The Chronological List of Superintendents and Guardians of the Bosphorus

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The Russo-Ottoman War of 1735-39

In the first war, Russian armies entered Crimea, where they captured Bahçesaray and destroyed Hansaray (the palace of the Crimean Khans). They also captured Ochakov (Özi) Fortress and Yaş (Jassy). The war was concluded on 3 October 1739 with the Treaty of Niş (as an annex to the Treaty of Belgrade), which claimed neither a defeat nor a victory for either side. The Russians accepted renouncing their claim to Crimea and Moldavia, while the Ottomans allowed them to build a port at Azov on the condition that the fort be demolished and no fleet enter the Black Sea.

The Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-74

Russia consolidated its power and posed a stronger threat to the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Catherine II (r. 1762-1796).24 She turned the mission of reaching the shores of the Black Sea and taking Istanbul into an important state policy.25 The Russian war of 1768-1774 proved to be a turning point for both sides.

The Russo-Ottoman War of 1787-92

Catherine II recognized the incapability of Şahin Giray to govern the Khanate and she was also surrounded by policymakers, especially Potemkin, who supported the Russian annexation of the Crimea. First, the operation began with certain invasions presided over by Potemkin. Then, the khan’s authority was actively undermined, leaving him a lame duck. In March 1783, Russia reported to the Porte that Şahin Giray had virtually no authority over the affairs of the state and that the Russian general de Balmain was in control. Finally, Catherine II signed a manifesto annexing the Crimea, the Kuban, and the Taman on 19 April 1783, and the Ottomans had no choice but to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea on 8 January 1784, despite the opposition of the ulema.
Although the Ottoman government was not prepared to declare war on Russia immediately after the annexation, it was aware that this shift in the balance of power between the Ottoman Empire and Russia would soon result in another war. The Ottomans took several precautions to fortify their borders and to reform the military army. The cooperation between Russian Empress Catherine the Great and Austrian Emperor Joseph II and their visit to the Russian bases on the Ottoman Black Sea frontiers pushed the Ottoman government to act. At last, in August 1787, Grand Vizier Koca Yusuf Paşa and his supporters, with the consent of the şeyhülislam, dragged the Ottoman Empire into a new war against Russia.
In January 1789, a few months after the loss of the Fortress of Ochakov (Özi), the most strategic Ottoman base in the Black Sea, Sultan Abdulhamid I died and Sultan Selim III came to the throne.42 The diplomatic attitudes of some European countries, including Britain and Prussia, and their desire to maintain the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire compelled the Russians to seek out peaceful negotiations. These negotiations were drawn out over two more years of war, since Russia insisted on conditions unfavorable to the Ottoman Empire, which refused to accept them. Finally, on 10 January 1792, the parties signed the Treaty of Jassy, with the Ottomans accepting the surrender of the Fortress of Ochakov to Russia and recognizing the rivers of Dniester and Kuban as the borders between the Russian and the Ottoman empires.

Threats to Istanbul and the City’s Fortification

For centuries, Istanbul served as the capital of the Eastern Roman and Ottoman empires. It was also surrounded by states that longed to take control of it. It is thus perhaps no surprise that Constantinople’s defenses against its many besiegers have long been a subject of interest for historians.44 What is surprising, however, is that most of this interest has focused on the city’s defenses up through its conquest by the Ottomans in 1453 while ignoring much of the Ottoman period. This neglect is arguably because the city did not face a major threat until the end of the eighteenth century, at which point scholars begin to take up the study of the city’s defenses again.45 As narrated above, the Ottomans achieved nearly full control of the Black Sea by complementing the conquest of Istanbul with the conquest of the Pontus Rum Empire, the Crimean Khanate and the shores of Moldova and by ending the Genoese presence in such important port cities of the Black Sea as Kefe and Amasra by the 1580s. The uniqueness of Istanbul was its strait, which made the city a strategic sea passage connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. The Ottomans called the strait of Istanbul as the Bahr-i siyah boğazı, Karadeniz boğazı, and more rarely Kostantiniyye boğazı.46 The major European states always nourished the aim of retaking Istanbul from the Ottomans. For example, in the seventeenth century, Cardinal Mazarin and his devoted student King Louis XIV considered plans to take Istanbul and prepared reconnaissance reports about the city,47 though whether these plans were ever treated seriously is an open question.48 Catherine II was also concerned with the Christians in the Ottoman Empire and desired to implement the so-called Greek Project, which proposed the revival of Byzantium in its own capital in Istanbul. The idea began in the reign of Peter the Great with the conquest of the Black Sea port of Azov in 1696; and a soldier and intimate of Peter’s last years, Count Münnich, claimed in 1762 that “from the moment of the first attack on Azov until the hour of his death, [Peter’s] grand design … had always been to conquer Constantinople, to chase the infidel Turks and Tatars out of Europe, and thus to reestablish the Greek monarchy.”49 Then, in the reign of Catherine II, Grigory Potemkin, who was an influential Russian general, expansionist policy-maker, and statesman, became one of the important supporters of the Greek project around the 1780s.

