Enver Pasha’s “Turkish Napoleon”, encouraged by some success of the Turkish army at the beginning of the Caucasian campaign, conceived a broad offensive operation on the Caucasian front in winter with the aim of surrounding the main forces of the Russian army in the Sarykamysh-Kara direction. This calculation was reinforced by the fact that the 3-I Turkish army was strengthened by the 10-Corps, and the Russian reserves were mainly used in the Keprikeya battle. Only the 3-I Caucasian Rifle Brigade and the 263-Infantry Regiment stationed in Kars could perform the army reserve functions.
Success in the operation could lead to the solution of far-reaching strategic objectives:
1) Russia had no serious military forces in the vicinity, and the Ottomans could occupy Transcaucasia, with the prospect of a breakthrough to the North Caucasus. And to recapture the Transcaucasus back was an extremely difficult task, due to the natural barriers that were relatively easily amplified by engineering structures;
2) Russia would have to strengthen the defense in the Caucasus at the expense of the East European Theater, which would ease the situation in Germany and Austria-Hungary;
3) The Turkish command hoped in the event of a big victory to provoke the Muslim peoples of the Russian Empire into a large-scale uprising, which in the conditions of the war was a heavy blow to the rear of the country;
4) For the Ottomans and the Germans, the prospect of developing reserves of strategic raw materials in Transcaucasia - oil, manganese, and others.
Based on these common goals, the 3 of the Turkish army was assigned the immediate task - to surround and destroy the Sarykamysh group of the Russian army, and then take the fortresses of Kars, Ardahan and Batum. From Kars opened the road to Tiflis. To accomplish these tasks, Enver Pasha planned to fortify Russian troops from the front using the forces of the 11 Corps, the 2 Cavalry Division, and Kurdish units. 9 th and 10 th corps were bypassed. The main Turkish forces advanced to the Oltinsky direction and were to destroy the Istomin detachment, and then strike the right flank and rear of the Sarykamysh detachment of Berkhman, capture Sarykamysh. With the success of the operation, the surrounded Russian troops planned to press against the Araks River and destroy it. In the best case, the Russian troops were forced to make their way under the most difficult conditions to the city of Kagyzman. A separate detachment of Major von Stanke (the 7 and 8 regiments from the 1 Constantinople Corps), which was advancing from the Batumi region, provided the left flank of the 3 army and had to capture Ardahan.
On paper, the plan was beautiful. But in reality it was an adventure. Even in summer conditions it was difficult to realize, given the state of the Turkish army, in the winter in the mountains it was extremely dangerous to attack. Therefore, the commander of the 3 Turkish army, Hasan-Izet Pasha, and some corps commanders, who knew better about the conditions of the war in the mountains, pessimistically considered the possibility of a Turkish offensive. Hasan-Izet-Pasha was removed, the army was headed by the deputy commander himself (the commander-in-chief was formally listed as sultan) Enver-pasha.
Already at the conception stage of the operation, blunders were evident, which eventually led to the death of the Turkish army:
1) For the successful implementation of the operation, good communications were required (large masses of troops moved, rather than large sabotage forces) and communications. Roads and trails, and so bad, in the conditions of winter, have become practically impassable places. There was no good communication for command and control. Communication was maintained as in the Middle Ages - through messengers, which in the conditions of modern wars threatened major troubles;
2) There was a question with the supply of troops. The Turkish army traditionally had a bad rear organization, counting on a “base ahead”. Bypassing corps had only a baggage wagon train, the command overestimated the hope of supporting the small local Muslim population of the border strip;
3) The Turkish command overestimated the capabilities of its troops. The soldiers were not prepared for such a war and did not have equipment for winter operations in difficult mountains. The troops had almost no warm clothes, and the sanitary services were poorly organized. There were no exact maps of the area. Thus, the roundabout maneuver was developed on a deliberately incorrect topographic map, without taking into account the terrain and winter conditions.
