Victory on the right flank
By the end of the Sarykamysh operation, deep penetration of the Turkish forces remained on the right flank of the Russian army. Turkish troops were based on the Black Sea coast and threatened the Mikhailovsky (Batumi) fortress and the right flank and rear of the Oltinsky detachment. Having seized the Chorokhsky region and Shavshetiya, the Turks could bypass the right flank of the Russian army, advancing on Ardahan and further on Alahtsih. Therefore, the Russian troops needed to clear the Chorokhsky region, Shavshetiyu and the Tausker station from the enemy. The fighting in the area was complicated by mountainous terrain with difficult to reach, especially in winter, passes and passes. The troops had to lay trails through snow-covered gorges, making their way through the rocks.
However, between February 1 and 1, April 1915, our troops solved this task. The commandant of the Mikhailovsky fortress was led by General Lyakhov, who had at his disposal 15 battalions, 5 militia squads and one reserve battalion. Lyakhov divided his forces into two groups. The seaside detachment (6 battalions) acted along the Black Sea coast, with the aim of cutting off the routes of communication with the sea through the villages of Hopa and Arkhava. The Chorokh detachment (5 1 / 2 battalions) advanced upstream. Chorokha to take Mr. Artvin. In addition, the operation involved a detachment of General Genik (7 battalions), which was located in the area of Ardanouch - Ardahan. This detachment had the task of clearing the area east of the river from the Turks. Chorokha.
The 3-I Turkish army had on its left flank part of the 1 corps under the command of Major Stanke, about two divisions in total. In Shavsheti on the side of the Ottomans, local formations acted, up to 3 thousand people. In addition, Turkish border battalions of various numbers were deployed on the entire front of the Batumi region.
Russian offensive developed successfully. February 15 Seaside detachment captured the village of Hopa. This success was of great importance for the further development of the operation, since the rear warehouses of the Turkish troops were located in this village. As a result, the Turkish troops were cut off from the rear base, and they had to reorient themselves to Arhava and Artvin. On the other hand, the capture of Khopy provided Batum from land and facilitated the fight against gangs in the Batumi region.
The seaside detachment, despite the difficulties of moving in extremely mountainous terrain, continued the offensive and by March 5 advanced significantly, taking another Turkish rear base on the coast - the village of Arhava. In other areas, our troops also successfully attacked. March 15 Gevik's squad occupied the city of Artvin.
By the end of March 1915, the right flank of the Caucasian Army ousted the Turkish troops stationed in the Batumi region, with the exception of a small hard-to-reach area southwest of the city of Artvin. In order to secure this territory for itself, our troops at mountain heights along the Russian-Turkish border created a system of fortifications of the type of blockhouses, which had a firing connection, and in the rear there were mobile reserves. Thus, the right flank of the Caucasian army was significantly strengthened, which facilitated the organization of an offensive on the main line.
The situation on the left flank
On the left flank of the Caucasian Army, on the vast territory from the village of Dayar (west of Alashkert), through the Alashkert, Dyadinskaya and Bayazet valleys to the Maku and Khoy regions to Tabriz, the 4-th Caucasus Corps of General Oganovsky was located. The corps was divided into four groups, which covered the most important areas:
1) The Erivan unit under the command of General Abatsiyev as part of one brigade of the 66 Infantry Division and the 2 Caucasian Cossack Division (total 8 battalions, 24 hundreds and 34 guns) operated in the Alashkert and Diadin valleys. The detachment interacted with the 1-m Caucasian Corps, taking part in the capture of the village of Dayar. The advanced forces of the detachment were located at the front with. Kurdali, Klych-Gaduk Pass, Boje-Mansur villages, Jiadin.
2) A detachment under the command of General Nikolayev as part of the Transcaspian Cossack brigade and border guards (only one battalion, 14 of hundreds and 6 guns), operated in the Bayazet valley, providing the Van direction. The advance units occupied the Taparizsky pass.
3) The detachment under the command of General Trukhin as part of the 2-th Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade (12 hundreds and 6 guns) was located in the Maku area. He provided the Nakhichevan direction and advanced parts from the An-Dam mountain to the village of Kara-Ain.
