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The USA will always be a Great Power after the Civil War, barring a geological POD, say a Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption or a meteor impact. Or ASB, for that matter...the USA's industry, population, and wealth of natural resources practically make it guaranteed. Even if they stay strictly isolationist, the entirety of the western hemisphere will remain the USA's de facto sphere of interest (arguably de jure, even, what with the Monroe Doctrine and all that), while still having ample power projection across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
 
The USA will always be a Great Power after the Civil War, barring a geological POD, say a Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption or a meteor impact. Or ASB, for that matter...the USA's industry, population, and wealth of natural resources practically make it guaranteed. Even if they stay strictly isolationist, the entirety of the western hemisphere will remain the USA's de facto sphere of interest (arguably de jure, even, what with the Monroe Doctrine and all that), while still having ample power projection across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

There is a reasonable argument to be made that a nation just consisting of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio and being at least as willing to keep its engineering/industrial knowledge no more than 5 years behind Europe would be able to punch above a United Italy and would have a decent chance of keeping up with France. Add New England and a few other states and they can keep up with any single power in Europe that hasn't taken over the entire continent. Of course such an American power would be handicapped with other hostile powers within OTL USA, but still would be a great power.
 
There is a reasonable argument to be made that a nation just consisting of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio and being at least as willing to keep its engineering/industrial knowledge no more than 5 years behind Europe would be able to punch above a United Italy and would have a decent chance of keeping up with France. Add New England and a few other states and they can keep up with any single power in Europe that hasn't taken over the entire continent. Of course such an American power would be handicapped with other hostile powers within OTL USA, but still would be a great power.
Meh, the united Northwest/New England could just launch an enormous revanchist war like it did in What Madness is This?.
 
Chapter 51: The Brusilov Offensive
Chapter Fifty-One: The Brusilov Offensive
"God damn it, how hard can this be? Two-thirds of the Motherland against the Central Volga! We will win in weeks!"
-General Andrey Andreevich Razivoich exhorting his men to repulse the Republican offensive and advance on Moscow

"We will turn these suburbs to ashes before we surrender them! Every patch of ground you capture is one where the machinations of the Okhrana cannot reach!"
-Alexei Brusilov

"Good Lord. We liberated the life out of this town! Imagine what we could do with proper supplies."
-Republican troops commenting on the destruction after finally entering Tver.

History, the old saying goes, is ninety percent geography and ten percent common sense. If that's so, the Russian Civil War began quite logically. The Republicans controlled much of the heartland. Moscow and the other Central Volga cities were the closest Russia had to an industrial belt, making them susceptible to Lenin's rhetoric. Once these cities linked up, they controlled the country's heartland and were too big to crush.

The ground separating the Central Volga from Petrograd quickly became a focus point. As it stood at the beginning of June, the Tsarists controlled a corridor over 250 miles wide from Archangel to the western border. Former Eastern Front supremo Alexei Brusilov, commander of the Central Volga People’s Army, envisioned a sweep northwest to link up with Kerensky in Petrograd, allured by the prospect of connecting the capital to the heartland. Besides, conquering Pskov and Veliky Novgorod would cut the Tsarists in Archangel off from the western frontier, depriving them of possible German support. An offensive northwest would enjoy one of the best highways in Russia, spanning from Petrograd to Moscow, making it logistically feasible.

Nor were the Tsarists blind to the possibilities the region offered. From his safe headquarters in Archangel, Alexander conferred with Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, who’d initially been supreme commander of the Russian army before being transferred to the Caucasus theatre. The Grand Duke had conducted this latter command well and had been standing on enemy soil when the fighting ended. He blamed the September Revolution for destroying his dreams of marching on Constantinople, and was a cousin of the murdered empress. In addition to his title, this Grand Duke shared her widower’s loathing of revolutionaries. This war was personal for him too. Grand Duke Nicholas had roughly seventy-five thousand men at his disposal, who had to safeguard Karelia, prevent further unrest in Tsarist-controlled cities, and police the rail lines in addition to fighting. At a meeting with Grand Duke Alexander and his firstborn son Prince Andrei on 2 June, Xenia’s widower proposed a siege of Petrograd. Isolating the capital would trap Kerensky and Lenin inside, which would prevent them from raising support elsewhere and limit the spread of their propaganda. Even if they escaped, the symbolism of the Republic cut off from its capital would be powerful.

Before they could attack, though, the Republicans beat them to it.

