Russo-Turkish War (1806–12)
The war broke out in 1805–1806 against the background of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1806, Sultan Selim III, encouraged by the Russian defeat at Austerlitz and advised by the French Empire, deposed the pro-Russian Constantine Ypsilanti as Hospodar of the Principality of Wallachia and Alexander Mourousis as Hospodar of Moldavia, both Ottoman vassal states. Simultaneously, the French Empire occupied Dalmatia and threatened to penetrate the Danubian principalities at any time. In order to safeguard the Russian border against a possible French attack, a 40,000-strong Russian contingent advanced into Moldavia and Wallachia. The Sultan reacted by blocking the Dardanelles to Russian ships and declared war on Russia.
Initially, Emperor Alexander I was reluctant to concentrate large forces against the Ottoman Empire while his relations with Napoleonic France were still uncertain and the main part of his army was occupied fighting against Napoleon in Prussia. A massive Ottoman offensive aimed at Russian-occupied Bucharest, the Wallachian capital, was promptly checked at Obilesti by as few as 4,500 soldiers commanded by Mikhail Miloradovich (June 2, 1807). In Armenia, the 7,000-strong contingent of Count Gudovich destroyed the Turkish force of 20,000 at Arpachai (June 18). In the meantime, the Russian Imperial Navy under Dmitry Senyavin blockaded the Dardanelles and defeated the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of the Dardanelles, after which Selim III was deposed. The Ottoman fleet was destroyed the following month in the Battle of Athos, thus establishing Russian supremacy on sea.
Campaigns of 1808–1810
At this point the war might have ended, if it were not for the Peace of Tilsit. The Russian Emperor, constrained by Napoleon to sign an armistice with the Turks, used the time of peace to transfer more Russian soldiers from Prussia to Bessarabia. After the southern army was augmented to 80,000 and the hostilities were resumed, the 76-year-old commander-in-chief Prozorovsky made little progress in more than a year. In August 1809 he was eventually succeeded by Prince Bagration, who promptly crossed the Danube and overran Dobruja. Bagration proceeded to lay siege to Silistria but, on hearing that the 50,000-strong Turkish army approached the city, deemed it wise to evacuate Dobruja and retreat to Bessarabia.
In 1810, the hostilities were renewed by the brothers Nikolay and Sergei Kamensky, who defeated the Ottoman reinforcement heading for Silistria and ousted the Turks from Hacıoğlu Pazarcık (May 22). The position of Silistria now appeared hopeless, and the garrison surrendered on May, 30. Ten days later, Kamensky laid siege to another strong fortress, Shumla. His storm of the citadel was repelled at great loss of life, and more bloodshed ensued during the storming of Rousse on July, 22. The latter fortress did not fall to the Russians until 9 September, after Kamensky's army had surprised and routed a huge Turkish detachment at Batyn on 26 August. On 26 October, Kamensky again defeated a 40,000-strong army of Osman Pasha at Vidin. Russians lost only 1,500 men, compared with 10,000 for their opponents.
However the young Kamensky caught a serious illness on February 4, 1811 and died soon thereafter, left the army under the command of Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron. To this point, although the Russians had won many battles, they had failed to achieve any important victories that would force the Ottomans to end the war. Furthermore, relationship between France and Russia quickly became strained - that means the incoming war is near and inevitable. The Russian Empire found that she needed to end the southern war quickly in order to concentrate on dealing with Napoleon. In such a situation, Tsar Alexander appointed his disfavoured general Mikhail Kutuzov to be the new commander of the Russian force.
|“||Alexander might not like Kutuzov, but he needed Kutuzov's intelligence, his talent and his prestige in the Army, where he was thought to be the direct successor of Suvorov.||”|
Kutuzov's campaigns (1811-1812)
Mikhail Kutuzov, in accordance with his cautious character, evacuated Silistria and slowly started to retreat northward. Kutuzov's withdrawal induced the Turks to launch a counter-offensive to recapture all the lost area. In 1811, 60,000 Turkish troops led by Grand Vizier Ahmet Pasha gathered at Shumla, the strongest Turkish fortress at that time. Kutuzov's troops were only about 46,000 men who were tired after five consecutive years of war. However, the Russian commander had plenty experience fighting the Turks: he knew that the Turks were only strong at the initial cavalry offensive and then its strength would rapidly decline after this cavalry assault was repelled; so the Russians had a great advantage when fighting in open battle.
That battle took place on 22 June 1811 near Rousse. As expected, the Russian infantry and cannons quickly repelled the Turkish troops and then defeated the Turkish army. This victory gained Kutuzov a portrait of Tsar Alexander I. But after that Kutuzov ordered his forces to cross the Danube to Bessarabia. This odd retreat made the Turks think that they won: a big party was held in Constantinople to celebrate the Turks' "victory". Alexander became very angry and demand an explanation. However, Kutuzov had a secret plan behind that strange act and he decided to keep quiet for a while.
Seeing that the Russians had retreated, the Turks prepared to launch a new attack. Several months later 70,000 Turkish troops led by Ahmet Pasha crossed the Danube river to assault the Russians. The main force (50,000 personnel) garrisoned the west bank, facing the Russian forces. The remaining 20,000 garrisoned at the east bank, guarding the ammunition and provisions. On the night of 2 November 1811 a separate Russian cavalry detachment secretly crossed the Danube and assaulted the east-bank Turkish troops, slew 9,000 troops and captured the remaining ones with all the Turks' provisions. The Russian casualties were low, about 25 cavalrymen and nine Cossack troops killed in action. Right after that, all the Russian forces attacked and quickly encircled the main Turkish army on the left-bank.
Kutuzov then received information that Ahmet Pasha was trying to escape the encirclement himself. The Russian commander let Ahmet escape because he knew that, according to Turkish law, the encircled Grand Vizier could not take part in peace negotiations - and peace is what Kutuzov needed. After that, Kutuzov contacted Ahmet to congratulate him on his successful escape and offer peace negotiations. But the Grand Vizier still hoped for reinforcements and tried to procrastinate. In response, the Russians took all the surrounding forts and cut all the supply lines to the encircled Turks.
With all the supply lines being cut off, the encircled Turks were threatened by hunger and disease. Kutuzov proposed supplying the Turks with food and provisions to allow them to survive. Tsar Alexander I did not agree with Kutuzov's idea, but Kutuzov explained that by keeping the Turks alive, he actually was holding a larger number of hostages and that would force the Sultan to negotiate. The plan was successful and on 28 May 1812 the Treaty of Bucharest was signed.
According to the Treaty, The Ottoman Empire ceded Bessarabia to Russia, despite that land nominally belonging to their vassal Moldavia, which they were supposed to protect. This really made Russia a new power in Danube area with great economically, diplomatically and militarily profitable frontier. Russia also gained considerable land in the Transcaucasian, nowadays located in the western part of Georgia.
The treaty was approved by Alexander I of Russia on June 11, just 13 days before Napoleon's invasion of Russia commenced, that allowed many of the Russian soldiers in the Balkans to be brought back to in time for the expected attack of Napoleon.
- Петров А.Н. The War between Russia and Turkey, 1806—1812, vol. 1-3. SPb, 1885—87.
- Alexander Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze, vol. 1-2. West Chester, OH : Nafziger Collection, 2002.
- First Serbian Uprising, contemporary conflict