Russo-Turkish Wars of the 17th-19th Centuries

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Russo-Turkish Wars of the 17th-19th Centuries

 

wars waged for domination of the Black Sea and adjacent regions. During the 17th and 18th centuries the wars were a continuation of Russia’s struggle against aggression by the Ottoman Empire and its vassal, the Crimean Khanate, with the objectives of gaining access to the Black Sea and taking the northern Black Sea coast, which had been seized by the Mongol Tartars in the 13th century. The economic interests of Russia and its ruling classes, including the pomeshchiki (landlords) and the merchants, demanded the attainment of these objectives. From the second half of the 18th century the Russo-Turkish Wars were related to the exacerbation of international contradictions in the Middle East and to Russia’s gradually increased expansion into the Balkans and the Caucasus—a policy in which Russia relied on support from the national liberation movement of the Christian peoples oppressed by the Ottoman Empire.

Russo-Turkish War of 1676–81. The Russo-Turkish War of 1676–81 was caused by the increasing aggression of the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 17th century. After taking Podolia in the Polish-Turkish War of 1672–76, the Turkish government tried to spread its rule to the entire Right-bank Ukraine, relying on support from P. D. Doroshenko, the hetman of that region and a Turkish vassal since 1669. Doroshen-ko’s traitorous policy displeased many of the Ukrainian Cossacks. In 1674 they elected I. Samoilovich, hetman of the Left-bank Ukraine, to be the hetman of the entire Ukraine. In 1676, Doroshenko, anticipating support from Turkish-Tatar forces, captured Chigirin with a 12,000-man detachment. In the spring of 1676, Chigirin was besieged by Russian and Ukrainian forces led by Samoilovich and the Russian military commander G. G. Romodanovskii, and Doroshenko was compelled to surrender. Leaving a garrison in Chigirin, the Russian and Ukrainian forces withdrew to the left bank of the Dnieper.

The Turkish sultan appointed Iu. B. Khmel’nitskii, whom he was holding prisoner, to be hetman of the Right-bank Ukraine and in July 1677 sent Ibrahim Paşa’s Turkish-Tatar army of 120,000 against Chigirin. After the Russian garrison in Chigirin had withstood the siege for three weeks, 52,000–57,000 men led by Samoilovich and Romodanovskii arrived and on August 28 (September 7) defeated the Turkish-Tatar forces at Bushin, forcing them to retreat. In July 1678, Chigirin was besieged by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa’s Turkish-Tatar army (about 200,000 men). The Russian-Ukrainian forces (120,000 men) routed the Turkish blocking force, but by the time they reached Chigirin, it had already been captured by the Turks (August 11 [21]). The Russian-Ukrainian army withdrew beyond the Dnieper, throwing back the Turkish forces, who were in pursuit. The Turks withdrew across the Danube. In 1679–80, Russian forces repulsed raids by the Crimean Tatars. Concluded on Jan. 3 (13), 1681, the Treaty of Bakhchisarai established the Dnieper, from the rapids to the region south of Kiev, as the boundary between Russia and Turkey.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1686–1700. Part of the struggle of the European powers against continuing aggression by the Ottoman Empire, the Russo-Turkish War of 1686–1700 began after the anti-Turkish Holy League of 1684 (Austria, the Rzeczpospolita [the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania], and Venice) was joined by Russia in 1686. During the war the Russian Army conducted the Crimean campaigns of 1687 and 1689 and the Azov campaigns of 1695–96. Because of Russian preparations for war against Sweden and the conclusion of peace between the other powers and Turkey at the Karlowitz Congress of 1698–99, the Russian government concluded the Constantinople Peace Treaty of 1700 with Turkey. Under the treaty, Russia received Azov.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1710–13. The chief event of the Russo-Turkish War of 1710–13 was the Prut campaign of 1711, which ended in failure for Russia, with the loss of Azov.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1735–39. The aggravation of Russo-Turkish contradictions by the Russo-Polish War of 1733–35 and the increase in raids by the Crimean Tatars resulted in the Russo-Turkish War of 1735–39, which was a continuation of Russia’s struggle for an outlet on the Black Sea. Between 1732 and 1735, Russia secured a favorable international situation by concluding treaties with Persia (Iran), which was at war with Turkey from 1730 to 1736, and by seeing that the Polish throne was occupied by Augustus III (1735), rather than by Stanislas Leszczyński, a French protégé supported by Turkey, which had ties with France. In 1726, Austria became Russia’s ally.

