Russian-Turkish relations: three centuries of rivalry and wars


Translation Unit
Academic Board of the Center

The relationship between Russia and Turkey has been built under supervision of the two leaders Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin during the past few years which are currently going through a critical stage, even though the two sides maintain Mu’awiya poetry.

A quick look at the relations between the two countries since the emergence of the Russian and Ottoman Empires shows that competition and military confrontation were prominent feature of the relationship between the two states.

Since it became a major power under the Caesars centuries ago, Russia has sought to reach the seas, especially the warm seas, and overcome the dilemma of stopping its Baltic Sea ports from operating for several months every year due to the freezing of sea water.Russia fought against Turkey 15 combats over nearly three centuries to achieve this strategic goal.

In 1914, the first year of World War I, 50 percent of all Russian exports and 90 percent of its agricultural exports passed through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. Initially, it was necessary to reach the coasts of the Black Sea, which it succeeded with at the end of the First Crimean War between 1768 and 1774 and since then Russia has had a great naval power in the Black Sea.

Controlling the Bosphorus and Dardanelles strains, or at least ensuring freedom of navigation for the Russian fleet and Russian ships, has become a top priority and goal for Russia, as confirmed by the Constantinople Agreement reached a year before the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Under the secret agreement of Constantinople, Britain and France agreed to give Russia control over the straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, as well as the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire at that time, in the event of the victory of the three allies in World War I, but the outbreak of the Russian revolution and the elimination of the rule of the Caesars in 1917 ended the agreement.

History lesson

The Ottoman Empire managed to reach the gates of Vienna in 1529 and failed to occupy the city, and it was broken there, and then the stage of retreat started on more than one front.

On the northern front, a serious of wars erupted between Russia and the Ottomans, which ended with the Sultanate losing large swaths of land they previously occupied and the Russian Empire reached the Black Sea.

The first war between Russia and Turkey between 1676 and 1681 was on Ukrainian territory today as Russia failed to take control of the Crimean Peninsula overlooking on the Black Sea. Russia retried between 1687 and 1689 and failed again. But Russia's czar Peter I was able to take control of the Azov Fortress overlooking the Don River during the years 1695 and 1696.

In 1711, Turkey succeeded in forcing the Tsar to return the Azov region to Turkey after Tsar Russia failed in his efforts to end Turkish control of the Balkans after losing the great battle on the banks of the Prut River that currently separates Moldova and Romania in 1710.

In 1735 the Russian and Austrian empires allied and war erupted between the two allies on one side and Turkey on the other side, Russia succeeded in controlling Moldova, which was under Turkish control. Turkey subsequently succeeded in the battlefield and defeated the two allies, and as a result of the balance of power on the ground, Russia achieved little in the Treaty of Belgrade 1739.

In 1768 the Ottoman Sultan asked the Empress of Russia Catherine II to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Bologna, and the two countries fought a six-year war between 1768 and 1774 in which Russia achieved great victories and finally captured the Crimean Peninsula, the Azov Sea, and the Pisarabia region.

The Russian Marshal forces, Rumyantsev, managed to invade Moldova, and his forces arrived in Bulgaria, where they defeated the Turkish forces there. Turkey was forced to request the conclusion of a new peace treaty, and the "Koçek Kainargı" treaty was reached in relation to a small town currently located in Bulgaria in 1774.

Among the most prominent provisions of the treaty is Turkey’s recognition of the independence of Crimea from Turkey and the arrival of the borders of the Russian Empire to the "Bo River” in Ukraine today. But Russia's most important gain was the recognition of its right to maintain a permanent naval fleet in the Black Sea.

Russia also has some authority in protecting and caring for the Orthodox Christians, the subjects of the Ottoman Sultanate in all of the Balkans.

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