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On March 22, 1916, it was officially announced that a Russian column, advancing from Teheran, to the south, had reached and occupied Ispaha, the ancient Persian capital in central Persia. This, of course, had no direct bearing on the Russian advance against Mosul and Bagdad, except that it increased Russian influence in Persia and by that much strengthened the position and security of any Russian troops operating anywhere else in that country.
Fighting between the northernmost Russian army and detachments of Turks and Kurds was reported on March 24, 1916, in the region south of Lake Urumiah. Throughout the balance of March, 1916, and during April, 1916, similar engagements took place continuously in this sector. On the Turkish side both regular infantry and detachments of Kurds opposed the Russian advance in the direction of Mosul and the Tigris. Russian successes were announced officially on April 10 and 12, 1916, and again on May 3, 1916.
In the meantime the advance toward Bagdad also progressed. On May 1, 1916, the Russians captured some Turkish guns and a number of ammunition wagons to the west of Kerind. On May 6, 1916, a Turkish fortified position in the same locality was taken by storm and a considerable quantity of supplies were captured.
Up to this time the Russian reports were more or less indefinite, announcing simply from time to time progress of the advance in the direction of Bagdad. From Kerind, captured early in March, 1916, two roads lead into Mesopotamia, one by way of Mendeli, and another more circuitous, but more frequented and, therefore, in better condition, by way of Khanikin. Not until May 10, 1916, did it become apparent that the Russians had chosen the latter. On that day they announced the occupation of the town of Kasr-i-Shirin, about twenty miles from the Turkish border, between Kerind and Khanikin. Not only were the Russian forces now within 110 miles of Bagdad—an advance of forty-five miles since the capture of Kerind—but they were also getting gradually out of the mountains into the Mesopotamian plain. At Kasr-i-Shirin, they took important Turkish munition reserves, comprising several hundred thousand cartridges, many shells and hand grenades, telegraph material, and a camel supply convoy laden with biscuits, rice, and sugar.
Five days later, on May 15, 1916, another important Russian success was announced, this time further north. The Russian forces that had been fighting for a long time ever since the early part of 1915 to the south of Lake Urumiah, and whose progress in the direction of Mosul was reported at long intervals, were now reported to have reached the Turkish town of Rowandiz. This represented an advance of over 100 miles from the town of Urumiah and carried the Russian troops some twenty-five miles across the frontier into the Turkish province of Mosul. Rowandiz is about 100 miles east of Mosul, and in order to reach it it was necessary for the Russian forces to cross the formidable range of mountains that runs along the Turko-Persian border and reaches practically its entire length, a height of 8,000 to 10,000 feet.
TURKISH OFFENSIVE AND RUSSIAN COUNTER
OFFENSIVE IN ARMENIA AND PERSIA
On the last day of May, 1916, the Turks scored their first sub
stantial success against the Russians since the fall of Erzerum. Having received reenforcements, the Turkish center assumed the offensive between the Armenian Taurus and Baiburt and forced the Russians to evacuate Mama Khatun. This was followed by a withdrawal of the Russian lines in that region for a distance of about ten miles.
For the next few days the Turks were able to maintain their new offensive in full strength. The center of the Russian right wing was forced back continuously until it had reached a line almost twenty-five miles east of its former positions.
In the south, too, the Turkish forces scored some successes against the Russian troops, who had been pushing toward the
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Tigris Valley from the mountains along the Persian border. On June 8, 1916, Turkish detachments even succeeded in crossing the border and occupied Kasr-i-Shirin, just across the frontier in Persia. By June 10, 1916, these troops had advanced sixteen miles farther east and fought slight engagements with Russian cavalry near the villages of Serpul and Zehab.
In the north the Turkish advance continued likewise. An important engagement between Turkish troops and a strong Russian cavalry force occurred on June 12, 1916, east of the village of Amachien and terminated in favor of the Turks.
Fighting continued throughout the balance of June, 1916, all along the Turko-Russian front from Trebizond down to the Persian border northeast of Bagdad. At some points the Russians assumed the offensive, but were unable to make any impression on the Turks, who continued to push back the invader and, by quickly fortifying their newly gained positions, succeeded in maintaining them against all counterattacks.
By June 30, 1916, Kermanshah in Persia, about 100 miles across the border, was seriously threatened. On that day Russian forces, which retreated east of Serai, could not maintain their positions near Kerind, owing to vigorous pursuit. Russian rear guards west of Kerind were driven off. Turkish troops passing through Kerind pursued the Russians in the direction of Kermanshah.
On July 5, 1916, Kermanshah was occupied by the Turkish troops after a battle west of the town which lasted all day and night. The first attempt of the Russians to prevent the capture of the city was made at Mahidesst, west of Kermanshah. Here the Russians had hastily constructed fortifications, but the Turks, by a swift encircling move, made their position untenable and forced them to retreat farther east. A strong Russian rear guard defended the village for one day and then followed the main body to a series of previously prepared positions just west of the city. Here a terrific battle lasting all day and all night was waged, and resulted in the retreat of the Russians to Kermanshah. Three detachments of Turks, almost at the heels of the Muscovites, drove them out before they could make another stand.
On July 9, 1916, Turkish reconnoitering forces came in contact with the Russians who were ejected from Kermanshah at a point fifteen miles east of the city, while they were on their way to join their main forces. After a fight of seven hours the Russians were compelled to flee to Sineh.
By this time, however, the Russians had recovered their breath in the Caucasus. On July 12, 1916, they recaptured by assault the town of Mama Khatun. The next day, after a violent night battle, they occupied a series of heights southeast of Mama Khatun. The Turks attempted to take the offensive, but were thrown back. Pressing closely upon them, the Russians to the villages of Djetjeti and Almali.
The Russian offensive quickly assumed great strength. By July 14, 1916, the Russians were only ten miles from Baiburt, had again taken up their drive for Erzingan and had wrested from the Turks some strongly fortified positions southwest of Mush.
Baiburt fell to the Russians on July 15, 1916. From then on the Russian advance continued steadily, although the Turks maintained a stiff resistance.
On July 18, 1916, the Russians occupied the town of Kugi, an important junction of roads from Erzerum, Lhaputi and Khzindjtna. On July 20, 1916, the Grand Duke's troops captured the town of Gumuskhaneh, forty-five miles southwest of Trebizond.
The next day, July 21, 1916, these forces had advanced to and occupied Ardas, about thirteen miles northwest of Gumuskhaneh. The West Euphrates was crossed the following day. On July 23, 1916, Russian troops on the Erzingan route, in the Ziaret Tapasi district, repulsed two Turkish counterattacks and occupied the heights of Naglika.
East of the Erzingan route they captured a Turkish line on the Durum Darasi River. After having repulsed several Turkish attacks Russian cavalry has reached the line of Boz-TapaMertekli.
Closer and closer the Russians approached to the goal for which they had striven for many months, Erzingan. On July 25,