The Caucasian front throughout the war was markedly different from other theaters of war. At any time of the year, it was not a trench positional war that was fought here, as in other places, but active fighting with detours, encirclements and decisive breakthroughs took place.
Russian commanders won a series of such victories on the Turkish front, which the commanders of other fronts could not have dreamed of for a long time. And, paradoxically, victories that our commanders envied on the Austrian and German fronts and allied commanders envied became possible, not least because they practically did not work in the Caucasus ... adopted in accordance with the Regulations on troop field control two-tier leadership system. In practice, the primacy of the Caucasian governors - first, Count I.I. Vorontsov-Dashkova, and then - who replaced him in the post of Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, was transformed into trivial, but therefore no less effective, separation of powers.
Noting the successes of the Caucasian army, the Russian monarchist propaganda, like the allied press, praised, above all, the nominal Commander-in-Chief. Although the main creator of victories in the Caucasus was, of course, General N.N. Yudenich, who in Russia is still remembered mainly as a commander-loser, who unsuccessfully tried to take Petrograd in 1919 year. Contemporaries, not without reason, called Yudenich an outstanding military leader, "the genius of the offensive and maneuver." Even the fact that it was he who fell then to head the march to the “red” Petrograd should be regarded as direct evidence of the recognition of the highest professional level of the “Suvorov school general”. This assessment of Yudenich sounded more than once in emigrant publications. As a worthy adversary, Soviet researchers also paid tribute to him. It is significant that no derogatory definition from Bolshevik propaganda, such as "Denikinism" or "Kolchak", did not receive a short period of leadership by Yudenich white armies in North-West Russia.
Nikolai Yudenich was born 18 on July 1862 of the year in Moscow in the family of a descendant of poor Minsk gentry, college adviser. But he did not follow in the footsteps of his father, and preferred a military career to a peaceful and peaceful life of an official. He graduated from the Third Alexander School, and then - the Nikolaev Academy of the General Staff. Commanding the 18 rifle regiment as part of the 5 th rifle brigade of the 6 th East-Siberian rifle division, he fought bravely in the Russian-Japanese war, was awarded the Golden weapons and the Orders of St. Vladimir, III degree with swords and St. Stanislav I of degree with swords.
Beginning of World War in August 1914, 52-year-old N.N. Yudenich met in the Caucasus with the rank of lieutenant general. The hastily formed Caucasian army was then headed, despite his advanced age (he was 76 years old), the cavalry general imperial governor in the Caucasus, Count Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov. Tsarist dignitary with great experience, he was better known not as a commander, but as a horse breeder and head of security of Alexander III. The chief merit of the count was considered the pacification of the Caucasus after 1905, when the governorship was restored there. It is Vorontsov-Dashkov who is credited with authorship in the creation of a political system in the south of Russia, which was called military-national control. In Soviet times, it was severely criticized, although the realities of the 20th century showed that the national policy of the CPSU (b) -CPSU in the same Caucasus was untenable.
But even Soviet researchers nevertheless did justice to the flexibility of the central authority of the Russian empire in the national question.
The search for a balance between the centripetal tendencies in this policy and taking into account national specifics at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries was not always unsuccessful. The system of military-national management was specific to the North Caucasus. Now it is recognized that she wore a relatively progressive, albeit relatively. So, among other things, at first, congresses of trusted representatives organized in the Caucasus allowed the population to feel completely protected from the arbitrariness of officials. However, all attempts by the governor to introduce Zemstvo administration in the Caucasus, which showed itself very well in European Russia, did not find understanding at the top: Nicholas II, in response to numerous letters from Count Vorontsov-Dashkova, referred to the intractability of the Duma and possible opposition from the Caucasian elite. However, the successor of Vorontsov-Dashkova as governor-general, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, although he held several meetings on this topic in Tiflis, did not even manage to introduce a zemstvo in the Caucasus.