The immediate causes of the war were raids by the Crimean Tatars on the Ukraine in late 1735 and the campaign of the Crimean khan against the Caucasus. The Russian command’s plan for 1736 provided for the capture of Azov and the Crimea. On May 20 (31), 1736, Field Marshal B. K. Minikh’s Dnieper Army (62,000 men) took the Perekop fortifications by storm, seizing Bakhchisarai on June 17 (28). However, a shortage of food and water, as well as incipient epidemics, forced Minikh to withdraw to the Ukraine. On June 19 (30), 1736, General P. P. Lacy’s Russian Don Army (28,000 men) captured Azov with the support of Vice Admiral P. P. Bredal’s Don flotilla. In July 1737, Minikh’s army (60,000–70,000 men) took the Turkish fortress of Ochakov by storm, and in June, Lacy’s army (about 40,000 men) crossed the Genichesk Strait to the Arabat Spit and crossed the Sivash, entering the Crimea in July. Russian forces inflicted a series of defeats on the Crimean khan’s forces and occupied Karasubazar, but they were again forced to abandon the Crimea because of shortages of water and food.

In July 1737, Austria entered the war against Turkey, but its armies suffered a series of defeats. Peace negotiations between Russia, Austria, and Turkey began at Nemirov in August but produced no results. There were no major combat operations in 1738. Russian forces abandoned Ochakov and Kinburn because of a plague epidemic. In 1739, Minikh’s 58,000-man army crossed the Dnestr, defeating the Turkish Army on August 17 (28) at Stavuchany and seizing the fortress of Khotin (surrendered August 19 [30]) and Iaşi. However, Austria was defeated again and concluded a separate peace on September 7 (18). This, as well as the threat of attack by Sweden, forced Russia to conclude the Treaty of Belgrade (1739) with Turkey. Under the treaty, Azov was returned to Russia.

Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74. The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74 was a continuation of Russia’s struggle for an outlet on the Black Sea and against the aggression of the Ottoman Empire, which was trying to expand its possessions along the Black Sea and in the Caucasus and seize Astrakhan. Turkey also opposed the growth of Russian influence in Poland, where the Russian protégé, Stanisław August Poniatowski, became king in 1764. The immediate cause of the war was Russia’s rejection of a Turkish ultimatum calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Poland, where in 1768 they began to conduct military operations against the Confederation of Bar. Subsequently, on Sept. 25 (Oct. 6), 1768, Turkey, supported by France and Austria, declared war on Russia.

The Russian strategic plan for 1769 provided for an offensive against Khotin by the main forces, and General A. M. Goli-tsyn’s First Army (80,000–90,000 men). General P. A. Rumiant-sev’s Second Army (35,000 men) supported the main forces by covering the southern boundaries from the Dnieper to the Don against the Crimean Tatars. The Baltic Fleet was sent to the Mediterranean Sea to blockade the Dardanelles and support the national liberation movement in Greece. In early 1769 the Second Army repulsed an intrusion by the Crimean Tatars and reached the shore of the Sea of Azov. Although two assaults on Khotin by the First Army in April and June were unsuccessful, the Turkish garrison abandoned the town in September because of a shortage of provisions. In September, Iaşj was captured by the First Army, of which Rumiantsev had been appointed commander. In the plan of action for 1770 the main objective, the capture of the fortress of Bendery, was assigned to General P. I. Panin’s Second Army, while the First Army was to cover it from the south against the main forces of the Turkish-Tatar army. However, General Rumiantsev, commander of the First Army, decided to carry out his mission with aggressive actions. His troops routed the Turkish-Tatar detachment of the Crimean khan, Kaplan-Girei, at Riabaia Mogila on June 17 (28) and on the Larga River on July 7 (18) and defeated the main Turkish forces, commanded by Grand Vizier Halil Hamid Paşa, on the Kagul River on July 21 (August 1). In September the Second Army stormed the fortress of Bendery. Subsequently, the Turkish fortresses of Izmail, Kiliia, Akkerman, and Brăila surrendered. Reaching the Aegean Sea, a Russian squadron defeated the Turkish Fleet in the battle of Çeşme (1770) and blockaded the Dardanelles.

