The Ottoman Empire continued to be the “headache” of Russia in the Transcaucasus. After its defeat in the First Balkan War, Germany and Austria-Hungary began to draw up secret plans for dividing the Turkish possessions. In St. Petersburg, these plans were considered a direct threat to the national security of the Russian Empire. During this period, Russia was opposed to the partition of Turkey, since this led to the strengthening of the positions of the German-Austrian bloc in the Balkans and in Asia Minor. In November, 1912, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sazonov, presented the report to the emperor, where he directly stated that "The early disintegration of Turkey cannot be desired for us." Austria-Hungary wanted to get free hands in the Balkans, diverting Russia's attention to the problem of the straits. Therefore, in the current political situation, Russia supported the preservation of the existing situation.
However, this position of St. Petersburg was unable to maintain the status quo. Russian-Turkish relations are still complicated. This was due to the fact that Istanbul reoriented itself to Germany, trying to reduce the influence of England and France. German General Lyman von Sanders began work on the reorganization of the Ottoman armed forces and led the 1 Army Corps of the Turkish army. In fact, Germany has put the straits under its control. Petersburg was very concerned, but did not receive support from the official allies - France and England, in this matter.
In February, 1914, a meeting on the “Turkish issue” was held in the capital. Yudenich, who replaced the diseased Caucasian governor, Count Vorontsov-Dashkova, was also present at the meeting. At the meeting, different points of view were explored. The meeting participants did not support the idea of independent military actions of Russia in the area of the straits. The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Izvolsky, the minister of the sea, Grigorovich, and the quartermaster general of the General Staff, Danilov, spoke out against the military actions. After the meeting, General Danilov asked Yudenich in strict secrecy to prepare a mobilization plan and a plan of combat activities for the 1914 year in the Caucasian theater.
At this time, the headquarters of the Caucasian District received more and more disturbing news from Turkey. The Ottoman government went to the confrontation with Russia. To the border, various military units were mobilized, and reservists were mobilized. In the Kurdish tribes began to create irregular cavalry regiments. Turkish intelligence has stepped up its activities in the border area, especially in Adjara and Batumi. After the outbreak of war between Russia and Germany, the Port officially joined the coalition of the Central Powers. For the Entente powers this event was not a secret.
27 September 1914, the Turks closed the straits for the merchant ships of the Entente countries. Russia lost a significant part of its foreign trade. In fact, it was an unofficial declaration of war against the enemies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. October 29 Turkish-German squadron shelled Odessa, Sevastopol, Feodosia and Novorossiysk. Russia declared war on Turkey.
Creation of the Caucasian Front. The beginning of the fighting
A separate Caucasian army was formed on the basis of the Caucasian Military District. The royal governor-general in the Caucasus, Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov, automatically became its commander-in-chief. At one time, the earl distinguished himself in the fighting in Bulgaria and Central Asia, but now he was 78 year of life. A close friend of Emperor Alexander III, a brilliant administrator who had done a lot for the arrangement of the Caucasus, by virtue of his age simply could not lead the fighting. Vorontsov-Dashkov took almost no part in the command of the troops and in the management of operations. The whole burden of warfare fell on the head of the headquarters, Yudenich. The Caucasian governor actually laid the leadership of the army on him and on General Myshlaevsky.
The Caucasian front from the Black Sea to Lake Urmia was about 720 km. With the receipt of telegraphic news of the beginning of the war with Turkey, military council was assembled in Tiflis. Yudenich made a report on the state of the armed forces of the enemy and the operational situation on the border. According to Russian data, the number of enemy troops reached 1,5 million. The Ottoman army was in the process of reorganization under the leadership of German specialists. The ground forces consisted of 40 personnel divisions (low) and 53 reserve divisions (Redif). They were reinforced by 100 ths. Militia (mustafiz). Turkish cavalry numbered 60 regiments, including Kurdish 20. The Russian Caucasian Army was opposed by the 3 Army, which consisted of 3 Corps (9, 10 and 11), each of which had three infantry divisions. The 2-I separate cavalry division and three Kurdish cavalry divisions also entered the army. The main Turkish grouping was concentrated at Erzerum. The 10 body was located at Samsun. In all, the 3 Army had up to 130 infantry battalions, around 160 squadrons and Kurdish hundreds, as well as 250-300 guns. The army was headed by Gassan Izzet Pasha (since December 1914 of the year - the Minister of War Enver-Pasha himself), the chief of staff was German General F. Bronzart von Schellandorf. It was assumed that the 3-I Turkish army at the first stage of the war has only defensive tasks.
