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Battle of Transylvania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Transylvania
Part of the Romanian Campaign of World War I

Romanian troops crossing the mountains into Transylvania
Date27 August – 25 October 1916
Transylvania, present-day Romania
Result Central Powers victory after initial Romanian advance
 Kingdom of Romania
 Russian Empire
 German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Romania Ioan Culcer
Kingdom of Romania Alexandru Averescu
Kingdom of Romania Constantin Prezan
Austria-Hungary Arthur Arz von Straußenburg
German Empire Erich von Falkenhayn
Units involved
Kingdom of Romania 1st Army
Kingdom of Romania 2nd Army
Kingdom of Romania 4th Army
Austria-Hungary 1st Army
German Empire 9th Army
440,000 (initially)[1] 70,000 (initially)[1]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown (7,000 captured during the Romanian offensive)
1 Motorkanonwagen destroyed

The Battle of Transylvania was the first major operation of the Romanian forces Campaign during World War I, beginning on 27 August 1916. It started as an attempt by the Romanian Army to seize the disputed province of Transylvania, and potentially knock Austria-Hungary out of the war. Although initially successful, the offensive was brought to a halt after Bulgaria's attack on Dobruja. Coupled with a successful German and Austro-Hungarian counterattack after September 18, the Romanian Army was eventually forced to retreat back to the Carpathians by late October.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Romania in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special
  • ✪ Once Upon a Time in Transylvania ( Full)


