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Unkiar Skelessi, Treaty of


Signed July 8, 1833, between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi reflected the interest of Tsar Nicholas I in preserving legitimate authority and the territorial integrity of existing states in Europe and the Near East. Nicholas was concerned about the domino effect of successful revolutions against dynastic states. Unable to contain the rebellion of Muhammad Ali in Egypt, the Ottoman state was threatened by his advance across Syria and Anatolia in 1832. In response, on February 20, 1833, a Russian naval squadron arrived in Constantinople, followed by Russian ground forces, with the intent of protecting the Sultan's capital from the rebels.

The treaty created an eight-year alliance between Russia and the Ottomans and provided for Russian aid in the event of an attack against the Sultan. It reconfirmed the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople, which recognized Russian gains in the Balkans and the Caucasus as well as providing free access through the Straits for Russian merchant ships. A secret addendum to the treaty also required the Ottoman Empire to close the Straits to foreign warships. Nicholas and his foreign minister, Count Karl Nesselrode, preferred to see the Straits remain in Ottoman hands rather than risk the disintegration of the Ottoman state whereby another European power such as France or Britain might take control of this strategic waterway.

The treaty appealed to Nicholas's sense of Russia as the premier defender of legitimism in post-Napoleonic Europe. It also confirmed Russian supremacy in the Black Sea basin and guaranteed the free passage of Russian commercial vessels into the Mediterranean, an important point given the growing importance of Russia's export trade from ports such as Odessa.

The treaty was superseded by the Straits Convention of July 13, 1841, when a five-power consortium guaranteed the permanent closure of the Straits to all warships. Hopes for a more permanent Russo-Ottoman alliance were dashed, however, when the alliance was not renewed, helping to lay the groundwork for the Crimean War.

See also: nicholas i; turkey, relations with


Fuller, William C., Jr. (1992). Strategy and Power in Russia, 16001914. New York: Free Press.

Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. (1984). A History of Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nikolas Gvosdev

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