World War I

by Edward Paice

Start Free Trial

Student Question

How did fighting differ on the Western and Eastern Fronts in WWI?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Western front was best characterized by trench warfare. The armies dug into the ground, both sides constructing elaborate trench networks. This caused them to reach a stalemate for most of the duration of the war. The Western front was later reinforced by the arrival of the Americans. The fighting was bloody and millions of people died.

The Eastern front was much larger and thus did not result in the trench warfare seen in the West. Instead, the fighting was much more traditional and deadly due to advances in technology. It is estimated that over three million people lost their lives and over nine million were wounded. The toll of the war was so catostrophic that Russia, which beared the brunt of the eastern front's fighting was forced to pull out of the war due to domestic unrest (and the revoltion that followed shortly afterward).

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When most people think about World War I, the Western Front is usually what they imagine. There, in Belgium and France, the war settled into a profoundly bloody and futile stalemate, with both sides attempting to bleed the other side dry. Generally speaking, the Eastern Front never settled into the pattern of trench warfare that characterized the Western Front. This is not to say, however, that the war was any less brutal. Massive clashes between armies, often with frightful casualties, were typical of the Eastern Front. One example was the Battle of Tannenberg, where German forces annihilated a massive Russian army in August of 1914. Unlike the Western Front, where such bloodletting was largely indecisive, and the war became largely one of attrition, the East saw several large and decisive battles as Russian thrusts into East Prussia and later into the Austro-Hungarian Empire were bloodily repulsed. What the two fronts did have in common was that the German military bore the brunt of the fighting for the Central Powers, just as it did in the West. Austria proved incapable of resisting Russian offensives without heavy German support, and of course the Germans almost singlehandedly were responsible for the defense of their frontier in East Prussia, mentioned above. By late 1916, however, Russia had sacrificed so heavily that it struggled to bear the continued war effort. The Bolshevik Revolution saw a Russian withdrawal from the conflict. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial