Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji

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The first war between Russia and Turkey during the reign of Catherine the Great began in 1768. After the Russians won a series of victories and advanced beyond the Danube River deep into Ottoman territory in the Balkans, Field Marshal Peter Rumyantsev and Turkish plenipotentiaries met in an obscure Bulgarian village and signed a peace treaty on July 10, 1774. The war was a major victory for Catherine's expansionist policy and a realization of the goals of Peter the Great in the south. The Russian Empire gained permanent control of all the fortressports on the Sea of Azov and around the Dneiper-Bug estuary, the right of free navigation on the Black Sea, including the right to maintain a fleet, and the right of passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles for merchant vessels. The Tatar khanate of the Crimean Peninsula was recognized as independent, thus removing the Ottoman presence from the northern shore of the Black Sea and essentially bringing the area under Russia control (it was peacefully annexed in 1783), and the Turks paid an indemnity of 4.5 million rubles, which covered much of the Russian costs of the war.

The treaty also gave Russia the right to maintain consulates throughout the Ottoman Empire and to represent the interests of the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. Because Russia no longer needed an alliance with an independent Zaporozhian Cossack host, this military and diplomatic success led to its destruction and the end of any notion of an autonomous Ukraine for more than a hundred years. The treaty symbolized the consolidation of Russian control of the southern steppe, the rise of Russia as a great European and Middle Eastern power, and the beginning of the end of Turkish supremacy in the area. No wonder there were great celebrations in Moscow a year later, during which the foremost Russian military heroes were lavishly rewarded and Rumyantsev was given the honorific Zadunyasky ("beyond the Danube"). More than any other event, the treaty established Catherine II as "the Great" in terms of Russian expansion. The Ottoman loss, however, left a vacuum in the eastern Mediterranean open for the ambitions of Napoleon I twenty-five years later, and many more battles in the eastern Mediterranean would result. Perhaps the shattering international impact of the treaty is the ghost behind the Middle Eastern and Balkan problems of the twentieth century and beyond.

See also: catherine ii; rumyantsev, peter alexan drovich; russo-turkish wars


Alexander, John T. (1989). Catherine the Great: Life and Legend. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Madariaga, Isabel de. (1981). Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Norman Saul

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Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (kōōchōōk´ kīnär´jē, Turk. küchük´ kī´närjä´), 1774, peace treaty signed at the end of the first of the Russo-Turkish Wars undertaken by Catherine II of Russia against Sultan Mustafa III of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It was signed at the village of Kuchuk Kainarji, now Kaynardzha, NE Bulgaria, in the Dobruja, near the Danube and SE of Silistra. The treaty ceded Kerch and several other Black Sea ports in the Crimea to Russia and declared the rest of the khanate of Crimea independent. Russian trading ships were allowed to navigate in Turkish waters. Moldavia and Walachia were restored to the suzerainty of the sultan, but Russia obtained the right of intervening with the Sublime Porte (the sultan's court) on behalf of those two principalities. Russia furthermore acquired certain rights of representation on behalf of the Greek Orthodox subjects of the sultan. By a separate treaty (1775) Turkey ceded Bukovina to Austria. The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji facilitated the eventual Russian annexation (1783) of the Crimea and was the basis of the later claims of Russia as protector of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The Russian ascendancy over Turkey, of which the treaty was a symptom, made the Eastern Question acute. Varied spellings include the forms Kutchuk and Kainardji.

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Treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji: see Kuchuk Kainarji, Treaty of.