The situation on the Caucasian front since the beginning of March 1915 was considerably complicated. After the separation of the 5 Caucasian Corps for the preparation of a landing operation in the Bosporus region, the Caucasian army was weakened and could not go on a decisive offensive. At this time, the Persian government took a hostile position against Russia and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory. As a result, in order to keep Persia from entering the war on the side of the Central Powers, it was necessary to win a major victory over the Ottoman Empire or introduce additional troops into Tehran. In addition, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned the commander-in-chief of the Caucasian army about the possibility of speaking on the side of Turkey not only Persia, but also Afghanistan.
In order to finally draw Tehran to its side, the German-Turkish command promised the Persians to oust the Russians from Persian Azerbaijan, and then develop a joint offensive in the direction of Baku and Yelizavetpolsky province, planning to raise a widespread uprising of anti-Russian elements and the Muslim population against Russian rule. For this operation, the consolidated corps of Khalil Bey was sent from the city of Urmia to the city of Dilman, reinforced by numerous Kurdish cavalry and various secondary formations.
At the same time, the situation was complicated in the area of Van, where the insurgent Armenian population smashed the small Turkish units there. The Turkish command sent 5's consolidated division there, setting it a task to drown the uprising in blood. The Turkish division, under the command of Cevdet Pasha, laid siege to the Armenians, who had taken root in the city of Van.
Thus, the Russian army in the Caucasus should have prevented Persia and Afghanistan from appearing on the side of the Central Powers. The speech of Persia and Afghanistan created new centers of world war and worsened Russia's military-strategic position in the Caucasus and Turkestan. Russia would have to divert additional forces and resources from the European part of Russia, where our army was engaged in intense battles with the German and Austro-Hungarian armies. At the same time, the Caucasian army did not have troops for an additional and significant strengthening of the Russian troops in Persia, and so it defended a wide front from the Black Sea to Tabriz.
The Caucasian army needed to strengthen its left flank at the expense of the army reserve and solve a number of complex tasks: 1) defeat the Turkish-Kurdish grouping in the area of Dilman, removing the threat from the left wing of the army; 2) preserve the neutrality of Persia, showing the strength of Russia; 3) crush the Kursk formations, mainly in the Vanish Wilayet and north of Lake Van, in order to stop their active interaction with the Turks; 4) to assist the Armenians who spoke out against the Ottomans; 5) push back the Turkish forces to the west of the city of Van, which thwart the plans of the German-Turkish command, aimed at revolting the population of Azerbaijan against the Russians.
In addition, it was taken into account that after the success of the Russian troops in the center and on the right flank, the left wing (the 4 Caucasian Corps) was in a disadvantageous position for the Russians - backwards. It was necessary to level the front. Therefore, the Russian command decided to push the 4 Caucasian Corps to the front of the Mergemir pass on the Sharian-Dag ridge, the city of Melyazgert, oz. Van The Russian offensive was to keep the initiative in our hands in the face of a shortage of troops.
Events in Van, in a large city in those times in the Caucasus, the unofficial capital of Turkish Armenia, first followed the same rut as throughout the Ottoman Empire. Governor Dzhevdet invited the leaders of the local Armenians to the "talks". Two arrived and were killed. The third, the local leader of the party Dashnaktsutyun Aram Manukyan, was warned in time and disappeared. "Butcher" Dzhevdet arrested the most famous citizens, accused of conspiracy, treason and publicly executed 120 people.
However, the terror did not drive the local Armenians into panic and apathy, but made them think that something terrible was going on. In addition, the punishers of Jevdet, feeling impunity, began to destroy entire villages. Roads on Van were blocked, but people in the city still found out about it. The authorities were no longer believed. When the remaining men were ordered to appear at the recruiting stations, they did not obey. People demanded to remove the punitive. On April 14, the Armenian part of the city was cordoned off and threatened with reprisal. The Armenians did not succumb, refused to let the Turks in for “searches”. It became obvious that if you die, then in the fight. A few days later, after several clashes, the city revolted. Fortifications were built. A single military body was formed to guide self-defense. Services for the provision and distribution of products, medical care, armory workshop.