Recalling the same year 1905, when the Caucasian governorship was restored, a contemporary wrote that at that moment “political strings in the Caucasus were stretched to the fullest. At the head of the Caucasus was to be a man of a balanced and remarkable mind, a man with a bold, independent character and a far-sighted gaze, and, finally, a man with a will and a kind heart, easily perceiving and understanding the soul of the Caucasus. ” Obviously, from the point of view of the royal court, Count Vorontsov-Dashkov was just such a man.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that by 1914, the situation in the Caucasus was indeed much calmer than in Petrograd, Moscow, or industrial areas, where only lazy people did not speak about revolution.
Turkey declared war on Russia 2 on November 1914 of the year, and took full advantage of the fact that it entered the war later than the Germans and the Austrians. By that time, two-thirds of the Russian troops from the Caucasus had already been sent to the European Theater of War. Turkish troops began hostilities with shelling from the sea of Russian ports on the Black Sea. Let us turn once more to the testimony of a contemporary - the commander of the convoy of the Caucasian governor, Esaula N. Bigaev: “In the first days of the war, the count could not be known. He was twice younger, he was burning with the fire of a military feat, constantly worrying about whether camping tents, his riding horses, etc., are in order. ”And yet the war can hardly be considered a suitable occupation for an 76-year-old man like the Caucasian governor. Just a few months later, the illness put the count in bed and, according to the head of his convoy, "has not let him out of his iron arms since then." As a result, the assistant Vorontsov-Dashkova on the military unit, General A.Z. Myshlaevsky. Mikhail Bulgakov assigned his surname to one of the heroes of his novel “The White Guard” with a light hand, but the elderly general couldn’t serve as a prototype for the brave gunner. To direct the headquarters of the operatively formed Caucasian army they charged General N.N. Yudenich.
Having forces almost three times lower than the Turks, Caucasians organized a very flexible and active defense of the 720 front in kilometers - up to Lake Urmia.
There has been no talk of advances yet, since the lion’s share of resources — both human and material — still had to be directed to the European theater of operations. Disappointment reigned in Tiflis - there was talk even in coffeehouses about the threefold superiority of the Turks in forces. However, the Russians managed to strike several strong blows at the enemy back in October. And although then I had to retreat, but also to liquidate the Muslim uprising in the Chorokh region, which caused a real panic in Tiflis, by November the situation had stabilized. Tsar Nicholas II himself decided to come to the Caucasus in a timely manner, which sharply lifted the spirit of the troops and returned calm to the streets of Tiflis.
I must say that the city at that time really literally trembled with fear, turning into a tattered “anthill”. The Armenians, for the patronage of which, as will be said below, more than once criticized the count-governor and his wife, rushed from Tiflis. The wives of the staff officers, from whom their husbands could not hide the alarming telegrams from the front, packed up the property, and trucks crashed through the streets of the city. But the Tiflis Palace even before the arrival of the Sovereign kept complete peace of mind. Some representatives of the frightened population addressed the Countess Elizabeth Andreevna herself with questions: “Your Grace, Countess! Things are bad at the front, is it not better for you to leave here in advance? ” The wife of the governor answered in full accordance with her position: “Only the cowards run away. Instead of organizing the defense of their native land, hometown, part of the population, especially Armenians, shamefully flee, not sparing money for it. I'm not going anywhere. ” The countess didn’t even think of sparing “her own” Armenians or high-ranking officers of the headquarters.
The tranquility that finally reigned in Tiflis after the visit of Nicholas II turned out to be all the more important because in a few days the Turks did go over to the offensive. The most intense and dangerous section of the front was Erzerumsky, where the well-trained 3 Turkish army opposed the Russians. It was headed by one of the leaders of the "Young Turks" Enver Pasha, who not only plotted troops in Little Russia, but even dreamed of the "Turan kingdom" from Kazan to Suez. December 9 Turks went on the offensive and were in the rear of the Russian. The count-governor was in complete confusion, General Myshlaevsky took over command of the army, Yudenich led the II Turkestan Corps. They were already at the front of the 11 number, and Yudenich's corps so actively reflected the blows of two Turkish corps that they stopped at the approaches to Sarykamysh. Pulling up five divisions to the city, Enver-pasha could not even imagine that they were fighting with only two teams. Myshlaevsky lost heart and began to give orders one after another for a retreat. 15 December he threw troops altogether and, having lost contact with Tiflis, rode to the rear.