According to the plan of military operations for 1771, the First Army was to hold the Danube River line. The main objective, the capture of the Crimea, was assigned to General V. M. Dolgorukov’s Second Army, with support from Vice Admiral A. N. Seniavin’s Azov flotilla. In June the Second Army took Perekop and quickly occupied the Crimea. The First Army, operating on a broad front despite insufficient forces (45,000 men), succeeded in repulsing enemy attempts to break through to the left bank of the Danube in July and October.

The Russian victories forced Turkey to begin peace negotiations, which ended in the signing of an armistice in Giurgiu in May 1772. However, negotiations for a peace treaty, which were held from July in Focşani and later in Bucharest, ended in a stalemate. On Nov. 1 (12), 1772, Russia and the Crimean khan, Sahib Girei, concluded a treaty, under which the Crimea was proclaimed independent of Turkey and placed under Russian protection.

In June 1773, Russian troops crossed the Danube and besieged the fortress of Silistra, but, owing to insufficient forces, Rumiantsev was compelled to withdraw across the Danube. Attempted moves by Russian forces against Varna and Shumen in September and October also produced no results. Both sides were exhausted. Despite the limited forces at his disposal (52,000 men), Rumiantsev was assigned the mission of speeding up the war by decisive actions. In June the main forces of the Russian Army crossed the Danube. On June 9 (20), General A. V. Suvorov’s 18,000-man corps routed a 40,000-man Turkish corps at Kozludzha. On the same day a 15,000-man Turkish detachment was routed at Turtukai by General I. P. Saltykov. Russian forces blockaded the fortresses of Shumen, Ruse, and Silistra, and A. I. Zaborovskii’s forward detachment crossed the Balkans.

The Turkish government agreed to peace negotiations, which culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji on July 10 (21), 1774. Under the treaty Russia received the territory of the southern Ukraine to the Southern Bug, as well as free access to the Black Sea (the fortresses of Kinburn, Kerch’, and Enikale).

Russo-Turkish War of 1787–91. Turkey’s desire for revenge caused the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–91. Encouraged by Great Britain, Prussia, and France, Turkey hoped to regain the Crimea and prevent the growth of Russian influence in the Transcaucasus. Relying on its alliance with Austria, Russia aspired to establish a firm footing on the north coast of the Black Sea and expand its possessions in the Caucasus. In early August 1787 the Turkish government delivered an ultimatum to Russia, demanding the return of the Crimea, recognition of Georgia as a vassal possession of the Turkish sultan, and consent to the examination of Russian merchant vessels passing through the Straits. The ultimatum was rejected, and on August 13 (24), Turkey declared war on Russia. With an army of about 200,000 men and a strong navy, the Turkish command planned to take Kinburn, Kherson, and later the Crimea, simultaneously launching operations in the Northern Caucasus. Russia assembled two armies: Field Marshal G. A. Potemkin’s Ekaterino-slav Army (82,000 men), whose mission was to take Ochakov and reach the Danube, and Field Marshal P. A. Rumiantsev’s Ukrainian Army (37,000 men), which was stationed in Podolia to assist the main forces. The defense of the Crimea and the Caucasus was assigned to individual corps and to the Black Sea Fleet.

On October 1 (12) a Turkish landing force disembarked near Kinburn, but it was destroyed by Russian forces under the command of Suvorov. In January 1788, Austria entered the war, but in June war broke out between Russia and Sweden, and relations with Poland deteriorated. Therefore, military actions in Moldavia were limited to besieging and capturing the fortresses of Khotin (September) and Ochakov (December).

According to Potemkin’s plan, Bendery and other fortresses in Moldavia were to be taken in 1789. Rumiantsev’s army was to advance toward the lower Danube with an Austrian corps commanded by Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg. As a result of Potemkin’s intrigues, Rumiantsev was replaced by General N. V. Repnin, and the two Russian armies were united, forming the Southern Army, which was commanded by Potemkin. In July the main forces moved toward Bendery. Grand Vizier Yusuf Paşa sent Osman Paşa’s 30,000-man corps against the 12,000-man Austrian corps, but Suvorov’s 5,000-man division came to the aid of the Austrians, and on July 21 (Aug. 1), 1789, Osman Paşa’s corps was defeated near Focşani. Yusuf Paşa and the main forces (about 100,000 men) went over to the offensive against Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg’s Austrian corps (18,000 men), but Suvorov, coming to the rescue again with 7,000 men, defeated the Turks on September 11 (22) on the Rîmnic River. Failing to take advantage of these victories, Potemkin limited himself to capturing the fortresses of Bendery, Hadjibey, and Akkerman.

