At the most critical moment of the battle, Lieutenant-General Yudenich arrived in Sarykamysh. He took command of the troops. Assessing the situation, the general realized that the enemy could only be stopped and smashed by active, decisive actions, a counterattack. Russian troops conducted a series of attacks. Throughout the night, stubborn battles continued in the narrow streets of the station and in the immediate vicinity, which turned into hand-to-hand combat. By the morning of December 17, the Turkish offensive was stopped. Both sides suffered heavy losses.
At noon 17 December, the duty officer of the Caucasian Army headquarters received an urgent telegram from Headquarters in Mogilyov. Yudenich received a separate Caucasian army for his start. Vorontsov-Dashkov was sent to the honorary resignation.
However, the situation was still difficult. The troops suffered heavy losses. Bukretov denounced what was left in the companies of the 70-80 people. Ammunition was running out. They needed reinforcements, and it was impossible to withdraw troops from the front line. Sarykamysh detachment itself held back the onslaught of the 11 of the Turkish corps and could not send significant forces to the rear. General A. Z. Myshlaevsky, having incorrectly assessed the situation, gave an order to retreat, left the army and went to Tiflis (under the pretext of forming a new army), transferring command to Berhman. In Tiflis, Myshlaevsky reported on the threat of a Turkish invasion into the depths of the Russian Caucasus, which caused disorganization of the rear of the army (he was removed from command and dismissed in March).
Yudenich was able to turn the tide in his favor. Within a few days, he set up field control using three dozen radio stations, and decided to go on the offensive. Russian troops struck in several directions at once - Sarykamysh, Oltinsky and Ardahan. Strong detachments were sent to the rear of the enemy, threatening him with his entourage. On the Ardagan Plateau, the Siberian Cossack Brigade committed a regular rout to the Turkish troops with a night attack. Success was supposed to be achieved by rearranging the forces of the 39 Infantry Division, the 1 and 2 of the Kuban Plastun brigades and two artillery brigades located in the Kara Fortress.
The preparation of the operation was kept secret. To improve command and control, the commander ordered the installation of several radio links. On mountain passes and heights, in places of bends of gorges and valleys intermediate relay stations were set. According to him were orders and reports. December 22 Russian troops launched a general offensive and everywhere achieved success. Near Sarykamysh almost the entire 9 of the Turkish corps was destroyed. In the course of this battle, the 16 Company of the 154 Infantry Regiment of the Derbent Infantry Regiment smashed the enemy defenses with a bold bayonet and seized the enemy's corps headquarters, along with the corps commander and the commanders of all three divisions and their headquarters. The complete rout of the corps headquarters and its divisions caused a complete loss of control, the collapse of the Turkish defense. Turkish troops were defeated, their remnants captured.
The Turks tried to gain a foothold in Bardus. Enver-pasha himself arrived in this village, happily leaving the headquarters of the 9 corps shortly before its defeat. However, here the Turkish troops could not resist. 10 th Turkish corps could not stand the offensive of Russian troops and was defeated. His divisions began to retreat. The natural conditions saved the 10 Corps from the complete defeat - Russian troops could not reach Bardus in time on poor and noticeable snow roads. The Turkish 32 Infantry Division attempted to launch a counterattack, but was defeated by Baratov's detachment. The remnants of the Turkish division - 2 thousand people were captured.
The defeat of the 9 and 10 corps caused the success of the right wing of the Sarykamysh detachment, which was opposed by the 11 corps. The Sarykamysh detachment, which defended itself at the turn of the Yeni-Kay and Bash-Kay settlements, launched a counterattack, overcoming the fierce resistance of the enemy. The Turks, relying on strong mountain positions, stubbornly resisted and in order to break their resistance, it was decided to bypass the enemy’s left flank. The 18 Turkestan Regiment with 4 mountain guns made a difficult throw over the mountains. The guns had to be carried disassembled, and the shells to them. The appearance of Russian troops in the rear of the enemy, along with artillery, caused panic among Turkish soldiers. The regiments of the 11 Corps began to abandon their positions and hastily retreat, fearing to render surrounded and repeat the fate of the troops of the 9 Corps. As a result, all the corps of the 3 of the Turkish army were defeated.
Results At the beginning of 1915, the Caucasian army entered the line of the villages It, Ardi and Dayar. The Russian army opened its way deep into Anatolia. The Sarykamysh operation lasted almost a month at the front in 100 km and in depth on 100-150 km. The Turkish 3 Army lost almost half of its composition - 90 thousand only killed and frozen (wounded and frostbitten in the conditions of a mountainous winter, died en masse), several thousand were wounded and captured. Russian troops captured near 70 mountain and field guns. The Caucasian army also suffered heavy losses - about 26 thousand people killed, wounded and frostbite (according to others, more than 30 thousand people).
