TURKISH STUDIES, vol.10, no.5, pp.229-244, 2015 (International Refereed University Journal)
Bitlis is a single and important location between the Southeast Taurus Mountains which connects the East Anatolia to Persian Gulf and Mediterranean through the Southeastern Anatolia. The Ottoman Empire also took place in the World War I that began by the late 19th Century and early 20th Century and emerged among some European countries because of certain political, military and economic reasons. The Ottoman Empire battling in many fronts during this war started the military operations in the Eastern Front when the Russian army crossed the border on 1 November 1914. The Russian occupied many provinces in the region utilizing their own military superiority and the grounds formed by the Armenian outbreaks.
Upon the occupation of Bitlis by the Russian in March 3, 1916, the Ottoman Government appointed Mustafa Kemal, famous for his accomplishments in Çanakkale, to the 16th Corps Command around Bitlis. Thereupon, Mustafa Kemal Pasha arrived in Bitlis to steer the ship and started to work. Known as “Hero of Anafartalar”, famous in the whole army and the Anatolia, the commander Mustafa Kemal Pasha started to command in the front, which very motivated the soldiers and people in the region.
After his arrival in the region Mustafa Kemal Pasha worked together with important commanders such as 8th Division Commander Nuri Bey (Conker), Battalion Commander Fuat Bey (Bulca), General Refet (Bele) and Ali Bey (Çetinkaya) and Colonel İsmet (İnönü) Bey. Moreover, he had the chance to know and work with Chieftain of Mutkis Clan Hacı Musa Bey and his brother Nuh Bey, religious functionaries Sheikh Ziyauddin Efendi and Küfrevizade Sheikh Abdülbaki Efendi, Sheikh Alauddin Efendi of Ohin, Bitlis Deputy Sadullah Bey.
Following the occupation of Bitlis, the northern sides of Gambos Mountain between Bitlis and Muş were being defended by the voluntary units from Bitlis and nearby. In the west of Bitlis channel, the Mutki territory, volunteers of Hacı Musa Bey were deployed. The duty of this battalion was determined as to protect the 5th Division and hinder the Russian communication between Bitlis and Muş by going down the Muş Plain.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha faced some big problems when he arrived in the base. Because the units in there were nothing but the rubbish of a tired, demotivated, diseased army with almost no arcade and weapons. Pasha requested weapon, reserves and health materials by telegraphing to Istanbul and worked hard to shape the corps to fight against the enemies. While Mustafa Kemal Pasha sustained his works, he also had to challenge with many issues in the region other than the above-stated ones like deserters, gangs, Dersim outbreak, transfer of reserves to the front.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha held some talks with army commanders, chieftains and religious opinion leaders and started preparations torescue Bitlis and the nearby region from the occupation of enemy. In this regard, voluntary regiments were formed among the clans and the support of religious leaders around Bitlis was maintained. Additionally, he changed the units who got tired and demotivated. After Mustafa Kemal Pasha completed all requirements for the attack, he took the action on 2 August 1916 with all units located in the Bitlis River and rescued Bitlis from the occupation of enemies within six days.
Following the redemption of Bitlis, the fame of Mustafa Kemal Pasha rose and people’s motivation increased besides that the occupation of Diyarbakir and nearby provinces was prevented. Moreover, involvement of regional militia and voluntary forces under the command of 16th Corps did demonstrate the determination and persistence of the folk in the region.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha went to Bitlis second time in November of 1916. During his visit the Pasha inspected the voluntary units formed by Sheikh Ziyauddin Efendi (Excellency) and fulfilled their food and arcade needs. Mustafa Kemal Pasha cared particularly with the protection of children who lost their parents as well as the starvation and famine in Bitlis during the First World War. Mustafa Kemal Pasha paid a visit to Sheikh Ziyauddin Efendi who had a big role in rescuing Bitlis and was taken to hospital after being injured in war. Pasha also visited some historical places in Bitlis and the mausoleum of Sheikh Abdülbaki Küfrevi located near Kızılmescit.