In 1790, Potemkin was assigned the mission of acting decisively to achieve the swiftest possible victorious conclusion of the war, but his actions were slow and sluggish. The Turkish command began aggressive operations in the Caucasus and prepared to land in the Crimea. However, Batal Pasha’s 40,000-man army, which had advanced from Anapa to Kabarda, was defeated in September. The Russian Black Sea Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral F. F. Ushakov, defeated the Turkish Navy in July in the Kerch’ naval battle of 1790 and in August in the battle at Tendra, which prevented the Turks from landing in the Crimea. In September 1790, Austria left the war. Nonetheless, Russia’s conclusion of peace with Sweden made it possible to launch an offensive on the Danube in the autumn. In December, Russian forces commanded by Suvorov took the fortress of Izmail by storm. In June 1791, Russian forces commanded by Repnin crossed the Danube and defeated the Turkish armies at Babadag and Măcin. Russian forces took Anapa in the Caucasus. Ushakov routed the Turkish Navy at Kaliakra on July 31 (August 11), which hastened the conclusion of the Peace of Iaşi (1791), under which the territory between the Southern Bug and the Dnestr was ceded to Russia and the incorporation of the Crimea into Russia was confirmed.

Russo-Turkish War of 1806–12. The Russo-Turkish War of 1806–12 was caused by Turkey’s policy of revenge. Turkey was counting on the diversion of Russian forces for the wars against France (1805–07) and Persia (1804–13). The immediate causes of the war were Turkey’s violation of the Treaty of 1805 on rules for the passage of Russian vessels through the Straits and the Turkish sultan’s deposal of the pro-Russian hospodars of Moldavia and Walachia. Fearing that the Danubian principalities would be seized by French forces, which had landed in Dalma-tia, the Russian government sent forces commanded by General I. I. Mikhel’son to the principalities in November and December 1806. On December 18 (30), Turkey declared war on Russia.

In February 1807, Vice Admiral D. N. Seniavin’s Russian squadron, which was stationed near Corfu (Kerkira), began military operations, defeating the Turkish Navy in June in the battle of Athos (1807). On the Danube, Turkish forces suffered a series of defeats and withdrew beyond the river. Under the Franco-Russian Treaty of Tilsit (1807), Napoleon was to act as mediator in the conclusion of peace between Russia and Turkey. An armistice reached in August 1807 lasted until March 1809. In the spring of 1809 an 80,000-man Russian army commanded by Field Marshal A. A. Prozorovskii (from August 1809, General P. I. Bagration) began operations against the Turkish fortresses, capturing Isaccea, Tulcea, Babadag, Măcin, Izmail, and Brăila and besieging Silistra, but in October the approach of a 50,000-men Turkish army forced the Russians to lift the siege.

In February 1910, Lieutenant General N. M. Kamenskii was appointed commander in chief of the Russian Danube Army. In May the Russian Army crossed the Danube, capturing the fortresses of Pazarcik, Silistra, and Razgrad and laying siege to Shumen in June. An assault on Ruse in July failed. The Turkish commander in chief, Yusuf Paşa, tried to crush the Russian armies at Ruse, but he was defeated near Batin in August, and Ruse and Giurgiu surrendered.

In early 1811 the Danube Army was weakened by the transfer of part of its forces to the western border. General M. I. Ku-tuzov, who was appointed commander in chief in March 1811, concentrated his small forces (45,000 men) on the main axes. In June, Ahmed Paşa’s 60,000-man army began an offensive against Ruse. With only 15,000 men, Kutuzov repulsed the enemy’s attack and withdrew his forces across the Danube. In late August Ahmed Paşa crossed the Danube, assembling 35,000 men on the left bank. In October a 10,000-man Russian corps crossed to the right bank of the Danube west of Ruse. Surrounded in the Slobozia region, the main Turkish forces, which were on the left bank, surrendered on November 23 (December 5). Peace negotiations, which had opened in October, ended, thanks to Kutuzov’s diplomatic skill, with the signing of the Bucharest Peace Treaty on May 16 (28), 1812. The treaty confirmed the incorporation of Bessarabia into Russia.

Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29. The Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29 was caused by the struggle among the European powers to divide up the possessions of the Ottoman Empire, which was going through a severe internal crisis that was intensified by the Greek National Liberation Revolution of 1821–29. After the Greeks called on Russia for assistance, the governments of Great Britain and France, fearing the growth of Russian influence in the Balkans, joined Russia in supporting the rebellious Greeks in 1827, but after the victory of an allied fleet in the battle of Navarino (1827), the conflicts among the allies grew more intense.