Sarykamysh battle had a great resonance. Yudenich and the Russian army put an end to the ambitious plans of the Ottoman command to defeat the Russian troops and move the fighting into the territory of the Caucasus. 3-I Turkish army suffered a terrible defeat. The Russian victory somewhat eased the position of the Allies in Iraq and the Suez region. The new army commander showed genuine commander-in-chief art in this battle. At the same time, one should not forget the contribution to the victory of the commander of the Sarykamysh group of troops, George Berhman, and Nikolai Bukretov, who headed the defense of Sarykamysh at the first stage of the battle. Yudenich, Berhman and Bukretov were awarded the Order of St.. George 4 degree. Yudenich was also promoted to infantry generals.
The victory of the Russian army made a great impression on the allies. The French ambassador in Petrograd, 6, on January 1915, wrote: “The Russians defeated the Turks near Sarykamysh, on the road from Kars to Erzerum. This success is all the more commendable because the offensive of our allies began in a mountainous country, as sublime as the Alps, rugged by precipices and passes. There is a terrible cold, constant snowstorms. Besides - no roads, and the whole region is devastated. The Caucasian Russian army performs amazing feats there every day. ”
Ottoman machine gunners.
The rest of the winter and the beginning of spring 1915 were spent on the reorganization of the troops of the Caucasian army, as well as their replenishment. The Supreme Command, considering the Caucasian Front to be secondary, sent practically untrained recruits to the Transcaucasus, which as a result made up more than half of all personnel. However, this almost did not affect the combat capability of the Caucasian army. Its core was composed of experienced troops, already inspired by previous successes. The Caucasian Army received the 4-th Caucasian Army Corps, which arrived from the North Caucasus, consisting of about 30 infantry battalions and 70 horseback hundreds. But, parts of the hull were manned only by a third. With such reinforcements, it was difficult to count on operational superiority over the Turks, who transferred reinforcements and restored the fighting capacity of the 3 Army. However, Yudenich, understanding the general strategic situation, did not ask for reinforcements.
The army successfully acted, and the victories achieved by it at the Caucasian theater of military operations looked especially bright against the background of the Great Retreat on the European front. The headquarters of the Supreme Commander did not set offensive tasks for the Caucasian army. Before the start of the 1915 campaign of the year, Yudenich, planning operations, found himself in a difficult situation, and decided to set only real tasks for the troops. Thus, the 4 Corps received the task of private operations, to improve the occupied position, acting advanced detachments formed from the most combat-ready parts. This tactic was a success. By the end of March, the Russian Caucasian army had cleared the southern Ajaria and the whole Batumi region from the Turks. The center and the right wing of the army occupied the main mountain passes and securely covered the Sarykamysh, Oltinskoe and Batumsk directions.
Anti-Armenian hysteria unfolded in Turkey, Western Armenians were accused of mass desertion, of organizing sabotage and uprisings in the rear of the Ottoman army. About 60, thousands of Armenians mobilized into the Ottoman army at the beginning of the war, were sent to work in the rear, and then destroyed. Mass ethnic cleansing began in the Ottoman Empire. In a number of places, Armenians raised an uprising and put up armed resistance. In particular, in April 1915, a rebellion began in Van. The defenders of Van, knowing that they and their families are awaiting a terrible death, fiercely defended themselves, repulsed several storms of the city. The Ottomans raged in the Van district, cutting out the Armenian population and setting fire to the Armenian villages; around 24 thousand Armenians died at the hands of the punishers, more than 100 villages were looted and burned.
To save the city from total annihilation, the 4-th Caucasian Army Corps went on the offensive. In early May, the advanced units of the Russian army and detachments of Armenian volunteers approached the city. Turkish troops lifted the siege and retreated. The Russian army cleared a vast territory of the Turks, having advanced 100 km, and created a solid position adjacent to Lake Van. The Van self-defense and offensive of the Russian troops saved tens of thousands of Armenians from inevitable death. Later, after the temporary withdrawal of the Russian troops, the local Armenians, fleeing death, moved to Eastern Armenia.
The defense of Van.
