Russians versus the Japanese (1904) & the Turks (4 times in the 19th century)

Marshal Kutuzov / en.wikipedia.org

Marshal Kutuzov / en.wikipedia.org

The fight between the Japanese and Russia was (and is) significant because it was all about control of both Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese launched an unexpected and unheralded assault on Russian warships anchored in their Manchurian naval base at Port Arthur. Pearl Harbor 37 years later was a sequel (Port Arthur now has another name of course).

 The Russian answer to this aggression was to send its entire Baltic fleet 18,000 miles from a base in the East China Sea, but it was a useless and fatal move because Admiral Togo and his fleet wiped the Russians off the nautical map in a sea battle that was important because it was the first Japanese defeat of a Western power on land or sea.

The Treaty of Portsmouth, England ended the war, which exploded between 1904/5 only. The Russians experienced humiliation that contributed a great deal to the later Bolshevik Revolution.

The Russo-Turkish Wars were a series of armed conflicts which started in 1806, 1828, 1853 and 1877 respectively. The longest was the first (1806 -12): Russia fought the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, the Crimea and the Caucasus, seeking political domination of these places

The four wars enabled Slavonic nations such as Serbia, Roumania and Bulgaria to stimulate their nationalist aspirations. In 1812 it was Marshal Kutuzov in the Balkans who finally forced the Turks to make peace, but it had required six years of bitter and costly fighting. Serbia’s autonomy was recognised, and Bessarabia found to its astonishment that it was now Russian.

The next war (1828-29) was in fact a result of the Greek War of Independence as Russians ships fought the Turks at the Battle of Navarino, which the Turks lost. Greece gained its independence. One Russian army invaded Wallachia (always remembered because of its Voivoide Dracul who made a habit of impaling his prisoners while he had breakfast). Moldavia was also invaded and Constantinople was threatened; a second Russian army crossed the Caucasus to reach the River Euphrates, but the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) ended the war, giving Wallachia and Moldavia virtual independence and granting Russia control over parts of Armenia.

In the Crimean War of 1853 – 56 Russia was opposed by Britain and France, as well as Turkey and Austria. Most human wars are useless in the end, but the Crimean War seemed to be an excuse for slaughtering the maximum number of men from the involved nations as possible, as well as giving a chance for the ‘cardigan’, the ‘sandwich’ and the ‘balaclava helmet’ to be invented; the War provided a marvellous theme for Alfred Lord Tennyson (‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’), and the ancient British commander Raglan to ask an inferior if the enemy were Russian or French. The Treaty of Paris ‘ceded’ territories.

In 1876 the Turks put down an uprising in Bulgaria with their customary ruthlessness, and caused an uproar in Europe against ‘the Bulgarian Atrocities’. Russia took the chance and invaded the country claiming it wished to save Bulgarian Christians from the slaughter: but they again threatened Constantinople and the Treaty of San Stefano was thought up in March 1878 to stop the war; this invited criticism from both Britain and Germany and had to be modified by the Congress of Berlin (1878) as San Stefano would have given too much influence to Russia in the Balkans. These four wars also produced the famous quote concerning Turkey, dubbed ‘The Sick Man of Europe’ by the other powers.

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