front. Original orders, orders, instructions were transferred to the troops by express courier mail. False artillery positions were created. The front headquarters spread misinformation about the offensive, allegedly being prepared by the Germans north of Polesye. Therefore, they say, the South-Western Front must be ready to come to the rescue of General Evert. For more convincing, the corps was ordered to prepare for an offensive in many places, trenching work to turn their positions into a springboard for attack. Brusilov told the commanders of the armies: it was necessary to create the complete illusion that the front would strike at the 20 points.

As a result, the Austro-Hungarian command never managed to determine where the Russians would deliver the main attack. The Austrians thought routinely: where Russian guns will continuously fire for several days, there we should wait for the main attack.

And miscalculated. Brusilov gave precise instructions to the artillery for the period of the breakthrough of the enemy defense. Light guns had to first destroy the wire barriers, then destroy the machine guns. The objectives of the medium and heavy artillery were communication trenches and the main defensive positions. As soon as the infantry rose to the attack, the light artillery was to concentrate the fire on the enemy's artillery batteries. Then the heavy guns immediately transferred the shooting to the distant lines of enemy defenses.

Brusilovsky breakthrough spawned such a thing as a barrage of fire. It was a short shelling of targets, under the direct cover of which the attack began. Under heavy artillery fire, the enemy could not offer decisive resistance. Attacking units broke into the first trench line of the enemy. Before that, literally in seconds, the firing shaft was transferred to the second line of defense, then to the third, and so on. But the grenadiers or, as they were called, “trench sweepers” were walking very close behind the shaft. Grenadier teams burst into the trenches of the enemy, as soon as the firing shaft moved on. The enemy was still in the dugout, and one grenade thrown into it was enough to destroy a dozen enemy soldiers.

Proceeding from the situation on the fronts, General Brusilov foresaw that the Stake would order the launch of the 28 - May 29 offensive. In order to finally mislead the enemy, he ordered to finish all preparations for May 19. And the 20 th commander-in-chief of the Southwestern Front received an order to launch an offensive on May 22 (old style) - two weeks ahead of schedule. When Brusilov asked if other fronts would attack at the same time, General Alekseev evasively replied that Evert would be ready for 28 in May, but for now Brusilov would have to attack on his own.

It should be emphasized that General Brusilov largely inherited Suvorov. One very typical example: before the offensive, he created a copy of the defensive zone of the Austro-German fortifications and trained soldiers on it. Suvorov did this repeatedly. And yet - inherent in Brusilov Suvorov surprise strike. This issue Brusilov paid the main attention. Misinformation worked: the Austrians did not understand where the Russians would deliver the main attack. They couldn’t even think that the main attack as such would not be.

The strategic surprise of the Brusilov breakthrough was achieved by striking all four armies simultaneously. This, as they said then, was against all the rules. But Suvorov also won, violating all the rules of the war (as if there could be some rules in the war!).

A day before the offensive, General Alekseev, on a direct wire, gave Brusilov the king's command to conduct an offensive not at four sites, but at one, and with all forces intended for operations. Brusilov replied: report to the Sovereign that in 24 hours I cannot regroup corps and armies. Then Alekseev very diplomatically remarked: His Majesty is asleep, I will report tomorrow. And tomorrow it was too late ...

And all four armies have achieved success!

Brusilov did not bet on artillery, as was customary in a positional war, but on the breakthrough of infantry. In the direction of the main attack, operational density was created in the 3-6 battalions (3000-5000 bayonets) and 15-20 guns on the 1 km of the front with the expenditure of 10000-15000 shells. In some areas of the breakthrough, the total number of light and heavy guns was able to reach the 45-50 on the 1 km of front. The enemy’s operational density ranged from 4 to 10 km per infantry division, i.e. the 2 battalion on the 1 km front and 10-12 guns. Thus, the Russians managed to get double, and in some areas even triple superiority of forces.

Another tactical discovery of Brusilov is the attack by shoals. He abandoned the idea of ​​overcoming large distances in dense formation. The infantry was divided into so-called. waves that moved one after the other at a distance of 150-200. The enemy's positions should be attacked with four waves and at close range. The first two waves took the trench and immediately attacked the second, where they tried to gain a foothold. The remaining waves "rolled" through the first and fresh forces took the next line of defense. The cavalry was supposed to be used only in case of a breakthrough of the enemy front. This method of attack, by the way, like other methods and methods of Brusilov, was widely used in European armies.

The battle began with a sudden artillery preparation by the troops of the Southwestern Front. On the night of 3 on June 4 (new style) 1916, at 3 at 1 am, powerful artillery fire was opened, which lasted until 9 hours of the morning. In the areas designated for the breakthrough of the Russian troops, the enemy’s first line of defense was destroyed. Thanks to well-organized reconnaissance, including aerial photography, Russian artillery was able to suppress many of the enemy’s identified weapons.

