RUSSIAN FRONT & EASTERN EUROPE 1914-18
NOTE: Those months when little is happening militarily are still listed
Political & Military Events concerning Russia - 1871-1914
By 1914, many factors - industrialisation, nationalism, military and naval rivalry, colonialism - combined to prepare the nations of Europe, and those further afield for war. The inter-relationships of these factors are complex and even now somewhat uncertain. What is certain is that the assassination of an Austrian Archduke by a Serbian-inspired student in June 1914 led to World War.
Although a useful starting point is the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, the first major event after this time influencing events in Russia and Eastern Europe came in 1878:
1878 - Break-up of the Ottoman or Turkish Empire in Europe - Following the independence of Greece in 1832, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire continued after the 1877/78 Russo-Turkish War with the Congress of Berlin. Montenegro, Serbia (both part of the old southern Yugoslavia) and Rumania were made independent. A 'small' Bulgaria also became independent, but the remainder stayed Turkish. Bosnia-Herzegovina (also part of the old Yugoslavia) was administered by Austria while remaining in the Ottoman Empire. Britain gained Cyprus. Russia and Austria continued their rivalry for power in the Balkans.
1879 - Dual Alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary - Reached between Germany and Austria-Hungary against possible attack by Russia.
1882 - Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy - Against the threat of French attack, Italy joined the three year old German-Austrian Alliance to form the Triple Alliance. Chancellor Bismarck thus continued his policy of isolating France. Rumania also joined the Alliance.
1894 - Dual Entente of Russia and France - Russia, concerned about relations with Austria over the Balkans, turned to France in a formal alliance against attack by Germany, Austria's partner in the Triple Alliance.
1898 - British Isolation. Russian threats to British influence in China led to Britain reconsidering its policy of isolation and entering into a peacetime military alliance. British overtures to Germany were rejected.
1898 - Foreign Takeover of China - As the Great Powers scrambled for concessions in China came to an end, Russia took over Port Arthur on the Yellow Sea.
1900 - Chinese Boxer Rebellion. After 60 years of dismemberment by foreign powers, the Chinese at last reacted. A Chinese secret society nicknamed the 'Boxers', secretly supported by the Chinese empress, developed to rid China of foreign domination. A series of massacres led to the siege of the international Legation Quarter in Peking, finally lifted after two months by the troops of eight nations - European, Russian, American and Japanese.
1901 - Anglo-German Relationships. The two countries continued alliance negotiations, which could have led to Britain becoming a member of the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Germany continued to prolong discussions, even at the risk of driving Britain into the Dual Entente of France and Russia, but they finally broke down over the Boer War.
1902 - Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Alliance - Signed to provide both powers with an ally and to counter Russian expansionism.
1904-05 - Russo-Japanese War - Disputes over Manchuria and Korea caused war. After destroying the Russian Baltic Fleet at the 1905 Battle of Tsushima and defeating Russia, Japan was recognised as a world power.
1905 - Russian Revolution - Partly because of Russia's defeat by Japan, the 1905 Russian Revolution (which included the mutiny on battleship 'Potemkin') brought about political concessions by the Tsar.
1907 - Triple Entente of Russia, France and Britain - Britain and Russia settled a number of differences in Asia. Then with both countries concerned about Germany, but friendly with France, the 1894 Dual Entente and the 1904 'Entente Cordiale' became the Triple Entente of Russia, France and Britain.
1908 - Bosnia Crisis - An enlarged Bulgaria declared full independence from Turkey. Almost immediately Austria annexed the semi-independent Slav/Serb province of Bosnia-Herzegovina arousing the hostility of Serbia and Russia.
1912-13 - Balkan Wars - Turkey had by now been expelled almost completely from Europe and the Balkans. In the First War of 1912/13, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria defeated Turkey, divided Macedonia between themselves, and created the new country of Albania. Bulgarian dissatisfaction with her gains led to the Second Balkan War (1913) against her previous allies, and to defeat. Serbia (Austria's enemy) emerged as the leading Balkans power.
1914 - By now the international tensions were many and complex.
