The Russian command decided to launch an offensive in Persia, where the Russians tried to interact with the British army based in the Persian Gulf. In the Persian (Erivan) direction, the 4 Caucasian Corps acted, which during the Alashkert operation (from late June to early August 1915) fought hard on the 400-km front against the Turkish group that had three times superior to Russian forces and had strategic task to break through the Russian front. The Ottoman command hoped to shake the entire Russian Caucasian front and create a situation similar to the situation on the Russian European front (the Great Retreat). The maneuvering struggle took place on a very wide front and in specific mountain and desert conditions. The command had to manage separate columns in isolated mountain areas and make additional efforts to organize rear communications and supplies.
The calculations of the enemy were not justified. Russian soldiers and Cossacks, displaying incomparable endurance and great valor, thwarted the plans of the Ottoman command. The Russian troops defeated the enemy, disrupted the large-scale offensive against Kars planned by the Turkish command and facilitated the actions of British troops in Mesopotamia. In October-December 1915, the Russian troops carried out a successful Hamadan operation, which prevented Persia from entering the war on the side of Germany and Turkey. Russian troops took control of the territory of Northern Persia, securing the left flank of the Caucasian army. As a result, the Russian army won the 1915 campaign of the year in the Caucasian theater.
Commander of Russian troops in the Caucasus, Nikolai Yudenich
Situation on the Caucasian front at the beginning of 1915 of the year
At the end of 1914 as a result of the defeat of the 3 of the Turkish army in the Sarykamysh direction (Sarykamysh defeat; Part 2) the general situation for the Russians was favorable on the Caucasian front. The Russian command was counting on success in Turkish Armenia. Here one could hope for the support of the three peoples oppressed by the Ottomans - Armenians, Greeks (mainly on the Black Sea coast) and Assyrian Aisorov (in the zone south-east of Lake Van). The liberation of the whole of Armenia from the Ottoman yoke was considered one of the historical tasks of the confrontation between Russia and Turkey. For this, it was necessary to have a son-in-law of a powerful Turkish fortress - Erzerum, in the area of which the Turks created a whole fortified area.
The deep invasion of Russian troops into Armenia, in addition to military-political significance, made it possible to threaten Anatolia’s main region of the Ottoman Empire and the German Baghdad railway, which was of great strategic importance for Turkish operations led by German officers in the Middle East. At the same time, this success brought the Russians closer to Mosul oil. In addition, the deep penetration of Russian troops into Turkey completely solved the task of protecting the Russian Transcaucasus (in particular, the Baku oil region) occupied by the Russians of Northern Persia and the North Caucasus. The plans of the German-Turkish command for the deep invasion of the Ottoman army into the Caucasus and the deployment of "jihad" (holy war of Muslims against the infidels) among the Muslim nationalities belonging to the Russian Empire collapsed.
After part of the Caucasian army was transferred to the Western front and it lost its strike power, the Russian command temporarily postponed plans to seize Erzerum and a deep invasion of Anatolia, focusing on defense and preparing a future offensive. In February-April 1915, the Russian and Turkish armies, after the crushing defeat of the Ottoman troops during the Sarykamysh operation, were re-formed. The fighting had a local character. By the end of March, the Russian army had cleared the southern Ajaria and the whole Batumi region from the Turks.
Source: Korsun N., G. Alashkert and Hamadan operations M., 1940
The forces of the parties
Russian army. At the end of the Sarykamysh operation, the commander-in-chief of the Caucasian army and the governor-general of the Caucasus, Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, did not leave Tiflis for the front, entrusted the head of the army headquarters, General Yudenich, to the Olta and Kars axes. After the successful completion of the Sarykamysh operation, Nikolay Nikolayevich Yudenich led the Caucasian army. It was a good substitute, Yudenich proved himself excellent on the Caucasian front (One of the best generals of Russia during the First World War, Nikolai Nikolayevich Yudenich). Army headquarters in January 1915 moved from Tiflis to Kars.
