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Going Over The Top: The Death of Empire (Part 1 - Bozhe moi)

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
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Interesting read.

One alternative that I think does bear discussion- what happens in the event of Austria-Hungary getting knocked out of the war?
The Brusilov Offensive was one of the few great Russian successes in the war, and had the potential to go even better (and, obviously, much worse.) It probably didn't have the capacity to break the Hapsburg armies, but it might have been the necessary push to get the pro-peace faction in the Hofburg to bite the bullet and sign what ever peace was necessary. One of the major obstacles in our timeline was the A-H refusal to make concessions to Italy, and the UK and France in turn weren't prepared to risk a disgruntled Italian government switching sides. Does Russia having strategic momentum in the Balkans change anyone's calculus? Especially if it's followed by a more successful Romanian entry into the war?
 

David Flin

Voila, a viola.
My reading of the Brusilov Offensive was that it (although not the offensives alongside it) was a success, but at heavy cost (some 500,000 casualties). It was reaching the end of what could be conveniently supplied; always, always, always in WWI, there is the problem to supplying any success, because the supply lines into the gained territory don't exist, and the front troops run out of the necessary stuff.

Unless the supporting offensives to either side keep up, what develops is a salient, and the deeper it goes, the more vulnerable it gets.

That said (as we shall later see), the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not in a strong position, and could have been pushed into an untenable position. That could evolve in any number of ways. However, to judge by A-H decision making in the build up to the war, one can be reasonably confident that whatever diplomatic decision the A-H leadership came up with, it would be about as bad as it could possibly be, and would create division among its friends and antagonise its enemies.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
My reading of the Brusilov Offensive was that it (although not the offensives alongside it) was a success, but at heavy cost (some 500,000 casualties). It was reaching the end of what could be conveniently supplied; always, always, always in WWI, there is the problem to supplying any success, because the supply lines into the gained territory don't exist, and the front troops run out of the necessary stuff.

Unless the supporting offensives to either side keep up, what develops is a salient, and the deeper it goes, the more vulnerable it gets.

That said (as we shall later see), the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not in a strong position, and could have been pushed into an untenable position. That could evolve in any number of ways. However, to judge by A-H decision making in the build up to the war, one can be reasonably confident that whatever diplomatic decision the A-H leadership came up with, it would be about as bad as it could possibly be, and would create division among its friends and antagonise its enemies.
Second worst major Ally (out of three) that Germany had in a World War.
 

Redolegna

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Naturally, the Tsar ignored these warnings. The competition for the most out-of-touch and dangerously incompetent Emperor was fierce during WWI, but Tsar Nicholas II was a strong contender.
Qu’en termes galants ces choses-là sont mises!



For 1915 being easier on the Russians, I think you left out one possibility: the French attacks, OTL mostly but not exclusively in Artois and Champagne, achieving more success and forcing the Germans to draw in reserve troops which would have otherwise gone on the Eastern Front. I can very well imagine why you did not include it: they were first-rate bungles, with the whole command suffering under its delusions that somehow 1914 had not erased. Joffre in particular had this word: "Je les grignote", meaning he was winning a war of attrition with the Germans by constantly attacking them and forcing them on the defensive. Truer words... have been frequently uttered. While there was a general problem of realistic expectations at the top of the French High Command, combined with the political necessity of offensive to conquer back lost territories and the economic need for getting renewed access to the main iron and charcoal deposits of France, there were some officers not afflicted as much by it. On the other place, a French poster, jeandebueil, has explored some different ramifications with Victor-Constant Michel continuing to chair the Supreme War Council several years before the outbreak of war, a man with a decidedly more defensive outlook and allowing for different tactics than offensive à outrance.
 

Roger II

Well-known member
A somewhat counterintuitive question/possiblity-would the situation going worse earlier on the Eastern Front force the position of Nicholas II and make his ineptitude so glaringly obvious early enough that he can be marginalized or pushed out by more capable figures in government before revolution breaks out? Or is that silly?
 

David Flin

Voila, a viola.
For 1915 being easier on the Russians, I think you left out one possibility: the French attacks, OTL mostly but not exclusively in Artois and Champagne, achieving more success and forcing the Germans to draw in reserve troops which would have otherwise gone on the Eastern Front. I can very well imagine why you did not include it: they were first-rate bungles, with the whole command suffering under its delusions that somehow 1914 had not erased.
I must admit, I overlooked the 1915 French attacks as a mechanism for drawing German troops from the East. My rough reasoning was that for the Germans to have needed to draw more troops away from the East, then the French attacks had to be more significant than they were, meaning a heavier series of attacks, which would have had ramifications for French casualty lists. The French going more on the defensive (aside from the political and economic implications of not pushing the Germans from the conquered territory) would have led to less, not more pressure on the Germans in the West.

That said, one could sketch out something:

More defensive posture by France (and Britain, although Britain was a secondary factor on the Western Front in 1915).
This leads to more German troops being available for use.
This leads to greater German objectives in 1915, and encourages them to try for too much in the East.
Russian troops pull back to shorter defensive lines with shorter lines of supply.
German troops try attacking ahead of their own lines of supply.
German troops suffer major defeat.

Russia is still going to lose a lot of troops and territory, but now it is the German troops trying to hold over-extended lines with dubious lines of supply in place.
 

David Flin

Voila, a viola.
A somewhat counterintuitive question/possiblity-would the situation going worse earlier on the Eastern Front force the position of Nicholas II and make his ineptitude so glaringly obvious early enough that he can be marginalized or pushed out by more capable figures in government before revolution breaks out? Or is that silly?
Not silly at all.

Of course, if this happens after he's taken personal command of the Russian forces, then there are consequences. He's been demonstrated to be incompetent; whoever has taken over has demonstrated themselves to be better suited, and will have the loyalty of the Army. We can see where this will go ...
 

Roger II

Well-known member
Hm-another Bloody Sunday, some more industrialization under the direction of the Tsar's government for whatever that actually is, continued assumption that the Revolution will happen in Germany or the UK, possibly butterfly effects on the SPD-Spartacist split depending on how the war goes for Germany(does the SPD come out looking better for sounding patriotic? does this delay the German Revolution and possibly incentivize a reunion of the SPD), maybe something with the left in the UK and France. Lenin may stay in Switzerland or wind up in Russia later and under other circumstances, and possibly the balance of power within the left has changed-either the Mensheviks are discredited, or the second crackdown makes it easier to paper over cracks between different factions.The question to me becomes if this happens if and when it becomes clear that Nicholas II was a symptom and not a cause.
 
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