Objectives[edit | edit source]
Ottomans and Central Powers[edit | edit source]
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers through the secret Ottoman-German Alliance, which was signed on 2 August 1914. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus was the recovery of its territories in Eastern Anatolia that had been lost during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–78, in particular Artvin, Ardahan, Kars, and the port of Batum. Success in this region would force the Russians to divert troops from the Polish and Galician fronts.
German advisors with the Ottoman armies supported the campaign for this reason. From an economic perspective, the Ottoman, or rather German, strategic goal was to cut off Russian access to the hydrocarbon resources around the Caspian Sea.
Germany established an Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of World War I. The bureau was involved in intelligence-gathering and subversive missions to Persia and to Afghanistan, to dismantle the Anglo-Russian Entente. Ottoman War Minister Enver Pasha claimed that if the Russians could be beaten in the key cities of Persia, it could open the way to Azerbaijan, to Central Asia and to India.
If these nations were to be removed from Western influence, Enver envisioned a cooperation between these newly established Turkic states. Enver's project conflicted with European interests which played out as struggles between several key imperial powers. The Ottomans also threatened Britain's communications with India and the East via the Suez Canal.
Allies[edit | edit source]
The British feared that the Ottomans might attack and capture the Middle East (and later Caspian) oil fields. The British Royal Navy depended upon oil from the petroleum deposits in southern Persia, to which the British-controlled Anglo-Persian Oil Company had exclusive access.
The Russians viewed the Caucasus Front as secondary to the Eastern Front. They feared a campaign into the Caucasus aimed at retaking Kars which had been taken from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and the port of Batum.
In March 1915, when the Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov met with British ambassador George Buchanan and French ambassador Maurice Paléologue, he stated that a lasting postwar settlement demanded full Russian possession of the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople, the straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, southern Thrace up to the Enos-Midia line as well as parts of the Black Sea coast of Anatolia between the Bosphorus, the Sakarya River and an undetermined point near the Bay of Izmit. The Russian Imperial government planned to replace the Muslim population of Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers.
Armenians[edit | edit source]
The Armenian national liberation movement sought to establish the First Republic of Armenia in the eastern part of Asia Minor. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation eventually achieved this goal while the Ottoman Empire was in a state of collapse later in the war, with the establishment of the internationally recognized First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. As early as 1915, the Administration for Western Armenia and later Republic of Mountainous Armenia were Armenian-controlled entities, while the Centrocaspian Dictatorship was established with Armenian participation. None of these entities were long lasting.
Chronology[edit | edit source]
Prelude[edit | edit source]
The Ottoman Empire made a secret Ottoman-German Alliance on 2 August 1914, followed by another treaty with Bulgaria. The Ottoman War ministry developed two major plans. Bronsart von Schellendorf, a member of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire who had been appointed Assistant Chief of the Ottoman General Staff, completed a plan on 6 September 1914 by which the Fourth Army was to attack Egypt and the Third Army would launch an offensive against the Russians in Eastern Anatolia.
There was opposition to Schellendorf among the Ottoman army. The most voiced opinion was that Schellendorf planned a war which benefitted Germany, rather than taking into account the conditions of the Ottoman Empire. Hafiz Hakki Pasha presented an alternative plan, which was more aggressive, and concentrated on Russia. It was based on moving forces by sea to the eastern Black Sea coast, where they would develop an offensive against Russian territory. Hafiz Hakki Pasha's plan was shelved because the Ottoman Army lacked the resources. Schellendorf’s "Primary Campaign Plan" was therefore adopted by default.
As a result of Schellendorf's plan, most of the Ottoman operations were fought in Ottoman territory, with the result that in many cases they directly affected the Empire's own people. The later view was that the resources to implement this plan were also lacking, but Schellendorf organized the command and control of the army better, and positioned the army to execute the plans. Schellendorf also produced a better mobilisation plan for raising forces and preparing them for war. The Ottoman War Ministry's archives contain war plans drafted by Schellendorf, dated 7 October 1914, which include details regarding Ottoman support to the Bulgarian army, a secret operation against Romania, and Ottoman soldiers landing in Odessa and Crimea with the support of the German Navy.
Such was the German influence on Turkey's operations during the Palestine campaign that most of the staff posts in the Yıldırım Army Group were held by German officers. Even the headquarters correspondence was produced in German. This situation ended with the final defeat in Palestine and the appointment of Mustafa Kemal to command the remnants of the Yildirim Army Group.
During July 1914 there were negotiations between the Turkish Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and Armenians at the Armenian congress at Erzurum. The public conclusion of the congress was "Ostensibly conducted to peacefully advance Armenian demands by legitimate means". The CUP regarded the congress as a cause of Armenian insurrection. Historian Edward Erickson concluded that after this meeting, the CUP was convinced of the existence of strong Armenian–Russian links, with detailed plans to detach the region from the Ottoman Empire.
