When war was declared on 17 August 1914, the configuration of the eastern front presented Russia with a mixture of opportunity and risk. Their Polish dominions formed a huge salient into the territory of the Central Powers, which Russia used as a springboard for an immediate strike against East Prussia and Galicia. While successful against Austro-Hungary to the south of the salient, they were defeated by German hands at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes to the north. Thereafter, the risks of the salient rapidly materialized; the Germans were able to rapidly reinforce their ineffectual allies and launch a great pincer movement leading to the conquest of the whole of Poland and Lithuania within the first year of the war. The geography of the front exacerbated Russia’s inherent weaknesses; their backward industrial heartland was remote from the battlefields, which had to be supplied via a primitive transport infrastructure.
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