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Russia’s Entry into the First World War

1 August 1914

The First World War grew out of the contradictions between two groups of powers competing over economic and political influence in the world. Great Britain, France, Russia and the other countries of the Entente aspired to maintain and strengthen their position. Germany, Austro-Hungary and their allies were seeking to join the world economic and political leaders through of weakening their opponents. The murder of the Austrian successor to the throne, Archduke Frantz Ferdinand and his wife on June 15 (28), 1914 in Sarajevo (Serbia) by the Serbian student G. Printsip became a casus belli. On July 10 (23) Austro-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia, and on July 15 (28) declared war against Serbia.

To support Serbia, on July 17 (30) Russia began a general mobilization. On the night of July 18 (31) to July 19 (August 1) Germany demanded from Russia to stop the mobilization, and on July 19 (August 1), without waiting for the answer, declared war against Russia. On July 24 (August 6) Austro-Hungary followed its example. On July 21 (August 3) Germany declared war against France which supported Russia, and on July 22 (August 4) Great Britain declared war against Germany. Gradually 38 states got involved in the military operations.

Military operations in Europe passed basically on the two fronts: Western (France) and Eastern (Russia). The Russian army had to begin the offensive without waiting until the end of the mobilization to rescue the receding armies of the allies. In August and September 1914 the Russian armies suffered a defeat in East Prussia, but on Southwest front managed to crush a large unit of the Austro-Hungarian army and at the beginning of September 1914 occupied Galicia. Because of a lack of arms and the heavy losses a decision was made to suspend the offensive.

Successful military operations of the Russian army at the beginning of 1915 compelled the German headquarters to regroup their forces and throw the main forces to the Eastern (Russian) front. As a result of the German offensive operation, Russia left the territory of Poland, the Baltic, Ukraine and Western Belarus. From the beginning of the war of the losses of the Russian army made 3.5 million soldiers killed, wounded and captured.

The Insistent appeals of the allies for help compelled the Russian headquarters to abandon the initial plans. It changed the direction of the main blow and speeded up the offensive. On May 22 (June 4) 1916 the offensive of army of the Southwest front under the command of General A. Brusilov 1916 began. The Russian army managed to break the Austro-Hungarian army’s defense and push forward by 60-150 km. The Brusilov Offensive put Austro-Hungary on the verge of collapse. Germany had to move its troops from Verdun to the east which alleviated the position of the English-French allies and saved Italy from defeat. Constant moving of the troops from the Eastern front to Western front exhausted the German army which from the end of 1916 was completely compelled to pass to defense.

In 1917 the internal political crisis which poured out in a revolution, led to Russia’s exit from the war. The attempt of the Provisional Government to undertake an offensive in Romania and Ukraine in June and July 1917 was a failure. And the Bolshevist Government which came to power in October 1917 was not recognized by the Entente and due to a civil conflict could not wage war on the two fronts. In this conditions December 2 (15), 1917 the Soviet government was obliged to sign a provisional agreement on cessation of hostilities with German allies, and on March 3, 1918 Russia concluded a difficult Treaty of Brest which was annulled November 13, 1918 after a revolution in Germany.

Lit.: Авербах О. И. Законодательные акты, вызванные войной 1914-1915 гг. Т. 1. Пг., 1916; Баиов А. К. Вклад России в победу союзников. Ревель, 1924; История первой мировой войны 1914–1918 гг. М., 1975; Летопись войны 1914-15-16-17 гг. № 1-132 (1914-1917). СПб., 1914-1917; Мировая война в цифрах. М.; Л., 1934; Первая мировая война 1914–1918 // Большая советская энциклопедия. Т. 19. М., 1975; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:книги/БСЭ/Первая%20мировая%20война%201914-1918/; Розанов В. В. Война 1914 года и русское возрождение. Пг., 1915; Трубецкой Е. Н. Смысл войны. Вып. 1. М., 1914; Черниловский А. А. Первая мировая война в сознании военной элиты России. Автореферат дис. ... канд. ист. наук. Брянск, 2005; Шамбаров В. За Веру, Царя и Отечество. 2003; Яковлев Н. 1 августа 1914. М., 1974; Шишов А. В. Голгофа Российской империи. М., 2005.

From the Presidential library materials:

История СССР: альбом наглядных пособий. М., 1948;

Международные конференции: Конференция «Россия и Великая война» прошла в Москве // Новости. 9 декабря 2010;

Молотов К. Мировая война и революция в России. Омск, 1918;

Участие России в Первой мировой войне // Каталог.