A year and a half of the bloody war did not bring victory to any of the coalitions of the powers, but they significantly changed the balance of forces of the warring parties. France and England took advantage of the fact that the German bloc focused its attention on Russia, and significantly increased the power of its armed forces, transferred the economy to a military track. Russia, which bore the brunt of enemy strikes in 1915, faced systemic problems inside the country (weak industry, poor transport infrastructure, etc.), but it withstood. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, although they achieved important successes at the front, began to experience ever-increasing internal difficulties, their resources were limited and depleted. The composition of the coalition expanded through the accession of new states: Italy joined the Entente, Bulgaria took the side of Germany. Greece and Romania preferred to maintain neutrality. Serbia and Montenegro were defeated, their governments and armies evacuated. As a result, both sides had high hopes for the 1916 campaign, hoping to turn the tide in their favor.
German Empire By the beginning of 1916, the strategic situation was not in favor of the Central Powers bloc. During the 1914-1915 campaigns. they made every effort and resources to crush France (1914 g.) and Russia (1915 g.), and to solve the problem of war on two strategic fronts. Having significantly exhausted their human and material resources, putting a large part of the personnel of the army (the most prepared and with high fighting spirit), the Central Powers could not achieve this goal. And the prospect of a long war on two fronts inevitably led to defeat. The Russian Empire, France and Britain with their vast colonial empires, had superior material and human resources. But the Ottoman Empire, speaking on the side of Germany, although it had great resources, could not take full advantage of them because of a weak, semi-colonial economy and poor transport infrastructure. Moreover, the internal politics of Istanbul (including the Armenian Genocide, the most important trade and craft class of the empire) further upset Turkey’s economy.
However, during the 1915 campaign, the Central Powers achieved visible success and improved their strategic position. The Russian front dangerous for Berlin and Vienna, which had recently threatened to invade Germany and Hungary, was pushed eastward from 200-300 km. Austria-Hungary, with the support of the German and Bulgarian troops, was able to solve the problem of Serbia. With the accession of Bulgaria to the Central Powers bloc and the occupation of Serbia, Poland, the Baltic and Belorussian regions, the material and raw material base of the bloc has expanded. Germany established a direct connection with the Ottoman Empire, gaining access to Turkey’s reserves. Germany had the opportunity to pump out food and raw materials not only from Belgium and the northeastern departments of France, but also from the newly occupied areas of Russia, from Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, and send them to strengthen their military and economic potential. The size of the industrial and agricultural resources of the occupied areas were significant. Only in the departments captured from France, before the war, about 75% coal was mined, 84% iron and 63% steel were produced and 60% of the country's metalworking industry was located.
For one and a half years of war, the German Empire and, to a large extent, Austria-Hungary, launched a powerful military industry and in 1,5 - 2 times raised the production of means of struggle. By the beginning of 1916, the production of rifles, aircraft and shells increased in Germany in 1,5, and machine guns and guns - in 3,5 times. In coal mining, production of iron and steel, Germany still surpassed France and Russia together.
Yet the socio-economic situation in Germany and Austria-Hungary was difficult. Beginning in the middle of 1915, these countries began to feel more strongly the course of the Entente toward waging war "to exhaustion." Own material and human resources ended. Germany put under the gun all the adult male population. The composition of the army has changed a lot: the new recruits did not have sufficiently high drill and military-technical training.
There were not enough hands, some types of raw materials and food. Due to the sea blockade of Britain, the connection between Germany and Austria-Hungary with the foreign market was greatly reduced. The British blocked the access of scarce raw materials to Germany from Sweden. Trade with Romania gave Germany oil and additional amounts of food, but this channel could close at any moment, as England and France made persistent efforts to force Bucharest to abandon the expectant neutrality and take the side of the Entente. Romania could already speak in 1915, but retained neutrality because of Bulgaria, which was on the side of Germany and because of the defeat of Serbia. In addition, Bucharest demanded guarantees of accession to Bessarabia and Transylvania after the war. But Russia opposed this. Petersburg considered Bucharest a weak and unreliable ally.
By the beginning of the new campaign, Germany still faced the need to continue the struggle on two fronts. This required further tension of all forces and intensive exploitation of the occupied territories. The German Empire had to provide with armament, ammunition and reserves of troops not only their armies, but also allied troops. Germany had to support the allies, as the strength of the alliance depended on it. In Berlin, they came to the conclusion that after the war, it would be necessary to create a “Middle Europe” (Mitteleuropa). It was based on the German-Austro-Turkish bloc, with the involvement of Scandinavia and Holland. In October 1915, Chancellor Bettman-Golweg and Commander-in-Chief Falkenhain finally resolved their differences over the future Central European Federation based on the German-Austro-Hungarian alliance with the inclusion of the territory of Belgium and Poland, plus Russian territories in the north-east. October 30 Foreign Minister Yagov agreed with the scheme worked out.
