Treaty of Karlowitz Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Treaty of Karlowitz ended the Ottoman Empire’s expansion in Europe, liberated Hungary from the Turks, and marked the consequent ascendancy of Habsburg Austria.

Summary of Event

The signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 was significant in at least four ways. It marked the termination of the major wars between the Austrians and the Ottoman Turks, liberated Hungary from the Turks, led to Habsburg ascendancy on the lower Danube River at the expense of the receding Ottoman Empire, and marked the genesis of the so-called Eastern Question that involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire for the following two hundred years. Simultaneous with Ottoman decline was a growing Austro-Russian antagonism that would have worldwide repercussions. [kw]Treaty of Karlowitz (Jan. 26, 1699) [kw]Karlowitz, Treaty of (Jan. 26, 1699) Diplomacy and international relations;Jan. 26, 1699: Treaty of Karlowitz[3110] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Jan. 26, 1699: Treaty of Karlowitz[3110] Hungary;Jan. 26, 1699: Treaty of Karlowitz[3110] Karlowitz, Treaty of (1699) Eugene of Savoy Innocent XI Sobieski, John III Paşa, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Leopold I Louis XIV Mehmed IV Avci Mustafa II

The Austrians and Ottomans had fought intermittently since the early sixteenth century. Austria’s position throughout this last major struggle was complicated by continuing French aggression against the Holy Roman Empire in the Rhineland, and by King Louis XIV’s Louis XIV[Louis 14] promise to the Turks that he would not render military assistance to the Habsburgs in defense of Vienna. Hence, throughout this period, Leopold Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor)[Leopold 01 (Holy Roman Emperor)] I, in his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor and princely ruler of Austria, and in his role as the defender of the western and eastern boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, was faced both with actual war as well as the threat of war on two fronts. To dilute the strength of his adversaries, especially the Turks, Leopold, on March 31, 1683, entered into an alliance with King John III Sobieski John III Sobieski[John 03 Sobieski] of Poland, an alliance arranged by Pope Innocent XI Innocent XI[Innocent 11] . On the same day, Mehmed IV Avci Mehmed IV Avci[Mehmed 04 Avci] led a huge Turkish host, which by summer would swell to around 250,000 men, on a march north from Adrianople (Edirne) toward Vienna. At Belgrade, Mehmed transferred command to the grand vizier, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa Kara Mustafa Paşa, Merzifonlu , who would conduct military operations

The second Siege of Vienna, Vienna, Siege of (1683) which began in mid-July, 1683, marked the opening of the longest of the Austro-Turkish wars; it would be terminated only in 1699 with the Treaty of Karlowitz. For two months, some twenty thousand defenders repulsed six great assaults directed against the walls of the Habsburg citadel. On September 12, when the city was in imminent danger of falling, relief contingents of German and Polish troops arrived. The Turks were forced to break off the siege and commence a retreat that would ultimately take them back to Belgrade, where Kara Mustafa Paşa was executed on the orders of Mehmed IV, who had retired to Edirne.

Anxious to follow up this success, Leopold signed an alliance in the following year with Poland and Venice, again arranged by Innocent XI, an alliance called the Holy League Holy League . In addition, Leopold entered into a truce with Louis XIV, which enabled Austria, at least temporarily, to concentrate its energies solely against the Turks. During the first two years of the war, Austrian forces made only limited progress, but they won spectacular victories during the next three years, including the Second Battle of Mohács (1687) Mohács, Second Battle of (1687) and the capture of Belgrade (1688). Hungary was thereby completely liberated. Venice, meanwhile, had captured Athens.

The Treaty of Karlowitz sealed the fate of the Ottomans, as the empire began its decline as a regional power. Before the treaty was signed, Ottoman grand vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa failed to take Vienna from the Habsburgs in 1683. He was soon executed by officers of Sultan Mehmed IV Avci.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

When the Habsburgs seemed to have victory in their grasp, Louis XIV began the Wars of the League of Augsburg League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697) in the west to bolster the fighting spirit of the faltering Ottoman Empire, which had recently proposed peace. The Turks, encouraged by the French move, renewed hostilities and had recaptured Belgrade by 1690. Leopold, despite the Ottoman recovery, was obliged to devote most of his attention to the war in the west. Only in 1697, as this contest with Louis XIV drew to a close, was Austria’s foremost general and recently appointed commander in chief, Prince Eugene of Savoy Eugene of Savoy , able to inflict a decisive defeat at Zenta Zenta, Battle of (1697) . Here, Turkish forces, led by Sultan Mustafa II Mustafa II[Mustafa 02] , were caught while crossing the Tisza River. The Turks now had no choice but to sue for peace.