The chief commander of the Caucasian Military District, General Volsky, was responsible for maintaining calm and guarding communications, strengthening the Baku and Tiflis districts, ensuring the Russian-Persian border within the Yelisavetpol and Baku provinces, maintaining calm in the eastern part of Persian Azerbaijan and observing the Black Sea coast. To solve these problems, militia squads were subordinated to him.
At the beginning of 1915, the Russian Caucasian Army numbered in its ranks: 106 battalions, 222 hundreds and 356 guns. By the beginning of June, the forces of the Caucasian Army had not changed significantly: 112 3 / 4 battalions, 348 guns, 213 hundreds, 20 engineering companies, two air detachments, 43 militias and 8 volunteer troops were in the field troops and fortress garrisons.
The following corps were deployed on the main operational directions: the 2 of Turkestan General Przhevalsky in the direction of Olzha, the 1 of Caucasus General Kalitin in the Sarakamysh-Erzurum direction, the 4 of Caucasus General of Oganov in Erivan. In Persian Azerbaijan, occupied by the Russians, was the Azerbaijani detachment of General Chernozubov from the 4 Caucasian Corps. Primorsky, Chorokhsky and Ardagan detachments operated in the Batumi region. In the area of Sarykamysh and Kars there was an army reserve with forces up to the corps. The reserve was transformed into the 5 Caucasian Corps, as part of the 1 and 2 of the Kuban Plastun brigades and the 3 of the Caucasian Rifle Division.
Taking into account that the Caucasian theater was removed from the central regions of Russia (there was no developed network of communications) and the Caucasian army could not count on rapid strengthening from the outside, the command paid attention to the deployment of already existing units, as well as the formation of new local resources. Thus, the regiments of the 2-th Caucasian Rifle Brigade were deployed in a three-battalion. In addition, the 4-I Caucasian Rifle Division, the 4-I Kuban Plastun Brigade of Kuban and Terek foot hundreds, the 23-I Turkestan Rifle Regiment and a number of artillery units were formed.
In February, the 1915, when the Allies launched the Dardanelles operation, the Russian high command began to work out the idea of the Bosphorus landing operation. As a result, the Russian Stavka took away the reserve of the Caucasian Army - the 5-th Caucasian Corps, and transferred it to Sevastopol and Odessa. These troops were to participate in the storming of Constantinople. The command of the Caucasian army had to form a new reserve, which included the newly formed 4-I Caucasian Rifle Division, 4-I Kuban Plastunskaya and Don foot brigades, as well as the Caucasian Cavalry Division that arrived from the Western Front. The new army reserve was formed by April and had 28 battalions, 36 hundreds and squadrons and 64 guns (near one corps).
Thus, due to the separation of the 5 Caucasian Corps from the Caucasian Army, and then the 20 Infantry Division sent to the Western Russian front, its numerical and qualitative composition was significantly weakened. During the Great Retreat, the Russian General Headquarters was unable to strengthen the Caucasian army, since all the available forces and resources went to the Western Front.
In the summer of 1915, less than half of the army was personnel, which weakened it greatly. The basis of the Caucasian army was only five personnel brigades: two Turkestan (4-I and 5-I), two brigades of the 39-th Infantry Division and the 2-I Caucasian Rifle Brigade. Total 52 battalion, or 43% of the total composition of the Caucasian army. The remaining troops consisted of completely new units with weak cadres. Most of the new units were formed in haste, under the pressure of urgent necessity, in order to at least in some way replenish the loss of units sent from the army to the Western Front. Their armament went at the expense of the district means, so the new units lacked mountain artillery, machine guns, communications equipment, pack carts, ambulance transports and other weapons and property. The combat capability of the new units could not be compared with the priority units, as the battles of the beginning of the 1915 of the year showed.
