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In March 1909, Aleksandr Roediger was removed from office and the vacant post of War Minister was duly given to Skobelev. He immediately uses his position to make sweeping changes to the whole military, based on his past experience and the success of his new armies in fighting the Japanese in the recent war. He brings about the formation of the Imperial Air Service. He favours a organisational hierachy based on the following.
He improves the quality of the troops by giving them better training and also encourages camaraderie and close, personal friendship to improve coordination. He also ensures that there is sufficient equipment for everyone and also orders military exercises to be carried out at a greater frequency to improve understanding between the different elements of the armed forces such as artillery and infantry, This also improves the quality of the IRAS which gains credibility as a possible independent fighting force in the future. He also learned from the Russo-Japanese in which logistics played a crucial role, and thus argued passionately for a stronger industrial base which could supply the whole IRAF, which by 1914 had around 1.2 million active and nearly 4.5 million reserve troops.
When war erupted, the initial attitudes of every belligrent towards Russia had changed little to OTL. although Skobelev had turned Russia into a formidable military power, this was not understood at all by anyone, especially Germany who considered Russia to be backward. Therefore they concentrate mainly on the French and the British. By the time their attenttion turns to Russia, the massive Imperial Army had mobilized and was assuming a strictly defensive position, while they waited for an opportunity to go on the offensive. This means that contrary to OTL, the battles of Tannenburg anf Masurian Lakes never take place. In there place, massive encounters occur at the Russian border region, which end in tactical and strategic draws. The pre-war naval build-up had meant that the IRN was a formidable force, and their main adversaries, the Ottomans, stood little chance. The winter settles in and when the fighting resumes in the spring of 1915, the IRA prdouce one of the biggest surprises of the entire war in the form of the Brusilov offensive.
During the winter, General Brusilov had come up with a brilliant plan. Although many of the General Staff are against it, Skobelev gives his personal approval and the operation is given the green light. During January and February, the prepartions are made painstakingly and slowly to avoid detection by the Austro-Hungarians, who had been chosen as the target above the Germans. The offensive commences and the results are astounding. At the cost of just around 300,000 troops, the SouthWestern Front crushes the Austro-Hungarian armies with about 1.8 million casualties inflicted. This has a severe effect not just on the Austro-Hungarians, who were forced to retreat to their borders and stay on the defensive, but also on the course of the war, as Bulgaria, now having to fight virtually alone, and facing what many Bulgarians viewed as a traditional ally, declares neutrality. This also means that Romania also remains neutral throughout the war. The success of the offensive, which had slowed down to a halt near the Austrian fortifications near their border, led to the Yudenich offensive. Based on Brusilov's success, General Nikolai Yudenich also proposed a similar offensive against the Ottoman forces in the Transcaucasian region. Although on a smaller scale, the assault achieved greater success, because of the ineffectiveness or inability of the Ottomans to counter attack or retreat with any order. The massive warships of the Black Sea fleet converged on and annilhilated the entire Ottoman naval presence in the Black Sea.
In 1916, Brusilov proposed a second offensive, this time against the Germans on the Eastern Front, where the fighting had been at a stalemate from the start. However, Skobelev judged, correctly, that the German forces woulde be far stronger and were also probably expecting an attack. Therefore a second attack on the Austro-Hungarians was launched, in coordination with a second attack by Yudenich. In the meantime, General Alexei Evert, who faced the Germans to the north of Brusilov, began lobbying for extensive defensive preparations to prepare for a possible German onslaught. Skobelev once again approved the plan against the opinions of the majority of the General Staff. This meant massive preparations were carried out just behind the Russian frontline trenches, similar to what the Germans were doing at the Somme.
Although the war had being going well from a military perspective, the Russian people didn't seem to think so. Despite the improved military industrial base, due to Skobelevs pre-war efforts, the war had taken its toll on the Russian economy. Although there were no shortages as in OTL, the Tsar had implemented a rationing system which, naturally, was not popular. And during all this, the Bolsheviks had been spreading fast, and had gained the support of most of the peasantry and the worker populations. This had meant that in the 1911 Duma elections they had won the largest single bloc of seats, although the centrist alliance still had control. By the end of 1916, they reckoned that they had gained enough power to carry out their ultimate goal of complete revolution. But due to the influence of the Menshevik faction (who were still sided with the Bolsheviks in this TL), they instead follow a gradualist approach, which eventually suceeds with the March revolution (the newly elected government had converted to the Gregorian calendar, as well as renaming St.Petersburg as Petrograd, in 1907).
Ayaa 12:16, April 4, 2011 (UTC)