At the same time, St. Petersburg’s plan to neutralize England failed. Emperor Nicholas I hoped to conclude an agreement with England on the division of the "sick man" - Turkey. This proposal was made by the Russian emperor in January 1853 in a conversation with the British Ambassador to Russia Hamilton Seymour. But London reacted to it extremely hostilely. The British, in principle, were not against the division of the Ottoman Empire, but not with Russia. The passage to the Straits Russia was dangerous for England. Russia became invulnerable from the Black Sea direction. The British, on the contrary, wanted to deprive the Russians of the gains in the Black Sea and in the Caucasus, to cut off Russia from the Black Sea, to return it to the political reality of the middle of the 17 century. In addition, the British assessed the intentions of St. Petersburg from their bell tower, attributing to Russia aggressive plans to seize Anatolia, subjugate Persia and exit to India. For the British, the concession of the Turkish territories of Russia meant a chain of defeats: Turkey - Iran - India. And this led to a serious geopolitical defeat of Great Britain. At the same time, with the loss of the straits, Russia gained complete dominance on the Balkan Peninsula and became the dominant superpower on the planet. In February, 1853, London gave a categorically negative answer.
Nikolay Pavlovich was wrong about the relations between England and France. His calculations were based on the assumption that a real rapprochement between Paris and London is impossible. Never the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte will forgive the British for the capture and death of his uncle on St. Helena. However, in February, when Nikolai was still trying to reach an agreement with the British, the French emperor Napoleon III sent a letter to Count James Malmesbury expressing a desire to form an alliance: “My most ardent desire to support your country, which I have always loved, the most friendly and intimate relations". Malmesbury replied in the same way that as long as there was an alliance between England and France, "both countries will be all-powerful." In London, they knew about the erroneous opinion of the Russian emperor Nikolay about the relations of England and France and, up to the war itself, tried to keep him in error, in effect provoking Petersburg to the most risky actions. So, in 1853, Lord Cowley, an English ambassador to Paris, came to London for a few days vacation. He was a very cautious, suspicious and sophisticated man. In an interview with the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Russia to Great Britain, Philip Brunov, the English ambassador was extremely “frank”, he told about the peaceful inclinations of the new French emperor, because his entourage, and he himself speculate on the stock exchange and are only interested in personal gain. And since war is unfavorable for industrial and financial speculation, it is not worth waiting for war. Cowley also said that the reign of Napoleon III is considered fragile. A war against such a powerful adversary as Russia will inevitably lead to a social explosion in France. The government of Napoleon III will not risk. It is clear that in St. Petersburg were delighted by this news, from the "informed source." Lord Cowley did not stop at this and “amicably told” that in London they do not trust Napoleon III and fear the French invasion of England, they want to strengthen ground forces.
The British deliberately made efforts to draw Russia into a conflict with Turkey and France. This was their usual strategy. In the 1914 year, London will deceive Berlin in the same way, creating the illusion of its neutrality until the last moment. Already in February 1853, the English Foreign Minister Clarendon concluded a secret agreement with the French that from now on both powers should not say nothing, not do anything in the area of the Eastern question without prior agreement. The British skillfully prepared a trap for Russia, first provoking Russia into a conflict with Turkey, and then against the Russians, France, England and Austria were supposed to defend the Ottomans.
Portrait of A.S. Menshikov. The work of the German artist Franz Kruger.
Embassy of Menshikov
Nikolay, despite the refusal of the British to conclude an agreement on Turkey, decided that the foreign policy situation was favorable and it was necessary to increase the pressure on Porto. The emperor sent the maritime minister Alexander Menshikov to Constantinople, demanding recognition of the rights of the Hellas church to holy places in Palestine and on granting the Russian empire protection over 12 to millions of Christians in Turkey, who constituted about a third of the Ottoman population. All this should have been fixed in the form of a contract. In Petersburg it was assumed that the mission of Menshikov would be successful.
However, the Turks did not think to give in. Moreover, revanchist sentiments were widespread in Turkey. Omer Pasha, commander of the troops in the Balkans, assured the government that he would not allow the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and would not let the Russians across the Danube. In addition, Constantinople was convinced that Britain and France would not abandon them, and if necessary, they would use it. weapon. On the other hand, the Turkish elite was ambivalent about the situation. The Western powers have more than once deceived Porto, so some dignitaries did not have confidence in the "francs". The Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha considered resolution of problems by diplomatic means the most beneficial and safe for Turkey without war. The “hawks” led by Omer Pasha and foreign minister Fuad-efendi believed that the time had come to take revenge for past defeats and that, with sentiments in England and France, the situation for the war with Russia would never be better .
Menshikov’s visit was demonstrative: first he visited Bessarabia and in Chisinau made a review of the 5th army corps, then he arrived in Sevastopol and conducted a review of the Black Sea fleet and only after that on the steamer the Thunderbolt departed for Constantinople. There were people in his retinue through whom Menshikov could keep in touch with the troops in Bessarabia and the Black Sea Fleet — chief of staff of the 5th corps, General Nepokoichitsky and chief of staff of the Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral Kornilov. At the end of February 1853, the ship moored at Top Khan.
Menshikov immediately went to the aggravation. So, he had to make the first visit to the vizier, and the second to the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Fuad-efendi, who was known as an implacable opponent of Russia. The Russian envoy refused to meet with Fuad-efendi. Sultan Abdul-Mejid I, concerned about the concentration of Russian troops in the Danube and the tough behavior of Menshikov, immediately sent Fuad-efendi to resign and appointed Rifaat Pasha as foreign minister. The Western powers, for their part, also took all steps to unleash a war. A famous hater of Russia — Lord Stretford-Radcliffe — was sent from England to Constantinople. A French fleet from Toulon headed for the shores of Turkey.