The governor gathered several thousand soldiers, gendarmes, Kurds, and bandits, and brought several artillery batteries to the city. One of the city’s quarters, Iskele Cay, surrendered. Its inhabitants were slaughtered. However, this only strengthened the will of others to resist. One of the leaders of the resistance was Aram Manukyan (Aram Pasha). Armenians erected barricades, dug trenches, erected parapet from stones and sandbags. True, there were few combat-ready men - only about 1.5 thousand people, there were not enough weapons and ammunition. However, they were supported by women, children and the elderly, which strengthened their fighting spirit. Many women and girls fought in the ranks of the defenders. The Wang teenagers not only brought weapons and ammunition to the soldiers, but they themselves bravely fought with the enemy. The defense was nationwide.
The Armenians managed not only to repel the first attack of the enemy, but also to seize some of their positions, blow up the Turkish arsenal, the police department building, etc. The first ten days of the Van self-defense were successful for the defenders. Despite the fact that the Armenian quarter was subjected to fierce shelling, the enemy could not break through the line of defense of the Armenians. Punishers Dzhevdet loved to cut and mock the defenseless, they did not want to crawl under the bullets of desperate residents. As soon as they were met with a rebuff, they ran back. A German officer arrived from Erzerum and organized a night assault. However, this attack was repulsed. The Ottomans had to confine themselves to a siege and continue artillery shelling. They tried to set fire to the Armenian quarters, but they were vigilantly guarded and the fires that had begun were extinguished.
During the siege of the city, the Turks continued to commit atrocities in the district, carving out the Christian population and setting fire to Armenian villages. At that time, about 24 thousand Armenians died, more than 100 villages were looted and burned. 28 April the Turks launched a new assault on the city, but the defenders repelled it.
In addition to Van, several other centers of resistance appeared. To the north of it, in Janik, several thousand refugees from various villages gathered and also decided to defend themselves. The town of Shatah rebelled to the south. The Armenians were able to smuggle the messengers abroad, begged the Russians for help. Yudenich ordered the troops of the 4 of the Caucasian Corps to make a shot at Van.
Head of Defense Wan Aram Manukyan (Aram Pasha)
The 4 Corps received an order to launch an offensive in order to reach the front of the Klych-Gyaduk, Melyazgert, Adiljevas pass by the middle of May to rely on its left flank on the lake. Van After receiving information about the direction of fresh troops by the Turkish command to the Mush valley, the 1915 Caucasian Corps was additionally ordered to launch a counterattack on it at the marked line along the enemy line. To this end, it was decided, under favorable conditions in Persian Azerbaijan, to strengthen the right wing of the 4 Caucasian Corps at the expense of the Chernuzubov Detachment of the 4 Caucasian Rifle Brigade and 2 battalions of the 4 Kuban Plastun Brigade. In addition, the Caucasian Cavalry Division and the 4-I Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade, after completing the tasks in western Azerbaijan, also had to be sent to reinforce the corps. Then it was planned to transfer from the army reserve the Don Foot Brigade and the 3 Terek Plastun Battalion, included in the 2 Kuban Plastun Brigade. All these troops consisted of 4 battalion, 22 guns and 28 squadrons and hundreds, which would greatly strengthen the body of Oganovsky.
Commander of the 4 Caucasian Corps Peter I. Oganovsky
The 4 Caucasian Corps advanced by four detachments: Erivan, Bayazet, Makin and Azerbaijan. The Erivan detachment of Abaciyev (7 battalions, 18 of hundreds and 18 guns) advanced from the Alashkert valley to the valley of the r. Eastern Euphrates from 24 April, and oppressed the Kurdish formations. 27 of April, our cavalry took Patnos, 28 of April - Melasgert, dropping the enemy to the Cop. In early May, Abaciyev’s detachment occupied the Melasgert-Patnos region, and took Kop, throwing the enemy further west.
The Bayazet detachment of General Nikolaev (Transcaspian Cossack Brigade, 2 batteries, one mounted and 3 foot hundreds of border guards and 3 Armenian troops) attacked through the hard-to-reach Taparizsky pass (2 800 m) to the lake. Van The detachment was given the task of dispelling the Kurds and rescuing Van. The transition was difficult. On the high pass even in May there was snow. The sappers had to dig a passage in it so that the troops could go along it as if through a canal. During the day, we went through the whole of 10 km, suffered from the cold. And from the bright sun and dazzling snow eyes inflamed.