The Caucasian army, deployed from Batum to Sarakamysh, consisted of up to 120 infantry battalions and 127 Cossack hundreds with 304 guns. In general, the forces were approximately equal in number, but the Russian army was better in terms of quality. The Caucasian army was divided into several operational groups, each of which had predetermined tasks. Separate units of the 66 Infantry Division, 5-I Turkestan Rifle and 1-I Kuban Plastun Brigade, 25-I Brigade of the border guard (border guards with the beginning of the war became part of the army). On the Oltinsky direction, the 20 Infantry Division of Lieutenant General N. M. Istomin was located. She was supported by the 26-I Brigade of the Border Guard. The main operational direction was considered Sarykamysh. The main forces of the Caucasian army were concentrated here: the 1-th Caucasian Army Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General G. E. Berhman (two infantry divisions), the 1-I Caucasian Cossack Division, 2-th Turkestan Army Corps of General Slyusarenko (two infantry brigades) . The 3-I Caucasian Rifle Brigade was stationed in Kars, and the Siberian Cossack Brigade in Tiflis.
Yudenich stressed that for St. Petersburg the Caucasian theater of military operations is secondary compared to the Western front, therefore, in the near future reinforcements should not be expected. The head of staff noted that in the Sarykamysh direction, Russian troops have almost double superiority over the enemy. But in the Oltinsky direction, the Istomin detachment was much inferior to the enemy. The Caucasian army as a whole had an advantage as a cavalry — the Turkish cavalry and the Kurdish cavalry, were much inferior in their fighting qualities to the Cossacks.
Yudenich, on the basis of the overall balance of forces and means, suggested at the initial stage to limit himself to active defense, with reconnaissance in force. Winter came, which limited the ability to conduct combat operations. At this time it was necessary to complete the mobilization, to form reserves and prepare for an offensive operation. This decision was supported by other board members, including Vorontsov-Dashkova.
Active defense was assigned to the avant-garde. In November 1914, the forward detachments of the 1 Caucasian Corps took the border defensive positions of the enemy and began moving in the direction of Erzerum. Fighting began with the military cover of the Turkish army 3. However, the German advisers did not eat their bread for good reason, the Turkish troops were prepared for such a development of events. The 9 and 10 Turkish corps counterattacked and pushed back parts of the Berchman corps to the border.
There was a pause at the fighting. At the end of November, a harsh mountain winter came with regular heavy snowfalls and snow storms, making the movement of numerous troops very difficult. However, the “small war” continued. The reconnaissance detachments of the Russian and Turkish army probed the enemy positions. It is possible that such a positional war would continue until late spring. But this did not suit Enver-Pasha, the chief of the General Staff of the Ottoman Empire, Colonel Hafiz Hakky and the German advisers. Berlin demanded active actions in order to divert from the Russian front part of the reserves of Russia, which were being transferred from Siberia and Turkestan.
Positions of the Russian army under Sarykamysh
Istanbul decided to launch a major offensive against the Russian Caucasian army. In December 1914 of the year 3 of the army was headed by the Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire, Enver Pasha. It was an experienced military leader who fought against the Italians in Tripolitania, and participated in both Balkan wars. Enver Pasha was one of the main ideologists of Pan-Turkism. He even put forward a plan for an adventurous "victorious" campaign of the Turkish army through Iran and Afghanistan to India. Enver Pasha decided to destroy the Russian army, spending a classic environment in the spirit of "Cannes" in the area Sarykamysh.
The news of the arrival of Enver Pasha, received from the prisoners and the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, alerted Yudenich. It was obvious that the Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire did not arrive in vain on the Caucasian Front and headed the 3rd Army, the enemy clearly was preparing something. The chief of staff ordered the intensification of surveillance of the enemy. At the same time, the military security of occupied positions was strengthened, and corps and army reserves were put on alert. They took additional measures for the engineering equipment of the front line. Army aviation the squad daily lifted several airplanes for aerial reconnaissance.