Writing the History of Ottoman Fortifications in the Age of Reform

Most states underwent processes of military and fiscal reforms as a response to the developing artillery techniques and changing economic systems in the eighteenth century. The Ottoman Empire was no exception.75 The lack of qualified military men, fiscal problems, especially as a result of Russo-Ottoman wars of 1768-74, 1787-92, and 1806-1812, the diffusion of political power from the center to the periphery, and other factors all led to a crisis.76 However, eighteenth-century Ottoman history has arguably received relatively little attention.77 Most studies on this period of Ottoman history reflect the prejudgments of nineteenth-century specialists. Studying the defense systems of Istanbul against Russia first and foremost reveals the organizational capacity of the late-eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire. In addition, studying these defense systems makes it possible to analyze the military and technological reforms of the Ottomans in the late eighteenth century and their understanding of the “Russian threat” in regard to their efforts to fortify their capital.
Attempting to write a history of Ottoman fortresses is a difficult task because of a number of problems in the field. First, there is still no systematic periodization of the Ottoman fortresses and no analytical classification of the Ottoman fortress types.78 We know almost nothing about the designers and architects of the hundreds of Ottoman fortresses that were built throughout centuries. How were these architects educated, and what was the rationale behind their architectural Second, writing the history of Ottoman fortification in a period of reform and “military acculturation”79 offers extra challenges. On the one hand, without knowing the previous norms, it is difficult to measure the extent of change that took place in the reform era. At the same time, it is difficult to assess the role and contribution of foreign experts without knowledge of the previous implementations of Ottoman architects and master-builders.
A third and related challenge concerns the Bosphorus fortresses specifically. The strategic location of the straits meant that fortifications there likely bore unique characteristics that distinguished them from border forts and city walls. Yet it is difficult to determine the particularities of strait/maritime fortresses without knowing about the characteristics of other fortress types.80 Hence this study attempts to shed light on a hitherto unexplored area of history with a profound awareness of its own limits, most of which are due to a lack of sufficient secondary research. Consequently, this study limits itself to asking some questions not necessarily to conclusively answer them, but rather for the more modest end of providing a basis for further research.
François Baron de Tott (1733-93) was an aristocrat and French military officer involved in the reform efforts for the Ottoman military and building fortifications on the Bosphorus. His account of the long years he spent in the Ottoman Empire, Memoires du Baron de Tott sur les Turc (Türkler ve Tatarlara Dair Hatıralar), offer his observations on a number of topics: the construction of new fortresses, the difficulties he faced dealing with “ignorant and lazy” people, Ottoman conflicts with Russia in the Black Sea, Turkish strategies and precautions against the Russian threat, and the Ottomans’ weaknesses in the face of their enemies. Because of the dearth of research on the fortifications of Istanbul and similar issues, the one-sided interpretations of French military men such as Baron de Tott define our perceptions of eighteenth-century Ottoman military and technological history. The aim of my dissertation is to complement their accounts with additional information in light of which we can develop a fuller understanding of these issues. Understanding the shortage of engineers or expert technicians in a comparative context will be an important part of the challenge.