Alashkert operation. In June, Russian troops defeated the Turks in Azerbaijan. Under pressure from Berlin and Vienna, which demanded a new offensive in the Caucasus, the Turkish command decided to launch an offensive operation and wrest the strategic initiative from the hands of the Russian army. Enver Pasha was returned to Istanbul, he could not solve the problem of defeating the Russian troops in the Caucasus. 3 of the Turkish army was led by Abdul Kerim Pasha. He energetically took up the preparation of a new "victorious" offensive against the "infidels." The new chief of staff was the German major G. Guze. In July, Turkish troops launched an offensive in an area north of Lake Van. The Turks planned to break the 4 Corps, go on the offensive on the Kara direction, in order to cut off the communications of the Russian troops and force them to further retreat. The Ottoman command was able to concentrate large forces (around the 90 infantry battalions and 48 squadrons and hundreds) went into the attack, which were able to press the 4 Caucasian Corps. In the Russian rear, with the support of the local Muslim population, there were subversive groups of the Ottoman army. Under these conditions, the commander of the 4 Caucasian Corps, V. de Witt, proposed to withdraw troops to the line north of the Alashkert valley. There was a serious threat.
Despite the alarming reports, Yudenich retained complete calm. The Caucasian commander-in-chief formed in the Dayar area a consolidated detachment under the command of General N.N. Baratova. It consisted of 24 battalion and 31 hundred. Baratov's 9 (22) squad in July delivered an accurate and strong flank attack on the advancing Turkish forces. The next day, the 4-th Caucasian Army Corps also launched a counter-offensive. Turkish troops fluttered and, fearing a detour and encirclement, retreated, but failed to achieve their total defeat (mainly due to the weak work of our rear units). In addition, the troops were very tired. Turkish troops 21 July (3 August), taking advantage of the lack of vigorous action of the corps, entrenched at the turn of Byulyuk-Bashi, Erdish.
As a result, the Alashkert operation’s plan of the Ottoman command to destroy the 4 of the Caucasian Army Corps and break through to Kars failed. Russian troops defeated the enemy forces, captured about 3 thousands of people and retained most of their territory. In addition, conditions were provided for the future strategic offensive operation (Erzurum operation). For his successes during the Alashkert operation, Nikolay Yudenich was awarded the Order of St. George of the 3 degree.
At the same time, there were major changes in the leadership of all the Armed Forces of the Russian Empire. In early September, the sovereign Nicholas II became the Supreme Commander of 1915, and the former Supreme Commander, uncle of the emperor, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, together with the chief of staff N.N. Yanushkevich, was sent to the Caucasian Front. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich headed the Caucasian Front (they began to jokingly call him the "front of three Nikolayevich"). However, despite the fact that Nikolai Yudenich had another supervisor, de facto, he retained a certain independence in the leadership of the Caucasian army and continued to exercise direct leadership of combat operations.
Action in Persia
World War I covered more and more new territories. In the second half of 1915, with the consent of Stavka, the headquarters of a separate Caucasian army completed a plan for conducting an operation in Northern Persia with the task of excluding that country’s entry into the war against Russia. The Ottoman command, fulfilling the plan of Berlin to expand the territory covered by the fighting, tried to launch a "holy war" of Muslims against the "infidels", and involve Persia and Afghanistan in an open statement against Russia and Great Britain.
The Russian command formed an expeditionary corps under the command of well-proven in battles Nikolai Nikolayevich Baratov. The corps included 1-I Caucasian Cossack and Caucasian cavalry divisions. Initially, the corps numbered about 8 thousand people with 20 guns (then its number was increased to 14 thousand people with 38 guns). Baratov's corps was to confront the German-Turkish forces in Persia, led by Georg von Kaunitz, numbering about 8 thousand people. Russian troops were transported from Tiflis to Baku, where they embarked on transport ships. October 17 1915, the Russian troops successfully landed in the Persian port of Anzali. Divided into two columns of marching, the troops moved to Kum and Hamadan, the strong points of the pro-German forces. December 3 The expeditionary corps 1915 occupied the ancient Persian capital, Hamadan, creating the basis for further advancement into the interior of the country.
Russian troops in a series of clashes defeated enemy troops. During one of them, the German emissary, Count Kaunitz, was killed. Russian corps went to the borders of Iraq. With the occupation of Kuma and Kermanshah, the Russian troops cut off Persia from Turkish Mesopotamia. At the same time, the Russian Kharasan detachment blocked the enemy’s path to Afghanistan. Together with the allied British troops, the Russians thwarted the plans of Istanbul and Berlin to consolidate their positions in Persia.
To be continued ...