Caucasus Campaign

Caucasus Campaign

conflict=Caucasus Front
partof=Middle Eastern theatre (World War I)
alternatively Caucasian Front (WWI)‎

caption=The limit of the Russian advance into Anatolia
date=October 24, 1914 - October 30, 1918
place=Eastern Anatolia
result=Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Treaty of Batum
territory=Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
combatant1=flag|Ottoman Empire|size=20px
flagicon|Azerbaijan|1918|size=20px Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus
combatant2=flag|Russian Empire|size=20px
flagicon|Armenia|1918|size=20px Democratic Republic of Armenia
commander1=flagicon|Ottoman Empire|size=20px Enver Pasha
flagicon|Ottoman Empire|size=20px Vehip Pasha
flagicon|Ottoman Empire|size=20px Kerim Pasha
flagicon|Ottoman Empire|size=20px Mustafa Kemal
flagicon|Ottoman Empire|size=20pxKazım Karabekir
flagicon|German Empire|size=20px Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein
commander2=flagicon|Russian Empire|size=20px Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov
flagicon|Russian Empire|size=20px Nikolai Yudenich
flagicon|Armenia|1918|size=20px Andranik Ozanian
flagicon|Armenia|1918|size=20px Drastamat Kanayan
flagicon|Armenia|1918|size=20px Garegin Njdeh
flagicon|Armenia|1918|size=20px Movses Silikyan
Stepan Shahumyan
flagicon|UK|size=20px Lionel Dunsterville
strength1=•3rd Army
2nd Army
Army of Islam
strength2=•Russian Caucasus Army
Detachment Armenian volunteer units
Armenian conscripts of Central Caspian Dictatorship
Armenian conscripts of Republic of Mountainous Armenia
The Caucasus Campaign comprised armed conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, later including the Armenia, Central Caspian Dictatorship, and the UK as part of the Middle Eastern theatre or alternatively part of the Caucasian Front during World War I. The Caucasus Campaign extended from the Caucasus to the Eastern Anatolia reaching as far as Trabzon, Bitlis, Muş and Van. The land warfare was accompanied by the attacks by the Russian navy in the Black Sea Region of Ottoman Empire.

The Russian advance on the Caucasus front was halted by the Russian Revolution on February 23 1917, and the Russian Caucasus Army at the front line was replaced by the forces of the newly-established Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA), comprising the Armenian volunteer units and the Armenian irregular units. During 1918 the region also saw the establishment of the Central Caspian Dictatorship, the Republic of Mountainous Armenia and an Allied force named Dunsterforce composed of elite troops drawn from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts.

The Caucasus Campaign terminated between the Ottoman Empire and Russia with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918 and between the Ottoman Empire and the DRA with the Treaty of Batum on June 4, 1918. However, the armed conflicts extended as Ottoman Empire continued to engage with Central Caspian Dictatorship, Republic of Mountainous Armenia and Dunsterforce of British Empire until the Armistice of Mudros on October 30 1918.


Ottoman Empire

The main objective of the Ottoman Empire was the recovery of its territories in Eastern Anatolia lost during the prior Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78. Ottomans had two armies in the regions, 3rd Army and 2nd Army. The total Ottoman military force was very large (estimates range from 100,000 to 190,000 men) but poorly equipped especially for the winter conditions.

Russian Empire

The Russian objective was voiced in March 1915, when the Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov impressed upon the British ambassador George Buchanan and French Ambassador Maurice Paléologue that a lasting postwar settlement demanded a full Russian possession of the city of Constantinople, the straits of 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. Russian Tsarist regime planned to replace the Muslim population of Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers [R. G. Hovannisian. "Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918", University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967, pg. 59] These documents were also made public in the Russian newspaper Izvestia by February 1917, in order to gain the support of Armenian public for the Russian Revolution [R. G. Hovannisian. "The Republic of Armenia: Volume I: The First Year", University of California Press, Berkeley, 1971] .

The Russian army was initially strong with some 100,000 men under the nominal command of the Governor General of the Caucasus Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov. The real commander was his chief of staff, General Nikolai Yudenich, one of Russia's most successful World War I generals. 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.


