Baratov’s cavalry corps in Persia, forgotten and far from home during the Russian Revolution, refused to stop fighting during World War One.
Lieutenant General Nikolai Baratov led a Russian expeditionary force known as the 1st Caucasian Cavalry Corps in Persia fighting the Ottoman Turks. He attempted to relieve the British forces under siege at Kut and indeed made it as far as Hamadan (some 100 miles away). Baratov fought Ottoman forces consisting of scattered Mesopotamian infantry, some Persian irregulars, and a handful of German officers. The Russians routed a Turkish force under German Count Kaunitz at Kangavar. Pushing on, they captured Kermanshah on February 26, 1916 and Kharind on March 12th where the army encamped and awaited an advance on Baghdad. It was not until the Turkish General Ali Ishan Bey’s XIII Corps entered the theatre (June 1916) that Baratov was finally met by a sizable force. The two forces met at Khanaqin where Baratov withdrew after a sharp skirmish.
General Baratov led his force back into Persia to regroup and attempt to link up with British forces in northern Mesopotamia. In January 1917 the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich Romanov was sent to join Baratov’s unit as punishment for taking part in the assassination of Rasputin. The Grand Duke met the general at the Cavalry Corps headquarters at Kasvin in northern Persia. The two became fast friends and the young Romanov, who had represented Russia at the 1912 Olympics in equestrian events, served on the general’s staff. After the Russian Revolution (March 1917) Baratov’s forces began to suffer terrible desertions. By the time the Bolsheviks opened peace negotiations with the Germans and Turks in November 1917, Baratov could barely field an effective regiment. Many of his cossacks would return hundreds of miles from Persia to their Stanisa villages only to join the new White cause in the brewing Russian Civil War.
Baratov did in fact meet with a force sent north from the British in April 1917 which included a Colonel Rowlandson, who would served as a liaison until the Caucasian Cavalry Corps linked with the British Dunsterforce in February 1918. By this time the Caucasian Cavalry Corps only consisted of Baratov, General Lastochkin, Colonel Bicherakov, Colonel Baron Meden and about 1000 loyal Kuban and Terek cossacks. The rest of the Russian soldiers had left for home or deserted and milled around the town on their own recognizance. Baratov and his men, largely a forgotten army with no home, assisted the British in Persia until the end of World War One. Many of the Russian officers found appointments as aides and eventually transitioned into the British Army. The Grand Duke Dimitri even came away with a commission as British captain at the time. When the last of Baratov’s troops dissolved near Baku as part of Dunsterforce in August 1918, the old Ossetian general supported the fledging state of Georgia, which was briefly independent. He lost a leg to a terrorist’s bomb there in 1919 and left the country just before the Red Army occupied it. He died in 1932 while in Paris in exile. While in France he worked as senior editor of the Russki Invalid newspaper and was president of the Union of White Officers veterans group. He is buried in the Russian cemetery in St-Genevieve de Bois and his diaries and correspondence are held at the Hoover Archives.