The front forces of the four armies broke through the Austro-Hungarian defense at the same time on the 13 sites and launched an offensive in depth and on the flanks. During the breakthrough, the troops of the Russian Imperial Army broke down the Austro-Hungarian defense, stretching from the Pripyat swamps to the Romanian border, advanced in depth by 60-150 km and occupied a significant territory of Galicia (present-day Western Ukraine).

Losses of the enemy amounted to 1,5 million people killed, wounded and taken prisoner. The losses of our troops were three times less. And this is in the offensive, where the loss ratio should be the opposite!

Therefore, the talk about the low qualities of the commanders of the Russian Imperial Army that are still present is a shameless lie. It is enough to compare its losses with the losses of enemies and allies in World War I, as well as the losses of the Red Army in 1941 – 1945. The victory of the South-Western Front naturally caused an unprecedented triumph in Russia. In his memoirs, German General Erich Ludendorff wrote: “The Russian attack in the Bend of Stry, east of Lutsk, was a complete success. The Austro-Hungarian troops were broken in several places, the German units that came to the aid, also found themselves in a difficult situation. It was one of the strongest crises on the Eastern Front. ”

Both the Russian triumph and the German-Austrian crisis are connected with the name of General Alexey Brusilov. It is all the more necessary to recall also the names of army commanders who, under the leadership of an outstanding commander, achieved great success: the commander of the 7 army DG Shcherbachev, the 8 army - AM Kaledin, 9 the army of P. A. Lechitsky , 11 Army - K.V. Sakharov. As a result of this strategic operation, Italy was saved, the French resisted Verdun, the British withstood the onslaught of the Germans on the r. Somme

It has long been known that the success of the South-Western Front was not adequately supported by other fronts. But this is different. story. As for the results of the offensive of the South-Western Front, they were stunning and were of major importance for the further course of the war and the later reorganization of the world.

Then, in 1916, the countries of the Entente received all the conditions for the victorious conclusion of the war. The support of Brusilovsky’s breakthrough with all the forces of the Entente would lead to the defeat of the enemy. This, alas, did not happen - the Allies began to attack only 26 days after the attack by Brusilov's troops. And the war ended only in 1918. Defeat, as could have been foreseen in 1916, Germany and Austria-Hungary. Officially, Russia was not among the winners, and justice has not yet been restored. Nevertheless, this battle entered the world classics of military art. By the way, I. Stalin had great respect for General Brusilov, whose ideas formed the basis of the largest strategic offensive operations of 1944, which went down in history of the Great Patriotic War under the name of “ten Stalinist strikes”.

Brusilovsky breakthrough - the only military operation, named for the commander. Military operations before 1916 had no code names.

Usually they were called at the place of the fighting. Initially, this operation was known as the Lutsk breakthrough. But from the very first days of the fighting, the success of the attacking Russian troops became so obvious that not only the domestic, but also the foreign press spoke about Brusilov. Even in military circles, especially among officers of the South-Western Front, the offensive was called after General Brusilov. Then this name spread throughout the country. And survived to this day. The story just does not give the laurels of the winner to anyone. The South-Western Front in 1916 conducted the most successful strategic operation of the Entente troops during the entire war. Adjutant General Aleksey Alekseevich Brusilov rightfully deserved eternal memory in Russia.

