Russo-Turkish Wars

Russo-Turkish Wars

Russo-Turkish Wars. The great eastward expansion of Russia in the 16th and 17th cent., during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, nevertheless left the shores of the Black Sea in the hands of the Ottoman sultans and their vassals, the khans of Crimea. The Russo-Turkish Wars were the result of Russian attempts to find an outlet on the Black Sea and—in later stages—to conquer the Caucasus, dominate the Balkan Peninsula, gain control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits, and retain access to world trade routes.

Warfare between the Russians and the Crimean Tatars was chronic during the 16th and 17th cent. In 1696, Peter I won the first major Russian victory over the Turko-Tatars by capturing the fortress of Azov. In the Northern War (1700-1721) Sultan Ahmed III openly entered the conflict against Russia in 1710 and regained Azov by the Peace of the Pruth (1711). France, the traditional ally of the Ottomans, had a share in instigating this and later Ottoman attempts at stemming the Russian advance.

In 1736 war again broke out between the Ottomans and Russia, allied with Austria. The Russians recaptured Azov and won a spectacular success in Moldavia, where General Münnich entered Jassy (1739). However, Austria became alarmed by Russian ambitions in the Balkans and concluded the separate Treaty of Belgrade (1739), in which Russia was forced to join. Russia agreed to demilitarize Azov and not to build a Black Sea fleet.

The first major Russo-Turkish War, that of 1768-74, was an indirect result of Russian interference in Poland. Sultan Mustafa III, alarmed by Russia's action and encouraged by France, declared war on Catherine II of Russia. The Russians conquered (1771) the Crimea, where a pro-Russian khan was installed, and overran Moldavia and Walachia. The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774) declared the Crimean khanate independent of the sultan, gave Russia considerable territorial gains, conceded to Russia the role of protector of the sultan's Greek Orthodox subjects, and allowed Russian shipping to navigate the Black Sea and pass through the Straits.

A general partition of the Ottoman Empire was contemplated in the treaty of alliance (1781) between Catherine II and Emperor Joseph II; the fate of the Ottoman Empire thus became a major concern of the Western powers and created the explosive Eastern Question. In 1783, Catherine annexed the Crimea outright. A new Russo-Turkish War broke out in 1787, and in 1788 Joseph II entered the war as Catherine's ally. Although Austria was forced, chiefly by Prussian exertions, to withdraw from the alliance in 1791, Russian successes under Suvorov enabled Catherine to reach a favorable settlement in the Treaty of Jassy (1792).

In 1806 the energetic Sultan Selim III deposed the Russophile governors of Moldavia and Walachia, an act that led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-12. This was brought to a close by Kutuzov's lightning campaign of 1811-12 and resulted in the gain of Bessarabia by Russia in the Treaty of Bucharest (1812). The Greek War of Independence (see Greece) precipitated the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, which ended with the Treaty of Adrianople (see Adrianople, Treaty of).

When, in 1853, Russia sought to obtain further concessions from the Ottoman Empire, the Ottomans, backed by England and France, declared war. Their allies entered the conflict in 1854, and the Crimean War resulted. The peace of 1856 (see Paris, Congress of) brought no major territorial changes but marked a severe setback to Russian influence.

The last Russo-Turkish War came as a result of the anti-Ottoman uprising (1875) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On Russian instigation, Serbia and Montenegro joined the rebels in their war on the Ottoman Empire; after securing Austrian neutrality, Russia openly entered the war (1877). The Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 so thoroughly revised the map in favor of Russia and of Russian-influenced Bulgaria that the European powers called a conference to revise its terms (see Berlin, Congress of). In 1878 a thorough realignment of alliances took place.

In World War I, Russia and the Ottoman Empire faced each other once more; Russia sided with the traditional allies of the Ottomans—England and France—while the Ottomans fought with the former partners of Russia—Austria and Bulgaria. By the separate Russo-Turkish treaty of 1921, the USSR returned the districts of Kars and Ardahan, acquired in 1878, to Atatürk's Turkish government.

The Russo-Turkish wars were a series of wars fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire during the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It was one of the longest conflicts in European history.

