Most noted for his development of new offensive tactics, Aleksey Brusilov is considered one of the most outstanding fighting commanders of World War I. An authoritative general of Tsarist Russia, Brusilov joined the Soviet government, raising doubt among historians as to whether he is to be considered a patriot or a traitor.
Aleksey Brusilov was born in Tiflis into a family of military men. His father, a lieutenant general of the Russian army, died of tuberculosis when little Aleksey was only six years old. His mother died soon afterwards. The boy, together with his two brothers, was brought up by his uncle, a military engineer.
In 1867 Aleksey Brusilov passed his exams and was accepted into the Page Corps, the most privileged military establishment in Imperial Russia. Upon graduation in 1872, Brusilov began his service in the 15th Tver dragoon regiment.
The first test for Brusilov as an officer was the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878), where his dragoon regiment fought as an advance guard. The future general proved his worth in besieging fortresses and mounting attacks. During the seven-month war he earned three military medals.
Brusilov was one of the best horsemen in his regiment and in 1881 he was accepted into the Officer Cavalry School in Saint Petersburg. In 1883 Aleksey Brusilov started serving in this school as an adjutant; twenty years later he was appointed its head. Brusilov devoted about 25 years of his life to the educational establishment, jokingly called “the horse academy.” He earned a reputation as a strict and considerate teacher and was especially well-known for his on-the-ground maneuvers and war games.
From 1906 to 1913 Aleksey Brusilov held several high military posts, including Head of the Second Guard Cavalry Division, Commander of the 14th and 12th Army Corps and Assistant Commandant. His main achievement during these years was a considerable improvement of the system of battle training for officers and soldiers, who, in his opinion, were not prepared for real battle.
Brusilov became widely known during World War I, when he was a commander of the 8th Army, situated at the left Russian front. In August 1914 he initiated the offensive into the heart of Galicia, the historical region of Central Europe, which marked the beginning of the major battle between Russia and Austria-Hungary. Within two months Russian troops re-conquered vast areas down to the Carpathian Mountains. The Austro-Hungarian army lost more than 400 thousand men. This military operation helped Aleksey Brusilov form his own style of management of large armed forces.
In March 1916 Brusilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the South-Western Front. The General Headquarters of the Russian army planned to deliver the main thrust towards the strategic Berlin direction, sing the forces of the Western Front. The armies of the Northern and South-Western Fronts were to make local preemptive attacks.