22/12/1914 Ismail Enver’s big idea

Although the Ottoman Empire is notionally an absolute monarchy, real power lies with the Committee of Union and Progress, the so-called Young Turks. The leading figure within the CUP is Ismail Enver, the Minister of War. Enver sees the war and alliance with Germany as a vehicle for the restoration of Turkey’s greatness. He plans a great offensive against the Russians in the Caucasus, aiming to attack and destroy Russian forces centred at Sarikamish. When this Russian army has been crushed, Enver will be able to bring Georgia and other Russian territories in the Caucasus back into the Ottoman Empire. After that, who knows? Perhaps he will lead his army on an overland march to attack the British in India.

Enver’s plan of attack is bold and Napoleonic in conception. He plans minor frontal assaults on the Russians to pin down their forces and disguise his main thrust: a strong outflanking force that will move swiftly and take the Russians in the rear, cutting off their line of retreat. Enver will personally command the operation.

Today the Turkish forces begin to advance. Winter grips the land and it is bitterly cold. To avoid having his men bogged down, Enver sends them to march on the highest pathways in the hope that the wind will have swept them clear of snow. The troops with the furthest to march will inevitably move far ahead of Turkey’s ability to keep them supplied; even before they start, many soldiers lack proper boots. Enver decides also to speed his soldiers on their way by having them march without their packs and winter coats.

In the Anatolian winter, temperatures can drop well below -31º C.

Ismail Enver image source (Wikipedia)

Ottoman Empire map source (Caucasus Front 1915, from Steven Schoenherr Home Page)

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