However, Russian troops successfully completed the task. The Bayazet squad dispersed the Kurds. In the valley in front of our soldiers appeared a picture of a terrible massacre. Crusade participant F. Eliseev recalled how his hundred frightened a gang of Kurds who were operating in an Armenian village. “We jumped into the village. It turned out to be Armenian. In it - only women and children. They all do not cry, but howl like an animal and are baptized, saying: “Christine! Christine! Kristin Irmian! ”I don’t understand anything about the events that took place in the village. Gesture reassure them. After removing the hat and crossing myself, I showed them that they are now under the protection of Russian weapons. And without stopping, they went south. ” And beyond the outskirts, we saw the cause of the terrible sobs - dozens of dead young men with cut throats. “The picture is terrible. The Cossacks silently watched them. And for them, as for Christians, the face of war changed. ”
Nobody threatened Nikolayev’s squad anymore, he moved almost without enemy resistance. However, the attack was hard. Our troops entered the area where all life was destroyed. Passed through the villages, littered with rotting corpses that could not be tidied up. Stumbled upon the rare surviving inhabitants, hiding in hard to reach places. Having noticed the Russians, they did not believe in their happiness.
By May 5, our troops reached the area of the village of Janik. 6 (18) May our troops liberated Van. General Nikolayev diplomatically let Armenian warriors in the vanguard. They were greeted as heroes. The enemy forces besieging the van fled along the southern shore of Lake Van, in the direction of Bitlis.
Aram Pasha, with the permission of Nikolayev, sent a telegram to the Russian Tsar: “On the birthday of Your Majesty, coinciding with the day of your troops’ entry into the capital of Armenia, wishing greatness and victory of Russia, we, representatives of national Armenia, ask to accept us under your patronage. And let autonomous Armenia live in a luxurious and diverse bouquet of flowers of the great Russian Empire with a small fragrant violet. ” The liberation of Van was celebrated by Armenians both in Russia and abroad. We sent congratulations and thanks to the Supreme Commander, the Caucasian Governor Vorontsov-Dashkov and Yudenich. Tsar Nicholas II appointed Aram Manukyan governor of Van. In areas liberated by Russian troops, a peaceful life began to gradually improve.
It was a big success. Van was the center of the Van province (province), where the Turks concentrated their forces and reserves, this was the source of supplies to the Kurdish formations. The city of Van was the center of communications - roads to it were from Persian Azerbaijan, that is, the area of operation of the Russian Azerbaijani detachment; from the south, north - from the Bayazet and Alashkert valleys; from the west - from the side of Bitlis, whence it was the only convenient way for the mass transfer of troops from Mesopotamia to Armenia and back. In addition, the fall of Van put in a difficult position the combined corps of Khalil Bey, who acted against the detachment of General Chernozubov. Khalil Bey has lost his best communication.
Simultaneously with the onset of the Bayazet detachment, a detachment of General Trukhin (2 hundreds of 2 of the Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade with 8 guns) began to move. Trukhin's troops occupied the village of Sarai and united with the troops of the Blacktooth detachment.
Thus, by 7 in May 1915, the center and right flank of the 4 Caucasian Corps achieved great success. Our troops advanced to 80-100 km, reached the Kop-Ardish-Van-Saray line. Van, an important center of the region and a communications hub, was released.
On the twentieth of May, Turkish troops launched an unsuccessful offensive in order to drive the Russians out of the Kop area. Meanwhile, on the right flank of the Erivan detachment of Abaciyev, our troops occupied the area of the village of Molla-Ali with the aim of ensuring the route Alashkert and Melyazgert. On the left flank of the Erivan Detachment, our troops on 22 in May were occupied by Adildzhevas, on May 29 - by Ahlat. However, by the middle of June our troops had been ousted by the Ottomans from the Kop and Ahlat regions, but Adiljevas retained.