Romania joined the First World War in August 1916, and you may well be wondering just what that country was doing while the rest of Europe was at war during the preceding years, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War special episode about Romania prior to its entry in World War One. The three regions of Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia have a long history of foreign occupation going back to the Roman era. These territories, that formed the modern state of Romania, have sometimes been independent, but were more often fought over or occupied by more powerful nations. On January 24th, 1859, after a unionist campaign, Alexandru Ioan Cuza ascended to the thrones of both Wallachia and Moldova, effectively uniting them as Romania as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. He introduced sweeping reforms designed to modernize Romania and drag it into the 19th century, but this brought him into conflict with the landed aristocracy, and he was forced to abdicate in 1866. Political chaos ensued until the throne was offered Prince Karl (Carol) of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Prussian prince with Bonaparte family ties. He accepted and Romania became a hereditary constitutional monarchy, though still nominally under Ottoman control. In 1877 when the Russo-Turkish War began, Karl saw opportunity for Romania to break that control. Romania gave the Russians permission to cross Romania to attack the Ottoman forces. The Russian offensive stalled in Bulgaria, though, and the Tsar asked Carol for men and assistance, which he provided. Eventually the Turks sued for peace, and the resulting Congress of Berlin redrew the map of the Balkans, among other things creating an independent Romania. This new free nation instantly came into conflict with Russia, however, as Russia demanded Southern Bessarabia, which had passed back and forth between the Russians and the Ottomans over the years, and offered Romania impoverished Dobrogea, which had last been under Romanian control in the 1400s. This forced exchange inflamed public opinion in Romania, and culminated in the signing, in 1883, of a secret treaty that bound Romania to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, and the construction of defensive works aimed at stopping a future Russian invasion. That treaty was sort of a double-edged sword for Romania, though, since it also stopped Romania from any sort of intervention into Austro-Hungarian affairs, most particularly those in Transylvania, which was 54% ethnic Romanian and only 30% Hungarian, but ruled by the Hungarian minority. In fact, in 1892 when the Romanian National Party of Transylvania petitioned Emperor Franz Josef for equal rights and treatment, the petition was sent unopened from Vienna to Budapest and the signatories were all arrested and sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. If we fast forward to 1912, we see that Romania was by then something of a rising star. It was still mostly agricultural, but industrialization of the Prahova valley had spurred new growth, and Romania had an economic surplus of around 5% of its GDP. Now, Romania did not fight in the First Balkan War of 1912, but had only really remained neutral because Russia had organized a deal between Bulgaria and Romania offering Romania the fortress town of Silistra for remaining neutral. After the war, Bulgaria refused to go through with the deal, and this - as you may imagine - royally upset Romania, who threatened to take Silistra by force, but were stopped by Russian diplomatic intervention. Bulgarian relations with Russia cooled off now because of all of this and the Bulgarian-Russian alliance was cancelled June 9th, 1913. A week later, Bulgaria launched a surprise attack on Serbia and Greece without declaring war. The goal was to grab as much land as possible before the Great Powers could end the conflict, and so the entire Bulgarian army was committed to the invasion, despite the threat of a possible Romanian invasion from behind. Well, on the 28th, Romania got assurances from Austria-Hungary that the latter would not intervene if Romania went into Bulgaria; the Romanian army mobilized June 3rd, and on June 10th invaded a totally undefended Bulgaria. Romania invaded with 330,000 men, and Bulgaria had an army of close to twice that, but all were engaged in fighting Serbia and Greece. By the 22nd, the Romanians had linked up with the Serbs at the Bulgarian rear, and this, coupled with an Ottoman advance into Bulgaria, forced Bulgaria to sue for peace. The Peace talks concluded with the Treaty of Bucharest in August, which stripped Bulgaria of much of the territory they’d gained in the First Balkan War. Romania got not only Silistra, but also the whole of Southern Dobrogea, but the campaign highlighted the shortcomings of the Romanian army, particularly the lack of equipment and ammunition, the quality of the officers, the disorganization of supply lines, and the inefficiency of the medical corps. Combat casualties had been virtually zero, but 6,000 Romanian soldiers had died of cholera during the brief campaign. It’s nice to recognize your shortcomings, but most of the same problems would still beset Romania in World War One. The Second Balkan War had brought Russia and Romania closer together, with the Tsar even making a state visit and a planned royal wedding between the future Romanian King Carol II, King Carol’s grand nephew, and Russian Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna. This fell through because the prospective spouses detested each other. Another effect of that war was to turn Bulgaria into a retributionist state, seeking revenge on Serbia and Romania, which would help propel Bulgaria into joining the Central Powers. So the First World War began and what would Romania do? King Carol revealed the existence of the secret treaty and proposed to join the Central Powers in the war, but the treaty was a defensive one and Romania was not actually required to go to war since Austria-Hungary was the aggressor. Remember, the King was of Prussian origin too, and a cousin to the Kaiser. Public opinion however, was staunchly Francophile, and that included most of the Crown Council, who opted for armed neutrality as a compromise between the king and the government, who wanted to join the Entente. And then on October 10th, 1914, King Carol died with no male heir. He was succeeded by his nephew, who became King Ferdinand I. Unlike his uncle, who never forgot his Germanic roots, Ferdinand declared instantly that he would follow his country over his family, and would reign as a true Romanian. His wife was the very British Princess Marie of Edinburgh, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but also daughter to the Russian Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, who strongly - and kind of obviously - urged joining the Entente. One thing to realize here, was that the Romanian army was not only under equipped in terms of guns and ammunition, but since it hadn’t joined any side of the war it had real problems getting weaponry from abroad and Romania didn’t have a big weapons manufacturing industry. Still, Romania did eventually join the war, as we’ve talked about in our regular Thursday episodes. Prime Minister Ion Bratianu carefully negotiated the Romanian entry into the war, because the last thing he wanted was a repeat of the 1870s, when Romania had to cede land to Russia, so the treaty formally bound the Allies to recognize Romania’s right to annex Austro-Hungarian territory that was inhabited by Romanians. This was a pretty good precaution because earlier in the summer of 1916 the Allies had signed treaties that would prevent Romanian from participating in any postwar peace conference as an equal. In fact, Russia didn’t really want Romania to join the war because a neutral Romania guarded Russia’s southern flank, but an active Romania would mean putting that security in the hands of an unproven army. All this posturing delayed the Romanian entry into the war by two months until August 1916, which was pretty unfortunate timing, since the Russian army was in a bit of disarray after the enormously costly success of the Brusilov Offensive over the summer. The Romanian Battle Plan was called the Z Hypothesis, and it was to comprise a strategic offensive into Transylvania with a strategic defense on the southern front. The offensive was to proceed for 30 days at which point there would be a decisive battle with Austria-Hungary. Now, I’ll go into all the battles in the weekly episodes, but I have to say here that this was a very optimistic plan. It assumed that an offensive could repulse the Austrians before they could get German assistance, and also that the German, Bulgarian, and Ottoman forces south of the Danube were too weak to pose a threat to the Southern Front. Well, as we’ve seen each and every time a new country enters the war, it’s with a blind optimism and faith in its army that usually borders on fantasy, and sometimes crosses those borders.



