Simultaneously with the battles in the North-Western Front, major events took place on a section of the South-Western Front. By the beginning of January 1915, the armies of the left flank of the Southwestern Front occupied a sprawling position along the Carpathian Mountains. The Russian armies fought with the Austro-Hungarian troops, who covered the road to Hungary. The difficult conditions of the mountain theater and winter created great difficulties for both parties. The command of both armies had to take into account these conditions.
Even before General Headquarters adopted the 1915 campaign, the command of the Southwestern Front, on its own initiative, began to develop a plan of operation aimed at overcoming the Carpathians as soon as possible and breaking into the Hungarian plain. This should have led to the withdrawal of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the war and sharply worsen the political and military-strategic position of Germany. A key role in the operation was to be played by the 8 Army under the command of Alexey Brusilov. The Brusilov Army occupied positions in the area from the Dukelsky (Duklinsky) Pass to Baligrod. The four corps of the 8 Army (24, 12, 8, and 17) were supposed to, in the direction of Humennoe, allow Russian troops access to the Hungarian Plain. The Brusilov Army was planned to be reinforced with the 22 Corps, which was transferred from the 10 Army.
On the right flank of the front, the offensive was supposed to support the 3 army of Radko Radko-Dmitriev (9, 21 and 10 corps). On the left flank of the front, already in the course of the battle, Platon Lechitsky’s 9 Army forces were advanced. Parts of the 11 Army of Andrei Selivanov were besieged by the powerful Austrian fortress of Przemysl, which remained in the rear of the Russian front. The fortress was besieged 120-thousand. enemy grouping. 7 (20) January 1915, the commander-in-chief of the South-Western Front, Nikolai Ivanov, ordered the attack.
Commander of the 8 Army, General A. A. Brusilov
Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian command, embarking on the strategic plan for the 1915 campaign and considering the threat of a Russian invasion of Hungary, began to concentrate troops in the initial areas for the offensive from the beginning of January. Parts of the Serbian front and the 2 of the Austrian army, which was stationed on the left bank of the Vistula, were transferred to the Carpathian range. To the aid of the Austrians, significant German forces were deployed: 50 thousand soldiers in January and about 90 thousand people in April (first the German group made three divisions, and then six divisions). The Russian troops were opposed: on the left flank of the 4-I Austrian army by Joseph Ferdinand, in the center - the 3-I of the Austrian army of Svetozar Boroevich von Boine, formed from the German and Austrian divisions so-called. The southern army of Alexander von Linsingen, on the right flank - the 5-I Austrian army.
By January 6 (19), the concentration and deployment of the Austro-Hungarian troops was completed. The troops were ready to attack. The main strike grouping included the 5 Army, the Southern Army of Linzingen, and the right flank of the 3 Army (up to the 7,5 of the Austro-German corps). The main forces were located in the strip from Sambora to the Romanian border. Against two Russian corps (7 and 30), superior forces were deployed. The Austro-Hungarian command planned to inflict two blows: one from Uzhgorod on Sambir, the other from Munkac on Striy. The Austro-Hungarian command was going to cover the flank of the 8 of the Russian army and break through to the rear of the Russian troops, unblocking Przemysl. The attack on the Carpathians was to become the southern claw, which, together with the armies that had struck from East Prussia, was to create a huge "Polish bag."
Thus, the Russian offensive belatedly. In terms of the balance of forces and the degree of their readiness, Austro-German troops had a complete advantage at the initial stage of the battle. They had a particularly big advantage in the direction of the main attack.
Map source: Zayonchkovsky A.M. World War 1914 — 1918.
9 (22) - 11 (24) In January, the Austro-German troops launched an offensive on the entire front from Bukovina to Mesolaborg. The offensive of the Austro-Hungarian forces coincided with the offensive movement of Brusilov's 8 Army and led to heavy encounters. The battle took place on mountain passes in the winter cold. On both sides there were many frostbitten and sick. With varying success, battles were fought throughout January and February of 1915. Russian troops courageously beat the blows of the enemy and themselves launched a counterattack, delivered sensitive blows at the enemy. Brusilov pulled up reinforcements from the neighboring sectors of the front and the Russian corps restrained the monstrous onslaught of superior enemy forces, inflicted counterattacks. These battles were called "rubber war" - they could not break through the front of the enemy, oppressors pressing each other now went deep into the Carpathians, then retreated.
