Treaty of Belgrade Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Treaty of Belgrade ended the Russo-Austrian war against the Ottoman Empire. It checked Austrian expansion into the Balkans for another century and halted Russian expansion southward for a generation.

Summary of Event

Russia launched a war against the Turkish empire in 1736 in part because of the misperception that the Turkish power was in rapid decline and partly because of the long-standing territorial disputes Expansionism;central Europe along their common frontiers with the Crimea. Since 1726, Russia had maintained ties to Austria and Spain, while keeping friendly relations with Prussia and Denmark. Austria entered the conflict more concerned about the territorial designs of its Russian ally than it was anxious to curtail Turkish might. Other European considerations made the continuation of the Russian alliance very useful for the Austrian court, and so the Habsburg Empire Habsburg Empire declared war on Turkey in the spring of the following year. The allies agreed that Russia should be given Azov and the Crimea while Austria would acquire Bosnia and part of Albania. [kw]Treaty of Belgrade (Sept. 18, 1739) [kw]Belgrade, Treaty of (Sept. 18, 1739) Treaties;European Russian-Austrian War (1736-1739)[Russian Austrian War] Belgrade, Treaty of (1739) [g]Serbia;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [g]Balkans;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [g]Russia;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [g]Austria;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [g]Ottoman Empire;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Sept. 18, 1739: Treaty of Belgrade[1000] Anna Mahmud I Charles VI Münnich, Burkhard Christoph von Osterman, Count Andrei Ivanovich Yegen Mehmed Pa{scedil}a Neipperg, count von Villeneuve, marquis de Wallis, count von Fleury, André-Hercule de

Despite Russia’s successful raid on the Crimean capital of Bakhchisarai (palace of the gardens), the seizure of the fortress of Kinburn on the Dnieper River, and the occupation of the port city of Azov in the East, Russian armies suffered high losses and Empress Anna was anxious to find an early end to this conflict by the end of 1736. In the following year (July-October), a conference at Nemirov failed to resolve the disagreements, and the sultan appealed to Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury of France to mediate the conflict. By this time, Austria had entered the fray and Russian forces had seized the fortress of Ochakov (at the confluence of the Dnieper and Bug Rivers). The allied hopes were raised and so, despairing of an early end to the war, the sultan Mahmud I appointed the militant Yegen Mehmed Paşa as grand vizier. By year’s end, Turkish forces had regained both Kinburn and Ochakov, and a new Russian offensive in the Crimea had failed miserably.

Austrian forces took the initiative in 1738 and advanced south of the Danube, occupying Niš, Pristina, and Novi Pazar. They also invaded Walachia and part of Moldavia north of the Danube. These successes were short-lived as the Turks rebounded next year, forced the Habsburgs to retreat from all their incursions and even surrounded Belgrade, which they had yielded to Austria in 1718.

The Russians fared better. In May of 1738, Count Andrei Ivanovich Osterman suggested to the French mediator, the marquis de Villeneuve, the desirability of opening peace discussions. When the Turks showed no interest, owing to Russia’s new demands, hostilities continued. In July, Field Marshal Burkhard Christoph von Münnich, who had convinced Empress Anna that the Greeks were set to revolt against the sultan, had taken his Russian troops into Moldavia and defeated the Ottoman forces at Khotim. Two months later, after crossing the Pruth, his forces occupied Jassy.

Prior to this point, the failure of any of the combatants to gain a decisive victory enabled Cardinal Fleury of France to begin peace negotiations via his emissary, Villeneuve, in 1739. Ironically, both the Austrians in Serbia and the Russians in Walachia made significant gains in the month preceding the actual negotiations. Nevertheless, the Turks were encamped outside Belgrade and were threatening the Serbian capital. The Austrian field marshal, Count von Wallis, wrote to Vienna that Belgrade could not be defended despite the arrival of Austrian reinforcements. Four days later, on August 16, his replacement, Count von Neipperg, sent a similarly discouraging message to the Habsburg court, lamenting that there was no hope of retaining the Serbian capital. Neipperg anxiously threw himself into the negotiations with Grand Vizier Yegen Mehmed Paşa and the Russian representative, Cagnoni.

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So anxious for peace was the Habsburg count that Austria agreed to cede Belgrade to the Ottomans provided that the Austrians had time to dismantle their fortifications in that Serbian city since their occupation of it in 1718. His position was undermined by the fact that the French mediator was supporting the Turkish claims in the negotiations. The Austrian court was shocked by the cession of Belgrade, as was Russia, whose field marshal recently had won a major encounter over the Turks at Khotin. Weary from the war after losing 100,000 men, however, and concerned about Swedish threats in the north, Russia accepted the treaty drawn up by the French.