On what became the Allied side, these include: Russia championing the Balkan Slavs against the Austrians with Serbia seeking to be leader of those Slavs; and
On the part of the Central Powers, Austria was under growing pressure to grant more independence to her many minority populations including Serbs
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FINAL STEPS, Summer 1914
Following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, seven European nations went to war between late July and early August 1914:
The Central Powers of Austria-Hungary and Germany (the Triple Alliance less Italy and Rumania); and
The Allies of the Triple Entente (Russia, France and Britain and their Empires) in defence of Serbia and Belgium:
28th - Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary and heir to the throne, and his wife, were visiting Sarajevo, capital of annexed Bosnia-Herzogovina. Both were shot and killed by student Gavrilo Princip, member of a Serbian secret society.
23rd - Austria, threatened by Russian support for Serbia, but now assured of German backing, sent an ultimatum demanding that Serbia suppress all anti-Austrian activities.
25th - Serbia ordered mobilisation, but also agreed to meet most of Austria's demands.
28th - Austria declared war on Serbia, and next day bombarded Belgrade the Serbian capital. Austrian forces were not yet ready to invade.
30th - Russia, committed to the defence of Serbia, finally decided on general mobilisation.
31st - Austria announced general mobilisation. Germany insisted Russia halt mobilisation and demanded to know if France would remain neutral if Germany went to war with Russia.
1st - France mobilised. Germany also ordered mobilisation and declared war on Russia (the German Schlieffen Plan required France to be defeated in battle before Russia could be attacked, thus making war with France inevitable). Italy announced neutrality.
2nd - Germany invaded Luxembourg early on the 2nd and sent a note to Belgium demanding free passage of troops through Belgium territory for the attack on France. Britain assured France that the British Fleet would protect the French coast and shipping from German attack.
3rd - Belgium refused German demands, and the King of the Belgians appealed for the preservation of Belgian neutrality. Germany declared war on France.
4th - Britain protested against German violation of Belgian territory. Invading Belgium early on the 4th, Germany declared war on Belgium. British mobilisation was ordered; Britain went to war with Germany from midnight on the 4th.
6th - Austria finally declared war on Russia.
10th and 12th - France and Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary.
RUSSIA, EASTERN EUROPE & THE WORLD AT WAR, 1914-18
Western Allies - Great Britain and Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg. joined by Italy in May 1915, Portugal in March 1916 and Greece in June 1917; Eastern Allies - Russia and Serbia. Joined by Montenegro and Albania in January 1916, and Rumania in August 1916;
Central Powers - Germany and Austro-Hungary. Joined by Turkey in November 1914, and Bulgaria in October 1915.
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Russian Front - Even before mobilisation is complete, the Russians fulfill their prewar plans as well as their promises to France, and launch attacks on Germany from north of the Russian-Polish salient, and on Austria-Hungary from the south: Prussia - In the north, the Russian First (Gen Rennenkampf) and Second (Gen Samsonov) Armies faces a single German Eighth Army (Gen von Prittwitz) holding the East Prussian front. Galicia - To the south, along the 200 mile Galician front running parallel to the Carpathian Mountains and down to the Rumanian border, the bulk of the Russian forces under Gen Ivanov (Fourth, Fifth, Third and Eighth Armies) faces the Austrian First, Fourth, and Third Armies and part of the Second (all commanded by Gen Conrad von H�tzendorff).
Russia invades East Prussia - The Russian offensive starts on the 17th when First Army crosses the border north of the Masurian Lakes. First contact is made in the Battle of Gumbinnen and an attack on the 20th by three German corps is held. Gen Prittwitz panics and wants to fall back behind the Vistula River, thus abandoning the whole of East Prussia. Gen Moltke replaces him with Gen von Hindenburg, and Gen Ludendorff joins him as chief of staff. Meanwhile the Russian Second Army has crossed the border to the south of the Masurian Lakes in the Tannenberg area, making German retreat impossible. The bulk of German Eighth Army is therefore moved southwest by train from Gumbinnen. In the Battle of Tannenberg, starting on the 26th, the Germans attack the Russians, turning both flanks, encircling them, and in just six days destroying Second Army and taking 100,000 prisoners.
