On the readiness of the Russian Empire for the First World War
4 September 1914 The Entente countries in London decided not to conclude a separate peace and conclude a closer military alliance. It should be noted that at the beginning of the war a wave of patriotism and nationalism swept all the powers. British historian G. Craig noted: “It was an extraordinary mix of unrealized patriotism, romantic joy about the possibility of participating in a great adventure, a naive expectation that this conflict would resolve all previous problems in one way or another.” Most Germans, French, British and Russians believed that their country was the victim of brutal external aggression. The general formula was the expression "we did not want this, but now" we must defend our fatherland. " At the beginning of the war there was a national consolidation.
After all, only a few guessed that war would bring terrible destruction, a sharp drop in living standards, that millions of people would die. The majority, including the leaders of the states, believed that the war would be short and would end in a beautiful victory. The image of a knightly, “beautiful” war with a multi-colored uniform and gentleman officers prevailed.
With the beginning of the war in the ruling class of the Russian Empire, the English and Frenchophiles absolutely prevailed. A relatively small group of those who were considered Germanophiles found themselves on the sidelines of public life. At court, the empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the former princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was the cousin of the German emperor, was considered a supporter of peace with Germany. In the Duma and the State Council, right-wing leaders (the so-called “Black Hundreds”) acted for good relations with Germany. Among them were Prince Meshchersky, Minister Shcheglovitov, Baron Rosen, deputies Purishkevich and Markov. It should be noted that the extreme right were the most far-sighted leaders of the Russian Empire, warning the government from the start of the war with Germany. Among those sympathizing with them were Peter Nikolayevich Durnovo, who warned sovereign Nicholas II against speaking out against Germany, predicting a social revolution and the collapse of both monarchical Russia and Germany.
In February 1914, Durnovo gave the king an analytical note. In it, the former Minister of the Interior quite accurately predicted the composition of the two opposing coalitions, noted that the Russian Empire would get the brunt of the war and the role of a "battering ram penetrating the thickest German defense." Durnovo spoke of Russia's unpreparedness for war, that war "cannot be a triumphal march to Berlin." In the event of a defeat in the war, he predicted falling into "a hopeless anarchy, the outcome of which is difficult to foresee." The army, which will be deprived of the most reliable personnel of its composition, will not be able to stop the unrest, moreover, it will itself become the social base for the revolution. Durnovo predicted the collapse of the liberal opposition (the future Provisional Government). He noted that the opposition is intelligent in its composition and divorced from the people, therefore in the event of a revolution it will quickly lose control of the situation. A similar fate threatened Germany. In essence, Durnovo gave a gloomy, but piercingly correct analysis of the future of the Russian and German empires.
However, Durnovo and other right-wing figures were not honored in the Russian Empire. They could only sound the alarm and experience its fall with the Motherland. In general, the ruling circles and the liberal intelligentsia embraced anti-German sentiment. They were very stable. The leaders of the liberals Guchkov and Milyukov, even in 1917, when the disastrous war became clear to many people, continued to defend the idea of “war to the bitter end”. The western party in Russia supported the common goal of the Entente - the need to weaken "German imperialism." Russia was obliged to fulfill allied obligations to France. At the same time, it was believed that Germany plans to tear away from Russia the Baltic states, Finland, the Black Sea region, including the Crimea, that Berlin and Vienna will establish their rule in the Balkans and the torrential zone (Bosporus and Dardanelles). Although the far-reaching and expansionist plans in Germany were finally established only during the war.
The fallacy of the pro-Western course was also manifested in the Polish question. 13 August 1914. Tsar Nicholas II decided to grant Poland wide autonomy. Although it was obvious that during the war one should not go for liberal experiments. Britain and France welcomed this step, which is not surprising, since they had long used the Poles to fight the Russian Empire. Western ambassadors spoke to Foreign Minister Sazonov about strengthening the forces of Russia, about uniting two Slavic peoples under the scepter of the Romanovs, but almost immediately the Poles began to be used against the empire. In Germany, the Poles remained loyal to the Kaiser. And in Austria-Hungary, in August Joseph Pilsudski began the formation of the Polish Legion, which was led by the Higher National Committee in Krakow. The Polish Legion was preparing for a march on Warsaw. Already in September, the Russian High Command highlighted the participation of Poles living in the Russian part of Poland on the side of the Germans and Austrians.
And the creation of a special Czechoslovak formation in Russia eventually turned out to be sideways. The Czechoslovak Legion (later the corps) played a leading role in fomenting the Civil War in Russia. Czechoslovak troops in Russia became a kind of "fifth column", which was used by external forces (the trap of power).