The treaty that was signed on September 18, 1739, allowed the Turks to regain all of Serbia as well as Walachia. The only territory that Austria retained from the earlier Treaty at Passarowitz in 1718 was the Banat. Although victorious, Russia was compelled to withdraw from Khotin, to refrain from sailing warships and commercial vessels in the Black Sea, and to abandon its plans to rebuild the naval base at Taganrog. Russia would retain Azov but without fortifications, and Russian merchants were given free access to Ottoman markets, but only via Turkish vessels. These meager results did not prevent a large celebration in St. Petersburg upon ratification of the treaty.

Despite Münnich’s misgivings about Austrian concessions to the Turks while his own forces were winning on the battlefield, Empress Anna was pleased to accept the treaty, not only to end her losses of men but also because of aggressive moves by Sweden in the north. Unwilling to admit Austria’s declining military might, Emperor Charles VI placed blame for the loss of Belgrade upon the inadequacies of Wallis and Neipperg, both of whom were imprisoned but released in the next reign, of Maria Theresa.

Whether Charles recognized the futility of retaining Belgrade and so looked for scapegoats to divert popular unhappiness or Wallis and Neipperg in fact gave misleading information about the weakness of military defenses at Belgrade is a question unresolved by scholars. In any case, the sultan, too, was anxious for peace after listening to the khan of the Crimea relate the difficulties of keeping his lands free from Russian incursions. Hence in April, 1739, the bellicose grand vizier was replaced by a member of the peace faction at the Ottoman court. Cardinal Fleury was very happy with the work of Villeneuve, having kept Russia away from the Straits (Bosporus and the Dardanelles) while disguising the weakness of his Turkish ally.

Significance

The Treaty of Belgrade marked the beginning of a shift in loyalties in the Balkans. Balkans The people living there came to identify less with the Habsburgs and more with their Orthodox Russian protectors. At the same time, Russia became more invested in the fate of the Balkans, and the Habsburgs began to distance themselves from the territory they had lost. This shift resulted, in part, from the absence of a coherent Habsburg policy toward the southeast, as well as from the misperception that, with little effort, the Austrians could roll back the Turks whenever they decided to do so. Whatever their perceptions, in May, 1740, the Habsburg fortress in Belgrade was razed, and Turkish control of the city resumed for the first time since 1718. The borders between Austria and the Ottoman Empire remained essentially intact for the next 140 years.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cassels, Lavender. The Struggle for the Ottoman Empire, 1717-1740. London: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967. The most readable work on the subject, rewarding for scholars and general readers alike. Especially strong on its treatment of diplomacy before the treaty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Creasy, Edward S. History of the Ottoman Turks. Beirut, Lebanon: Khayats, 1961. This master of detailed narration provides the fullest account of the operations in the Crimea. He describes the treaty from the Turkish point of view.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Florinsky, Michael T. Russia: A History and an Interpretation. Vol. 1. Reprint. New York: Macmillan, 1973. Originally published in 1947, this volume is one of few scholarly surveys in English that deals with the Russian aspects of this war and treaty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gerolymatos, Andre. The Balkan Wars: Conquest, Revolution, and Retribution from the Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Chapter 4, “Ethnicity Versus the Nation State,” includes information on the war between Turkey and Russia and the resulting Treaty of Belgrade.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goodwin, Jason. Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire. New York: Picador, 2003. Chapter 20, “Austria and Russia,” includes information on the war between the Ottoman Empire an Russia and the subsequent Treaty of Belgrade.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Jelavich compares the Balkan populations under Christian and Turkish overlords. Her work contains exceptional maps of the Ottoman possessions in Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Parvev, Ivan. Hapsburgs and Ottomans: Between Vienna and Belgrade, 1683-1739. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. This Bulgarian historian examines Habsburg-Ottoman relations from a Balkan perspective and describes the difficulties about the conflicting ambitions of the Russian and Austrian allies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Chapter 5, “The Ottomans and Their Wider World,” includes information on Ottoman relations with Russia and Austria and the Treaty of Belgrade.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roider, Karl A., Jr. The Reluctant Ally: Austria’s Policy in the Austrian-Turkish War, 1737-1739. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972. Probably the most important treatise covering this subject from the Austrian perspective, although not without important insights concerning Turkish and Russian involvements too.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sugar, Peter F. Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977. This work contains valuable appendices on rulers, geography, and treaties as well as a concentrated discussion of Turkish life in the Balkans.

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