Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 3: The Crimean War (1853-1856)

Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 3: The Crimean War (1853-1856)
Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 3: The Crimean War, 1853-1856

Advisor
: Maurits van den Boogert

In this collection on the Crimean War, Russian views are represented by Anatole Demidov (1812-1870), traveler and patron of the arts; the discussion on the peace by former diplomat Tchihatchef; and the accounts of the Russian veteran, Piotr Andreevich Viazemsky (1792-1878). The opinions of two Turkish officers, Rustem Effendi and Seid Bey, and the views of Algerian poet Muhammad b. Ismail (1820-1870) are also included.

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Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 3: The Crimean War, 1854-1856

During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, the balance of power between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was constantly monitored in Western Europe, where several powers had designs of their own on some of the Ottoman territories. In Germany and France, in particular, all kinds of accounts, opinions, and plans were published that were influenced by, or aimed to influence, Russian-Ottoman relations. They include publications of relevant government documents, diplomatic reports, travel accounts that provided new details about hitherto relatively unknown regions, and fiercely political (and polemical) tracts and pamphlets designed to rally public support for one power or the other.

Introduction
In the thirteenth century large swathes of Asia were overrun by the Mongols, but new political entities arose from the ashes. Moscovy became independent of the Golden Horde around 1480, and by building and expanding their central power, the Moscovite princes soon became the dominant rulers in the region. Until the sixteenth century Russian territorial expansion concentrated on the northern borders, where Sweden was the principal opponent. In this period the nobility still held a powerful position, and the Tsar was not yet an autocratic ruler. The Mongol invasion of Anatolia to the south of Russia had only temporarily reversed the position of the Ottomans as the dominant power in Asia Minor. Soon the Turks were expanding their empire into the Balkans in the West, later spreading eastward into the traditional heartlands of Islam. The sultan ruled his empire more or less autocratically, his powers constrained only by the precepts of Islamic law. Initially, Russia and the Ottoman Empire were not direct neighbors, but the two empires soon edged closer to each other.

In 1569 the first Ottoman-Russian war broke out after an army of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III marched on Astrakhan. Although the siege was broken by a Russian relief army and the Ottomans withdrew, the city was partially razed. Two years later Moscow suffered the same fate at the hands of Crimean Tatars, whose Khanate was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. However, their ambitions to expand northward were frustrated by the Russians at the Battle of Molodi in 1572. Though Ottoman aspirations for expansion to the north were checked at an early stage, Russian designs on territorial gains at the Ottomans' expense only became stronger. Wars and the subsequent redefinition of borders would become a central theme in Russian-Ottoman relations until the twentieth century.

Part 3: The Crimean War 1854-1856

The Crimean War was fought between Russia on one side, and Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire, on the other. The principal battlefield was the Crimean peninsula in the BlackSea, but the ramifications were widespread.

In this collection Russian views are represented by such publications as no. 685 by Anatole Demidov (1812-1870), traveler and patron of the arts; the discussion on the peace by former diplomat Tchihatchef; and the accounts of the Russian veteran, Piotr Andreevich Viazemsky (1792-1878). The opinions of two Turkish officers, Rustem Effendi and Seid Bey, and the views on the Crimean War of the Algerian poet, Muhammad b. Ismail (1820-1870) are also included. On the British side the influential works of the virulently anti-Russian diplomat, David Urquhart (1805-1877), are well-represented, as well as more moderate publications.

Some of these sources were published anonymously at the time, or under pseudonyms. This happened in the case of, amongst others, Pictures from the Battlefields by "the roving Englishman". The author was the British journalist Eustace Clare Grenville Murray (1824-1881), the illegitimate son of Richard Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Other works were published anonymously by William Martin Leake (1777-1860), the famous traveler, antiquarian and topographer, whose sympathies for the Greeks were widely shared among the British.
Location of originals

National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg
 
 

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Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 3: The Crimean War (1853-1856), advisor: M. van den Boogert, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007 <http://primarysources.brillonline.com/browse/russianottoman-relations-part-3>