Yudenich, who led the Sarykamysh detachment, had to rectify the situation, and decided not to surrender the city under any circumstances.
December 16 Turks rushed into Sarıkamış, but the Russians knocked them out. After this, Yudenich found an opportunity for a swift maneuver: his detachment went on an unexpected counter-offensive, moreover, surrounded the main forces of the Turkish army and captured them. Enver Pasha left the troops defeated by Sarykamysh and tried to deliver a distraction blow near Kara-Kurgan, but the Russian 39-I division, which later received the name of the “iron”, shot down almost the entire 11 of the Turkish corps.
December 25 Yudenich, by order of the Commander-in-Chief, Deputy Governor Count Vorontsov-Dashkova, took over the actual command of the Caucasian Army. So, the separation of powers — into the purely military behind Yudenich, with his headquarters, and the administrative-economic one in the rear behind the viceroy-commander-in-chief — took place de facto.
By January 5 1915, the enemy was thrown back to its original positions, having lost 90 thousands of bayonets with killed and captured 30. The Russians advanced into Turkish territory 40-24 kilometers, marking the beginning of an almost continuous offensive after this against the Turks. For the success in the operation under Sarykamysh, Nicholas II produced Yudenich to the generals from infantry and awarded him the Order of St. George IV degree, and on January XNUMX officially appointed the commander of the Caucasian army, separating the authority of the deputy and the front commander de jure. Quite quickly, Nikolai Nikolayevich managed to rally the units entrusted to him, further strengthen their morale. Co-worker Yudenich General Veselozerov later noted: “In the shortest possible time, he became close and comprehensible to Caucasians. He was widely hospitable, but in matters of service he was demanding both to himself and to others. ”
But it was at this time that Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, with whom Yudenich found mutual understanding, requested his Majesty's resignation. The count wrote to the sovereign that the time had come to “release him from the discharge of his overpowering duties and dismiss him in peace.” Having received no direct answer from Nicholas II, the governor submitted a second petition. The sovereign did not agree to the dismissal of Count Vorontsov-Dashkova from the post of Commander-in-Chief and the Governor of the Caucasus, writing in reply: “I cannot imagine the Caucasus without you ...”.
However, as it turned out, the change of high authorities in the Caucasus was only postponed.
By this time, the health of Count Vorontsov-Dashkov had recovered somewhat, but quite unexpectedly, they began to blame for the… swift advance into the depths of Turkish territory, specifically into Turkish Armenia. At the meetings of the Council of Ministers 30 July and 4 August 1915, chaired by I.L. Goremykin and with the participation of the Minister of War A.A. Polivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs S.D. Sazonov and others, addressed to the aged deputy governor, sounded such words, which, if desired, could be taken even for accusations of high treason. It got to the point that the cabinet members called the lightning offensive of the Caucasian army harmful, criminal for the interests of Russia and the general economy of warfare. The contemporary testifies that “the ministers pointed out (and General Polivanov confirmed) that Count Vorontsov-de was interested only in the Armenian issue - the re-establishment of Greater Armenia, and that common interests are alien to him”.
It was at this time, after a series of defeats in the spring-summer company 1915, Nicholas II decided to take over the supreme command of the Russian army, removing from his post the commander-in-chief uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich. He was sent by the governor to the Caucasus instead of the finally losing Count Vorontsov-Dashkova. And with leaving the Grand Duke high rank of Supreme Commander - but only in the Caucasus. Yudenich, who had almost single-handedly disposing on the Caucasian front for almost a year, could have been wary of direct intervention in his affairs by the Grand Duke, whose authority in the army, despite the veiled resignation, remained very high.
The new Caucasian governor, unlike most of the other Romanovs, was a professional soldier, but fought only in the 1877-1878 years - in the Balkans. As Supreme Commander, he gained enviable popularity.