Austria attacks Polish Galicia - In the south of the strategically vital Russian-Polish salient, the Austrian commander Conrad takes the offensive first to beat the Russian's mobilization. His main effort is to be on the west with a strong left wing consisting of First and Fourth Armies. They are to move north between the Vistula and Bug Rivers to take the Polish towns of Lublin and Kholm. Russian plans are similar, and at the Battles of Krasnik (23rd-26th) and Komarov (26th-31st) just within Poland, the Austrians almost win, but only gain tactical successes. The First Battle of Lemberg then takes place through into early September. The weaker Austrian right wing on the southeast flank s in trouble with its reinforced Third Army outnumbered three to one by the Russian Third and Eighth Armies. In the Battle of Gnila Lipa River (a tributary of the Dniester within Galicia) between 26th and 30th, the Austrians are pushed back to the west of Lemberg. The Russian south or left wing is now in a position to outflank the Austrian armies fighting to the north within Poland.
East Prussia - As the Battle of Tannenberg is being fought, Russian First Army (Rennenkampf) continues to push slowly into East Prussia north of the Masurian Lakes, but with the battle in the south lost by the Russians, Rennenkampf takes up a defensive position. German Eighth Army (Hindenburg) moves north to face them and on the 9th in the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes makes a frontal assault which is repulsed. But on the same day, the Russian's southern flank in the Lakes area is pushed back and out of East Prussia, covering their retreat with a small counter-attack on the 10th, and falling back towards the River Niemen. In the first East Prussia Campaign, two Russian Armies are broken and 300,000 men lost.
Galicia - With the Russians threatening the Austrian left wing fighting inside Poland, the rest of Austria's Second Army is brought back from Serbia. In the Battle of Rava-Russkaya (6th-10th), Austrian Gen Conrad tries to outflank the Russian's Third and Eighth Armies in the south but the gap between Austrian First Army in the north and the rest of his forces is exploited by Russian cavalry. On the 11th, Conrad orders retirement behind the San River, and on the 16th to the Gorlice-Tarnow Line with his left flank on the Vistula River and the right in the Carpathian Mountains. The Austrians have now been pushed back 135 miles west of Lemberg, leaving all Austrian Galicia in Russian hands, the fortress of Przemysl besieged, and German Silesia threatened. The cost to the Austrians is 250,000 men dead and wounded and 100,000 taken prisoner. With Germany threatened, four German corps move 500 miles from East Prussia to the Cracow area in Austria, just behind the Austrian defences. The relatively small German force becomes the Ninth Army and with Austrian support prepares to attack Poland aiming for Warsaw .
Poland - Pushing north into Poland in the First Battle for Warsaw, the Germans are in sight of the Polish capital by mid-month . But the Russians have the advantage in numbers - four armies and 60 divisions against the 18 divisions of German Ninth Army and the Austrians. After heavy fighting along the Vistula to the south of Warsaw , the Germans make an orderly withdrawal to their own frontier. The Austrians are also pushed back from the San River, once again leaving behind the besieged city of Przemysl.
Poland - Gen Hindenburg is appointed C-in-C German forces on the Eastern Front. With the Germans outnumbered and the Austrians in the south shattered, the Russians attack towards German Silesia on the 11th. However German Ninth Army (Gen von Mackensen) has concentrated between Thorn and Posen on the northeastern border of the Polish salient, and attacks the flank of the Russian advance from Poland into Silesia. In the Battle for Lodz. the German drive almost succeeds, and Mackensen moves at least 50 miles by mid November, exploiting a gap between Russian First and Second Armies, but Russian Fifth Army moves up and counter-attacks. The threat to the German forces is too great and one Corps at Lodz has to struggle against a much larger Russian force before breaking out in late November.
Poland - In the Second Battle for Warsaw, the Russians pull back from Lodz and on the 6th, the Germans move in as major fighting grinds to a halt. The German moves into southwest and then northwest Poland are only partly successful, but have smashed the Russian Silesian offensive and removed any threat to Silesia for the rest of the war. By the end of the 1914, Hindenburg is receiving new troops and others transferred from the Western Front. But for now the Eastern Front is quiet. In the north, the Germans hold the western part of Poland including Lodz (but have not reached Warsaw), regained all East Prussia, and taken the southern part of the Russian Baltic provinces. In the south, Austrian Galicia remains in Russian hands.