On Oct. 8 (20), 1827, the sultan announced his rejection of the Akkerman Convention (1826) and called for a “holy war” against Russia. On Apr. 14 (26), 1828, Russia declared war on Turkey. Field Marshal P. Kh. Vitgenshtein’s 95,000-man army was sent to the Danube, with the mission of occupying Moldavia, Walachia, and Dobruja and taking Shumen and Varna. The Russian army was opposed by Husein Paşa’s 150,000-man Turkish army. In the Caucasus, General I. F. Paskevich’s 25,000-man corps was to occupy the Kars and Akhaltsikhe pa-shaliks.

In April and May, Russian forces occupied the Danubiar. principalities, crossing the Danube near Isaccea on May 27 (June 8). Subsequently, Vitgenshtein dispersed his forces to blockade numerous fortresses. The main forces unsuccessfully besieged Shumen and redirected their efforts against Varna, which was taken on September 29 (October 11). An enormous price was paid for this insignificant success. In the Caucasus, Anapa, Kars, Ardahan, Akhaltsikhe, Poti, and Bayazid were occupied.

In 1829, Vitgenshtein was replaced by General I. I. Dibich, and Husein Paşa by Reşid Paşa. In May, Russian forces besieged Silistra, and on May 30 (June 11), Dibich routed Reşid Paşa’s 40,000-man army near Kulevcha. Silistra surrendered in June, and in early July a 35,000-man Russian army moved across the Balkans. In the Caucasus, Russian forces took Erzu-rum on June 27 (July 9) and advanced toward Trebizond (Trabzon). Despite the presence of considerable Turkish forces in the rear of the Russian forces, Dibich’s army, which had dwindled to 17,000 men, owing primarily to disease, crossed the Balkans and prepared to storm Adrianople, whose demoralized garrison surrendered on August 8 (20). The arrival of Russian forces on the approaches to Constantinople aroused panic in the Turkish government, which concluded the Treaty of Adrianople on Sept. 2 (14), 1829. Under the treaty, Russia received the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea (to the region north of Batumi) and the Akhaltsikhe region. Greece was granted independence, and Serbia, Moldavia, and Walachia were granted autonomy.

Russo-Turkish War of 1853–56. The Russo-Turkish War of 1853–56 was part of the Crimean War of 1853–56.

Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. The rise of the national liberation movement on the Balkan Peninsula and the exacerbation of international contradictions caused the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. Uprisings against the Turkish yoke in Bosnia and Hercegovina (1875–78) and Bulgaria (1876) evoked a broad social movement in Russia to help the fraternal Slavic peoples. To strengthen its influence in the Balkans, the tsarist government supported the rebels. Great Britain tried to bring Russia into conflict with Turkey, planning to benefit from a weakening of both countries. The Serbo-Turkish War, in which Serbia was defeated, began in June 1876. To save Serbia from destruction, on Oct. 19 (31), 1876, Russia demanded that Turkey conclude an armistice. Turkey accepted the demand, but in December, influenced by Great Britain, it rejected a settlement of the Eastern crisis drafted by an international conference of ambassadors in Istanbul. Under an agreement concluded in January 1877 between Russia and Austria-Hungary, the latter, in return for maintaining neutrality, received the right to occupy Bosnia and Hercegovina. An agreement reached with Rumania in March (April) allowed Russian forces to pass through Rumanian territory.

A new draft of reforms for the Balkan Slavs that had been elaborated on Russian initiative was rejected by the sultan in April 1877, and on April 12 (24), Russia declared war on Turkey. Rumania declared its support for Russia, but its armies did not undertake operations until August. In early June, Russian forces (185,000 men) commanded by Grand Duke Nikolai Ni-kolaevich the Elder concentrated on the left bank of the Danube, with the main forces in the Zimnitsa region. The forces of the Turkish Army, commanded by Abdülkerim Nadir Paşa, were numerically equal to the Russian Army. In the Caucasus the forces of the two sides were approximately equal: the Russian Caucasus Army, commanded by Grand Duke Mikhail Ni-kolaevich, had approximately 100,000 men, and Muhtar Paşa’s Turkish Army, approximately 90,000. In combat training the Russian Army was superior to the enemy, but its weapons were inferior. The Turkish forces were armed with the latest British and American rifles. The morale of the Russian forces was boosted by the active support of the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula and the Transcaucasus. The Bulgarian militia and the Armenian and Georgian militias operated as part of the Russian forces.