4) On the left wing of the 4 Caucasian Corps, the Azerbaijani squad was deployed under General Chernozubov as part of the 2 Caucasian Rifle Brigade and the 4 Caucasian Cossack Division (total 12 battalions, one squadron, 24 hundreds and 24 units).
During the period of the Sarykamysh operation, Blacktooth received an order from the panicking Myshlayevsky to withdraw the troops, although the Turks and the Kurds had weak forces in this direction and could not threaten our troops. Our troops cleared the previously occupied areas of Soudj-Bulag, Urmia, Tabriz and Khoy. The main forces of the Azerbaijani detachment were concentrated in Julfa. This led to panic and flight of the population (Armenian and Nestorian), which was oriented towards Russians. Turkish forces quietly occupied Tabriz. Kurds inhabiting the Lake District. Urmia, on the side of the Ottomans, reinforced the panic of other people in the area. In addition, the Turks tried to cause an uprising of the semi-nomadic population of the eastern part of Persian Azerbaijan, setting it against the Russians.
Therefore, after successfully completing the Sarykamysh operation, Chernozubov’s detachment had to restore its former positions in northwestern Persia in order to consolidate the position of the left wing of the Caucasian army. Russian troops launched a counteroffensive, and by 17 in January our troops again occupied the city of Tabriz, and on February 21 - the city of Dilman. As a result, the Azerbaijani detachment at the end of February - beginning of April 1915 held positions with Curd-Kenda, Dilman and Tabriz. The reserve was located in Julfa.
The enemy had at the front of the 4 Caucasian Corps: units of the 37 Infantry Division in the Alashkert direction, reinforcements from Syria arrived in the same area (up to 12 thousand soldiers); near the village of Ardzhish (on the northern shore of Lake Van), there was a 4 reserve battalion, in the same area there were numerous irregular Kurdish cavalry; in the cities of Souj-bulag, Urmia, Van, the Turks had up to two divisions and a large number of Kurds and various secondary, auxiliary formations (border battalions, gendarmes, etc.). In March, the Turkish command sent the newly formed 1915 and 3 consolidated divisions to the city of Van 5. A group of Khalil Bey - 3-I summary and 36-I infantry divisions, took Urmia. The Turkish government, promising to oust the Russians from Azerbaijan, offered Persia a joint offensive against Baku and Elisavetpol.
Thus, the Turkish command had on the right flank of the 3 Army, though unsuited, but impressive forces, the core of which was the combined corps of Khalil Bey. This indicated the desire of the German-Turkish command to develop an offensive in Persian Azerbaijan, in the Van-Erivan direction.
Armenian soldiers on the defense line near the fortress walls of Van, May 1915
Genocide of the Christian population
The situation in this sector of the front was complicated by the fact that the Ottoman authorities began the genocide of Christians. In response, the Aysors (Assyrians) and Armenians rebelled. Armenian self-defense units defeated the Ottomans, and then were besieged in the city of Van. Armenians held back the onslaught of the enemy from April 19 to May 16 1915.
Even in the prewar period, the Young Turks pursued a policy of ousting and “stripping” the Christian population of the empire. After the loss of land in the Balkans, a wave of Muslims rushed out and the Turkish authorities began to settle them, displacing Christians from the areas where they traditionally lived. The ideologists of the Ittihad party of the Young Turk dreamed of a “Great Turan” from the Balkans of Palestine to the Pacific Ocean, with the inclusion of Muslims and Turkic peoples of Central Asia, the Volga region, Siberia and China. However, in Turkey itself there have traditionally been many Christians and other nations. Since ancient times, the Greeks lived on the coast. In the eastern vilayets (provinces) of Turkey, the majority of the population were Armenians. And the incorporation of part of Armenia into Russia gave the Armenian intelligentsia hope for the revival of “Great Armenia” within the Russian Empire. The lakes Urmia, Van and the headwaters of the Tigris were inhabited by the Aisors, southeast of the Chaldeans, there were many Christians in Syria.
