The first months of the war in the Caucasian theater led to serious successes of the Russian army. The Russian army took Ardahan, Bayazet, laid siege to Kars, advanced to the Saganlugh and Dram-Dag ridges, and embarked on the road to Erzerum, Turkey’s key fortress in the region. The Turkish Anatolian army of Mukhtar Pasha suffered a series of defeats, suffered heavy losses. Russian troops shackled the large forces of the enemy, preventing the Supreme Turkish command to transfer them to the Balkans.
During the offensive, the Russian Caucasian army met mainly the friendly attitude of the local Christian population (Armenians and Georgians), oppressed by the Ottomans. The Russians saw liberators. In reports from the Caucasian Tetra of military operations, it was noted that when the Erivan-Sok detachment entered Bayazet, “Armenian houses were hospitably opened for the Russians. The poorest of Christians was treated to this day than God sent a Russian soldier. ” In the occupied areas, Russian soldiers treated not only Christians, but also the Muslim population. Even before crossing the border, the command of the Caucasian army determined the prices at which the troops were obliged to pay residents for items that went to the allowance of troops. Russian troops did not ruin and did not burn the villages, did not rob and rape the population. It came out even as witnesses of the events noted that the Russians had given up livestock, beaten off from the enemy, at the first demand of the local residents. Foreign observers who were with our troops, "only shrugged their shoulders at the sight of our humanity." As a result, the local population was almost everywhere friendly to the Russians, supplying troops with food at a bargain price. And Armenians helped Russian soldiers during construction work, for example, in the construction and repair of roads and bridges. Many of the local steel scouts, guides and sappers.
However, due to the mistakes of the Russian command, the first successes of the 1877 spring-summer offensive of the year were not consolidated. Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich, Commander-in-Chief of the Caucasian Army, and Loris-Melikov, commander of the acting corps, first overestimated the enemy’s forces, refusing a decisive offensive on the main Kara – Erzurum line with the aim of destroying the main forces of the Turkish army and seizing their main strongholds in the Caucasus. Although the first successes of our troops showed that the enemy was stunned, demoralized and weak, the rapid onslaught, in Suvorov, led to a decisive victory in the Caucasus. The Russian army was dispersed in squads, covering the main operational areas, and could not develop the first successes. As a result, the slowness and indecision of the Russian command allowed the enemy to regroup, tighten up reserves, recover from the first defeats and go on the counteroffensive. Fragmented Russian forces could not repel the enemy counter-strike. During the fighting came the turning point. The failure of our troops near Zivin had a depressing effect on the Russian command.
The Russian command, although the enemy did not have a decisive superiority in forces, decided to withdraw the troops to the state border, and there, taking advantageous lines, to go on the defensive. Then wait for reinforcements from Russia and go on the offensive again. The siege of Kars had to be lifted. Thus, due to the mistakes of the higher Russian command, with the undoubted heroism and courage of privates and officers, skillful actions of a number of commanders, the spring-summer offensive of the Russian army in the Caucasus failed. The previously captured vast strategic bridgehead, in addition to Ardahan and Mucha-Static positions, was abandoned by our troops. The Russian Caucasian Army went over to the defensive.
The Turkish army under the command of Mukhtar Pasha went to the Russian border. At the same time, the Ottomans had no superiority in forces, so they did not go further, occupying defenses on the northern slopes of the Aladzhi heights and Avliyar mountains in 20-30 km east of Kars. Turkish troops numbered about 35 thousand people with 54 guns. By the end of June, 1877, the main forces of the Russian army covered the Alexandropol direction, located in the Kyuruk-Dara area. The advance units stood at Bashkadyklar. The Erivan detachment, retreating to the Erivan province, was located at Igdir. The number of Russian troops was 32 thousand people with 120 guns. The forces were about equal, so both sides were in no hurry to attack, engaging in the improvement of their positions and waiting for reinforcements.
Plans and forces of the parties
In August - September, reinforcements arrived from the Russian front of the Caucasus Front from 1877 - the 40-I Infantry Division from Saratov and the 1-I Grenadier Division from Moscow. The total number of the main forces of the acting corps was brought to 56 thousand people with 220 guns. By this time, the Turkish army of Mukhtar Pasha numbered 37 thousand people with 74 guns. Russian troops in manpower almost one and a half times superior to the enemy, by artillery - three times. The favorable balance of forces allowed the Russian command to begin preparations for the offensive. For this purpose, General N. N. Obruchev arrived at the headquarters of the Caucasian Army.
The left flank of the Turkish army on the Aladzhinskaya position rested on the fortified heights of Great and Small Yagny, the center on the villages of Subotan and Khadzhi-wali prepared for defense in advance, the right flank on the heights of Kizil-tepe and Inah-tepe. The front fortifications were prepared ahead of the main defensive zone, and in 5-10 km there was a rear defensive line behind it, passing along the line Vizinkoy, the heights of Avliyar and Aladzha. The defense of the Turkish troops was promoted by the terrain that abounded in inaccessible steep stony slopes, deep ravines and a large number of dominant heights.