Table of contents :

Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Introduction
1.1. A Brief History of the Ottoman Black Sea
1.2. The Rise of Russia vis-à-vis the Ottomans
1.2.1. The Russo-Ottoman War of 1735-39
1.2.2. The Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-74
1.2.3. The Rivalry over the Crimean Khanate
1.2.4. The Russo-Ottoman War of 1787-92
1.2.5. Threats to Istanbul and the City’s Fortification
1.3. Sultan Selim III and the “New Order” (1792-1807)
1.4. Writing the History of Ottoman Fortifications in the Age of Reform
1.5. Historiography on Ottoman Fortification
1.5.1. Secondary Literature on Various Ottoman Fortifications
1.6. Sources and Methodology
1.7. A Glossary for Ottoman Terminology of Fortification
1.8. Chapter Outlines
2. Hasty Efforts to Guard the Imperial Capital (1772-1774)
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Setting the Ottoman Program for Fortifications
2.3. Construction of New Redoubts
2.4. Construction of Fener Fortresses
2.5. Construction of Garibçe and Poyraz Limanı Fortresses
2.6. End of Baron de Tott’s Employment amid Criticism and Disappointment
2.7. Conclusion
3. Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa and Large Scale Considerations of the Security of the Bosphorus (1778-1788)
3.1. Introduction
3.2. The Russian Threat
3.3. The Ottoman Survey of Fortresses in 1778
3.4. Solid Measures to Improve the Bosphorus Defences
3.4.1. Building Soldier Barracks
3.4.2. Constructing New Fortresses: Kilyos and Karaburun
3.4.3. Constructing Macar and Dalyan Batteries
3.4.4. Maintenance of the Five Fortresses
3.5. The First Mission of French Military Engineers (1783-1788)
3.5.1. Chabaud de la Tour
3.5.2. Lafitte-Clavé and Monnier Courtois
3.5.3. The End of the First French Mission
3.6. Conclusion
4. A Distinctive Methodical Approach to Fortification under the New Order 
4.1. Introduction
4.2. The First Period: The Urgency of War Conditions (1789-93)
4.2.1. The Bosphorus Guardianship of Seyyid Mustafa Paşa and Kolçak Mustafa Ağa
4.2.2. The Bosphorus Guardianship of Seyyid Ahmed Paşa
4.3. The Second Period: The Beginning of the New Order (1793-97)
4.3.1. The Second French Mission (1794-1796)
4.3.2. The End of the Second French Mission
4.3.3. An Overall Assessment of the Bosphorus Fortresses in 1795-97
4.3.4. The Completion of the Bosphorus Fortresses (1797)
4.4. The Third Period: Preparations for the Russo-Ottoman War of 1806-12
4.4.1. The Batteries of Papaz Burnu and Filburnu
4.4.2. The Construction of Kireçburnu Battery
4.4.3. The Enlargement of Macar Fortress (Yuşa Battery)
4.5. Conclusion
5. A Permanent Military Administration in the Bosphorus
5.1. Introduction
5.2. The Security of the Bosphorus before the Superintendency
5.2.1. The Administration of the Imperial Dockyard
5.3. The Formation of the Superintendency of the Bosphorus
5.3.1. The First Superintendent of the Bosphorus: Mustafa Ağa
5.3.2. A Superintendency Residence
5.4. The Formation of the Bosphorus Guardianship
5.5. The Chronological List of Superintendents and Guardians of the Bosphorus
5.6. Conclusion
6. The Military Organization of the Bosphorus Fortresses
6.1. Introduction
6.2. The First Military Organization of the Bosphorus Forts and Batteries
6.3. Transportation of Soldiers and Military Rations
6.4. The Military Organization After the Bosphorus Superintendency
6.5. The Military Organization of the Bosphorus Fortresses under the New Order
6.6. The End of the New Order with the Revolt of the Bosphorus Soldiers
6.7. Conclusion
7. Conclusion
7.1. Marine/Coastal Fortification
7.2. Reform Efforts
7.3. Engineering as a New Profession and French Missions
7.4. Lack of Organization and Qualified Men
7.5. Russian Fear
7.6. Periodization
7.7. Further Research


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