Russia’s military strategy and the Entente in the First World War, 1914–1917

  • Sofya Anisimova

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


In the last thirty years the appreciation of the First World War as ‘the war of coalitions’ has gained widespread recognition, and firmly established itself as one of the most prominent approaches to the evaluation of the military strategy of the First World War. However, due to inaccessibility of the archives and complexity of the language, Russian Empire’s contribution to the Entente strategy has often been overlooked. This thesis attempts to remedy that and evaluates the role that the Russian high command played in developing the coalition strategy of the Entente from August 1914 until February 1917. It argues that after September 1915 Russia became one of the greatest advocates of a unified coalition strategy and was instrumental in the Entente’s agreeing on a plan for a coordinated Allied offensive in 1915 and 1916. The driver for this development was the weakening of Russia’s military power and the political crisis at home brought on by the Great Retreat in summer 1915. The new high command led by General Alekseev was anxious to achieve victory for Russia before it could be engulfed in political unrest. Alekseev also had his own original vision of strategy that involved using the Salonika and Ottoman fronts as launching grounds for a large-scale offensive designed to break the geographical unity of the Central Powers and deprive Germany of material resources of its allies. Although Alekseev’s plans were never fulfilled, their existence proves that the Entente strategists often had a better understanding of coalition warfare and were more flexible in their planning than previously thought. By bringing Russia into the coalition narrative, this thesis questions existing preconceptions about the Entente developed as a result of research focused predominantly on Anglo-French relations and opens a path to a more balanced view of the 1914-1918 conflict.
Date of Award15 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorHew Strachan (Supervisor) & Frances Mary Nethercott (Supervisor)


  • First World War
  • Entente
  • Coalition
  • Russian Empire
  • Mikhail Alekseev
  • Josef Joffre

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 7th April 2028

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