The battle plan was developed by the Chief of Staff of the Caucasian Army, General Nikolai Obruchev. According to his plan, it was planned to deliver the main blow to the left wing of the Anatolian army, with the task of defeating it and cutting off the enemy from Kars. All Russian troops were divided into left and right wing. The right wing under the command of Loris-Melikov was to act in the direction of the main attack. The left wing, under the command of Lieutenant-General I. D. Lazarev, was to divert the enemy’s right flank. The Kambinsky detachment of Major General B. M. Shelkovnikov (5 battalions, 3 hundreds, 12 guns) stood out to bypass the right flank of the Turkish army and advance into their rear. Both wings and Kambinsky squad had to attack simultaneously. In the corps reserve under the command of Lieutenant-General P. N. Shatilova were 10 infantry battalions, 10 squadrons and Cossack hundreds, 40 guns.
Our troops marched on the night of September 20 (October 2) 1877. At dawn, after an artillery preparation, an attack of enemy fortifications began. Turks offered stubborn resistance. The Ottomans launched a sortie from Kars and thereby diverted some Russian forces. By the end of the day, our troops in the direction of the main attack took only the height of the Big Yagna. During the day, the troops of the left wing fired at the enemy fortifications on Kizil-Tepa and Aladzhe and repulsed several enemy attacks. The bypass column of Shelkovnikov, reaching Aladzhi, was met by superior enemy forces and was surrounded. At the cost of serious losses, the Russian troops struck their way out and retreated to the Arpachay River.
The attack failed due to a number of reasons. The simultaneous surprise attack of various columns at dawn was foiled. The chiefs of the columns did not conduct reconnaissance in advance and studied the route, so the detachments were delayed, wandered and attacked separately. A strong left wing rather passively carried out its task of binding. The value of Avliyar and the Vizinkey heights, which dominated the whole area ahead, was poorly evaluated. As a result of the delay in the attack, Turkish troops managed to occupy the dominant heights and stopped the advance of the right wing of the Russian army. Bypass squad was too weak to assist the troops of the right wing.
The next day, the Turkish army launched a counteroffensive against the troops of the right wing of the Russians from Sudotan. September 22 (October 4) Turks attacked from Kizil-tepe. In both cases, the Turks with heavy losses were thrown back. Russian troops, experiencing a shortage of drinking water, left the Big Yagny, and retreated to the Kyuruk-Darin fortified camp. In turn, the Turkish command, having discovered before itself the large forces of the Russian army and fearing for its communications, decided to concentrate its main attention on holding the main positions. By order of Mukhtar-pasha, Turkish troops left Kizil-tepe, Subotan, Khadzhi-wali and Bolshaya Yagny, and partially moved from the main line of defense to the rear. The Turks took up defenses on the heights of Malaya Yagny, Vizinkoy, Avlar, Aladzha, Inah-tepe. The main Turkish group was concentrated in Avliyar, Aladzha. Having discovered the withdrawal of the Turkish army to another line of defense, Russian troops occupied the heights of Kizil-tepe and Bolshaya Yagny, as well as the villages of Subotan and Khadzhi-wali. Thus, the three-day battle, although it did not lead to a decisive victory for the Russian army, but significantly weakened the enemy’s line of defense, undermined his fighting spirit.
The battle on Aladzhi heights. Map source: N. I. Belyaev. Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878
The Russian command decided to continue the offensive. The concept of a new battle was generally similar to the plan of the first stage: a strike by the main forces from the front, while simultaneously bypassing the enemy’s right flank and leaving it to the rear, in order to surround and destroy the Turkish forces in the Avliyar and Aladzha heights. The troops that acted from the front were again divided into two wings. The right wing of General V. A. Geiman was to attack Avliyar and part of the forces on Visinkey, and the left wing of General H.H. Roop on Aladj. To bypass the right flank of the Turkish army, a detachment of Lieutenant General I. D. Lazarev was allocated, reinforced by part of the forces of the Erivan detachment of Lieutenant General A. A. Tergukasov. Lazarev's detachment was to force Arpachay, go to Digor and from there strike at the rear of the enemy. As a result, the Lazarev column was aimed at the Turkish rear, much deeper, at Vizinkay and Bazardzhik. In addition, nearly a third of the corps forces were allocated to the bypass squad: over 23 infantry battalions, 26 squadrons and Cossack hundreds, 78 guns. The right flank was provided by a separate detachment that controlled the road to Kars.