The Young Turks feared that the nationality issue, which led to the loss of possessions in the Balkans, could lead to the collapse of the rest of the Ottoman Empire. Suddenly, the Armenians, following the Greeks, the Serbs and the Bulgarians, will gather to secede? At the same time, the most radical method of fighting potential separatism was chosen. Like, the best way to solve a problem is the total liquidation of Christians. Although at one time the Armenians supported the Young Turks, when they rushed to power, hoping for relief and improvement of the situation. The war seemed to the leaders of the Young Turks as an ideal moment for such a “stripping” of the country. In August 1914, immediately after the conclusion of an alliance with Germany, the Minister of War Enver Pasha began to create a “Special Organization”. For this, thousands of criminals have been released from prisons. They began to arm the "Islamic militia", attracting into it any rabble, urban and rural mob.
It should be noted that during the war, Armenians and other Christians of the Ottoman Empire, who were drafted into the army, fought mostly honestly. Acts of mass betrayal and desertion was not observed. Among Christians there were many educated, as literacy helped to somehow improve their position among the hostile environment. They were taken to artillery and other parts where knowledge was required. The Russians were actively helped by the Armenians, who were already part of the Russian Empire, and not the citizens of Turkey.
Enver even publicly thanked the Turkish Armenians for their loyalty during the Sarykamysh operation, sending a letter to Archbishop Konya. In the letter, Enver said that he owed his life to an Armenian officer from Sivas, who carried him out of the battlefield during a stampede. On the way from Erzurum to Constantinople, he also thanked the Turkish Armenians for “total devotion to the Ottoman government.” However, in fact, Enver still cherished plans for the Armenian Genocide. Perhaps he wanted in this way to divert public attention from the terrible defeat of the army under his leadership to save his prestige. The attention of the Turkish society was switched to the Armenians, who allegedly betrayed the Ottomans, which led to the defeat of the Turkish army NNUMX.
Local authorities used the war to increase the looting and exploitation of the population. Christians and in peacetime got it more than the Turkish peasants, who lived in poverty, and during the war, their situation even more aggravated. In the rear, Christians were taxed, requisitioned for the needs of the army, more like robbery. Local authorities and gendarmes became brazen and more and more rowed into their pockets. In the front line, Armenians were picked up by carriers and porters. They were loaded all the way, mocked and beaten, almost not fed. If a person fell from exhaustion, they did not save him, they threw him on the road, because you could recruit new ones. The first flashes of massacre began. Between November 1914 and April 1915, several thousand Armenian villages were robbed and more than 20 thousand Armenians and Assyrians were killed.
When the detachment of Chernozubov retreated, the governor of Vana Dzhevdet-Bey, Enver's cousin, with the troops of gendarmes, Kurds, and criminals moved to the areas abandoned by the Russians, with forces called "butcher battalions". In Bashkala, they killed 1600 Armenians. Cevdet invented a new kind of torture - people shod their feet like horses. For this, he was nicknamed the "Bash-kale shoemaker". Then his detachment joined Persian Azerbaijan and killed the Aysor massacre in villages near Lake Urmia. So, in the city of Dilman, hundreds of people were beheaded, chopped into pieces.
At the end of January 1915, a secret meeting of the ruling elite of Turkey took place - the Minister of War and Deputy Supreme Commander Enver (formally the Sultan was considered the Supreme Commander), Interior Minister Talaat, Minister of Finance Javid, ideologist Shakir and others. Genocide plans were discussed. It was decided to make an exception for the Greeks so that neutral Greece would not oppose the Ottoman Empire. In relation to other Christian nations, "unanimously voted for complete destruction." Most of them were Armenians, so most of the documents only mentioned them. Other Christians were added to the Armenians as if automatically.
The main organizers of the genocide of Christians in Turkey are Enver Pasha and Mehmed Talaat Pasha.
The action at first glance promised solid benefits, both political and economic. First, the Young Turks could dump all defeats on “internal enemies”, “traitors”, and give the people the image of an enemy. The massacre allowed us to save our reputation by channeling the irritation of Turkish society to Christians. Secondly, the problem of the “pure” Turan empire was solved, where only Muslims should live. Thirdly, someone was really sure that the Armenians in the east pose a threat and thus you can get things right on the front.