4) Enver Pasha did not take into account the time factor. The exact calculation for the simultaneous access of both Turkish corps to Sarykamysh was not made. Even having overcome all difficulties, Turkish troops were late. Russian commanders had to be complete fools in order not to take retaliatory measures and let themselves be destroyed. And the Russian Caucasian army has always been distinguished by a higher than average concentration of initiative and resolute commanders;
5) When performing an 9 bypass maneuver, the Turkish corps was supposed to set a barrier to the right to ensure the movement of the main forces and intercept communications, through which reinforcements could reach the Sarykamysh garrison, both deployed from the Sarykamysh detachment and from Kars. But the Ottomans did not. In this way, Turkish command plan turned out to be an adventure.
Turkish Army Skiers
The forces of the parties
In total, the Russian army consisted of 114 battalions, 123 hundreds and 304 guns. The Turks 121 battalion, 22 hundreds (plus numerous Kurdish cavalry) and 263 guns. Russian troops outnumbered the Turks in cavalry, but in the conditions of a snowy winter, its actions were extremely limited. In the Karsko-Oltinsky direction, the Russian army had a 62 1 / 2 battalion, 43 hundreds and 172 guns. In addition, the army reserve had 12 battalions, 12 hundreds and 24 guns. The Ottomans in the Kara-Olti direction put up 87 battalions, 22 hundreds (plus numerous Kurdish formations) and 226 guns.
Thus, on the Kara and Alta axes, the Turkish army had almost one-and-a-half superiority in infantry and some superiority in artillery. At the same time, the Turks had a complete superiority on the Alta direction: 57 battalions and 72 guns against 8 battalions and 24 guns. And the 11 th Turkish corps on the Sarykamysh direction, acting on a broad front, could not firmly hold down the forces of the Sarykamysh detachment exceeding it by one and a half times (the Russian 53 battalion against the Turkish 30).
Turkish machine gunners near Sarykamysh
Location of troops
By December 7 (20), the Turkish troops occupied the initial position: the 9 Corps transferred all field artillery to the 11 Corps and was located in the area of Pertanus and Kosh; The 10 Corps was advanced from Erzerum: the 31-I Infantry Division was on the road to Eid-Olta, the 30-I and 32-I divisions were on the Tortum-Olta road; The 11 Corps took up positions north of the Araks River. To the south of the river, the 2 Cavalry Division and Kurdish formations were located.
The Sarykamysh grouping under the command of the commander of the 1 Caucasian Corps, General George Berhman, had 1-Caucasian and 2-Turkestan corps. On the left flank at the Kara-Derbent aisle stood a separate detachment - 1 ¼ battalion, 8 guns and 3 hundreds. The right flank protected Oltinsky detachment of General Istomin. The Istomin Detachment was provided from the north by the 9-th Caucasian Rifle Regiment from the 3-th Caucasian Brigade. To counter the Turkish forces in the Batumi region, an Ardahan detachment was formed under the command of General Genik - the 3 battalion of Cossack-Relay, 6 hundreds, 1 squad and 6 guns. In Kars, completed the formation of the 3-I Caucasian Rifle Brigade of General Gabayev (army reserve).
The plan of the Russian command as a whole has not changed since the beginning of the war: the troops had to protect communications, Baku and maintain active defenses in order not to let the Ottoman troops into Transcaucasia. Berhman knew that the 11 Turkish corps, reinforced by a cavalry division, would be deployed against him. According to Russian data, the Turks drew off the 9 corps to the reserve in the Gassan-Kala region, where the 10 corps was to go.
Thus, the Russian command mistakenly believed that there was only one screening corps against the Sarykamysh detachment, that the Turks, like Russian troops, were deployed to winter quarters and the period of active hostilities was completed before the spring of 1915, although the defectors and agents from another front line (in Turkey was a lot of Armenians friendly to Russia) reported that the Turkish army on December 8 can go on the offensive in the direction of Oltinsky. As a result, Russian troops missed the start of the Turkish offensive.
Map source: Kolenkovsky A. Maneuverable period of the first world imperialist war 1914.
