During the crisis of Armenia and Crete in 1896, a group of Armenian separatists invaded the Ottoman Bank in Beyoglu. 36 hours later, a wave of revenge killings happened in Constantinople with lynch mobs killing between 5 and 6 thousand Armenians, all while the Ottoman Hamidiye caused massacres in Armenia. That earned the Ottomans international outrage, with the Turkophobic Lord Salisbury claiming it was a mistake for the British to have allied with the Turks in the Crimean War. With public opinion completely against the Sultan Abdulhamid, it was considered Political suicide to side with the Ottoman Empire against “Christian minorities” (And that would become the British policy until the end of the Empire).

In that context, Ambassador Nelidov would return to Saint Petersburg two months after the massacre, and he would come to the young Tsar Nicholas II and suggest him a surprise assault in the Bosporus, disembarking troops in Kilyos, Sariyer, and Büyükdere to take the Golden Horn and fulfill the dream of having the straits as the “Russian Gibraltar”. He claimed, rightfully so, that no western power would support the Sultan while he massacred Armenians and Cretans. Yet, Tsar Nicholas II, although enthusiastic with the idea, would be convinced to divert his attention to the Far East and we all know how that turned out. Yet, what if he remained stubborn in his ambition and seized the golden opportunity (pun intended) to take the Golden Horn and Constantinople ?

The Ottomans at the time were in the middle of reforms, fielding about 430,000 men that were proven capable of defeating the Greeks in the 30-days war. Yet Russia is a completely different beast, and it’s unlikely the Ottomans could’ve prevailed. Although no western power was interested in openly supporting the empire (Any politician that did so would certainly lose his mandate), there was still no interest in seeing the Russian bear conquering the Straits, which caused the western interventions in 1853 and 1878. But with the background of WWI being built up, could France and Britain risk alienating Russia with the Germans conducting Wilhelm’s Weltpolitik ? How would this have changed a future WWI ? Could this be a killing blow to the Selim Porte ?

(Source: The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer)
 
During the crisis of Armenia and Crete in 1896, a group of Armenian separatists invaded the Ottoman Bank in Beyoglu. 36 hours later, a wave of revenge killings happened in Constantinople with lynch mobs killing between 5 and 6 thousand Armenians, all while the Ottoman Hamidiye caused massacres in Armenia. That earned the Ottomans international outrage, with the Turkophobic Lord Salisbury claiming it was a mistake for the British to have allied with the Turks in the Crimean War. With public opinion completely against the Sultan Abdulhamid, it was considered Political suicide to side with the Ottoman Empire against “Christian minorities” (And that would become the British policy until the end of the Empire).

In that context, Ambassador Nelidov would return to Saint Petersburg two months after the massacre, and he would come to the young Tsar Nicholas II and suggest him a surprise assault in the Bosporus, disembarking troops in Kilyos, Sariyer, and Büyükdere to take the Golden Horn and fulfill the dream of having the straits as the “Russian Gibraltar”. He claimed, rightfully so, that no western power would support the Sultan while he massacred Armenians and Cretans. Yet, Tsar Nicholas II, although enthusiastic with the idea, would be convinced to divert his attention to the Far East and we all know how that turned out. Yet, what if he remained stubborn in his ambition and seized the golden opportunity (pun intended) to take the Golden Horn and Constantinople ?

The Ottomans at the time were in the middle of reforms, fielding about 430,000 men that were proven capable of defeating the Greeks in the 30-days war. Yet Russia is a completely different beast, and it’s unlikely the Ottomans could’ve prevailed. Although no western power was interested in openly supporting the empire (Any politician that did so would certainly lose his mandate), there was still no interest in seeing the Russian bear conquering the Straits, which caused the western interventions in 1853 and 1878. But with the background of WWI being built up, could France and Britain risk alienating Russia with the Germans conducting Wilhelm’s Weltpolitik ? How would this have changed a future WWI ? Could this be a killing blow to the Selim Porte ?