Fourth, property was redistributed and many could improve their financial situation, from major dignitaries and representatives of the bourgeoisie to petty local officials, police officials, "kulaks" and the poor. Everyone could snatch a piece, some more, some less. After all, many Christians from generation to generation worked hard, received education, lived wealthy. They traditionally owned a significant part of industrial enterprises, banks, they controlled more than 60% of import, 40% of export and up to 80% of domestic trade. Yes, and the villages were rich. Many could snatch a fatty piece on confiscations and direct robbery. Confiscations replenished the treasury, although in the long run it was a severe blow to the extremely fragile Turkish economy. Thessaloniki and Istanbul merchant groups got rid of competitors. The Turkish poor could seize homes, lands, gardens. Local Muslims could pillage the property of Christians. In the old traditions of slavery, there was a seizure of children and girls, many sold and resold.
The slaughter was organized with unheard of cruelty, even for Turkey, accustomed to such bloody excesses. If in the previous wars, the Turks responded with terror to the uprisings and grievances of the Christians, tried to intimidate them, make them accept, now something fundamentally different was done. The Ottoman leaders wanted to completely "clean up" Turkey, it was a total genocide. The organizers of the massacre were quite “European people”, with excellent Western education. They understood perfectly well that with more than two million people, the old ways could not be killed. Therefore, the measures were systematic and consistent. Part of it was decided to immediately kill, mostly young men, so as not to offer resistance, and deport others to places where they themselves would die or die on the way. For the deportation site, the deadliest places were chosen: the malarial swamps near Konya in the south-west of Asia Minor and Deir ez-Zor in Syria, where the dead swamps on the banks of the Euphrates side by side with the dead desert. Everything was thought out: they calculated the traffic capacity of the roads, compiled graphs, mapped out which areas to “clean out” first, which later.
In Berlin, they knew about the terrible plans of the Young Turks, but did not stop them. They say that after such atrocities Turkey will no longer have a way back, it will have to fight to the last. In addition, it was believed that Armenians sympathize with Russians, therefore they enter the camp of the enemy. They should be dealt with under wartime conditions.
Created a headquarters. Enver, on the part of the Talaat police, provided security from the army, the responsibility of the party line was assigned to the “troika” of Dr. Nazim, Dr. Shakir and the Minister of Education (!) Shukri. The massacre was organized at such a level and so openly that the Minister of Internal Affairs Talaat Pasha, even in official telegrams, did not hesitate to say that we are talking about the complete destruction of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. So, in a conversation with US Ambassador Morgenthau, Talaat said: “... we have already got rid of three-quarters of Armenians, they no longer remain in Bitlis, Van and Erzerum. The hatred between Armenians and Turks is now so strong that we must end them. If we do not do this, they will avenge us. ”
In February, 1915 of the year disarmed about 100 of thousands of Armenian soldiers who served in the army. The civilian population began confiscation weapons allowed them to 1908 year. Passports were taken away from civilian Christians on the instructions of the Minister of the Interior - according to Turkish law, without them it was forbidden to leave the village or city. According to eyewitnesses, the disarmament was followed by the brutal murder of Armenian soldiers, their throats were slit or they were buried alive. In a number of localities, the authorities seized hundreds of hostages so that Armenian communities would give out weapons. The campaign to disarm the Armenians was accompanied by cruel torture and reprisals. The collected weapons were often photographed and sent to Constantinople as evidence of the "betrayal" of the "betrayal" of Christians, which became a pretext for the general persecution of Armenians. At the same time, in order to decapitate the people, arrests and reprisals of intellectuals — activists of parties and movements, teachers, doctors, authoritative citizens, etc. — swept across the country.
Having disarmed the Armenians, the authorities launched a new phase of the operation - the forced deportation to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia, where they were doomed to death from gangs of marauders or from hunger and thirst. The deportations were subjected to Armenians from almost all the main centers of the empire, and not just from the border areas affected by the fighting. Often, young, healthy men who could resist were selected first. They were taken under the pretext of preparing a place to receive other people. They were taken out of the settlements to deserted places and slaughtered. Then gathered old men, women and children. They were driven by columns; those who could not walk were killed. The gendarmes chose as long as possible and difficult routes, drove through deserted and mountainous places so that as many people as possible died from thirst and hunger. On the way, Christians were subjected to plunder and violence by irregular Ottoman forces, Kurdish, Circassian and other Muslim tribes, the Turkish military and police did not hinder this. Gangsters ("Chetniks") selected girls and children. As a result, only about 20% of the original number of deportees often reached the final destination in the desert.