Having the most to lose forced the Republicans to act first. General Brusilov knew that if he waited too long, despite Kornilov’s success to the north, the Tsarists would be able to besiege Petrograd. He didn’t feel ready- the Central Volga People’s Army lacked the artillery and logistics he’d enjoyed during the Great War- but time was with the enemy. Since geography and a lack of operational telephone and telegraph lines divided him from Kerensky, Brusilov was left to be his own master in planning, and decided that the nearly half-million men at his disposal enabled him to attack on a 250-kilometre front. Being a student of military history and a Great War veteran had taught Brusilov to structure his offensive with logistics in mind. The road and rail complexes of Tver and Rzhev would both be invaluable in keeping his men supplied- no mean feat in a roadless steppe half the size of Western Europe. Brusilov also believed in preparation and was determined not to repeat the mistake of sending thousands to die in Galician hills. Militias formed during the General Strike underwent brief basic training outside Moscow prior to the offensive. They cursed their commander for it but it was essential. Being good enough to clash with police in the city streets, Great War veterans impressed on their charges, meant nothing against Tsarist troops. Stockpiling equipment for the coming offensive meant that recruits had to fire blanks during target practice and drill with wooden boards, but it was better than nothing. By the start of June, Brusilov could rest assured that his new recruits were at least half-trained. Reviewing one newly formed rifle brigade shortly before the fighting, Brusilov quipped that “at least we know the Tsarists will have had no more training. What would have been a sick joke against the Germans may suffice against our own countrymen. What that says about the successors of Kutuzov and Bagration I do not know!”

He was about to find out how he measured up.

Republican troops prepare to advance the day before the Brusilov Offensive
russian civil war.jpeg


The Brusilov Offensive commenced on 4 June 1919 with a terrific artillery barrage. Unlike the wild and prolonged barrages of the Great War, the Republican commander took his cues from the German stormtroopers in Danubia. Brusilov’s bombardment lasted for only a few hours but targeted the Tsarists with surgical precision. Despite being the preliminary target, Tsarist artillery managed to return fire, and an orange glow appeared in the sky long before sunrise. The Tsarists, though, hadn’t spent the past few days making cavalry and aerial patrols, making their counter-battery fire sporadic. One exchange of orders illustrates this. When a battery of 122-milimetre guns outside the tiny hamlet of Turnigovo came under fire, its commander sent a courier asking for instructions to the rear. When he returned an hour later with, “You must be an idiot- return fire! And why did you not send a coded signal?”, his comrades and guns were nothing more than a smoking crater.

Once Republican troops began advancing, it became clear that some of Brusilov’s fears were unfounded. Machine-guns were powerful but could only reach so far. Barbed wire could only stretch for so long before it ran out. Russia’s industrial capacity being reduced by the Treaty of Konigsberg and divided by civil war left far fewer of these to go round than during the Great War. With Brusilov’s surgical barrage having damaged Tsarist defences, Republican troops found themselves attacking helpless infantry on the steppe. Two powerful columns pushed out, separate enough to achieve different objectives yet close enough for mutual support. The small Republican gunboat fleet sailed up the Volga to provide covering fire for the men as they crossed. After a week’s fighting, the bridges in the theatre were secure. Bullets, beans, and battalions streamed over the Volga to exploit the breakthrough made on the first day.

The initial stages of the Brusilov Offensive (as both sides quickly dubbed it) exceeded all expectations. To the northwest, stunned Tsarist troops proved unable to hold the crossings over the Volga, while the Republican gunboats made it dangerous to venture too close to the riverbank. Republican troops captured Koshelevo, halfway to Tver, ten days into the fighting. While their infantry plodded down the main road, cavalry protected the flanks and patrolled supply lines. The Tsarists exploited their mounted soldiers to the full, using their mobility to slip behind enemy lines and slice at their supply columns. Many cavalry clashes ensued on the steppe behind the ‘front lines’, but it wasn’t enough to save the defenders. The Tsarist commander, General Andrey Andreevich Razivoich, elected to fall back. If Brusilov’s thrust could lose its focus in a siege, that would buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Razivoich ordered women, children, and the elderly to evacuate Tver; boys were conscripted into ditch-digging units, men into militias. Tsarist troops fell back, under orders not to waste time, blood, and ammunition defending the approaches to Tver. Under Razivoich’s orders, they demolished roads and farms as they retreated, leaving the Republicans nothing to exploit.