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Russian Front - German Gen Hindenburg pushes for a strategy of victory in the East, and in mid-month the Kaiser agrees to send four new German corps to reinforce the Eastern front. Hindenburg and the Austrian Conrad are to launch separate offensives from East Prussia and the Carpathians. German forces include the new Tenth Army (Gen von Eichhorn) on the northern flank of East Prussia, further south the Eighth Army (Gen von Below), and Ninth Army (Mackensen) on the southern flank of the German line opposite Warsaw. Here they join the Austrians - from north to south, the Second, First, Fourth, Third and Second Armies. Russian forces consist of the Tenth Army in the north just across the East Prussian border, the new Twelfth forming northeast of Warsaw, and the First and Second around Warsaw - all facing the Germans. Opposing the Austrians are the Fifth, Fourth, Ninth, Third, Eighth and Eleventh Armies.
Hindenburg's first aim is to destroy the Russian's northern Tenth Army and one of the main railway lines to Warsaw. On the 31st, to cover movements of Ninth Army elements, Mackensen attacks the Polish town of Bolimov on the railway line between Lodz and Warsaw. In the first use of gas in the war, tear gas shells are employed, but with limited effect. Their use is not reported to the Western Allies.
East Prussia - The new German Tenth Army attacks the Russian Tenth in the Winter Battle of Masuria between the 7th and 21st. Fighting in heavy snow, one Russian corps is lost to save the remaining three. The Russian army is out of the fight for the present with 200,000 casualties including prisoners - a tactical, but not a strategic victory for the Germans.
East Prussia - In the north, the Russians are driven from East Prussia, but hold the Germans on the Narew, Bobr and Niemen Rivers.
Galicia - The Austrian offensive led by Third and Fourth Armies, supported by a largely German southern army makes few gains, and on the 22nd, the besieged Przmesyl Fortress falls to the Russians with the loss of over 100,000 men. Through until mid April, the Austrians just manage to prevent the Russian Third and Eighth Armies breaking through the Carpathian mountain passes south and invading the Hungarian Plain.
East Prussia - With fighting continuing in the south, German Gen Hindenburg launches a diversionary attack from East Prussia into Russian Lithuania and Courland. The naval base of Libau on the Baltic coast is captured in early May.
Galicia - From mid March, the Austrians had managed to stop the Russians breaking through the Carpathians. Now German reinforcements reach them in preparation for a major offensive. The newly formed Eleventh Army is moved from the Western Front, covered by the attack on Ypres on the 22nd, and placed with the Austrian Fourth under Mackensen's command behind the Gorlice-Tarnow gap, south of the Vistula River.
Galicia - The Russians are not prepared for the coming German-Austrian offensive - the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow. On the 2nd, a heavy bombardment starts along the line of the Vistula River south to the Carpathian Mountains. By the 4th, Russian Third Army is almost wiped out and the German-Austrians break through. As the great attack continues, the Russians are driven back from the Dunajec to the San Rivers by the 12th, and then towards Lemberg. German Gen Mackensen advances 100 miles in two weeks. The entire Russian line is unhinged in the south and the Carpathians abandoned. Until September 1915, with few pauses, the Central Powers attack at will, and the Russians forced to withdraw along the entire Eastern Front.
Russian Front - As the German-Austrian offensive continues along the Galician Front, and the Russians are driven back from the San River towards Lemberg, Przemysl Fortress is retaken by the Austrians on the 3rd and the German-Austrian forces regroup. In the Second Battle for Lemberg, the city is recaptured on the 22nd. Now the Eastern Front runs from Lithuania in the north, loops around Warsaw, and with most of Galicia back in Austrian hands, continues south to the Rumanian border. Little remains of the Russian-Polish salient.
Russian Front - Converging attacks from the north and south are made on the Russian-Polish salient in the Third Battle for Warsaw. From the north, German Twelfth Army (Gen von Gallwitz) advances out of East Prussia, while in the south, the German-Austrian offensive, including Mackensen's German Eleventh Army, continues. As the Russians retreat, the province of Courland on the Baltic coast is occupied and pressure put on the Polish salient from the northwest and southwest. The Russians prepare to give up Warsaw.