In the evening of September 27 (October 9), Lazarev's detachment marched and the next day went to Digor. It was only in the evening of October 2 (October 14) that Turkish troops discovered the movement of the Lazarev column in their rear. Mukhtar Pasha threw nine battalions under the command of Rashid Pasha against the Russian bypass column. Lazarev in time discovered the advance of the Turkish troops against him and earlier occupied their tactically extremely important command height. The troops of Rashid Pasha did not dare to attack, retreated and occupied the Orlok heights. Mukhtar Pasha moved three battalions from fortifications north of Bazardzhik and three battalions from the Vizinkey heights to reinforce them. Thus, the 15 battalions were advanced against the Russian detachment.
However, Lazarev did not blunder. He discovered the movement of the new Turkish troops to Orlock heights and, not having infantry under their hands, threw five hundred and cavalry squadrons under the command of Colonel Malama against them. This small equestrian group of hollows secretly stepped on a hill lying in the way of the Turkish reinforcements approach, dismounted and began vigorously attacking the Turkish troops, stunned by its unexpected appearance. Soon, Malama’s cavalry was supported by the Caucasian Infantry Battalion of the 4-th Caused by the Digors. By 17 hours, all Turkish reinforcements were thrown back to the Vizinkey heights. Malama’s actions have become an excellent example of successful use of cavalry in such critical conditions.
Pursuing a retreating enemy, Lazarev’s troops seized the Orlock heights by storm, the remnants of the Turkish troops fled in panic to Vizinke. By 20 hours, the Orlok and Bazardzhik heights were occupied by six battalions, and the other troops of the Lazarev column were stationed at Bazardzhik. The bypass column was firmly established in the rear of the right flank of the Turkish positions, creating the threat of complete encirclement of the right wing and center of the Turkish army. During his maneuver, Lazarev maintained constant contact with the command of the acting corps via the field telegraph. At night, the brave and resolute general reported on the outcome of the 14 battle of October: “I stand with a detachment in mind of the Vizen camps. It is necessary tomorrow with dawn to attack from Haji-Vali and Yagna-Vizinkey ... I expect at dawn resolute actions of the city of l. Heiman. This telegram was received in the main apartment of the Caucasian army in 2 hours 30 minutes of night 3 (15) in October. Meanwhile, Mukhtar Pasha, realizing the full extent of the threat posed by the Lazarev squad, made the decision to withdraw to Kars.
On the morning of October 3 (15) after the 2-hour artillery preparation, the main forces of the active corps of the Caucasian army launched an offensive. Under the cover of artillery fire began to converge with the enemy infantry. The people of Erivan and Tiflis began to climb the lower slopes of Avliyar, but at that time they received orders from Gayman to pause and wait for further orders. Stopping in the open under enemy fire led to great losses. Therefore, the commander of the 4 th battalion of the Erivan regiment, Colonel Mikeladze did not immediately execute the order, but with the pre-battalion he ran forward into the dead space. 4 followed the 2 battalion. Gayman again, more categorically, ordered to stop and under no pretext not to move forward until “there is permission”. However, before this order reached the troops, the 1 and 3 battalions of the Erivan people also crossed into the dead space. Thus, the entire Erivan regiment was already in good shelter at a distance of 500 steps from the Turkish trenches.
Meanwhile, the Russian artillery continued to destroy the enemy fortifications. The Turkish commander understood that the organized withdrawal of the army to Kars can be carried out only by holding Avliyar. Mukhtar Pasha backed Avliar’s defenders with three Ahmet-Rifat-Pasha battalions, and threw four Ibrahim Bey battalions on the flank of the Erivan people. Erivanians from their convenient position repulsed the Turkish counterattack. Then our troops again went on the attack. The assault, launched in 12 hours 30 minutes, led to complete success. Russian troops — the Erivan and Georgian grenadiers, the Pyatigorsk regiments — rushed to the assault from three sides. The Russian artillery, which until the last moment fired through the heads of its troops at the top of Avliyar, rendered considerable assistance to the assault. After a short hand-to-hand fight, the Russians took up the enemy fortifications at the height of Avliyar. The remnants of the Turkish garrison fled to Chift Tepe. With the fall of Avliyar, Mukhtar Pasha himself ordered an acceleration of the retreat and hurriedly fled to Kars, leaving the troops to fend for themselves.
Part of Geiman’s column attempted to cut the Turk’s retreat to Kars, while the rest of the forces launched an offensive on Visinkei. At the same time, the advance of the column of Heiman proceeded without haste, this eventually allowed the Turks to avoid encircling the main forces of the army. Lazarev's troops also moved toward the Vizinkey heights. The Ottomans attacked from the front and rear. Due to the presence of a telegraph link, the joint strike was organized so successfully that, when the stormed arrows and sappers approached Vizinkei from the front, at the same time Nizhny Novgorod dragoons from Lazarev from the rear broke through. Turkish troops retreated to the height of Chift-tepe (south of Vizinkei). As a result, the Anatolian army was divided into two parts.