Geography worked to the Tsarists’ advantage. The Volga River divides Tver into northern and southern halves; the southern is the larger of the two. Six roads- four on the north, two on the south- connect the town to the rest of the empire. He opted to hold the south-bank suburb of Gorokhova, where the eastern road turned south to loop around the town’s perimeter. Prolonging that town’s resistance, even if it fell eventually, would force the Republicans to extend their line and waste valuable resources crushing it. Thus, he condemned a rifle brigade to an unfortunate death. Meanwhile, Raziovich exploited the meandering Volga River, which at its narrowest point is less than 300 yards wide. He placed floating mines at this narrowest point, next to the suburb of Iyenovo, and directed his artillery to shell Republican scouts late on the night of the 22nd. The Konstantin and Sentabyr Revolutsyia were dispatched to eliminate the threat at eight PM. At 8:16, the leading Konstantin erupted in flames. A fireball hurled shards of metal and warm bodies onto both banks and sprayed water all over the Sentabyr Revolutsyia. Survivors tried to climb aboard the surviving gunboat, but moments later it fell prey to bombardment. With the bright sunset obscuring his vision, the captain of the Sentabyr Revolutsyia decided the best option was retreat. Maneuvering a ship through a 300-metre wide bend while under attack was no mean feat, and the captain made a fatal error. Eleven and a half minutes after her comrade’s destruction, the Sentabyr Revolutsyia struck another floating mine; Tsarist troops captured the dozen survivors.

At a cost of two land mines and a few artillery shells, General Raziovich had greatly reduced the enemy’s ability to use the river.

General Brusilov recognised the need to keep moving. If he couldn’t supply and transport his men on the river, they would just have to walk. Rather than attempting to capture Gorokhova, Republican troops looped around it. While one company attacked the town’s hastily prepared defences to tie down the garrison, a second disappeared into the woods to the south. Tsarist scratch forces exploited a local village and lake to hold them up for much of the day, but by the late afternoon Republican cavalry had emerged three miles west of Gorokhova. Once the two companies joined hands, the writing was on the wall. Though the trapped Tsarist colonel vowed to fight “to the last man and the last bullet”, too many of his men defected that night. Early on the morning of 26 June, even as the Republicans were building an ersatz road around the siege perimeter, he raised the white flag.

Andrey Raziovich’s plan hadn’t brought anywhere near the time needed and the fall of Tver seemed increasingly possible.

Republican troops now began, in Brusilov’s own words, “nibbling on the edges.” Rather than becoming bogged down in Tver a la Verdun, Dunkirk, or St. Polten, Brusilov wanted to encircle the city. It had worked in miniature at Gorokhova- why not here? Thus, rather than advancing west on the south bank, the Central Volga People’s Army expanded the scale of its efforts. Gunboats outfitted with minesweeping chains shelled Tsarist troops on the north bank while Republican cavalry penetrated inland on the south. Despite valiant resistance by individual Tsarists, the Republicans had the edge. When Brusilov’s men took Iyenevo on the 29th, they floated effigies of Nicholas II, Tsar Michael, and Tsarina Xenia down the river to catch leftover landmines. Grainy black-and-white footage has preserved this to the present day.

Brusilov later compared the siege of Tver to an amputation. “One could not simply launch in and begin slicing at will”, his grisly metaphor went. “Surgical precision was needed. My command had to cut roads as a surgeon cuts tendons, take care not to strain this or that unit as one would take care not to unduly strain a muscle. And of course, laying the groundwork for a siege is as bloody as any amputation ever performed.”

Brusilov and Raziovich wrestled for two weeks in the suburbs of Tver as the Republican tried to slip the noose around his foe. Sandbags and barbed-wire strands sprawled around their foxhole turned many Tsarist platoons into roadblocks; machine-guns sometimes needed hours to destroy. All the while, trains arrived with supplies and reinforcements and returned west carrying civilians. The limited range of Russian artillery and caution about sending in the gunboats again gave the western bridges over the Volga a valuable stay of execution, but only delayed the inevitable.

Sixty thousand Tsarist troops were bottled up in Tver on 14 July 1919.

Meanwhile, the second thrust of the Brusilov Offensive had developed to the west. Like Tver, Rzhev sat atop one of the major highways out of the capital and was a significant rail yard. Two hundred kilometres of steppe broken only by one of Russia’s better roads separated it from the empire’s second city. This made it a natural jumping-off point for an offensive against Moscow and the Tsarists had been stockpiling forces there since the war began.

Now they would be forced to play defence.

The drive towards Rzhev began at eleven PM on 3 June 1919 with an intense six-hour barrage of the Tsarist positions west of Moscow to punish Novoportovskoye and Dorokhovo for being useful road and rail junctions under the Tsarist banner. 122-mm shells crashed out of the night sky to illuminate the shaking steppe. Civilians awoke to find the earth shaking and their hometowns ablaze. The lucky ones fled into the woods; the less fortunate were buried alive as their homes were tossed about like sticks. Panicked Tsarist troops searched for their commanders and sprinted to their positions. Sometimes they found both; other times there was nothing more than a smoking crater.

