General Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov, 1853-1926

One of the few successful Russian generals of the First World War. By the outbreak of the war, he was already an experienced soldier, having received a gallantry medal during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, and had been a general since 1906. From the start of the war until promoted in 1916 he commanded the Russian Eighth Army, in command of the section of the front against Austria that faced the Carpathian mountains.

General Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov in 1916
General Aleksey
Brusilov in 1916
During the successful Russian advance of 1914 his army captured the Lupkow pass (20 November), and briefly threatened Budapest, but on 3 December the Austrians attacked through a 20 mile gap that had appeared between Brusilov's Eighth army, and the Third Army (battle of Limanowa-Lipanow), and relieved the danger. In April 1916 he was promoted to command the entire southern front, of four armies. The Russians were under pressure from the French to mount an attack, to reduce the pressure on Verdun, but at a conference on 14 April, Brusilov was the only one of the three Russian front commanders to express any willingness to attack, despite his being the only front where the Russians did not outnumber their enemies.

Unlike his colleagues, he had spend some time considering the problem of attacking trenches. His answer was to narrow the gap between the two armies - reducing no mans land to 75 yards, from the mile that was more common on the eastern front, and expanding the width of the attack, from a small bunched attack, to one spread out over several miles, stopping the enemy moving his reserves to any single critical spot. The initial attack (battle of Kovel-Stanislav) was launched by his old Eighth Army, along a twenty mile front, where they only outnumbered the Austrians by 200,000 to 150,000, a very low ratio for First World War offensives. Despite this, his attack was an unexpectedly dramatic success. The Austrian's were pushed back by forty miles along the entire southern front. By the time the attack ran out of steam in September, both sides suffered close to 1,000,000 casualties, killed and wounded. The offensive had succeeded in reducing pressure on Verdun, after the Germans had been forced to move troops to aid Austria, and had cost Falkenhayn his post as German Chief of Staff. It also ended any last ambitions for independence in Austria, which was now reduced to a very junior partner, under German command. However, it also increased discontent in Russia, and may have contributed to the February Revolution of 1917. Brusilov's career was to prove unusually resilient. In May 1917 he was appointed Commander in chief by Kerensky, although was removed after the failure of the summer 'Kerensky' offensive, and retired. Unusually for a Tsarist officer, he served under the Bolshevik government, coming out of retirement in May 1920 after the Polish invasion of Russia, and served first as a Cavalry advisor, and finally as Inspector of Cavalry (1923-4), before retiring again. He died in 1926 in Moscow, having survived two revolutions.

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (16 March 2001), General Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov, 1853-1926,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy