Sultan Ahmed III




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During the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was almost continuously at war with one or more of its enemies--Persia, Poland, Austria, and Russia. War with Russia, in fact, dominates the Ottoman scene from much of the eighteenth century; the two states clashed on 1711, between 1768 and 1774, and again between 1787 and 1792. In all these wars of the eighteenth century, there were no clear victors or losers. Under the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kaynarja that ended the Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-74, the Porte abandoned the Tartar khanate in the Crimea, granted autonomy to the Trans-Danubian provinces, allowed Russian ships free access to Ottoman waters, and agreed to pay a large war indemnity.

The Emergence of Peter the Great

Peter the Great created a new nation, no less expansionist in character than the Ottoman Empire. Since 1689 Tsar at Moscow, Peter the Great had embarked on a policy of seeking "access to the seas". In the north this meant the "cold seas": the Baltic and the Golf of Finland. On that coast he founded a city which was to become his new capital, St Petersburg. In the south this meant the "warm seas": the Sea of Asov and the Black Sea, with an eye to the Mediterranean. This of course meant taking Constantinople.

During his campaigns in the north, Peter the Great had incurred the enmity of the Swedes. The King of Sweden, Carl XII, invaded Russia but was defeated by the Russians at Poltava in 1709. To escape being taken prisoner Carl XII sought asylum in Turkey together with Mazeppa the Commander-in-Chief of the Cossacks, who had taken his side. Carl XII, whom the Turks called "Demirbachly" ('Iranhead'), and Mazeppa were granted asylum by Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730). Through his ambassador, Tolstoy, Peter the Great demanded that they'd be extradited. Ahmed III refused and declared proudly that "such a notion was an infringement of the sacred right to hospitality, which had always been law in Islamic countries". Since the Russians insisted, Ahmed III had Ambassador Tolstoy thrown into the "Prison of the Seven Towers" ('Yedikule') at Constantinople. That meant war in 1711.

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