Brusilov sent his main units forward at five AM. Twenty understrength rifle divisions and ten cavalry divisions with a leavening of armoured cars attacked along a sixty-five kilometre front. Just as at Tver, the Republican blow winded the enemy, and one of Brusilov’s deputies entered a pacified Novoportovskoye twelve hours after his artillery had made the town tremble. Broken Tsarist units traded miles of steppe and minor villages for the chance to live another day. One Tsarist division, on orders from the commander in Tver, sacrificed itself to impede the enemy advance. Brusilov’s front was divided by a sizable lake traversable only via a two-mile-wide miniature isthmus. This retreating division occupied the landbridge on the eighth and began shelling the Republican flanks. Brusilov was initially unconcerned- what was one bloody division worth?- but the division was tying down thousands of his men, and the shelling reduced the supplies reaching his forces at the centre. He thus transferred front-line strength to reduce the pocket.

Military historians agree that this decision was what kept Rzhev in Tsarist hands.

Brusilov over-reacted to the threat. A single division with a few guns wasn’t going to break out and freely roam around his rear while the shelling wasn’t impeding supply efforts tremendously. Yet the spectre of thousands of enemy soldiers at the centre of his line scared the Republican commander, and he used a hammer needed elsewhere to crush a snail. Many of the armoured cars which had stiffened his advance were diverted to crush the pocket, along with a good helping of cannon-fodder. The attack went in at nine AM on the tenth, and though the Tsarists fought well the end-game was never in doubt. Morale died with the commanding general when his tent was strafed (12), and by dusk the defenders of the isthmus were either dead or captured. Republican troops happily pilfered supplies from their enemies, and Brusilov ordered the units involved to return to the front the next day.

The Tsarist commander in Rzhev, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief. It had cost him a division, but he’d slowed the Republican push on his city. Shakhovskaya to the north and Mozhaisk to the south had held out against infantry-only attacks made throughout the day. Late in the afternoon of the tenth, he dispatched reserves to the two towns, and the eleventh proved a quiet day. Tsarist units which had spent the past few days falling back made the most of their breather. Battalions and companies were reorganised, wounds dressed, and earthworks dug. Men enjoyed the luxury of a hot meal and midday nap without bullets whistling through the walls.

The defenders of the isthmus had died so that the approaches to Rzhev might live.

Shakhovskaya and Mozhaisk started 12 June with the same wake-up call as Novoportovskoye and Dorokhovo. However, they enjoyed advantages the previous towns hadn’t. Many of the Republican attackers had spent the previous day on the march from the isthmus and so weren’t well-rested or supplied. In contrast, many of the defenders were reservists fresh from Rzhev whose bountiful supplies more than made up for their lack of experience. Earthworks dug the previous day came in handy as Tsarist artillery returned fire from a safe position. Despite losing many lives, the defenders of both towns held out. Weary Republican troops fell back at dusk, doing their best to ignore cries of “God Save the Tsar!”

Brusilov wasn’t giving up so easily. If he couldn’t subdue the obstacles to Rzhev, he’d just have to circumvent them. Transferring troops from Tver took three days (which the Tsarists used to further reinforce), but by the night of 15 June he had a further ten divisions on hand. Rather than subduing Shakhovskaya and Mozhaisk, Brusilov decided to bypass them. Cavalry and armoured cars would engage the Tsarists on the steppe and open the road to Rzhev while second-rate infantry would reduce the two towns. To the north, Republican forces thrusted south of Shakhovskaya. For all the work the Tsarists had put into them, the defences were oriented eastward to stop another head-on assault. Cavalry and light infantry chased one another around to little effect; a collision five miles behind the line proved indecisive. Dispatching rapid units behind a fortified position was one thing; building strength behind that position so as to be able to ignore it was another. Both sides had stalemated the other- which, seeing as how Brusilov had to move forward and his foe didn’t, worked against him.

Things were different in the south. Mozhaisk was smaller and less well-defended, and when Brusilov thrust to its south the garrison was caught off-guard. Victory gleamed in the old Georgian’s eyes as he read reports that morning. The defenders of Mozhaisk were shortening their flanks, pulling forces into the town itself in preparation for a siege. His forces wasted no time and blew south. If entering Mozhaisk was asking too much, Brusilov was damned sure the enemy would get nothing out of it except a butcher’s bill. By sunset on 16 June, Republican scouts were miles behind the surrounded village when they came upon a road sign which made them stop in their tracks.

Brusilov had unflatteringly compared himself to Kutuzov and Bagration. Now he had a chance to prove himself their equal on the battlefield of Borodino.

