"The consequence of the world." Silver table medal of the St. Petersburg Mint
Letters and Plans
Catherine proposed to the Austrian emperor to consider options for a possible post-war state system and outlined the main theses of the project, later called the "Greek". The Empress pointed out to her correspondent that, in her opinion, she had obvious signs of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, indicators of its weakness and decay. After listing the most obvious flaws in the Turkish state machine and noting the lack of negotiability of the ports, Catherine moved to the next step. It was suggested that in the event of a favorable development of the situation with the combined efforts of Russia and Austria it is quite possible to squeeze the Ottomans from the territory of Europe.
The territory of the former Turkish possessions was to become a “raw material” for the creation of Christian buffer states. It was especially emphasized that it would be very logical and useful to restore the ancient Byzantine Empire. The young grandson of Catherine Konstantin could have been at the head of it with a sedative condition for the Austrians: to completely abdicate the Russian throne.
The Empress was counting on the help of Joseph II in the reconstruction of the state that disappeared 300 years before the events described. In addition, the Austrian side proposed the idea of creating another buffer state, Dacia, which was supposed to include part of the territory of Moldova, Wallachia and modern Romania. Catherine II emphasized that she does not claim this education. The only condition was that the ruler of Dacia was a Christian. Of the territories for which Russia claimed, were the fortress of Ochakov, which controlled the entrance to the Dnieper Liman, and therefore, the approaches to Kherson, and the area between the Bug and the Dniester. In the future, these lands were ceded to the Russian side as a result of the Yassky Peace 1791 of the year.
On the whole, the message was carried out in the best traditions of diplomacy of the Enlightened Absolutism period with the wit of Catherine II. The trial balloon was fired, the Austrian emperor was lost in thought. Catherine II's proposals were not without interest, and the prospect of getting rid of a dangerous neighbor, who, by the way, had already besieged Vienna twice, was tempting. The problem was that Austria was ringing, but by no means the only violin in the European orchestra. The conflicts with Prussia were still fresh, and the possible reaction of France, whose positions had been traditionally strong in Istanbul since the 17th century, was not known.
Having considered the details, Joseph II in a response letter to Catherine in no less refined and amiable expressions voiced his question price in the future radical correction of the Ottoman possessions. With regard to the “Greek project” itself, the emperor spoke very streamlined and vague in the style of “war will show a plan”. However, for participation in the enterprise, Austria wanted itself Hotin, a significant part of Serbia along with Belgrade and northern Albania. In addition, it was planned to “ask for” Istria and part of Dalmatia from the Republic of Venice. To mitigate the inconvenience of the once mighty trade republic, it was supposed to offer Crete, Cyprus, Morea and some of the islands of the Archipelago as a consolation prize.
Catherine strongly opposed this point, since this reshuffle significantly reduced the territories in which the prospective Greek empire should have been. However, Joseph II did not particularly insist, hoping to return to controversial moments later. Much more than the grumbling from the Republic of St. Mark, he feared being embroiled in a major European war, which was quite possible if his plans were to redraw the map of the Ottoman Empire.
The fear of the Austrian emperor crystallized in his letters to him brother Leopold. “There are no territorial acquisitions that could compensate for the damage caused by the European war,” he pointed out to the emperor. Meanwhile, rumors began to circulate in Europe about the conclusion of a certain union between Russia and Austria. These rumors grew literally by leaps and bounds, by the hour, overgrown with details, one more terrible than the other. It is difficult to say now which of the high contracting parties had the leakage stronger.
Even before the conclusion of the agreement, Joseph II anxiously told the empress that their treaty had caused concern in Europe. Catherine, in response, expressed the highest bewilderment, since only she had access to personal correspondence in St. Petersburg. Anyway, the information that Joseph and Catherine “behind the back of the whole of Europe” gathered to share the possessions of the Ottoman Empire became, if not public, then the court unequivocally.
Old Fritz (Frederick II, King of Prussia) actively discussed the details of the Russian-Austrian agreement with his ambassadors, finding it, however, hardly realizable. The excitement around information about the union of the two empires arose at Versailles. French diplomats in Istanbul did not fail to use this argument as a measure of the usefulness of the Sultan’s friendship with Paris. However, the Ottoman Porte and without these efforts belonged to France with due reverence. Gold continued to pleasantly burden the wallets of the Turkish nobles, the French engineers strengthened the Turkish fortresses, and the officers taught the Turkish soldiers European military wisdom.
