General Alexei Brusilov
19 August 1853 - 17 March 1926)



General Alexei Alexeyevitch Brusilov

Here is a biography about the Russian General Alexei Brusilov who played a major role in the fighting on the Eastern Front during the Great War.


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Early Life and Career

General Alexei Alexeyevitch Brusilov was born in Transcaucasia on 19 August 1853.  He served with the Royal Corps of Pages before beginning his military career by joining the cavalry.  During his time in the cavalry he moved slowly through the ranks.  This would change during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78.  

During that conflict his bold tactics attracted the attentions of his senior officers who felt that the young 24 year old had promise.  Despite this favorable recognition from his superiors Brusilov did not get selected for a staff posting or even get to go to more advanced military schools like his counterparts.  This minor misfortune turned out to save his career, as he missed being deployed during the disastrous Russo-Japanese war that ruined the reputations of many other Russian officers.  Instead he spent time as the Commandant of the Cavalry School.

In 1906 he finally achieved his first Divisional command as commander of the 2nd Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard.  He was then 53 years old and it seemed that his career would end there as lacked the staff background that other officers had.  Still, he managed to move through the ranks.  By 1909 he had been promoted to command the XIV Army Corps stationed in the Warsaw region, and in 1912 he became Assistant Commander of the Warsaw Military District and took over command of the XII Army Corps.

Involvement in The Great War

General Brusilov was vacationing in Germany in July 1914.  As tensions between Russia and Germany increased he cut short his holiday and returned to Warsaw two days before war was declared.  He was soon promoted to command the Eighth Army on the border of Galicia (Austrian Poland).  This army was dominated by cavalry and infantry, but was short on artillery and machine guns. In fact he later commented the the Russian army had too much cavalry.

General Brusilov participated in many major actions against the Austrians.  On 3 September his army captured Lemberg (Lvov).  Later that month he forced the Austrians to retreat during the Battle of Grodek.  In October of that year he participated in the seige of Przemysl.

Major Combat Actions

Capture of Lemberg
Battle of Grodek
Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Linanowa-Lapanow
Hungarian Campaign
Brusilov Offensive

3 September 1914
10-12 September 1914
Oct-Nov 1914
December 1914
Spring 1915
 Summer 1916

His forces then penetrated into the Carpathians almost to the Hungarian plain, but suffered a setback at the battle of Linanowa-Lapanow in December of 1914.  He continued to lead the successful offensive into Hungary into early 1915, but shortages of supplies and German victories elsewhere forced him to withdraw.  The retreat was an orderly one that began in Summer of 1915.  It was also different from many other Russian retreats in that his troops resisted the enemy the entire time, and didn't simply break and run.

In 1916 Brusliov was appointed to command the entire South-West front, replacing General Ivanov.  It was in this sector that he would lead the offensive that would bear his name - The Brusilov Offensive.  It was a massive attack that ran contrary to the thinking at the time.  Every corps in each of four armies mounted a concentrated attack along a wide front.  The attack was resoundingly successful, but the inability of the Russian army to supply itself soon stopped it by October.  It was the incompetence and criminal negligence of Tsarist military officials who ignored the sufferings of his troops that would lead him to throw in his lot with the communists when the revolution came.

During the final days of the Great War the general found that his men were deserting his army in droves.  He first took a hard line against deserters, revolutionaries, and troops who fraternized with the enemy by issuing a decree in Spring of 1916 that stated, "I declare once and all that converse with the enemy is permitted only by gun and bayonet, and warn that any violation of this, my categorical demand, will draw on itself the most resolute expulsion of the evil, up to and including the handing over of officers to trial for derogation of duty, and removal of senior officers from the post which they occupy."  This hard line approach became increasingly difficult as pressure to stop the war grew at home and revolutionaries infiltrated the ranks.  

Conditions continued to deteriorate and revolution soon followed.  Even so, Brusilov chose to continued serving with the Russian military during the Kerensky government period and was promoted to become the commander in chief of the army.

After attaining this post he prepared to launch another offensive against the German army  directed against Lvov.  It was initially successful as Austro-Hungarian forces were crushed by the assault.  Despite his gains pressure on the home front brought about by Bolshevik propaganda aimed at undermining the war effort was succeeding.  Kerensky ordered him to abandon the offensive.  Shortly afterwards he was then replaced as Commander-in-chief of the army by General Kornilov.

Brusilov and the Revolution

Brusilov grew increasingly dissatisfied with the way the government was running the war and treating the men. When the Bolsheviks put out the call for former Tsarist officers, he agreed. He did this not because he loved the Red cause, but rather because he despised the autocracy, and the way the war was being fought.

The Bolsheviks ignored his anti-revolutionary record partly because he attracted a large number of officers to the ranks of the Red Army.  Brusilov was assigned to be the chief adviser to Kamenev in 1919.  The next year he rose to be the Chairman of the Special Committee commanding all Russian armed forces.  His leadership proved to be decisive on many occasions during the Civil War and War with Poland.  When the Civil War ended Brusilov, now 69 years old, retired from his post.  He was still retained as an Inspector of the Cavalry of the Red Army - a largely ceremonial post of high prestige.

Brusilov fully retired from the army at age 74.  He died on 17 March 1926 and was buried in the Novo-Devichi monastery in Moscow.