Russo-Ottoman Wars (1710–1711; 1736–1739; 1768–1774; 1787

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RUSSO-OTTOMAN WARS (17101711; 17361739; 17681774; 17871792)

RUSSO-OTTOMAN WARS (17101711; 17361739; 17681774; 17871792). The first Russo-Ottoman War of the eighteenth century occurred during the expansion era of Peter I, also known as Peter the Great (ruled 16821725), who stopped paying tribute to the Khan of the Crimea, an Ottoman vassal, when he became tsar in 1683. He staged attacks on the Perekop Isthmus in the 1680s and Azov in 1695 because the Russians viewed the Crimea as a haven for Tatars who continually raided Russian areas to seize captives, property, and livestock. In 1696, Peter mounted the first successful attack on Azov, using the new flotilla he had built. In a 1700 Russian-Ottoman peace treaty, Russia was permitted to keep Azov and had the cancellation of its tribute payment to the Crimean khans formally recognized.


Sultan Ahmet III (ruled 17031730) initially looked favorably on the Russians because one of his grand viziers, Chorlulu Ali Pasha, cultivated good relations with them to prevent Ottoman entanglement in European politics. Russia's overwhelming victory against the Swedes at Poltava in 1709 has been attributed to the fact that Ali Pasha kept Crimean troops from intervening against Russia.

Ali Pasha was soon dismissed, though, when the mood of religious officials in Constantinople was swayed by the anti-Russian sentiment of the Crimeans. Also, the Swedish King Charles XII (ruled 16971718) had fled to the Ottomans from his failed encounter with Peter I and worked to stir up anti-Russian sentiments even more. When it appeared that after their Poltava triumph the Russians were getting ready to attack the Crimea, the Ottomans preemptively declared war on them. A Russian army led in person by Peter and his wife, Catherine I, invaded Moldavia for the first time in centuries, attempting to secure it before Ottoman forces could arrive.

However, the Russians ran into severe food shortages there, and a large Ottoman army proved to be close by. When the Russians were suddenly surrounded at a place on the Pruth tributary of the Danube on 21 July 1711 by regular Ottoman forces on one side and Tatars on the other, they had to surrender to avoid annihilation. Peter agreed to give back Azov, demolish his fortresses in its vicinity, release Ottoman prisoners, and allow Charles XII safe passage to Sweden. This swift Russian agreement to favorable terms for a time convinced the Ottomans that the Russians were not a serious threat. The final peace treaty (1713) pushed the Russians back as far north as the Orel River and required Peter to evacuate Poland within two months. Its terms would constantly be challenged over the next few years as Peter continued to modernize and expand his nation, which aroused Ottoman suspicions of Russian intentions.

Notwithstanding these tensions, both took advantage of the turmoil produced by the 1722 Afghan conquest of Iran to occupy Iranian territory in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. The Russians and the Ottomans signed an agreement in 1724 that recognized each other's recent acquisitions in Iran. The agreement called for the restoration of the Shiite Safavids instead of the Sunni Afghans as the rulers of Irana curious stance for the Ottomans, quintessential defenders of Sunni Islam against Shiism. This agreement, too, proved fleeting when a new Iranian monarch, Nadir Shah (ruled 17361747), drove both the Russians and the Ottomans out of their occupied territories.


The next Russo-Ottoman conflict broke out in 1736, when Russia determined to put a stop to Crimean Tatar attacks on its territories and finally to establish a presence on the Black Sea. After Russia had resolved its then outstanding conflicts with other European nations, the tsar denounced Ottoman negligence of the Treaty of Pruth as a pretext for war. Encouraged by the French, the Ottomans declared war on both Russia and Austria in May 1736 to protest the placement of a pro-Russian candidate on the Polish throne.

The first result was that the Russians, who were better mobilized, invaded the Crimea and took Azov within three months. However, they soon had to withdraw because of poor logistics. Russia then shifted focus to Moldavia and Walachia when its ally Austria captured Niš in 1737. Soon, though, the Austrians were pushed back so decisively that they were forced to sign a treaty with the Ottomans in 1739 at Belgrade, giving up most of the territory they had been assigned at Passarowitz in 1718.

As this agreement was being signed, the Russians were in the midst of trying to incite a Balkan Christian revolt against the Ottomans, had advanced deep into Moldavia, and were preparing to conquer Walachia, but news of the treaty ended these plans. With Austrian assistance gone, the Russians also signed an agreement with the Ottomans and relinquished Azov again.


In 1768, when Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great (ruled 17621796), revived Peter's imperialist projects and began interfering in Polish affairs again, the sultan declared war on Russia. Because internal Crimean politics and severe logistical difficulties had greatly weakened the Ottoman military, the Russians advanced swiftly into Moldavia and Walachia. They decimated a huge Ottoman army at Kartal in 1770. The Russians also finally took Crimea and came to dominate naval warfare in the Black Sea and even in the Aegean. In this conflict, Austria actually restrained Russia because it worried about excessive Russian influence in Poland.

Following a significant number of Russian victories, the 1774 Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji allowed the Ottoman sultan to remain the religious leader, or caliph, of the Crimean Muslims, who were declared politically autonomous. Russia then took much of the northern Black Sea coast and received a large war indemnity from the Ottomans. A Russian cathedral was built in Constantinople, which was later construed to mean that the tsar was the protector of all Ottoman Orthodox Christians.


In 1787, Catherine developed a scheme to expel the Ottomans from Europe and divide their European territories between Russia and Austria. The Ottoman reaction was to wage war to regain the Crimea. The war reached a critical stage in 1789 when the Austrians conquered Belgrade and the Russians took Walachia. Just as the two were set to advance on Constantinople, other European powers persuaded them to end the war in order to help contain the tide of revolution sweeping across Europe from France. The Russians finally signed the 1792 Treaty of Jassy, by which they extended their control of the Black Sea coast and declared that henceforth Russia was the sovereign of the Crimea. In effect, the Black Sea, too, now passed into Russian hands.

See also Austro-Ottoman Wars ; Catherine II (Russia) ; Charles XII (Sweden) ; Ottoman Empire ; Peter I (Russia) ; Russia .


Fisher, Alan. The Crimean Tatars. Stanford, 1978.

Goffman, Daniel. The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2002.

Kurat, A. N., and Bromley, J. S. "The Retreat of the Turks, 16831730." In A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730, edited by M. A. Cook, pp. 178219. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1976.

Shaw, Stanford J. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1976.

Ernest Tucker