Lake Naroch Offensive

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Lake Naroch Offensive
Part of the Eastern Front during World War I
Date March 18 – April 1916
Location Lake Narach, present-day Belarus
Result German victory
Russian Empire Russian Empire German Empire German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Alexei Kuropatkin
Alexei Evert
Hermann von Eichhorn
Second Army
480,000 men[1]
1,000 guns
Tenth Army
in first line
57 battalions, less than 50,000 men
400 guns[2]
Casualties and losses
122,000[3] Russian estimate 150,000[4] 20,000[3]

The Lake Naroch Offensive was a battle mainly fought in March 1916, finally petering out on April 14. Despite tenfold Russian numerical superiority, the battle ended the German victory with heavy losses of the Russian army.


Under the terms of the Chantilly Agreement of December 1915 Russia, France, Britain and Italy were committed to simultaneous attacks against the Central Powers in the summer of 1916. Russia felt the need to lend troops to fight in France and Salonika (against her own wishes), and to attack on the Eastern Front, in the hope of obtaining munitions from Britain and France.[5]

The Lake Naroch Offensive was launched at the request of the French General Joffre, in the hope that the Germans would transfer more units to the East after their attack on Verdun.[6] Nicholas II acceded to the French request, choosing the Lake Narach area in the Vilno area in Belarus because there 480,000 Russians faced just 50,000 Germans (X Army under General Eichhorn).

Comparison of strength[edit]

The Russian Second Army initially had eight army сorps[7] (during the offensive it received two new corps: 15th and 35th) and several cavalry divisions, against four German Infantry divisions (42nd, 115th, 31st, 75th) and two Landwehr Infantry Brigades (9th and 10th) in the first line. The Germans also had several divisions (80th, 86th, 119th Infantry divisions) in their second line.[8]


The Russian initial artillery bombardment was quite long (it lasted two days), but inaccurate, leaving most of the German artillery intact, and the Russian troops, who made the mistake of crossing no man's land in groups rather than scattered about, were easy targets for German machine guns. The attackers gained a few kilometers, but did not inflict any serious damage to the German defenses — which were well organized and fortified — although the Russians greatly outnumbered their adversaries.

The Russian offensive petered out in April 1916. All gained territory by the Russians was lost to subsequent German counterattacks. A secondary attack mounted near Riga on March 21 had no better luck.


The whole operation was an utter failure, as it abated the Russians' morale without providing any help to the French. The battle has become a shining example of the use of a widely known Russian method of war - "human wave." Huge masses of people continuously into the battle over and over again in the same place the enemy front. The Offensive was terminated only because of the complete destruction of the attackers.[9]


  • John Keegan: Der erste Weltkrieg. Eine europäische Tragödie. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-499-61194-5
  • Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914–1917. Penguin Books Ltd., London 1998, ISBN 0-14-026725-5
  • Christian Zentner: Der erste Weltkrieg. Daten, Fakten, Kommentare. Moewig, Rastatt 2000, ISBN 3-8118-1652-7


  1. ^ Оськин М. В., Брусиловский прорыв, 2010, p. 17
  2. ^ Подорожный Н.Е., Нарочанская операция 1916,(1938), p. 42
  3. ^ a b Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History, 2005, p. 381
  4. ^ Оськин М. В., 2010, p. 7
  5. ^ Stone, 1998, p221, 252
  6. ^ Keegan 2001, p325
  7. ^ three Siberian corps: 1st, 3rd, 4th; five army corps: 5th, 34th, 27th, 36th, 1st
  8. ^ Подорожный Н.Е.,1938, map 5
  9. ^ Подорожный Н.Е.,1938, p. 5-138

External links[edit]