At this time, the troops of the left wing of the Russian army under the leadership of Roop attacked in three columns. Ker-khan, Shamisi, Inah-tepe were occupied without a fight. The Turkish troops, carrying out the order of Mukhtar Pasha, cleared them themselves before the approach of the Roop troops to them. Our troops developed an assault on Aladja. Approaching the enemy, after a short artillery preparation, the Roop troops continued to move. Turkish troops, occupying positions on the Aladzhi Heights, resisted desperately. Despite this, the Roop forces overcame the 3-5 trench lines and 15 30 min. seized all enemy positions on the Aladzhi Heights. The remaining Turkish troops retreated to иift-tepe, the troops of Roop pursued them. By the same token, the Turkish positions were also occupied at the Small Yagns. And in the rear of the Turks, the Lazarev column led the attack on Chift-tepe.
As soon as the Turks discovered that they were being attacked from the front and rear, that they were cut off from their people, the Ottomans panicked. Not obeying the commanders, the Turks fled to Kars: “... cavalry, infantry, guns, charging boxes - all this was mixed up and cluttered the road to the fortress; the people and the horses were absolutely mad and flew without thinking. " As a result, the garrisons of the Vizinkey and Maloiagnani positions mostly managed to escape to Kars. Part of the Turkish troops was blocked at Chift-tepesi. Turkish troops mixed up and suffered heavy losses under the fire of Russian artillery. Seeing the hopelessness of the situation, the military council of the Turks decided to surrender.
Ivan Davidovich Lazarev (1820-1879)
Avliyar-Aladzhinskoye battle ended a brilliant victory for the Russian army. Two divisional and five brigade generals, 250 officers and 7 thousand soldiers were captured. During the pursuit of Turkish troops, who fled to Kars in a panic, 1,5 thousand more were taken prisoner. Rich trophies fell into the hands of the Russian army: 35 guns, 8 thousand guns and a lot of military equipment. The Turks lost about 9-10 thousand people killed, wounded and deserted. The losses of the Russian troops amounted to 202 people killed and 1240 wounded (in the last battle). In just two weeks of battle, the Russian army lost over 5,5 thousands of soldiers and officers killed and wounded. Most of the losses of the Russian troops came in the first part of the battle, when the troops unsuccessfully attacked, and the bypass squad was surrounded and forced to break through. The total losses of the Turkish army amounted to more than 22 thousand people.
As a result of this victory, a strategic initiative was seized in the Caucasian theater of operations. The threat of a Turkish invasion of Armenia and Georgia was lifted, and Russian troops opened the way to Kars and the occupation of the whole of Anatolia. The Turkish army was completely defeated and dropped out of battle for a while. As Minister of War D. A. Milyutin noted in his diary, the defeat of Mukhtar Pasha was, as it were, the first sign of a turn in a war.
The victory was won thanks to the high martial art of such advanced Russian generals as Obruchev and Lazarev, courage and the initiative of junior commanders (which was typical of the Caucasian army), resilience and courage of ordinary soldiers. “The battle of Avliar,” noted Russian military historian N.P. Mikhnevich, “represents one of the highest examples of military art, both in the sense of the general idea of the battle, and in mastering the use of various types of troops” (N. Mikhnevich. Foundations of Russian military art. ). The use of telegraph to control the troops and coordinate their actions directly during the battle became the newest tactical device. Among the shortcomings it is necessary to single out a weak intelligence organization, which led to a two-month standing in front of a weaker adversary. Also, an unsuccessful choice of attack directions and the weakness of the bypass squad at the first stage of the battle.
The victory of the Russian troops would have been even more ambitious if the Russian high command immediately after the 3 (15) of October continued the offensive against Kars. Conditions were the most favorable. Panic and chaos reigned in Kars itself. The garrison could not repel the assault. Order and organization collapsed, soldiers deserted in droves, did not listen to the commanders. The fortifications were almost not occupied, and the employed were extremely poorly guarded. Storm with the "go" promised full success. The Russian army could easily and without great blood take a strategic fortress, opening the way to Erzerum. The Turkish commander-in-chief, Mukhtar Pasha himself, not wanting to be surrounded, on October 17 with part of the forces left Kars for Saganlug. In Zivin or Keprikea, Mukhtar Pasha planned to connect with Ismail Pasha, whom he sent an order to go to Erzerum. Later, Mukhtar Pasha was going to close the Erzurum direction and form his army anew. However, the Russian command did not use good chances for a new victory, the troops again lingered and trampled on the spot.
Nizhny Novgorod dragoons, pursuing the Turks on the road to Kars. Alexey Kivshenko's picture