TimelineMapsSearch QuotationsSearch Images

Follow us through the World War I centennial and beyond at Follow wwitoday on Twitter

The Galician Battles of 1914

The white Russian bear, dyed red with Austro-Hungarian blood, triumphs over the Habsburg Eagle. Russian was victorious in %+%Location%m%85%n%Galicia%-% in 1914 and early 1915. A postcard by Bianchi.
l'orso bianco
the white bear
Proprieta artistica riservata - N. 88
Artistic ownership reserved - No. 88

The white Russian bear, dyed red with Austro-Hungarian blood, triumphs over the Habsburg Eagle. Russian was victorious in Galicia in 1914 and early 1915. A postcard by Bianchi.

Image text

l'orso bianco

the white bear


Proprieta artistica riservata - N. 88

Artistic ownership reserved - No. 88

Other views: Larger, Back

August 23 to September 26, 1914

Eastern Front

Russia and Austria-Hungary at War

Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf's primary war plans assumed he would fight on two fronts, against both Russia and Serbia. Three of Austria-Hungary's six armies were stationed in Galicia facing Russia. Two armies faced Serbia to the south. The Second Army could be deployed to either front, depending on the plan Conrad executed.

The Austro-Hungarian First, Third, and Fourth Armies faced Polish Russia to the north and Russia to the east with the fortress cities of Lemberg and Przemyśl behind them. Further back were the Carpathian Mountains separating Galicia from the Hungarian plain. The Fifth and Sixth Armies were stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina facing Serbia's northwestern border.

The Second Army could be positioned for action against Serbia (Conrad's Plan B), crossing the Danube River to seize Serbia's capital of Belgrade, or Russia (Plan R), moving to the right wing of the First, Fourth, and Third Armies in Galicia.

On July 25, Conrad put Plan B into effect, deploying the Second Army to Serbia in preparation for war. Three days later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia even though its forces could not be mobilized until August 12, and despite diplomatic and other evidence that Russia would respond to the declaration by mobilizing. He also planned a joint German-Austro-Hungarian attack on Polish Russia, but had not coordinated the plan with his ally. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary assumed the cooperation of the other, but had not secured it in advance. Germany mobilized on July 31, and declared war on Russia on August 1.

Executing the Schlieffen Plan with seven of its eight armies on the Western Front, Germany had only one army in the East Prussian Salient facing the Russian First and Second Armies, and asked Austria-Hungary to strike the Russians in the Polish salient as quickly as possible. Responding to Russia's mobilization and Germany's request for support, Conrad switched from Plan B to Plan R for an offensive against Russia.

Operating under Plan B, the Austro-Hungarian Second Army was already on its way to Serbia, and had to reach its destination before it could reverse direction to the Russian front. Conrad expected to have five times as many trains to move his troops about as he had available. His troops required forced marches of almost 20 miles a day from August 19 to 26 to reach Lemberg and the Russian border.

Four Russian armies were operating under Russian Plan A for an offensive against Austria-Hungary. The Fourth and Fifth Armies were in Polish Russia facing south. The Third and Eighth faced Austria-Hungary to the west.

On August 5, Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia, but it was not until August 20 that Conrad's First, Fourth, and Third Armies began advancing from Galicia. As they moved into Russia, their lines fanned out, thinned, and gaps opened between the armies.

On August 23, the Austro-Hungarian First Army under Dankl struck the simultaneously advancing Russian Fourth Army under Salza across the border. The Battle of Krasnik lasted three days. The Russians, outnumbered three to two, were driven back, and the defeated Salza was replaced by General Ewarth.

To the right of Dankl's First Army,the Austro-Hungarian Fourth army under Auffenberg crossed the border into Russia from Przemyśl. Moving to the northeast, Dankl encountered the Russian Fifth Army (Plehve) on August 26 in the Battle of Komarov. In four days of battle, the Austro-Hungarians threatened to outflank Plehve, who withdrew on August 31.

Victorious, both Dankl and Auffenberg continued advancing, their paths diverging, the gap between their armies increasing.

Commanding the Southwest Russian Army Group of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Armies, General Ivanov had expected and prepared for an Austro-Hungarian attack from Lemberg to the east. When the Austro-Hungarian Third Army under Brudermann advanced from Lemberg, he was prepared.

On August 26, the same day Auffenberg began his successful battle against the Russians at Komarov, Brudermann and the Russians clashed in the Battle of Gnila Lipa.

The Russian Third Army under Ruzski and the Eighth Army under General Brusilov crossed the border against the Austro-Hungarian forces, outnumbering Brudermann's forces by three to one. Part of the Austro-Hungarian Second Army under Böhm Ermolli had completed its arduous journey from Serbia and reinforced the Austro-Hungarian right wing. General Hermann Kövess held the center. The Austro-Hungarians were driven back. The Russians took Lemberg on September 2.

Although the Austro-Hungarians had defeated the Fourth and Fifth Russian Armies, they had not destroyed them. The two armies regrouped and were reinforced by the Russian Ninth Army coming from the north to the right wing of the Russian Fourth Army.

After having defeated the Russian Fifth Army in the Battle of Komarov, Auffenberg moved his Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army to the south and turned to the east to face the Russian Third Army. On September 3, the opponents collided, beginning the Battle of Rava Ruska.

In turning, Auffenberg had opened a wide gap between his left wing and the Austro-Hungarian First Army. To Auffenberg's north, the Russian Ninth Army, by now joined with the Fourth Army, was driving the Austro-Hungarian First Army back by September 9. To the east, Plehve's Fifth Army had recovered sufficiently from the Battle of Komarov to take advantage of the gap between the Austro-Hungarian armies and fell on Auffenberg's rear. Conrad finally recognized the danger his forces were in, and ordered a general retreat on September 11. The retreat turned into a rout that lasted till September 26 as the Austro-Hungarian armies fell back 100 miles.

The Russians continued advancing. They repeatedly transmitted unencrypted messages, which saved some of the Austrian army.

In two months of war, and one of battle, Conrad had lost Galicia, northeastern Austria-Hungary from the Carpathian mountains to the border. He had lost the fortress of Lemberg, and the Russians were besieging the great fortress of Przemyśl. Austria-Hungary had suffered 350,000 casualties, including a significant number of officers, the German-speaking core of the Austrian Army. He had lost great stores of supplies, including much of Austria-Hungary's rolling stock.

In defeat, Conrad had also exposed Silesia in southeastern Germany, indeed all of Germany west of Polish Russia. In response, Hindenburg and Ludendorff created the German Ninth Army from four army corps that traveled by rail from East Prussia to southwestern Polish Russia, northeast of Myslowitz where the three empires came together.



Events contemporaneous with The Galician Battles of 1914

Start Date End Date View
1914-08-02 1914-11-11 Turkey Enters the War
1914-08-04 1914-11-24 Germany Conquers Belgium
1914-08-07 1914-08-23 Battle of the Frontiers
1914-08-11 1914-12-09 Austria-Hungary Invasion of Serbia, 1914
1914-08-20 1914-08-20 Battle of Gumbinnen
1914-08-23 1914-09-05 Allied Retreat of 1914
1914-08-23 1914-08-25 Battle of Krasnik
1914-08-26 1914-08-31 Battle of Komarov
1914-08-26 1914-08-30 Battle of Gnila Lipa
1914-08-27 1914-08-30 Battle of Tannenberg