The Brusilov Offensive was beginning to worry the Tsarist government. They saw the same map as Brusilov in Moscow and Kerensky in Petrograd, and were determined not to lose Rzhev and Tver. At dawn on 17 June, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich arrived in Rzhev, accompanied by his bodyguards. The city was militarised and on-edge, with soldiers on every block. Propaganda posters cried ‘God Save the Tsar’ and exhorted readers to ‘report seditious activities against God and the Russian Empire during this heightened crisis.’ Grey clouds hung in the sky and the smell of cordite wafted from the east. Hungry Rzhevers stared at the de facto regent’s crisp uniform and clean-shaven cheeks, and ring of steel. Why, they pondered, did this polished gentleman need all this security if the people loved him? The Grand Duke ignored the proles and made for the commander’s headquarters. “Aah, Your Excellency”, the general said. “We’ve been waiting for you. It is an honour.”

“You may dispense with the pleasantries, General”. The Grand Duke’s voice was a low growl. Anyone or anything which impeded his revenge against the revolutionaries who’d killed his wife was evil. “I am here to put you back on schedule.” In walked a handsome beared officer whose military cap disguised his baldness. “May I present your replacement?”

“Replacement?” The general turned white and glared at the other officer. “And who might you be?” It was as polite a way the Grand Duke had ever heard of telling someone where to go and what to do when he got there. If the polished replacement noticed it, he was too polite to say so.

“God Save the Tsar!” Anton Denikin gave his predecessor a crisp salute and a predatory grin. “Take me to the map room.”

Denikin lost little time getting to grips with Brusilov. Though he was critical of his predecessor’s performance, Denikin acknowledged he’d done some things right. The situation to the north at Shakhovskaya was perfectly stable; reports indicated that Mozhaysk’s garrison could withstand a substantial siege. If he could eliminate the Republican column south of Mozhaysk, he told the Grand Duke, the Brusilov Offensive would be contained. “Lose no time”, Alexander told him, “lest we end up having this discussion outside Smolensk!” Denikin had a fair amount of materiel with which to accomplish this. Three rifle divisions assembled at Rzhev before the Brusilov Offensive to drive on Moscow had been conserved; Denikin decided to commit them. Four hours after Denikin sat down in his new office, these fresh units had left their barracks and were marching to battle. Denikin knew what a risk he was taking. Success might stop the Republicans in their tracks; failure would leave the garrison of Rzhev dead and the city gates open, and would place Grand Duke Alexander in grave personal danger- to say nothing of shooting his career stone dead.

Denikin was a Tsarist patriot though, and took the risk for the sake of all he believed in.

The two combatants at Second Borodino, Anton Denikin and Alexei Brusilov
anton denikin.png

aleksei brusilov.jpeg


Considering the hopes pinned on this counterattack, the rest of 17 June was anticlimactic. Republican troops continued advancing west, their Tsarist foes neither stopping them nor falling over themselves to get away. The encircled defenders of Mozhaisk continued putting lead in the air, as hesitant to break out as their foes were to break in. Unusually for Russian armies (normally quite lax about such matters), Denikin had thought ahead and hadn’t informed his field units about the coming reinforcements or even the change of command. If their radio operators knew what was going on, Brusilov’s did too. Thus, the encounter between advance scouts from the rifle divisions and the embattled Tsarist rearguard didn’t go as smoothly as planned. Both mistook the other for Republicans and clashed for fifteen minutes, during which friendly fire claimed seventeen lives until a captain heard one of his opposite numbers yell, “Down with you Kerenskyites- God Save the Tsar!” Horrified, the captain threw up his hands and yelled “God Save the Tsar!” Turning to his own troops, he yelled “cease fire you fools! They’re loyalists- they’re all loyalists!” That mishap out of the way, both set about profusely apologising and burying their dead before reinforcing their current position. Commanders discussed Denikin’s instructions for the next day’s operations and dispatched a carrier pigeon for Mozhaisk. Had that bird been shot down or simply gotten tired, Denikin’s offensive would’ve failed, casting him into disgrace and possibly altering the entire Russian Civil War.

The fate of nations hung on a plump-breasted spotted pigeon named Ivan the Speckled.

Anton Denikin was too excited to sleep much that night. Despite valiant service in Manchuria, Galicia, and Bessarabia, he’d never felt appreciated by the system. Answering not to an incompetent staff officer but a Grand Duke, and with the fate not just of a campaign but an empire and way of life in the balance (or so it seemed to him, at least) changed everything. After reviewing the plans one last time, Denikin downed a cup of coffee shortly before midnight and began praying a Russian Orthodox Rosary. When he arose from his knees, it was a few minutes past midnight on 18 June 1919.

