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Title: The Russian Advance
Author: Murray, Marr
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    The Daily Telegraph

    WAR BOOKS


THE RUSSIAN ADVANCE



    The Daily Telegraph
    WAR BOOKS

    Cloth 1/- net each

    Post free 1/3 each


    HOW THE WAR BEGAN
    By W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D., and J. M. KENNEDY

    THE FLEETS AT WAR
    By ARCHIBALD HURD

    THE CAMPAIGN OF SEDAN
    By GEORGE HOOPER

    THE CAMPAIGN ROUND LIEGE
    By J. M. KENNEDY

    IN THE FIRING LINE
    Battle Stories told by British Soldiers at the Front.
    By A. ST. JOHN ADCOCK

    GREAT BATTLES OF THE WORLD
    By STEPHEN CRANE
    Author of “The Red Badge of Courage.”

    BRITISH REGIMENTS AT THE FRONT
    The glorious story of their Battle Honours.

    THE RED CROSS IN WAR
    By M. F. BILLINGTON

    FORTY YEARS AFTER
    The Story of the Franco-German War. By H. C. BAILEY.
    With an Introduction by W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D.

    A SCRAP OF PAPER
    The Inner History of German Diplomacy.
    By E. J. DILLON

    HOW THE NATIONS WAGED WAR
    A companion volume to “How the War Began,” telling how the world faced
    Armageddon and how the British Army answered the call to arms.
    By J. M. KENNEDY

    AIR-CRAFT IN WAR
    By ERIC STUART BRUCE

    HACKING THROUGH BELGIUM
    By EDMUND DANE

    FAMOUS FIGHTS OF INDIAN NATIVE
    REGIMENTS
    By REGINALD HODDER

    THE RETREAT TO PARIS
    By ROGER INGPEN

    THE RUSSIAN ADVANCE
    By MARR MURRAY

    THE SUBMARINE IN WAR
    By C. W. DOMVILLE-FIFE

    MOTOR TRANSPORTS IN WAR
    By HORACE WYATT

    THE SLAV NATIONS



    THE RUSSIAN ADVANCE

    BY
    MARR MURRAY

    HODDER AND STOUGHTON
    LONDON      NEW YORK      TORONTO
    MCMXIV



CONTENTS.


          INTRODUCTION                            7

       I. THE NATION AND THE WAR                 19

      II. MOBILISATION                           37

     III. THE POLISH PROCLAMATION                72

      IV. THE PRELIMINARY PHASE                  82

       V. THE ADVANCE INTO EASTERN PRUSSIA      103

      VI. THE ADVANCE INTO GALICIA              137

     VII. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LEMBERG           174

    VIII. CONCLUSION                            186



[Illustration:

  COPYRIGHT. SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR The Daily Telegraph BY "GEOGRAPHIA"
  LTD 55 FLEET STREET LONDON EC

  ALEXANDER GROSS F R G S
]



INTRODUCTION


War between Russia and Austria has been inevitable since the latter
first cast her eyes eastwards and decided that Salonika was to be the
object of her expansion. To reach a port on the east the Teuton must
crush the Slav. Fundamentally, it is a battle of races. Hitherto the
Teuton has managed to avoid actual conflict; by means of carefully
designed coups at opportune moments, or, to put it more bluntly, by
the methods of a common thief, he has made very good progress during
the last few years without risking his own skin. But on the present
occasion circumstances were not so favourable as they appeared to be;
and instead of catching Slavdom at a disadvantage, he caught it ready
to fight for its existence--a serious miscalculation which bids fair to
have the most far-reaching results.

With the exception of the Greeks, Turks and the sparse Teutonic
population, the inhabitants of the whole of eastern and south-eastern
Europe are of Slavonic origin. They number roughly 125 millions, and
they possess the best of all rights to their territories--that of
settlement at the time when the Aryan peoples migrated from Asia to
Europe. The Russians, Rumanians, Bulgars, Montenegrins and portions
of the Serbs, Croats and Poles are either self-governing or under the
rule of other Slavonic peoples. The remaining Slavs are under Teuton
domination. In East Prussia the Kaiser rules Poles, Kassubes and Serbs,
while Austria has several millions of Polish, Czech, Ruthenian,
Serbian, Croatian, Slovenik and Slovak subjects.

The Slav is the world’s most fervent nationalist. An intense and
unconquerable vitality is the outstanding characteristic of every
Slavonic people. Like the Jews they maintain their national traits
distinct and unchanged in spite of centuries of foreign domination.
Their conquerors have never been able to absorb them. Unlike the Jews,
however, this vitality is not passive but active. They have never
been subdued. When not actively hostile they are sullenly awaiting
the opportunity to throw off the yoke. For nearly five hundred years
Serbia was a Turkish province, held in the most ruthless subjection.
But during all that time Serbia never forgot that once she had been
an empire, nor faltered in her determination to be an empire again.
In 1817 the chance came and Serbia rose like a nation defending its
liberties rather than a rebellious people with a dozen generations of
bondsmen for forebears. The modern experiments of Germany and Austria
have not proved any more successful than the mediæval methods of the
Turks. Neither country has had a moment’s peace from its Slavonic
subjects. They have never dared play any part but the bully’s.

The growth of the organised Pan-Slavist movement has added enormously
to their difficulties, and Austria in particular has had many anxious
moments in the eastern portions of her Mosaic empire. The movement is
the definite expression of Slav aspirations. It aims at unity, if not
actual union, amongst all the Slav peoples. Russia is the natural head
of the movement, and the ultimate aim is a collection of free Slavonic
nations under the suzerainty or protection of the Tzar. In the
meantime the immediate object is to free the Slavs who are under the
rule of foreign races.

Reference has already been made to Serbia’s aspirations to be once more
the empire she was in the days before the Turks overran south-eastern
Europe. When in 1817 she at length threw off the Turkish yoke her
object was but half fulfilled. A further portion was won back as a
result of the recent Balkan War. But there still remain some millions
of Serbs under Hapsburg rule. In 1908 Austria, taking advantage of
Russian weakness, seized the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, both
of which are peopled by Serbs. For a time war seemed inevitable. But
the Powers stepped in and Serbia, unable to rely on strong Russian
help, was forced to acquiesce. She had formally to renounce all claims
to be a more natural ruler for Serbs than mongrel Austria, to moderate
the activities of the Pan-Slavist societies all of which were more
or less bitterly opposed to Austria, and to profess to be perfectly
satisfied with the arrangement and full of neighbourly love.

It was not to be expected that such an agreement, forced on a small
nation by the Great Powers, would prove anything but a farce. Serbia
very naturally resented the indignities which she had suffered. The
nationalist societies, instead of being suppressed, became more bitter
and bolder in their activities. The chief of them, the Narodna Obrava,
has an immense membership, drawn from all classes. It is to be found in
every town and village. The press, the army and the government service
are its most enthusiastic adherents.

One evening, early in June, five members of the Narodna Obrava met in a
house near the royal palace at Belgrade and hatched the plot which was
destined to prove the spark that kindled the European conflagration.
All the world knows how well their plans were conceived, how faithfully
carried into execution. On June 28th the Archduke Francis Ferdinand,
the heir to the Austrian throne was, with his wife, murdered in the
streets of Serajevo, the chief town in Bosnia.

There is no need here to dwell on subsequent events. After a delay of
some three weeks, Austria was bullied by Germany into presenting her
famous Note to Serbia. Every line of that Note was a studied insult
designed to make Russian intervention and war inevitable. Serbia was
exhausted in every way after her two wars with Turkey and Bulgaria,
Russia was in the midst of a scheme of military reorganisation which
still required a couple of years for completion. War was the last
desire of either country. Acting on Russia’s advice, Serbia made an
almost abject reply to Austria. But Germany was not to be denied. She
was determined to unsheath the sword. Every proposal for peace was
dismissed for the most trivial reasons, every precautionary measure was
exaggerated into a hostile act. At last, on Friday, August 1st, when
the German military preparations were practically complete, Baron von
Pourtales, the German Ambassador, called on M. Sazonov, the Foreign
Minister and formally demanded that the Russian partial mobilisation
should cease within twelve hours. At seven o’clock the following day
war was declared and Russia took up her task of defending Slavdom
from the Teuton menace, and incidentally saved western Europe from
its direst peril since the days when Napoleon thought to crush its
liberties.

The eastern campaign has been more or less overshadowed by the western,
especially during the early days of the war. It was natural that it
should be so. The western campaign was the more sensational. The Kaiser
hurled his finest forces westwards; every day brought its vital news;
doubts, joys, fears crowded one on the other; there were no tedious
preliminaries, no hesitation, but smashing stroke and counterstroke.
The storm in the east was comparatively slow in gathering and it lacked
the spectacular element.

The result was that Russia was both neglected and misunderstood. In
spite of the public welcome accorded to journalists by the Grand Duke
Nicholas, the official lust for secrecy is as fierce in the east
as in the west. Only the sparsest details have been allowed to be
published. Defeats have been ignored or dismissed as “local checks.”
Every victory has been acclaimed a triumph and every step forward has
been supposed to echo menacingly in the streets of Berlin and in the
Kaiser’s headquarters.

It has been practically impossible to obtain a clear view of the
eastern campaign, and consequently it is not to be wondered at that
there has sprung up a general disposition to regard Russia as something
of a disappointment. Ignorance of the conditions under which she is
fighting caused impossible triumphs to be expected of her.

The best corrective for this distorted vision is to study the eastern
war from the Russian point of view. It is that point of view that I
have endeavoured to set forth in these pages. No claim is made to any
secret knowledge; in view of the extraordinary strict censorship in
Russia, such a claim would be absurd. But it is possible to record and
explain the events as they are known and understood by representative
opinion in Russia. Moreover, sufficient of the earlier stages of the
campaign have emerged from the fog of war to enable the period within
these pages to be analysed in the light of subsequent events. In the
circumstances, it can be confidently claimed that the views generally
held by men of moderate opinion in Russia provide a reliable if
somewhat sketchy history of the campaign. Some details may be meagre,
others faulty; that is only to be expected when for descriptions of the
actual fighting it is necessary to rely to a very large extent upon the
stories of the wounded. But the general outlines and deductions are
undoubtedly correct, and the study of them will enable the man in the
west to understand and appreciate the many difficulties connected with
the war in the east.



CHAPTER I

THE NATION AND THE WAR


The war that the nation fights is already half won. Tzars, Kaisers,
Kings and Governments may spend millions on perfecting their fighting
machines, they may hurl those machines at one another, but unless they
have behind them the united will of their subjects, their efforts
are bereft of more than half their force. The victorious army is the
one which enjoys the whole-hearted support of a people prepared to
face any sacrifice for the sake of its cause. The moral factor is as
important as the material or the ethical. History is full of instances
of wars being won against heavy odds by the sheer enthusiasm of a
people determined to win at all costs. For a modern example it is only
necessary to glance at the Austro-Serbian campaign.

The Kaiser knew very well how essential it is for a nation to present a
united front to the foe. Ever of a religious disposition, he realised
how true was the text that a house divided against itself falls to
the ground. And so he chose his moment carefully. Britain was on the
verge of civil war over the Irish crisis; France was torn asunder
with political passions; both would obviously prove easy victims. And
Russia? Unfortunately for the Imperial plans Russia was in a contented
state. But the defect could soon be remedied! Russia has a reputation
for strikes and revolutions, two of the most valuable allies an
invading army can have. And so it happened that July saw the renewal of
labour troubles in Petrograd, Moscow and other large towns.

The first sign that trouble was brewing came from the famous Putilov
works, the Russian armament factory. For some time past Germany has
been evincing a very keen interest in the factory, and not so long
ago an insolent attempt was made to get the control of the works into
the hands of German Jew financiers. Of course the attempt failed and
Germany had to content herself with filling the place with her spies.
There is little doubt that the German Secret Service was primarily
responsible for the strikes of 1914. For no particular reason
beyond vague references to the “rights of labour” and “the glorious
revolution,” some thousands of Putilov workmen went on strike. Thanks
to a vigorous campaign throughout the country by real and imitation
labour agitators, their example was extensively followed. Workers in
mills, factories and railways answered the call. Hundreds of thousands
were on strike although there was still no formulated demands on the
part of their leaders. The strikers were fed on the stock phrases and
generalities of the demagogue’s programme. Soon rioting took place. The
military had to be called out, and on several occasions at Petrograd
the Cossacks came into serious conflict with the strikers.

Then suddenly the war clouds gathered. Russia appeared to have been
caught at the most inopportune moment possible. The war danger arose
at the very time when the strike movement seemed to be at its height.
There is no doubt that Russia’s advice to Serbia in regard to the
latter’s reply to Austria’s Note was to a large extent dictated by the
unfortunate internal condition of the country.

But the nation rose to the occasion in a manner which even Russia’s
warmest friend would hardly have dared to predict. The national danger
forged a united people. The rioting and other disturbances ceased.
The military remained in their barracks; there was no work for them
in the streets. Then, as the international situation grew graver the
strikers realised how insignificant, yet how dangerous, were their own
squabbles, and they began to troop back to work of their own accord.
Throughout that period of agonising suspense the Russian statesmen
received no more inspiring news than this. It was the only ray of light
that pierced the gathering gloom.

The people, realising that war was inevitable days before the
Governments gave up hope of peace, acclaimed it with enthusiasm.
Next to the Jews, the Germans, or _Nemetz_, as they are called, are
the most hated foreigners in Russia. They are found in nearly every
town and village, and their national habit of growing prosperous at
the expense of their hosts has earned for them an honest hatred. The
average Russian was only too pleased at the prospect of getting a
chance of paying off a few old scores. In addition to personal dislike,
the racial aspect of the war was also a very strong consideration with
the Russian democracy. Pan-Slavism is a very real doctrine amongst the
_mujhiks_, who have an unlimited faith in the heaven-sent destinies of
their race. There is hardly a soldier in all Russia’s immense army that
does not regard the freeing of all sorts and conditions of Slavs as his
most sacred duty.

And there was the religious question to add to the nation’s enthusiasm.
Russia is the most religious nation in Europe. Every home, no matter
how humble, has its ikon. The festivals of the Church are real holy
days, and not mere secular holidays. The Church itself is indeed the
mother of the people. The simple, unquestioning faith of the _mujhiks_
is without a parallel in Europe, except perhaps in the remote districts
of Ireland. Religion is a reality with them; it enters into every
action of their daily life. In the towns, of course, much of this faith
has been lost, and there is a parade of unbelief which is apt to lead
the casual observer to wrong conclusions. The real Russia is not to be
found in the towns, but in the villages and hamlets and amongst the
peasants. With them the war is a religious war. It is a battle between
the Orthodox Church, which is the peculiar property of the Slavs, and
the Western, which seeks to impose its tenets on the “true believers.”

It is from these simple peasants with their racial hatreds and
rock-like faith that Russia draws nine-tenths of her soldiers. As
fighting men they can be compared only with Cromwell’s Ironsides.

In the rural districts the popular enthusiasm for the war found an
outlet in religion; in the towns it sought a more secular form of
expression. Petrograd was the scene of unprecedented outbursts of
popular jubilation. Crowds paraded the streets singing the National
Anthem and cheering portraits of the Tzar. The French and particularly
the British Embassies were besieged by cheering throngs. Every public
appearance of the Tzar was the sign for vociferous outbursts of
loyalty such as are rarely witnessed in Russia. Even the Empress,
whose shattered nerves have kept her virtually a prisoner for years,
had to come forward and bow her acknowledgments to the crowds. And,
to crown all, the police, gendarmes and military were noticeably
absent from the streets. The crowds were orderly, in spite of their
patriotic fervour. Petrograd was as free and unrestrained as London.
It was difficult to realise that only a few days before the spectre of
revolution had stalked through the city.

