Caucasus Campaign

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For the Caucasus Campaign of World War II, see Battle of Caucasus.
Caucasus Campaign
Part of Middle Eastern theatre
The limit of the Russian advance into Anatolia
Location Eastern Anatolia
Result Treaty of Brest-Litovsk,Treaty of Batum
Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Ottoman Empire Image:Russian Empire 1914 17.svg Russian Empire
Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Democratic Republic of Armenia
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Enver Pasha
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Vehip Pasha
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Kerim Pasha
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Mustafa Kemal
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Kazim Karabekir
Image:Flag of the German Empire.svg Kress von Kressenstein
Image:Russian Empire 1914 17.svg Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov
Image:Russian Empire 1914 17.svg Nikolai Yudenich
Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Andranik Ozanian
Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Drastamat Kanayan
Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Garegin Njdeh
Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Movses Silikyan
Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lionel Dunsterville
Caucasus Campaign
SarikamisMalazgirtVanKoprukoyErzurumErzincanBitlisKara KillisseSardarapatBash Abaran

The Caucasus Campaign was fought from 1914 until 1918 in the Caucasus during World War I between the Russian Empire, a member of the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire, a member of the Central Powers. Early Russian success was halted in 1917 by the Russian Revolution and in 1918 the Civil War allowed the Turks to recapture all the territory they had lost and more.


[edit] 1914 - Ottoman disaster

The chief war aim of the Ottoman government was the recovery of their former lands in Eastern Anatolia which they had lost due to the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78. The war minister Enver Pasha, ignoring advice from their German allies, within a month of declaring war launched an attack on this territory. Placing himself in personal command of the Third Army he ordered it into battle against the Russian troops. Enver Pasha's army was very large (estimates range from 100,000 to 190,000 men) but poorly equipped especially for the winter conditions they would soon face.

The Russian army was initially strong with some 100,000 men under the nominal command of the Governor General of the Caucusus Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov. The real commander was his chief of staff, General Nikolai Yudenich, Russia's best general of the First World War. Due to the defeats at the Battle of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, the Russians redeployed almost half their forces to the Prussian front, leaving behind just 60,000 troops to face the Ottoman army.

Armenians, who were one of the ethnic groups within the Ottoman Empire, supported Governor General Vorontsov and planned to defeat Enver Pasha and Ottoman troops. Governer Vorontsov planned to withdraw his forces closer to Kars in the face of the 3rd Army's advance. But Yudenich ignored Vorontsov's wishes to withdraw and instead stayed to defend Sarikamis. The Battle of Sarikamis (December 29, 1914 to January 4, 1915) was a stunning defeat for the Turks, and their army retreated all the way back to their starting position with between 60,000 and 175,000 troops. Enver Pasha gave up command of the army and publicly blamed the Armenians for his defeat. As War Minister he ordered that all Armenian recruits in the Ottoman forces be disarmed, demobilized and assigned to labor camps, where nearly all died, a key step on the path to the Armenian Genocide.

At the same time as Enver's army advanced towards Kars, a small Ottoman force from Van advanced into Persia. This force, meeting little opposition, briefly occupied Tabriz. Both the Russians and the British sent forces into northern Persia to expel the Ottoman units and, with the disaster at Sarikamis, the Ottomans withdrew back along their frontier.

[edit] 1915 - Back and forth

Van Resistance, Battle of Malazgirt (1915), Battle of Van, Battle of Kara Killisse

General Yudenich was praised for his victory and promoted to command over all Russian troops in the Caucusus. He then began an offensive into Turkish territory, heading towards Lake Van in Ottoman Armenia. This was an area with many Christian Armenians and the Russians hoped for some local support for their army. With Russian forces approaching, a revolt occurred in Van on April 20, against the Ottoman Empire and in favor of the Russians. The Armenians in Van held out for a month against the Ottoman army, which this is explained in Van Resistance.

The Russians captured Van in May of 1915. At the time, General Yudenich believed the Ottoman forces in the area were weak, just three of four divisions. In reality, Pasha Abdul Kerim had eight divisions with a steady supply of reinforcements. The Russian General in command at the front, Oganovski, was slow and he sent out small forces in several directions.

In July the Pasha Kerim launched a couterattack in the Lake Van area and defeated the Russians at the Battle of Malazgirt. The Russians under the soon-to-be-replaced Oganovski retreated east from to Kara Killise towards Baiburt. General Yudenich rapidly assembled a mobile force of some 22,000 men (mostly Cossacks) under General Baratov and in the Battle of Kara Killisse in early August hit the Ottoman forces along several points. The Ottomans retreated back south leaving some 6,000 POWs and a great deal of supplies.