Our troops badly lacked infantry to gain a foothold in the territories occupied by swift jerks, to provide flanks and rear. These shortcomings in the detachment of Abatsiev were especially sharply manifested. The Erivan detachment did not have enough troops to secure its right flank and rear in the direction of the Klych-Gyaduk Pass, communication leading to the Alashkert valley. In addition, with the extension of the right flank of the 4 Caucasian Corps on 80 km, it further detached itself from the left flank of the 1 Caucasian Corps near the village of Dayar, forming an extremely weak section of Dayar, Dognuk with the Klych-Gyaduk Pass. Due to the weakness and remoteness of the reserves of the 1 and 4 Caucasian corps, this area was a constant threat not only to the flanks of the two corps, but also to the entire front of the army. As a result, the 4 Caucasus Corps was in jeopardy, which persisted throughout the Alashkert operation.
The offensive of the left flank of the 4 of the Caucasian Front
Simultaneously with the offensive of the corps on the right flank and in the center, the forces of the left flank began to move. The Azerbaijani detachment of General Chernozubov, reinforced by units of the 4 of the Kuban Plastun Brigade, was ordered to launch a decisive offensive with the aim of defeating the Khalil Bey group of troops and clearing the city of Urmia from Turkish troops.
Meanwhile, the combined corps of Khalil Bey (10-12 battalions, 12 guns and several thousand Kurds), on April 15 launched an offensive from the area of Urmia. In the area of the city of Dilman, Turks and Kurds clashed with the detachment of the commander of the 2 Caucasian Rifle Division, General Nazarbekov (8 1 / 2 battalions, 12 guns and 12 hundreds). There was a counter battle. The fight was fierce. Turks and Kurds rolled wave after wave. Khalil Bey had up to two divisions and constantly threw reinforcements into battle. They were thrown away, hundreds of enemy bodies remained in front of the Russian positions. But the Turks and Kurds climbed again and again. So they fought for two days. Our soldiers counterattacked, overturned the enemy with bayonet attacks. The situation was finally broken in our favor when Black Tooth brought reinforcements - the 4 Caucasian Cossack Division. Our troops went into a general attack. By 20 April, the Khalil-Bey group was defeated, losing only about 3,5 thousand people killed. Turks hurriedly rolled back.
Khalil Bey group of troops was discovered by Russian intelligence in early May near the town of Bash-Kala. Nazarbekov 16 May tried to destroy the enemy. But the Turks did not accept the battle and retreated. This was repeated several times. The combined corps of Khalil Bey was defeated and retreated. Nazarbekov's squad tried to catch up and completely destroy the enemy. I had to enter the mountainous region with the heights of the passes over 3 000 m. Here the Russian troops for 8 days tried to surround the Turks, who were retreating in different directions, to no avail. Our troops had a very hard time. General Nazarbekov reported that his soldiers experienced “such difficulties due to food shortages and difficult access to the terrain, which rarely had to be experienced. Approximately 30 of enormous passes from 8 to 11 thousand feet in height were covered ... the clothes were worn out, many had to throw scraps of boots and make pistons. People for several days did not receive allowances. Horses are emaciated. ”
Khalil Bey skillfully used the terrain conditions. He no longer got involved in the battle, blew up bridges and ferries and was able to break away from the Russians. Khalil Bey was able to connect with Cevdet. Together they organized a decisive assault on Van. But this time the Armenians survived. Under the threat of encirclement, Cevdet and Khalil Bey fled.
The Nazarbekov troops pursued the enemy from Bash-Kale, and the Trans-Caspian Cossack Brigade of Nikolayev and the Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade Trukhin from Van. Khalil Bey planned to clamp on both sides and destroy. Russian troops were attacking in the mountainous country of the Aysors (Assyrians), Nestorian Christians. Here, as well, Christians who survived the massacre went to our soldiers. Mostly groups of women with children. Eliseev, a participant in the campaign, described: “Among them there are not only men, even old people, but there are no 10-old boys, as there are no young women and teenage girls. Of this age, Kurdish boys cut their throats, and girls and teenagers are taken as concubines ... They tell us about their grief, they repeat endlessly that they "are Iso-Christ" and ask for "Khleb," the only Russian word they know well. "
The Khalil Bey grouping was able to escape this time too. He proved himself to be a skillful commander, put a barrier in and took away the main forces from the blow. He divided them into several parts that went to the west. The troops of Nikolaev and Nazarbekov closed, but the Turks had already fled from the trap. Our troops liberated Shatah, the third center, where defended Christians defended themselves. After this success, the Azerbaijani detachment was weakened - the 2-I Caucasian rifle and 4-I Kuban Plastun brigades were isolated from its composition and sent to the area of the town of Melyazgert.
