140 years ago, 24 April 1877, the next Russian-Turkish war began. Russia declared war on Turkey. Petersburg hoped for a quick war to avoid the intervention of the great European powers, who feared Russia's gain in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, and the seizure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles of Constantinople-Istanbul by the Russians. However, due to the strategic mistakes of the Russian high command, the war took a protracted nature and Russia was unable to solve the main strategic tasks in the Balkans and in the zone of straits.
Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 became one of the most important events of the second half of the XIX century. She had a great influence on historical the fate of many peoples, on the foreign policy of the great powers, on the future of Turkey, the Balkan countries, Austria-Hungary and Russia. In many ways, this war became the prologue of a future world war. The incompleteness of the war turned the Balkans into the "powder magazine" of Europe. Russia was not able to solve the historical problems of obtaining straits and Constantinople, which showed the weakness of Russia's policy of the Romanovs. On the other hand, as a result of the victory of the Russian weapons Bulgaria, freed from the centuries-old Ottoman yoke, received the full national independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. Russia returned the southern part of Bessarabia, lost after the Crimean War, annexed the Kars region, populated by Armenians and Georgians, and occupied the strategically important Batumi region.
Prerequisites of war. The position of Turkey.
The war was caused by two main prerequisites. Firstly, this is the historical opposition of Russia and Turkey in three regions - in the Caucasus, in the Black Sea region (including the straits zone) and in the Balkan Peninsula. At the same time, the Russian civilization was solving strategic tasks of creating sustainable natural borders in the Caucasus and the Danube, and ensuring security in the southern direction. And for this it was necessary to occupy the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits in order to close the Black (Russian) Sea for hostile powers. Russia already had the sad experience of the Eastern War 1853-1856, when the fleets of England and France blocked the weaker Russian fleet and landed the expeditionary army in the Crimea. The degradation of the armed forces, the economy, and the internal instability of the Ottoman Empire facilitated this task.
On the other hand, Turkey hoped with the support of the Western powers to take revenge for the previous defeats, to retain possession in the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire was supported by England, Austria and France, who were afraid of the expansion of Russia in the Balkans and in the Caucasus, the exit of the Russians to the southern seas. Therefore, the British and French tried to pit Russia and Turkey.
Secondly, in the middle of the XIX century. The Ottoman Empire was in a state of protracted socio-economic, national and political crisis. The previous reforms and the attempt to modernize the country along the western path could not stop the decomposition of the foundations of the Turkish feudal state and its disintegration. The once mighty military power was an economically backward agrarian country, whose economy and finances were subordinated to Western countries.
Agriculture in Anatolia stood on the same level as 500 and even 1000 years ago. Large landowners owned a large and better part of the land, renting it out to the peasants. The landlords shamelessly robbed tenants completely dependent on them. In some parts of the empire, the dues and corvee remained. All this had a negative impact on the country's agriculture and was a heavy burden for the peasantry. The tax system ruined the country. The main agricultural cash was ashar (tax in kind), which, as a rule, was given by the authorities to the mercy. Tax collectors gathered tithes, a quarter or even a third of the crop, ruining the peasants. Other taxes were also ruinous to the public. Tax oppression was intensified by usury, thriving in the country. The country was extremely underdeveloped transport network. The length of all empire railways in the 1870s was only 1600 km, in Anatolia there were only two small railway lines. There were almost no highways, dirt roads were in very poor condition.
The industry was in disrepair. Its level was so low that the Ottoman Empire bought almost all consumer goods in Europe, except for agricultural products. The country had no enterprises in the steel industry and engineering. In a miserable condition were a few extractive industries. Even the flourishing textile industry was in complete decline. The production of silk and wool products fell sharply at such ancient traditional centers as Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut. Illegal extortion and bribery, which in the XIX century, literally struck all spheres of life in Turkey, the most disastrous effect on the country's economy. Things reached the point that the administration of local officials could only be found with the help of an even greater bribe to a higher official in the relevant department. Literally everything was sold and bought - from the most important posts in the central and provincial apparatus to ordinary, but profitable posts in the judicial department and the police, etc.
In addition, external factors hindered economic development. Western capital turned Turkey into a market for European industrial goods and a source of cheap agricultural raw materials. Based on the capitulation regime imposed by Western countries on Istanbul, foreign goods were subject to extremely low import duties. In such conditions, local industrial production, which was in its infancy, could not compete with developed western industries. Turkey gradually became a semi-colony of the West. Since the middle of the century, the Port has been constantly extinguishing the state budget deficit through external loans. By 1876, Turkey received 14 loans, its external debt was 277 million lire (more than 6 billion francs). Debt payment was usually provided by transferring a number of items of state revenue to foreign banks. As a result, the Ottoman government gradually lost control of the country's finances. In 1870's, about half of the empire's budget expenditures went towards paying off debt and paying interest. And the situation is constantly getting worse.
