Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

While the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji brought only a temporary peace between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the concessions gained by Russia were more lasting. In particular, Catherine the Great won a permanent foothold on the Black Sea for her empire.

Summary of Event

The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (in Turkish, Küçük Kaynarca), signed in July, 1774, marked the ascendancy of Russia and the further weakening of the Ottoman Empire in southeastern Europe. Austria previously had broken the Turkish threat to the central Danubian Basin through the Treaty of Karlowitz Karlowitz, Treaty of (1699) in 1699. Several times throughout the eighteenth century, Russia, another adversary of the Turks, also sought to reduce Ottoman power on the European continent and, above all, to break the Turkish domination of the Black Sea. This led to numerous conflicts between the two nations, sometimes initiated by one and then the other. [kw]Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (July 21, 1774) [kw]Kainarji, Treaty of Kuchuk (July 21, 1774) [kw]Kuchuk Kainarji, Treaty of (July 21, 1774) Treaties;Russia and Ottoman Empire Kuchuk Kainarji, Treaty of (1774) [g]Bulgaria;July 21, 1774: Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji[2090] [g]Russia;July 21, 1774: Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji[2090] [g]Ottoman Empire;July 21, 1774: Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji[2090] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;July 21, 1774: Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji[2090] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;July 21, 1774: Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji[2090] Catherine the Great Mustafa III Orlov, Aleksey Grigoryevich Suvorov, Aleksandr Vasilyevich Frederick the Great

The Russian-Turkish War Russian-Turkish War (1768-1774)[Russian Turkish War] of 1768-1774 was precipitated by Catherine’s military intervention in a Polish civil war which threatened the position of the pro-Russian Polish king, Stanisłas Poniatowski. When Russian forces crossed into Turkish territory while pursuing Polish rebels opposing Poniatowski, the Ottoman sultan, Mustafa III, unwisely used the incident as an excuse to declare war on Russia. In the ensuing conflict, however, the Russians were victorious on land and sea. Russian troops overran the Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, while the Russian Baltic fleet, under the command of Aleksey Grigoryevich Orlov, sailed around Europe to the Aegean Sea, where it destroyed the Ottoman navy in the Battle of Chesmé on July 5-7, 1770.

Continued Russian military successes, including the conquest of the Crimea in 1771, alarmed Catherine’s ally Frederick the Great, who feared that Austria, feeling threatened, would eventually launch an attack against Russia and thus precipitate a general war into which Prussia would be drawn. Consequently, Frederick urged Russia to make peace with the Turks, thereby satisfying Austria’s concerns. To fulfill Russia’s growing territorial ambitions, Frederick proposed that Russia join Prussia and Austria in a coordinated partition of the weakened Polish state. Catherine approved the idea of gaining territory on its western frontier, and the agreement for the first partition of Poland became a reality in August, 1772.

To the south, a Russian-Turkish armistice signed in May, 1772, began the process of peacemaking in the region. Yet stiffened Turkish resistance during 1772 and 1773, both at the negotiating table and on the battlefield, delayed a resolution of the war. Russian negotiators had expanded the list of their original demands, which the Ottoman side rejected. Not until the distinguished Russian general Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvorov had won several resounding victories were the Turks ready to discuss peace terms seriously. After less than one week of negotiations, the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji was signed on July 21, 1774.

Under the terms of the treaty, the Ottoman Empire’s historic control of the entire northern coast of the Black Sea was ended. Russia acquired the great estuary formed by the Dnieper and Bug rivers, where they flowed into the Black Sea. To the east, Russia acquired the entire Azov region and the Kerch straits offering access to the Black Sea. Azov, a seaport at the mouth of the Don River, had long been a Russian objective and came under its control. The Tartars of the Crimea were recognized as independent of the Turks with the right to select their own ruler.

Russia also won the important concession of free navigation for its trading vessels in Turkish waters and gained access to the historic straits dividing Europe from Asia Minor. This allowed Russian vessels to eventually reach the Mediterranean Sea, another primary goal. To the east, a portion of the Caucasus mountain region was transferred to Russian control.

Catherine the Great riding at the head of her army.

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The treaty included the right to construct a Russian Orthodox church in Constantinople. The sultan’s government was obligated under the treaty to refer to Catherine II, its nemesis, as the “empress” of Russia. Russia was guaranteed the right to establish permanent diplomatic representation in the Turkish capital. While not appearing significant to modern observers, these provisions added to Ottoman humiliation. As further evidence of Russian dominance in the unequal treaty, the sultan’s government had to pay an indemnity to Moscow as a financial penalty for declaring war on the Russians.

Finally, in the most far-reaching stipulations of the treaty, Russia secured the right to guarantee the “humane and generous government for the future” of the Danubian principalities, as well as protection of the religious liberty of Christian subjects of the Turkish ruler. In return, Russia had few obligations under the treaty other than being required to restore the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia to the sovereignty of the sultan.

After the treaty signing, both governments sought to strengthen their comparative position. Catherine approved it in August, 1774, while Turkish efforts to minimize Russian advantages delayed Ottoman ratification until January, 1775. Even after ratification occurred, however, both sides periodically sought to evade the spirit and several provisions of the agreement. This contained the seeds of future conflict.

Significance

The provisions of the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji became a milestone in the history of what has been called the "Eastern Question"[Eastern Question] “Eastern Question” in its implications for the future of the Turkish state. In effect, these clauses gave Catherine and her successors the excuse to interfere in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire diplomatically and militarily. The treaty simply whetted Russia’s aggressive appetite, and, by 1780, Catherine was developing her grandiose “Greek Scheme,” which called for the expulsion of the Turks from southeastern Europe and the restoration of the old Byzantine Empire under her grandson, Constantine. Catherine did not succeed in this goal, but she did annex the independent Crimean state in 1783, which contributed to the outbreak of a renewed Russian-Turkish war in 1787. Like the one before it, this war, concluded in 1792, served only to accentuate Russia’s territorial expansion and the growing threats to peace and stability in eastern Europe. Later conflicts between these two regional powers throughout the nineteenth century led to the further weakening of the Ottoman Empire, causing its internal collapse and territorial breakup as a result of World War I in the early twentieth century.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Alexander, John T. Catherine the Great: Life and Legend. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Summarizes the Turkish war, including Catherine’s opinions of Russia’s struggle with its southern rival.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, M. S. The Eastern Question, 1774-1923: A Study in International Relations. Rev. ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Assesses the provisions and implications of the 1774 treaty on future Russian activity in the region.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gerolymanto, André. The Balkan Wars: Conquest, Revolution, and Retribution from the Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century. New York: Basic Books, 2002. A history of the Balkans, focusing on the area’s continual wars over nationalism and religion. Chapter 4 includes information about the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Israel, Fred L., ed. Major Treaty Treaties of Modern History, 1648-1967. Vol. 2. New York: Chelsea House, 1967. Contains the English translation of the treaty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Scott, H. M. The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Examines the rise of Russia and Prussia in the eighteenth century. Includes information about the Russian-Turkish wars and Russia’s acquisition of land from the Ottoman Empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stavrianos, L. S. The Balkans Since 1453. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963. Reprint. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Assesses Ottoman rule in the Balkans, and the Ottoman Empire’s losing struggle with Austria and Russia to remain the dominant power in the region.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thomson, Gladys Scott. Catherine the Great and the Expansion of Russia. New York: Collier Books, 1962. Useful account of Catherine’s foreign policy in Europe and Asia Minor.

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