After the capture of Erzerum, the Russian army continued the offensive. On the night of February 19, Russian troops stormed the fortified city of Bitlis by storm. Despite the stubborn resistance of the Turkish troops, who fought on artillery positions and on the streets of the city, the city was captured. Up to 1, thousands of people were taken prisoner, 20 guns, an artillery depot, 5 thousand rifles and significant food supplies became trophies of the Russian troops. The troops were commanded by the commander of the 2 Caucasian Cossack Division, Dmitry Abatsiyev, and the head of the Armenian volunteer formations, Andranik Ozanyan.
At the same time, the Russian Primorsky detachment, breaking through enemy positions on the rivers Arhava and Vitsesu, went to the distant approaches to the important sea trapeze Trapezund. The offensive of Russian troops along the seashore was supported by the fire of naval artillery of the Black Sea fleet.
The expeditionary force of Baratov went on the offensive. The raids of the Russian Cossacks seriously helped the British troops, who fought hard with the Turks in the south of Mesopotamia. Under the blow of the Russian cavalry, the Baghdad direction turned out to be, and the Ottoman command could not transfer troops from Mesopotamia to the Caucasian front.
Trapezund became a direct continuation of the Erzerum operation. It was conducted by the Primorsky Detachment (15 thousand people) under the command of Vladimir Lyakhov with the support of the Batumi naval base under the command of Captain 1-rank Rimsky-Korsakov. The Black Sea port of Trabzon was an important Turkish transport base, through which the 3 Army maintained contact with Istanbul. In addition, the capture of Trapezund facilitated the position of the right flank of the Caucasian army. At the beginning of April, the active phase of the operation began, the Primorsky detachment launched a methodical offensive, advancing with battles to 5 km per day, squeezing out Turkish troops. The enemy’s defense on the west bank of the Karadera River was broken through by the Black Sea Fleet — one battleship, two destroyers, two destroyers and several other ships fired. At the same time, the fleet landed troops in Rize and Hamurgian - two Kuban Plastun brigades with artillery (18 thousand people). The Turkish fleet could not prevent this operation. 5 April Trabzon took up without a fight. The city’s garrison ran across the surrounding mountains.
The capture of Trebizond significantly improved the supply of the right flank of the Russian army. It began to create a large army rear base. To protect it, the Platan fortified area was created. Two third-ranking infantry divisions formed near Mariupol were transferred there. Yudenich of them organized the 5th Caucasian Army Corps. As subsequent events showed, this was a timely measure ahead of the Turkish offensive. Yudenich was one of those generals who paid great attention to technical innovations (radio, aviation) The aviation detachment did not fail the Russian commander, the pilots discovered the movement of large forces of enemy infantry and cavalry.
Taken by Russian troops Trapezund in 1916 year.
The Ottoman command did not accept the defeat, and planned to take revenge, to return back lost Erzerum and Trebizond. Istanbul was preparing a powerful blow. The Turkish troops were significantly strengthened - from the 11 divisions they were brought to 24. To reinforce the 3 Army, the 5 and 12 Corps were transferred by sea, bringing its force to the 15 divisions. The army was led by Vehib Pasha. At the same time, on the right flank of the front, into the valley of the Euphrates, parts of the 2 Army Ahmet Izat Pasha (the Dardanelles winner) were transported along the Baghdad Railway. The 2 th army consisted of: 2 th, 3 th, 4 th and 16 th corps. However, the concentration of the 2 Army was slowed down by poor communications, the units had to go their own way 250-600 versts from unloading stations to concentration points.
3-I Turkish army had to go on the offensive in July on a wide front, Trebizond - Erzerum, and tie down Russian troops. The main blow inflicted 2-I army. She struck the junction between 1 and 4 in the Caucasian corps on Gassan-Kala, and then went to the rear of Erzerum from the southeast. The Ottoman command planned to repel Erzerum, and with great luck, surround and destroy the main forces of the Caucasian army. But Russian intelligence found the movement of the enemy troops. In addition, the defector declared himself - a major of the Turkish General Staff, Circassian by origin, who revealed the plans of the enemy, who provided a complete picture of the structure of the Turkish rear and the grouping of troops.