Feel did not disappoint Yudenich. Soon, information about the preparation of a large offensive operation began to arrive from agents in Turkish territory, defectors (Armenian Christians), from prisoners. Enver Pasha wanted to crush the main forces of the Caucasian army and capture the Russian Transcaucasus. The Ottoman command pinned great hopes on the uprising of the Muslim population of the Batumi region - Adjara. Turkish emissaries were active in Ajaria, calling for a "holy war" against the "infidels." In case of success of the uprising, the enemy could capture Batum, having received a good springboard in the seaside direction. The capture of Ardahan and Batum gave the opportunity to begin hostilities in Guria and other regions of Western Georgia. At the same time, the 11 Corps of the 3 Army, together with the 2 Cavalry Division and the Kurdish cavalry corps, had to bind the Russian Sarakamysh detachment in battle. The 9 and 10 army corps were assigned the task of destroying the small Oltinsky detachment. Then bypass maneuver through Bardiz (Bardus) to cut off the rear base of the Sarykamysh detachment in the village of Sarakamysh (the final station of the narrow-gauge railway). Large artillery, food and other warehouses were located in Sarykamysh. Thus, with one decisive blow, the Ottoman command planned to break through to the Main Caucasian Range. Operational design of the Turks was designed for stealth movement and speed of the operation.
Sarykamysh battle (9 (22) December 1914 of the year - 4 (17) January 1915 of the year)
Defensive period. 5 December 1914 of the year frontline intelligence detected the movement of the 9 of the Turkish corps in the area of Kosh and Purtanus. Turkish troops were located in 55 km from Bardus. Parts of the 10 corps were found near the village of It. The other two divisions of the 10 corps were moving from Tortum in the direction of Ardoz and Azort. In general, the 10 corps attacked Oltu.
Yudenich, having received this news, became alarmed and, on behalf of the commander, ordered to intensify reconnaissance and put forward reinforced patrols in all directions. At the same time in these areas began to conduct reconnaissance aircraft squadron. As a result, from the very beginning of the Turkish operation, the 3-I army lost its main trump card - surprise. Early in the morning of December 9, Yudenich was informed that the Turkish troops had launched an offensive. The movement of the enemy to the Oltinsky detachment Istomin seemed the most dangerous. Under his command there was only one infantry brigade, the 3 th Gorno-Mozdok regiment of the Terek Cossacks, the Armenian squad and several small units with 24 implements.
The course of the Turkish offensive operation soon made it clear that the Ottoman headquarters was not up to par. Enver Pasha and his commanders not only failed to ensure the secrecy of the movement of troops and the suddenness of the strike, but the coordination of the actions of the corps and divisions in time and place. This quickly led the Turkish army to very poor results. Already on December 10, two Turkish divisions moving out of Ita and Tortum, staged a “friendly war”, mistaking each other for the enemy. On contact, a firefight ensued between them, which lasted six hours. Both divisions suffered heavy losses - up to 2 thousand people killed and wounded. This message made a huge impression on the Ottoman headquarters.
Two Turkish divisions, moving on Bardus, without stopping moved on Sarakamysh. Two hundred border guards (horse and foot) standing in Bardus - went to the pass. Enver Pasha, knowing that the 10 corps was interested in pursuing the Oltinsky detachment, sent it to the Sarakamysh and the 32 division. However, due to snowdrifts on the roads and frost, she could not get through and stopped in Bardus. In addition, this division had to cover the lines of communication from the 18 of the Turkestan Rifle Regiment. Nevertheless, the Turkish corps that were passing around the Russian right flank of the 9 and 10, reached the line of the settlements of Arsenyan and Kosor.
In the Ardagan-Tiflis direction, Turkish troops captured Ardahan. But Yudenich quickly parried the blow. From Tiflis in the direction of Ardahan by rail, and then the Siberian Cossack brigade of General Kalitin with an equestrian machine-gun command and the Orenburg Cossack battery was sent by marching order. Turkish troops could not break through to Borjomi. The Cossacks took the offensive and drove the enemy.
The main events took place at Sarakamysh. 10 (23) December The Sarikamysh detachment easily repulsed the frontal attack of the 11 Turkish corps. However, the detachment was under the threat of encirclement. The Sarakamish defended a small garrison: two militia squads (recruited from military servicemen of senior age and reserve officers), two railway operational battalions, they were armed with old rifles and had only 15 cartridges for the rifle. But the garrison was lucky, on this day in Sarykamysh there were several rifle platoons sent to the rear to form the 23 of the Turkestan regiment, two gun crews with 3-inch guns and 200 graduates of the Tiflis school of ensigns. Learn from the warrant officers sent experienced, distinguished soldiers. The garrison, with the help of the forces at the station, began to prepare for battle. He was led by the colonel of the General Staff, chief of staff of the 2 of the Kuban Plastun Brigade of Bukret, who turned out to be on this day in Sarykamysh. He distributed the available forces in the defense sectors, ordered the ammunition to be brought from remote warehouses to the station. After studying the existing stocks, he became the owner of the "treasure" - 16 machine gun "Maxim". He brought the Turkestan riflemen into two companies and poisoned fighters from the border guards who defended the Bardussky pass to help.