Concerned, Joseph seriously considered and discussed with Catherine the option of softening the French position in such a delicate matter. The emperor suggested that the Versailles anger be mitigated by transferring control over Egypt. It is no secret that options for taking control of this part of the Ottoman Empire were considered in France in the days of Cardinal Richelieu. In addition, the Habsburgs and Bourbons tied the dynastic bonds, which Joseph II also hoped for in the event of an aggravation.
Since, indeed, the Russian-Austrian agreement, defensive in essence, did not say a word about the territorial division of the Ottoman Empire, both parties attempted to alleviate the information noise that had arisen. Indeed, in fact, even in secret articles of the agreement between the two empires, nothing was said about the division of Turkish possessions between them, and all conversations on this score have not yet come out of the stage of secret correspondence and exchange of opinions.
Joseph II instructed his ambassador in Paris, Florimon de Merci-Argento, to convincingly, authoritatively and loudly assert that the Russian-Austrian treaty was aimed primarily at restraining the ambitions of Prussia, in the opinion of Vienna, and that there could be no division of any ports. can. Similar instructions were given to the Russian envoy in Istanbul to calm the Sultan and his entourage.
And yet the circles on the water from the stones thrown into it continued to diverge, and fears did not leave the high walls of the Topkapi Palace. The reason for the gloomy reflections gave the Turks not only the rapid strengthening of the Northern Black Sea region by the Russians, but also their own powerlessness at the sight of the escaping influence of the Crimean Khanate, which was in an ever more limiting state.
While Catherine and Joseph kindly exchanged secret letters, which, most likely, were not so secret, a chain of events occurred that significantly complicated the already not-so-easy Russian-Turkish relations. In 1782, a relative of the Crimean Khan, Shagin-Girey, Bahadir-Giray, raised an armed uprising on the peninsula, which was met in Istanbul with warm approval. Shagin Giray was forced to flee under the protection of Russian troops and turn to Catherine II for help.
Bahadir Giray was proclaimed a new khan, after which he immediately turned to the Sultan for support. There was a direct threat of the landing of Turkish troops on the Crimean peninsula. Fulfilling the request of the “legal ruler” Shagin-Giray, and to protect state interests, Russian troops were brought into the Crimea, who easily dispersed the rebels. Shagin-Giray, once again enthroned in Bakhchisarai, immediately proceeded to extensive political repression, whose scale forced Catherine II to order Grigory Potemkin to defend members of the Khan's family, including the main opposition figure Bahadir-Girey. So the Russian empress saved the lives of numerous relatives of the ruler who had returned from political emigration. However, the execution, confiscation and other unpopular methods of Shagin-Giray, whose rating among the local population was so low, caused a general negative attitude towards him.
Prince Potemkin takes the Crimea to the citizenship of Russia. Graphic artist Boris Artemyevich Chorikov
Realizing that if anything happens, the Russian garrison might not be able to reach it, in February 1783 Khan abdicated the throne, and the next logical step was the Highest manifesto in April of the same year about the entry of the Crimea into the Russian Empire. Such a decisive step caused a sharp indignation in Istanbul and strongly spurred preparations for war.
There have also been some important events in Europe. In 1783, the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty finally ended the war for the independence of part of the English colonies in America. England and France sheathed their swords and turned their gaze to Europe. London has not forgotten the unfavorable position of St. Petersburg regarding Armed Neutrality and Catherine’s refusal to provide troops for action against the rebels in America. Now the British began to pursue a policy of unfavorable for Russia towards the Ottoman Empire.
Requests of the Turks for additional funds for reconstruction fleet and the armed forces have found a comprehensive understanding in London. A little later, in 1786, King Frederick II died, who was very calm about the Catherine’s plans for the division of the Ottoman Empire, old-fashionedly sarcastically noting that they would remain on paper. His successor to the Prussian throne, Frederick William II, was less loyal to Russia.
After 1782, Catherine II and her esteemed Western partner Joseph II no longer engaged in the discussion of the “Greek project” in correspondence. It seemed that both monarchs were concerned with much more concrete matters and problems than the possible division of the European legacy of the Ottoman Empire. But in fact, the Russian empress was far from putting the “Greek project” on the shelf. Diplomatic consultations with Vienna were only an important, but not the only way to achieve the fulfillment of Catherine II’s plan.
