The Russians and the Ottoman Turks fought numerous wars for two centuries before the Crimean Khanate was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1783. However, Crimea was not an end in itself but a beachhead for Russia’s further southward advance at the expense of Turkey. Three more wars followed until the middle of the 19th century, with Russia acquiring territories on the eastern and western shores of the Black Sea.
But the prize St. Petersburg always coveted was bigger: the Turkish Straits and control over Istanbul, or Tsargrad in Russian. There was a host of reasons why it was so important, strategic as well as ideological. Naturally, control over the Straits would mean unhindered access to the Mediterranean and would reshape Russia into a major European power.
But the ideological aspect of controlling Constantinople was even more important. It would fulfill Russia’s manifest destiny of becoming the Third Rome, not only making it a direct heir to historic Byzantium but also bringing Eastern Christianity under its full control.. Accordingly, Russia traditionally positioned itself as a protector of both Slavs and Orthodox Christians living under the Turkish rule. The pan-Slav movement also had far-reaching plans of uniting all Slavs in one state – the Russian one, of course.
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David R. Duringer, JD, LL.M, is a concealed firearm instructor and tax lawyer specializing in business and estate planning. He is managing shareholder at Protective Law Corporation, headquartered in Laguna Hills, primarily serving Orange County and Southern California with a satellite office located in Coronado (San Diego County).
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