The beginning of the battle
9 (22) December The 9 and 10 Turkish corps began a detour through Olta (Oltu) and Bardus (Bardiz), planning to enter the flank and rear of the Sarikamysh detachment. The 9 Corps went to Bardus in two columns: the right - 29-I and 17-I infantry divisions, through Chats, the left - 28-I infantry division, through Shakyarly. The 10 Corps advanced on Olta in two columns: the right — the 31 Infantry Division, moved along the valley of the Olty tea, left - 30-I to 32-I infantry divisions, along the valley of the river. Sivri tea In addition, to cover the Oltinsky detachment, a Fehti Bey detachment was separated from the 10 corps (the 93 Infantry Regiment with 2 mountain guns). He moved through the village of Husky Kay.
However, due to well-placed troop reconnaissance and the emergence of Turkish units south-west of Olta, where the Fehti-Bei detachment prematurely appeared in the rear of the right flank of the Russian detachment, the idea of a sudden strike failed. The Istomin detachment immediately departed. On the same day, Enver Pasha, with the help of the forces of the 11 Corps, began to put pressure on the right flank of the Sarykamysh detachment in order to tie him into battle. December Russian 10 troops responded with a counterstrike in the direction of Kepri-Kei. I must say that with the deepening of the Russian troops in the direction of Kepri-Kay, they could be in an even more dangerous position in relation to the bypassing Turkish corps.
December 10 (23) during the movement of the troops of the 10 Corps along the Olta-Chay and Sivri-Chay areas, a case of "friendly fire" occurred. The 31-I and 32-I Turkish Infantry Divisions under the general command of Hafiz-Khaki-Bey and with the Chief of Staff of the German Major von Lange collided with each other in a mountainous and forested area. The troops of the 32 Division, finding a column moving to the north along the gorge of the r. Olty tea and taking it for the Russian, opened artillery fire. "Unknown" column responded. As a result, 24 companies took part in the battle. In a bloody battle, the Ottomans killed and wounded about 2 thousands of their soldiers. This self-destruction was a good lesson from the lack of normal intelligence, communications and control. A kind of it was the last sign to the Turkish command that you need to think again and stop the adventure.
The Russian detachment, taking advantage of this catastrophe of the Turks, on the same day calmly withdrew to the village of Solyenpromyslovaya. Meanwhile, the controversial and disturbing information that came from the front forced the Caucasian governor, Hilarion Vorontsov-Dashkova, to send his assistant, General Alexander Myshlayevsky, together with the chief of staff Nikolay Yudenich and the first echelon of headquarters to Mejtingert, to the headquarters of the Sarykamysh group. Myshlaevsky arrived at the headquarters of the December 11 squad and led the troops. Yudenich in this battle temporarily led the 2 th Turkestan Corps and played an important role in the victory of the Russian army.
Battle for Sarykamysh
Myshlaevsky, having data on the withdrawal of the Istomin detachment and the appearance of enemy troops from Bardus, divined the plan of the Turks. At first, the general wanted to withdraw his troops east of Sarykamysh and occupy a new defensive line. However, the Turks in Bardus were closer to the station than the main forces of the Sarykamysh group; moreover, it was already tied up in combat. Therefore, he ordered to stop the attack on Kepri-Kay and organize the defense at the station Sarykamysh.
December 12 from Sarykamysh detachment back to Sarykamysh (there was located the forward base of the army with numerous warehouses) were sent 20 battalions, 6 hundreds and 36 guns. However, the vanguard - 6 hundreds, 4 guns and 1 battalion on carts, could only come 13 December. Prior to this, Sarykamysh had to be held by forces. The station’s garrison included 2 militia units and 2 battalion workers (operational), as well as units at the station by chance. In Sarıkamış were collected to form 23-th Turkestan regiment platoon from each of Turkestan regiments (two companies of riflemen), 2 weapon, which was sent to Tiflis to create new batteries, 12 machine guns aimed at 2-th Kuban bellies brigade and 200 warrant who drove to the front. Thus, a collective detachment was formed in the 6 3 / 4 battalion, 1 1 / 2 hundreds, 2 guns and 16 heavy machine guns. Two workers battalions immediately put on a sleigh and thrown into the pass and help the border guards to detain the enemy. At this time, the main forces of the detachment were preparing for defense. The combined detachment was headed by the Chief of Staff of the 2 of the Kuban Plastun Brigade, Colonel of the General Staff of the Bookrets, who was in Sarykamysh on his way to his unit.