It is worth noting that the battles were in the mountains. It was difficult to bypass the enemy. We had to storm the positions fortified by nature itself, which led to a loss of time, increased losses and dramatically increased the role of artillery. Contractions were violent and hard. On top of all the difficulties, it became increasingly difficult with ammunition. The rear warehouses are empty. And what they sent could not be delivered, there were no roads or they were in terrible condition. Brusilov noted: “It must be remembered that these troops in the mountains in the winter, bitterly in the snow, during heavy frosts fought fiercely day after day, and also provided that they had to take care of rifle ammunition, and especially artillery shells. We had to fight off with bayonets, counterattacks were made almost exclusively at night, without artillery preparation and with the lowest expenditure of rifle cartridges. ”
Brusilov 4-th Iron Rifle Brigade under the authority of Anton Denikin, which clearly showed itself in previous battles, from the 24-corps transferred to its reserve. She became the "fire brigade" commander. She was thrown into the most dangerous places. The brigade justified its name. In February 1915, the Iron Brigade was sent to the left flank, to Uzhgorod direction, where Brusilov formed a consolidated detachment under the command of Kaledin from several cavalry and infantry units. Kaledin's detachment was supposed to try to bypass the main enemy grouping. At the town of Lutovysko, the Austrians stopped Kaledin's detachment and, settling down on the dominant heights, shot Russian soldiers. Denikin's brigade rescued Kaledin's detachment. Denikin wrote: “It was one of the hardest of our battles. Severe frost, snow on the chest ... Never to forget this terrible battlefield ... The entire path traversed by my arrows was indicated by motionless human figures sticking out of the snow with guns squeezed in their hands. the dead froze in those positions in which they were caught by an enemy bullet during the run, and between them, drowning in the snow, mixing with the dead, hiding behind their bodies, the living team made their way to death. The crew melted away ... "The impermeable ridge was nevertheless taken." Denikin's warriors broke into enemy positions, captured more than 2 thousand people prisoners and threw the enemy. The Austrians had to retreat for San. Of such terrible battles consisted Carpathian operation.
Russian artillery during the Carpathian operation
All the bitterness and bloodshed of the battle is well characterized by the battle of Kozevo (Kozyuvka village) on the Stryi direction. The “Key of the Wooded Carpathians”, in the words of the historian A. A. Kersnovsky, changed hands several times. 6 — 7 February 1915, the troops of the Southern Army of Linsingen, passing the Carpathian passes, entered the defile (the narrowest part of the mountain pass) in the area of Kozevo, where the defense was held by parts of the 22 Russian corps. Russian troops occupied the heights dominating the village. In just one day, Austro-German troops launched 22 attacks, trying to bring the Russians down from the heights. Continuous, almost daily attacks continued until early April and resulted in heavy casualties. Only in early April, during the so-called. "Easter battle" Russian troops managed to knock out from the position. Both sides suffered heavy losses. Thus, the battalion of the 1 th Finnish Infantry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Yankevsky, consisting of 10 officers and 800 riflemen, who kept the defense at 992, held off the attacks of the German forces for two days and was under artillery fire. After the change of position in the battalion, the commander remained, one officer and sixteen soldiers, another about 50 people were sent to the hospital, the rest died.
Following this local battle was followed by a no less fierce battle for the mountain of Makovka (the battle for "the height of 958"). Parts of the 22 Army Corps — the 78 Infantry Division — were sent to return the lost village of Kozevo (Kozuvka). For this it was necessary to take a strategic height - Mount Makovka. Part of the 55 Austrian Infantry Division and the 1 German Infantry Division defended in this direction. In addition, as part of the Austro-Hungarian forces, Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Ukrainian Legion), military units created from volunteers living in Austria-Hungary, who adhered to the Ukrainophile views, fought.
