Who's Who - Yakov Zhilinski

Yakov Zhilinski (1853-1918) served as Chief of Staff of the Russian army prior to World War One and thereafter as a field commander until he was relieved of command in autumn 1914.

Merely one of a series of less than competent Russian Chiefs of Staff prior to war, Zhilinski was appointed to his post in 1911, and subsequently to command of the Warsaw military district prior to the outbreak of war.  Somewhat rashly he undertook while Chief of Staff to his French allies to launch an attack upon Germany within fifteen days of mobilisation of war.

This promise obliged the Russian army to invade East Prussia before they were suitably equipped to do so.  Ironically as head of northwest sector operations he was himself responsible for launching the attacks to which he had committed Russian forces before the war.

Despite a numerical supremacy over German forces in East Prussia his planned pincer movement by First and Second Armies spectacularly failed at the Battle of Tannenberg - possibly the most sweeping, complete victory of the war, in late-August - and at the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes in mid-September.

Relieved of his post once news of these calamitous defeats reached home - although he did his best to assign blame to First Army commander Paul von Rennenkampf - he was subsequently sent as liaison officer to French GHQ in late 1915.

Acting under instructions from Mikhail Alexeev (then Chief of Staff) he advised Russia's allies that the Russian army was able and ready to play its part in a combined Allied offensive - in Russia's case at Lake Naroch; they weren't, as was subsequently demonstrated at Lake Naroch.

With the February Revolution of 1917 Zhilinski was formally retired.  Fighting with White anti-Bolshevik forces in 1918 he was killed in south Russia in undetermined circumstances.

The Russian war ace Alexander Kozakov claimed 20 victories during the war; his nearest compatriot, Vasili Yanchenko, claimed 16.

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