Stagnation (1699–1827)

After having captured the region of Podolia in the course of the Polish-Ottoman War (1672–1676), the Ottoman government strived to spread its rule over all of the Right-bank Ukraine with the support of its vassal, Petro Doroshenko (1665–1672). The latter's pro-Ottoman policy caused discontent among many Ukrainian Cossacks, which would elect Ivan Samoilovich as a sole Hetman of all Ukraine in 1674.

In 16791680, the Russians repelled the attacks of the Crimean Tatars and signed the Bakhchisaray Peace Treaty on January 3, 1681, which would establish the Russo-Turkish border by the Dnieper river. Russia had joined the European Holy League (Austria, Poland, Venice) in 1686. During the war, the Russian army organized the Crimean campaigns of 16871689 and the Azov campaigns of 16951696. The Russian involvement marked the beginning of the Russo-Turkish Wars. In light of Russia's preparations for the war with Sweden and other countries' signing the Treaty of Karlowitz with Turkey in 1699, the Russian government signed the Treaty of Constantinople with the Ottoman Empire in 1700.

17 Century
Name Land/Sea Guest(1) General Home (2) General Date Side Treaty
Rus Russia Ottoman 1677–1681 0 Bakhchisaray
Çehrin Russia Ottoman 1678 2
Crimean campaigns Russia Ottoman 1686–1699 1
Azov campaigns Russia Ottoman 1696 1

Russia had managed to secure a favorable international situation by signing a few treaties with Persia in 1732–1735 (which was at war with Ottoman Empire in 1730–1736) and supporting the accession to the Polish throne of Augustus III in 1735 instead of the French protégé Stanislaw I Leszczynski, nominated by pro-Turkish France. Austria was Russia's ally since 1726.

The casus belli was the raids of the Crimean Tatars on Ukraine in the end of 1735 and the Crimean khan's military campaign in the Caucasus. In 1736, the Russian commanders envisioned the seizure of Azov and the Crimea.

On June 19, the Russian Don army (28,000 men) under the command of General Peter Lacy with the support from the Don Flotilla under the command of Vice Admiral Peter Bredahl seized the fortress of Azov. In July of 1737, the Munnich army took by storm the Turkish fortress of Ochakov. The Lacy army (already 40,000 men strong) marched into the Crimea the same month, inflicting a number of defeats on the army of the Crimean khan and capturing Karasubazar. However, Lacy and his soldiers had to leave the Crimea due to lack of supplies.

In July of 1737, Austria entered the war against Turkey, but was defeated a number of times. In August, Russia, Austria and Turkey began negotiations in Nemirov, which would turn out to be fruitless. There were no significant military operations in 1738. The Russian army had to leave Ochakov and Kinburn due to the plague outbreak.

In 1739, the Munich army crossed the Dnieper, defeated the Ottoman Empire at Stavuchany and occupied the fortress of Khotin (August 19) and Iaşi. However, Austria was defeated by the Ottoman Empire once again and signed a separate peace treaty on August 21. This, coupled with the imminent threat of the Swedish invasion, forced Russia to sign the Belgrade Peace Treaty with Turkey on September 18, which ended the war.

After the Russians had defeated the Swedes in the Battle of Poltava. With the help from Austrian and French diplomats, Charles XII of Sweden managed to persuade the Turkish Sultan to declare war on Russia on November 20, 1710. The war followed the internal tensions within Poland where there was the strife between the nobility and the king Stanilaus Augustus Poniatowski, former favorite of the Russian Empress Catherine II. The king was dependent on the support from the Russian troops.

Following this border incident at Balta, Sultan Mustafa III declared war on Russia on September 25 1768. The Turks formed the alliance with the Polish oppositionary forces of Bar Confederation, while Russia was supported by the United Kingdom, who offered naval advisers to the Russian navy.

The Polish opposition was defeated by Aleksandr Vasilievich Suvorov who was then transferred to the Turkish theatre of operations where in 1773 and 1774 he won several minor and major battles following the previous grand successes of the Russian Field-Marshal Peter Rumiantsev at Larga and Kagula.

The naval operations of the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Mediterranean yielded victories under the command of Aleksey Grigoryevich Orlov. In 1771, Egypt and Syria rebelled against the Ottoman rule while the Russian fleet totally destroyed the Turkish Navy.