Militia and the voluntary forces formed by the clans and religious leaders in Bitlis offered great contributions during First World War. Such contribution and support were maintained with the works of Mustafa Kemal Pasha during the days of War of Independence. So that the friendship and relations established by Mustafa Kemal Pasha during his term as Commander of 16th Corps facilitated the solution of many problems in the region during War of Independence and in the later periods.
Bitlis has always been a place which is desired to be captured by many states due to its geographical and strategic location. Bitlis therefore was occupied by the Russian during First World War and reeled under the weight of the war for nearly five months. Ottoman Supreme Headquarters sent Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who came to the fore during Çanakkale Battles, to Bitlis in order to prevent the progress of the Russian to Diyarbakır and Iskenderun through the roads under dominance of Bitlis and to increase the motivation of the folk.
After Mustafa Kemal Pasha arrived in Bitlis, he solved the hinterland problems and started the preparations for the attack against the Russian with the help of voluntary units formed following the talks with the people of region. In the framework of such preparations, Mustafa Kemal Pasha met with influential people of the region such as religious leaders and chieftains in Bitlis. Mustafa Kemal Pasha investigating the nature of the region in site solved many problems during the War of Independence days as well as the early years of the Republic thanks to his friendships formerly grounded in the region.
Key Words: First World War, Bitlis, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Russia.
XIX. yüzyılın sonu ve XX. yüzyılın başlarında yaşanan gelişmeler ve bazı Avrupalı devletler arasındaki siyasi, askeri ve iktisadi rekabet gibi sebeplerle çıkan dünya savaşına kısa bir süre sonra Osmanlı Devleti de katılmıştır. Bu savaşta birçok cephede mücadele veren Osmanlı Devleti’nin Doğu Cephesi’ndeki askeri harekâtı, 1 Kasım 1914’te Rus ordusunun sınırı geçmesiyle başlamıştır. Ruslar askeri üstünlüğü ve bölgedeki Ermenilerin çıkardığı isyanların oluşturduğu zemini kullanarak buradaki birçok vilâyeti işgal etmiştir.
Rusların 3 Mart 1916’da Bitlis’i de işgal etmeleri üzerine Osmanlı Hükümeti, Çanakkale’deki başarılarıyla tanınan Mustafa Kemal’i Bitlis civarındaki 16’ncı Kolordu’nun Kumandanlığı’na atamıştır. Bunun üzerine Mustafa Kemal Paşa, Bitlis’e giderek komutayı eline almış ve çalışmalara başlamıştır. “Anafartalar Kahramanı” olarak isim yapmış, ünü bütün orduya ve Anadolu’ya yayılmış bir komutan olan Mustafa Kemal Paşa’nın cepheye gidip komutayı ele alması; askerin ve bölge halkının moralini yükseltmişti.
Mustafa Kemal Paşa, bölgeye gittikten sonra Bitlis’te bulunan ordu kumandanları, aşiret reisleri ve din adamlarıyla görüşmeler yaparak Bitlis’in ve bölgenin düşman işgalinden kurtarılması için hazırlıklara başlamıştı. Bu çerçevede aşiret reislerden gönüllü alaylar oluşturulmuş, Bitlis ve çevresinde etkili olan din adamlarının desteği sağlanmıştı. Bunlardan başka buradaki cephelerde savaşan ve morali bozulan, yıpranan birlikleri değiştirmişti. Mustafa Kemal Paşa, taarruz için gerekli tüm hazırlıkları tamamladıktan sonra karargâhı Bitlis Deresi içinde bulunan tüm birliklerle 2 Ağustos 1916’da harekete geçmiş ve altı gün sonra Bitlis düşman işgalinden kurtarılmıştır.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Birinci Dünya Savaşı, Bitlis, Mustafa Kemal Paşa, Rusya.