Ship with Russian soldiers arriving in Marseille
In France, revanchism and the doctrine of “war to the extreme” prevailed. The French General Staff dismissed all defenders from the army. The French planned to attack. The French charter of 1913 began with the following postulate: "The French army, returning to its tradition, does not recognize any other law than the law of the offensive." The seizure of a strategic initiative, the unshakable will in the pursuit of a decisive battle, the inexhaustible vitality - became the main princes of the French army. The Higher Military Academy, headed by General Foch, cost all plans on the basis of the principle: “the will to win is the first condition for victory”. Three generations of French people believed in a brilliant victory, after which France would return Alsace and Lorraine (lost in the 1870-1871 war) and restore the leading role of Paris in Western Europe. Further events will show how blind the French military and politicians were. One will to win was not enough to break the German war machine.
Colonial troops from French Indochina land at Camp Saint-Raphael
The initial entry into the war of Russia and Britain caused a shock in Berlin. Many hoped that Russia would choose Kutuzov’s strategy in 1812 of the year - waiting for an invasion, and a retreat deep into the territory. This allowed us to solve the question of France, and then turn all forces against Russia. And the ambiguous policy of London misled the German leadership. The pause in the British diplomatic game 1 of August 1914 in Berlin was perceived as Britain’s desire to maintain neutrality. The German emperor exclaimed: “Now we can start a war only with Russia! We will simply send our entire army to the East! ”True, the enthusiasm was not long, they were replaced by disappointment.
Deceived expectations caused hatred. In Germany, the flow of hatred has spread widely, primarily to two countries - England and Russia. Germany could still avoid a terrible war on two fronts, if she had shown wisdom and initiated the negotiation process. However, aggressiveness and belligerence prevailed, Berlin did not want to appear weak.
Anglomania of a significant part of the German elite played a cruel joke with Berlin. The Germans misjudged the aspirations of England. The German ambassador in London, Likhnovsky, earnestly adopted all English. He was followed in Berlin. All the top spoke in English in the German capital, starting with Chancellor Betman-Golwega and Admiral Tirpitz. Many prominent statesmen were married to Englishwomen. Many Germans believed that the two peoples of the Germanic root should be united and rule the world. For them, the British Empire was a role model. The same disease will deal a fatal blow to Hitler's Third Reich.
The Kaiser and his entourage misunderstood the general line of British politics that London’s goal is the absence of a single dominant force in Europe. The head of the English headquarters college, General Wilson, was friends with the head of the Higher Military School of France, General Foch, and with his colleagues traveled by bicycle on the French-German border. Wilson clearly defined the direction of the main attack of the German army - the coverage of the French troops on the right flank. Already in the spring of 1914, the creation of the Franco-British plan for the start of hostilities was completed. He was known to all 10 officers. England planned to mobilize on the same day as France and immediately send an expeditionary force (6 divisions) to the front.
German infantrymen send machine guns to Russians from a trench on the Vistula River, in 1916
Russia's readiness for war
In Paris and London, they looked at the power of Russia with admiration and fear and planned to fight with Germany “until the last Russian soldier”. Sir Edward Gray wrote in 1914: "Russian resources are so great that eventually Germany will be depleted by Russia, even without our help."
Already in August 1914, the Russian Empire put up 114 ready for battle divisions, France had 62 divisions, Britain inserted 6 divisions. The German Empire put out 78 divisions at the beginning of the war (soon bringing their number to 96), and Austria-Hungary 49 divisions.
In 1910, army reform began: the mobilization period was shortened, the technical condition, and the organization of reserves improved. The call is now carried out strictly according to the territorial principle. The reduction of the garrison troops gave 6 additional divisions. They increased the number of the officer corps, improved the power and uniform of the soldiers. The army was “purged”: 341 general and 400 colonels were resigned. This partially eradicated the "Manchu syndrome" - the demoralizing memory of the defeat in the Russian-Japanese war.
In general, the army was significantly strengthened. The patriotism of the army and the people at the beginning of the war was very high. For military needs sent large funds. Russia after Tsushima again became a great naval power. So, if the German naval program in 1907 - 1908. cost 14 million pounds sterling, then the Russian program of the same period was estimated at 14 million pounds sterling. Naval construction 1913-1914's. It cost Germany 23 million pounds, and the simultaneous Russian shipbuilding was equal to 24 million pounds sterling. This was possible due to the general economic growth of the Russian empire: government revenues between 1900 and 1914 over the years doubled and reached 3,5 billion rubles. The reforms of Stolypin (one of the most ardent opponents of the confrontation with Germany) had a positive effect on the country's economy. In the west of the Russian Empire, strategic railroads were built, which allowed the transfer of 100 divisions to the front within 18 days. As a result, Russia lagged behind Germany in full combat readiness by only three days. The soldiers received new (brown-green) tunic and were armed with a 7,62 mm five-shot rifle (Mosin rifle, three-line ruler). Field artillery complied with the best international standards.