Meanwhile the Armenian rebels were been defeated at the Battle of Van but as a result of the defeat at Kara Killisse, the Russians captured Van for a second time. This movement ended with Administration for Western Armenia.

On September 24, Grand Duke Nicholas, having been removed from the position as Supreme Commander of the Russian army, was put in charge of all Russian forces in Armenia and Persia. As it happened, the Grand Duke left the actual conduct of the war in the capable hands of General Yudenich.

See also War in the Black Sea
Image:World War I- Refugee camps -
Armenian Refugees under French Protection
Further information: Armenian Genocide

Note: During the middle of the Russian offensive into Armenia, Talat Pasha (the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire) ordered the forced deportation of all Armenians out of the region and to the south.

This front was quiet from October till the end of the year.

[edit] 1916 - Russian victory

The winter is not normally a time for military activity in this part of the world. The bitter cold and terrible roads contributed greatly to the annihilation of Enver Pasha's 3rd Army in the previous year; but the Russian General Yudenich viewed this as an opportunity to take the Ottomans by surprise. In early January of 1916 his army secretly left its winter quarters and marched towards the major Ottoman fort at Erzurum. The Russians achieved total surprise and destroyed an Ottoman division that was in winter quarters at Battle of Koprukoy (January 16 - January 18).

While the Russian army and its heavy guns continued to march towards Erzurum, a second Ottoman division was destroyed at the town of Tafta (February 14) by another Russian force that attacked unexpectedly from the north. The Ottoman commander, Kerim Pasha, was either unprepared for a siege or, more likely, lost his nerve because instead of holding the fort, his army retreated on the 15th. The Russians marched into Erzurum unopposed on February 16.

General Yudenich's Caucasus army moved in two directions from Erzurum, part went north and captured the ancient port city of Trebizond in April. Another part went south and captured Mush and Bitlis, driving the demoralized Ottoman army before it.

The Ottoman army, under a new leader, Vehip Pasha, was ordered to re-take Trebizond. A military force was gathered and sent marching along the coast in June of 1916 but the Russians held up its advance - by this point the Russian navy dominated the Black Sea. General Yudenich then countered the Ottoman attack with an offensive of his own towards Erzican (see the Battle of Erzincan). On July 2 Erzican was captured; the Ottoman offensive against Trebizond was halted as they tried to stabilize their front lines.

The only bright spot for the Ottomans was General Mustafa Kemal's reconquest of Mush and Bitlis in August of 1916. However the Russians drove Kemal's troops out of these towns at the end of the fall. Fighting around the east side of Lake Van continued throughout the summer but was inconclusive.

[edit] 1917 - All is quiet

Russo–Ottoman Wars

The Russians made plans for a renewed attack on the Turkish positions in 1917 but the chaos caused by the Russian Revolution put a stop to all Russian military operations. The new government removed the Grand Duke from his command and reassigned General Yudenich to a meaningless position in Central Asia (he then retired from the army). The Turks, under great pressure from the British in Palestine and Mesopotamia, withdrew the majority of their forces and sent them south. During the rest of 1917, the Russian army slowly disintegrated until there was no effective military force.

[edit] 1918 - Ottoman victory

In the early months of 1918, the Russian army in the Caucasus was nothing more than a few thousand volunteers and some two hundred officers. A year earlier there had been 500,000 soldiers, now they were gone and Russia's vast southern territories were effectively unguarded. After a year of inactivity, the Turks finally went on the offensive. The Turkish army launched its campaign in late January of 1918.

The only resistance they faced came from the semi-organized militia of the Armenian Republic. Fighting few soldiers, the Ottoman army captured Trebizond, Erzurum, Kars, Van, and Batumi (February - March 1918). In the midst of this offensive, the Bolshevik government of Russia signed all this land away in the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk on March 3 1918).

Enver Pasha had bigger goals than just reconquest of land lost 40 years ago. With the sudden success of his forces (against no real opposition) he revived his dream of Turkish domination over Central Asia and ordered the creation of something called the Army of Islam. This army, numbering between 14,000 and 25,000 strong, was composed entirely of Muslims, and most spoke Turkish. In July, he ordered the Army of Islam into Democratic Republic of Armenia, with the goal of taking Baku on the Caspian Sea. This new offensive was strongly opposed by the Germans. Germany regarded all of southern Russia as theirs by right of conquest. The German army had inflicted defeats on the Russians while the Ottomans had been repeatedly defeated.

