Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 1: The Origins 1600-1800

Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 1: The Origins 1600-1800
Advisor: Maurits van den Boogert

Brill presents a unique collection of rare primary sources on a vital and dynamic part of the history of Turkey, Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe. These sources provide detailed insights not only in the military ebb and flow of Russian-Ottoman relations, but also in their effects on European public opinion.

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Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 1: The Origins, 1600-1800

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.


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 1: The Origins, 1600-1800
By the seventeenth century, the Ottomans had extended their territorial dominance both deep into the Balkans and north of the Black Sea, where the Crimean Khanate acknowledged the Sultan's sovereignty. In this period, Russia became an increasingly important factor in European and Middle Eastern politics. The first Ottoman expedition against Russia took place in 1569. In the centuries that followed, the pace of conflicts and collisions increased dramatically. Between 1677 and 1681, there was Russian-Ottoman rivalry over the Ukraine. Four years later, the Tsar joined the Holy League in its war against the sultan, while in 1689 the Russians attacked the Crimea. Several treaties were concluded between these rival powers, such as the peace of 1700, in the wake of Karlowitz, and that of 1713, following the Ottomans' victory over the army of Tsar Peter I at the Battle of the Pruth two years earlier.

Relations between the Ottoman Empire and Russia were no less conflictual in the eighteenth century: They were at war in 1736-39, 1768-74, and 1787. In the infamous Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca of 1774, the Ottomans were forced to acknowledge the independence of the Crimea (under Russian influence) and of the northern coasts of the Black Sea. It was not until the Treaty of Jassy in 1792 that peaceful relations between the Ottomans and the Russians were restored.
Location of originals

National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg

Cite this page

Russian-Ottoman Relations Online, Part 1: The Origins 1600-1800, advisor: M. van den Boogert, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006 <>