One incident alone marred the demonstrations. On August 4th, news
reached Petrograd of the scandalous treatment undergone by the Russian
diplomatic staff at the hands of the Berlin mob. Enraged beyond control
a huge crowd descended on the Nevski Prospect and after demolishing
a German café and several German-owned shops, made a resolute attack
on the Embassy. The police were overpowered, the gates forced and the
work of destruction began. The flagstaff was torn down, the Prussian
Eagle and several pieces of statuary were unceremoniously thrown into
the Moika Canal; furniture, pictures, linen, books, everything that
was inflammable was heaped on the ground and soon a huge bonfire was
raging. Amidst a roar of cheering a large portrait of the Kaiser
was hurled into the flames. The orgy continued until the police and
military appeared in force. But the most significant feature of the
affair was the discovery in the cellars of large stores of firearms and
revolutionary propaganda--concrete evidence that the suspicions that
Germany was fostering internal troubles in Russia to serve her own ends
were only too well founded.

The most impressive of all the many scenes emphasising the facts that
not only the Russian nation but all Slavdom is united against the
Teuton menace, and that a new Russia is being built up as a result of
the common cause and danger, occurred on Saturday, August 8th, when
the Tzar received the two Houses of the Duma at the Winter Palace.
Early in the proceedings, striking evidence was given of the new order
of things. Party quarrels, personal jealousies and political enmities
were forgotten. The leader of every party came forward and announced
that he and his followers would support the Government by every means
in their power. Even M. Purishkivich, the implacable leader of the
Anti-Semite movement, abandoned his principles and praised his Jewish
fellow-subjects.

The Tzar’s speech was simple and direct, but it was significant because
of the stress it laid upon the racial and religious aspects of the war:

  “In these great days of alarms and anxiety through which Russia is
  passing, I greet you. Germany, following Austria, has declared war
  on Russia. The enormous enthusiasm and the patriotic sentiments of
  love and faith to the Throne, an enthusiasm which has swept like a
  hurricane through our country, is a guarantee for me, as for you,
  I hope, that great Russia will bring to a happy conclusion the war
  which the Almighty has sent.

  “It is also in this unanimous enthusiasm of love and eagerness
  to make every sacrifice, even life, that I am able to regard the
  future with calm and firmness. It is not only the dignity and
  honour of our country that we are defending, but we are fighting
  for our brother Slavs, co-religionists, and blood brethren. In this
  moment I see also with joy that the union of the Slavs with Russia
  progresses strongly and indissolubly.

  “I am persuaded that all and each of you will be in your place to
  assist me to support the test, and that all, beginning with myself,
  will do their duty. Great is the God of the Russian Fatherland.”

The effect of that ancient Russian saying was electrical. The whole
assembly burst into a storm of cheering; this was followed by “God save
the Tzar,” sung with a fervour which obviously affected his Majesty.
Finally that most beautiful of all Russian anthems, “Lord, save the
People,” was sung. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the deputies, as,
with voices choking with emotion and faith, they sang the simple words
of the anthem.

Such a scene of patriotic fervour and national determination had not
been witnessed in Russia since the Napoleonic war of 1812.

The practical enthusiasm of the nation was no less marked than the
sentimental. The wealthy classes contributed liberally to the various
relief funds, and made many sacrifices to help the country in its time
of danger. In spite of the inconvenience and dislocation of trade
caused by the military preparations, complaints were never heard. The
whole nation seemed to have combined in a common determination to see
the war through to a successful conclusion.

The gathering of the harvest provided an instance of this practical
enthusiasm. Russia being the world’s largest producer of wheat, barley,
rye, and oats the matter was a very urgent one. Moreover, Russia is
self-supporting, and the failure of the crops would mean the ruin and
starvation of thousands during the winter months. Most of the men had
been called to the colours, and there was a serious danger of large
portions of the crops, especially in the more remote districts, being
allowed to rot for lack of labour. The problem was attacked with a
practical spirit unusual in the Russian with his Asiatic fatalism.
The _zemstvos_, the military, and the local authorities co-operated
in dealing with this problem. Women, boys, and old men were set to
work. Tramps and prisoners were forcibly transformed into temporary
harvesters. By means of a central bureau in each district it was
possible to keep in touch with every farm, no matter how remote, and
to ensure that no crops suffered through lack of labour. As a result
of these measures the whole harvest was successfully gathered, and
the nation was able to face the coming winter with the satisfactory
knowledge that, in any event, its food supply was assured.

Perhaps the most remarkable effects of the war on the nation was the
complete change which came over its attitude towards the Jews. Partly
by reason of ancient religious intolerance and partly because of the
fact that the Jews, thanks to the thriftless and unbusinesslike methods
of the Russians, have managed to accumulate much of the national
wealth, the _Judiev_ hitherto have been regarded with fierce animosity
and subjected to pitiless persecution. The story of the pogroms is one
of the most hideous chapters in the history of any people. It was fully
expected in many quarters that the national enthusiasm engendered by
the war should find an outlet in a repetition of these horrors. Vienna
indeed was so confident that it officially informed the world that
Vilna was the scene of a terrible outbreak of anti-semitism. The report
was a lie. The Jews were no longer the best hated race in Russia; that
distinction had been wrested from them by the “_Nemetz_.” Everywhere a
new tolerance and a new respect for the Jews was apparent, especially
when news came of their heroic deeds at the front. Their enthusiasm
for the war and devotion to the Tzar rivalled that of the Russians
themselves. A quarter of a million of men--the largest Jewish army ever
assembled since the fall of Jerusalem--were with the Tzar’s forces.
Throughout the country the Jews set a splendid example in contributing
to the relief funds and in removing distress caused by the war. Hence
the Jew has become almost popular. Even when, as a mark of Imperial
appreciation of their loyalty, ukases were issued relieving them of
many of the disadvantages under which they suffered, and practically
admitting them to the full citizenship of the Russian Empire, hardly a
protesting voice was heard.

Indeed, in many respects, the war has been for Russia a blessing in
disguise. It has completed the work of the past few years. On all sides
reforms have been effected and a new Russia has emerged. The old ideals
and the old standards have passed. But the change has been unconscious,
and the Russians, with their chronic fatalism, have not realised they
have been taking part in events which have practically transformed
the old autocratic regime into one which is almost democratic. Some
external shock was needed to rouse the nation to a sense of its new
glories. The war provided that shock, and Russia and the world have
realised that a new era has dawned in the dominions of the Tzar.



CHAPTER II

MOBILISATION


Mobilisation in Russia is an inevitably slow and difficult operation.
The circumstances under which it is effected render it almost
impossible to reduce it to a matter of automatic precision, as is the
case with the German Army. It is typically Russian: rather ponderous
and very human. The chances of its being successfully and quickly
accomplished are so slight compared with those of its proving an orgy
of confusion and disorganisation that nobody, least of all in Russia
itself, where businesslike methods are not expected of officials of
any sort, dared hope that it would be carried out without a hitch. The
Allies were apprehensive, the Kaiser was openly contemptuous and left
only second-line troops to guard his eastern frontiers until Russia
could extricate her army from the inevitable confusion and be worthy of
the attentions of the perfect Teutonic fighting machine.

The German, of course, with his keen materialism, has a reputation
for doing these things with an automatic efficiency. The Slav, on the
other hand, is of a very different temperament, and the Tzar’s army
has acquired, and deserved, a reputation for mismanagement. It is the
most human of armies, for certainly there never was one more given to
error. The Manchurian campaign was one of the worst muddles of modern
times. In comparison, the South African War was a model of efficient
management. It was always a case of the wrong thing at the wrong
moment: and even when there appeared to be a chance of the right thing
happening, corruption or ineptitude stepped in and stultified every
effort. Those who happened to be in Russia during that period will
remember that hardly a day passed without some fresh instance of the
national habit of blundering through. The railways were in a state of
frantic disorganisation; whole regiments got mislaid; food and clothing
were always lacking in spite of the most lavish expenditure. Worst of
all, numerous officials and Jewish contractors became suddenly and
mysteriously wealthy, and made small secret of the source of their
prosperity.

Nobody raised his voice in protest because nobody had expected anything
different. The orgy of mismanagement was accepted with a good-humoured
shrug of the shoulders. _Nitchevo_, it can’t be helped! That was the
comment of the fatalism which is at once the greatest weakness and
greatest strength of the Russian character.

Of course, there was excuse enough. Mobilisation is carried on in
the face of more difficulties in Russia than in any other country.
Everything militates against its speed and efficiency. It is all on so
vast a scale that it would seem impossible for human ingenuity to place
it on a systematised basis. The area of the Russian Empire is forty
times that of Germany, but its population is only three times as great.
The units to be concentrated are diffusely scattered; they have to be
gathered singly. The aggregate length of the Russian railway system is
only twice that of the German lines, and few of the Russian railways
have been laid with a view to meeting military needs. The majority of
the troops summoned to the colours have to traverse vast distances,
often on foot, before they can reach the railway which will take them
to their mobilisation centres. The sparseness of the population renders
it difficult for orders to filter through, and still more difficult for
troops to be quickly concentrated. A good deal must of necessity be
left to the zeal and initiative of the reservists themselves who, in
most cases, are utterly unreliable without supervision.

At the best, therefore, with good weather and good luck, the
mobilisation is but a slow process. Previous to the present war the
most obstinate optimist did not believe that, in the most favourable
circumstances, it could be completed in less than three weeks or a
month.

In the present case, too, there were special aggravating circumstances
which rendered success all the more doubtful. July had been a month
of labour disputes, and it seemed more than likely that the strikes
would seriously hamper the mobilisation. Moreover, the Russian military
plans were incomplete. A programme of reform was being pushed forward
with all possible speed, but it was not to be completed until 1916, at
least. The army was in a state of transition. A new system was being
imposed upon it, and it was by no means ready for the supreme test.
There was a general feeling that it would be better to rely on the old
system which, whatever its defects, had at least the merits of being
known and understood. A partial muddle was better than the risk of
absolute chaos.

The order for mobilisation, therefore, could not have come at a more
inopportune time. Russia, in spite of all official assurances to the
contrary, was unprepared.

It is well known that this inevitable slowness and possible impotence
on the part of Russia during the early period of the war was the
foundation on which the Kaiser constructed his plan of campaign. He
could, so he thought, smash the Allies in the West and return in time
to mete out similar treatment to the Russians before they could do any
damage in the East. Everything favoured the plan, which had all the
merits of simplicity and conciseness. Nobody who was acquainted with
the disadvantages under which Russia laboured could deny that, humanly
speaking, Germany was immune from a serious attack from Russia for
at least six weeks. Even that estimate seemed to err on the side of
optimism, for at that time there was no reason to suppose that Austria
would have much difficulty in defeating Serbia and menacing Russia with
a strong advance.

But among the many factors with which the Kaiser omitted to reckon must
be included General Soukhomlinov--the Russian Kitchener, as he has,
not inaptly, been called.

When the disastrous Manchurian campaign was ended, Russia sadly needed
a man who could take to heart the lessons of defeat and build up a new
and better army from the discredited fragments of the old. The moment
produced the man. Soukhomlinov, the greatest War Minister Russia has
known, has for the past nine years been engaged on an immense scheme
for the remodelling and reorganising of the army. Quietly and with
inexorable efficiency, he has cut away cancer after cancer and added
reform to reform. No problem has been too large, no detail too trivial,
and no circumstance too hopeless, for him to devote to it his tireless
energy. The whole military system from top to bottom, and in every nook
and cranny, has been renovated.

Soukhomlinov’s greatest merit is that, in planning and carrying this
huge scheme into effect, he has not fallen into the trap that lurks
in the path of every military reformer. Although working on western
lines, he has not attempted to imitate the German or any other army.
That would have been the obvious course for a man of less genius. But
Soukhomlinov had the greatness to realise that an imitation army can
never be satisfactory. An army must be national to the core, or it will
fail in its object. “What is health to the Russian is death to the
German,” is a Russian saying that is very true. And an attempt to force
Teuton temperaments into Slav bodies would result only in a bastard
production emphasising the defects of both.

Soukhomlinov knew that the Russian is the finest soldier in the world.
His bravery, his unquestioning obedience, his infinite capacity for
suffering and hardship, his stolid fatalism which makes him the same
in victory or defeat, all these qualities render him an ideal fighting
man. German helmets or the goose step would not add one jot to his
virtues. He has never had a chance, because he has never been properly
led or properly organised. It is in these two directions, therefore,
that General Soukhomlinov has concentrated his efforts. Under the
new regime the Russian officer has been transformed. The army is no
longer a hobby for fashionable young men, but a stern business in which
slackers and the inept are not wanted. The habit of heavy drinking
at night--which during the Manchurian campaign so often resulted in
such heavy slaughter in the morning--is a thing of the past. The
army requires clear heads, and Soukhomlinov has no use for befuddled
officers.

Efficient organisation is as vital to an army as efficient leadership,
and the greatest test of organisation is the mobilisation.

[Illustration]

Owing to the speed with which Germany and Austria can effect their
mobilisation, Russia must of necessity begin a European war on the
defensive. Consequently, her mobilisation bases are not situated on the
frontier, but at a considerable distance in the interior, at Warsaw,
and other towns lying behind the Vistula. These towns are protected
by a long chain of fortresses and fortified positions, stretching from
Kovno to Radom, and designed to hold an invading force in check until
the troops have been mobilised and the advance can begin.

The method by which the mobilisation is effected will be understood by
reference to the diagram. At the call to arms recruits and reservists
living at the outlying hamlets, _a a a_, make their way to the central
villages and towns, _b b_. This journey has usually to be performed
on foot, and may be anything up to fifty miles. At _b b_ the men are
collected in batches and passed on to the concentration centres, _c c
c_. For this journey railways are sometimes available, but in the more
remote districts the roads are, more often than not, the only means
of communication. The peasant soldiers troop into the concentration
centres in their ordinary dress, they leave them ready for the
field. All day long a constant stream of peasants is pouring into
the barracks, and a constant stream of soldiers, fully equipped for
hostilities, is pouring out. Regiments and battalions are formed. Then,
when all is complete, they pass on by train to the mobilisation base
_D_.

The success of the system obviously depends on the maintenance of an
even flow of men from _a_ and _D_. A delay or hitch at any point may
throw the whole process out of gear. The area covered is so vast, the
population so sparse, the army so huge, and the means of communication
from point to point leave so much to be desired that difficulties and
dangers spring up in every direction. An especially weak point about
the system is that in the early stages so much depends upon the men
themselves.

Ivan Ivan’ich, the Russian Tommy Atkins, is no better and no worse
than the rank and file of any army. He is not averse to temptation,
especially when it takes the form of alcohol. Vodka was the cause of
much of the muddle of the Manchurian mobilisation. In the present
instance, however, General Soukhomlinov very wisely decided to take no
risks. He decided on a bold stroke which, in the unsettled state of the
country at the beginning of the war, might easily have been the cause
of serious rioting. The Imperial ukase ordering the mobilisation was
followed by another which practically prohibited the sale of alcohol
in all districts likely to be affected by the military preparations.
The railway stations, concentration centres, and mobilisation bases
were signalled out for specially stringent regulations. There were also
severe pains and penalties for those who, in their patriotic fervour,
were inclined to be over-generous to the troops on their way to the
front.

