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Münchengrätz, Treaty of


On 18 September 1833, representatives of the Russian and Austrian empires signed a convention in the Bohemian town of Münchengrätz. The treaty had resulted from a summit meeting including the emperors Francis I of Austria (r. 1804–1835) and Nicholas I of Russia (r. 1825–1855) and the Crown Prince of Prussia. The Austrian chancellor Prince Clemens von Metternich and the Russian foreign minister Count Karl Robert von Nesselrode managed further negotiations. As the treaty's preamble stated, the two empires agreed to adopt a "principle of union" in their future conduct in relation to Turkish affairs. Further, both states pledged to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty's first "patent" (that is, public) article stated the signatories' opposition to the establishment of a regency or any change of dynasty. Should either event occur, according to Article II, the two states would not recognize the change; they would also jointly determine how to prevent any harmful consequences for their respective empires, both of which bordered on Turkey. The agreement also contained two "separate and secret articles" outlining specific circumstances as the basis for future actions by Austria and Russia.

The convention constituted the Austrian and Russian response to "the recent events in Egypt." During the years 1831–1833, the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839) had confronted a serious rebellion by his Egyptian governor Mehmet Ali. Mehmet's French-trained armies had inflicted a series of defeats on the Ottoman forces, taking Syria and advancing toward Constantinople by early 1833. In desperation, the sultan had appealed for aid to Nicholas I, at whose orders Russian troops landed in the vicinity of the Ottoman capital in April 1833. These developments led in May to a peace, according to which Mehmet Ali would retain control over Egypt, Syria, and other territories. On 8 July, Turkey and Russia concluded a treaty of alliance at Unkiar-Skelessi. The Russian contingent left Turkey shortly thereafter.

The Münchengrätz agreement represented a shared resolve by the Russian and Austrian governments to prevent any further destabilization of their Ottoman neighbor. The treaty's first secret article stated more explicitly than the public Article II that Russia and Austria would cooperate to prevent the "Pasha of Egypt" from any direct or indirect extension of authority over the Ottoman Empire's European provinces. The second secret article stipulated that, should the Ottoman Empire collapse, the two "imperial courts" would act in concert in all matters regarding the establishment of a new order. Moreover, they would collaborate to ensure that any change in the Ottoman Empire's domestic situation would not affect their own security, their existing treaty rights, or the European balance of power.

The Münchengrätz convention signaled several important developments in European diplomacy and the history of the "Eastern Question," that is, the international effects of the Ottoman Empire's ongoing decline. First, it repaired a rupture between Austria and Russia resulting from the Greek war of independence during the late 1820s. Russia had supported the Greek cause in league with France and Great Britain despite Austrian opposition. The agreement's dedication "to the name of the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity" symbolized the restoration of the Holy Alliance, as did reference to the "conservative spirit" that guided the empires' common policy. This ideological orientation received reinforcement in the so-called Berlin convention of 15 October, which united Austria, Russia, and Prussia in a common endeavor to maintain order and the status quo in partitioned Poland. Revolutions in Belgium and France in 1830, as well as a Polish rebellion in 1830–1831 and Mehmet Ali's campaign had convinced all three rulers of the necessity to resist the forces of change.

Second, the Münchengrätz treaty served Metternich's interests by binding Russia to act in concert with Austria in Ottoman affairs, thus weakening the apparent dominance Nicholas had gained through Unkiar-Skelessi. The convention further underscored Austria's and Russia's shared interest in maintaining a weak but integral Ottoman neighbor, rather than a more dynamic state led by someone like Mehmet Ali or a set of smaller nation-states in the old empire's place.

Finally, the Münchengrätz accord sharpened suspicions elsewhere in Europe about Russia's designs on Turkey, especially since, despite Metternich's urging, its terms never became public. Russia's intervention in Turkey had already distressed statesmen in Britain and France. The British foreign secretary Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, believed that at Münchengrätz the two conservative empires had in fact agreed to partition the Ottoman Empire. These suspicions persisted until renewed conflict in Turkey in 1839–1841 brought about an Anglo-Russian rapprochement on Near Eastern questions.

See alsoEastern Question; Holy Alliance; Metternich, Clemens von; Ottoman Empire; Russia; Unkiar Skelessi, Treaty of.


Primary Sources

Martens, F. Recueil des Traités et Conventions conclus par la Russie avec les Puissances Étrangères. Vol. 4, part 1. pp. 445–449. St. Petersburg, 1878.

Secondary Sources

Florinsky, Michael T. Russia: A History and an Interpretation. 2 vols. New York, 1947, 1953.

Rich, Norman. Great Power Diplomacy, 1814–1914. Boston, 1992.

Schroeder, Paul. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. Oxford, U.K., 1994.

David M. McDonald

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