Before moving to the general offensive, Vehib Pasha conducted a local operation in the Ashkalinsky district. In late May, the Turkish troops recaptured Memahatun, eliminating Memahatun salient. Yudenich did not attach much importance to this, since Memahatun was busy contrary to the opinion of the commander of the Caucasian army, who considered such advancement to be incompatible with the forces of the army and the ability to supply advanced units. The 9 and 11 Turkish corps pushed the 4 Caucasian Rifle Division. Vehib Pasha decided to build on his success and move on, on the Erzurum direction. But Yudenich moved the 39 Infantry Division to the enemy. In the fierce battle of 21-23 in May, the “wonder-heroes” of the 39 division beat off the onslaught of the 5 enemy divisions and covered Erzerum. Thus, the 153 th Infantry Regiment of Baku, Colonel Maslovsky, stopped the strike of the 17 th and 28 th Turkish Infantry Divisions and two enemy cavalry divisions. The fighters of the regiment, shooting standing and from their knees, as if they were learning, put the enemies without an account, but they themselves suffered great losses - they lost an 21 officer and 900 lower ranks.
Yudenich, having learned about the plans of the enemy, decided to preempt the enemy, to launch his counterstrike in order to defeat the Vehib Pasha army before the 2 army was concentrated and offensive. In this area, the forces of the Russian Caucasian army reached the 180 battalions, the forces of the 3 Turkish army reached the 200 battalions, but the Russians were superior to the Ottomans in the strength of the battalions and artillery. The Turks were the first to launch an offensive - 13 June The 3-I army struck out with fresh 5-m and 12-m corps of the Liman-Soo valley in the Trabzon direction, planning to cut off Trabzon. However, the 5 Caucasian Corps was already holding the defense here. The Turks were able to wedge a little between the 5-m Caucasian (commander Vladimir Yablochkin) and the 2-m Turkestan (Mikhail Przhevalsky) corps, but they could not develop this breakthrough. Here the 19 Turkestan Regiment of Litvinov became an iron wall. For two days he held the blow of two divisions of the enemy, giving the command time to regroup. Of the 60 officers and the 3200 lower ranks of the 19, the Turkestan regiment missed the 43 commanders and the 2069 lower ranks. The regiment's fighters laid up 6 thousand Turks. The fierceness of the battle is evidenced by the fact that in hand-to-hand combat, the arrows raised the bayonets of the commander of the 10 Turkish division. By striking the 123 Infantry Division on the left flank of the Turks and the 3 th Plastun Brigade on the right flank, the enemy’s advance was stopped. The 490 Infantry Regiment of the Rzhevsky regiment seized the flag of the Combined Guards Turkish Regiment.
Having stopped the 5 th and 12 th Turkish corps on the Trapezund direction with the flank attacks of the 5 Caucasian and 2 of the Turkestan corps, Commander Yudenich himself launched an energetic offensive by the 1 Caucasian corps against the troops of the 9 and 11. at Memahatun (Mamahatuna). 23 Jun. The 39 Infantry Division again faced five Ottoman divisions. On the night of June 25, the Turkish group was defeated. June 27 was again occupied by Memahatun, and Turkish troops were driven far to the east. The 1 Caucasian Corps approached Erzincan. About 4 thousand prisoners were captured in this direction.
Yudenich decided to develop success and seize Erzincan - an important communication hub in Anatolia; the main rokadnaya line of the 3 Turkish army passed here. The 1 Caucasian Corps Kalitina was supposed to attack the Erzincan grouping — the 9 and 11 corps in the center. The 2 Turkestan Przhevalsky corps bypass the left flank of the Erzindzhan group, knocking down the Turkish NNXX th corps. The 10 Caucasian Corps Yablochkina provided the entire operation on the extreme right flank. His troops pursued the broken parts of the 5 of the Turkish corps. Turkish troops were defeated in these battles at Dzhivizlik, and then parts of the 5 Caucasian Corps seized the Foul on the Black Sea coast, and occupied Gumushhan.
The Turkestan Przhevalsky Corps shot down the 10 Corps with several blows and occupied the 2 of July Bayburt. More than 2 thousand people were captured in the battles near Bayburta. The Erzincan group was deeply enveloped from the left flank. The 1-th Caucasian Corps forced Kara-Su, defeated the 9-th and 11-th Turkish corps, and in July 10-X Infantry Division captured Erzincan.
As a result of the defensive and offensive actions of June-July 1916, the Russian Caucasian army once again defeated the Turkish army 3. Russian troops occupied Erzincan, about 17 thousand prisoners were taken. The army occupied the front line Fall - Kalkit - Erzincan - Kigi on this site, advancing the advance units somewhat forward of this line and seizing a number of profitable points. The Caucasian army was able to prevent the 3 and 2 Turkish armies from a joint strike. As the German General Liman von Sanders (head of the German military mission in the Ottoman Empire) wrote: “After the Russian cavalry broke through the front in two places, the retreat turned into a rout. Panicked, thousands of soldiers fled. So, the Russians warned the intentions of the Turkish command and inflicted a complete defeat on the 3 army until the end of the concentration of the 2 army. ”
Fighting on the Ognot direction - July 21 (August 3) - August 29 (September 11). Results of the 1916 campaign of the year
The successful Erzindzhan operation allowed Yudenich to transfer army reserves against the Turkish 2. The army of Ahmed Izeta-pasha is a more serious opponent than the 3 army that has already suffered several defeats. The morale of the army was high after its victories over the Anglo-French forces during the Dardanelles operation. The army was well armed, equipped, equipped with everything necessary. In particular, she even had mountain howitzers, which were not at all in the Caucasian army. Initially, it was composed of 7 divisions, then it was strengthened with new connections. The army of Izet-Pasha, advancing from Harput, deployed 4 divisions in the Ognot direction and 2 divisions in the Mush - Bitlis sector.