Three fresh divisions- with associated artillery and supplies- made a considerable difference. Contact with never-before-seen battalions halted a brief Republican effort to continue the previous day’s chase. Companies turned into brigades on the map square, and brigades turned into divisions. These Tsarist units weren’t well-supplied or trained by Western standards, but the Russian Civil War had a lower bar. By ten AM, Brusilov in Moscow was receiving unwelcome telephone calls from the front. By noon, Republican troops had lost a mile in some places; by three PM what was left of the last day’s conquests were written off. Stripping units from Mozhaisk was limited by Brusilov’s fear that the Tsarists would break out of the perimeter; time and distance precluded bringing men in from the stalemate at Shakhovskaya. Though he wasn’t superstitious, the Republican commander had to have worried when he realised where his armies were making a stand for the night.

He was going to end up commanding one-half of the Second Battle of Borodino.

Anton Denikin had a cunning plan. The previous day’s advances had left his forces approximately eight miles from Mozhaisk. To his left (the enemy’s right) lay a wide tributary of the Moskva River. Denikin was determined to use this layout not just to defeat his foe, but to take them off the map. Early in the morning of the eighteenth, taking a page from Brusilov’s book, he dispatched cavalry and armoured cars from his right towards Mozhaisk. The besieged garrison was reaching the end of its rope and couldn’t be expected to do much alone, but nonetheless it followed the orders delivered by Ivan the Speckled and began hammering away at the perimeter. It looked like the garrison was attempting a sortie with help from outside, and the Republicans rushed forces to the presumed breakout point. However, Denikin had something else in mind. His armoured cars and cavalry engaged the Republican reinforcements less than a mile to the west of the town, but began withdrawing after only a few minutes of combat just as the Mozhaisk garrison quietened down. The Republicans assumed they’d defeated the sortie attempt and decided to chase the Tsarist column. Denikin’s subordinate began a slow withdrawal, making sure the enemy never engaged him and stopped his movement yet not disappearing from his sight. As the cavalry and armoured cars reached the old Napoleonic battlefield at ten AM, the three fresh rifle divisions began an assault in the centre of the line. Uchkoza (the name sounds better to Russian ears) had fallen early in the morning- it was en route to the fake sortie- and was occupied by the three rifle divisions. Now, all but a scratch garrison headed for the small town of Borodino proper, where they joined the cavalry and armoured cars. Faced with over ten thousand fresh enemies, the Republicans began a rapid yet orderly retreat. In their eagerness to flee, they hardly noticed they were going west, towards the Tsarist lines, not east towards their own. In any case, they told themselves, they had units on their far right (the Tsarists’ left) which could help. As they approached a south-flowing branch of the Moskva River and heard Republican war-cries across only fifty yards of water, they believed the day was won. A moment later, though, it all came crashing down- literally. The Republican soldiers on the other side of the river collapsed in agony, and Tsarist riflemen stood over the corpses. It didn’t take them long to realise those were enemy troops on the other bank and to open fire. The Tsarist pursuers crashed into the Republican rear, trapping them between a hostile army on one hand and fifty yards of water with enemy riflemen.

It was a trap.

The only difference between the carnage of 1812 and the carnage of 1919 were the uniforms
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Although no precise casualty figures exist, Irish military historian Robert FitzGerald’s The Great War for Civilisation has proposed eleven thousand Republicans killed and three times that number wounded or captured in the encirclement on 18 June 1919, out of a total sixty-five thousand casualties in total for the Rzhev campaign. No one has seriously challenged these statistics since.

The Second Battle of Borodino was a resolute Tsarist victory that ended any hope of the Republicans taking Rzhev. Late that night, the Tsarists entered Mozhaisk to cheers from the beleaguered garrison. Grand Duke Alexander presented Anton Denikin with his “sincere complements” and the Cross of St. George for his “extreme competence and valour.” The general who Denikin had replaced, meanwhile, drowned his embarrassment in a glass or three of vodka. Though the fighting at Tver would end in that city’s encirclement by Republicans, the next two weeks were a triumphal time for Rzhev’s Tsarists. Not until 17 July did Brusilov cobble an adequate force together to halt the foe at the last major road and rail junction west of Moscow. The road to the Republican metropolis seemed tantalisingly open, and with it an end to the war…

Alexei Brusilov worried that the failure of his offensive would cost him his job. He was more than grateful that Kerensky was separated from him by hostile armies and hundreds of miles; had he been on-the-spot in Moscow, Brusilov believed, the Provisional President would’ve sacked him. However, days lengthened into weeks and still no replacement arrived. It gradually sunk into Brusilov that the command was still his, and he began taking stock of what he could do.