(Source: The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer)

So what is the reason of war? To protect the Armenian Minorities? If Russia attacks the Straits they will be affected negatively diplomatically. The British did not like that in 1829, 1853, 1878 or in 1896 it the latter would happen. An attack on Eastern Anatolia is a different question. It depends on what Russia will do. An all out attack with 300k-ish men on Erzurum and Van would lead to some sort of Russian Success although it would not be a cakewalk. The real issue is Rumelia. It is horribly indefensible. Bulgaria and Greece will enter the war if they see a chance. This means the Ottomans have to sacrifice manpower for one of the fronts to defend the others. A defeat is not guaranteed but it is very hard to defend both fronts while Bulgaria was already heavily militarized. For Russia, there is only one way to tolerate their participation and that is by not coming to close to the straits.

The results? Depending on the outcome of the war. If more of Anatolia is lost, such as Van, Agri and Mus, as well as most of Rumelia, this will kill Abdulhamid II reputation and he will be deposed sooner rather than later. The Ottoman Empire would have a puppet Sultan like Mehmed V earlier on the throne. Worst case scenario is the Ottoman Empire turning early on in a Republican State but a State that is more unstable than Mexico post-1860s. Armenians get some sort of Autonomy in Eastern Anatolia, turning the region into a warzone as Armenian Militia in the region will fight the Turkish and Kurdish population who will resist the Armenian Officials in the Autonomous area. I can't tell what the result of such war is as it depends on who is in that war, but there will be some 50-50 divided power share in the East of Anatolia

At this point, the Ottoman Empire is left to miracle to recover and that miracle is an early World War with Russia, France, UK and Germany are in.

To come to your other questions. France would not alienate Russia. The UK could alienate Russia if it meant Russia threatened British interest. France needs an ally, while the British could always attempt to ally the Germans (even if they don't know they will fail most likely). The Ottoman Government would be very fragile in a post-war scenario. But personally, I don't see Russia risking the loss of the Straits in other nations hands. The Ottomans of 1896 were weaker and less of a potential threat than that of 1876. The Ottomans have to do something big enough to piss of the Russians to start such a war. But Abdulhamid II would not really risk that, he ain't that type of guy.
 
From 1881 to 1896 minorities were repeatedly massacres by the ottomans. If 15 years of massacres garnered no invasion I doubt they would in 1896
 
If the Russians are smart , they get the Great Powers onside first. The Tzar will be aware that just grabbing the straits is out, if someone has a brain they will point out Russia does not need Constantinople itself. All it needs is two or optimally three things , access to the strait for its merchant shipping , no foreign warships in the Black Sea and symbolical control of the Hagia Sophia if possible.

A bit of cunning therefore and it can defend the Orthodox Christians ( whilst giving itself a bit more land around the Caucasus ) and create a puppet Armenia. Before moving let the Powers persuade it to agree the Balkan nations get European Turkey and themselves some colonies/concessions whilst no Russian control of the straits. Bit of playacting and then say OK, we will agree as long as we get some clauses letting any merchant into/out of the Black Sea, no warship in/out ( except under strict rules ), guardianship of the Hagia Sophia and allowed the gains in the East and protection of Armenia.

Everyone gets something ( bar the Ottomans ) , Russia gets goodwill in the Balkans and some land, Great Powers get to feel they muzzled Russia and some land, whilst the Tsar basks in the adoration of his people for protecting Orthodoxy and bashing the Turks.
 
If the Russians are smart , they get the Great Powers onside first. The Tzar will be aware that just grabbing the straits is out, if someone has a brain they will point out Russia does not need Constantinople itself. All it needs is two or optimally three things , access to the strait for its merchant shipping , no foreign warships in the Black Sea and symbolical control of the Hagia Sophia if possible.

A bit of cunning therefore and it can defend the Orthodox Christians ( whilst giving itself a bit more land around the Caucasus ) and create a puppet Armenia. Before moving let the Powers persuade it to agree the Balkan nations get European Turkey and themselves some colonies/concessions whilst no Russian control of the straits. Bit of playacting and then say OK, we will agree as long as we get some clauses letting any merchant into/out of the Black Sea, no warship in/out ( except under strict rules ), guardianship of the Hagia Sophia and allowed the gains in the East and protection of Armenia.

