Southern Asia 1916: Russian invasion of Anatolia

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 21 May 1916 (The Great War in the Middle East: Russian invasion of Anatolia), showing the following events: Erzurum Offensive; Kermanshah Offensive; Formation of South Persia Rifles; Qavam Restoration; Restoration of Republic of China; Sykes-Picot Agreement; Departure of Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition.

With the British evacuating Gallipoli and in trouble at Kut, many Ottoman troops could now be sent to the Caucasus front. Anticipating this, Russia launched a preemptive winter offensive, catching the Ottomans by surprise and capturing the strategic city of Erzurum. At the same time, the Russians pushed across western Persia, temporarily sealing off that region from Ottoman influence.


British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

10 Jan–16 Feb 1916 Erzurum Offensive

Russia invades eastern Anatolia, capturing the important Ottoman fortified city of wikipedia

13 Jan–21 May 1916 Kermanshah Offensive

Russian troops led by Nikolai Baratov advance from Hamadan, Persia, to Kermanshah, defeating Ottoman Imperial forces and their Persian tribal allies in the area. From here they invade the border regions of Mesopotamia, effectively sealing Persia off from the wikipedia

15 Mar–28 Jul 1916 Formation of South Persia Rifles

British Brigadier-General Sir Percy M. Sykes lands in Bandar Abbas with instructions to set up a “Persian force” for the maintenance of “law and order” in southern Persia. This force is named the South Persia Rifles and, while paid for and officered by the British, will come to consist almost entirely of local troops. Sykes then marches to Kerman, establishing another brigade of the SPR and preparing to cross to wikipedia

15 Mar–? May 1916 Qavam Restoration

In the wake of Percy Sykes’ arrival at Bandar Abbas, Qavam-ol-Molk, the former governor-general of Fars, departs Bushire for Shiraz, assisted by British arms and artillery. He defeats the Persian gendarmes near Lar, but is killed not long after in a hunting accident. He is succeeded by his 28 year-old son, Ibrahim Qavam, who enters Shiraz and inflicts vengeance on those who had ousted his father in November 1915. At the same time, the pro-British faction in Kerman seizes control of its city from the wikipedia

22 Mar 1916 Restoration of Republic of China

Following provincial rebellions, the withdrawal of support of foreign powers, and threats to invade by the Empire of Japan, Yuan Shikai, the Hongxian Emperor, disestablished the Empire of China and reinstated the Republic of wikipedia

9 May 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement

The secret Asia Minor Agreement (later to be called the Sykes-Picot Agreement) is signed by British and French representatives. The agreement, authored by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, proposes dividing the Ottoman territories in Mesopotamia and greater Syria into British and French spheres of influence and wikipedia

21 May 1916 Departure of Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition

After fruitless negotiations with Emir Habibullah of Afghanistan, the Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition departs Kabul, splitting into several parties and traveling home to Germany in different directions to avoid detection. The Indian members stay on, still holding out hopes for an Afghan wikipedia