This drastic measure was fully justified by the results. With nothing
to delay them, the men arrived punctually at their posts. They were
sober, and displayed all the virtues of sobriety. Their health and
temper were noticeably improved. There were none of the quarrels and
disturbances usually associated with mobilisation. The conduct of the
troops was in every way irreproachable. The worries and work of the
officers were lightened a hundredfold.

Russia, in short, provided the world with an object lesson in the value
of temperance.

Of course there was some grumbling. Men who had tramped fifty versts
or so to serve the “Little Father” thought that they were at least
entitled to drink his health and damnation to the _Nemetz_. But
generally the order of things was accepted with the unquestioning
stolidness of the Russian peasant. The “Little Father” had said, “No
vodka”--therefore, _nitchevo_, why complain?

The following description of the actual mobilisation is based upon
the letters written by Vasili Grigorovich, the cobbler of a little
town in the Ukraine, to an English friend. The bond between this
rather ill-assorted pair is Vasili’s unsatiable thirst for learning.
Self-taught, he reads everything and anything that comes his way, and
it was a chance conversation over an out-of-date newspaper during the
mending of the traveller’s boot that led to the friendship.

  “The news that a general mobilisation was ordered reached the
  village late in the afternoon. The Governor himself came to tell
  us that the ‘Little Father’ is at war with the _Nemetz_, and that
  we must all start off for Berlin at once. He is a witty man, our
  Governor. I started getting ready, but Marya scolded me for not
  being quick enough. Indeed, she scolded me all the time, even when
  I bade her goodbye. That’s like our women. They always hide their
  heartaches. And after all they are quite right, for what are their
  sorrows compared with the orders of the Tzar? She swore at me and
  said I was not fit to be a soldier, when I kissed her. But her
  voice was thick and her eyes glistened. And Dimitri, who caught me
  up later, told me that when he passed he saw her praying before our
  ikon. It was the first time, too, that he had seen Marya weeping.

  “She is a fine woman, though outwardly rough. I am very glad to
  hear that the Tzar has ordered that the wives and families of the
  soldiers shall be well supplied with money. He is a great Tzar.
  However, it will be very lonely for Marya all through the winter,
  and if it were not for thinking of her I should be quite happy.

  “Dimitri and I had to tramp thirty-two versts--a good stretch.
  We went some distance out of our way to reach an inn. But it was
  closed by the Tzar’s orders. Well, the Little Father knows best.

  “We decided to walk all through the night, because we both wanted
  to be fighting the _Nemetz_ as soon as possible. We had not gone
  far before a farm cart full of soldiers caught us up and they gave
  us a lift. It was rather cold, but we did not mind. We talked
  about the war, and the news about the inns. We are sure to win, but
  it is rather hard on the innkeepers, who will lose a lot of money.
  However, they are all rich.

  “We reached ---- before dawn. The officer there was very surprised,
  because the men from our district were not supposed to arrive until
  late in the evening. He was rather cross too, because everybody was
  coming too soon, and upsetting the arrangements. However, a landed
  proprietor offered his mansion for the use of the soldiers. Fancy
  that!

  “The next day we marched to ----, where there is a railway station.
  There are no trains for the ordinary passengers, because the Tzar
  has taken them all for the soldiers. Fifty trainloads of soldiers
  are passing through ---- every day! Dimitri said we should be able
  to get drinks at the station, but he was wrong. I hear now that it
  is a crime to give vodka to the soldiers.

  “Our train was very full, because of the men all being so early. It
  was rather uncomfortable, but we were all too glad to be going to
  the front to notice it. At one station two boys, who had run away
  from home and wanted to fight, were discovered by an officer and
  turned out. They were very disappointed, but there was more room
  for us.

  “At last, after sixteen hours, we reached ----. At first we thought
  that there was no accommodation for us, but we found that a camp
  had been prepared for us. The town was very full of soldiers, but
  they were all very orderly and quiet. The day after our arrival we
  received our new uniforms, rifles and other things. The uniforms
  are very smart, something like the English, I am told. The boots,
  too, are excellent. The very best leather. It is evidently true
  that the Tzar has made our army better than ever it was. It is a
  bad lookout for the _Nemetz_. In these uniforms and boots we shall
  be able to chase them all the way to Berlin quite comfortably.

  “Our regiment is complete. To-morrow we start for Warsaw, where our
  Army Corps is forming. In a few days we shall meet the _Nemetz_.
  Good-bye.”

Among the Cossacks, who are, of course, a less reliable people than the
ordinary peasants, the mobilisation was no less smooth. A Government
official in the Ural provinces gives a vivid account of the scenes.
The Cossacks, it may be noted, supply their own horses, uniforms and
equipment.

  “On July 31st the village awoke to find a red flag waving before
  the Government building, the sign that a general mobilisation had
  been ordered. Immediately everything was in a state of uproar.
  Nobody knew who was the enemy and nobody cared. It was sufficient
  that there was war. Only the women made wild conjectures as to whom
  it was against. There was no thought for work. Horses were groomed,
  uniforms donned, rifles and sabres cleaned with enthusiastic
  vigour. Soon the Government veterinary surgeon took his stand
  before the chief building and the work of examining the horses
  began. Each man in turn brought up his horse and put it through
  its paces. The test was most strict, and any animal showing the
  slightest defect was promptly branded as useless. All day the work
  continued, a crowd of women and children watching the proceedings.
  At night the red flag was pulled down and a red lamp was hoisted in
  its place. In the evening there was a great feast. A whole ox was
  roasted, there was dancing among the younger people, but owing to
  the new regulations there was practically no vodka. All through the
  night men came riding into the village from the outlying districts.

  “On the Sunday when the preparations were almost complete the
  consecration service was held. The whole village assembled before
  the little wooden church. It was a stirring sight to see these
  great warriors in their full battle array kneeling before their
  Maker and solemnly asking His aid. At the conclusion of the service
  each man was blessed by the priest and anointed with holy water.
  Then he led his horse away and received the blessings of his family.

  “On the following day they set off on journey of thousands of
  miles. The women, children and old men watched them. Their eyes
  gleamed with tears and their breasts heaved. Then, when the last
  man had disappeared from view, they turned away, walked to the
  fields and took over the labours which the men had left unfinished.”

In the simple narrative of Vasili Grigorovich and the description of
the Cossack scenes may be found all the causes which contributed to
the startling success of the Russian mobilisation.

The organisation, thanks to the genius of Soukhomlinov, proved perfect.
The smallest detail had been prepared, and every possibility foreseen.
In no direction was there any fluster or confusion. The commissariat
and transport arrangements worked splendidly; the equipment of the
troops with the new service uniform--an idea borrowed from the results
of Britain’s South African experiences--was an unqualified success.
The uniform has been designed for business purposes only, and with no
regard for show. It is very similar to the British uniform; the chief
differences being that the Russian tunics are looser, and in place
of puttees, long boots are worn. Special attention has been given to
this latter detail. Manchuria taught Russia to realise the advantages
enjoyed by a well-shod army.

But perhaps the greatest triumph of the mobilisation was the prompt
and businesslike way in which the financial question was settled. All
who had suffered any loss as a result of the dislocation of trade
and traffic caused by the requisition of the railways and other
means of transport, were recompensed without delay. By utilising
the organisation of the zemstvos or local councils, it was possible
to prevent all distress and to make ample provision for the wives,
families, and other dependants of the men called to the colours.
Indeed, in Moscow and Southern Russia money has seldom been so
plentiful as it was during the period of the mobilisation, and many
families are better off now than they ever were.

Another contributing cause was the conduct and efficiency of both
officers and men. The former proved that they have taken the reforms of
the last few years thoroughly to heart. The latter showed that even the
lowest ranks felt that they were “Soukhomlinov’s men.” To some extent,
of course, their efficiency was due to their enforced sobriety. But
much of it arose from an honest determination to rise to the occasion.
Ivan Ivan’ich is taking this war very seriously. He is calmly confident
of his ability to win, and he is immensely proud of the new army, of
which he is a member. Moreover, he had an unlimited enthusiasm for the
war. He was anxious to be killing the hated _Nemetz_, who threatened
his own liberty and that of his brother Slavs, and he knew that the
better he behaved the sooner he would be at the front. There was no
mistaking his eagerness to do the right thing.

The following is an extract from the diary of a traveller, who spent
nearly thirty hours in Kiev waiting for a train to be available for
civilian passengers to Petrograd.

  “Everywhere there are soldiers. There must be tens of thousands of
  infantry, cavalry and artillery. They are constantly on the move.
  In their peasant blouses, baggy trousers, and birch-bark shoes,
  they pour in ceaseless streams into the barracks, where they are
  served with their equipment. They issue forth transformed into as
  smart soldiers as could be wished. All the uniforms are new, and
  appear to be made of excellent material. They are greyish khaki
  in hue, and not unlike the British service uniform in appearance.
  Seven million brand-new uniforms of the finest quality! That gives
  some idea of the millions which Russia has been quietly spending
  on her army!

  “The men are as proud as peacocks, and tremendously in earnest.
  Ivan Ivanovich is a very important person just now, and he knows
  it. Physically, he is splendid. Seldom tall, but always thick-set
  and well proportioned, he is a first-class fighting man, and, with
  his experience of Russia’s climate, he can endure practically any
  hardship. I doubt if there are any troops living who will suffer
  more and grumble less. That is the advantage of being a Russian.
  And it is all done on the most frugal of vegetarian diets! What
  would our Tommies say to a diet of black bread and fermented
  cabbage!

  “Those who doubted Russia’s military value should spend a few hours
  in Kiev and note how regiment after regiment marches through with
  never the slightest hitch or confusion. They should see these
  sturdy Tommies, with their cruel rapier like bayonets always fixed.
  They should hear their deep-throated war chants. Then they would
  realise that Russia is going to play a very important part in this
  war....”

It must not be forgotten that the nation itself was largely responsible
for the success of the mobilisation. The self-sacrificing enthusiasm of
all classes was a revelation to those who believed that Russia was in a
parlous condition internally. The inevitable losses and inconvenience
were cheerfully borne. The rich came forward in a wholly unprecedented
manner. In Russia, owing to the lack of a middle class, the distinction
between noble and peasant is most rigorously observed. The old days
of the serfdom have not been entirely forgotten. But during those
early weeks of August the national call was responded to with equal
enthusiasm by rich and poor. Mansions were placed at the disposal of
the peasant soldiers. Food and gifts were showered upon them; even
carriages were offered to help them on their way. The owner of an
estate near Novgorod, not only entertained, at his own expense, nearly
three hundred troops a day, but his wife and daughters served them with
their own hands. A year ago such an action would have meant social
ostracism. To-day it is an example which is being followed everywhere.

This _rapprochement_ between the classes will have effects extending
far beyond the mobilisation. They give promise of a new and happier
Russia, for Ivan Ivan’ich never forgets a kindness.

The enthusiasm of the people was evinced in a thousand different ways.
There was cheering and singing everywhere, but practical enthusiasm was
no less in evidence. Often it resulted in trouble. The impersonation
of reservists who had been called up, by those who had not, was very
frequent. In many cases the discovery of the trick ended in blows with
the result that neither proceeded to the front, the impersonator going
to gaol and the impersonated to the hospital. Thousands of boys ran
away from their homes in order to enlist. Some Polish boys living at
Vilna were so disappointed at being refused admission to the army on
account of their age that they formed themselves into an unofficial
patrol. Unfortunately they fell in with some Austrian Cavalry, and the
next day their bodies were discovered hanging from the branches of a
tree.

The enthusiasm was not confined to the men. Women and girls sacrificed
their tresses and disguised themselves as recruits. Some actually
managed to reach the front without being detected, and one even
contrived to enter the air service.

At no time during the mobilisation was the religious aspect of the war
allowed to be forgotten. Before starting on their journey reservists
knelt before their humble ikons. In every village the priest blessed
the troops as they passed. Ikons and sacred relics have been taken to
the front.

Petrograd witnessed the most impressive scenes. The most holy of all
ikons, the famous Smolensk, “Mother of God,” which is embellished
with jewels enough to ransom the Tzar himself, was carried in solemn
procession to Kazan Cathedral. Hundreds of thousands stood in the
streets through which the ikon passed. Every head was bared, a muttered
prayer was on every lip. Thousands were unable to gain admission into
the cathedral during the services, and gathered in the square outside,
sometimes to the extent of fifty thousand, chanting the responses and
singing the hymns. On the Sunday following the declaration of war, the
Tzar blessed the Russian arms and those of the Allies. The flags of the
nations were placed on the altar before the Smolensk ikon, and with all
the Byzantine pomp and circumstance of the Greek ritual the aid of the
Almighty was invoked.

Thus in most gratifying circumstances the news went forth that Russia
was ready. The mobilisation was sufficiently complete to warrant an
advance. The date was August 16th, barely a fortnight after the issue
of the general mobilisation order and a full month sooner than the
Kaiser had calculated. The number of men in the field cannot be stated
with accuracy. Experts have talked glibly of millions, but none know
the exact number of Russia’s fighting men except the Russian General
Staff, and doubtless the German. Four million men in the field and a
further three million in reserve may be taken as a likely estimate.

In any case the mobilisation was the finest feat of the war. It was
a triumph over almost insuperable difficulties and a miracle of
national organisation and effort. It was the most significant and most
threatening of the many clouds which were beginning to gather round
Germany.



CHAPTER III

THE POLISH PROCLAMATION


On August 15th the Grand Duke Nicholas issued, on behalf of the Tzar,
the following Proclamation addressed to all the Poles:

  “POLES,--The hour has sounded when the sacred dream of your fathers
  and your grandfathers may be realised. A century and a half has
  passed since the living body of Poland was torn in pieces, but the
  soul of the country is not dead. It continues to live, inspired
  by the hope that there will come for the Polish people an hour of
  resurrection, and of fraternal reconciliation with Great Russia.
  The Russian Army brings you the solemn news of this reconciliation
  which obliterates the frontiers dividing the Polish peoples, which
  it unites conjointly under the sceptre of the Russian Tzar. Under
  this sceptre Poland will be born again, free in her religion and
  her language. Russian autonomy only expects from you the same
  respect for the rights of those nationalities to which history has
  bound you. With open heart and brotherly hand Great Russia advances
  to meet you. She believes that the sword, with which she struck
  down her enemies at Grünwald, is not yet rusted. From the shores of
  the Pacific to the North Sea the Russian armies are marching. The
  dawn of a new life is beginning for you, and in this glorious dawn
  is seen the sign of the Cross, the symbol of suffering and of the
  resurrection of peoples.”

This master stroke of policy was one of the most significant and
important events in the whole war. It has revolutionised the whole
outlook in Eastern Europe. This pledge to restore to dismembered
Poland her lands, her liberties, her religion and her national tongue
is the most momentous act of any Tzar since the days when Alexander
II. abolished the serfdom. With dramatic suddenness it brings to a
close one of the most terrible chapters in the history of Europe. For
generations Russia has been engaged in a ruthless and vain attempt
to force her Polish subjects to become, at least to all outward
appearance, Russians. The Poles have been subjected to the fiercest
persecution, their religion and language have been denied them, their
history has been a stream of blood. Poland has been the greatest
tragedy in Europe. Now at a stroke all is changed.

The spoliation of Poland has been a bond between Russia, Austria and
Prussia for a century and a half. The three nations combined to carry
out the crime, and as a consequence they have ever since remained more
or less united over the results of the crime. They have regarded the
Polish question as their own particular concern, and have brooked no
interference from the rest of Europe. They have vied with each other in
their efforts to crush the Polish spirit. They have made every move in
unison.