On June 10 (22) a Russian corps (the Lower Danube detachment) crossed the Danube near Galaţi and Brăila and soon occupied northern Dobruja. On the eve of June 15 (27), Russian forces commanded by General M. I. Dragomirov crossed the Danube near Zimnitsa, followed by the main forces of the army, but the combined forces were insufficient for a decisive offensive over the Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains). General I. Z. Gurko’s Forward Detachment (12,000 men) was assigned this mission. The Eastern Detachment (45,000 men) and the Western Detachment (35,000 men) were formed to protect the flanks. The remaining forces were located in Dobruja and on the left bank of the Danube or were approaching.

On June 25 (July 7) the Forward Detachment occupied Tyr-novo and on July 2 (14) crossed the Balkans through the Hain-keui Pass. The Shipka Pass was soon captured, and the newly formed Southern Detachment (20,000 men, increased to 45,000 in August) was advanced into the pass. The road to Constantinople was opened, but the forces were insufficient for an offensive into the region across the Balkans. The Forward Detachment occupied Stara Zagora (Eski-Zagora), but soon thereafter Suleiman Paşa’s 20,000-man corps, which had been transferred from Albania, arrived. After bitter fighting near Stara Zagora, during which the Bulgarian militia distinguished itself, the Forward Detachment withdrew toward the Shipka Pass.

Russian forces in the Balkans went over to the defensive. The Western Detachment took Nikopol’ but was unable to occupy Pleven, to which Osman Paşa’s 15,000-man corps had withdrawn from Vidin. Poorly prepared assaults on Pleven on July 8 (20) and 18 (30) ended in complete failure and tied down the Russian forces.

In the Caucasus, Russian forces took Bayazid and Ardahan in April and May and blockaded Kars. However, the division of the Russian forces into three detachments operating in different axes made it difficult to consolidate this success. By surrounding Bayazid and advancing with superior forces, the enemy compelled Russian forces to withdraw to the border and go over to the defensive. In the Balkan theater, the Turkish command failed in its attempt to organize a counteroffensive in August. In stubborn fighting the Russian forces held their positions in the Shipka Pass and repulsed the Turkish Army’s attack from the east against the Eastern Detachment. In the Caucasus, the Turkish Army’s offensive was stopped and subsequently crushed on October 1–3 (13–15) in the battle of Ala Dag. The Russian forces went over to the offensive, taking Kars by storm on the eve of Nov. 6(18) and advancing to Erzurum. In the Balkan theater another assault on Pleven (August 30–31 [September 11–12]) ended in failure, and Russian forces went over to a tight blockade, which ended on November 28 (December 10) with the surrender of Pleven’s garrison.

The Russian Army, which had 314,000 men against the enemy’s 183,000, went on the offensive. The Serbian Army resumed military actions against Turkey. General Gurko’s Western Detachment (71,000 men) crossed the Balkans under exceptionally difficult conditions and occupied Sofia on Dec. 23, 1877 (Jan. 4, 1878). On the same day the troops of General F. F. Radetskii’s southern detachment, with detachments led by Generals M. D. Skobelev and M. I. Sviatopolk-Mirskii, opened an offensive, surrounding and capturing Vesel Paşa’s 30,000-man army in the battle of Sheinovo on December 27–28 (January 8–9). On January 3–4 (15–17), 1878, Suleiman Paşa’s army was routed in the battle of Philippopolis (Plovdiv) and on January 8 (20), Russian forces took Adrianople. The hostile position toward Russia adopted by Great Britain and Austria-Hungary and the arrival of a British squadron in the Sea of Marmara forced the tsarist government to refrain from occupying Constantinople.

Signed on February 19 (March 3), the Treaty of San Stefano (1878) was advantageous to Russia and the Balkan countries, but its conditions were significantly narrowed at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Nonetheless, the war was very important: the Balkan peoples were liberated from the Turkish yoke and granted independence. Russia regained southern Bessarabia, which it had lost after the Crimean War, and the Kars region was incorporated into Russia.

As a result of the Russo-Turkish wars, many regions were liberated from the Turkish yoke and incorporated into Russia: the southern Ukraine, Bessarabia, the Crimea, the northwestern Caucasus, the Caucasian Black Sea coast, southwestern Georgia, and the northern part of Turkish Armenia.

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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.