This led to the fact that the Caucasian army was unable to organize a powerful offensive on the Erzurum direction during the spring-summer of 1915. Moreover, the army command was forced to take into account the possibility of retreat and planned to create an independent garrison in Kars in case the army was under excellent pressure enemy forces will be forced to retreat and maneuver, relying on this fortress. However, the formation of new parts was slow, as there were not enough weapons.
Taking into account the Sarykamysh operation, when Russian troops were subjected to a sudden strike by large masses of the Ottoman army, the Russian command strengthened the defenses not only at the front, but also in the rear - in the areas of Sarykamysh, Ardahan, Akhaltsikh, Akhalkalaki, Aleksandropol, Tiflis and Baku. In these places, fortified areas were created, which were long-term closed fortifications that were in mutual fire links. For their armament they used mainly the tools of the old systems that were in the warehouses of the district. These fortifications were supposed to provide freedom of maneuvering of troops. If necessary, they planned to take a second-rate troops. Measures were taken to streamline the rear and organization of pack transports. Improved communication lines and routes of communication. New railways were laid: horse traction on Alta and steam - on Sarykamysh directions.
After a severe defeat in the battle of Sarykamysh, the Turkish command focused on the restoration of the 3 army, which operated in the Caucasus direction. 3-I Turkish army, which began the Sarikamysh operation as part of 90 thousand bayonets and sabers, after the defeat consisted of barely 12 thousand fighters. Then we managed to collect the same number of deserters. Therefore, it was decided to replenish the 3 army (9, 10 and 11 corps) at the expense of the 1 and 2 armies concentrated in the area of the straits, as well as the 4 of the Syrian army. At the same time, at the expense of spare depots, new parts were formed, as well as secondary parts. The following were sent to the Caucasian front: 3-I consolidated, formed from the frames of the 1 of the Constantinople Corps; 5-I consolidated division, formed from the 5-corps; The 5 is a second division, created from marching companies taken from all the divisions located in Anatolia.
The 3 Turkish army in 1915 was headed by Mahmud-Camille Pasha. The chief of staff of the army was the German major Guze. According to the chief of staff of the 3 of the Turkish army, in early June 1915 the army consisted of: 9, 10 and 11 corps, 2-th cavalry division (36 thousand); Hamdi and German Stange’s group operating on the left flank of the Turkish army (10 thousand); Khalila group, directed for operations in Persia (about 20 thousand people). The total number of Turkish forces on the Caucasian front reached 70 thousand people. In addition, about 28 thousand people were trained in the camps and about 7 thousand soldiers were en route.
Thus, the Turkish 3 Army never recovered from the defeat at Sarykamysh, and in the first half of 1915, it was not ready to attack. It is necessary to take into account the fact that the attention of the Turkish command was riveted to the Dardanelles. Owing to the Dardanelles operation, which began in February 1915, the Turkish command considered the main task in the Caucasus direction to be a reflection of the possible offensive of the Russian army, for which it was necessary to restore the full combat capability of the 3 army.
At the same time, with the participation of German instructors and advisers, there was an intensive training of new commanders, the deployment of new personnel from the personnel of the troops that arrived to strengthen the army, and from the previously existing ones. In order to hide their weakness and unpreparedness for active offensive actions, the Ottomans spread rumors about the impending attack on the Caucasus by Persia and tried with the help of agents to cause an uprising of the neighboring tribes of Kurds and the semi-nomadic Muslim population of Azerbaijan.
Russian army. After the Sarykamysh operation, which ended in early January 1915, the Caucasian army solved two main tasks: 1) made a regrouping of forces, which dragged on from the fighting on the strategic flanks and sending troops to the European part of Russia; 2) solved the task of securing the flanks. On the right flank, the Black Sea region, this task was completed relatively quickly, on the left flank in Persian Azerbaijan, the struggle took a protracted and tense character.
