London Straits Convention
In the London Straits Convention concluded on 13 July 1841 between the Great Powers of Europe at the time – Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Austria and Prussia – the "ancient rule" of the Ottoman Empire was re-established by closing the Turkish straits (the Bosporus and Dardanelles), which link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, from all warships whatsoever, barring those of the Sultan's allies during wartime. It thus benefited British naval power at the expense of Russian as the latter lacked direct access for its navy to the Mediterranean.
The treaty is one in a series dealing with access to the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. It evolved as a reaction to the secret article in the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi (Unkiar Skelessi), created in 1833, in which the Ottoman Empire guaranteed exclusive use of the straits to Ottoman and Imperial Russian warships in the case of a general war, allowing no 'foreign vessels of war to enter therein under any pretext whatsoever'. The modern treaty controlling relations is the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits from 1936, which is still in force.
The Straits Convention evolved as a way to protect the Ottoman Empire from collapse. Egypt at this time, under the leadership of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, was revolting against the Ottoman Empire. Russian Tsar, Nicholas I, decided that the fall of the Ottomans would be disastrous and lead to greater war amongst the more powerful European nations and so chose to support the Ottoman Empire. They responded by signing the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi which promised to close the Straits to foreign warships if and when Russia was being attacked.
In 1833, Austria, Russia, and Prussia agreed that all steps should be taken to preserve the Ottoman Empire and if that could not be done then these three powers would work together to create a new Balkan territory. This did not keep the Turks and Egyptians from war and in 1839 it began again. Russia worked with Austria and Prussia to convince France, which itself had sided with Mehmet, to accept a multilateral agreement. This evolved into the Straits Convention of 1841, which included guarantees similar to the earlier Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi.
The motivation of Czar (Tsar) Nicholas I to agree to the closing of the straits has been said to be his uneasiness over the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi, which he feared might turn the other Great Powers against Russia by creating too close an alliance between him and the Sultan, Abdülmecid I. He also authorised the British Navy to quell the attack on the Ottoman Empire by its former vassal, Muhammad Ali. However, Anglo-Russian tensions over the region remained. The Ottoman Empire was the area where their two empires rubbed side by side.
From the British point of view, this convention helped preserve the European balance of power by preventing Russia's newly powerful navy from dominating the Mediterranean. From the Russian point of view, the treaty encouraged the aggressive policies of Britain in the region, which would lead to the Crimean War.
While these arrangements forced Czar (Tsar) Nicholas I to abandon his plans for reducing the Ottoman Empire to complete dependence upon Russia and wresting the control of the Christian countries of the Balkans from the Porte, the Ottoman Empire was not wholly independent after the convention, as it relied on Britain and France for protection.
- >Christos L. Rozakis (1987). The Turkish Straits. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 24–25.
- Taken from the original text of this treaty