On July 21 (August 3), advance units launched an offensive by the 2 Army and attacked the extreme left flank of the 1 Caucasian Corps in the Kigi area. In the mountains, fierce fighting began again. Yudenich from the Erzurum area moved an army reserve by force to the 2 divisions, which, for better management, were already reduced during the march into the 6 Caucasian Corps under V. Lobachevsky. Russian troops clashed in a head-on battle with units of the 2 Army in the Ognot direction. Therefore, this battle, which lasted a whole month, received the name of the Ognot battles.
Turkish troops could not penetrate deep into the Russian defense. Up to the end of August there were stubborn fights. The right wing of the Turkish army 2, after knocking down the advanced parts of the 4 Caucasian corps, started a battle at the Mus-Bitlis front and, receiving reinforcements, forced the Russians to withdraw from this line. However, on August 24, Russian troops recaptured Mush. At the end of August, the Russian troops defeated the 2 of the Turkish corps near Ognot, especially the 30 and 12 divisions suffered great losses. As a result, Russian troops thwarted the 2 th army and forced the enemy to go on the defensive. The fresh 2 Turkish army, seriously surpassing the Russian forces against it and possessing the offensive initiative, could not achieve its goal. The Ottomans at the cost of large losses were able to capture only Bitlis, while the front position on the rest of the southern sector remained almost unchanged. Therefore, it must be admitted that success on this section of the front remained with the Russian army. In the course of this battle, the Turks lost up to 60 thousand people, the Russians - about 20 thousand.
The 3-I Turkish army, defeated during the Erzincan operation, was not able to provide substantial assistance to the 2-th army. And its offensive could put the Caucasian army in a difficult position, forced in this case to fight in the absence of a reserve, also in the western direction. In mid-August, the 3 Army received reinforcements, and tried to launch a local operation west of Gumushhan, but here all the Ottoman attacks were repelled. On August 30, the Turks were able to penetrate the front in a small area with a surprise attack in the area south of Kalkit, but the next day they eliminated the breakthrough. Another blow by the Turkish troops in the area west of Kalkit was also beaten off.
Soon there was a pause at the front. By the beginning of September 1916, the Caucasian Front had stabilized at the turn of Elleu, Erzincan, Ognot, Bitlis and Lake Van. Both sides have exhausted their offensive capabilities. The high command of the front proposed to launch an offensive against Sivas, but the command of the army, supported by the corps commanders of the western sector, came out against this idea. The main reason for the reluctance to launch a new offensive was the problem with the supply of troops. Despite the construction of the 1916 during the summer on the main directions of narrow-gauge and equilateral railways, the supply was a significant problem, which intensified with the onset of the Russian troops. The mountain region was limited in food resources and could not feed the army. Lack of resources was aggravated by the growth of diseases, and typhoid and scurvy claimed many lives. In addition, the problem of shortage of firewood was added, the army occupied vast treeless areas in the midst of snow-capped mountains. The 4 Caucasian Army Corps suffered especially. Sanitary losses were higher than combat.
The results of the 1916 campaign of the year on the Caucasian front exceeded all expectations of the Stavka, the Russian army under Yudenich seriously advanced deep into the Ottoman Empire. The Caucasian army defeated the enemy in a series of battles, seized the most important and largest cities of the region - Erzerum, Trabzon, Van and Erzincan. The Turkish summer offensive was disrupted during the Erzincan operation and the Ognot fights. The main task of the army, which was set at the beginning of the First World War, was solved - the Russian Transcaucasus was reliably protected. In the occupied territories, a temporary governor-general of Turkish Armenia was established, directly subordinate to the command of the Caucasian army. Already in 1916, the Russians began the economic development of the region by building several railways. By the beginning of 1917, the Russian Caucasian Army was the undisputed winner, despite the fierce resistance of the Turkish troops, difficult environmental conditions, diseases and difficulties with the replenishment of troops.
To be continued ...