Russian Front - The Russians continue to retreat in Poland and both Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk fall - Warsaw on the 4th, and the fortress of Brest-Litovsk on the 25th. The Germans cross the border into Russia itself. As the Germans advance east and north into Russia, a strong naval force complete with battleships tries to break into the Gulf of Riga to destroy Russian naval forces and shipping, and lay mines. In the First Naval Battle for the Gulf of Riga, the Germans are driven back. The city of Riga does not fall for another two years
Russian Front - By the end of September, German General Hindenburg has reach the outskirts of Riga in Latvia, and in the Battle of Vilna (or Vilnius), captures Vilna on the border with Lithuania. Subsequent German thrusts towards Riga and Dvinsk, both on the Dvina River are repulsed. To offset this, the Russian Baltic provinces of Courland and Lithuania have been occupied, the Polish salient eliminated, Austrian Galicia retaken, and the Russian threat to the Hungarian Plains removed. The Russian Front now runs north to south 600 miles from Riga and the Dvina River, then just short of Minsk, through the Pripet marshes and on to the Dniester River at the Rumanian frontier. The Russian C-in-C, Grand Duke Nicholas is dismissed and his nephew, the Czar assumes personal command.
Russian Front - By the end of the year, with Riga in the north threatened, half the Russian Baltic provinces and all Poland lost, and the hard-won gains in Austrian Galicia retaken by the Central Powers, Russia counts the cost. Although Russian casualty figures are hard to confirm, over two million men have been killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
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Russian Front - By now, the Russians have replaced the men lost in the defeats of 1915, and the French are appealing to the Czar to launch an offensive against the Germans to help relieve the pressure on Verdun. Starting on the 18th, an assault is made in the north in the Battle of Lake Naroch (east of Vilna) by Russian Second Army. Shortly over, the battle ends with 100,000 more Russian casualties for no gains. Now there is a pause as the Russians prepare for a major offensive later in the year, but again events in the west lead to premature attacks being launched in June 1916.
Russian Front - The Russian offensive near Lake Naroch in the north peters out.
Russian Front - Following the Austrian offensive into Italy in May and an Italian appeal for aid, the Russians launch a premature offensive south of the Pripet Marshes aimed at Galicia in what turns out to be their last great action of the Russian Front - the Brusilov Offensive. It is led by Gen Alexei Brusilov with the Southwest Army Group of Eighth, Eleventh, Seventh and Ninth Armies (50 divisions) against four largely Austrian Armies (46 divisions including some German) on a 200 mile front down to the Rumanian border. A surprise attack is launched on the 4th near Dubno to the north and, further south, near the Dniester River. By next day, the flanking Austrian Fourth Army in the north and the Seventh Army in the south are close to collapse. By late June, both Austrian Armies have been routed and the Russians are approaching the passes through the Carpathian Mountains. German divisions are brought from other sectors of the Eastern Front as well as the Western Front (weakening the attack on Verdun) to stop the threatened breakthrough. Austrian divisions are also brought back from the Italian Front thus ending that drive. As the defenses stiffen, the Russians struggle ahead into July, August and through to September, but at heavy cost.
Russian Front - The great Brusilov Offensive into Galicia continues in the south, but makes limited progress.
Russian Front - The Brusilov Offensive into Galicia continues
Russian Front - The Brusilov Offensive into Galicia finally comes to an end. The Russians have helped relieve the pressure on the Allies on both the Western and Italian Fronts, and cost the Austrians and Germans over 600,000 casualties, including 400,000 Austrian prisoners. But the price paid by Russia is too great - one million casualties, broken morale, and a nation ready for revolution.
Poland - On the 5th November, German and Austria announce that an independent Polish state will be established. Then on the 21st, Franz-Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary dies at the age of 86. He is succeeded by his grand-nephew, Charles I, destined to see the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in less than two years.
Russia - Grigori, Rasputin (the 'vagabond' or 'drunkard'), who exerted such influence over the Czar's wife and thus the Czar, is assassinated by court nobles. This, together with food shortages, the huge casualty lists from the front, and the Czar's unwillingness to liberalize the government, increase tension within Russia and lead to demonstrations and strikes in the early months of 1917.
from here on, most of the events to November 1918 are repeated in the Russian Revolution and some in British/Bolshevik Navy Actions
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Russian Front - Scattered fighting continues over the next three months around Riga, in northern Galicia, and at Bukovina to the north of Rumania.