In 1917 the regular Russian regiments were deserting the frontline. In this situation, December 1917, the army corps (Armenian volunteer units) realigned themselves under the command of General Tovmas Nazarbekian, with Dro as a civilian commissioner. The frontline had three main divisions: Movses Silikyan, Adrianic and Mikhail Areshian. Another regular unit was under Colonel Korganian. There were Armenian partisian guerrilla detachments (more than 40,000Boghos Nubar the president of the "Armenian National Assembly" declared to Paris Peace Conference, 1919 through a letter to French Foreign Office - December 3, 1918] ) accompanying these main units. The line from Van to Erzincan was organized through these units. It was mentioned that Adrianic had 150,000 men with a 300 mile frontline (a high mountain area, with specific passes). In 1918, the Dashnaks of Armenian national liberation movement declared the Democratic Republic of Armenia through the Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians (unified form of Armenian National Councils) with the dissolution of Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Tovmas Nazarbekian became the first Commander-in-chief of DRA. With the Tovmas Nazarbekian becoming the Commander-in-chief of the whole Armenian state, Andranik Toros Ozanian took command of war zone within Ottoman Empire.

British Empire

Lionel Dunsterville was appointed at 1917 to lead an Allied force of under 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand elite troops, accompanied by armoured cars. This unit worked with 3,000 Russian revolutionary troops to prevent Enver Pasha's goal to establish independent Trans-Caucasia and also support Centro Caspian Dictatorship.

1914 - Warfare

The Ottoman generalship and organization were negligible when compared to the Allies A.F. Pollard "A Short History Of The Great War" chapter VI the first winter of the war] . However, a Caucasus front would have a distracting effect on Russia. By diverting Russian forces from the Polish and Galician fronts German advances there could bring final victory, even if the Ottomans lost. Germany supplied the missing resources and the Ottoman 3rd Army was used as a manpower source to achieve the distraction. In 1914, war minister Enver Pasha wanted to encircle the Russian armies between Sarikamis and Ardahan.

Battle of Sarikamis, December

The Russians crossed the Russo-Turkish frontier first and captured Bayazid and Köprüköy. At the same time Enver's 3rd Army received the order to advance towards Kars. In the face of the 3rd Army's advance Governor Vorontsov planned to pull the Russian Caucasus Army back to Kars. Yudenich ignored Vorontsov's wishes to withdraw. He stayed to defend Sarikamis. 3rd Army was in Ardahan on January 1. The German military mission disagree on launching an attack on this territory at this time , since the German Army could give better support during spring and summer. Enver assumed the personal command of the 3rd Army and ordered it into battle against the Russian troops. The Battle of Sarikamis (December 29, 1914 - January 4, 1915) was a stunning defeat for the Ottoman 3rd Army. Only 10% of the 3rd army managed to retreat back to its starting position. Enver gave up command of the 3rd army.

1915 - Back and forth

In February, General Yudenich was praised for the victory and promoted to command over all Russian troops in the Caucasus. The Allies asked Russia to relieve the pressure on Western front. Russia asked the Allies to relieve in the Caucasus by a naval attack. (See also War in the Black Sea.) Operations on Dardanelles (Battle of Gallipoli) in the direction of the Ottoman capital helped the Russian forces in this front during 1915.

Van Resistance, April

On April 20, the armed conflict of the Van Resistance began as an Armenian women who wanted to enter the city, and two Armenian men that came to help which were later shot dead by Ottoman Army. The Armenian defenders protecting 30,000 residents and 15,000 refugees in an area of roughly one square kilometer of the Armenian Quarter and suburb of Aigestan with 1,500 able bodied riflemen who were supplied with 300 rifles and 1,000 pistols and antique weapons. The conflicted lasted until the General Yudenich came to rescue them.

General Yudenich began an offensive into Turkish territory, heading towards Lake Van in Ottoman Armenia to relieve the beleaguered Armenian residents of the Van Resistance, a brigade of Trans-Baikal Cossacks under General Trukhin, and some Armenian volunteers towards Van. cite book | last = Hinterhoff | first = Eugene | title =Persia: The Stepping Stone To India. Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War I, vol iv | pages = pp.1153-1157]

On the 16th there was a bombardment of 46 shells to signal the retreat of Turkish units. The following day, Armenians had control of the entire town. Soon after, the advance guard of the Russian army, consisting of Armenian volunteers, arrived [ Hovannisian, Richard G.,(1967) "Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918." University of California Press] . Russian regular soldiers followed. General Yudenich arrived he received the keys to the city and citadel and confirmed the Armenian provisional government in office, with Aram Manougian as governor. The Fedayee turned over the city of Van to the Russians in May 1915.

