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Second Russo-Turkish War (1787-1792)

War once again erupted between the Turks and the Russians between 1787 and 1792. It was later called the Second Russo-Turkish War. The goal was the domination of Crimea which fell under Russian rule during the First Russo-Turkish War. Just like the previous war against the Russia, the Ottomans suffered heavy losses in this conflict. In the end, Russia annexed Crimea and the Ottomans were once again forced to sue for peace in 1792.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online during this time period.

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Crimea: The Bone of Contention

Depiction of the Victory of Ochakiv in 1788

The Ottoman Empire shrank again after it was forced to give up Crimea to the Russians in 1774 (Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca). Not only did the Empire lost a strategically important part of its territory, but it also lost a crucial ally: the Crimean Tatars. In 1777, the Venice-educated Sahin Giray became the khan of his people with the approval of Empress Catherine II. The new khan pushed for the modernization of his domain, which included a complete overhaul of the government and the military. But he made the mistake of prioritizing non-Muslim subjects in these reforms, so the Muslim population promptly rebelled against him. Russia sent troops to Crimea when the khan requested assistance, and the rebellion was quelled with their help.

The Ottomans tried to oust Sahin Giray in 1778, but this plot failed. The khan implemented another set of reforms, and another rebellion broke out in 1782. Empress Catherine II sent her troops to help the khan once again, but they stayed for good this time. Crimea was officially annexed by Russia the following year.

In the clash of powerful neighbors, Sahin Giray soon discovered that he was nothing more than a means to an end for both the Russians and the Ottomans. Increasingly unpopular at home because of his alliance with the Russians, Sahin Giray decided to switch loyalties. He appealed to Catherine many times to set him free during the four years that he was kept a prisoner by the Russians. The empress finally set him free in 1787, and he traveled to Edirne to meet with the Sultan. He never reached the city as the Sultan sent him into exile to the island of Rhodes where he was eventually executed. Sahin Giray was the last khan of the Crimean Tatars.

With the Crimean khan gone, the Russians started to resettle their own people in the steppes. They also started to build a fleet on the coast of Kherson on the Black Sea. This alarmed the Ottomans who then proceeded to fortify a couple of ports opposite Crimea as preparation. The Turks constructed additional forts to guard the Bosphorus and checked every Russian ship which plied the Black Sea. They also closed down a number of Russian consulates in Ottoman territory.

The Ottomans expressed their desire to get Crimea back the same year the khan died. Despite its unpopularity among the people, the Ottoman rulers still pushed through with the Second Russo-Turkish War in 1787. Fighting between the Russian and Ottoman troops centered in the area where the Dnieper River met the Black Sea. The coastal Ottoman fortress in Ochakiv fell to the Russians in 1788.

By 1789, it was clear to the Ottomans that their Crimean campaign was a massive failure. A drained treasury and Selim III’s chaotic accession as sultan made the war more difficult for the Ottomans. In the same year, the Russians invaded Wallachia which greatly reduced the Ottoman territory in Europe. In winter of the same year, the Russians tried to negotiate with the Ottomans but this was rejected.

 Russia had gained a new ally in Austria, while the Ottomans found that France (their usual ally) was distracted with revolutions at home. Prussia, however, offered to help them contain the Russian threat in 1790. Selim felt that the Ottomans could now better face the Russians with the alliance with Prussia, but his Grand Vizier was less optimistic. The Grand Vizier took matters into his own hands and started secret negotiations with Russia in the same year. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the Austria and Prussia made peace so they were suddenly left without an ally. Russia agreed to negotiate with the Grand Vizier shortly, but the Sultan rejected as he was still unaware that Prussia was no longer an ally.

The Russians occupied a large part of the Lower Danube and tried to occupy the Caucasus in the same year. The occupation was a failure as the fiercely independent chieftains of the Caucasus tribes wanted nothing to do with them. Still, the Russians were able to occupy Anapa outside the Sea of Azov.

By 1792, the Ottomans knew that this war could not go on any longer. They were forced to sign the Treaty of Jassy with the Russians in which they had to accept the annexation of Crimea. The Ottomans retained Anapa, but the treaty specified that they would have to curb the raids the residents of the city made into Russian territory. They were required to pay compensation for loss of property or life during these raids, as well as the war reparations to the Russians.


Photo by: January Suchodolski, Public Domain, Link

Lloyd, Christopher, and M.S. Anderson. The New Cambridge Modern History: The American and French Revolutions 1763-93. Edited by A. Goodwin. Vol. VIII. Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.

Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.

Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

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