The commander of the Sarykamysh detachment, assistant to the commander-in-chief of the Caucasian army, General Alexander Zakharyevich Myshlayevsky, received the news of the advancing Turkish columns, made a bold decision - removed from the forward part of the detachment's forces and sent them to the defense of the station. On December 12, he sent 5 Kuban Plastun Brigade 1 battalions, 80 Kabardian Infantry, 155 Kuban Infantry, 15 Türkistan Rifle and 1 Zaporozhye Kuban Cossacks of the regiment 20, NNXX Turkestan rifle and 70 Zaporozhye Kuban Cossacks of the regiment 100 battalions 13 XNUMX Kuban Cossack Regiment, XNUMX Turkestan rifle and XNUMX Zaporozhye Kuban Cossacks, XNUMX Kristan Infantry Corps and the Caucasian mortar division. However, these troops had to make a forced march in XNUMX-XNUMX km (depending on the initial location) on winter roads, difficult to reach. For one day, that is, to December XNUMX, only the Kuban regiment and one infantry battalion, mounted on carts, managed to approach the station.
With the receipt of news of the approach of large enemy forces to Sarykamysh, Yudenich also left for the scene. It should be noted that the Turkish troops, because of frosts and snow-covered mountain roads, moved slowly, greatly stretched and suffered large (thousands of) non-combat losses. In particular, the 29 Infantry Division lost to freezing and frostbite to half of the composition. The situation in the 17 Division was not much better.
Only by the morning of December 13 did the Turkish 17 and 29 divisions shoot down a few Russian barriers and began an immediate assault on the station. But they moved slowly, restrained by strong machine-gun fire. At the most critical moment of the battle, when Turkish troops captured Northern Sarykamysh, reinforcements began to approach. By evening, the 9 battalions and 7 hundreds of horsemen had already participated in the battle (the Cossacks dismounted). The Turks made one attack after another, but the defenders of Sarykamysh were able to hold most of the village and the station. But the situation remained difficult. More and more Turkish battalions descended from the mountains.
By noon 15 December, the entire 10 of the Turkish corps was concentrated at Sarıkamış. The Turks almost completely surrounded the station, the railroad to Kars was cut. The shell bomber smashed a single radio station. It seemed that a little more and, despite the terrible losses from the “General of the Frost,” Enver Pasha’s plan would be implemented. Meanwhile, Yudenich sent to the area the battle all the troops that he could. By the end of the day, 15 December, Russian troops totaled an 22 battalion of infantry, 8 hundreds of horseback, about 30 guns and about 80 machine guns in this area. However, the Turks had a nearly twofold advantage in manpower - the 45 battalions.
The whole day was a fierce battle. The Turkish infantry launched one attack after another. I must say that the Turkish infantry fought well. They went on the attack with the ferocity of the doomed, knowing that they could not retreat. In the mountains they were waiting for death. And at the station, shelter and warmth, in warehouses - food, warm clothes. With great difficulty, but all enemy attacks were repulsed.
In the evening of December 15, the Commander-in-Chief Vorontsov-Dashkov appointed Yudenich as commander of the 1 Caucasian and 2 Turkestan corps. He received an order to defeat the Turkish troops near Sarykamysh and open the way for the withdrawal of troops to Kars. In fact, the governor handed Yudenich the full command and gave full right to retreat from the border to Kars, leaving warehouses and carts. Yudenich was handed the fate of the Caucasian army. From his decisions depended on victory or defeat.
Meanwhile, it became increasingly difficult to defend Sarykamysh. By the evening of December 16, the scouts found a large cluster of enemy forces in the forest north of the station. In addition, the soldiers of the guard post of the 80 Kabardian Regiment intercepted the enemy messenger with a written order to the commander of the 10 corps. It was said about the preparation of the night decisive assault. Russian soldiers prepared for a new battle. Indeed, around the 22 o'clock in the evening, the 3 th battalion of the 1 th Kuban Plastun Brigade, which held positions at the height of the Eagle's Nest, the station and the bridge on the highway, was attacked by large enemy forces. The Cossacks, under pressure from several thousand Turkish soldiers, began to retreat. The commander of the 1 Zaporozhyan regiment Colonel Kravchenko tried to stop the retreating, but fell in battle. The Turks seized the station and broke into the center of the village, occupying stone barracks. Turkish troops quickly strengthened, preparing for a new attack.
To be continued ...