This was the cause of the real Fronde, which Nicholas II staged not only Duma members and ministers, but also many members of the imperial family, when he decided to personally head the army. Some modern researchers are even ready to accuse the royal uncle of trying to organize a conspiracy against the emperor and reign as Nicholas III himself. But these accusations are primarily refuted by the fact that after the abdication, Nicholas II wanted to reappoint his commander as supreme commander, by the way, the head of the Romanov family council. General A.A. Brusilov described the Grand Duke as almost the ideal Chief Commander: "Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich was appointed the Supreme Commander. In my opinion, at that time it was impossible to find the best Supreme Commander. He was a man completely devoted to military affairs, and theoretically and practically knew and loved military craft. " Chief of Operations Division, General Headquarters, Yu.N. Danilov was not at all shy in his eulogy: "Great Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich! Who did not hear that name? The first Russian Supreme Commander in the period of Russia's participation in world war. The person who led the huge five millionth army; the man who had the responsibility to protect a huge state, which constituted one sixth of the entire land of the globe. Through the ranks of this army for the entire time of the command of its Grand Duke, at least as many millions more people gathered from all over Russia. nonnuyu his army, he was able to lead to victory; her dignity, he was able to save in the period of serious failures.
Grand Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich impressed everyone who saw him for the first time, above all with his outstanding regal appearance, which made an unprecedented impression.
Extremely tall, slender and flexible as a stalk, with long limbs and a proudly set head, he stood out sharply above the crowd that surrounded him, no matter how significant it was. Thin, precisely engraved, features of his open and noble face, framed by a small graying beard with a wedge, complemented his characteristic figure. "
But it seems that the consequences of a shift from the highest post in the army had a very strong impact on the Grand Duke. The separation of powers was preserved - for a long time Nikolay Nikolayevich in the Caucasus did not at all intervene in the disposition of his complete namesake Yudenich, although he began to show his legendary exactingness immediately. It must be admitted that such demands of the new governor were not out of place - the Turks recovered from the first defeats and were preparing to again invade the borders of the Russian Empire. When Enver Pasha made an attempt in the summer of 1915 to break through the Russian front in the Kara direction, it was disrupted by the solidarity of the Russian troops and the tactically competently constructed Alashkert operation. It is significant that on the Caucasian front, as compared with the European theater of war, the Russian troops did not have such acute problems with armaments and ammunition, although it was not possible to completely avoid shell hunger. However, the return artillery and machine-gun fire of the Russians was invariably extremely effective. And this is, first of all, the merit of General Yudenich, who managed very carefully to dispose of significant stocks of weapons made in the Caucasus before the war.
By this time, the situation in Persia (Iran) was causing increasing alarm among the Russian authorities. An extensive network of German agents operated in the country, which formed sabotage detachments and pushed Persia to war with Russia on the German side. In this situation, the Stavka, in agreement with the Grand Duke, the new governor of the Caucasus and the commander-in-chief, commissioned Yudenich's troops to conduct an operation called Hamadan. An expeditionary corps was formed. October 30 Russian units suddenly landed in the Iranian port of Enzeli, conducted several expeditions inland, taking the city of Qom, Hamadan on the outskirts of Tehran. In addition, attempts by enemy formations to penetrate into Eastern Persia and Afghanistan were blocked. In a letter to Nicholas II, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich did not say a word about his namesake, the commander, but noted, not without satisfaction, that "Persia was wary of entering the war on the side of the German bloc."
But the situation on the Russian-Turkish front was still troubled. True, winter was approaching, and the Turks believed that large Russian forces would not go to the mountains in order not to die from the cold and not get stuck in the snow. And N.N. Yudenich believed that such a mistake could be in the hands of the Caucasian army and, not having had time to secure the approval of his proposals from the Grand Duke, insisted before Bid on the mountain offensive by the end of December. Moreover, the offensive was large-scale, it was proposed to break through the defense of the Turks in three directions at once: Erzurum, Oltinsky and Bitlis. The rate, and in fact - personally the chief of staff, General M.V. Alekseev, in the end, gave the go-ahead, and the main blow Caudents Yudenich, overcoming mountain passes, inflicted in the direction of Kepri-Kay. They crushed the enemy, who was confused by surprise, seized the Erzerum fortress and drove another hundred kilometers into the interior of the Turks. Half of the Turkish army was destroyed, the other - demoralized. Russian troops opened the way to Anatolia - the central region of Turkey.
