Military Review

Caucasian Front in the First World War. Part of 3


Fighting in 1916-1917

By the end of 1915, the situation on the Caucasian front was stable, the Russians won the war in several battles, stood on foreign territory in 70 km. from Erzerum. But the Turks regained their strength, the 3 of the Turkish army closed Erzerum on the Sarykamysh and Oltinsky direction. Their position strengthened mountainous and impassable terrain, especially in the winter. And Erzerum itself was perfectly fortified, with the help of the Germans, turned into a first-class fortress. In the event of a Russian offensive, reserves were to be transferred from Istanbul. The weakness of the Turks was the poorly organized rear: supplies and reserves were transferred from Anatolia by sea, but the Black Sea Fleet spoiled it there, and the way with a horse-drawn transport lasted more than a month.

1916 year

The Turkish headquarters did not have a clear vision of the war plan. There was even an idea to begin the transfer of troops, which had been liberated after the failure of the British in the Dardanelles operation, to the aid of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Italy, or Galicia. It was believed that the positions of the 3 Army, at Erzerum, are impregnable and if the Russians risk attacking them, they will be rejected. In the spring, gathering superior forces, the Turks planned to crush the Russian troops on the Sarykamysh direction.
The Russian command was very disturbed by several circumstances: 1) 19 September 1915 of the year Bulgaria took the side of Germany, the whole Turkish army was liberated from the border with Bulgaria; 2) at the beginning of 1916, the British turned the Dardanelles operation; 3) The Caucasian Front sent considerable forces to the Russian Western Front in 1915; 4) Turkish troops successfully acted against the British in the district of Baghdad. Therefore, the Russian army was extremely dangerous to take a waiting position. 3-I Turkish army, reinforced by fresh units, could go on the offensive and the Caucasian army would fall into a difficult situation, since it largely consisted of reserve non-fired units.
General N. N. Yudenich decided not to wait "at the seaside for weather" and attack, before the arrival of Turkish reinforcements. It was decided to attack in late December, when the Christmas holidays and the new year are going on in Russia, and the Turks least of all expect the Russian army to advance.

Caucasian Front in the First World War. Part of 3

Erzerum operation (December 1915 – February 1916)

By the beginning of the offensive, the Caucasian army had 126 battalions, 372 guns, 208 hundreds, 52 militias, 10 aircraft. The Turkish 3 Army had the 123 battalion, 122 guns (and 400 serf guns), 40 squadrons, 8000-10000 Kurds.
Stage I: Battle of Keprikei - December 28 1915 - January 8 1916. The main forces, as part of the 2 of the Turkestan Corps (General Przhevalsky) and the 1 of the Caucasian Corps (General Kalitin), struck through the mountains gay-dag, Kodzhuh. They were to break through the Turkish positions and go to the rear of the Keprikeyi fortifications. At the same time, in the direction of Hnys and Mush, the 4-th Caucasian Corps (General De-Witt), the Primorsky Detachment (General Lyakhov), with the support of the Batumi Detachment, attacked along the coast. Troops Przhevalsky and Kalitina broke through the enemy defenses, entrenched and began to gradually beat the position of the position. The Turkish troops counterattacked, there was a fierce oncoming battle, but in the end the Turkish defense was crushed, the Russian troops went to the rear of the Keprikey position. The reserve of Yudenich, the Siberian Cossack brigade (General Raddatz) immediately took the fortress Hasan-Kala. The Turks retreated to Erzerum.
Stage II: preparation for the storming of the Erzurum fortified district - January 8-30. It was impossible to take the fortress on the move, the total length of the fortifications was almost 40 km. But moral degradation and material disorder of the Turkish army made it possible to consider that the chances of success are high. A detailed reconnaissance of the terrain was carried out, including aerial reconnaissance. Created assault units: on the main axes of the regiments were reinforced by sappers, additional tools, machine guns. The 1 Caucasian and 2 Turkestan corps were to take part in the assault, Siberian and 2 Orenburg Cossack Brigades were in reserve. General Yudenich's plan was to attack the 10 st columns across the front, to attack continuously, increasing the onslaught. The main blow fell on the northern right flank, the Russian shock detachments, bypassing the most powerful forts, from the west of the Virgo Boynu ridge, went into the flank and rear of the Turkish army.
Stage III: the assault on the Erzerum fortified area - January 30 - February 3 (16). The assault began with an artillery strike, in 23.00 Russian attack aircraft in mashalats, under the cover of a blizzard, went on the attack. The surprise factor worked, the Turks beat them without seeing the enemy, the Russian soldiers broke into the Turkish front positions and began to crowd it. For two days there was a fierce battle, the Russian soldiers took one position after another. The entire northern flank of the defense of the Turkish army was captured, the Russian units reached the rear of the enemy, the Turks panicked and fled, leaving the city. The offensive continued, the front stabilized 70-100 km west of Erzerum.
As a result, the 3-I Turkish army was practically destroyed again: it lost 66 thousands killed and wounded, 13 thousands were captured, almost all enemy artillery was captured. Erzerum is captured - a powerful fortress (another "impregnable" bastion taken by Russian soldiers), a "key" to Anatolia. The Russian army received an excellent strategic position for further offensive, dropping the enemy another 150 km. from their borders. The Turkish command was forced to transfer forces from Iraq and the Suez Canal to restore the front, this situation the British eased. Total losses of the Caucasian army amounted to - over. 8 thousand people. An excellent answer to the Russophobes who love the myth that the Russians have always flooded the bodies of the soldiers of the opponents.
Then the Caucasian army captured Rize, Bitlis (the Bitliss battle, in its capture an important role was played by the Armenian troops led by A. Ozanyan) and conducted the Trabzon operation. In connection with the onset of the spring thaw, the offensive stopped.