The Tzar’s Proclamation consigned the whole system to the limbo of the
past. One of the conspirators had realised the errors of his ways, and
was determined to make reparation. Of course, the decision to issue the
Proclamation was to a large extent dictated by material considerations.
But whatever the reasons, there can be no doubt as to the excellence
of the results. And by thus breaking the bond of generations Russia
proved that she realised that this war was to be fought to the death.
After this solemn pledge on the part of Russia, both Germany and
Austria must not only be beaten, but conquered. A free Poland would
mean the loss to Prussia of the whole province of Posen, and the
setting back of her frontiers to Pomerania. Austria would lose all
her territories beyond the Carpathians from Silesia to the borders of
Roumania. Both countries can be relied upon to resist such a wholesale
shrinkage of their boundaries to the utmost of their power. It would
be more than a defeat; it would be humiliation, such as no first-class
Power has yet been called upon to undergo.

The effects of the Proclamation were anxiously awaited, not only in
Russia, but in Germany and Austria as well. It was addressed to the
most sacred emotions of the Poles, to that fierce patriotism which
no violence has been able to crush. It solemnly promised them all
that they have been struggling for so bitterly. But would they forget
the past? The treatment they have received would hardly be likely to
encourage trust. Massacres and repression are not usually associated
with the “dawn of a new life.”

The Polish Deputies immediately hailed the Proclamation with joy. But
the people hesitated. It was too sudden a change to be grasped at once.
Then the leaders set the example, first one and then another came
forward. Sienkiewicz addressed a stirring appeal to his compatriots.
The people realised that the promise was genuine, that Poland was
really to be free again. Scenes of indescribable enthusiasm followed.
The Poles are the most emotional nation in Europe, and from Kalisz to
Biala and from Mlava to Stopnika they abandoned themselves to their
joy. Thereafter the Polish enthusiasm for the war vied with that of
the Russians themselves. The effect was immediately felt in the army.
In one of the early dispatches received at Petrograd from the front,
mention was made of the furious heroism of the Polish regiments. In
Russia, therefore, the results of the Proclamation were to remove the
last shreds of apathy and to weld both the subjects and the armies of
the Tzar into one pulsating whole.

But the appeal was also addressed to the Polish subjects of the Kaiser
and the Emperor Francis Joseph. It was an open invitation to them to
revolt. In the circumstances, the German and Austrian Poles who have
so often experienced Teutonic methods of stamping out rebellion, can
hardly be blamed for accepting the proposal in a cautious spirit. They
were quite unprepared for open rebellion, and at the best would have
stood but little chance of success against the armies already mobilised
in their midst. In addition, the cream of their manhood was with the
forces of the Kaiser and Emperor. Only in Austria did a Polish regiment
dare to mutiny, with the result that it was shot down to a man. For
the rest, wiser if less heroic counsels prevailed. Everything possible
was done covertly to assist the Russian advance. Both German and
Austrian commanders complained of the extreme activity of innumerable
spies, lamented that the whole population seemed to have combined in
an effort to be of every possible service to the enemy, and admitted
that fighting in Eastern Prussia and Galicia was fraught with all the
difficulties attending operations in a hostile country.

But the Proclamation, and the obvious sincerity which prompted it, have
had effects extending far beyond military exigencies and the future of
the Poles. It has done more than anything else to raise Russia in the
estimation of the world. The oppression of Poland has always estranged
the leading democracies of the world from Russia. In France it was
used as an argument against the Franco-Russian alliance, in Britain it
has caused the Triple Entente to be regarded as a potential danger to
ourselves. At the time of the war with Japan it withheld the sympathy
of the United States from Russia. Now all is changed. The Proclamation
was received with approbation by the whole world, with the exception,
of course, of Germany and Austria. It was realised by all that Russia
is indeed advancing, that the short-sighted autocratic government is
giving way to the finest ideals of democracy, and that Russia is an
ally worthy of the most ardent lover of liberty.



CHAPTER IV

THE PRELIMINARY PHASE


Apart from the initial handicap of having to fight on the defensive
because of the comparative slowness of her mobilisation, Russia is the
most advantageously situated of all European Powers for war on the
grand scale. Britain is dependent on her command of the sea for her
food and trade; the existence of both France and Germany more or less
depend on supplies from the outer world. But Russia is self-contained.
Her vast “lump” of empire can supply all her needs, from food and
trade to an unlimited store of first-class fighting material. Mainly
agricultural and possessing a comparatively small foreign trade,
Russia could face with equanimity a war of any duration. Until the
end of the seventeenth century Russia was the Tibet of Europe, and
practically cut off from the rest of the world. She could, with very
little inconvenience, retire again behind her frontiers and bid
defiance to the world. Time has always been her greatest ally, and her
strategy is based upon utilising that ally to the utmost.

The boundaries between the Tzar’s dominions and those of Germany and
Austria are, for the most part, purely artificial. They follow no
distinct line of demarcation. The great Russian plain extends far into
Prussia and Austria, and along the whole length of the frontiers the
only obstacles to the advance of an invading army are forests, marshes
and the fact that generally speaking the roads are very poor.

Each country has had, therefore, to take defensive measures to
remedy the deficiencies of nature. Russia has the chain of fortresses
and fortified positions, extending from Kovno to Radom, which are
intended to hold an invading force in check until the mobilisation can
be completed. Special attention has of late years been given to the
defence of the north-western frontier. Plans have been drawn up for the
construction of more fortresses and of strategic railways and military
roads. But these works are not yet in a sufficiently advanced state to
serve any practical end in the present war.

Germany, realising the significance of Russia’s military
reorganisation, has recently spent huge sums on strengthening her
eastern frontiers. The works are by no means complete, but they are
more advanced and of more practical service than those on the Russian
side of the frontier.

To the south where Russia and Austria meet, neither Power has taken or
contemplated taking any such extensive measures for defence. Cracow,
Lemberg and Przemysl are the only fortresses of any value in Galicia,
and they are faced by fortifications of about equal strength on the
Russian side.

Russia, however, possesses a very great advantage over Austria, and
in lesser degree over Germany, in that the inhabitants of Galicia and
Eastern Prussia are mostly of Slavonic origin and therefore more or
less strongly in sympathy with Russia. The Poles being members of the
Catholic Church and having strong nationalistic aspirations, the bond
is less strong in their case. But reference has already been made to
the results of the Russian Proclamation, and it will be seen therefore
that both Germany and Austria are under the disadvantage of having to
defend hostile territories.

At the moment when war was declared, Russia had nine army corps, or
about 400,000 men guarding her western frontiers. Three corps were
stationed at Warsaw, and one each at Vilna, Grodno, Bialystok, Minsk,
Lublin, Rovno and Vinnitza. In addition to these troops, there were
three army corps at Kiev and one at Odessa. There was thus available
for immediate hostilities a total of about 600,000 men. Against these
Germany and Austria could muster about 400,000 men. There were German
army corps at Königsberg, Dantzig, Posen, Breslau, Allenstein and
Stettin. The Austrian corps were at Cracow, Lemberg and Przemysl. This
numerical advantage on the side of Russia was further increased by
the withdrawal of some of the German corps for service in the western
campaign. Russia might, therefore, have made an immediate attack on
Prussia with every prospect of success. But she refrained. In the
first place, time was not of such particular importance as to warrant
the taking of any risks. In the second place Russia needed all her
energies for the successful completion of the mobilisation. And finally
there was the Austrian menace.

Theoretically Austria could muster her two and a half million men, and
invade Russia long before the latter’s mobilisation was complete. To
Austria, then, was assigned the task of maintaining the prestige and
reputation of the Mailed Fist in Eastern Europe. Russian Poland was
to be invaded, Warsaw captured and the Russian army kept at bay until
the conquerors of France could come and complete their victorious
work. Unfortunately for the success of the plan, however, Austria
could not get her rheumatic knuckles into the famous gauntlet. Even
Serbia, exhausted though she was after two hard-fought wars, proved
more than a match for Austria. And when the latter attempted to advance
into Russia, she found herself more or less paralysed by her old
enemy--internal dissension.

In Russia the war was the signal for all internal animosities to vanish
and to leave the nation pulsating with one determination. In Austria
the reverse was the effect. All semblance of unity and loyalty in the
eastern provinces disappeared, the crisis tore aside the artificial
bonds and Austria stood revealed for what she was and always has
been--a ramshackle collection of wrangling races and creeds.

Francis Joseph is the nominal ruler of a heterogeneous collection of
Germans, Magyars, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Croatians,
Rumanians and Italians. Of a total population of fifty-three millions,
half are Slavs. And it was with an army drawn from all these sources
that Austria sought to invade Russia, the protector of all the Slavs.
She foresaw the likelihood of trouble, and took measures accordingly.
The outbreak of the war was the signal for a reign of terror to begin
in Dalmatia, Bosnia and Croatia and other Slav provinces. In order to
get the inhabitants under military control and to take the sting out
of any revolutionary movement, all the men up to the age of fifty were
mobilised. The newspapers were suppressed; clubs and societies, even
the most harmless, were dissolved. The people were forbidden to leave
the towns and villages; the leading Slavs were seized, imprisoned and
held as hostages.

But even these ruthless measures could not crush the rebellious
spirit of the Slavs. In Herzegovina the murder of some government
officials was followed by a wholesale slaughter of priests held by the
authorities as hostages. Everywhere there were savage acts of rebellion
followed by more savage acts of reprisal. In the army matters reached
a climax. The Slav regiments mutinied. Concerted action was impossible
owing to the fact that the authorities kept the Slav regiments
separated and disposed their loyal Teuton and Magyar regiments in the
most advantageous positions for quelling any mutiny on the part of
their “comrades.” Nevertheless thousands of Slavs mutinied rather than
fight against their brothers. They were shot to a man. In some cases
whole regiments refused to serve and were promptly exterminated. The
mutinous spirit spread to Poland and Bohemia. In Prague there were
daily executions and the Moldava ran red with Czech blood.

These measures of wholesale murder were effective. The Slav regiments
were driven to the front at the points of their “comrades” bayonets.
But Austria’s plans were already wrecked. The mutinous spirit of her
army had caused the mobilisation to break down. Time was valuable; the
Russian mobilisation was pressing forward to its triumphant conclusion.
The project of invading Russia and capturing Poland became daily less
likely of accomplishment.

The campaign in the east therefore, opened in the most inauspicious
circumstances for the Mailed Fist. All was well with Russia and all was
wrong with Austria. The troops were sullen and utterly lacking in the
fighting spirit; they were badly led and their equipment left much to
be desired. The Kaiser realised that in relying on Austria he had made
another serious miscalculation. Instead of being a useful ally she
appeared far more likely to prove a millstone about his neck. Cripples
are of little use in war. Desperate efforts were made to obtain more
satisfactory help. Italy and Turkey were alternately coaxed and
bullied. The world was deluged with a frantic flood of wireless lies
which were obviously designed to attract help from anywhere. But they
were all in vain. Fate seemed to have taken especial care to have the
last word.

Accordingly, Germany had to content herself with an attempt to
revitalise the Austrian millions. At any rate the material was there,
if only it could be forced into shape. So German officers were
requisitioned for the Austrian army.

The operations during this preliminary phase of the war, during which
Russian effort was concentrated upon preparing for the coming advance,
were necessarily of a somewhat desultory and unimportant nature. They
were interesting chiefly as showing in what way subsequent and more
important fighting would be likely to develop.

For some days nothing more exciting occurred than a few collisions
between patrols guarding the frontiers. Then, on August 3rd, the
Germans made a definite move. A small force from Lublinitz, a town
near the point where the Russian, German, and Austrian frontiers meet,
crossed into Russia and occupied Tchenstochov. Further to the north
other German forces seized Bendzin and Kalish, in Poland. Russia
immediately answered this move by making a cavalry raid into Prussia,
with the result that Johannisburg was occupied and a rather important
railway was broken.

The Germans, however, continued to be aggressive. Numerous raids were
made at various points along the frontiers. In some quarters it was
feared that these raids were the prelude to an early invasion. They
were, as a matter of fact, designed to harass the Russians and keep
them engaged while the Germans completed the mobilisation of the forces
which were to defend Eastern Prussia and, if possible, invade Poland
during the absence of the first line troops in the western theatre
of war. These new forces were chiefly composed of the Landwehr, and
comprised about twenty divisions of 20,000 men each, with thirty-one
cavalry regiments and six batteries of artillery. This army, under the
command of General von Hindenburg, was mobilised along a line about
thirty miles from the frontier. Its right flank was protected by the
marshes around Arys, while its left rested on Insterburg. Naturally it
took some days to collect this army and prepare it for attack, and it
was not until nearly the middle of August that the Germans were in a
position to contemplate any serious advance.

In the meantime the Russians, who were collecting considerable forces
under General Rennenkampf, were able to throw back the cavalry which
was harassing them, and to make a tentative advance over the Prussian
frontier. On August 5th they entered Eydtkuhnen without opposition, and
proceeded to advance towards the main German army. It was not until
they reached Stalluponen that they encountered serious opposition. A
sharp action resulted in the Germans being turned out of the town,
leaving 200 dead and some machine guns.

This advance on the part of Russia was hailed in the west as a definite
invasion with the object of sweeping across Prussia to Berlin. It was
nothing of the sort. Russia was only advancing because the Germans had
not yet collected their full forces. Indeed, Russia was by no means
ready, and she carefully refrained from pressing too far forward,
pending the completion of her own preparations. After the affair of
Stalluponen there was obviously the temptation to push forward. But
this would have brought the attacking force dangerously near the main
German army and dangerously distant from Russian support. The advance,
therefore, ceased until stronger forces could be brought forward. The
German preparations, too, were progressing, and they were able to
deliver vigorous attacks on the small invading force. Numerous attempts
were made to recapture both Stalluponen and Eydtkuhnen, but all were
beaten back. Then, after an interval of about a week, the main Russian
army, under General Rennenkampf pushed forward, and the advance into
Eastern Prussia may be said to have definitely begun.

Meanwhile, the Germans had been active further to the south. The
provinces of Kalish and Kelche in Russian Poland were invaded. The
invading forces were not in any great strength, but the Russians did
not attempt to offer any serious opposition to the advance, contenting
themselves with pursuing the same tactics as those adopted by the
Germans in Eastern Prussia. The Germans, for their part, were in no
mind to hurry, and were content to advance slowly and prepare for the
coming shock between the main armies. They established themselves
firmly along a line extending from Sieradz in the north, through
Radomsk towards Kelche.

In the preliminary operations between Russia and Germany, therefore,
neither side could claim any great advantage. The Russians obtained a
footing in Eastern Prussia, and the Germans penetrated into Russian
Poland. As events turned out, however, the latter was the more
permanent advantage.

The operations between Russia and Austria were more decisive. The
invasion of Russian Poland by the Austrians was a very half-hearted
affair. The mutinous spirit of the troops and the wholly unexpected
success of the attack by the Serbians and Montenegrins on Bosnia and
Herzegovina paralysed the Austrian advance. Nevertheless, some progress
was made in Poland, thanks more to lack of opposition than to any
display of military virtues. Forces from Cracow proceeded northward
over the frontier, and joined the Germans between Kelche and Radomsk.
This advance was described in Berlin and Vienna as a triumphant march
on Warsaw, but it was not anything so serious. Warsaw was never in the
slightest danger. However, it was certainly an advance.