The December victory of the army of Yudenich’s contemporaries was immediately put on a par with the assault of Ismail A.V. Suvorov in 1790 year.
The commander-in-chief of the Caucasian army for this campaign was awarded the Order of St. George of the II degree. Grand Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich received his George. But after all, the victory under Erzurum Yudenich won in fact in a difficult struggle with his own superiors. As the military historian Anton Kersnovsky writes, after taking the Keprikei position, the Grand Duke "ordered the army to be withdrawn from Erzerum and become winter apartments", believing "the storming of the strongest fortress into the cruel cold on the chest in the snow and without siege artillery" is impossible. But Yudenich did not in the least doubt success, for he saw every hour how high the fighting spirit of the Caucasians warriors was, and he took the liberty of directly communicating with the august commander-in-chief. The stake, this time personally Nicholas II, though not without the pressure of the general from the infantry, Mikhail Alekseev, gave the go-ahead. “Suvorov defeated Moltke,” A. Kersnovsky stated, not without some pathos, “The Grand Duke conceded, declaring that he was no longer responsible for everything that could happen.”
After the Russians captured Erzerum, the Western public, which for a long time regarded the Caucasian front as secondary, and looked down on the Turks, as if on some unworthy opponents, was simply shocked. Here is what the French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paleologue, wrote in his report during the winter Russian-Turkish battle: “This success is all the more commendable because the offensive of our allies began in a mountainous country as lofty as the Alps, rugged by abysses and passes. There is a terrible cold, constant snowstorms. Moreover - no roads, and the whole region is devastated. The Caucasian Russian army performs amazing feats there every day. ” The December victory in general abruptly turned the attitude towards Russia from the side of the Western allies. Shortly before that, they were finally forced to put up with a serious failure in the Dardanelles, where, by the way, they were successfully opposed by those “unworthy” opponents - the Turks. Just a month after the capture of Erzerum, namely 4 in March 1916, an Anglo-French-Russian agreement was reached on the goals of the Entente war in Asia Minor. Russia was promised Constantinople, the Black Sea Straits and the northern part of Turkish Armenia. "While in our Western theater of war Russian commanders, even the best, tried to act first" according to Moltke "and then" according to Geoffroy, "A. Kersnovsky wrote about Yudenich, in the Caucasus there was a Russian commander who wished to act in Russian, "according to Suvorov".
As we see, on the Caucasian front, Yudenich had to fight under the authority of two governors, but at the same time being the commander-in-chief.
And such “leading solitaire” was as if “destined” to him by fate itself. Not long ago, the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation declassified one of the reports of the Foreign Department of the GPU about a meeting of the top commanders of the Russian army, which Wrangel evacuated from the Crimea to the Gallipoli camp in Turkey. It took place in March 1922 of the year in Belgrade, and it made decisions about the new intervention in Bolshevik Russia. Among other things, the meeting said: “There are plans to invade Russia of three groups: the Wrangel group from the south, the Salvation of the Homeland group of troops and the Western group under the command of Krasnov. All three groups will be united under a single command ... The following command personnel are planned for the upcoming operations: The supreme commander and temporary supreme ruler is Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, his assistant is General Gurko, chief of staff is General Miller, commander in chief is General Yudenich, chief of cavalry is General Wrangel ... "
Count Governor Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov died shortly after being displaced and scattered at the Council of Ministers - already 28-th (15-th according to Art. Style) January 1916, in the famous Vorontsov Palace in the Crimean Alupka. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, after the Provisional Government did not actually allow him to return to the post of Supreme Commander of the Russian army, no longer took an active part in subsequent tragic events in Russia. He passed away in Antibes 5 on January 1929 of the year. General Yudenich, whom the Provisional Government of 7 of May 1917 of the year removed from the command of the Caucasian front, still managed to grapple with the Reds near Petrograd without success. He emigrated to France and died on October 5 1933 of Nice.