On 29 October 1914, the Ottoman Empire's first armed engagement with the Allies occurred when the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau, having been pursued into Turkish waters and transferred to the Ottoman navy, shelled the Russian Black Sea port of Odessa.
1914[edit | edit source]
November[edit | edit source]
Following the shelling of Odessa, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914. The British Navy attacked the Dardanelles on 3 November and the other Allies declared war on 5 November.
First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill put forward his plans for a naval attack on the Ottoman capital, based at least in part on what turned out to be erroneous reports regarding Ottoman troop strength, as prepared by Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence. He reasoned that the Royal Navy had a large number of obsolete battleships which might be made useful, supported by a token force from the army for routine occupation tasks. The battleships were ordered to be ready by February 1916.
At the same time, the Ottoman Fourth Army was preparing a force of 20,000 men under the command of the Ottoman Minister of the Marine, Djemal Pasha, to take the Suez Canal. The attack on Suez was suggested by War Minister Enver Pasha at the urging of their German ally. The chief of staff for the Ottoman Fourth Army was the Bavarian Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, who organized the attack and arranged supplies for the army as it crossed the desert.
On 1 November, the Bergmann Offensive was the first armed conflict of the Caucasus Campaign. The Russians crossed the frontier first, and planned to capture Doğubeyazıt and Köprüköy. On their right wing, the Russian I Corps moved from Sarıkamış toward Köprüköy. On the left wing, the Russian IV Corps moved from Yerevan to the Pasinler Plains. The commander of the Ottoman Third Army, Hasan Izzet, was not in favour of an offensive in the harsh winter conditions, but his plan to remain on the defensive and to launch a counterattack at the right time was overridden by the War Minister Enver Pasha.
On 6 November, a British naval force bombarded the old fort at Fao. The Fao Landing of British Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEF D), consisting of the 6th (Poona) Division led by Lieutenant General Arthur Barrett, with Sir Percy Cox as political officer, was opposed by 350 Ottoman troops and four cannons. On 22 November, the British occupied the city of Basra against a force of 2900 Arab conscripts of the Iraq Area Command commanded by Suphi Pasha. Suphi Pasha and 1,200 men were captured. The main Ottoman army, under the overall command of Khalil Pasha, was located about 440 kilometres (270 mi) to the north-west, around Baghdad. It made only weak attempts to dislodge the British.
On 7 November, the Ottoman Third Army commenced its Caucasus offensive with the participation of the XI Corps and all cavalry units supported by the Kurdish Tribal Regiment. By 12 November, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha's IX Corps reinforced with the XI Corps on the left flank supported by the cavalry, began to push the Russians back. The Russians were successful along the southern shoulders of the offensive, where Armenian volunteers were effective and took Karaköse and Doğubeyazıt. By the end of November, the Russians held a salient 25 kilometres (16 mi) into Ottoman territory along the Erzurum-Sarıkamış axis.
Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, sent a force to Umm Qasr, Safwan, Bubiyan, and Basra to expel Ottoman forces from the area. In exchange the British government recognized Kuwait as an "independent government under British protection." There is no report on the exact size and nature of Mubarak’s attack, though Ottoman forces did retreat from those positions weeks later. Mubarak removed the Ottoman symbol that was on the Kuwaiti flag and replaced it with "Kuwait" written in Arabic script. Mubarak’s participation, as well as his previous exploits in obstructing the completion of the Baghdad railway, helped the British safeguard the Persian Gulf from Ottoman and German reinforcements.
December[edit | edit source]
In December, at the height of the Battle of Sarikamish, General Myshlaevsky ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Persian Campaign to face Enver's offensive. Only one brigade of Russian troops under the command of the Armenian General Nazarbekoff and one battalion of Armenian volunteers remained scattered throughout Salmast and Urmia. While the main body of Ottoman troops were preparing for the operation in Persia, a small Russian group crossed the Persian frontier. After repulsing a Russian offensive toward Van-Persia mountain crossings, the Van Gendarmerie Division, a lightly equipped paramilitary formation commanded by Major Ferid, chased the Russians into Persia.
On 14 December, the Van Gendarmerie Division occupied the city of Kotur in the Persian Campaign. Later, it proceeded towards Hoy. It was supposed to keep this passage open for Kazım Bey's 5th Expeditionary Froce and Halil Bey's 1st Expeditionary Force, who were to move towards Tabriz from the bridgehead established at Kotur. However, the Battle of Sarıkamısh depleted the Ottoman forces and these expeditionary forces were needed elsewhere.
On 29 December, the Ottoman Third Army received the order to advance towards Kars. Enver Pasha assumed personal command of the Third Army and ordered his forces to move against the Russian troops, beginning the Battle of Sarikamish. In the face of the Third Army's advance, Governor Vorontsov planned to pull the Russian Caucasus Army back to Kars. General Nicolai Yudenich ignored Vorontsov's order.
1915[edit | edit source]
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