In the meantime, the Turks made a gross mistake. Instead of the turnaround from Olta to Bardus, the 10 corps, instead of pursuing the planned operation, pursued the Oltinsky detachment, which went over to the mobile defense and retired to Merdenek. As a result, the Turks lost two days. The 10 Corps approached the villages of Kosor and Arsenyak. Only the 32 division turned from Olta to Sarykamysh. However, the transition was extremely difficult - the division lost up to half of the personnel to frostbite and deserters. As a result, the division lost its striking force, it was left with the 28 th Infantry Division of the 9 Corps to cover posts with Bardus.
Enver Pasha, who came to head the 17 and 29 divisions to the village of Bardus, on December 12 launched an offensive against Sarykamysh. The Germans offered Enver to wait for the concentration of all forces, but he decided to attack. According to the Turkish command, only part of the militia without artillery and machine guns were in the station. The coming first 29 Division faced Russian border guards and battalion workers. As a result of the battle, the Russians first detained the enemy, and then skillfully eluded the Ottomans in the dark. The Turks had to spend the night at the fires, many were frozen overnight. Increased frosts on these days led to thousands of non-combat losses of the Turkish army.
At the same time, the 11 Corps fought on the Maslagat front, Ardi, and von Stanke’s squad with a battle occupied Ardahan. This forced the Russian command to pull out of Tiflis by rail the Siberian Cossack brigade under the command of General Kalitin with the 2 of the Orenburg Cossack battery to cover the Akhaltsikhe direction. In addition, to support the Istomin detachment from Kars, 3 of the Caucasian Rifle Brigade of General Gabayev was advanced. In exchange for the 3 Brigade from the Kutaisi Province, the 263 Infantry Regiment of the Gunibsky Regiment was transported, which became the last army reserve of the Russian army.
On the morning of December 13 (26), the 17-I and 29-I Turkish divisions, which had lost the 50% of the frozen personnel, launched an offensive against Sarykamysh, seeking to get to warm premises and Russian stocks as soon as possible. The offensive was conducted in weakened and scattered parts, which entered into battle as they approached. Therefore, a powerful blow failed. In addition, the Sarykamysh garrison was reinforced by battalions coming from the Sarykamysh detachment on supplies, 6 and hundreds of 4 guns. Russian troops dense artillery and machine-gun fire skillfully restrained the enemy. The Turks were able to take only the Upper Sarykamysh and suffered heavy losses.
Then Enver Pasha decided to wait for the concentration of all three divisions of the 9 corps and the approach of the two divisions of the 10 corps to December 14 to break the resistance of Russian troops. Meanwhile, the 30-th and 31-I infantry divisions of the 10-corps at the transition hit the slopes of the Alla-Ikpar massif in a strong storm. Poorly dressed and hungry soldiers died in masses. As a result, in the late evening of December 13, the remnants of two divisions - about 3200 people, came to the villages of Bek-key and Bash-key. About 10 thousand frozen soldiers remained on the trails. The 10 body lost its strike force and its remnants came to Sarykamysh with great delay.
Chief of Staff of the Caucasian Army Nikolay Nikolayevich Yudenich
Failure of 9 and 10 cases
By the end of December 14, the Russian garrison in Sarykamysh already had 17 1 / 2 battalions, 7 hundreds, 22 guns and 38 heavy machine guns. The Turks could put up 45 battalions, completely upset and exhausted, who were armed only with mountain cannons. Therefore, the attempts of the Turkish troops to cut the Sarykamysh-Karaurban highway and the joint attack of the 9 and 10 buildings on Sarykamysh were repelled.
15 (28) December, the Russian troops began to take the offensive. 28-I Turkish division was pushed. Russian troops shot down the Ottomans from the Chamurly-Dag ridge and launched a slow attack on the Bardussky pass. In the Oltinsky direction, the Gabayev detachment defeated the Turks near Merdenek, but due to heavy fighting, Sarykamysh received an order to set aside one regiment and return to Kars with the rest of the forces, which was done on December 18.