In early May, 1918, the Ottoman army attacked the newly declared Democratic Republic of Armenia. Although the Armenians managed to inflict one defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Sardarapat, the Ottoman army won a later battle and scattered the Armenian army. The Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batum in June, 1918.

Worried by the prospect of an invasion by the victorious Ottoman army, the Democratic Republic of Georgia asked for German military support. The Germans, desirous of preventing the Ottoman Empire from taking even more territory, sent a military forces to Georgia, almost certainly under the command of General Kress von Kressenstein.

Enver's Army of Islam avoided Georgia and marched through Azerbaijan. They got as far as Baku on the Caspian Sea, which they threw the British out in September of 1918. By the end of the war, the Turks, although they had lost Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia, had re-captured all the territory which they lost to the Russians in Eastern Anatolia.

[edit] Results

Image:First republic of Armenia-west boarders by Woodrow Wilson.png
Wilsonian Armenia as promised (but never fulfilled) in the Treaty of Sèvres.

The Ottoman Activities against the Armenian Republic ended as a result of the Armistice of Mudros. Two years after the armistice, a peace treaty was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sevres on August 10, 1920. Treaty of Serves recognized "Wilsonian Armenia" but it was never actually implemented as part of Armenia.

Oddly, the Ottoman Empire lost the war to the Allies, but the borders in the Caucasus were not settled. The coming years will show Georgian-Armenian War 1918, Armenia and Azerbaijan were engaged in Armenian-Azerbaijani war (1918 - 1920) and Turkish War of Independence by the Turkish national movement headed by Mustafa Kemal which managed to retain much of this territory, first by Treaty of Alexandropol with Armenia and later with the Soviet Union in 1921 the Treaty of Kars (ratified in Yerevan on September 11 1922).

Near East Relief Workers tried to soothe the pain inflicted upon the population of the regions devastated during the conflict.

[edit] References

  • Strachan, Hew (2003). The First World War, pp 109-112. Viking (Published by the Penguin Group) (1914 operations)
  • Falls, Cyril (1960). The Great War pp 158-160. (covers 1915 fighting)
  • Pollard, A. F. (1920). A Short History of the Great War (chapter 10). (covers 1916 fighting)
  • Fromkin, David (1989). A Peace to End All Peace, pp. 351-355. Avon Books. (covers 1918 operations)
  • Harutyunian, The 1918 Turkish aggression in Transcaucasus, Yerevan, 1985. (covers conquest of Armenia, 1918)
  • Russian Campain in Turkey

[edit] See also

World War I
Theatres Main events Specific articles Participants See also

Sarajevo assassination
The July Ultimatum

Main theatres:
Western Front
Eastern Front
Italian Front
Middle Eastern Theatre
Balkan Theatre
Atlantic Theatre

Other theatres:
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General timeline:
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Battle of Liège
Battle of Tannenberg
Invasion of Serbia
First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of Arras
Battle of Sarikamis
Mesopotamian Campaign
Battle of Gallipoli
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Battle of Verdun
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Jutland
Brusilov Offensive
Conquest of Romania
Great Arab Revolt
Second Battle of Arras (Vimy Ridge)
Battle of Passchendaele
Capture of Baghdad
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Meuse-Argonne Offensive
Armistice with Germany
Armistice with Ottoman Empire

Military engagements
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Poison gas
Trench warfare
Partition of Ottoman Empire

Civilian impact and atrocities:
Armenian Genocide
Assyrian Genocide

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
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Treaty of Neuilly
Treaty of Trianon
Treaty of Sèvres
Treaty of Lausanne
League of Nations

Entente Powers
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Central Powers
Image:Flag of the German Empire.svg German Empire
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Category: World War I
A war to end all wars
Female roles
Total war
Spanish flu

Contemporaneous conflicts:
First Balkan War
Second Balkan War
Maritz Rebellion
Easter Rising
Russian Revolution
Russian Civil War
Finnish Civil War
North Russia Campaign
Wielkopolska Uprising
Polish–Soviet War
Turkish War of Independence also known as the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922)

World War I
European Theatre
Balkans | Western Front | Eastern Front | Italian Front
Middle Eastern
Caucasus | Mesopotamia | Sinai and Palestine | Gallipoli | Aden | Persia
South-West Africa | West Africa | East Africa
Asian and Pacific Theatres
German Samoa and German New Guinea | Tsingtao
Atlantic Ocean | Mediterranean Sea | Naval battles
Air battles
Contemporary conflicts
Maritz Rebellion | North-West Frontier, India | Easter Rising | Russian Revolution
hu:Kaukázusi front (I. világháború)

nl:Kaukasuscampagne tr:Kafkasya Cephesi

Caucasus Campaign

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