On July 21, 1774, the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji according to which the Crimean Khanate formally gained its independence, but in reality became dependent on Russia. Russia received the contribution of 4.5 million rubles and two key seaports allowing the direct access to the Black Sea.

In 1786 Catherine II of Russia made a triumphal progress through the Crimea in company with her ally, Emperor Joseph II. These events and the friction caused by mutual complaints of infringements of the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji, which had closed the previous war, stirred up public opinion in Istanbul, and the British ambassador lent his support to the war party.

In 1788 war was declared, but Turkey's preparations were inadequate and the moment was ill-chosen, now that Russia and Austria were in alliance, a fact of which Turkey became aware only when the horse tails were planted for the campaign. The Turks drove back the Austrians from Mehadia and overran the Banat (1789); but in Moldavia Field-Marshal Rumyantsev was successful and captured Iaşi and Khotin.

Turkish generals were incompetent and the army mutinous; expeditions for the relief of Bender and Akerman failed, Belgrade was taken by the Austrians, the impenetrable fortress of Izmail was captured by the brilliant Suvorov, and the fall of Anapa completed the series of Turkey's disasters.

Sultan Selim III was anxious to restore his country's prestige by a victory before making peace, but the condition of his troops rendered this hope unavailing; while Prussia, though on 31 January 1790 she had signed an offensive treaty with Turkey, gave her no help during the war. Accordingly a treaty was signed with Russia at Iaşi (9 January 1792) by which the Crimea and Ochakov were left to Russia, the Dniester was made the frontier in Europe, and the Asiatic frontier remained unchanged.

18 Century
Name Land/Sea Guest(1) General Home (2) General Date Side
Prut Campaign Russia Ottoman 1711 2
Battle of Bakhchisaray Russia Ottoman 1739 1
Confederation of Bar Russia Ottoman 1768–1774 1
Hotin Russia Ottoman 1769 2
Turla Russia Ottoman 1769 1
Larga (Kartal) Russia Ottoman 1770 1
Mora Ayaklanması Rum–Russia Ottoman 1770 2
Koyunadaları Sea Russia Ottoman 1770 0
Çeşme Sea Russia Ottoman 6-7/7/1770 1
Limni Sea Russia Ottoman 1770 2
Kırım Russia Ottoman 1771 1
Slistre Russia Ottoman 1773 1
Kozluca Russia Ottoman 1774 1
Rus Russia Ottoman 1787–1792 1
Buzaov Russia Ottoman 1789 1
İsmail Siege of Ochakov Russia Ottoman 1789 2
Maçin Russia Ottoman 1791 1

Decline (1828–1908)

Fringe territories were lost to Russia in the north. but more importantly the Empire began to fall behind technologically compared to the west. The outside world was still mostly unaware of the extent of the Empire's decline until the 1820s, when it became clear that the Ottoman armies had no way to put down the Russian-backed revolt in southern Greece. The great powers of Europe decided to intervene to give Greece its independence. Thus Greece became the first independent country created out of a section of the Ottoman Empire. Russian aspirations for a section of the empire and bases on Russia's southern flank provoked British fears over naval domination of the Mediterranean and control of the land route to India.

When in 1853 Russia destroyed the entire Ottoman fleet at Sinop, Britain and France concluded that armed intervention on the side of the Ottomans was the only way to halt a massive Russian expansion, on the grounds that the Ottoman armies could do nothing to stop a Russian march on Constantinople. The Crimean War illustrated how modern technology and superior weaponry were the most important part of a modern army, and a part that the Ottoman Empire was sorely lacking. While fighting alongside the British, French, and even the Piedmontese, the Ottomans could see how far they had fallen behind. It is not surprising then that at the mid point of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was at the mercy of the Russians until outside forces intervened. Things began to change after the Crimean war.

Another change was that Serbia was permanently granted its independent status. This pleased both Austria, who feared a Serbian revolt on its borders, and Russia who long supported the Slavic nation's independence. Other changes began to occur as Europeans for the first time saw the trading opportunity of Turkey. The amount of money entering the nation through trade was soon dramatically increased. As well the government received a great deal of extra money from a uniform tax system with little corruption. The Sultan also managed to get a tighter grip on the provincial beys and increased the tribute they had to pay. Regrettably Abd-ul-Aziz, the Sultan at the time, used much of this money on furnishing and creating great palaces to rival the great ones in England and France, which he had visited. The Empire was undergoing a revolution, throughout Anatolia a new Ottoman nationalism was appearing, and for the first time the Empire had a middle class. It seemed as though it might be possible for the Empire to turn its decline around.