With Van secure, fighting shifted farther west for the rest of the summer.

Tehcir Law, May

During the Russian offensive into Armenia, Talat Pasha, he was the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, ordered a forced deportation of all Armenians out of the region, and to the south under the Tehcir Law to the Syria and Mosul. Talat Pasha claimed that the Armenians in this region would organize under the leadership of Russians and rebel against his government.

The Armenian's of the Van Resistance and others which were under the Russian occupation were spared from these deportations.

Malazgirt-Kara Kilise, July

The Russians captured Malazgirt, a few days later. At the time, General Yudenich, Commander the Russians, believed the Ottoman forces in the area were weak, just three of four divisions. In reality, Pasha Abdul Kerim, the Ottoman commander, had eight divisions with a steady supply of reinforcements. The Russian General in command at the front, Oganovski, was slow to exploit the Russian success. Oganovski did not leave Van until July.

In July the Russians, under Oganovski, launched an offence into the hills west of Malazgrit. The Russians underestimated the size of the Turkish arm, and were surprised by a large Turkish force at the counterattack. The Russians retreated, leaving Van.

Reassignments, October

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 the Caucasus. The Grand Duke left the actual conduct of the war in the hands of General Yudenich. This front was quiet from October till the end of the year.

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).

Battle of Erzurum, February

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 Trabzon in April. Other branch moved to Mush-Bitlis direction.

Battles of Mush-Bitlis, February

While Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich was in the north and pushing the Ottoman 3rd Army, the Ottoman 2nd Army was in the south facing the insurgency and the second branch of Russian army under General Tovmas Nazarbekian and the detachment Armenian volunteer units controlled by Andranik Toros Ozanian. These units pushed the 2nd Army deep into Anatolia and captured Mush and Battle of Bitlis, driving the demoralized Ottoman army before it. The Bitlis was the last defense point for the Ottoman Army to prevent the Russians from moving into central Anatolia and Mesopotamia. After the capture, the Ottoman Army asked Mustafa Kemal to organize the defense in the region. When Mustafa Kemal was assigned to his post, the enemy forces were in constant advance. The only bright spot for the Ottomans was General Mustafa Kemal's reconquest of Mush and Bitlis in August 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.

Battle of Trabzon, April

General Yudenich's Caucasus army captured the ancient port city of Trabzon in April. The Ottoman army, under a new leader, Vehip Pasha, was ordered to re-take Trabzon. A military force was gathered and sent marching along the coast in June 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 Trabzon was halted as they tried to stabilize their front lines.

1917 - All is quiet

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.

1918 - Ottoman victory

A year earlier there had been 500,000 soldiers. Now the Russian army was gone. Russia's vast southern territories were effectively unguarded. The Caucasus was nothing more than a few thousand volunteers and some two hundred officers.

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March

The Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk March 3 1918 with the Russian SFSR which stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batum, Kars, and Ardahan to Ottoman Empire. These lands had been captured by Russia during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). The treaty also stipulated that Transcaucasia was to be declared independent. On April 5 the head of the Transcaucasian delegation Akakii Chkhenli accepted the Treaty as a basis for negotiation and wired the governing bodies urging them to accept this positionRichard Hovannisian "The Armenian people from ancient to modern times" Pages 292-293 ] . The mood prevailing in Tiflis was very different. They expressed greater determination. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk united the Armenian-Georgian block. They acknowledge the existence of a state of war between themselves and the Ottoman Empire. This short-lived Transcaucasian Federation broke up into three republics in May 1918: Democratic Republic of Georgia, Democratic Republic of Armenia, and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

Battle of Sardarapat, May

In April 1918, after a year of inactivity, the Ottoman 3th Army finally went on the offensive. The only resistance they faced came from the semi-organized militia of the Armenian Republic. In early May, 1918, the Ottoman army faced Armenian National Councils which soon declared the Democratic Republic of Armenia fighting with few soldiers. The Ottoman army captured Trabzon, Erzurum, Kars, Van, and Batumi. The conflict led to the Battle of Sardarapat, the Battle of Kara Killisse (1918), and the Battle of Bash Abaran. Although the Armenians managed to inflict a defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Sardarapat, the Ottoman army won the later battle and scattered the Armenian army.