To the subordination of the country to foreign capital led and reckless presentation of concessions to Western entrepreneurs and bankers. Thus, foreign capital received several concessions for the construction of railways, for the development of natural resources, and the establishment of banks. In 1856, the Ottoman bank was established by Anglo-French capital. He received the status of the state bank of the empire. At the same time, the terms of concession agreements were extremely disadvantageous for the Ottoman Empire. They ravaged the country, increased its dependence on the West and enriched Western industrialists and bankers. The country's foreign trade also became dependent on Western capital. A significant trade deficit was permanent. Turkey has become a market and source of raw materials for foreign capital.
Despite such a deplorable state of the economy, the Sultan and his entourage wastefully disposed of the country's income. Huge amounts were spent on maintaining the Sultan's court, building palaces, buying modern weapons abroad. Only during the reign of Sultan Abdul Aziz (1861-1876) more than 7 million lire (161 million francs) were spent on the construction of palaces. Huge funds went to replenish fleet, ships ordered abroad. The squandering of the Sultan and the Ports was supplemented by embezzlement in the military department, the machinations of suppliers of equipment and food for the army and navy.
The foreign policy position of the empire was also very unfavorable. After the Crimean War, Turkey did not achieve significant territorial concessions and contributions from Russia. At the same time, Istanbul increasingly lost its independence in foreign policy. The European powers constantly and for any reason interfered even in the internal affairs of the once powerful Ottoman power. Turkey did not become a complete colony and was not divided among the colonial empires of the West only because the rivalry of powers prevented them from directly seizing the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul became the arena of constant diplomatic struggle and intrigues of the Western powers for the prevailing economic and political influence. Under the pretext of helping to carry out reforms or under the guise of protecting a group of non-Muslim population of Turkey, the leading European powers, through their ambassadors in Istanbul, interfered in the affairs of the country, trying to consolidate and strengthen their positions in the economy, finances, and ensure dominance in the sphere of politics. In this case, it came to military and political pressure on Istanbul. Thus, the Druze (an Arab ethnoconfessional group) 1860, with the connivance of the Ottoman authorities, massacred thousands of Christians (mainly Maronite Catholics, but also Greek Catholics and Orthodox). The threat of French military intervention forced Porto to restore order. Under pressure from the European powers, the Port accepted the appointment of a Christian governor in Lebanon, who was nominated by the Ottoman Sultan after coordination with the European powers.
The internal political situation of the country in 1860-1870-s was very tense. The standard of living of various segments of the population fell. The strengthening of tax oppression increasingly worsened the position of the peasantry. Dissatisfaction with the authorities was manifested both in the city and in the village. Against the growth of taxes and high prices, even the soldiers rebelled. Thus, Turkey was the "sick man" of Europe and it went to its division between the great powers.
National liberation movement
At the same time, the national liberation movement of the non-Turkish peoples of the Ottoman Empire, which became the main reason for the war, continued to gain momentum. In the XIV-XVI centuries. The Ottoman Empire seized the Balkan Peninsula. Southern Slavs were in the most difficult situation among the population of the empire, they additionally experienced national and religious oppression. The sultan government and the feudal lords sought at all costs to prevent the separation from the empire of any of the previously occupied territories, to preserve the power of the Ottomans over the conquered peoples. Therefore, they responded to national uprisings with massive repression, terror, and local slaughter.
However, as the Ottoman Empire weakened, the resistance of the Christian and Slavic peoples intensified. The national liberation movement in the Balkans reached a particularly wide scope in the 1860-1870-s. By this time, only Greece achieved independence. Montenegro, in the stubborn struggle of de facto independence, did not have the legal status of a sovereign state. Serbia and Romania were considered vassal states and paid tribute to Turkey. Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina and other areas of the peninsula, where Turkish officials and feudal lords had unlimited power, remained the powerless provinces of the Ottoman Empire. “We are slaves ... We cannot even say that the head that we have on our shoulders belongs to us,” wrote Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev.
In 1868-1869 a heavy and bloody struggle against the Ottomans was led by the population of Crete, who sought to annex their island to Greece. Porta brutally cracked down on Cretan rebels. However, due to the attention of the European public, Turkey made concessions by introducing self-government on the island, which strengthened the rights of Christians.
