VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > B. World War I, 1914–1918 > 2. The Eastern Front, 1914–1915
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
2. The Eastern Front, 1914–1915
The Russian plan of campaign (Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievich, commander in chief, Aug. 3, 1914–Sept. 5, 1915) was concerned primarily with Austria; large forces were therefore concentrated on the Galician frontier. The Austrians (Archduke Frederick, commander in chief, Gen. Conrad von Hötzendorff, chief of staff, 1912–17, commander in chief, 1917–July 16, 1918) on their part had drawn plans that depended on German support through an advance on the Narev River. Pressure elsewhere prevented the Germans from keeping this engagement, but the Austrians, unable to abandon eastern Galicia, with its valuable oil wells, decided to advance from Lemberg toward Lublin and Cholm to cut the railways to Warsaw.  1
1914, Aug. 26–Sept. 2
The Austrians won a great victory over the Russians (Battle of Zamosc-Komarov), but at once the Russians, with much larger forces, began to drive back the Austrian right wing.  2
Sept. 13
The Russians took Lemberg, obliging the Austrians to abandon eastern Galicia. At the same time the Russians launched an attack upon the passes of the Carpathians leading into northern Hungary (Sept. 24).  3
On the Serbian front the Austrians were able to concentrate fewer forces than originally intended. They bombarded Belgrade (July 29) and crossed the Drina River (Aug. 13) to begin the invasion of Serbia. After months of advances and reverses, the Austrians captured Belgrade (Dec. 2).  4
The decisive battles on the eastern front in 1914, however, were won by the Germans. In response to French appeals for action against the Germans, the Russians formed two armies to invade East Prussia from the east and the south. Russian successes led to the appointment of Gen. Erich von Ludendorff, who had distinguished himself at Liège and was recognized as an outstanding staff officer, as junior officer and chief of staff to Gen. (later Field Marshal) Paul von Hindenburg, a retired officer of no great distinction.  5
Aug. 23
Hindenburg and Ludendorff arrived at Marienburg. The essence of this joint plan was to concentrate the German army against the second Russian army (Gen. Alexander Samsonov), which was beginning the invasion of East Prussia from the southeast. Throughout these and later operations the Germans were aided greatly by the interception of unciphered Russian messages, and by the unreadiness of Rennenkampf (leader of the first Russian army) to do much to relieve Samsonov.  6
Aug. 26–30
BATTLE OF TANNENBERG. The Germans completely defeated Samsonov's army. The Germans then turned on the first Russian army (Gen. Paul Rennenkampf), which was obliged to fall back.  7
Sept. 6–15
BATTLE OF THE MASURIAN LAKES. The Germans advanced to the lower Niemen River and occupied the gouvernement of Suvalki.  8
Early in October most of the German troops on this front had to be withdrawn for operations farther south, so that the Russians were able to invade East Prussia for the second time.  9
Meanwhile it was necessary for the Germans to do something to relieve the Austrians. Hindenburg was made commander in chief of the German armies in the east (Sept. 18). The plan, as worked out by the German and Austrian staffs, was for a great combined attack on Poland. The Austrians took the offensive in Galicia (Oct. 4), relieved Przemysl, and forced the Russians to withdraw from the Carpathians. Meanwhile the Germans (Mackensen), advancing on the Austrian left, pushed on toward the Vistula.  10
Oct. 9–20
BATTLES OF WARSAW AND IVANGOROD. Russian forces pushed back Austrian advances.  11
To relieve the pressure in the south, Hindenburg and Ludendorff planned a great offensive, which, it was hoped, would knock the Russians out before the onset of winter. They appealed to the high command for the transfer of large forces from the west, but the demand was rejected by Gen. Erich von Falkenhayn (minister for war, 1906–Jan. 21, 1915; chief of the general staff, Sept. 14, 1914–Aug. 29, 1916), whose attention at this time was concentrated on the drive for the Channel ports.  12
Nov. 16–25
THE BATTLES OF LODZ AND LOWICZ. After initial setbacks, Lodz fell to the Germans (Dec. 6).  13
On the Galician front the Austrians attempted an offensive to coincide with the German advance.  14
Dec. 5–17
BATTLE OF LIMANOVA. The Austrians failed to break the Russian position before Cracow. Throughout the winter the Russians were within 30 miles of the city.  15
In Serbia the Austrians met with even less success as the Serbs forced them out of Serbia (Dec. 3–6).  16
During the winter months the fighting on the Russian front was inconclusive.  17
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.