Not the Turks again

Aaaaargh. Here they come again. It’s September 18, 1739 and the Ottoman Turks just annexed Serbia in the Treaty of Belgrade. It turns out the siege of Vienna wasn’t the end of their relentless advance.

They were able to grab Serbia, including Belgrade, because they’d just defeated a Russian-Austrian alliance in the creatively named Austro-Russian–Turkish War that started in 1735 because, guess what, the Ottoman vassals in the Crimea kept attacking Russia.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the situation was somewhat obscure. But the Russians were allied with the Cossack Hetmanate in what is now Ukraine (the Russians claim the Hetmanate actually ceded itself to Russia in 1654 but this is generally regarded as a lie). And the Crimean Tatars, who had converted to Islam in the 14th century, were a major source of slaves for the Ottomans and conducted essentially annual slaving raids into Ukraine and Russia, seizing perhaps 3 million people over four centuries. I wonder if they’re considering reparations. Or does nobody talk about that one?

Anyway, Russia carefully maneuvered itself into a favourable diplomatic situation including ending its war with the Persian Empire (don’t ask) and signing a treaty with them as well as backing Austria’s candidate for the throne of Poland which it would subsequently help carve up.

Unfortunately none of the belligerents were any good at war and between plagues and bad sanitation and an elevated level of military incompetence especially among the Austrians in this one, the Russians and Austrians managed to lose. (Evidently we have no idea what the Ottoman losses were as they didn’t care at all.)

Serbia, to be sure, lived in a tough neighbourhood. (See Partition of Poland and other such sad stories.) Eventually they sort of escaped the Ottoman Empire from 1788 to 1793, then got reabsorbed and then revolted and as the “Sick Man of Europe” gradually lost its grip on the Balkans they fought their way out over about 25 years punctuated by massacres and setbacks.

Still, I do have to ask, with all the whining about the Crusades and European imperialism and so forth, why there’s so little commentary on the Ottomans’ persisted incursions into Europe including to back a massive slave-trading venture.

It’s kind of important to the story.

It happened todayJohn Robson