Russian dominance


Following initial successes after the beginning of the attack on 3 December, the army group led by Lieutenant-General Josef Roth had encountered heavy resistance within days. Conrad was unaware that General Ivanov, commander of the Russian Southwestern Front, had, as early as 21 November, ordered Brusilov’s 8th Army to hold the Carpathian passes only with securing detachments and put his main forces on standby for a possible attack in the direction of Cracow. As the Russians, who later threw major reinforcements over the Vistula River, were already preparing to take Cracow, the attack hit their units while on tactical alert.

In the meanwhile, the Monarchy’s units failed to hold up the 8th Russian Army in the Carpathians, the outposts of which appeared around Neu Sandez. The cavalry corps bed by Gyula Nagy and the Polish Legion, deemed sufficient to secure the right flank, unsuccessfully sought to prevent losing the settlement on the Dunajec River to the Russians and had retreated to the Limanowa area by 7 December.

Were the 15th Russian Army Division, led by Lieutenant-General Belkovych, break through the line of defence, the Russians would have clasped the Roth group which itself set out to encircle the tsarist enemy – however, at this point, the Austro-Hungarian military leadership failed to perceive the threatening danger…