The failed Brusilov Offensive had severely weakened his forces. Many of his best men- including much of his cavalry and armoured cars- had been killed or captured at Second Borodino. Rzhev was over a hundred miles away, while the Tsarists trapped in Tver weren’t ready to surrender yet. Tver became a rest area for exhausted units and a training ground for fresh ones; a place to hone one’s combat skills without risking annihilation. Ultimately, hunger and a lack of supplies felled the Tsarists, and the town fell in early October. This one success aside, the Republican situation was grim. His dreams of slicing northwest were dashed, and there was no telling when the enemy would attack. The absence of instructions from Kerensky left Brusilov to his own devices. Wisely, the Republican commander opted to defend and rebuild. August 1919 saw daily skirmishes which altered the front line a few miles one way or the other, but neither side pushed forward. Brusilov didn’t understand why but wasn’t complaining, and he used the time to remake the Central Volga People’s Army.

The failure of the Brusilov Offensive set the tone for the Russian Civil War. Brusilov's comment that "the question is who can reach the bottom slowest" sums up both sides' technological and tactical prowess. United Russia during the Great War had 'mastered' human wave attacks and cavalry charges; men had waited for their comrades to die so they could steal their rifles. Dividing the country didn't help matters. Part of the reason fighting had moved so slowly was that neither side had much hitting power; a well-supplied machine-gun could hold the enemy up for hours because no one had the artillery to take it out. Of course, few machine-gun posts enjoyed such good supplies; more common was for them to fire only sporadically to save bullets. Cavalry, which five years ago had bit the dust in Poland, resurfaced. Much like the French Civil War, the fighting in Russia was of lower intensity than in the Great War, not that that made it any less terrible for the poor souls caught in it...

Strategically, the Brusilov Offensive had been a failure for both sides. Though Second Borodino was a resounding tactical victory for the Tsarists, it decided nothing. Brusilov and his new subordinate had proven they couldn't advance northwest; the Tsarists knew they couldn't conquer the Central Volga. The theatre would heat up again in 1920, but for now, both sides looked elsewhere.

There was no telling who would win the Russian Civil War, but it was pitifully clear who would lose it: the poor, drafted peasant, ordered to lay down his life at Shakhovskaya or Mozhaisk, Rzhev or Tver, for men he barely knew and to whom he meant nothing. That wouldn't change regardless of who won.

Comments?
 
Better late than never, eh?
I realise the above chapter was very dense, very military. Hopefully, the decisions the players took ITTL made sense but if not I'll be happy to elaborate. Next week's update will be released on Sunday, for a start, and will involve the siege of Petrograd. After that will be either Ukraine or diplomacy... which would you like to see first?

Oh, by the way, Andrey Andreevich Razivoich is ficticious.
 
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Wow, I had just finished the tl and was sad about I had to wait for more when this got posted. Now I'll be sad and waiting for more once I get done with this post.
 
Wow, I had just finished the tl and was sad about I had to wait for more when this got posted. Now I'll be sad and waiting for more once I get done with this post.
I consider that a complement, so thank you very much!

If you're interested in doing a writeup, graphic, or something inspired by this-- my offer from the other day remains on the table......
 
"God damn it, how hard can this be? Two-thirds of the Motherland against the Central Volga! We will win in weeks!"
Swear to god, any Russian person who thinks this thought at any point in the timeline should be smacked about the head with a paint can.

All hail Ivan the Speckled, perhaps the most morally uncompromised figure in this timeline! Not going to lie, between this and Denikin's cunning plan, serious Blackadder vibes coming off of this, even if it's the darkest vibes possible. I'm no military expert, but all of this seems plausible enough and reported with enough vigour and touches of colour to carry me along. Roll on Act 2 of this bloody war, I guess.

One small point, you put in footnotes but I can't seem to find any. If that's just a result of the 'text' that this is drawn from, then I understand, but just thought I'd check.
 
Swear to god, any Russian person who thinks this thought at any point in the timeline should be smacked about the head with a paint can.

All hail Ivan the Speckled, perhaps the most morally uncompromised figure in this timeline! Not going to lie, between this and Denikin's cunning plan, serious Blackadder vibes coming off of this, even if it's the darkest vibes possible. I'm no military expert, but all of this seems plausible enough and reported with enough vigour and touches of colour to carry me along. Roll on Act 2 of this bloody war, I guess.

One small point, you put in footnotes but I can't seem to find any. If that's just a result of the 'text' that this is drawn from, then I understand, but just thought I'd check.
This TL is fast turning into a Russia-screw, I'll admit. The civil war's only just beginning and the problems which caused it aren't going away anytime soon...
But then, this is still the same cabal of incompetent generals picked in OTL to run the Eastern Front because they were Nicholas' tennis partners or whatever, so we can't expect much. The same futility which we saw at OTL Third Ypres is still present, and even if technological regression has somewhat limited the 'industrial' nature of this war, it's still awful. Dark vibes indeed.