Before the war, the Kingdom of Romania was an ally of Austria-Hungary; however, when war broke out in 1914 Romania pledged neutrality - claiming that Austria-Hungary had started the war and thus Romania had no obligation to join it. Romania eventually joined the Entente, on the condition that the Allies recognise Romanian authority over Transylvania; Romanians being the majority population in the region.[2] The Allies accepted the terms, and Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary on 27 August.


Romanian offensive (27 August – 18 September)

Airborne leaflet spread over Braşov in August 1916, calling on the local Romanian population to support the Romanian Army offensive
Airborne leaflet spread over Braşov in August 1916, calling on the local Romanian population to support the Romanian Army offensive

On the night of 27 August, three Romanian armies crossed the largely undefended Carpathian passes, meeting only sporadic resistance by Austro-Hungarian border units. The Romanian plan (Hypothesis Z) called for a rapid advance to the strategically important Mureş River with Budapest as the ultimate target.[3] The main advance was carried on by the Second Army, with the First and Fourth on its flanks. The second Army crossed the border on the night of 27–28 August and advanced into Transylvania.

In the first phase of the offensive (27 August-2 September), the Second Army conquered the Lepșa, Putna, Năruja and Zăbala Valleys and advanced towards Covasna. Fierce fighting took place at Vama Buzăului, with the Romanians capturing the town, inflicting heavy losses on the opposing forces - totaling 132 dead and wounded, and another 492 prisoners. On 29 August the city of Brașov was captured, and on 31 August, the villages of Tohanul Nou and Tohanul Vechi were captured. On 2 September the first phase of the Romanian offensive was over, with the Second Army reaching the Cătălina-Zăbala-Dobârlau-Prejmer-Feldioara-Vlădeni line. To the north of the Second Army, the Fourth Army conquered the Tulgheș Pass and advanced westwards. To the west, the First Army crossed the border on its entire length and captured the city of Orșova before advancing towards the outskirts of Sibiu.

In the second phase of the offensive (3–10 September), the Second Army crossed the Olt river and captured Sfântu Gheorghe on 7 September. By the end of the second phase, the Second Army controlled all of the Brașov Depression, reaching the Cătălina-Arcuș-Vâlcele-Feldioara-Șercaia-Șinca Veche line.

In the third phase (11–18 September), the Second Army conquered Merești, forced the crossing of the Olt at Rupea, and obtained a foothold to conquer Dăișoara. Here the Romanian troops benefited from the support of local people, with a young woman from Pârâu village guiding a Romanian sub-unit behind enemy positions. On 19 September the Second Army was ordered to adopt a defensive posture on the ground captured and hold the Odorhei-Paloș-Fișer-Dăișoara-Ticușu Nou-Toarcla-Săsăuș-Romanu Nou-Cârtișoara-Avrig line.