The monetary and governmental collapse combined with a new threat from Russia began the final stages of the Empire's collapse. Russia had been forced by the Crimean War to give up its ambitions of owning Istanbul and controlling the Bosphorus. Instead it decided to focus on gaining power in the Balkans. The population of much of the Balkans were Slavs, as were the Russians. They also mainly followed the Eastern Orthodox Church, as did the Russians. When new movements in Russia, such as that of the Slavophiles, started to enter the area, it became agitated and prone to revolution. When the government in Istanbul tried to initiate measures to prevent an economic collapse throughout the empire it touched off a revolt in Herzegovina. The revolt in Herzegovina, quickly spread to Bosnia and then Bulgaria. Soon Serbian armies also entered the war against the Turks. These revolts were the first test of the new Ottoman armies. Even though they were not up to western European standards the army fought effectively and brutally. Soon the Balkan rebellions were beginning to falter. In Europe, however, a new problem was developing. The papers of Russia were filled with reports of Turkish soldiers killing thousands of Slavs. Soon more than Russian propaganda was moving southwards and a new Russo-Turkish war had begun. Despite fighting better than they ever had before the advanced Ottoman armies still were not equal to the Russian forces. This time there was no help from abroad, in truth many European nations supported the Russian war, as long as it did not get too close to Istanbul. Ten and a half months later when the war had ended the age of Ottoman domination over the Balkans was over. The Ottomans had fought well, the new navy of Ironclads had won the battle for the Black Sea, and Russian advances in the Caucasus had been kept minimal. In the Balkans, however, the Russian army, supported by rebels, had pushed the Ottoman army out of Bulgaria, Walachia, Romania, and much of East Rumelia and by the end of the war the artillery firing in Thrace could be heard in Istanbul.

In response to the Russian proximity to the straits the British, against the wishes of the Sultan, intervened in the war. A large task force representing British naval supremacy entered the straits of Marmara and anchored in view of both the royal palace and the Russian army. The British may have saved the Ottoman empire once again, but it ended the rosy relations between the two powers that had endured since the Crimean War. Looking at the prospect of a British entry into the war the Russians decided to settle the dispute. The treaty of San Stephano gave Romania and Montenegro their independence, Serbia and Russia each received extra territory, Austria was given control over Bosnia, and Bulgaria was given almost complete autonomy. The hope of the Sultan was that the other great powers would oppose such a one-sided resolution and a conference would be held to revise it. His desire became reality and in 1878 the Congress of Berlin was held where Germany promised to be an "honest broker" in the treaty's revision. In the new treaty Bulgarian territory was decreased and the war indemnities were cancelled. The conference also again hurt Anglo-Turkish relations by giving the British the island of Cyprus. While annoyed at British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the Sultan had nothing but praise for Otto von Bismarck who forced many of the major concessions upon Russia. These close Germano-Turkish relations would persist until both empires' very end.

The Russian extension in this century developed with the main theme of supporting independence of Ottomans' former provinces and then bringing all of the Slav peoples of the Balkans under Bulgaria or using Ermenians in the east sets the stage. At the end of the century from Russian perspective; Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and autonomy of Bulgaria was achieved. That alarmed the Great Powers. After the Congress of Berlin the Russian expansion was controlled through stopping the expansion of Bulgaria. The Russian public felt that at the end of Congress of Berlin thousands of Russian soldiers had died for nothing. One important event during this period is Crimean War. Even though Ottomans and Russians were on the opposing sides, the roots of the war were due to the rivalry between the British and the Russians. The war ended unfavorably for the Russians, with the Paris peace of 1856. Crimean war brought a decline in Ottoman morale and a feeling of helplessness.

The Balkans

There were two main movement for the west side. The first one was performed while Ottomans were dealing with the Greek uprising, see Greek War of Independence. The Greeks' independence war led to the Russian forces advancing into Bulgaria before the Turks sued for peace.