16 April The 309 th Ovruch regiment went to the first assault on the mountain. The 1 Battalion, which operated on the northern, steepest and therefore least protected fortifications, the slope of Makovka, was able to capture the first lines of trenches, taking 114 prisoners and four machine guns. However, then under the cover of powerful artillery fire, the enemy launched a counterattack. After a two-hour stubborn bayonet battle, the 1 Battalion departed. The 3 and 4 battalions of the Ovruch regiment were able to reach only the lines of wire barriers, where they lay down and began to dig in, under enemy storm fire. In addition, the artillery of the regiment covered the headquarters of the regiment. The regiment commander and staff officers were contused, which impaired troop command and control. At this assault ended. The regiment for the day of the battle lost 7 officers and 565 lower ranks.
17 April Russian troops went to the second storming of enemy positions. The attack involved soldiers of the 309-nd Ovruch Regiment and 148-nd Caspian Infantry Regiment (only three battalions). The attacking troops destroyed the wire fences and took the first line of trenches. On the night of April 18 the assault on the central fortification of the mountain began. Bearing huge losses from heavy enemy fire, the Russian soldiers took the summit of Makovka. 12 officers and 576 lower ranks were captured. The Austro-German command immediately threw all available reserves into the counterattack. Infantry attack supported by heavy artillery fire. The first two counterattacks beat off with heavy losses for the enemy. As the battle participant recalled, inexperienced Magyar (Hungarian) recruits "died like flies." However, the enemy’s attack was held back with great difficulty, and there was not enough strength. The command advanced the 147 Infantry Samara Regiment to Makovka, but this order was belated. The third counterattack brought success to the Austro-German army. Opponent repulsed poppy. Around 8 hours of the evening of April 18, the remnants of the Russian battalions moved to the line of wire barriers.
After the second assault, the commander of the 78 corps, General Brinken, told the commander of the 22 Infantry Division that with his forces, even with the transfer of parts of the Samara Regiment, his division was only capable of defense. The enemy in three months created a powerful defense, and the artillery did not have projectiles to support the advancing infantry, which, because of this, suffered great losses. It is worth noting that the Russian infantry suffered huge losses from enemy artillery fire. At the same time, our artillery was almost deprived of the opportunity to help its infantry due to the extreme shortage of ammunition. Alftan requested two regiments to continue the offensive.
On April 19, Corps Commander Brinken personally arrived at the headquarters of the 78 Division and ordered the attacks to continue. Early in the morning of April 20, the third storm of the mountain began. One battalion of the 148 Infantry Caspian Regiment and three battalions of the 147 Samara Regiment participated in it. In spite of the machine-gun and artillery fire, the Russian infantrymen came very close to the enemy’s positions and began to dig in. On the morning of April 21 they went on a decisive assault. Despite the heavy losses and the desperate resistance of the enemy, the Russian soldiers, under the command of General Matveyev and Colonel Shelekhov, in the evening took an important height. At the same time, an 53 officer, a lower 2250 officer, and many weapons and ammunition, including 8 machine guns 100 marching pack kitchens and 8 "douche for burning gasoline." In this battle, the Russians recorded one of the first instances of the use of flamethrowers by the Germans, about 100 soldiers died from their fire, many were injured. At night, the Austrians went to the counterattack, but it was reflected.
The Austrians during the Carpathian battle introduced another terrible invention - explosive bullets or dum-dum bullets. They inflicted huge lacerations, the victim died or became crippled. According to the unwritten laws of war, captured soldiers convicted of using explosive bullets were not captured, they were killed on the spot. This weapon was considered mean-spirited. Vienna was outraged, promised to kill two Russian prisoners for each shot. However, Russia responded harshly - the Supreme Commander Nikolai Nikolayevich promised that if Vienna takes this step, hang four people for each executed prisoner. He said: "We have enough Austrian prisoners for this." As a result, these weapons are not widely spread.
Thus, Alftan's 78 Division was able to complete the task. Russian troops won a tactical victory. However, on the whole, the 22 corps was unable to complete the task - it was not possible to return the previous positions entirely and restore the situation in the valley of the village of Kosevo. The total losses of the Russian troops for all three of the attack on Makakovka amounted to about 3170 officers and soldiers killed, wounded and missing. The exact losses of the Austro-German forces during the battles for Makovka are not known. But they were also great. Only prisoners of the 22 Army Corps for the week of fighting from 14 to 21 on April 1915 took about 90 officers and 5 thousand soldiers during the year (during the assault the mountains captured 3 thousand).