Trapezund operation (February - April 1916 of the year)

Trabzund was a strategically important port on the coast, through it went all the marine supplies of the 3rd Turkish army. The operation was carried out by the forces of the Primorsky detachment of General Lyakhov (15 thousand people, 50 guns), the Batumi detachment of the Black Sea fleet (Captain 1st Rank Rimsky-Korsakov). Several warships were also brought from Sevastopol. In total, 2 battleships, 4 destroyers, 2 gunboats, and several minesweepers were brought in. An amphibious operation was used: about 2 thousand people landed, naval assault on February 20 captured Atina, the 23rd port of Riesa. On March 25, in order to strengthen the Primorsky detachment, 2 Kuban Plastun brigades (18 thousand) were landed in Riesa, they were transferred from Novorossiysk. On April 1, Russian troops, supported by the fire of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, broke through the defenses of the Turkish troops on the Karadere River and on April 5 occupied Trabzund (Trabzon).
Until mid-May, the Primorsky detachment expanded the captured territory, it was reinforced with 2 infantry divisions (35 thousand, transferred from Mariupol), Platansky fortified unit was created, the detachment became the 5 Caucasian corps and held the territory of Trabzon until the end of the war.
As a result of the Trebizond operation, the supply of the Turkish army to the sea was interrupted, the interaction of the Caucasian army, the Black Sea Fleet and the sea was worked out in battle aviation. The base of the Black Sea Fleet and the supply base of the Caucasian Army were established in Trebizond, which strengthened its position.
Russian Victory weapons were enshrined in the secret agreement of the Entente, according to which England and France recognized that after the war the Russian Empire would receive: the regions of Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Trebizond, part of Kurdistan.

Further fighting

By summer, the Caucasian army captured most of Western Armenia. The Turks did not accept defeat, since they had reserves for a retaliatory strike, and they began to deploy the 2 Army (10 divisions), for retaliation. The main goal was Erzerum, a distracting blow was delivered to Trabzon. At Trabzon, Turkish troops squeezed the 5 corps, but then the Russians counterattacked and on June 6 restored the front.
22 June, the Turkish troops struck the main blow, they broke through the Russian position, but failed to build on the success, suffered too much loss. On July 4, the Turks were stopped, and the Caucasian army struck back, the Turks were defeated. Turkish troops grouped and again went on the attack, after stubborn fighting by the middle of August the front stabilized. By the end of August, the fighting was stopped by nature, snow fell in the mountains.

Results of 1916 years

1) The Russian Caucasian Army fulfilled its main strategic task - it defended the Russian Transcaucasus on the entire front with a length of 1000 km. (1916-th year), moving along the mountainous, impassable, fortified terrain on 250 km.
2) Almost all of Western Armenia is captured, with the cities of Erzerum, Van, Erzincan, the ports of Rize and Trabzon. The question of joining this territory to Russia was resolved by an international agreement with the Allies on the Entente. The development of this territory begins as early as 1916: military administrative districts were created, railways were being built, plans for settling Western Armenia by Russians and Armenians, including refugees, were being developed.
3) The 3-I Turkish army in 1916 was defeated twice, the 2-i army deployed by 3 to the aid also suffered heavy losses. The Turks were forced to transfer up to a third of their reserves to the Caucasian front, this provided assistance to the British in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
4) Conditions have been created for the further victorious movement and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

1917 year

In the winter of 1917, there were no major battles, supplies deteriorated, epidemics began. The Caucasian army lost sick, frostbitten, and dead to 100 thousand people. The February revolution stopped the victorious movement of the Caucasian army: revolutionary fermentation began, because of the general decline of discipline in the country, the supply of troops sharply deteriorated, deserters appeared.
Throughout the year, the army degraded, desertion gradually became widespread. General Yudenich, refusing to resume the offensive in view of the complete disintegration of the army, was dismissed by the Provisional Government. Command transferred to General M. A. Przhevalsky. The Turkish command could not take advantage of the situation and organize a successful attack.
5 (18) December, the Bolsheviks signed the Erzincan truce, began a mass exodus of Russian troops from Western Armenia to their homeland, at the beginning of 1918, only a few thousand Armenians and a couple of hundred officers remained on the front.
In view of the complete impossibility of continuing the war, the Bolsheviks signed the Brest Peace (March 1918), according to it (4 article) and the Russian-Turkish supplementary agreement, the border was set before the Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878. Russia was inferior to Western Armenia, Batum, Kars, Ardahan. Further fighting was fought between the Armenian detachments (mostly) and the Turkish troops.
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