The Russian invasion of Galicia, on the other hand, was of definite
significance. As early as August 8th a Russian army advanced from
Rovno, crossed the Styr, and obtained a footing across the frontier.
On the 10th the Austrians had their first experience of the Cossacks.
Two regiments of infantry, supported by a regiment of cavalry, occupied
a position near Brody. They were attacked by a company of Cossacks,
and in the course of a few minutes were in the wildest flight, leaving
ample evidence of the prowess of the Cossacks.

On the 12th the Russians gained an important success by capturing
Sokal, which lies on the River Bug, just across the frontier. The
town is an important railway centre, and its possession was a matter
of vital interest to Austria. A determined advance towards Vladimir
Volynski was a definite part of the Austrian programme. If successful,
the move would have had far-reaching effects, for it would have broken
the railway between Rovno and Warsaw, and so seriously impeded the
completion of the Russian mobilisation and render communication between
her central and southern armies very difficult. For this advance Sokal
was the only possible base of operations. The Austrians, therefore,
defended the town to the utmost of their power. The passage of the
Bug was fiercely contended, but after some hours of furious fighting,
during which both sides lost heavily, the Russians managed to capture
the bridge. This practically settled the engagement. The town was
unfortified, and at the mercy of the attacking force. The Austrians,
with the dreaded Cossacks in pursuit, were soon in headlong flight out
of the town. The destruction of the railway station and bridge rendered
the Austrian advance in this direction impossible for some considerable
time.

When, therefore, on August 17th, a general advance was ordered,
Russia had every reason to be satisfied with the state of affairs.
True, the enemy had established themselves in Poland, but this was
more than balanced by the advances into Eastern Prussia and Galicia.
Russia indeed had achieved more than she had reckoned on. During this
preliminary phase she had fully expected that Poland would be invaded.
She had also expected that her right and left flanks would have been
more or less seriously threatened by forces from Eastern Prussia and
Galicia during the most difficult process of mobilisation. The forces
at Kovno and Rovno were sent to deal with that menace, and to hold it
in check until the main armies were ready. They not only achieved that
object, but carried the attack into the enemies’ countries.



CHAPTER V

THE ADVANCE INTO EASTERN PRUSSIA


The Russians must be somewhat of a disappointment to many experts,
professional and amateur, whose supreme ignorance of the conditions
obtaining in the eastern theatre of the war was only equalled by their
sublime confidence in the ability of a steamroller to push forward,
full steam ahead, over all obstacles and against all opposition. When
towards the middle of August the news came that Russia was ready for
serious business, it was confidently predicted that the end was in
sight. It was only a matter of 180 miles from the Russian frontier
to Berlin, the Germans had only Landwehr and Landsturm forces,
contemptible third-rate fighting material, to defend her territories,
and Austria was too busy shooting her own mutinous soldiers to be a
menace to anybody. Obviously then, said the strategists, it could only
be a matter of days before the tramp of the Russian legions would be
heard perilously close to Berlin, the Kaiser would have to withdraw his
forces from the west to meet the danger in the east, the allies would
overthrow his weakened armies and hurl them back against the oncoming
Russian hordes. Armageddon looked to be in danger of degenerating into
a race to Berlin.

The expected has not happened. In spite of many rumours it may be taken
as certain that the Germans have not to any great extent reduced their
forces in the west. The fierceness of the fighting there is sufficient
proof of this. And instead of being on the very threshold of Berlin,
the main Russian armies are still 400 miles away.

It is Russia’s due that this failure to come up to expectation should
be explained.

It is quite true that from the most westerly point on the frontier of
Russian Poland to Berlin is only a matter of 180 miles. A glance at the
map, however, will show that Poland is more or less a wedge driven into
German territory. The average distance from the frontier to Berlin is
much more than 180 miles. Nevertheless, Russia might have made a dash
on Berlin along the route indicated. There would be every likelihood,
too, of the dash proving successful. The country would be favourable
for a quick advance. The communications are good--well-made roads and
direct railway connection with the Russian base at Warsaw. The River
Oder would be the only natural obstacle, and the fortress of Posen the
only artificial one. And the country being open, it would be easier to
attack than to defend.

But apart from the fact that the capture of Berlin would no more crush
Germany than the occupation of Brussels has crushed Belgium, such an
advance would be doomed to disaster. The invading army might reach
Berlin itself, but sooner or later, it would find itself cut off from
its supplies. It would necessarily have left behind it large forces of
German troops in Eastern Prussia, and equally strong Austrian armies
in Galicia. It could only be a matter of time before Russia would
meet with a greater and more disastrous Sedan. Such a move would be a
terrible blunder of which no general in his senses would be guilty.

It may be objected that the German troops in East Prussia were only
Landwehr reserves and that the _moral_ of the Austrians was so bad that
it would have been possible for Russians to leave sufficient forces to
hold both armies in check. In the first place it has been amply proved,
again and again during the present war that the partially trained
reserves when capably led, and in sufficiently large numbers, can hold
their own with first line troops. In the second place, although the
Slav regiments were mutinous, Austria had quite two million Teutons
and Magyars in her army. These men were unquestionably loyal and quite
capable of giving a good account of themselves.

Before, therefore, they could set off on that 180 mile journey, it was
necessary for the Russians to remove all sources of danger to their
rear. The Germans must be turned out of Eastern Prussia or safely held
in their own territories, and the Austrians swept from Galicia.

The task of capturing Eastern Prussia is one of unusual difficulty.
It is a region which it is very much easier to defend than to
attack. The greater part of it is covered with marshes, lakes and
forests, most difficult country for an army to traverse. The means of
communication are poor, the roads--a most important consideration in
connection with the movement of the heavy artillery necessary for a
successful invasion--are in many instances little better than tracks.
Moreover, it is strongly fortified. Königsberg is a first-class modern
fortress, whilst those on the line of the Vistula at Thorn, Graudenz
and Dantzig are even more powerful. Königsberg and Dantzig, it should
also be noted, have the advantage of being ports as well as fortified
towns. In other words, they could be used for large supplies of men
and material. An invading army, therefore, could not content itself
with merely masking the fortresses unless it was supported by a navy
enjoying the command of the sea. The Russian fleet was practically
a prisoner in the Gulf of Finland. The German navy was in complete
command of the Baltic, and, therefore, to be safe, the invading army
would have to storm the fortresses and gain possession of the ports.

The German War Staff, of course, knew perfectly well how difficult was
Russia’s task of subduing Eastern Prussia. Hence it was not likely that
they were in any way panic stricken over Russia’s advance, at least in
that direction. Before that advance could become dangerous the whole of
Eastern Prussia would have to be in Russian hands and the passage of
the Vistula forced. There was every prospect of Russia being busily
engaged for weeks to come.

And it must not be forgotten that the mobilisation was not complete
at the time that the general advance was ordered. Thousands of
troops cannot be gathered from the farthest confines of Siberia and
transported across Asia and half-way across Europe. Only the first
phase was completed. Time was still necessary before Russia could put
her full strength in the field. The army under General Rennenkampf
which invaded Prussia did not comprise the million men with which
it was credited. It is doubtful whether he had half-a-million men
with him. Certainly he had no more during the early stages of the
campaign. Besides invading Prussia, Russia had to invade Galicia,
drive back the forces invading Poland and generally guard a frontier
about seven times as long as that between Germany and France. Another
reason why General Rennenkampf’s army was not so large as it was
popularly supposed to be was the fact that the Grand Duke Nicholas,
the Commander-in-Chief, did not, for reasons that will be subsequently
examined, regard the invasion of Eastern Prussia as of such paramount
importance as the invasion of Galicia.

In dealing with this campaign, therefore, its secondary importance
should not for a moment be forgotten. Both victory and defeat must be
tempered with the knowledge that neither will have the far-reaching
effect hoped for or feared. Of course, that is not to say that the
Russians did not care what happened in Prussia. If it should prove that
the defending German forces were weaker than was believed, if it were
possible to overcome all transport difficulties, if Rennenkampf should
march from victory to victory, driving the Germans back over the line
of the Vistula, so much the better. But such an accomplishment would
be a feat of arms worthy of Napoleon himself. Rennenkampf was known
to be a remarkably clever general and great things were expected of
him--otherwise he would not have been chosen for the most difficult
command--but there was no reason to credit him with superhuman genius.

Popular enthusiasm, however, both in Russia and the West, knowing
nothing of circumstances and conditions, and full of implicit faith in
Russian prowess, immediately jumped to the conclusion that Rennenkampf
was the man who was destined to alter the whole trend of the war. The
campaign, therefore, assumed a rather exaggerated importance which
was not remedied until actual events had their inevitable sobering
influence.

At the beginning of the general advance, the Russians found themselves
firmly established in the neighbourhood of Stalluponen. Before them
lay a strong German army, under General von Hindenburg. The advantage
in numbers was with the Germans, who were in the proportion of roughly
three to two. On the other hand they were composed to a very large
extent of reserves. The smaller Russian army was composed of fully
trained first line troops. The coming operations, therefore, were a
test of the comparative values of numbers and training. Sheer numbers
supported by perfect discipline, such as that which obtains in the
German army, can accomplish much in modern warfare. The advance of the
Germans in the western theatre of war had already proved as much. And
in these days when the personal factor in warfare, at least so far
as the rank and file is concerned, has been practically eliminated,
and the tendency is to rely for victory more and more on artillery
and material superiority rather than on personal qualities, the age,
training and fitness of the troops is of less importance than in the
old days when battles consisted of downright fighting. The finest
troops in the world are helpless when exposed to an efficient artillery
attack. In point of artillery the two armies in Eastern Prussia were
about evenly matched, the superiority, if any, being on the side of the
Germans. Consequently, it will be realised that the Russians were faced
with a difficult task.

The advance, which after the taking of Stalluponen had temporarily
ceased, was resumed with vigour. The region to the north towards Tilsit
was cleared of the enemy. Cavalry patrols scoured the country and
there were innumerable minor engagements. In all of these the Russians
were successful and the Germans were forced to withdraw their outposts
towards the line Stillen, Gumbinnen and Goldap. The only engagement of
any importance occurred some miles to the north of Stalluponen. Here a
strong Russian force fell on a German army corps, which was occupying
a rather advanced position. The fighting continued for practically a
whole day, and in spite of fierce Russian attacks, the Germans held
their ground. Towards the evening, however, their left flank was turned
and soon they were in full retreat towards Gumbinnen. The Russians
captured some hundreds of prisoners besides eight field guns, twelve
cannons and three machine guns.

Inspired by this success the Russians pushed forward. But the
Germans contested every foot of ground. The Russian movement, too,
was considerably hampered by the excellence of the German means of
obtaining information. Their airmen were everywhere in evidence, and
displayed the greatest courage and daring in face of the Russian
aeroplanes, which were mostly of the heavy Sikorski type. The latter,
excellent machines though they are, were outmatched in point of
speed by the German Taube machines, and were therefore unable to
deal effectively with the menace from the air. The country, too, was
infested with spies. Every movement of the Russians was signalled to
the defending forces.

On one occasion a large force of Cossacks was sent to carry out a
surprise attack on a German force occupying a village to the south of
Stalluponen. As they moved forward, it was noticed that a haystack had
caught alight. A tramp and a pipe were the explanation. The owner was
greatly upset at his loss and made every effort to save his property.
He worked with desperate energy, throwing bucket after bucket of water
on the flames. The only result, however, was that a dense column of
black smoke rose from the stack. The Cossacks pushed on. A couple
of miles from the village they had to pass through wooded country.
Suddenly a storm of lead swept through them. They had been ambushed.
In close formation, and scarcely able to turn, they were mowed down by
the score. When the few survivors returned to their headquarters the
haystack was still smouldering, but the owner had disappeared. It was
found subsequently that the “water” which he had so vigorously thrown
on the flames was a chemical solution which had caused the dense
clouds of smoke, serving to warn the Germans of the coming attack.

The advance, however, continued in spite of all the courage and
cunning displayed by the Germans. The Russian cavalry in particular
distinguished itself by its dash and bravery. The German advance guards
and outposts were overwhelmed by the fury of its attack. Thanks to its
superb, almost reckless, bravery and its bewildering mobility, the way
was cleared for the main army, so that on the 19th it found itself
facing a strong German army defending Gumbinnen.

In the meantime a Russian force had advanced in a north-westerly
direction from Bialestock and had crossed the frontier at Prostken.
Moving rapidly, it captured Lyck after a sharp engagement, and pushed
on towards Lotzen. Here their progress was barred by a German army
corps holding a strong position. Some desperate fighting ensued, but
the Russians forced their way into the town and the Germans retreated
northward along the lakes towards their main army at Gumbinnen.

Obviously the time had now come for a decisive engagement. Any further
retreat on the part of the Germans would entail the abandonment of
Insterburg, a most important railway junction, the possession of which
was the key to the whole of the country lying east of Königsberg
and Allenstein. The Germans, faced by the main Russian army on the
south-east towards Goldap, and with its right flank threatened by the
victorious force marching on from Lotzen, prepared for a determined
resistance.

As early as the 17th the civilian inhabitants had been ordered to leave
the town, at the same time reinforcements were brought up from the
west and north so that the strength of the defending army amounted
to about 200,000 men. On the morning of the 20th, the Russian right
rested on the village of Pilkallen, its left on Goldap. Everything was
in readiness for a determined onslaught. At dawn the battle began with
a terrific artillery duel. Soon the shells of the heavy German guns
were causing havoc in the Russian lines, but after a time the Russian
artillery began to manifest a superiority, and some of the enemy’s guns
were silenced. The Russian infantry then moved forward to the attack,
and some of the most desperate fighting of the war took place.

The Russians were subjected to a merciless fire from machine and
field guns. On all sides men were falling. But they never wavered for
an instant. On and on they pressed until they reached the German
trenches. There the bayonets got to work and soon the defenders were
forced to give ground. But they were by no means defeated. Time after
time they hurled themselves forward in the most desperate counter
attacks, but the Russians succeeded in holding their own.

It was during this period of the engagement that one of the most
significant events--so far as Russia is concerned--of the whole war
occurred. A Russian battalion was in the midst of a veritable inferno.
The Germans were determined to hold an important position at all costs.
The Russians were equally determined to capture it. On both sides
the carnage had been terrible. At last, with a desperate rush, the
Russians succeeded in getting to grips with the Germans. Indescribable
hand-to-hand fighting ensued. In the midst of the mêlée a German
bayoneted the Russian Standard-bearer and seized the flag. Emboldened
by this emblem of victory the Germans renewed their efforts and dashed
to the assistance of their comrade. But before they could reach him a
young Russian had sprung forward, killed him and recaptured the flag.
With a howl of disappointment the Germans attacked him. For a moment
he seemed to be doomed. Germans, were all round him struggling for the
possession of the flag. Then there came a deep-throated roar, a sudden
rush, and the Germans were hurled back. The Russians had captured the
position and saved their flag.

The youth who had held it against such odds was afterwards discovered
severely wounded. He proved to be a young Jewish medical student from
Vilna, named Osnas. He was at once hailed on all sides as a hero, and
on being invalided back to Petrograd the Commander himself gave orders
that every care was to be taken to save the life of “Osnas the hero.”
Subsequently he received the military cross of St. George, the Russian
V.C., from the hands of the Tzar himself.

The significance of the incident does not lie in the bravery of Osnas,
but in the fact that he was a Jew. His action, which has made him a
popular hero throughout the Russian Empire, has done more to improve
the position of the Jews than any event in the whole course of their
history in Russia. It has made the nation realise that a Jew can be a
worthy son of Russia.