Battle of Kozevo (postcard of Austria-Hungary)
Austro-German troops tried hard to bypass the left flank of the 8 Army and free the blockaded garrison of the Przemysl Fortress. The main forces began to move south, where previously only the cavalry forces covered the front. After persistent battles, the Austro-German forces managed to press the left-flank forces of Brusilov’s army. Russian troops under the blows of the South German army and the 5 of the Austrian army were forced to clear the foothills of the Carpathians and withdraw to the borders of the Dniester and Prut rivers. Austro-German troops set their sights on Stanislav and Lviv. Toward a new threat, Brusilov threw everything he had at hand — 2-th Kaledin's cavalcourse, 3-th Keller's cavalcore, 12-th Lesha. In persistent battles, they detained the enemy. Kaledin in these fights was wounded.
The Russian high command was forced to take urgent measures to rectify the situation. In February, Brusilov’s 8 Army was reinforced by the 22 Corps. By the end of February, at the Bolekhiv, Chernivtsi sector, the 9-I Army of Lechitsky re-formed from parts of the right wing of the front took up positions. She was unable to resume the offensive of the South-Western Front, but stopped the advance of the enemy troops on the southern flank.
In March, the situation improved the fall of the Austrian fortress of Przemysl. The capture of Przemysl became a major victory for the Russian army. 9 generals surrendered to Russian troops, about 116 thousand soldiers and officers. As trophies they took 900 guns (according to other data, more than 1000). The armed forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire suffered a heavy blow. One of the main tasks of the offensive Austro-Hungarian strike force - the release of Przemysl, lost its meaning. This victory liberated the siege army units of Selivanov. The liberated troops of the 11 of the Russian army were divided between the 8 and 3 armies, which allowed the Russian command to launch a new offensive.
The command of the South-Western Front believed that the enemy would either try to defeat the main forces of the 3 and 8 of the Russian army in the Carpathians, or try to break through Bukovina on the communications of the Russian troops and force them to clear Galicia. Based on these assumptions, Brusilov’s armies were tasked with smashing the enemy’s left-flank forces that were operating against the 9 Army and entering the Hungarian Plain. The left flank of Radko-Dmitriev's army was to contribute to the advance of the 8 army. Russian troops again went on the offensive.
The whole of March also took place in intense battles. Forces 11 th army was not enough to radically change the situation at the front. The troops of the 3 and 8 armies in the previous battles had already suffered heavy losses, were exhausted and experienced an acute shortage of artillery and combat supplies. In addition, the Austro-German command also deployed reinforcements, strengthening its grouping. It should also be said that the offensive took place in the conditions of the beginning of the spring thaw. Russian troops were able to advance on 20-25 km, occupied some of the Carpathian passes and captured the Beskids.
Further offensive was meaningless. March 29 (April 11) Russian offensive was stopped. South-Western Front moved to the defense. Local battles that are not important, continued further.
Austrian troops during the Carpathian operation
Results of the operation
The Carpathian operation did not meet the expectations of both parties. The Russian offensive, on which the command of the Southwestern Front had placed great hopes, was overdue. The Austro-German command managed to transfer large forces to the southern strategic direction, preparing their offensive. Therefore, the Russian offensive resulted in a bloody oncoming battle among the snow-capped mountains. At the same time, at the first stage, the enemy had an advantage in numbers. However, the Russian command deciphered the enemy’s plan and responded with a regrouping of forces, which thwarted the plan of the Austro-German command.
The Russian offensive led to the fact that not only the attempt to unlock Przemysl was foiled, but the plan of the Austro-German command to start the 1915 campaign of the year was wrecked. The German General Staff wanted to produce a wide coverage of the left wing of the Russian armies, which, together with the onset of the 10 and 8 of the German armies in the north-west direction (the August operation, in German historiography — the Winter Battle in Masuria) army and Russia's withdrawal from the war. This plan has failed completely.
Both sides suffered huge losses. The Russian army lost about 1 million killed, wounded and captured. This number also included casualties during the siege of Przemysl, as well as a huge number of frostbitten and sick. Total enemy losses amounted to about 800 thousand people. The Russian army spent in this battle (as well as in the battles in the north-western direction - the Augustus and Prasnysh operations) all the main reserves, which led to the rejection of any offensive action for a considerable period.
Russian Cossacks in the Carpathians. 1915 year