Glad you picked up on the Blackadder references! All hail Ivan the Speckled indeed! :)

Ah yes, footnotes-- my original plan for this was to release another 20,000 word update doing the entire Russian Civil War in one chapter. Fortunately, I talked some sense into myself and cut things down to size, but it's no surprise I missed a couple footnotes. I'll fix this when I get a chance. Thanks for pointing them out.


Yes, Lord Vader.

Such strong "Return of the Jedi" vibes!
Indeed!
for me at least Ukraine is more interesting at the moment
(but the story is your so :p)
Ukraine? Duly noted...
size isn't everything, Canada is bigger than the US
And of course, much of Russia has only a handful of people... imagine what the country would be capable of if Siberia was as densely populated as the western regions?
There's this too.

I guess we could call this conflict the 'Tsar Wars?' :D
Walked right into that one, didn't I?
XDXDXD

Thanks for the comments everyone.
 
Strangely enough, I find myself rooting for the Tsarists, if only because Kerensky here seems barely better than Lvov.

That, and according to your draft on the test thread, he might end up partnering with that son of a b*tch Wilson, so f*ck him. Long live Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationalism, plus a toast to another 300 years of hereditary tsarist power.
 
There was no telling who would win the Russian Civil War, but it was pitifully clear who would lose it: the poor, drafted peasant, ordered to lay down his life at Shakhovskaya or Mozhaisk, Rzhev or Tver, for men he barely knew and to whom he meant nothing. That wouldn't change regardless of who won.
A Cynic might say that the biggest winners of the Russian Civil War will the the German, Polish, Finnish, Baltic, etc men currently being born. As a devastating Russian Civil War increases their chances of not having to re-fight Russia in 20-30 years or at least face a far weaker one.
 
Strangely enough, I find myself rooting for the Tsarists, if only because Kerensky here seems barely better than Lvov.

That, and according to your draft on the test thread, he might end up partnering with that son of a b*tch Wilson, so f*ck him. Long live Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationalism, plus a toast to another 300 years of hereditary tsarist power.
Honestly, even without Woody Willstain, the Tsarists feel more appealing, given the vibes I'm getting off Kerensky. Man does not come off well.
 
I like the update, but I think you could've devoted a bit more words to the setup - how come this or that area is Tsarist or Republican? The general countryside or Moscow are clear enough, but why are Tver and Rzhev Tsarist? No doubt for good reasons, but they're not very spelled out.

And, but that's rightly a next topic, how is everyone else reacting? The Germans/Brits might not want to intervene, but supplying a pile of machine guns and ammunition rusting away in armories would not be amiss.
 
I like the update, but I think you could've devoted a bit more words to the setup - how come this or that area is Tsarist or Republican? The general countryside or Moscow are clear enough, but why are Tver and Rzhev Tsarist? No doubt for good reasons, but they're not very spelled out.

And, but that's rightly a next topic, how is everyone else reacting? The Germans/Brits might not want to intervene, but supplying a pile of machine guns and ammunition rusting away in armories would not be amiss.
That's a fair criticism. I actually have something in the old test thread which should clarify this-- I'll add it in later.

Oh yes, everyone has a favoured side in the RCW; both sides will recieve some foreign backing
 
I for one continue to root for the Republicans. The last thing the country and its people need is a vengeful neo-absolutist regime in the vein of Alexander III, and if people such as Denikin are being given stations of high command I have little doubt that the state would brutalize its own citizenry. Seriously, a trawl through his part in the RCW pogroms should be enough to turn one's gut on its own.

Kerensky might be corrupt and a nascent strongman, but frankly everyone in a position of power in the Russian Civil War is (except maybe the leaders of the Green Armies, which while not present yet ITTL might still surface as a byproduct of peasant resistance to atrocities by the big players) and he at least has some ideological commitment to the rights and freedoms of the people. Moreover, I feel that even in the event of a blowout victory on the Republicans' part, his somewhat shaky alliance with the Marxists will prevent an effective centralization of power under himself and a controlled opposition. The initial years/decades are liable to be unsteady, but the presence of meaningful power blocs in competition coupled with a young democratic apparatus bode to help strengthen traditions of political participation among the citizenry rather than let them stagnate as might happen otherwise.

Overall, the situation among the Republicans reminds me a lot of the OTL dual authority, except with a clear and present danger from the Russian monarchists rather than any external opponent. It would be interesting to see this sort of arrangement fuse into a stable system rather than centrifugally tear itself apart - which, given the unifying monarchist threat and (what I presume to be) the increased factionalism among the Bolsheviks, is something I think might be possible.
 
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