When meeting with Sultan, Menshikov handed a letter to Nicholas. The message was generally polite, but contained a warning about the need to respect the “lit the rights of the Orthodox Church” and remember the possible consequences of the rejection of the demands of Russia. In addition, the Russian emperor expressed his willingness to assist the Ottoman Empire if any power would put pressure on the sultan (meaning France). The Russian Tsar proposed to Abdul-Mejid I to conclude an alliance with Russia. Later on, Menshikov 4 (16) of March handed a note to the new Foreign Minister Rifaat Pasha, where he categorically demanded that the Sultan retake some of the concessions made to him to the Catholics.
12 (24) March Menshikov outlined the draft convention, which was to formalize Russia's patronage over the Orthodox population and strengthen the privileges of the church. This project has frightened the Sultan and the Turkish government. If Istanbul had signed such an agreement, Petersburg would have the opportunity of constant control and interference in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, this right was provided with an official contract.
The Western powers responded by sending their fleets to the shores of Turkey. Napoleon III, having learned about the demands of Russia, convened a council of ministers in the Tuileries Palace to decide the question of further actions. The overwhelming majority of ministers came out against immediate action. Foreign Minister Douin de Lewis made a report where he acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and the inadmissibility of concessions from Turkey, but advised not to rush to take decisive measures. The Council of Ministers supported his opinion. But the situation was turned around by the Minister of the Interior, Percigny, he was a supporter of the most drastic measures in domestic policy and foreign policy, believed that the state needed an external enemy so that most of the population was distracted from the internal problems of France. His speech inclined the opinion of the emperor in the direction of decisive action. 23 March 1853, the French fleet left Toulon.
5 April 1853, Stratford-Radcliffe, the new British Ambassador, arrived in Constantinople. On the way, he visited Paris and Vienna and everywhere met with understanding and vigorous support. The British ambassador led a cunning game, pretended that he had nothing against Russia and wanted to settle the matter with the world, at the same time he gave advice to the Ottoman dignitaries. The British ambassador urged the sultan and his ministers to meet Russian demands, but only partially. Agree with those relating to the "holy places", but do not sign an agreement with St. Petersburg, which has international legal significance. In addition, the wording of the concessions should not have included the rights of the Russian emperor to interfere in relations between the Turkish government and the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire. Here Stratford-Radcliffe led a win-win game, knowing that Menshikov would not agree only to concession on the issue of "holy places." In the event of a military threat from Russia, the English ambassador promised help.
Almost all of April was held in fairly peaceful negotiations between Menshikov and the Ottoman dignitaries and the exchange of draft agreements on the "holy places." This was due to the fact that Stratford-Radcliffe, who took the leadership of Turkey’s foreign policy, recommended that the Ottomans be compliant in this matter. And Menshikov was waiting for the military preparations to end in Bessarabia. On April 23 (May 5), the Sultan sent two firms (decrees) to the Russian envoy, which gave full satisfaction to St. Petersburg in the matter of "holy places." Menshikov immediately protested. He pointed out that his basic requirements are not satisfied, that there are no “guarantees for the future,” and this is the main concern of the emperor Nikolai Pavlovich. Menshikov said that the new firman should have the value of a formal commitment regarding the Russian government. At the same time, Menshikov handed over a draft agreement between Russia and Turkey, in which the two points were most unacceptable for the Ottomans: the form of the Sultan’s international legal obligation to St. Petersburg and the actual interference of the tsar in the affairs of Orthodox Christians, which constituted a significant part of the Ottoman empire half). Menshikov set the deadline for the answer - May 10. In fact, the Russian envoy delivered an ultimatum, threatening to break off relations and departure from Constantinople.
Stratford immediately made a visit to Menshikov and made it clear that England would not intervene in the conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, and would not provide military and material assistance to the Turks. Menshikov immediately reported this to Petersburg. As a result, until the very last moment in Russia they did not know that England was ready to side with Turkey. The Ottomans will remain alone, since France without England will not oppose Russia. 8 May Stratford-Radcliffe wrote to Menshikov a letter in which he urged him to be indulgent to the Turks and not to leave Constantinople. May 9 Briton visited the Sultan, who was in a depressed state of mind and said that in the event of a serious threat he has the right to call the Mediterranean squadron. Menshikov did not leave 10 in May and began to wait for the outcome of the May meeting of the 13 convened couch.
Ministers tended to refuse. Then the Sultan appointed a new meeting, making new changes in the government: instead of Rifaat Pasha, Reshid Pasha was appointed to the place of foreign affairs, Mustafa Pasha was approved as the Grand Vizier instead of Mehmet Pasha. Reshid Pasha was an opponent of Russia and was in close relations with the British ambassador. On the night of 13 on 14 May a new sitting of the sofa was held. Reshid Pasha strongly advised the Sultan to reject the Russian proposal. But immediately the answer to Menshikov was not given, although Reshid-Pasha had already compiled it with the help of Stratford (who in fact wrote it). Reshid Pasha asked for a delay of six days. Menshikov agreed, and asked Rehid-Pasha to weigh the "incalculable consequences and great misfortunes" that would fall on the Ottoman ministers if they persisted. All the last days before the break, the English and French ambassadors came to support the Sultan, who continued to hesitate, promising aid to France and England.
21 May there was a final break in the relationship. Menshikov ordered the captain of the Thunderbearer to sail, the ship headed for Odessa. From that moment until June 20, when a final decision was made in St. Petersburg to occupy the Danube principalities, there was a stubborn diplomatic confrontation that eventually led to war on conditions unfavorable to Russia. Russia was lured into a trap, it was in political isolation.
British politician Stratford de Redcliffe.