During the 29 days of the operation, the Second Army averaged over 100 km (62 mi) distance of penetration of enemy lines.[4]

During the Romanian offensive, the Austro-Hungarian Motorkanonwagen was destroyed by Romanian artillery. This was an armored self-propelled rail car, armed with a turreted 7 cm gun. It was the sole example made, and the most futuristic-looking piece of Austro-Hungarian rail armor.[5][6]

At the end of the offensive, the Romanians were in control of almost a third of Transylvania (7,000 square miles or 18,000 square km). This area comprised the entirety of four administrative departments (Brassó, Csík, Fogaras and Háromszék) and parts of five others. Up to this time, the Romanians had captured 7,000 prisoners.[7]

Central Powers Counter-offensive (26 September – 25 October)

Erich von Falkenhayn, recently fired as Chief of Staff, assumed command of the Ninth Army and began a counter-attack against the Romanians. On 18 September German forces struck the Romanian First Army near Haţeg, forcing them to stop their advance and switch to defence. Eight days later the elite Alpen Korps took the city of Sibiu, and on 17 October the Romanian Second Army was defeated at Braşov. The Fourth Army, despite little pressure from the enemy, retreated to the mountains. By 25 October the Romanian troops were routed and withdrew to their prewar positions, but managed to repulse German and Austro-Hungarian attempts to break through the Prahova Valley and into Bucharest via the shortest route, as the Germans had planned.


Battle of Oltenia
Part of the Romanian Campaign of World War I
Date26 October 1916 — 26 November 1916
Oltenia, present-day Romania
Result Central Powers victory
 Romania  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Romania Ioan Culcer
Kingdom of Romania Ion Dragalina
Kingdom of Romania Nicolae Petala
Kingdom of Romania Paraschiv Vasilescu
German Empire Erich von Falkenhayn
German Empire Viktor Kuhne
Units involved
Kingdom of Romania 1st Army German Empire Army Group Kühne
Unknown 80,000 troops
30,000 horses
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

After pushing the Romanian Army back to the Carpathians, the Germans began their conquest of Oltenia. They entered the region on 26 October and reached Târgu Jiu the next day, where their advance was halted by stiff Romanian resistance. The Romanians counter-attacked on the following day, pushing the Germans back towards the border. On 29 October the Germans regrouped, and on 1 November they launched a much more powerful attack. The Romanians could not repel the renewed German attack and, by the middle of November, Târgu Jiu was in their hands. They continued their advance, and on 21 November the regional capital Craiova was occupied. The last significant action of the battle was the Charge of Robănești on 23 November, one of the most daring actions by the Romanian Army. By 26 November all of Oltenia had been seized by the Germans, pushing the Romanian forces East of the Olt river. The next day they began their advance towards Bucharest, the Romanian capital.

The Hungarian Cultural Area

After the Romanian Army withdrew from Transylvania, in July 1917, the Hungarian Government created the "Hungarian Cultural Area", comprising the mainly Romanian inhabited Krassó-Szörény, Hunyad, Szeben, Fogaras and Brassó counties on the border with Romania. These counties welcomed the Romanian troops when they invaded, so they were united in this "cultural area" in order to prevent them from any exposure to "foreign influence".[8] By the end of the war, over 3,000 Romanian primary schools were closed.[9]

Battle maps


  1. ^ a b "Romania's Attempted Occupation of Transylvania". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Torrie, Glenn E. (Spring 1978). "Romania's Entry into the First World War: The Problem of Strategy" (PDF). Emporia State Research Studies. Emporia State University. 26 (4): 7–8.
  4. ^ Romanian 2nd Army offensive in Transylvania
  5. ^ Steven J. Zaloga, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011, Armored Trains, pp.12-13
  6. ^ Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage, McFarland, 2017, Military Trains and Railways: An Illustrated History, p. 91
  7. ^ Francis Joseph Reynolds, Allen Leon Churchill, Francis Trevelyan Miller, P.F. Collier and son, 1917, The Story of the Great War, p. 3285
  8. ^ C. Stan, "Școala poporană din Făgăraș și de pe Târnave", Sibiu, 1928, p. 54.
  9. ^ Stoica, Vasile (1919). The Roumanian Question: The Roumanians and their Lands. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Printing Company. p. 27.


  • Keegan, John (2000) [1998]. "The Year of Battles". The First World War. Vintage Books. Missing or empty |title= (help)
This page was last edited on 7 March 2019, at 15:29
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