Those who still managed to get to the designated place faced hunger, epidemics, lack of housing, work, and every prospect. During this process, horror reigned: brutal Kurds, criminals and government officials were free to kill and torture people. They were pricked with bayonets, drowned in lakes and rivers, burned in houses and sheds, dumped into the abyss, killed by the most severe torture and abuse. Girls and women were raped.
All attempts to preserve the conscience of Muslims to help Christians harshly suppressed. Warned: “Every official and private person who will oppose this holy and patriotic cause and will not fulfill the obligations imposed on him or in some way will try to protect this or that Armenian will be recognized as an enemy of the fatherland and religion and punished accordingly.” Commander 3 of the Turkish army, Kamil Pasha, in his order, explained even more clearly: “Any Muslim who tries to protect at least one Armenian will be hanged in front of his dwelling, and his house will be burned.”
This is how the Ottoman official Said Ahmed described the process of “deportation”: “The Muslims of Trebizond were warned about the death penalty for the protection of Armenians. Then they separated the adult men, stating that they should take part in the works. The women and children were expelled to Mosul, guarded and with security guarantees, after which the men were taken out of the city and shot from previously dug ditches. Attacks of “chettes” were organized against women and children, which robbed and raped women, and then killed them. The military had a strict order not to interfere with the actions of the chettes. Selected children were also expelled and killed. The children in the care of the American consul were allegedly selected to be sent to Sivas, taken out to sea in boats, then they were pinned up, their bodies were sacked and thrown into the sea. A few days later, some bodies were found on the coast at Trebizond. In July 1915, Said Ahmed was ordered to accompany the last convoy of Armenians from Trebizond, consisting of 120 men, 400 women and 700 children. Initially, all the men were taken from the convoy, and later Said Ahmed was informed that they were all killed. Along the roads were thousands of bodies of Armenians. Several chettes groups tried to take women and children from the convoy, but Said Ahmed refused to extradite Armenians to them. On the way, he left 200 children to Muslim families who agreed to take care of them. In Kemakh, Said Ahmed received an order to escort Armenians until they died. He managed to include this party of Armenians in the group that arrived from Erzerum, which was commanded by the representative of gendarmerie Mohammed Effendi. Effendi subsequently told Said Ahmed that this group was taken to the bank of the Euphrates, where it was separated from the convoy and destroyed by the chettes gangs. Beautiful Armenian girls were systematically publicly raped, and then killed, including Trabanese officials. ”
Thus, hundreds of thousands of people were deported and killed. Turkish officials and officers bought the property of Armenians expelled from their homes for a pittance. Part of the property fell into the hands of the Turkish poor and she glorified the party. By some estimates, the Turks slaughtered 1,5 a million people in a few months! Only about 300 thousand refugees could find shelter in the Caucasus, the Arab East and other places. After forced emigration, many Armenians settled in Europe and America, creating large communities there. It was a terrible tragedy, the Armenian people lost up to half of their sons and daughters!
The overwhelming majority of Christians went to the slaughter. Why did people go to their death and not resist? Apparently, two main motives played a role here. First, people simply did not believe that they could destroy entire nations. AT stories Turkey quite often, especially during wars and conflicts, mass slaughter, murder and violence occurred. Thought it was a similar case. Someone in another city, village will die, will suffer, but will carry the thunderstorm, and life will return to the same direction. People to the last saved hope. After all, deportation is not murder. Be obedient and you will survive, the wisdom which has been driven into people by centuries old. But this time did not carry.
Secondly, the majority of Armenian leaders and authorities were promptly separated from the people, killed and thrown into prison. The people were deprived of the leaders and turned into a helpless and obedient crowd. Armenian political and public figures were formerly allies of the Young Turks, they studied together, some even belonged to the same Masonic lodges. They simply did not believe that such a monstrous plan would be realized. After all, they were loyal to the authorities, showed submission. And now they were waiting for the gallows, firing teams and butchers.
Only a few were able to resist. But local outbreaks were easily extinguished by the Turkish authorities and sometimes even used to show their case. Here, they say "traitors" showed their "wolf nature." Only Van survived until the arrival of the Russian troops and Armenian troops.
To be continued ...