Thomas I. Nazarbekov
A separate equestrian detachment of the commander of the Caucasian Cavalry Division Sharpantier (consisting of hundreds of 36 and squadrons and 22 guns) solved the problem of demonstrating Russian forces in western Azerbaijan (populated by Kurds) and cleansing this Persian zone from the Turkish troops. The raid of the big forces of the regular cavalry was to convince the Kurdish tribes of the power of Russia and force them to abandon their campaign against the Russians in the future. In addition, the actions of the Sharpantier detachment provided the left flank and especially the rear of the 4 Caucasian Corps.
Charpentier concentrated the Cavalry division of Julfa and, having joined the 3 Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade of General Stoyanovsky, began a raid in the western part of Azerbaijan in the direction of Tabriz, Soudj-Bulag, on the southern shore of Lake Urmia to the city of Urmia. Having reached Urmia, the Russian cavalry was to act depending on the prevailing situation.
On May 6, Charpentier’s detachment was concentrated in Tavriz, where until May 10, there was an organization of rear transports, including camel transports. May 9 was made at the forefront of the 3-I Trans-Baikal Cossack Brigade. 10 May made the main forces of the squad. 13 May all cavalry concentrated in the village of Miandoab, having crossed the river. Jagatu The river was deep, fords were absent. Therefore, the whole cavalry forced the river swim. The guns, cartridge gigs, charging boxes, machine guns, all supplies were transported on the ferries from the floats of Polyansky, built by the division horse-sapper team. On May 15, our troops entered Soudj-Bulag, defeating Kurdish forces along the way. A few days before this, the city was killed by the Kurds, the Russian Consul there, Colonel Yas, whose head was busy with the Kurds at the peak.
May 18 equestrian squadron reached Usnue, where our troops defeated the Turkish gendarme battalion and Kurdish formations. Then the Russian cavalry, following along the west coast of Lake. Urmia, reached the city of Urmia. After the complete purification of Persian Azerbaijan from the Ottomans, a detachment of Charpentier left Urmia in Adildzhevas. The Russian cavalry completed its transition on June 13.
Thus, Charpentier's cavalry solved the task entrusted to it. Kurdish tribes were frightened, and then, in the middle of 1915, they did not complicate the situation in the rear of the 4 Caucasian Corps. This allowed the Russian command to quietly weaken the Azerbaijani welcome, from which two brigades were sent to the area of the city of Melyazgert.
Results of the offensive of the 4 Caucasian Corps
4-th Caucasian Corps completed a private operation to capture Van and a part of Mushka Sanjak successfully. This solved the problem of reducing the strategic front and ensuring the left flank of the Caucasian army. The movement of a strong equestrian detachment of Charpentier deep into Persian Azerbaijan and the failures of the Turkish troops in the area of the lakes Van and Urmia, made a significant impression on Tehran. The operations undertaken against the German-Turkish command against Russian troops stationed in Azerbaijan in order to oust the Russian troops from the territory of Persia ended in defeat. Russian troops occupied areas where the Ottomans formed numerous irregular Kurdish formations. However, Germany and Turkey continued to exert strong pressure on Persia. The situation in Persia continued to be alarming.
Thus, the success of our troops on the left wing of the Caucasian army only delayed the crisis, the situation was not straightened out in a decisive way. In addition, the headquarters of the Caucasian army had to take into account the factor of weakening the Caucasian army after the separation of the 5 of the Caucasian corps from its composition on the Western front, and then the 20 of the infantry division. The Stavka also informed the army headquarters that the Caucasian army could not count on any sufficient supply of weapons and ammunition in the coming months. The Caucasian army could not take a decisive offensive deep into Turkey.
To be continued ...