Despite the obvious changes in the situation for the better, Myshlayevsky left the army, ordering the troops to break through and went to Tiflis, where he gave a report on the threat of the Turkish invasion of the Caucasus, which caused disorganization of the rear of the army. At the same time, he ordered the troops that did not participate in the battle, units in the Alashkert Valley and the Azerbaijani detachment in Persia, to retreat deep into the Caucasus. Thus, in Persia, the Russian troops will leave Tavriz and re-occupy it after the defeat of the 3 of the Turkish army. In addition, General Myshlaevsky hurriedly left without warning anyone.
However, as noted by the military historian A. Kersnovsky: "The iron will and indomitable energy of General Yudenich turned the wheel of fate." Russian troops continued the battle. The troops in Sarykamysh were headed by General Przhevalsky. The passivity of the 11 of the Turkish corps allowed Berhman and Yudenich of December 16 to further strengthen the defense of Sarykamysh. The 5 battalions of squadrons, 14 hundreds of Cossacks with battery were shot from the front. These troops formed a detachment of General Baratov. Baratov’s detachment was given the task of launching a counter-attack on the 10 Corps together with units of General Gabaev’s brigade and the 263 Infantry Regiment which were to be advanced from Kars.
16 (29) December fights went with varying success. Taking Sarykamysh for the Turks, holding him for the Russians was a matter of life and death. The further presence of the Turkish troops in the snow-covered mountains, in the 20-degree frost was tantamount to death, as was the loss of Sarykamysh and off-road retreat for the Russians. However, in the end, the superhuman resilience of Russian soldiers and Cossacks broke the despair of the Turkish attacks.
Turkish troops fiercely attacked, but all their attacks were repelled. Turkish battalions have already lost 50-80% of their composition, and the Russian detachment in Sarykamishe was strengthened to 22 1 / 2 battalions, 8 hundreds, 40 guns and 78 heavy machine guns. And there was no shortage of ammunition, army warehouses were located in Sarykamysh. Enver Pasha and his entourage, demoralized by the situation, under the pretext of organizing the offensive of the 11 corps, cowardly threw the remnants of the 9 and 10 corps, which had passed to passive defense.
18 December The 18 th Turkestan rifle regiment, which was advancing against the right flank of the Turks, occupied Yayla-Bardus, cutting off the communications of the 9 corps. December 21 Oltinsky detachment and the Siberian Cossack Brigade defeated the von Stanke squad, capturing up to 1 thousands of prisoners. The remnants of the von Stanke squad fled to the Batumi region.
December 22 1914 (January 4 1915) Przhevalsky's troops launched a general offensive. The remnants of the 9 Corps were surrounded and captured together by Corps Commander Ishan Pasha, his headquarters and the commanders of the 17, 28 and 29 Infantry Divisions with their headquarters. Many have been captured weapons and other trophies. During this fight, a rather funny incident occurred. In pursuit of the fleeing Turks, the 14 Company of the 154 Infantry Regiment of Derbent, Captain Vashakidze (there were barely 40 soldiers left), forced all Turkish command with 100 officers and 2 thousand soldiers to capitulate. Vashakidze presented himself as an ambassador and intimidated the Ottomans, saying that he was followed by three regiments. The Turks after some hesitation laid down their arms.
It should be noted that the Turkish soldiers were not cowards and weak warriors. “The Turks offered stubborn resistance,” General Maslovsky noted. “Half-frozen, with black frostbitten legs, they nevertheless took our blow at bayonets and fired the last bullet when our units broke into the trenches.”
After the destruction of the 9 corps, the adjacent 10 corps began to retreat. To prevent a possible strike by the Turkish 32 Infantry Division on the right flank of the Sarykamysh group, which was engaged in intense fighting with units of the 11 corps, a detachment of General Baratov launched an attack on the village of Chermuk. As a result of a night battle in the area of the village of Bardus, Baratov's troops captured the remnants of the 32 Infantry Division (about 2 thousands of people).