While these fierce attacks and counter-attacks were taking place at
the centre and on the Russian left, determined attempts were made
to envelop the right flank resting on Pilkallen. The successful
resistance of this movement was chiefly due to the brilliant work of
the Russian cavalry.

The Germans occupied a strong position towards the north-west, from
which their artillery was able to pour a murderous fire into the
Russian ranks. At length it became obvious that unless the guns were
silenced the Russians would have to retreat. The Horse Guards were
ordered to take the guns. The first squadron charged straight at the
battery. There was an ominous silence. The distance grew less and
less. Then at point blank range the gunners fired. The squadron was
practically annihilated. The second squadron then charged. It seemed as
if it were doomed to a like fate, but at the critical moment the third
squadron took the battery on the flank. In a few minutes every gunner
was either sabred or fleeing for safety.

For fourteen hours the battle raged until darkness caused a cessation
of hostilities. The Russians were, on the whole, satisfied with the
results of the day’s work. They had suffered heavy losses, but the
enemy had suffered more. They had made distinct progress in the centre,
had captured thirty guns and large numbers of prisoners.

The engagement on the 21st opened sensationally. In the early hours
of the morning a strong force of Cossack cavalry moved northwards and
managed to envelop the German left flank. Dawn was the signal for a
combined movement. The Germans found themselves vigorously attacked
in the centre and left. For a time they held their ground, but their
position soon became untenable. There was no holding the Russian
attack. A regiment of Cossacks, finding the ground unsuitable for
cavalry operations, dismounted and hurled themselves forward with all
their reckless ferocity. Gradually the Russians pressed forward until
they were attacking the enemy on three sides. The result was then
inevitable. Von Hindenburg had the choice of flight or of allowing his
army to be surrounded. He decided to retreat. Soon retreat degenerated
into rout, and vast quantities of stores and ammunition, besides
thousands of prisoners fell into the hands of the Russians.

The battle of Gumbinnen was the first decisive engagement of the war.
Its immediate result was to make Russia master of the whole of Prussia
east of the line from Königsberg to Allenstein. There was no position
which afforded von Hindenburg any hope of successful resistance even
if he were able to collect his routed troops. Insterburg, the main
point in the network of German strategic railways, fell into Russian
hands on the evening after the battle and ensured for Rennenkampf
ample supplies. Tilsit was isolated, and its capture was a matter of
convenience. The whole region of the Mauer lakes was at the mercy of
the Russians.

The moral advantages were as great as the material. Von Hindenburg’s
army had been badly beaten, and would never be able to face the
Russians again with the same confidence. Moreover, the rout of the
Germans and the reputation of the pursuing Cossacks caused a panic
throughout the province. From every village and town the inhabitants
began to fly in terror, some towards Danzig, others towards Graudenz in
the hope of reaching Berlin. Soon Danzig was in a state of chaos. Two
hundred and fifty thousand refugees poured in with the most exaggerated
stories of the prowess of the Russians. Commerce was at a stand-still;
the prices of provisions rose daily. Soon there was rioting in the
streets. There was no accommodation for the refugees, most of whom were
penniless, and who were almost as numerous as the ordinary inhabitants
of the town. It was not until the sternest measures had been taken by
the military authorities that the panic subsided and some show of order
was restored.

Meanwhile the Russians were following up their victory with a vigorous
pursuit. Von Hindenburg’s army divided into two, one portion retreating
through Tapiau to Königsberg, the other pressing in a south-westerly
direction towards Allenstein, and the fortresses of Thorn and
Graudenz. The former portion safely reached its destination, which
was invested by the Russians on the 25th. On the same day Tilsit was
formally occupied. Meanwhile the main Russian army, meeting with
practically no resistance, pushed on along the line of the railway,
occupying Angerberg and Korschen. By this time, however, heavy German
reinforcements had come up, and the advance began to be contested with
increasing determination. For three days there was vigorous fighting in
the neighbourhood of Allenstein. Then, after inflicting heavy losses
on the Germans, Rennenkampf entered the town and again forced von
Hindenburg to retreat. The action, however, was not a decisive battle
comparable with Gumbinnen, and the Russian advance became slow. Further
fierce fighting, most of which resulted satisfactorily to the Russians,
took place further to the south around Soldau and Nesdenberg.

The Russians, after a remarkably quick advance through very difficult
country, had now come within hail of the line of the Vistula. The line
was protected by three first-class fortresses covered by at least four
army corps in addition to the armies which had been driven back by the
Russians. It was the critical moment of the campaign. With their heavy
numerical superiority and strongly fortified position, the Germans
would be sure to make a more determined resistance, and in greater
force than any which the Russians had yet had to meet. In attacking
the line Rennenkampf would be handicapped by a lack of heavy siege
artillery, and by the numerical inferiority of his forces. On the other
hand his troops comprised some of the finest fighting material in the
world, they were flushed with victory and could be relied upon to make
a tremendous effort to win the greatest triumph of all. If they could
drive the Germans over the Vistula and bring up sufficiently large
forces to invest Thorn, Graudenz and Danzig, the northern route to
Berlin would be open to them as far as the Oder. The beginning of the
end would indeed have arrived.

The Russians accordingly pushed forward. But they did not advance much
further on the road to the Vistula. An immense German army, heavily
supported by artillery, including numbers of the heavy siege guns which
had already proved themselves to be the Kaiser’s most potent weapons,
awaited the Russians in a strong position in the neighbourhood of
Osterode, midway between Allenstein and Graudenz.

Von Hindenburg now proved himself to be a leader of remarkable skill
and resource and he performed as brilliant a feat of generalship as
the war has yet produced. Only a year before he had taken part in
the manœuvres in East Prussia, and was acquainted with every inch of
the ground. It was even stated that he had already solved the exact
military problem with which he was now faced, and in the same locality.
In addition he enjoyed the advantage of outnumbering the Russians by at
least two to one.

These factors practically decided the battle. The district around
Allenstein and Osterode is of the worst possible description for an
invading force. It is a mass of lakes, swamps and forests, and an
intimate knowledge of the locality is essential for the success of any
military operations there. There are almost insuperable difficulties in
the way of transport alone.

Utilising his advantages to the full, von Hindenburg lured the Russians
towards Tannenberg to the south-east of Osterode. The Russians,
realising that a successful offensive was their only chance, blundered
forward. They pressed on until they found themselves in a position
where their flanks rested on more or less solid ground, but their
centre was backed by a vast swamp. Then von Hindenburg struck his blow.
An immense force was hurled against the Russian right. A desperate
encounter followed, but sheer weight of numbers gave victory to the
Germans. The Russians were forced back on to the swamps. A similar
attack on the Russian left was equally successful.

What followed was not a battle; it was one of the most hideous
slaughters history has known. The Russians were unable to manœuvre on
the swampy ground; the Germans, on the other hand, were in possession
of the solid higher ground and free to move at will. From three sides
they poured a murderous fire into the helpless Russians, forcing them
deeper and deeper into the swamps. Guns sank in the mud, horses were
unable to move, men stood up to their waists in the deadly slime. The
carnage continued until nightfall, when Rennenkampf managed to escape
with a remnant of his army, leaving Generals Samsonov, Martos and
Pestitsch among the thousands of slain.

Thus von Hindenburg won the battle of Osterode and obtained ample
revenge for his defeat at Gumbinnen.

The battle caused a complete reversal of the campaign. The route to
Berlin via the north was not only barred, but the Russian advance was
turned into a retreat. Hopelessly outnumbered, Rennenkampf was forced
back on Allenstein. Every foot of the way was contested, but bit by
bit he had to give up the results of his victorious move forward.
Allenstein and Intersburg were in turn evacuated before the merciless
pressure of the advancing Germans. The troops investing Königsberg
were recalled. It was not until the frontiers were almost reached and
strong reinforcements came up from Kovno and Grodno that the German
advance was checked and finally held.

In spite of official attempts at secrecy, the news soon spread that the
invasion of Germany upon which Russia’s Allies had placed such high
hopes had ended in what appeared to be complete failure. Berlin was
as far off as ever, and the Germans were at the very gates of Paris.
Something had gone seriously wrong with the steam roller on which so
much had depended!

The strategists were wrong in the blame they heaped on Rennenkampf’s
head because of his failure. As a matter of fact, his chief fault was
that he had played his part too well. He had never been expected to
push forward so far as Osterode. His “advance” was intended simply
to attract German attention and to prevent Germany from sending
reinforcements to the Austrian army. In attaining this object he
succeeded admirably. After the battle of Gumbinnen the Germans poured
regiment after regiment of Landwehr and Landsturm troops into Eastern
Prussia, which otherwise would have gone to the aid of the Austrians.
Rennenkampf’s unexpected success took him too far forward. His advance
was so rapid that it was difficult to bring up reinforcements. Osterode
and its heavy losses was the penalty he paid for success.

The only really unfortunate result of his efforts was that he attracted
such strong forces into Prussia that the Russians will have great
difficulty in dislodging them. They are, however, strong enough to keep
them confined to their own territories, and so have little to fear from
that direction.

Besides, there are other ways to Berlin.



CHAPTER VI

THE ADVANCE INTO GALICIA


It has already been pointed out that Russia could not advance directly
on Berlin and thus expose herself to the danger of being cut off and
annihilated by German armies from East Prussia and Austrians from
Galicia. A march on Posen would more likely than not have resulted in
another and more stupendous Sedan. In the previous chapter it was shown
that, for various reasons, the Russian General Staff decided not to
threaten Berlin by the northern route through Prussia. The nature of
the country was unfavourable for any such movement; it was strongly
fortified and capably defended. Moreover, the fact that winter was
approaching had to be taken into account. Those who have had the
misfortune to spend the winter months at Königsberg or other towns in
Eastern Prussia will agree with the Russian Staff that the conditions
during that period of the year do not favour military or any other
operations. And it was essential that Russia should maintain a vigorous
offensive, if only to keep faith with her allies.

That there was another route to Berlin, and one which possessed many
obvious advantages, was overlooked by most of the strategists. The
route in question lies along the banks of the Oder, through Silesia
and Saxony. If Russia could crush the military power of Austria in
Galicia and drive the remnants of her armies across the Carpathians,
either pursuing them to Buda-Pesth and Vienna or confining them to the
Hungarian plains, she would be free to advance upon Breslau and Berlin.

There are many advantages possessed by this route. In the first
place, it would be safe, assuming that Austria were thoroughly broken
beforehand. The country is open and well provided with railways,
excellent roads, and other means of communication; it contains only one
fortress of any strength--Neisse--which could be easily masked, and
is generally favourable to a rapid advance. An additional advantage
is that Silesia is a busy mining and industrial province, with a
population of nearly 6,000,000. The invading army would be preceded
by armies of panic-stricken fugitives, who would impede any defensive
measures and strike terror in Berlin long before the menace of the
invaders became serious.

There can be little doubt, in view of (1) that the chief Russian armies
are engaged in Galicia and Poland, and (2) that no serious attempt
has been made either to follow up General Rennenkampf’s remarkable
advance in East Prussia or to retrieve the ground lost as a result of
the defeat at Osterode, that an advance on the lines suggested through
Galicia and Silesia is the main feature of the Russian strategy. It is
the simplest, safest and most effective route by which Germany could
be invaded. It is the one route an advance along which, supported by a
vigorous offensive from Poland, would have an immediate effect on the
war in the west. When once the Russians begin to march on Breslau, it
will be only a matter of weeks before they reach Berlin, unless the
Germans detach very strong forces from their western army and hurry
them across to defend the capital.

But first of all, Austria must be smashed, and Galicia and Poland
swept clear of the enemy.

At the end of the preliminary phase of the campaign, the Russians
had already gained a footing in Galicia in the neighbourhood of the
River Styr, whilst the Austrians had advanced northwards from Cracow
and established themselves in Poland. This Austrian army, after being
heavily reinforced, so that it amounted to about 500,000 men, began to
march northward towards Warsaw. It was then still further reinforced
by a German army which had advanced from Posen, and invaded the
Polish province of Kalisch. In Poland, therefore, there was a very
considerable army which seriously threatened Lublin and Warsaw, and
would require heavy and probably extended operations before it could be
forced back.

A second Austrian army, smaller than the first, was in Galicia, with
Lemberg for its base.

The operations against these two armies constitute the real “Russian
Advance,” the movement intended to prepare for the crushing of Austria
and a march on Berlin. That it would be slow was obvious. Opposing
it were, at the time under review, about 1,500,000 troops, with two
first-class fortresses in Cracow and Przemysl and a hardly less strong
position in Lemberg. The question remained, how would Russia act? Would
she concentrate her attention on driving the first Austrian army on to
Galicia, or would she deliver her main attack on the second army, and
invade Galicia from the east, trusting on her success and consequent
menace to the communications of the first army to force that army back
on to its base? The former course would be the safer, for the first
Austro-German army was a more formidable force than the second. The
latter course, if the more hazardous, had the merit of speed. The
Grand Duke Nicholas decided to adopt this plan, much to the surprise
of the Austrians. An army was sent from Warsaw to operate against the
Austro-German army in Poland, but the main army, under General Russki,
had Kiev for base, and immediate preparations began for a vigorous and
sweeping movement through Galicia.

It was, however, essential for the success of the plan that the
Austro-German army should be held in check until the menace to its
rear was strong enough to force it back. If it were to capture Lublin
or seriously threaten Warsaw, the whole scheme would be in danger of
collapse.

It must not be forgotten that while these operations were in progress
Austria was fighting on her southern frontier against Serbia and
Montenegro. The war in the south naturally affected to some extent the
war in the north. A series of victories in the south would undoubtedly
have provided the Austrians in the north with the moral tonic they
so sadly needed. As it happened, however, the war in the south was a
complete failure. Seven attempts were made to capture Belgrade, an
utterly defenceless town, but each was repulsed. The invasion of Serbia
ended in the rout of Shabatz. The Austrians thereupon abandoned their
operations against Serbia, and threw all their forces into the northern
war. Whatever advantage was gained by this increase in numbers was
for the time being more than counterbalanced by the shattered _moral_
of the additional troops. Mutiny had already done much to destroy the
spirit of the troops. The companionship of men who had been routed by
the despised Serbians was not calculated to improve matters. However,
Austria needed every man in the north to defend her reputation as a
first-class military power.

Her plan of campaign amounted to an attempt to force the reversal of
the Russian plan. The main army was to carry out a vigorous invasion
of Poland in two directions, towards Lublin on the north-east and
towards Lodz on the north. The latter movement would receive help
from the Germans operating in the province of Kalisch. The success of
these movements would render a determined invasion of Galicia from the
east impossible. Russia would have to change her plan and concentrate
her efforts on defeating the invading Austrians and driving them back
across the frontier. Obviously this would have suited the German
plans admirably, because it would have delayed the Russian advance
indefinitely, and so relieve the dangerous position resulting from
the unexpected success of the Russian mobilisation and the equally
unexpected failure of the attempt to crush France in the course of a
few weeks. Viewing the war as a whole, therefore, the main object of
both sides was to gain time. The Allies wanted to delay the German
advance until the pressure of Russia on the east became unbearable. The
Austrian object was to hold Russia in check and so enable Germany to
maintain an undiminished army in the west. The issue of the whole war
now depended on the efforts of Austria, for even if the Allies in the
west were able, as the result of a vigorous offensive, to force the
Germans out of France and Belgium, it was extremely doubtful whether
they would be able to invade Germany itself with anything more than
moderate success, unless the Germans were forced to divide their
troops more or less equally between the two frontiers.

