Foreign Policy

Russian Foreign Policy, 1855-1881

A.) Alliances

In 1848/1849, Russia selflessly had sent their tropps to help the Austrian Emperor crush the revolution in Hungary; in 1853 Austria refused to come to Russia's aid, when Russia found herself attacked by an Anglo-French coalition in the CRIMEAN WAR. Newly crowned CZAR ALEXANDER II. drew the conclusion of ending support for the HOLY ALLIANCE, the principal supporter of which Russia had been.
In 1863 the second POLISH REBELLION broke out. Prussia closed its borders to Polish refugees, an act Russia responded to by remaining neutral during the wars leading to German unification (German-Danish War 1864, Prusso-Austrian War 1866, Franco-German War 1870/71).
In 1870/71 Prussia and her allies defeated France, Bismarck created the German Empire as the new leading power on the European continent. In 1872 Germany, Austria and Russia joined the LEAGUE OF THE THREE EMPERORS, conceived as a defensive alliance against France (not too seriously taken on Austria's side, which did not give up the idea of taking revenge herself for 1866 until 1879). A first Russo-German military convention on mutual defense in case of one of them being attacked was signed in 1873.

B.) The Balkans

The spirit of NATIONALISM had reached the Orthodox christian peoples living under Ottoman rule on the Balkans peninsula, which Russia since the TREATY OF KUCHUK KAINARJI (1774) claimed to protect. In 1876 and 1877 the BULGARIANS rose in rebellion, rebellions which were quickly suppressed with extraordinary brutality by the Janissaries. Russia offered Austria a concerted action against the Ottoman Empire, as a result of which the Ottoman Empire's European possessions should be partitioned among the two. Austria declined. Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, easily defeated the Turkish forces. In the PEACE OF SAN STEFANO, the Ottoman Empire had to concede the creation of a large, independent Bulgarian state.
The British government was not willing to accept the new situation. With the threat of a repetition of the Crimean War looming, Bismarck invited the powers to send their diplomats to Berlin (the BERLIN CONGRESS), where a new peace arrangement was signed, providing for a much smaller Bulgaria. Russia regarded the conference a loss of face.

C.) Asia

In 1867, Russia sold ALASKA to the United States, a purchase then severely criticized by U.S. Congress as wasteful ('Seward's ice-box').
Russia turned its view eastward. In 1858 the AMUR TERRITORY was acquired from China in the TREATY OF AIGUN, in 1860 the COASTAL PROVINCE in the TREATY OF PEKING. In the Coastal Province, the port city of VLADIVISTOK was founded that year. SAKHALIN was annexed in 1875, Japan's approval being gained by recognizing Japan's claims to the Kuril islands.
In 1859/1861, CHECHNYA finally was subjugated after a long war. In 1878 at the Berlin Congress Russia had been ceded the VILAYET OF KARS, a territory mainly populated by Armenian christians (lost to Turkey in 1918/23). With this, Russian expansion in the Caucasus region reached its furthest limit.
In 1865, Russian forces occupied TASHKENT. In 1868 a protectorate was proclaimed over the EMIRATE OF BUKHARA, and the KHANATE OF SAMARKAND was annexed. In 1871 Russian forces occupied the ILI TERRITORY (evacuated 1881, when it reverted to Chinese rule). In1876 Russia annexed the KHANATE OF KOKAND.

Article Turkestan, from Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition
L.S. Stavrianos, Balkan Crisis and the Treaty of Berlin 1878, posted by Serbian Unity
DOCUMENTS Medal : Visit of Czar Alexander II to London, 1874, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2006

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