The most powerful and organized national liberation movement was in Bulgaria, which significantly increased in the 60-70-s. In 1860, the revolutionary and writer Georgy Rakovsky noted that the path to liberation does not lie through revenge on individual Turkish rapists, but through a nationwide armed uprising that can be led by a detachment of Bulgarian patriots organized in the territory of a neighboring state. In the summer of 1868, a detachment headed by Stefan Karadja and Hadji Dimitar set off for Bulgaria to raise a popular uprising. The Turks suppressed the center of the uprising, its leaders died.
At the head of the national liberation movement stood Vasil Levski and Lyuben Karavelov. They came to the conclusion that the uprising must be prepared in Bulgaria itself. The Bulgarian Central Revolutionary Committee (BRCC) was established. In Bulgaria, they are creating a network of underground revolutionary committees that have been training members of military affairs and supplying weapons. In 1873, Vasil Levsky and his comrades were executed in Sofia. Mass arrests and executions disorganized the revolutionary organization. The BRCC split into the faction of Stefan Stambolov and Panayot Khitov, who demanded an immediate uprising, and the faction of Lyuben Karavelov, the head of the BRCC, leaning on the need for additional preparation work. Supporters of the uprising received a predominant role in the movement. The revolutionary organization was headed by Hristo Botev.
In 1875, Herzegovina rebelled, and then Bosnia. This led to the intensification of the Bulgarian patriots. The following year began the April Uprising, which was brutally crushed by Turkish troops. Turkish troops committed mass killings of civilians, especially irregular units - bashi-bazouks - were rampant. Botev, together with a graduate of the Nikolaev Military Academy, Lieutenant of the Russian Army Nikolai Voinovsky, commanded a detachment of 276 men who landed from the Radetsky steamer near Kozloduya, which arrived from Romania on the Danube River, in the north-west of the country. However, the hope for a general uprising in this region did not materialize. By the time the Botev detachment landed, the uprising had actually been crushed all over the country. According to the official version of 20 May (1 June), Botev was wounded in the chest and died almost immediately.
Despite the defeat, the April uprising shook Turkish feudal domination in Bulgaria, and Ottoman terror attracted the attention of the world community, the great powers (first of all, of England and the Russian Empire) to events in the Balkans. The uprising was the subject of consideration at the Constantinople Conference and one of the causes of the Russian-Turkish war.
Public opinion in Russia
In Russia, in the autumn of 1875, a mass movement of support for the Slavic struggle unfolded, encompassing all social strata. With the Russian people, the Slavs of the Balkans associated the hope of liberation from the Ottoman yoke. In the 16th century, among the Bulgarian people, a legend was born about the mighty “Uncle Ivan” - the Russian people, who will certainly come and deliver them from slavery. This belief was reinforced by the regular wars of Russia and Turkey in the XVIII-XIX centuries. The outstanding victories of the Russian arms gradually weakened the military power of the Ottoman Empire, undermined its dominance in the Balkans and the Caucasus, facilitated the struggle for independence for various peoples.
The Balkan rebels were greatly assisted by the Slavic committees - the only legal organizations that collected donations and sent them to their destination. Money came from all over the country. The amounts collected through various channels and sent to aid the rebels of Bosnia and Herzegovina were very significant. Only the Moscow Slavic Committee collected more than 1875 thousand rubles by the end of 100 of the year. As the struggle in the Balkans intensified, the movement in support of the national liberation movement grew stronger. A new wave of public indignation has risen in Russia in connection with the terror in Bulgaria. The best Russian people — DI Mendeleev, N. I. Pirogov, L. N. Tolstoi, F. M. Dostoevsky, I. S. Turgenev, I. E. Repin, etc., came out in defense of the Bulgarian people.