Another significant mechanism in the implementation of the Greek project were the Greeks themselves. According to the results of the Kyuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty, Russia received the right to establish consulates on the territory of the Ottoman Empire. Russia began the practical implementation of this clause of the agreement after the annexation of the Crimea, in 1783 – 1784. The regions of their appearance were the southern Balkans, Morea and the Greek islands. A total of 15 consulates were opened. Of course, most of these consuls were Greeks by descent. Back in 1775, in St. Petersburg, the Corps of Foreign Co-religionists was founded to train military and diplomatic personnel, primarily from the Greeks. The Russian consuls in the Ottoman Empire not only tried to protect the local population from the arbitrariness of the Turkish authorities, but also collected various information. Thus, Russia had a fairly wide agent network in the Balkans and had a good idea not only about the situation in the western, European, part of the Ottoman Empire, but also about the mood among the local population.
Catherine was counting not only on the power of her own army and navy, but also on the full cooperation of the Greeks. Despite the tough, sometimes merciless policy of Istanbul, among the Greek population did not quench their desire to gain state independence. Russia was associated with the main hope of liberation from Turkish domination. By the way, the Greeks were actively carrying out armed assistance to the Russian Archipelago squadron during the 1768 – 1774 war. And even then the Greeks were in the Russian service to work among the local population.
So the former trader from Thessaloniki, Georgios Papazolis, and now the captain of the artillery of the Russian army, traveled all over Greece as a reconnaissance mission in 1765, collecting information and establishing contacts with the right people. And therefore, when a Russian squadron appeared on the Mediterranean Sea, it was soon joined by detachments of the armed Greek population. After the signing of the Kyuchuk-Kainarji Peace Treaty, a significant part of the insurgents who fought against the Turks emigrated to Russia and other countries. The Greeks, of course, were not very happy with the outcome of the Russian-Turkish war 1768 – 1774 for themselves, since with its end they did not come close to their own independence. Still, they retained a high degree of sympathy for Russia, which they counted on in St. Petersburg.
Project remaining project
In January, 1787, the city of Catherine II, left the capital and went on a long journey through Novorossia. Grigory Alexandrovich Potemkin was in a hurry to show the empress the results of his labors, all the more so since relations between Russia and Turkey were deteriorating, and few people doubted the proximity of the war. The Empress was accompanied by a huge retinue, including the ambassadors of England, France and Austria. Catherine II was so kind that she invited Joseph II to join the journey.
Fireworks in honor of Catherine during her trip to the Crimea. Unknown artist, the end of the XVIII century.
It's funny that at first the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was outraged that he, Caesar, at the first wave of the finger of some "ekaterinizirovannoy princess Zerbst" should rush to Kherson. However, having calmed down, the "Count Falkenstein" still rushed over. True, not in Kherson, but in the area of Kanev, where they highly deigned to climb the flagship galera Dnipro.
Ally made very welcome. In that same Kherson, both monarchs entered through a stylized triumphal arch with the significant inscription “The Road to Constantinople”. In Crimea, the guests were shown the ships of the young Black Sea Fleet. Catherine was very pleased with what she saw and was doubly satisfied with the fact that all this could be seen by representatives of respected Western partners.
Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, Count Kauenitz. Portrait by Jean-Etienne Liotar
The Empress clearly showed her Austrian ally that she was ready for an unfavorable course of events, and in turn waited for the full assistance of the Austrians. Joseph II returned to Vienna in a difficult state of mind. On the one hand, what he saw in the Crimea impressed the emperor. On the other hand, Chancellor Kaunitz, a long-standing opponent of the supporters of the division of the Ottoman Empire, with all the sophisticated tactfulness, again attacked his monarch, dissuading him from excessive rapprochement with Russia.
While both monarchs were thinking about their own, Sultan Abdul-Hamid I. entered into action. August 8, 5, Grand Vizier Koca Yusuf Pasha summoned the Russian ambassador to Istanbul, Yakov Ivanovich Bulgakov, and put forward an impossible ultimatum in advance: return Crimea, cancel all Russian-Turkish treaties and abandon the patronage of Georgia. Attempts to rally the Turks were useless, and on August 1787 12, the Sultan declared war on Russia.
To be continued ...