Everyone gets something ( bar the Ottomans ) , Russia gets goodwill in the Balkans and some land, Great Powers get to feel they muzzled Russia and some land, whilst the Tsar basks in the adoration of his people for protecting Orthodoxy and bashing the Turks.

Russia has already the second best option: the straits in the hands of a Turkey which is some sort of friendly to Russia and too weak to go against primary Russian demands.
 
The British did not like that in 1829, 1853, 1878 or in 1896 it the latter would happen.
Lord Salisbury proposed to have an Anglo-Russian intervention in the straits if the Sultan pushed to retake Thessaly during the 30-days war. In fact, this war is what pushed the Ottoman Empire towards the German Empire, with the triumph of German weapons proven. Also including the tensions over Egypt in the 1880s in the crisis caused by Ahmed Orabi, where the British intervened against the Sultan’s wishes. Lord Salisbury was sufficiently Turkophobic to let the Russians mutilate the Porte.
 
For Russia, the goal of this war would obviously be the annexation of the Bosporus and/or Dardanelles, but what is their justification?
Well, Russia's usual justification for war with the Ottoman's was to protect the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. That actually works even better here, because the Russians can point at what's happening to the Armenians and say "If the Ottomans will massacre 'Christian minorities' in the east of their Empire, what is there to stop them from doing the same in the west? Nothing, aside from us."

Also, the French and Russian secret alliance was in place by this point in time, so perhaps the Russians could use that friendly relationship with the French to pull them into the war, which would make it much harder for the British to justify an intervention. The French would want more authority in 'Greater Syria', and would also justify it as necessary to protect the Christian minorities there. The actual French involvement might still be quite minor, at least in terms of men. Even just a French pre-dreadnaught or two around for coastal bombardment could be a big contribution.
 
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For Russia, the goal of this war would obviously be the annexation of the Bosporus and/or Dardanelles, but what is their justification?
Well, Russia's usual justification for war with the Ottoman's was to protect the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. That actually works even better here, because the Russians can point at what's happening to the Armenians and say "If the Ottomans will massacre 'Christian minorities' in the east of their Empire, what is there to stop them from doing the same in the west? Nothing, aside from us."

Also, the French and Russian secret alliance was in place by this point in time, so perhaps the Russians could use that friendly relationship with the French to pull them into the war, which would make it much harder for the British to justify an intervention. The French would want more of 'Greater Syria', and would also justify it as necessary to protect the Christian minorities there. The actual French involvement might still be quite minor, at least in terms of men. Even just a French pre-dreadnaught or two around for coastal bombardment could be a big contribution.
Well, the French did have certain rights in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate dating back to the 1860's... just, dear God, don't let them send this thing....
609px-French_ironclad_Hoche_NH_88809.jpg
 

raharris1973

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could France and Britain risk alienating Russia
No
ith the Germans conducting Wilhelm’s Weltpolitik
But this is not really the reason, it's not a major factor yet for Britain
Could this be a killing blow to the Selim Porte ?
Yes
The British did not like that in 1829, 1853, 1878 or in 1896 it the latter would happen.
By 1896 things were different. Britain was proposing anti-Ottoman intervention and partition, and continental powers like Russia and Germany were opposing it. This was under the Conservative Lord Salisbury government.

So Lord Salisbury is not going to do a rescue or direct fight against the Russians in alliance with the Ottomans. And his conservative party is more traditionally pro-Ottoman party. Even if the British get uneasy over Russian held straits and Russia Armenia, and pro-Russian satellites in the Balkans, it is not going to cause the Liberal opposition, traditionally pro-Russian, anti-Ottoman, to do a 180-turn to advocate war or risk of war with the Russians at this time.

The British will protect their interests by seizing "compensating" gains in the southern Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire and by trying to maximize the Greek share of the Balkans in any Ottoman partition.
 
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