Descent battleship "Poltava" on the water. The second ship (according to the date of launching) in a series of four dreadnoughts like "Sevastopol"
However, the army had a number of weaknesses, which will clearly manifest itself in the course of the war. High command, as during the Russo-Japanese war, to a large extent, did not correspond to the positions held. It was not the winning army of Rumyantsev and Suvorov. The war did not give birth to military geniuses of their level. "Peacetime generals" could not lead the army and the empire to victory. Moreover, part of the generals will support the conspiracy, which will lead to a coup in February 1917.
The army lacked officers, and the officer corps became more and more peasant-raznochinsky. Nobles have ceased to be the basis of the officer corps. In 1900-1914 Two thirds of the officers in the rank of second lieutenant to colonel came from commoners, Cossacks or peasants. Aristocrats retained the leading position only in the cavalry. Before the war, the officer corps was generally loyal to the imperial throne. But the war knocked out the cadre composition of the officer corps, the intellectuals-raznochintsy, who stood on liberal-democratic, socialist or nationalist positions, became mass officers. As a result, the army from the main support of the throne has become one of the main destabilizing factors.
The war will stop or extremely slow down Russia's internal reform, which could save the empire. While the war was on, it was impossible to complete the land reform, radically improve the situation of the workers, introduce universal primary education, etc. Various radical forces took advantage of this. And when the first patriotic euphoria ends, deep protest will accumulate in the society.
The Russian army was a powerful force, but it never reached a level comparable to the level of the main enemy - the German one. In Russia, it was not possible to create such a headquarters, which would not be a simple department of the military ministry, but a think tank of the army and the empire. No one denied the Russian soldier courage and perseverance, but the vast human resources were often used by the command ineptly. An inefficient organization during the war revealed shortcomings in literally everything - in the production and supply of weapons, ammunition, communications equipment and medicines. The ineffective management of the railways during the war led to the fact that the roads were packed with trains, and they could not bring ammunition and provisions to the front in time.
Brave, but illiterate Russian soldier, poorly guided by the terrain, difficult to master the technique. Foreign observers noted poor intelligence, neglect of disguise, lack of initiative and lack of capable generals, infinitely weak organization of troops and logistics, communications, lack of telephone communication.
In Russia, there was no main condition necessary for war in the industrial age - honest and competent economic planning. Theft reigned in the rear, incompetence, and often sabotage. Non-military industries collapsed rather quickly, embittering the rapidly impoverished population of the country. The lack of manufactured goods deprived the peasants of an incentive, and they rather quickly began to hold onto food (the surplus was introduced in the Russian Empire, not the Bolsheviks). Carelessly mobilized skilled workers, which deprived the industry of valuable personnel.
Hope for foreign aid did not materialize, the army did not have enough heavy guns, machine guns and aircraft. So, the whole Russian army had heavy artillery 60 batteries, and the German one had 381 batteries. In July, the 1914 of the year on more than 1 thousand soldiers accounted for the entire 1 machine gun, which already during the Russian-Japanese war showed its terrible effectiveness. Only in July, 1915, after terrible defeats, the Russian command will order 100 thousand automatic rifles and 30 thousand new machine guns. At the beginning of the war, Russian industry produced on average 165 machine guns per month. Russian enterprises could produce only a third of the automatic weaponsneeded by the army. The rest was bought in France, England and the USA. But first of all they supplied their armies, to Russia they supplied the weapon on the residual principle. In addition, various types of machine guns, as well as purchased rifles, required their own caliber of cartridge, which made it difficult to supply the troops. The situation with artillery ammunition was even worse: more than 37 million shells - two out of every three used, were brought from England, France, the USA and Japan.
In general, Russia (and its opponents) was not ready for a long war. The opposing sides were convinced of the transient nature of the war - they thought of fighting for two months, not more. On this prewar reserves enough. Russia did not fully use the Japanese lesson in order to re-equip the army, begin industrialization, create a powerful military-industrial complex. The Russian army was sufficient for the defense of the empire, but could not compare in technical and organizational terms with its main enemy - the German army. The courage of the Russian soldier could not compensate for the incompetence of the military command and the military-technical gap.
The call of reservists in St. Petersburg. 1914 year
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