Colour lithograph with original outline hand colour, dissected into 16 sections and contemporarily mounted upon linen (Very Good, some light even toning and minor abrasions to blank margins, a small closed tear in lower-right corner, very small area of loss to upper-right margin along dissection line), 68 x 72 cm (27 x 28.5 inches).
This is rare, large format, separately issued map of the Eastern Front of World War I, printed entirely in Ottoman Turkish script, published early in the conflict in Istanbul by the Ottoman War Ministry Press. The map is a reminder of the major, yet today largely forgotten, role that Ottoman troops played in reinforcing the German-Austro-Hungarian’s largely successful efforts in that theatre of the conflict. The map embraces a large swath of territory in Central and Eastern Europe, running diagonally from the Baltic Sea (from today’s German-Polish border) down to the mouths of the Danube on the Black Sea.
The territories of the ‘Central Powers’ on are represented on the map by the eastern parts of the German Empire, outlined in pink, namely Prussia and Silesia, which reach along the southern shores of the Baltic to embrace what is today northern and western Poland, Kaliningrad and part of Lithuania; to the south, the domains of Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary, are outlined in Green, and focus upon Galicia.
The ‘Entente Powers’ are represented by the Russian Empire, outlined in yellow, depicting all or parts of what is today central and eastern Poland (including Warsaw), Belarus, parts of the Ukraine, the Baltic Countries and western Russia proper; in the lower-right of the map, outlined in purple, is Romania, and ally of Russia. All major cities and towns are labelled, as are the main roads, which are delineated in red. From 1914 to 1917, the entire region was a frontier of intense warfare, with the lines of control moving back and forth. Importantly, the major Central Powers’ garrison towns are represented by stars, in some cases surrounded by symbols indicating defensive works.
Large, separately-issued Ottoman maps of the WWI Eastern Front, or any aspects thereof, are very rare; we have never encountered another map remotely similar. Such maps would have been published in only small print runs, and their survival rate would have been very low.
Ottomans on the Eastern Front: An Underappreciated, yet Major, Factor
The Eastern Front was a seminal theatre in World War I right from the beginning of the conflict in 1914, until the capitulation of the Soviets (the inheritors of Russia’s stake in the contest) in 1917. While the state of play in some places went back and forth due to the massive offensive campaigns of both sides, the Central Powers generally bettered their opponents along the Eastern Front, a factor that has been overshadowed by the alliance’s overall defeat upon the conclusion of the entire war in 1918.
A major, but today largely forgotten, factor in the Central Powers’ efforts along the Eastern Front was the contribution of the Ottoman Empire. After thrashing the Russians during the first year or so of the war, by the beginning of 1916, the Central Powers were suffering some reversals. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians, who had to deploy vast resources elsewhere, were running short of the manpower necessary to continue the fight along the Eastern Front, while the Russians seemed to be able to supply and sacrifice unlimited numbers of men.
The Ottoman Army had dramatically gained esteem in the eyes of the Germans and Austro-Hungarians due to its amazing victory over the massive British Imperial attempted invasion of Turkey during the Gallipoli Campaign (February 1915 to January 1916). Shortly thereafter, the German high command requested Enver Pasha, the Ottoman War Minister, to urgently send massive reinforcements northwards, a call that the Germanophile Enver was proud to answer.
The Ottomans arrived on the scene just in time to shore up the Austro-Hungarian forces in Galicia, who were on the ropes in the wake of the Russian’s brutally effective Brusilov Offensive in the summer 1916.
In all, the Ottomans sent over 90,000 troops to fight along the Eastern Front, playing a major and, in some cases, a decisive role in the turn of events. Specifically, Enver deployed the Ottoman Army’s XV Corps to Galicia; the VI Corps to Romania and the XX Corps and the 177th Infantry Regiment to Macedonia.
Notably, for over two years, Breslau, Silesia, Germany (today Wrocław, Poland) and Lemberg, Galicia, Austria (today L’viv, Ukraine) became major garrisons for thousands of Ottoman troops. Much to the surprise of some of the more sceptical German and Austro-Hungarian commanders, many of these soldiers were stellar fighters, who could brave horrendous conditions to scratch out victories against the opposition. In Galicia, they were often able to inflict severe casualties upon the Russians, while further south the Ottoman troops played a key role in precipitating the collapse of the Romanian Army in 1917.
Curiously, while the Ottoman involvement in the Eastern Front is considered by historians to have been successful in and of itself, it came at an awesome cost to the Ottoman Empire. The departure of the 90,000 troops northwards left Eastern Turkey overly exposed to Russian attacks, causing a near collapse in the Ottoman lines in Eastern Anatolia through most of 1916 and 1917. This seriously taxed the Sublime Porte, negating the momentum it had gained in the wake of Gallipoli, and preordaining the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.
References: N / A. Cf. [Regarding the WWI Ottoman efforts along the Eastern Front:] Edward J. Erickson, Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War (2001), pp. 119-140.