The most important operations in the east, therefore, were the advance
of the main Austrian army on Lublin and the advance of the Germans
through Kalisch. Until these were positively checked the projected
Russian advance could not be pushed forward. But, once checked, a
successful Russian advance would cause the retirement or downfall of
these invaders of Poland unless they were heavily reinforced.

The campaign opened with a serious defeat for Russia. The Austrian army
crossed the frontier and established contact with the defending forces
in the neighbourhood of Krasnik, a little town some fifteen miles
across the border. Details of the engagement are very few. Officially,
the Russians ignored it, being wholly taken up with the telling the
world about their successes in Prussia. What appears to have happened
was that the Russians did not expect the enemy to throw forward such
strong forces, and were taken by surprise. Heavily superior in point
of numbers and well supported by artillery, the Austrians, while
unable to break the Russian centre, seem to have successfully carried
out a flanking movement. The Russians fought gamely, and inflicted
heavy losses on the enemy, but their defeat was inevitable. The
Austrians claimed to have captured some thousands of prisoners and much
artillery. In view of the results of the battle, it is quite possible
that their claims were not exaggerated.

The serious results of this engagement were at once apparent. The
heaviness of the defeat made it impossible for the Russians to make a
determined resistance against the Austrian advance for some time. The
Austrians overran Kelche and pressed forward on Lublin.

In the course of this advance the Austrians made brave attempts to
imitate their German allies. The occupation of Kamenetz Podolski was a
good example of their efforts to play the Hun. The town was captured
after a sharp engagement, in the course of which the Austrian commander
had the misfortune to be slightly wounded. His first act was to demand
200,000 roubles, 200 horsed carts, 800 poods of bread and 60 oxen.
Unless this levy were forthcoming by eight o’clock the next morning,
the mayor was to be hanged and the town sacked. At the best of times
this would have been an almost impossible demand on the resources of
Kamenetz, which is only a small town. On the approach of the Austrians
the Municipal Treasurer, the bankers and all the wealthy families had
fled, taking their riches with them. Nobody in the town had so much as
twenty-five roubles in his possession.

The mayor went to inform the general that it was impossible to fulfil
his demands. The general replied that he would bombard the town unless
the whole levy were delivered by eight o’clock.

The night was spent by the inhabitants in the impossible task of trying
to raise the money. Rings, watches and jewellery of all kinds were
collected. The churches were stripped of their crucifixes and plate. A
valuable collection of old coins, worth at least 15,000 roubles, left
the scales at an appraisement of seven hundred roubles. At half-past
six in the morning it was found that not more than five or six thousand
roubles’ worth of gold and silver had been collected towards the
200,000 demanded. The mayor went to find the general in the forlorn
hope that the latter would relent. The inhabitants crouched in their
cellars awaiting the dreaded bombardment.

Eight o’clock passed and nothing happened. The Austrian general had
left during the night, leaving a colonel as governor of the town.
The latter gravely assessed the levy at 25,000 rubles, returned the
crucifixes and church plate and announced that he was perfectly
satisfied. Then a few hours later, acting on instructions from
Vienna, he returned the whole levy, to the utter bewilderment of the
inhabitants.

But in spite of these half-hearted attempts to imitate the Huns, there
is no doubt that for a time the advance of the Austrian army was a
serious matter. General Bankal, the commander of the force, drove
the Russians from position after position in a series of desperate
engagements and it was not until he reached the line Lublin Kholm that
he was definitely checked, and General Russki was able to advance in
earnest.

The primary cause of General Bankal’s check was the fact that he found
himself face to face with a strong Russian army, with the fortress of
Ivangorod for a base. This army was as large as his own, and occupied
an immensely strong position. Bankal, realising the necessity for
maintaining the offensive, attempted to break through the Russian
centre. After a heavy bombardment he threw his men forward in close
formation, hoping by force of numbers to cut a way through. The attempt
was a costly failure. A second and third attempt fared no better. Then,
realising that his position was hopeless in the face of such superior
forces, Bankal retired, and soon was in full retreat towards the south.

In this battle the Russians captured over 5,000 prisoners; whilst the
Austrian losses may be estimated from the fact that over 3,000 of their
dead were buried by the victors.

A secondary cause contributing to General Bankal’s failure was the lack
of German support from Posen. This was the direct result of General
Rennenkampf’s successful offensive in Eastern Prussia. In the previous
chapter it was shown how, after the battle of Gumbinnen and the rapid
advance through Allenstein, the Germans brought up several army corps
to cope with the menace. They drove back Rennenkampf, but only at
the cost of starving their offensive in Poland. They were unable
to reinforce both the defensive line of the Vistula and the armies
attacking Poland, unless they withdrew a portion of their forces from
the western theatre of war. In spite of rumours, it may be stated for
certain that no such withdrawal took place. There was no apparent
diminution of German power in the west, and no reinforcements arrived
in Poland.

The Germans, however, managed to penetrate as far as Lodz. Their
advance was more due to lack of opposition than to their own prowess.
They were in no great numbers, and on meeting with a superior force at
Pobianitz, they at once began to retire without offering any serious
resistance.

Nevertheless, their advance, insignificant as it was, is worthy of
attention as affording a comparison between themselves and their
Austrian allies. The latter in the course of their advance made
half-hearted attempts to win a reputation for savagery, such as the
incident at Kamenetz, but on the whole, their conduct, apart from much
drunkenness and a little looting, was admirable. The Germans, on the
other hand, fully lived up to the reputation which their comrades in
Belgium had won for themselves.

Their chief exploit was the sacking of Kalisch. During the German
occupation of the town in the early stages of the war it was stated
that some of the inhabitants had fired on the soldiers. General
Preusker, the German commander, at once indulged in the most savage
reprisals. Numerous inhabitants were shot. Some hundreds of the leading
citizens, including the priests, were seized as hostages and forced to
lie for hours under a broiling sun. Then suddenly they were marched
out of the town and were told to prepare for execution. When all was
ready, and the wretched prisoners thought that their last moment had
come, the order was countermanded. The town was then bombarded by
the German artillery. The town hall and all the chief buildings were
ruined, hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed. After
witnessing the destruction of their homes the hostages were sent as
prisoners to Posen.

After this savage display, General Preusker issued a proclamation to
the Poles, stating that the Kaiser, in return for their help, would
effect the regeneration of the Polish nation through the influence of
Western culture. Needless to say, the proclamation met with no response.

The news of this event naturally caused something of a panic in Western
Poland. At Lodz, for instance, the approach of the Germans resulted
in the town being in danger of falling into a state of anarchy.
The administrative authorities and the bankers immediately fled to
Warsaw, leaving the town, which has over 600,000 inhabitants, without
protection and without money. The manufacturers, to their credit,
stayed in the town. The closing of the banks rendered them for the time
being penniless, and there was danger of riots from their employés
who could not be paid. The workpeople, however, kept their heads, and
notes were issued by a committee of leading citizens. Owing to the
impossibility of providing them with food, the prisoners had to be
released. For a time the fate of the town hung in the balance. The most
trivial event might have inflamed the workpeople. But, thanks in no
small measure to the fact that all the taverns had been closed since
the beginning of the mobilisation, calm was gradually restored. It was
almost a relief when the Uhlans at last appeared and the thoughts of
the people were distracted by the new menace.

The fighting around Lodz, although temporarily decisive in that it
resulted in the Germans being driven back over the frontier, was of
only small extent. It was here, however, that the Cossacks gave the
_Nemetz_ a taste of their qualities. Indeed, the exploit of Kusma
Krutchakov and his companions was one of the most courageous feats of
the whole war.

He was out on patrol duty with his comrades, Stchergolkov, Astachov,
Ivankov; and Rvatchov, when they learned that twenty-seven German
horsemen had been seen in their immediate neighbourhood. Rvatchov was
at once despatched to headquarters with the news, while the others,
without a moment’s hesitation, set out to tackle their formidable
antagonists, whom they had seen disappearing behind a hill.

After making a detour to escape observation, the Cossacks divided into
pairs, Krutchakov and Ivankov approaching the Germans from the rear,
the other two from the front. The leader of the patrol attempted to
inveigle the Germans into a bog, but in this he was unsuccessful, and
the whole party charged down upon the Cossacks, who made off on their
swift horses.

As soon, however, as the Germans gave up the chase Krutchakov and his
companion, who had meanwhile been joined by the other two, followed
them and continued the pursuit for four miles. At last, getting the
enemy in full view in the open country, they dismounted and opened
fire. The Germans now saw that they had only four men to deal with, and
charged down upon them at a gallop.

At this the Cossacks mounted and prepared for a hand-to-hand struggle.
As the Germans approached, their officer was shot dead. They then
closed in upon Ivankov, who was nearest to them, and attacked him with
their lances.

Before they could get him down, however, his three companions had
sprung in to his assistance.

Krutchakov swung to one side and engaged three of the Germans, while
his comrades together got into a close scuffle with the rest. While
one German was trying to run Astachov through the body, he himself
was pierced by the lance of Stchergolkov and fell to the ground.
Another German aimed a blow at the head of Stchergolkov, but was just
in time put down by Ivankov. Three Cossacks then broke free from the
mêlée, Ivankov and Astachov on one side, pursued by six Germans, and
Stchergolkov on the left, with three of the enemy on his heels. When
the Germans abandoned the pursuit Ivankov and Astachov dashed in to the
assistance of Krutchakov, who, at first beset by three Germans, now
had a dozen round him.

Against these desperate odds he was defending himself with coolness and
address. A non-commissioned officer aimed a blow at his head, but he
parried it by swinging up his carbine. His fingers were slashed, but
not severed, and, dropping the carbine, he seized the sword and chopped
his assailant down.

When at length help arrived, only five Germans remained alive.
Krutchakov had received sixteen wounds, and his horse eleven.
Stchergolkov was wounded in two places, whilst Ivankov escaped with
only one hurt.

The retreat of General Bankal from Lublin and the driving back of the
Germans from Lodz left General Russki free to move forward in earnest.
The conditions were at once reversed. Hitherto the successful advance
of General Bankal had caused his army to be the most important factor
in the campaign. Now it was only of secondary importance. The centre of
interest had shifted from Poland to Eastern Galicia.

The advance which was now beginning was the most important move in the
war. On its success or failure depended the issue of the whole war. If
the Austrians had been powerful enough to inflict a really decisive
defeat on General Russki, the whole plan of the Allies would have been
thrown to the ground. Russia, instead of advancing, would have been
forced to act on the defensive, at least for a time, and her Allies
in the west would have had to abandon all hope of help until the lost
ground could be retrieved and a fresh advance begun. In view of the
supreme importance of success and of continued success, every care was
taken to render the advancing army as invincible as human endeavour
could make it. It represents the flower of the Russian army, from
general to rank and file the Tzar could put no finer force into the
field. Its failure would appear to be impossible.

The Russians crossed the frontier at several points. It is at once
apparent that they would have the advantage of operating in a friendly
country. The Ruthenians welcomed them as heaven-sent deliverers. Every
man up to the age of fifty had been summoned to the Austrian armies,
but the women, children and old men who were left were wild with
delight. Processions, headed by priests, went forward from the villages
to greet the invaders; food and provisions were gladly given to the
troops.

The first action of any magnitude was the storming of Tarnopol. The
Austrians were in strong force, well entrenched and supported by
artillery. On the morning of August 23rd the Russian attack began.
For some time an artillery duel raged, and then the Russian infantry
began to advance. It was received with a hail of bullets from rifles
and machine guns. For four hours the battle continued, the Russians
gradually pressing forward. Meanwhile their shrapnel was working havoc
in the Austrian trenches. The defence was showing signs of flagging. A
bayonet charge settled the affair. Unable to keep back the Russians,
the Austrians, rather than face the bayonets, abandoned their positions
and fled into the town.

But victory was not yet achieved. With the aid of machine guns mounted
on church towers and prominent buildings, the Austrians kept up a
murderous fire on the Russians. The order was given to storm the
town, street by street. In fighting of this description, in which
the personal element predominates, the Cossacks excel. With ruthless
completeness they scoured the town until there was not an Austrian
defender left. Thousands lay dead in the streets; the rest were in
full flight towards the main Austrian army defending Lemberg. Several
machine guns, some artillery, and numerous prisoners fell into the
hands of the Russians.

This victory forced back the Austrian centre, and gave the Russians
possession of the north-eastern corner of Galicia.

The next move was to force back the Austrian right on to Lemberg, and
so gather the enemy into a suitable position for a decisive attack
and also gain possession of all the means of communication in Eastern
Galicia. This was effected successfully by the engagement at Halish,
a small town on the Dniester, on which the Austrian right rested.
Here the victory was in the main due to the dash and courage of the
Russian cavalry. Early in the engagement the enemy’s cavalry was put
out of action. In the meantime their artillery had been playing with
good effect on the Russian infantry. But a cavalry charge on the flank
silenced the guns and the infantry was able to advance. The Austrians
made a desperate resistance, but were soon forced into flight.

General Russki, now master of all Galicia east of Lemberg, immediately
began his preparations for the attack on what was now the chief
Austrian army, defending that important town.

Before, however, dealing with the operations round Lemberg, it is
necessary to refer to the other Austrian army--that under General
Bankal. After its defeat between Lublin and Kholm, this army retreated
southwards in the direction of Tomasov. Any further advance into Poland
being out of the question, General Bankal’s object was to join forces
with the army defending Lemberg, and so present a greater resistance
to General Russki’s advance. The troops, which had been occupying
the Polish province of Kielce were also hurriedly withdrawn towards
Lemberg. In order to prevent this threatened junction of forces, the
Russians made the most determined efforts to overtake the Austrians.
For some days, however, Bankal, in spite of heavy losses of artillery
and stores, managed to elude his pursuers. It was not until he was
within a few miles of Tomasov that he was forced to give battle. There
he was met by a force sent forward from the right flank of General
Russki’s army. Hastily entrenching himself, he prepared for a desperate
attempt to throw back the Russians and force his way to Lemberg. His
position, however, was hopeless. Faced by a force superior in every
way, and attacked on his left flank by the Russians, who had been
pursuing him, defeat was inevitable. Nevertheless, the Austrians fought
desperately, and inflicted heavy losses on the Russians. But their own
losses were terrible. Entire regiments were annihilated. A shrapnel
shell killed Bankal himself, and several of his staff officers. Within
a few hours the remnants of the army were pouring over the frontier in
full flight for Przemysl.

In this engagement the Russians captured five thousand prisoners and
twenty pieces of artillery.

In the meantime the remaining Austrian forces in Poland were faring
but little better. At Podgorzo, the troops from Kielce who were
endeavouring to join General Bankal’s army, and push forward to
Lemberg, were forced to give battle as a result of a successful
turning movement from the north-east. Here again the fighting was of a
desperate character, but again the issue was inevitable. Three thousand
prisoners and large quantities of artillery and stores fell into the
hands of the Russians.

Thus ended to all practical intents, the preliminary Austrian advance
into Poland. It was not until later, when the German victory at
Osterode enabled large forces to be thrown into Poland, that the enemy
were able to make any definite impression in that quarter.

Meanwhile the movement which it was supposed to prevent was developing
strongly. The battle for the possession of Lemberg had already been
fought and won.

That the Austrians were determined to defend the town at all hazards
may be judged from the fact that they had accumulated there sufficient
stores for a year. The defending army formed a semicircle facing north
and east, with the fortress in the centre. By pushing forward his right
wing towards the west, General Russki formed another outer semicircle.
Then the Russian semicircle began to contract, and with vice-like
pressure forced the Austrian line back and back.