The strategic task of the Russian Caucasian army was the same. The Russian troops were to maintain at any cost the two main communications of the Caucasus: the Tiflis, Baku, Petrovsk, Rostov and Tiflis-Vladikavkaz railways, and also retain the Baku oil region. To accomplish this task, the headquarters of the Caucasian Army planned to cover and secure approaches to the most important points of the region and communications. The best solution was to conduct offensive actions on enemy territory, and only if it was impossible to accomplish this, should the tasks be reduced, and at the same time the strategic front. Given the vastness of the theater of operations and the small size of the Caucasian army, it was necessary to concentrate efforts on the main line, the success of which improved the situation on the whole front.
Given the defeat of the 3rd Turkish army in early 1915, the Russian command believed that the enemy was not capable of active action in the near future, he needed time to recover. That it is necessary to use a period of calm to regroup forces and prepare for a new offensive. The Russian command had information that the Turkish command was going to transfer significant reinforcements from the area of the Straits to restore the defeated 3rd Army. The Erivan direction was previously considered the most dangerous direction, here the enemy could carry out a strategic bypass of the 3rd Army's right flank. Batumi direction was considered secondary due to terrain conditions. In addition, the Turks could develop an offensive on the Black Sea coast only in case of neutralization of the Russian Black Sea fleet. However, in this case, the organization of a large landing required considerable time and effort, which allowed the Russian command to correctly respond and fend off the threat. Directions Erzurum - Sarykamysh - Kars and Olty - Ardagan remained of paramount importance as the area of the future decisive offensive.
Turkish army. Plans for a deep invasion of the Caucasus, which were adopted during the 1914 campaign of the year, after the defeat of the 3 of the Turkish army, had to be postponed. Although the Turkish agents continued to spread rumors about an offensive in the Caucasus in order to misinform the enemy and cause unrest of Muslim subjects of Russia.
Since February, 1915 has been extremely complicated for Turkey in the area of the Dardanelles Strait. Here, the allied command, initiated by Winston Churchill, launched a large-scale operation to seize Constantinople, the straits and the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from the war. At that moment, the Ottoman Empire’s connection with the Central Powers was weak, due to the existence of the Serbian Front on the Balkan Peninsula. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, which entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, were able to crush Serbia only in the late autumn of 1915, opening a direct link with the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the advance of the Anglo-French forces on the Dardanelles was, although risky for the Allies, but a very dangerous operation for Turkey.
From the point of view of the Big Game, this move of Britain and France was hostile to Russia, since the Allies planned to seize the territories claimed by the Russians. Churchill wanted to outrun the Russians in the capture of the straits. However, from a military point of view, the Allies somewhat helped the Russian army, since all the attention of the Turkish command was now focused on the straits and the Ottomans could not send large forces to the Caucasus. The main and best forces of the Turkish army were concentrated in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. The Bosphorus was strengthened in case of a possible attack by the Russian forces.
True, the diversion of the whole Russian corps and one division (5-y Caucasian Army Corps and 20-Infantry Division) from the Caucasian Front, which were initially concentrated in Odessa and Crimea for the landing of amphibious assault forces in the Strait of the Bosphorus, and then used in the Western front, and weakened the Russian Caucasian Army. Yudenich's army was unable to go on a decisive offensive in the spring and summer, and this was caused by the Allied operation in the Dardanelles. 5 Caucasian Corps was returned to the Caucasian theater of military operations only in 1916 year.
Therefore, on the main directions of the Caucasian Front (Erzurum and Altinsky), the German-Turkish command decided to go on the defensive, repelling the attacks of the Russian Caucasian army with the forces of the 3 Army, which they tried to restore as far as possible. At the same time, in order to divert the Russian command from the main direction (Erzerum), the Turkish command decided to strike in the north-western regions of Persia, in the Erivan direction. For this purpose, the forces of the right wing of the 3 Army and numerous irregular Kurdish formations were used. This offensive was to pose a threat to the entire left flank and center of the Caucasian Army, as well as the Baku oil region. Then it was possible to build on success by returning to the plans of the 1914 campaign of the year and completely clear the Transcaucasus from the Russians.
To be continued ...