Russia - The 'March Revolution' follows demonstrations, food riots and strikes which paralyse the Russian capital of Petrograd (previously St Petersburg, then Leningrad, and now St Petersburg again). The Duma or parliament refuses to obey the Czar's order of dissolution on the 11th, next day a provisional government is formed, and the revolt spreads to Moscow. On the 15th at his Army headquarters in Pskov, the Czar abdicates and his brother, the Grand Duke Michael refuses the crown. A few days later, the House of Romanov ends with the arrest of the Czar and his family. The revolution then becomes a struggle between the moderate liberals of the Duma and the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils or 'Soviets' set up by the Socialists or Bolshevists.
Over the next few months, Alexander Kerensky emerges as the leader of a moderate socialist and provisional government until its downfall eight months later in November 1917.
Russia - After years in exile, Lenin, the future ruler of Soviet Russia is allowed by the Germans to return home from Switzerland, travelling through Germany in a sealed train. In Petrograd he is joined by Joseph Stalin and from the United States by Leon Trotsky. The Bolsheviks prepare to continue the Russian Revolution.
Russia - While the Bolshevik 'Soviets' press for peace with Germany and Austria, the provisional Russian government remains committed to pursuing the war on the side of the Allies. Alexander Kerensky, now appointed Minister of War, prepares for an offensive in July under the command of Gen Brusilov.
Russian Front - On the 1st, Russian Gen Brusilov launches the Kerensky Offensive into Galicia, but with little chance of success. Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets control many army units and discipline breaks down. However the attack goes ahead with the least affected troops including Poles, Finns and Siberians. The Russian Eleventh, Seventh and Eighth Armies with some 40 understrength divisions push for Lemberg against exhausted Austrian and some German and Turkish forces. Little progress is made against the Germans, but Russian Eighth Army (Gen Kornilov) facing Austrians in the south advances 20 miles. On the 19th, the Central Powers with some German divisions rushed from the Western Front, launch a counter-offensive. Within a matter of days and with thousands of Russians deserting, the Front crumbles. With little serious fighting, the Russian retreat turns into a rout and the Germans and Austrians advance at will.
Russia - The offensive is failing by mid-month, and Lenin leads a Bolshevik rising in Petrograd which is soon crushed. On the 22nd, Kerensky is appointed Prime Minister of the Provisional Government. Finland announces its independence from Russia.
Russian Front - As pressure to end the war grows in Russia, the Central Powers attack the Russians as well as the Rumanians in Moldavia at the southern end of the front. Towards the end of the month, the Germans start the Riga Offensive in the north.
Russian Front - Continuing the Riga Offensive, and partly to force the Russians to the negotiating table, German Eighth Army (Gen Oskar von Hutier) crosses the Dvina River and captures the important seaport of Riga on the 3rd against little resistance. The badly beaten Russians withdraw as the Germans prepare to send in amphibious forces to capture the islands at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, and thus threaten Petrograd.
The Great War is remembered for its trench warfare, but German Gen von Hutier broke the mould using night approach marches, short heavy opening bombardments, rolling barrages, infiltration and specialised combat units. 'Hutier' tactics were used with great success in 1917 against the Italians at Caporetto and in the 1918 Second Battle of the Somme.
Russia - Following an attempted coup by Gen Kornilov, dismissed from his position as Russian C-in-C, Prime Minister Kerensky declares a Russian Republic under his leadership.
Russian Front - The Second Naval Battle for the Gulf of Riga takes place between the 12th and 20th. In a series of amphibious landings and naval battles the Germans defeat the Russians, and break through into the Gulf of Riga two years after their first attempt.
Civil War - On November 7th/8th, the Russian Revolution ('October Revolution' in the old Gregorian calendar) starts with Lenin's Bolsheviks seizing the Winter Palace, the place of government in Petrograd. Prime Minister Kerensky escapes and a Bolshevik government formed with Lenin as Premier and Trotsky as Foreign Minister. The Revolution spreads quickly and Russia is soon in chaos as Civil War erupts between the 'Reds' and 'Whites'. The Bolsheviks immediately take steps to get Russia out of the war.