He estimated the situation in Europe as follows: “During the clashes between the German and Slavic worlds, the Pan-Slavic tendencies in Russia will strengthen, and the traditional dynastic ties between us and St. Petersburg will be finally buried, and Russia will remain our enemy in the future. The question of whether the need to expel the semi-Asian Muscovite empire for Bug should be considered as imperatively necessary, since the current turn stories obliges us, as representatives of Western culture, to reject the Slavs for the Elbe, Oder and Vistula ”. Thus, Germany officially resurrected the concept of an “onslaught to the East.”
At the beginning of 1916, the German and Austrian authorities switched to a rigid rationing of supplies, introduced a rationing system for food products and certain types of industrial goods. In Berlin, began to fear the revolution. General Falkengain, the war minister of the German Empire, believed not without reason that if the sea blockade was not broken and Romania stopped supplying oil and food, then the Central bloc countries would face a food and raw materials crisis, which would cause a social and political crisis.
England and France. The Entente countries, especially Great Britain and France, were in a more advantageous strategic position. The period of relative calm on the Western Front in 1915, England and France used to build up their military and economic potential.
Due to the mobilization of internal reserves and resources of dominions and colonies (India, Australia, Canada, etc.), the production of weapons and ammunition was significantly increased. Britain and France managed to raise their military-economic potential enough to eliminate the lag behind Germany in the production of weapons and ammunition, especially heavy artillery and machine guns. In one year (January 1915 - January 1916) rifle production in France grew by 1,5, guns by 5,8, and cartridges by more than 50 times. During the same period, the production of machine guns in England increased by more than 5, and aircraft - more than 10 times. England and France launched new branches of the military industry - the production of chemical agents and agents against chemical protection. In the second half of 1915, French factories produced up to 6000 chemical projectiles per day and as many gas masks as needed to supply the entire army. England and France started mass production of a qualitatively new weapons — tanks. Reliance on the human and material resources of the colonial empires, the supply of military materials from the United States allowed England and France to create such reserves in the means of warfare that they fully provided for their needs. In addition, England and France could provide support to Russia, Italy and the evacuated Serbian army. On the whole, the material and technical base of the war of the Entente countries by the beginning of 1916 exceeded the base of the Central Powers.
For 1915, France increased the size of its army by 1,4 million, and England by 1,2 million. In May, the British Parliament 1916 adopted a law on universal conscription and, by calling on contingents of dominions, colonies and metropolises, brought the number of its armed forces to 3 million. At the beginning of the 1916, the Entente had 365 divisions (Russia - 136 divisions, France - 99, England - 80, Italy - 36, Serbia - 6, Belgium - 6), and the Central Powers - 286 divisions (Germany - 159 divisions, Austro- Hungary - 63, Bulgaria - 12, Turkey - 52). The total number of armies of the Entente reached 18 million, and the Central Powers - 9 million.
Russian empire. The Russian Empire has also achieved certain success in building up military production. 1915’s defeats forced the authorities and industry to take radical measures to restructure the economy on a war footing. In Russia, at last, they embarked on the development of the domestic military industry, on the creation of a network of new factories for the production of guns, rifles, gunpowder and explosives and the widespread involvement of private enterprises in the manufacture of military products. At the end of 1915, the Main Artillery Directorate developed an emergency program for the construction of 37 new military factories (2 / 3 was planned to be commissioned in 1916). True, this program was not fully implemented, but the new factories that were commissioned in 1916 have already begun to provide military products. As a result, the Russian Empire began to emerge from the crisis in supplying the army with weapons and ammunition. From January 1915 to January 1916, rifle production in Russia grew by 3, guns by 4-8, and various types of ammunition from 2,5 to 5 times.
However, Russia still could not get the necessary amount of means of struggle from its economy. Therefore, attempts were made to get help from the allies. In November, 1915 was sent to England and France by a Russian military mission led by Admiral A.I. Rusin. She had to place large military orders abroad. Russia needed gunpowder, toluene, cars, tractors, barbed wire, etc. However, the mission did not fully reach its goal. She managed to place orders only for part of the necessary Russian army products.
England and France, which in 1915 received a strategic respite and launched their military industry at full capacity, did almost nothing to render their ally, Russia, the necessary assistance. This created difficulties in building up the fighting power of the Russian army, which still needed weapons and ammunition, especially heavy artillery. “... Domestic production,” said M. V. Alekseev, 16 (29) of April 1916, “cannot give us not only guns, but even projectiles in sufficient quantity to carry out at least one operation lasting at least 20 days. An attempt to acquire heavy guns in England and France, mainly 6-dm calibers, so necessary for us to fight dugouts and shelters, and 42-mm guns failed completely. There is no hope for the manufacture of appropriate shells. ”
At the same time, the human resources of the Russian Empire still allowed to increase the size of the army. For 1915, the current army received 3,6 million. In 1916, 3 million more were called up, of which 2,5 million were sent directly to the front. The Northern, Western, South-Western and Romanian fronts from 1 in January 1916 to 1 in October 1916 (for 9 months) increased their number from 4,3 million to 6,1 million. Caucasian front with 336 thousand people to 702 thousand people. In general, the number of Russian army in the first nine months of 1916 increased from 4,7 million to 6,8 million. These replenishments were used to compensate for the losses (killed, wounded, and prisoners of war), to form new combat units and rear institutions. At the same time, a new problem appeared - the excessive growth of rear institutions and the number of persons who served them. Attempts to combat this social evil were not successful. It should be noted that it was the rear that was a hotbed of defeatist and revolutionary sentiment.