Treaty of Batum, June

The Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batum in June, 1918. However throughout the summer of 1918, under the leadership of Andranik Toros Ozanian Armenians in the mountainous Karabag region resisted the Ottoman 3th army and established the Republic of Mountainous ArmeniaMark Malkasian, Gha-Ra-Bagh": the emergence of the national democratic movement in Armenia page 22] . In August, they set up an independent government in Shushi, the administrative center of the region.

Ottoman troops responded to General Andraniks defiance and pursued him between Mountainous Karabagh and Zangezur. In October, a detachment of 5000 soldiers from the Third Army found Andranik at the Shishi. The conflict was fierce, but indecisive. The Armenian militia under Andranik's command decimated an Ottoman unit trying to advance to the Varanda River. The armed conflicts between these units continued until the Armistice of Mudros. After the Armistice, the Ottoman Empire began to withdraw its forces and Armenian forces under Andranik seized Nagro-KarabaghHafeez Malik "Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and Future Prospects" page 145] . Armstice of Mudros brought General Andranik the chance to create a base for further expansion eastward and form a strategic corridor extending into Nakhichevan.

Battle of Baku, August

Enver Pasha had bigger goals than just reconquest of land lost 40 years ago. He revived his dream of Turkish domination over Central Asia. He ordered the creation of a new army. It was named as 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 Centrocaspian Dictatorship, 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.

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

Enver's Army of Islam avoided Georgia and marched to the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. They got as far as Baku on the Caspian Sea. They threw the British out in September 1918 with the Battle of Baku.

Armistice of Mudros, October

The Armistice of Mudros was signed on October 30 and the Caucasus Campaign ended. By the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire, although it lost Persian Campaign, Sinai and Palestine Campaign and Mesopotamian Campaign, had re-captured all the territory which they lost to the Russians in Eastern Anatolia.


The Ottoman Empire lost the war to the Allies, but the borders in the Caucasus were not settled. Two years after the armistice, a peace treaty was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres on August 10, 1920.

Territorial disputes of New States, 1918-1919

The Georgian-Armenian War 1918 soon followed. Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war (1918 - 1920). The "Turkish War of Independence" by the Turkish national movement headed by Mustafa Kemal which managed to retain much of this territory by Treaty of Alexandropol with Armenia.

ovietization of Caucasus, 1920

In early April 1920 the Republic of Azerbaijan was in severely troubled situation. In the west, the Armenians still occupied large parts of Azeri territory; in the east, the local Azeri communists were rebelling against the government; and to the north the Russian Red Army was steadily moving southward having defeated Denikin's White Russian forces. On April 27 1920 the government of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic received a notice that the Soviet army was about to cross the northern border and invade ADR. Faced with such difficult situation the government officially surrendered to the Soviets, but many generals and local Azeri militias kept resisting the advance of the Soviet forces and it took a while for the Soviets to stabilize the newly proclaimed Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, headed by the leading Azeri Bolshevik Nariman Narimanov.

On December 4 1920, the Red Army entered Yerevan, the government of Democratic Republic of Armenian effectively surrendered. On December 5, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom; made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, on December 6, Felix Dzerzhinsky's dreaded secret police, Cheka entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending all existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. Robert H. Hewsen. "Armenia: A Historical Atlas", p. 237. ISBN 0-226-33228-4] The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was then proclaimed, under the leadership of Aleksandr Miasnikyan.

The Soviet occupation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia led to significant territorial rearrangements by which Georgia lost almost 1/3 of its territories. Artvin, Ardahan and part of Batumi provinces were ceded to Turkey; Armenia gained control of Lorri, and Azerbaijan obtained Zaqatala district. A portion of the Georgian marches along the Greater Caucasus Mountains was taken by Russia.

End of Hostilities

The end of hostilities came up with the Treaty of Kars to the Caucasus.

The Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Kars, which was a treaty between the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (which had declared Turkey in 1923) and representatives of Bolshevist Russia, Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Georgia (all of which formed part of the Soviet Union after the December 1922 Union Treaty) in 1921. ru icon [ Text of the Treaty of Kars] ] [ English translation of the Treaty of Kars] ] It was a successor treaty to the earlier Treaty of Moscow of March 1921. It was signed in Kars on October 23, 1921 and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922.


* 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 Campaign in Turkey]


ee also

* Armenian Genocide
* Black Sea naval campaign of World War I

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