Russia - A preliminary suspension of hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia is announced on the 5th December, which Rumania soon follows. An armistice follows on the 15th, and Germany starts to release troops for transfer to the Western Front. On the 22nd at Brest-Litovsk, to the east of Warsaw, the Russians meet with delegates from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey to arrange peace terms. These include Russian recognition of the rights of Poland and agreement to the independence of the Baltic provinces of Lithuania, Courland, Livonia and Estonia. With the Germans occupying most of these territories, the Russians have little option but to accept, although negotiations drag on into the new year.
Civil War - As the Civil War develops, Ukraine refuses to join with the Bolsheviks, and Finland declares its independence from Russia.
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Russia - Expecting revolution to break out in Germany, the Russian Bolshevist delegates at Brest-Litovsk continue stalling and Foreign Minister Trotsky refuses to meet the terms of the Central Powers. The German Foreign Minister, Baron Richard von Kuhlman increases the pressure.
Austria-Hungary - Partly due to food shortages, strikes break out in Austrian cities in favour of peace.
Civil War - Finland is not spared the agonies of Russia, and civil war begins at the end of the month. Ukraine declares its independence from Russia and the Russian Bolsheviks, a move shortly recognised by Germany and her allies.
Russia - On the 9th, a peace treaty is signed between the Central Powers and the newly independent Republic of the Ukraine. The next day and simply refusing to accept any terms, the Russian Bolshevist government just declares the war is at an end. On the 18th, the frustrated Germans start to Advance into Russia against little opposition. Troops soon occupy the Baltic provinces and later move into the Ukraine and Crimea. As the German advance endangers Petrograd, Lenin moves the capital to Moscow.
Civil War - The Civil War continues to rage. Moscow is threatened by the Whites, and the rest of Russia is in chaos.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - Under the terms of the treaty signed between Russia and the Central Powers on the 3rd, European Russia loses 25 percent of its territory and much of its industrial and natural resources - that is the Baltic provinces, Finland and the Aaland Islands, the Ukraine, and to Turkey, the southern Caucasus districts of Erivan, Kars and Batum. The Ukraine becomes a German puppet state; German forces shortly land on the Aaland Islands, and on the 7th Germany and Finland sign a peace treaty. Germany is now able to start transferring large numbers of troops from Russia to the Western Front.
Civil War and Allied Intervention - The Civil War continues. The Allies for various reasons, including keeping Russia in the war and the fear of world communism, intervene in the struggle. Troops and supplies are later sent to support the White Armies (commanded by Czarist officers) fighting the Reds in the Arctic, the Ukraine, Caucasus and Siberia. The anti-Bolshevist forces include the 'Czechoslovak Legion', made up of deserters and ex-prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian army which fights its way across Siberia and later joins the Allies in the west. The war ends in 1920 in the Bolsheviks favour, and by then a number of major warships on both sides have been lost.
Russia - In the north, German troops land near Helsinki to help Gen Mannerheim fight for Finnish independence against Bolshevik forces. In the south, the Germans push further into the Ukraine and the Crimea.
Civil War - The senior British naval officer, Cdr Cromie becomes de facto British ambassador at Petrograd, but is killed in an incident involving the Bolsheviks at the embassy.
Russia - The Germans continue to advance into southern Russia and the Ukraine.
Civil War - The imprisoned Ex-Tsar Nicholas and his family are executed on the 16th by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg in the Urals.
Civil War - Allied forces continue to enter Russia to support the Whites and protect ammunition and supplies. In the Arctic north, an Allied Expeditionary Force captures Archangel supported by Royal Navy warships. To the south, a British naval unit arrives at Baku on the Caspian Sea after travelling overland from Baghdad. In the Far East, British, Japanese and U.S. troops land at Vladivostok for operations in Siberia.
Austria-Hungary - As the Austro-Hungarian Empire approaches its end, the United States recognises the Czechoslovaks as an allied nation. Austria-Hungary invites the belligerents to discussions on peace, but the proposals are rejected by the Allies.
Civil War - In the north, Allied forces battle with the Bolsheviks around Murmansk and Archangel. In the Far East, American, British and Japanese troops enter Siberia and push as far west as Lake Baikal. More fighting takes place around the Caucasus in the south.
Austria-Hungary - On the 3rd, Austria-Hungary accepts an Allied armistice and withdraws from the war.
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Updated December 2000