Great Retreat (Russian)


Great Retreat (Russian)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict = Great Retreat
partof = the Eastern Front during World War I


caption = Russian withdrawal in 1915.
date = August 17 - September 14 1915
place = Galicia and Poland
result = Russian retreat from Galicia and Poland
combatant1 = flag|Russian Empire
combatant2 = flag|German Empire
commander1 =
commander2 =
strength1 =
strength2 =
casualties1 =
casualties2 =

The Great Retreat was a Russian retreat from Galicia and Poland during World War I.

During this period, the buildup of forces generally favored the Central Powers. Four new German armies, the Eleventh, Twelfth, Army of the Niemen and Army Bug, were being formed up, dramatically shifting the balance of power in the area, with thirteen Central armies facing nine Russian. Under pressure from the Kaiser, Falkenhayn gave in to Hindenburg and Ludendorff's insistence that the offensive be continued.

Russian Stavka decided to start a strategic retreat in order to gain time needed for the massive buildup of war industries at home.

In early June 1915, Mackensen's armies crossed the San River and captured the Przemyśl. On June, 22 Russians left Galician capital Lvov. Between June 23 and 27 the Germans crossed the Dniester. In early July Mackensen had to stop his offensive due to Russian counterattacks.

On 13 July, the Central armies opened new offensive across the entire front. Outnumbered and still off-balance due to the earlier actions, the southern end of the Russian line collapsed and started moving northward, retreating to the Ivangorod (Dęblin)-Lublin-Chełm line.

More worryingly, the German Tenth and Niemen armies pressed through on the extreme north end of the line, once again leading to the possibility of an encirclement of the entire Russian army.

By 13 July, the entire southern wing had been pushed back another 100 miles to the River Bug, leaving only a small portion of Poland in Russian hands, anchored on Warsaw and Ivangorod fortress. On 22th of July armies of Central powers crossed Vistula river. On August, 4 Russian army left Ivangorod fortress. With the continuing Russian retreat, the Polish capital itself became isolated, and the German XII Army (under Gallwitz) seized the opportunity and conquered it on August 4–5.

New attacks by the German Eight, Tenth and Twelfth armies moving south out of Prussia soon caused even this front to collapse, sending the entire northern end of the Russian lines streaming backward, eventually forming a line running north-south at about the pre-war eastern Prussian border.

The Germans, after having received considerable reinforcements, took Brest-Litovsk on August 25. On September 19, Hindenburg's forces captured Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

At this point, the German advance was finally halted. The frontline was going from the Baltic Sea to the Romanian border by the the Riga-Jakobstadt-Dvinsk-Baranovichi-Pinsk-Dubno-Ternopil line.

In August 1915, Tsar Nicholas II dismissed Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich and took direct control of the army.

Futher reading

* The Great Russian Retreat. Douglas Wilson Johnson. Geographical Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Feb., 1916), pp. 85-109.


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