This success strengthened the front of the Sarykamysh detachment, restraining the blows of the 11 corps, which was trying to help its own. In these violent attacks, most of the 11 corps also fell in combat. In this battle, our 39-division of the 1-Caucasian Corps under the command of Vladimir De-Witt received the name “Iron” in the Caucasian Army. In order to finally turn the tide in their favor and crush the resistance of the 11 Turkish Corps, a detachment of Colonel Dovgird was sent around the enemy (4 battalion with 4 guns). The squad made December 27 and for 5 days made its way through the deep snow. About the gravity of the campaign says the fact that the detachment took place just a few kilometers a day. And yet he completed his task. The sudden appearance of Russian troops in the Turkish rear forced the Turkish command to begin a hasty retreat.
General Mikhail Alekseevich Przhevalsky
Thus, both on the Sarykamysh and Olti directions, the Russian troops, overturning the remnants of the 3 troops of the Turkish army, fully restored their original position. Plans "Turkish Napoleon" suffered a complete collapse. The Turkish army lost out of 90 thousand people 70-80 thousand people, of whom 20-30 thousand frozen. It was a real disaster.
Enver Pasha with his headquarters, through Erzerum, fled to Constantinople. The tragedy of the 3 of the Turkish army, which was lost due to the short-sightedness of the high command, who did not know how to conduct military operations in the mountains in the winter, was long hidden by its perpetrators from the Turkish public. The losses of the Russian army in this battle reached 25-30 thousand people, of whom 6-12 thousand frostbite.
The Turkish plan was good in its conception: 70% forces in the strike group and 30% in the chilling, with the provision of the northern flank (Stanke group). It was possible to achieve a surprise attack. However, in reality, the plan turned out to be an adventure. The Turkish army had neither the appropriate mountain training, nor equipment, nor the organized rear, nor the connection to carry out a maneuver of such a large scale during the snowy and cold winter. The offensive operation turned out to be unprepared, it was chaotic (it suffices to recall the battle between two Turkish divisions among themselves) and led to a complete catastrophe.
It is also worth noting the negative role of Enver Pasha and his staff. The Turkish commander possessed immense self-conceit, in the complete absence of combat skills in the difficult conditions of the winter Caucasus. With a strong, enterprising and strong-willed commander, the situation could have been somewhat different. However, Enver Pasha and his headquarters in a critical situation, they fought and fled, leaving the troops. And in the Turkish army were resolute and brave commanders. So, the brave and beloved of the troops, Ishan Pasha, commander of the 9 Corps, runs from captivity in the 1916 year and will fight with distinction against the British.
Not at the height of the situation, however, was part of the Russian command. Under the impression of the Turkish offensive and the lack of accurate information about the position of the Oltinsky and Ardagan detachments, General Myshlaevsky was expecting the attack of Turkish troops on Akhaltsikh and Tiflis. Not believing in success in Sarykamysh, the general returned to Tiflis under the pretext of forming a new army. As a result, the situation was saved by the decisiveness of the commanders of individual detachments and the heroism of Russian soldiers and Cossacks.
As a result of the 1914 campaign, the main plan of the Russian command for the defense of Transcaucasia was fully implemented. The active defense of the Turkish army was not only defeated, but actually destroyed. After the Sarakamysh operation, the Turks for a long time did not take active steps, moving to positional defense. The Russian Caucasian Army transferred the war to Turkish territory, creating the prerequisites for conducting a strategic offensive operation in Turkey itself.
Turkish prisoners in Ardahan
Kersnovsky A.A. History Russian army // http://militera.lib.ru/h/kersnovsky1/index.html.
A. Kolenkovsky. The Maneuvering Period of the First World Imperialist War 1914, M., 1940 // http://militera.lib.ru/h/kolenkovsky_ak2/index.html.
Korsun N. Campania 1914 on the Caucasian Front // http://www.retropressa.ru/kampaniya-1914-g-na-kavkazskom-fronte/
Korsun N. G. The First World War on the Caucasian Front. Operational and strategic essay. M., 1946 // http://militera.lib.ru/h/korsun_ng05/index.html
Korsun N. Sarykamysh operation. M., 1937 // http://militera.lib.ru/h/korsun_n1/index.html.