The resulting Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne) in September 14, 1829 gave Russia most of the eastern shore of the Black Sea and the mouth of the Danube.

The second movement happened under the ... uprisings. See Bosnia and Herzegovina: 19th-20th centuries, Romanian War of Independence.

Serbia achieved autonomy and Russia was allowed to occupy Moldavia and Walachia (guaranteeing their prosperity, and full "liberty of trade" for them) until Turkey had paid a large indemnity. The uprisings raised a chance for the Russian (Prince Gorchakov) and Austria-Hungary (Count Andrássy), who made the secret Reichstadt Agreement in July 8, on partitioning the Balkan peninsula depending on the outcome. One of the historical events during this time is the Siege of Pleven

In February 1878 the Russian army had almost reached Istanbul, but scared the city might fall, the British sent a fleet of battle-ships to intimidate Russia from entering the city. Under pressure from the fleet to negotiate and having suffered enormous losses (by some estimates about 200,000 men) Russia agreed a settlement under the Treaty of San Stefano (Ayastefanos Anlaşması in Turkish) on March 3, by which the Ottoman Empire recognized the independence of its former provinces Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and autonomy of Bulgaria.

The Caucasus

During the Greek uprising, the Russian empire reached the Caucasus and northeastern Anatolia. Under the terms of the Treaty of Adrianople, the Ottoman Empire recognized Russian sovereignty over Georgia and parts of present-day Armenia.

19 Century
Name Land/Sea Guest(1) General Home (2) General Date Side
Rus Russia Ottoman 1806–1812 1
Navarin Sea Ottoman 1827 1
Rus Russia Ottoman 1828 1
Olteniça Russia Ottoman 05/11/1853 2
Çatana Russia Ottoman 05/01/1854 2
Gedikle(Kars) Russia Ottoman 1853 1
Crimean War Sinop Sea Russia Ottoman 30/11/1853 1
Silistre Russia Ottoman 1854 2
Battle of Balaclava Müttefikler Russia 1854 0
Battle of Inkerman Müttefikler Russia 1854 1
Siege of Sevastopol (1854) Müttefikler Russia 1854 2
Siege of Kars Russia Ottoman 1855 1
Şıpka Russia Ottoman 1877 0
Siege of Pleven I. Russia Ottoman 1877 2
II. Russia Ottoman 1877 2
III. Russia Ottoman 1877 1
Battle of Kars Russia Ottoman 1877 1
Erzurum Russia Ottoman 1877 1

Dissolution (1908–1922)

During the early months of the WWI The Kars was a key military objective for Turkey. Ismail Enver who pushed the Ottoman Empire into WWI, needed a victory against the Russians to defend his position. He collected an army on the eastern border. The army was badly defeated under Enver's command at the Battle of Sarikamis January 2 1915 against Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich.

This defeat was due more to the winter weather and bad planning, given the fact that Russians were actually preparing to evacuate Kars. With the loss of the eastern army, Ottoman defenses crumbled with further small battles, given the Armenian revolt during that time, Russian forces succeeded in advancing as far west as Erzincan.

20 Century
Name Land/Sea Guest(1) General Home (2) General Date Side Treaty
Battle of Sarikamis Russia Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich Ottoman Ismail Enver January 2 1915 1
Battle of Erzurum (1916) Russia Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich Ottoman February 16 1916 1
Battle of Trabzon (1916) Russia Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich Ottoman April 1916 1
Battle of Erzincan Russia Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich Ottoman July 1916 1

The collapse of the Russian army after the 1917 revolution left only thinly spread Armenian units to resist the inevitable Turkish counter-attack. Before the end of the WWI by 1918 the Turkish army reformed with what was left from the middle-east branch and tried to build a line between whatever seems to be left on their east border. The newly declared Republic of Armenia, capturing Kars in April 1918 and reaching Baku on the Caspian sea. Defeat on other fronts caused Turkey to surrender and withdraw to the pre-war borders. However, Turks wanted to get their lands back with the command of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; Turkish Independence War has begun and Ottoman Empire has gained Kars and some other cities back.

See also


  • ISBN 0-89839-296-9, Caucasian Battlefields: A History Of The Wars On The Turco-Caucasian Border 1828-1921

External links

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