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  1. Standard Oil
    Standard Oil 3 July 2014 10: 42
    How can you even attack like this? You look at a newsreel, it’s just some kind of horror, crowds of soldiers running to the thorns and machine guns in full growth, how many soldiers did they reach the enemy’s trench? And then melee in the trench, how many people were alive after that? then rest and everything repeats again, well, or the enemy tries to repulse its trench and everything repeats the other way. It is a pity that Russia did not have a normal ally, we could first deal with half-dead Austria-Hungary, and in the event of the fall of Austria, Bulgaria would probably capitulate immediately and Turkey, and there it would be possible to deal with the Germans who were left alone. But since the company of Russia in the Entente was, to put it mildly, not the most reliable countries like France and Great Britain, we had to fight with the Austrians only with our left hand, because in case of the Germans' attack no one guaranteed, that the French or the British will come to the rescue.
  2. saturn.mmm
    saturn.mmm 3 July 2014 10: 55
    Wonderful article. Thanks to the author. At school, it would be nice to study the history of your country more carefully, otherwise soon the children will not know about the Second World War, not to mention the WWII.
  3. Wolka
    Wolka 3 July 2014 11: 59
    Brusilov is the worthy son of his Fatherland, if not for the intrigues within the Russian General Staff and the strong will of the Commander-in-Chief, if the generals Kuropatki and Alekseev supported the Brusilov breakthrough, everything would have been faster and the victory would have really been in 1916, maybe there would have been no revolutions in Russia the first or second, none at all. But as you know, history does not know the subjunctive moods, today we have what we have ... hi
  4. bunta
    bunta 3 July 2014 13: 58
    To everyone who is interested, I recommend the second volume of Brusilov's memoirs, written by him in Czechoslovakia, when he went there for treatment from the Soviet Union.
  5. mithridate
    mithridate 3 July 2014 20: 16
    Russia always had to and now has to rely only on itself
  6. psg72
    psg72 3 July 2014 20: 17
    We would now have such commanders!
    1. strannik1985
      strannik1985 3 July 2014 21: 32
      In fact, he recommended placing detachments with machine guns behind his advancing troops.
      1. Nagaibak
        Nagaibak 3 July 2014 22: 49
        strannik1985] psg72
        "Actually, he recommended placing barriers with machine guns behind their advancing troops."
        And where were they not?
  7. strannik1985
    strannik1985 3 July 2014 21: 35
    In general, not bad, but the passage about the comparison with the years 1941-45 amused.
  8. Nagaibak
    Nagaibak 3 July 2014 22: 55
    "Brusilov did not stake on artillery, as was customary in trench warfare, but on the breakthrough of the infantry."
    A strange statement.))) The author got excited?))) Without artillery, there would have been no breakthrough.
    "Both the Russian triumph and the German-Austrian crisis are associated with the name of General Alexei Brusilov. It is all the more necessary to recall the names of the commanders of the armies who, under the leadership of the outstanding commander, achieved great success: the commander of the 7th Army D.G. Shcherbachev, the 8th Army - AM Kaledin, the 9th - by the army of PA Lechitsky, the 11th - by KV Sakharov As a result of this strategic operation Italy was saved, the French withstood the Verdun, the British withstood the onslaught of the Germans on the river. Somme. "
    Author, where is Hanjin?
  9. Captain45
    Captain45 3 July 2014 23: 00
    Quote: strannik1985
    In fact, he recommended placing detachments with machine guns behind his advancing troops.

    Well, how can it be without detachment detachments? Well, no way !!! For you, probably now the NKVDshnik is looming with a gun lol
  10. Nagaibak
    Nagaibak 3 July 2014 23: 01
    I would like to fill the gap according to Khanzhin M.V.
    "World War I.
    He entered the First World War as commander of the 19th artillery brigade. Acted as commander of the 19th Infantry Division. For fights in January 1915 at Mevolavoch was awarded the St. George's Arms. Since July 1915 - commander of the 12th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Order of St. George of the 3rd degree for the fact that: “taking command of the 12th Infantry Division on July 7, 1915, when the units of the designated division, unable to withstand the onslaught of superior enemy forces, began to withdraw, personally led the reserve battalion, "filled the breakthrough formed between the 12th Infantry Division and the left flank of the 4th Infantry Division and stopped the retreating units."

    Since April 1916 - an artillery inspector of the 8th Army, played an outstanding role in organizing the offensive of the Southwestern Front ("Brusilov Breakthrough"), which was noted at Headquarters: Khanzhin was promoted to lieutenant general for his role in the Lutsk breakthrough, which was significant rewarding among the generals participating in the operation (expecting to be awarded the Order of St. George of the 2nd degree, A.A. Brusilov was awarded the St.George weapon with diamonds). From the end of 1916 - inspector of artillery of the Romanian Front. From April 1917 - Field Inspector General of Artillery under the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. During the First World War, he established himself as a talented artillery chief and combined-arms commander. Lieutenant General (1916) "Material brought from Wiki.
    By origin, the Cossack of the Orenburg Cossack army.
  11. Stena
    Stena 4 July 2014 00: 00
    Many thanks to the author for the article!
    Extremely interesting!
  12. Fedya
    Fedya 5 July 2014 19: 45
    So it is true, but you would write that after the breakthrough, the Austrians quietly squeezed Russian troops out of the occupied territory for several months! Which once again proved the mediocrity of the command of the rate and the uselessness of this whole war for Russia.
  13. kayur nikakov
    kayur nikakov 6 July 2014 11: 51
    But the Lord will send forever the allies, trash alone. Of course, he does not like the history of subjunctive moods, but if only then, even in the first, the German calculation and the Russian spirit would have avoided a lot of things, maybe they would have saved the emperor.
  14. Marat
    Marat 8 July 2014 18: 48
    I heard different opinions about the final success of the Brusilovsky breakthrough ... After all, in fact, it ended with the Russian Verdun near Kovel, and they say the options were more successful in completing it.