In June 1876, Serbia and Montenegro came out against Turkey. This caused a new upsurge in favor of the southern Slavs in Russia. The collection continued. In total, about 4 million rubles were raised to help the fraternal peoples. The volunteer movement began. Advanced Russian officers demanded that they be given the right to resign and join the ranks of the rebels. Under the pressure of public opinion, Tsar Alexander II allowed the officers to leave for temporary retirement and join the Serbian army as volunteers. Hundreds of Russian officers took leave and went to the Balkans. Soon the volunteer movement swept the whole of Russia. Government agencies and Slavic committees received thousands of applications from people of different social backgrounds with a request to send them volunteers to the Balkan front. The Astrakhan governor in August 1876 reported to St. Petersburg: “Recently, people have come to me every day in a significant number of different classes with a request to give them material means to go to Serbia for the war for the same Slavs, and in August 16 and my office were literally similar demands are besieged by people of different classes ... There were also women in the crowd who also wanted to go to Serbia as sisters of mercy. ”
Slavic committees, which had large sums of money from voluntary donations, took over the organization of sending volunteers to the Balkans. Special recruiting presentations were created. The major recruitment centers were Moscow, St. Petersburg, Odessa, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol, Yekaterinodar, Novocherkassk, Vladikavkaz, etc. Slavic committees tried first to send officers, both retired and retired. They were given a lift and paid for the railway to the border. In Belgrade, they received weapons and uniforms. Thus, 700-800 Russian officers, mostly brave and experienced people, were sent to Serbia. A Turkish officer, who returned to Constantinople from the front, wrote: “I have never seen such soldiers, they are always in front of their soldiers with a naked saber, often with an uncovered head, rush into the landfill, delivering cruel blows to the right and left. One enthusiastic kind of them should inspire the soldiers. Oh, if we had such officers! ”
Important was the organization of medical care. In December, 1875, one of the first sanitary units of the Russian Red Cross Society, left for Montenegro. Russian doctors organized a hospital in Cetinje and an infirmary in Grahov. A group of doctors found in Dubrovnik, accepting refugees. In 1876, new medical facilities opened in Montenegro. They were led by Professor N. V. Sklifosovsky, Professor of the Medical-Surgical Academy. In Serbia, the sanitary detachment first worked, headed by the well-known doctor S. P. Botkin. Then new sanotryads from various cities of Russia began to arrive there. In the hospitals of Belgrade, doctors from the Kiev and Moscow sanitary detachments helped the people, in Deligrad - doctors from Novgorod, in Kragujevac - from Ryazan, in Yagodina - from Kharkov. The ambulance detachment of the University of Dorpat provided great assistance. The Russian Red Cross Society sent 115 doctors, 4 pharmacists, 118 sisters of mercy, 41 students and 78 medical assistants to Serbia. The Red Cross Society spent about 700 thousand rubles to help the wounded and sick of Serbia and Montenegro.
In Russia, progressive circles justified the liberation goals of the war, the conservatives talked about the seizure of Constantinople, the straits and the creation of a Slavic federation led by monarchical Russia (ideas of messianism and panslavism). The traditional Russian dispute between Slavophiles and Westernizers overlapped this dispute. The Slavophiles, represented by the writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, saw in the war the fulfillment of a special historical mission of the Russian people, which was to rally the Slavic peoples around Russia on the basis of Orthodoxy. Dostoevsky wrote in his diary in 1876: “Yes, the Golden Horn and Constantinople - all this will be ours ... it will happen by itself, precisely because the time has come, and if it hasn’t come yet now, then indeed the time is at hand, all the signs. This is a natural way out; it is, so to speak, a word of nature itself. If this did not happen earlier, it is precisely because time has not matured yet. ”
In 1877, the great Russian writer reiterated his opinion: “Constantinople must be ours, sooner or later ... Not only a magnificent port, not only a road to the seas and oceans connect Russia so closely with the fate of the fateful issue, and not even unification and the revival of the Slavs ... Our task is deeper, immensely deeper. We, Russia, are really necessary and inevitable for the whole of Eastern Christianity, and for the whole fate of the future Orthodoxy on earth, for its unity. Our people and their sovereigns always understood this ... In a word, this terrible Eastern question is almost our whole fate in the future. It contains, as it were, all our tasks and, most importantly, our only way out into the fullness of history. It contains both our final clash with Europe and the final unity with it, but on new, powerful, fruitful principles. Oh, where can Europe now understand all that fateful vital importance for us in resolving this issue! In a word, no matter what the present, so necessary, maybe diplomatic agreements and negotiations in Europe end up, it’s sooner, later, but Constantinople should be ours, and at least only in the future, only a century! This, we Russians, must always be borne in mind, everyone is relentless. ”
The Westernizers, represented by I. S. Turgenev, denied the significance of the messianic, religious aspect and believed that the goal of the war was not the defense of Orthodoxy, but the liberation of the Bulgarians. Turgenev wrote: “Bulgarian ugliness insulted humane feelings in me: they only live in me — and if this cannot be helped except by war — well, so is the war!” Thus, in general, Russian public opinion advocated a war of liberation against Turkey.