The battle lasted for seven days, and the fighting was of the most
stubborn nature. By means of successive bombardments and infantry
attacks on the defending forces, the Russians gradually forced
themselves forward. But every inch of ground was contested, and the
losses on both sides were enormous. As the days passed, however, the
superiority of the Russian artillery began to assert itself, and the
Austrian fire weakened. At all points the Russians were increasingly
successful. At length on the seventh day the main Austrian force,
comprising five army corps, was driven back with heavy loss on to the
town itself.

This was the beginning of the end. At half-past two in the morning the
actual storming of the town began. The Austrians attempted to reform
their forces, but were thrown into confusion by repeated artillery and
cavalry attacks. The Austrian left was driven in. The whole army was in
danger of being surrounded.

At this stage of the conflict an episode occurred which finally sealed
the fate of the Galician capital. A particularly searching fire was
directed by the Russian batteries at the centre before the town, their
object being to impede the retreat of the Austrians, who had been
beaten on the right flank, and, if possible, to surround the town
completely before its garrisons could be withdrawn.

In the hope of checking the Russian advance till the town had been
evacuated, the Austrians threw out a rearguard screen of Slav troops
with a backing of Magyars, who received orders to shoot the Slavs down
from behind the moment they showed any hesitation. This circumstance
became known to the Russian commander, and at the critical moment a
terrific artillery fire was opened over the heads of the Slavs upon the
retreating Austrian columns. This dropping hail of projectiles set up a
wild panic in the ranks of the enemy. Abandoning guns, ammunition, and
stores, his troops broke into frantic disorder, and fled helter-skelter
along the road to Grodek.

This was shortly after nine o’clock, and proved to be the decisive
stroke of the battle. It appeared that the Austrians then lost all
hopes of holding the town, for the strong forts by which it was
defended rapidly fell one after another.

It was now that the strong Russian forces poured into the town from the
north, and the final battle began in the streets. For some time the
fierce fight was kept up, but the Austrian detachments, recognising the
hopelessness of their position, surrendered one by one.

The Slav inhabitants received the conquerors with demonstrations of
delight and shouts of “Long live the army of the Russian liberators.”
The singing of the Russian National Anthem mingled with the last shots
fired at the routed Austrians in the neighbourhood of the town.

Then the progress of the Russian regiments through the town became like
a triumphal procession. As they passed down the streets cheers were
raised, and flowers were showered upon them from the crowded windows.
At half-past ten the Russian flag fluttered out from the staff on the
roof of the Town Hall.

Russia thus achieved the first great triumph of the war and ensured
the accomplishment of the first step towards Berlin--the smashing of
the military power of Austria. In addition they had won 637 guns, 44
quickfirers, flags, and 64,000 prisoners, in addition to immense stores
of ammunition and provisions.



CHAPTER VII

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LEMBERG


The Austrians had prepared Lemberg for a siege of at least a year. The
Russians captured it in a week. The fortresses, which were reckoned
as first-class examples of modern fortifications, were reduced to
ruins by the bombardment of the Russian heavy artillery. The victory,
therefore, proved to the Russians, just as Liège and Namur had proved
to the Germans in the west, that modern fortresses are helpless against
modern artillery. The Russians employed no remarkably heavy guns, but
merely their ordinary siege howitzers. There are no secrets about these
weapons. They are of about the same calibre and weight as those of the
Germans and of every other army. The question of transport limits the
size of these weapons, and no nation can employ a gun which exceeds
a certain well-defined standard. Just as, however, the fall of Namur
and Liège was responsible for rumours of secret monsters from Krupp’s
of infinite power, so the fall of Lemberg was responsible for similar
rumours about the Russian guns. In each case the rumours were absurd,
for the simple reason that guns of such immense power would be too
heavy to move.

In any case, the Russians had every reason to be satisfied with the
performance of their guns. They had proved themselves capable of
reducing the finest modern fortifications. What had been accomplished
at Lemberg could be done with equal facility at Przemysl, Cracow, Posen
and all the other fortresses guarding the road to Berlin. Germany and
Austria have spent millions on these fortresses, which have been proved
to be practically worthless as obstacles in the path of an invader.

The remarkable speed with which the position had been taken, coupled
with the enormous losses inflicted on the defending army, was certain
to have a most damaging effect on the _moral_ of the Austrians. Owing
to racial jealousies and hatreds the Austrians had already displayed
a lack of cohesion and fighting spirit, except perhaps in the German
and Magyar regiments operating with the chief army in Poland. Now the
last shreds of moral force would disappear. The troops had been sullen
and half-hearted; now they were dejected as well. To extricate herself
from a very critical position Austria demanded the utmost spirit and
determination from her troops. In her hour of need there was every
prospect of their failing her.

The magnitude of the defeat, coupled with the rout of the army in
Poland, made it impossible for Austria to make any further offensive
movement in Russia, or defensive movement in Galicia for some
considerable time. Her armies were scattered in confusion and fleeing
at random. To arrest the flight of a routed army, to disentangle the
units and to present a battle front again is the most difficult task
a commander can have. And in the present case the difficulties of the
Austrian generals were increased a hundredfold by the fact that their
men were not only defeated but broken in spirit. Further resistance
east of Przemysl was out of the question. The Russians were undisputed
masters of Eastern Galicia.

The Russians, therefore, gained an immense moral advantage over the
troops facing them. The material gains were on a similar gigantic scale.

Lemberg had been expected by the Austrians to hold out indefinitely.
It contained a year’s supply of provisions and munitions. These
vast quantities of stores fell into the hands of the Russians,
thus lightening very considerably the strain upon the transport
and commissariat departments. Lemberg, moreover, being the capital
of Galicia and the chief Austrian military centre north of the
Carpathians, contained an arsenal, railway works, and numerous other
works useful to the invaders. The huge capture of rolling stock was
perhaps the most valuable of all. When it was seen that it was doubtful
whether the town would be able to hold out long, the Austrians had
collected all the available rolling stock, in order to remove as much
as possible of the stores west to Przemysl and Cracow. The rapid
success of the Russians prevented the carrying out of this plan. The
Austrians made desperate efforts, but the lines became hopelessly
congested, and not a train escaped. Thirty locomotives and immense
numbers of carriages and trucks thus fell into the hands of the
Russians.

Most important of all were the strategic results. Lemberg, being the
chief town in Galicia, and the administrative centre, the town is
naturally the point on which all the means of communication converge.
Eight railways and as many high roads connect the town with every
point of civil and military importance north of the Carpathians. It
is, therefore, an ideal base for the Russian operation in Galicia.
It commands the approaches to Przemysl on the west and to the passes
over the Carpathians leading to Vienna and Buda-Pesth on the south. It
has railway connection with no less than four points on the Russian
frontier, allowing direct communication with the important military
centres of Kiev on the east and Warsaw on the north.

Lemberg may therefore be described as the key to Austria. Its
possession opened the way for the Russian armies westwards to Silesia
and Berlin, southwards to Buda-Pesth and Vienna. It was the most
important town in the whole eastern theatre of war, and its capture was
far more than a stage in an advance, it was an event which must have
the most far-reaching effects on the whole course of the war.

In addition to these direct advantages gained by Russia, the victory
had other results affecting the course of the war. It roused the
entire Slav race, giving increased enthusiasm and determination to
those engaged in the war and strengthening the sympathies of those who
had remained neutral. Bulgaria and Roumania, neither of whom were on
friendly terms with the Serbs as a result of the recent wars in the
Balkans, now veered round at the prospect of the power of the Austrians
being broken. More important was the effect produced on Turkey.
Bound to Germany in many ways, Turkey had been seriously considering
whether she should not throw in her lot with the Kaiser in the hope of
regaining some of the territory of which she had been despoiled after
the Balkan war. German diplomacy had been making strenuous efforts to
induce the Turkish Government to tempt fate once more. And relations
between Russia and Turkey had been rather strained over the _Goeben_
incident. The purchase of Germany’s finest Dreadnought, by Turkey, was
of vital interest to Russia, who could not afford to allow Turkey to
become the chief naval power in the south-east of Europe. In answer to
her representations, Turkey had protested her determination to remain
neutral, but there was considerable cause for doubting the sincerity of
these protestations. The fact that there were numerous German officers
with the Turkish army and superintending the placing of the heavy Krupp
guns in position along the fortification of the Dardanelles did not
tend to allay the suspicions. After Lemberg, however, Turkey realised
that Austria was a broken power, that Germany was in a position of some
jeopardy and that neither was a suitable ally for a nation whose chief
object was to rob its neighbours.

Although, however, the capture of Lemberg was a triumph of the first
magnitude which rendered the downfall of Austria inevitable, it must
not be assumed that Russia’s task was to all intents and purposes
accomplished. It was rashly predicted at the time, as in the case of
every Russian victory, that the end of the war was in sight, that
there was nothing to prevent the steam roller going full speed ahead
to Berlin. Subsequent events have proved how ill-founded were these
prophecies, most of which were based more on hope than on fact. Lemberg
fell during the first week of September, and Russia is still a very
long way from Berlin.

One triumph does not smash a nation, not even a ramshackle one such
as Austria. After Lemberg she was in a desperate position, faced with
almost certain defeat, but she still had considerable fighting power.
France struggled for over a year after Sedan. And Lemberg was not such
an overwhelmingly decisive event as Sedan. The latter resulted in the
surrender in an Emperor, his finest generals, and his chief army.
Lemberg, after all, only routed the chief Austrian army. In spite of
terrific losses, and in spite of the demoralisation of her troops,
Austria still had over two million men in the field and a large number
of reserves, as yet untouched. Obviously she was still a power that
could not be neglected.

Large numbers of Austrians were still in south-west Poland. The
fortresses of Cracow and Przemysl were untaken, and were defended
by practically the whole remaining military force of the country.
And reinforcements were being hurried up to help stay the Russian
advance. The operations against Serbia and Montenegro had been finally
abandoned, further reserves were being called to the colours, and the
armies thus raised were being hurried northward. German aid was also
forthcoming. The success of the operations in Prussia had set free
some of the army corps for the purpose for which they were originally
intended.

Germany was also forced to realise that the Russian advance was a
serious menace, and it was now that she transferred troops from the
west to the east. This eased the task of the Allies, but, of course,
made that of the Russians all the more difficult. The German advance
into Western Poland, which has now continued for nearly two months,
is as determined as that into France. Unless, therefore, the Russians
can win a stupendous victory, this second phase of the war will be
prolonged. There can, however, be no doubt as to the final result.
Russia is inexhaustible.

To sum up, then, the capture of Lemberg was one of the most significant
events of the whole war. The tide of victory had now definitely
turned in favour of Russia, nothing short of a miracle could stem it.
But Russia was still faced with a task of considerable magnitude, and
much time and patient work was necessary before it could be finally
accomplished.



CHAPTER VIII

CONCLUSION


To the unthinking, Russia has proved somewhat disappointing. Such great
things were expected of her by those who knew nothing of the conditions
in the eastern theatre of war. At the end of over a month of fighting
she had not advanced a mile along the direct road to Berlin. Her army
in the north, after an advance which was acclaimed as of tremendous
importance, was defeated, driven back and practically forgotten. The
south-west of Poland was still overrun by the enemy, and the only real
advance that had been made was to penetrate about a hundred miles into
Galicia.

Certainly it does not appear at first glance to be a very considerable
achievement. It is only when matters are thoroughly investigated that
the truth is grasped. Russia has achieved more than any other Power
engaged in the war, and far more than could rightly have been expected
of her. In the west the Germans advanced to the very gates of Paris,
but they won no decisive victory; the allied armies remained intact and
unbroken. The Allies then assumed the offensive, and the Germans were
pushed back. But again no decisive battle has been fought, at least
during the period under review. The German armies are, at the moment
of writing, still intact and to all appearances capable of assuming a
renewed offensive with vigour. It is only in the eastern theatre of war
that victories have been won. Tarnopol, Tomasov, and Lemberg were not
merely favourable engagements which resulted in the enemy being forced
to retreat a few miles. They were victories which routed as well as
defeated the enemy.

It must be remembered, too, that these operations in Galicia and Poland
are being fought on the same vast scale as those in the west. They
extend along a front of no less than 200 miles. In point of numbers
engaged, the Galician and Polish operations are again very similar to
those in France. In fact, the conditions in the east and west are more
or less equal, and therefore Russia’s victories were the only really
decisive engagements won by any of the armies.

Official opinion in Russia would have been quite satisfied if, by the
beginning of September, the mobilisation was completed, and Warsaw,
Vilna and Kiev still in Russian hands. It was certainly expected that
at the end of a month’s warfare Russia would be engaged in fiercely
defending her own territories and in making desperate efforts to drive
the invaders back over the frontier. In short, she was fully expected
to be faced with a month or more of sheer defensive fighting before she
could hope to advance. The magnitude of her task in this direction
will be obvious when it is remembered that, in addition to the
inevitable slowness of mobilisation which renders her a comparatively
easy prey for invaders, she has a frontier of well over 1,000 miles to
defend against Germany and Austria.

Of course, much was made of the fact that Russia could mobilise no
less than eight million men. It was assumed that an immense army of at
least two million men would march on Berlin. By sheer force of numbers
Russia was going to bring both Austria and Germany to their knees. In
the first place there is a limit to human organising power, and it is
doubtful whether any general can successfully direct the operations
of such vast quantities of men. Napoleon himself never fought with a
million men, and no modern general has yet proved that he possesses
the military genius of the Corsican. Numbers are all very well up to
a certain point, but in excess they are only a hindrance and a menace.
The larger the army the slower it moves. It is the very unwieldiness of
the armies in the west that has caused their lack of success. They have
such enormous fighting power that there is no particular reason why
either should suffer defeat.

Superfluous men do not add to an army’s efficiency. They only
hamper its mobility and throw an extra strain on the commissariat
and transport. The ideal army is the one which is large enough to
accomplish its object thoroughly and no more. Employing two men to do
the work of one is merely a wasteful proceeding.

Russia has no intention of putting all her eight million men in the
firing line. Her object is to place adequate armies in the field and to
maintain those armies at their full strength of first-class fighting
men. She has no particular ambition to make herself bankrupt.

In view of the difficulties with which she had to contend and the
gigantic nature of her task, Russia may be said to have accomplished a
brilliant feat in rendering the ultimate defeat of Austria inevitable
and in opening up the most advantageous road to Berlin. The remarkable
success of her mobilisation has been followed by equally brilliant
achievements in the field. Soukhomlinov’s work has not been in vain.
Russia has indeed fulfilled her part and made the issue of the war as
sure as it is humanly possible to make it. Much remains to be done, but
the tasks of smashing Austria and reducing Germany to her knees will
now be taken up with every confidence.

The events in Russia have been as significant as those in the
battlefields. Not only has this war proved that Russia as a military
power has come into its own at last, but it marks the beginning of a
new era in Russian history. The world is witnessing the rebirth of
Russia. The nation is united as it has never previously been. The old
autocratic institutions are passing away, the Duma is gaining strength,
the coming rehabilitation of Poland is a master-stroke of liberalism. A
new Russia is emerging. Democracy is coming into its own at last in the
empire of the Tzar.


    _Printed in Great Britain by Wyman & Sons Ltd., London and Reading_



Transcriber’s Notes


Text on cover added by Transcriber and placed in the Public Domain.

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

The illustration following the Table of Contents is a detailed map of
Central Europe. If your book reader cannot display it, you can find it

Page 17: “Moreover, sufficient of the earlier stages” was printed that
way.

Page 33: “remarkable effects of the war on the nation was” was printed
that way.

Page 50: “mobilisation bases were signalled out” was printed that way.





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