The ensuing peace settlement, mediated by the British and Dutch, was drawn up on January 26, 1699, in the devastated village of Karlowitz after negotiations that had opened November 13 of the previous year. Separate treaties were signed by the Turkish representatives with Austria, Poland, and Venice. Negotiations with Russia (whose czar, Peter the Great Peter the Great , had been at war with the Ottoman Empire since 1695) continued until June, 1700, when the Treaty of Constantinople Constantinople, Treaty of (1700) was concluded. Under the most important provision of the Treaty of Karlowitz, Austria received Slavonia, Transylvania, territory east of the Tisza River, and most of Hungary with the exception of the Banat of Temesvár, which remained under Ottoman rule. Poland kept Podolia, Kamieniniec, the western Ukraine, and a strip east of the Dniester River. Venice gave up Athens, but retained the Morea, the island of Santa Maura, and Albanian and Dalmatian territories. The Russians retained only Azov and adjoining districts. They signed a treaty for only two years, in contrast with those of twenty-five or more years signed by the other powers.

Ottoman failure in the seventeenth century resulted from an inability to modernize administrative structures, military tactics, and armaments. Their rapid expansion had resulted from superior armaments, especially artillery, a social organization offering a better life to European feudal serfs, and shared Islamic ideology. They were unable, however, to organize a trained civil service, a professional military, or an educational system matching that of the European nation-states. They also discouraged technical innovation, and thus, their military equipment became obsolete.


The Treaty of Karlowitz is an important milestone in the history of the Balkans, with far-reaching implications for all Europe. Austria replaced the Ottoman Empire as the dominant power in the lower Danube region. Whereas Europe had been faced with an aggressive and powerful Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire;decline of before 1699, henceforth the Continent would be confronted by the opposite problem, the steady decline of Turkish power. This decline of the Ottoman Empire between 1699 and 1914 historically has been referred to as the Eastern Question.

The Turkish decline created a power vacuum in the Balkans. Austria took an important step toward filling the western half of this vacuum by conquering Hungary. Subsequently, before the end of the eighteenth century, Russia began to assert influence over the eastern half of the Balkans. The continuing clash of Austrian and Russian Balkan interests during the nineteenth century, always at Ottoman expense, contributed greatly to the unrest of that area and to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goffman, Daniel. The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Goffman describes Ottoman-Habsburg relations during the seventeenth century.
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    xlink:type="simple">Hertz, Frederick. The Age of Enlightenment. Vol. 2 in The Development of the German Public Mind: A Social History of German Political Sentiments, Aspirations, and Ideas. London: Allen & Unwin, 1962. Examines the Treaty of Karlowitz from the Austrian point of view.
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    xlink:type="simple">Hoskins, J. W. Victory at Vienna: The Ottoman Siege of 1683. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, European Division, 1983. A concise account supported by an extended reading list.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kinross, Lord. The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. New York: William Morrow, 1977. Kinross discusses the events from the second Siege of Vienna through the Treaty of Karlowitz from an Ottoman perspective.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ogg, David. Europe in the Seventeenth Century. 9th ed. London: A. and C. Black, 1971. A general account of events leading to the Treaty of Karlowitz.
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    xlink:type="simple">Parvev, Ivan. Habsburgs and Ottomans Between Vienna and Belgrade, 1683-1739. Boulder, Colo.: Eastern European Monographs, 1995. Parvev examines relations between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires from the Siege of Vienna through the Treaty of Belgrade.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stavrianos, L. S. The Balkans Since 1453. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963. A discussion emphasizing the impact of the Treaty of Karlowitz on the Ottoman Empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stoye, John. The Siege of Vienna. London: Collins, 1964. An extended account of the Siege of Vienna.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sturdy, David J. Fractured Europe, 1600-1721. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 2002. Chapter 7 of this overview of European history describes the relations of Central and Southern Europe with the Ottoman Empire from 1648 through 1720.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolf, John B. The Emergence of the Great Powers, 1695-1713. Vol. 7 in The Rise of Modern Europe, edited by William J. Langer. New York: Harper & Row, 1951. A comprehensive discussion of the Austrian offensive against the Turks within the international context of the late seventeenth century.

Turks Conquer Crete

Ottoman Empire’s Brief Recovery

Ottoman-Polish Wars

Defeat of the Ottomans at Vienna

Holy League Ends Ottoman Rule of the Danubian Basin

Decline of the Ottoman Empire

Wars of the League of Augsburg

Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa

Peter the Great Tours Western Europe

Battle of Narva

Related articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Innocent XI; John III Sobieski; Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa; Leopold I; Louis XIV. Karlowitz, Treaty of (1699)

Categories: History