Inside Russia, the anti-war movement expanded. Workers and soldiers increasingly complained about the war. Surrender, desertion, flight from the battlefield from exceptional events in 1914 became commonplace. The unrest began again on navy. In October 1915, unrest occurred in the battleship Gangut, the cruiser Rurik, and other warships. The split in the elite of the Russian Empire intensified, part of the privileged, wealthy classes became in opposition to the tsarist regime. The Westernized bourgeoisie and intelligentsia were weighed by autocracy. This led to the creation of the bourgeois "Progressive Bloc", which allegedly criticized the policies of the tsarist regime and the encirclement of the tsar (the empress, some ministers and Rasputin) from a "patriotic" standpoint.
Germany’s attempt to coordinate the movements of the Russian socialists, separatists and nationalists, aimed at the collapse of the Russian empire, initially did not achieve much success. However, the masters of England, France and the United States (the so-called “world backstage”, financial international) also opposed Russia. Their goal was the collapse of all the "autocratic" empires - the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman, which interfered with the establishment of the New "democratic" order headed by the "elected" clans. Therefore, one of the best agents of the world behind the scenes, Parvus, began to act against Russia. Back in the spring of 1915, he suddenly turned off profitable business in Turkey and offered his services to the German government. He presented a memorandum: “Russian democracy can realize its goals only through the complete crushing of tsarism and the dismemberment of Russia into small states. Germany, for its part, will not succeed if it fails to initiate a large-scale revolution in Russia ... The interests of the German government coincide with the interests of the Russian revolutionaries. ”
A plan was proposed for a secret war against the Russian Empire, which the German Chancellor Bethmann-Golweg very much liked, the Foreign Ministry, the military command and the Kaiser himself. Parvus was immediately assigned 2 million marks, then another 20 million, and in the fall of 1915 another 40 million marks. Parvus gathered the warring factions of the Social Democrats in September 1915 for a conference in Zimmerwald, Switzerland. Money reconciled even such enemies as Lenin and Trotsky. Socialists sharply increased the possibilities of their propaganda. The money went through other channels, to support the Social Revolutionaries, nationalists, separatists, and all who opposed the royal power. Funding channels have been established in Sweden, Norway and Romania. So in Sweden, the money from the Max Warburg Bank was transferred to the Stockholm “Nia Bank” Ashberg, and from there they were transferred to Russia.
The open gate to the Russian Empire was Finland with autonomy. She did not bear the cost of the war, her citizens were not drafted into the army. Formerly the impoverished suburbs of Sweden, and then Russia, were fattened by transit trade and speculation. Local authorities looked through the activities of various "guests" from abroad. It was impossible to press them because of the special status of the Grand Duchy. He also defended the Russian Duma. As a result, Finland was flooded with spies, and all who wished went across the border from Sweden, carrying disruptive literature, propaganda materials, weapons and ammunition. Finland has become a real springboard of the revolution in the empire.
The Russian authorities could not clean up the rear. It should be noted that in other powers very tightly controlled the internal situation. In the German Empire, the trade unions themselves banned strikes. The Social Democratic Party of Germany announced that agitation against the government in war conditions is a betrayal of the motherland and comrades in the army. Any violator was awaited trial for treason. In France, a dictatorship of the rear was introduced, the workers were equated to military personnel and submitted to military discipline. Suspicious persons were arrested preventively, without any charges! Britain passed the "Law on the protection of the kingdom" and the "Law on the Defense of India", they abolished all available freedoms. Strict censorship was established, state control over factories and transport, confiscation of any property was allowed, strikes were forbidden, tribunals were established, whose sentences were not subject to appeal.
And only in Russia there was a "peaceful" rear. So in August 1915, our troops washed with blood, restraining the onslaught of the enemy, and retreated to the east, unable to respond to the volleys of enemy artillery, and the largest factories of the capital, Putilovsky and Metallichesky, went on strike, demanding an increase in the 20% patch. Workers in Russia during the war (!) Could strike and rally as they please. Only in January, 1916 in Russia, 169 strikes were noted, in which 135 thousand people took an active part. The tsar and the government did not dare to go against the Duma, where liberal figures prevailed. The tsar also did not dare to disperse the Duma, since behind it stood influential industrialists and bankers who provided the army with supplies. And bankers and liberals maintained relations with revolutionaries, nationalists. Public organizations, officially created to help the front, have achieved the release of their employees from service. As a result, they became the refuge of deserters, speculators, and revolutionaries. In general, the tsarist government was unable to restore order in the rear, and the country steadily went to revolution and collapse.
Thus, in general, by the beginning of the 1916 campaign, the position of the parties and the balance of forces had changed significantly in favor of the Entente. Having completed the mobilization of forces and means of warfare, the Entente countries were determined to go on to a strategic offensive and take revenge for the defeats of previous campaigns. The central powers began to lack power and resources, but were still strong enough to attack. Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul were still hoping for success in the war.
To be continued ...