Great Eastern Crisis

Great Eastern Crisis (1875–78)
Part of Rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire
Clash with Cherkessians.jpg
Serbian soldiers attacking the Ottoman army at Mramor, 1877.
Date19 June 1875 – 13 July 1878
(3 years, 3 weeks and 3 days)
Result Ottoman defeat
Treaty of Berlin



  • Greek Rebels

Supported by:


 Ottoman Empire

Supported by:
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Russian Empire Alexander II
Russian Empire Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich
Russian Empire Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich
Russian Empire Mikhail Loris-Melikov
Russian Empire Mikhail Skobelev
Russian Empire Iosif Gurko
Russian Empire Ivan Lazarev
Romania Carol I of Romania
Kingdom of Bulgaria Alexander of Battenberg
Principality of Montenegro Prince Nikola
Kosta Protić
Stjepan Jovanović
Ottoman Empire Abdul Hamid II
Ottoman Empire Ahmed Pasha
Ottoman Empire Osman Pasha
Ottoman Empire Suleiman Pasha
Ottoman Empire Mehmed Pasha
Ottoman Empire Abdülkerim Nadir Pasha
Ottoman Empire Ahmed Eyüb Pasha
Ottoman Empire Mehmed Riza Pasha

Russian Empire 185,000 in the Army of the Danube, 75,000 in the Caucasian Army[1]

  • Coat of Arms of Grand Duchy of Finland-holding sabre.svg 1,000
Romania 66,000
Kingdom of Bulgaria 12,000, 190 cannons
Principality of Serbia 81,500
Principality of Montenegro 45,000
Casualties and losses
Russian Empire 15,567 killed, 56,652 wounded, 6,824 died from wounds[3]
Romania 4,302 killed and missing, 3,316 wounded, 19,904 sick [4]
Kingdom of Bulgaria 2,456 dead and wounded[5]
Principality of SerbiaPrincipality of Montenegro 2,400 dead and wounded[5]
30,000 killed,[6]
90,000 died from wounds and diseases[6]

The Great Eastern Crisis of 1875–78 began in the Ottoman Empire's territories on the Balkan peninsula in 1875, with the outbreak of several uprisings and wars that resulted in the intervention of international powers, and was ended with the Treaty of Berlin in July 1878.

It is also called Serbo-Croatian: Velika istočna kriza; Turkish: Şark Buhranı ("Eastern Crisis", for the crisis in general), Ramazan Kararnamesi ("Decree of Ramadan", for the sovereign default declared on 30 October 1875) and 93 Harbi ("War of 93", for the wars on the Balkan peninsula between 1877 and 1878, referring in particular to the Russo-Turkish War, the year 1293 on the Islamic Rumi calendar corresponding to the year 1877 on the Gregorian calendar).


The empire in 1875 right before the crisis
The Batak massacre carried out by Ottoman irregular troops in Bulgaria in 1876.
The Avenger: An Allegorical War Map for 1877 by Fred. W. Rose, 1872: This map reflects the "Great Eastern Crisis" and the subsequent Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78.

The state of Ottoman administration in the Balkans continued to deteriorate throughout the 19th century, with the Sublime Porte occasionally losing control over whole provinces. Reforms imposed by European powers did little to improve the conditions of the Christian population, while at the same time managing to dissatisfy a sizable portion of the Muslim population. Bosnia suffered at least two waves of rebellion by the local Muslim population, the most recent in 1850.[7] Austria consolidated after the turmoil of the first half of the century and sought to reinvigorate its longstanding policy of expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, the nominally autonomous, de facto independent principalities of Serbia and Montenegro also sought to expand into regions inhabited by their compatriots. Nationalist and irredentist sentiments were strong and were encouraged by Russia and its agents.

Ottoman economic crisis and defaultEdit

On 24 August 1854,[8][9][10][11] during the Crimean War, the Ottoman Empire took its first foreign loans.[12][13] The empire entered into subsequent loans, partly to finance the construction of railways and telegraph lines, and partly to finance deficits between revenues and the lavish expenditures of the imperial court, such as the construction of new palaces on the Bosphorus strait in Constantinople.[14] Some financial commentators have noted that the terms of these loans were exceptionally favourable to the British and French banks (owned by the Rothschild family) which facilitated them, whereas others have noted that the terms reflected the imperial administration's willingness to constantly refinance its debts.[14][15] A large amount of money was also spent for building new ships for the Ottoman Navy during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861–1876). In 1875, the Ottoman Navy had 21 battleships and 173 warships of other types, which formed the third largest naval fleet in the world after those of the British and French navies. All of these expenditures, however, put a huge strain on the Ottoman treasury. In the meantime, a severe drought in Anatolia in 1873 and flooding in 1874 caused famine and widespread discontent in the heart of the empire. The agricultural shortages precluded the collection of necessary taxes, which forced the Ottoman government to declare a sovereign default on its foreign loan repayments on 30 October 1875 and increase taxes in all of its provinces, including the Balkans.[13][14]

Uprisings and wars in the BalkansEdit

The decision to increase taxes for paying the Ottoman Empire's debts to foreign creditors resulted in outrage in the Balkan provinces, which culminated in the Great Eastern Crisis and ultimately the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78) that provided independence or autonomy for the Christian nations in the empire's Balkan territories, with the subsequent Treaty of Berlin in 1878. The war, however, was disastrous for the already struggling Ottoman economy and the Ottoman Public Debt Administration was established in 1881, which gave the control of the Ottoman state revenues to foreign creditors.[14][16] This made the European creditors bondholders, and assigned special rights to the OPDA for collecting various types of tax and customs revenues.[14]


After the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, Austria-Hungary stationed military garrisons in the Ottoman Vilayet of Bosnia and Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar, which formally (de jure) continued to be Ottoman territories. Taking advantage of the chaos that occurred during the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, Bulgaria declared its formal independence on 5 October 1908. The following day, Austria-Hungary unilaterally annexed Bosnia on 6 October 1908, but pulled its military forces out of Novi Pazar in order to reach a compromise with the Ottoman government and avoid a war (the Ottoman Empire lost the Sanjak of Novi Pazar with the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913.)

In 1881, France occupied the Ottoman Beylik of Tunisia, with the excuse that Tunisian troops had crossed the border into their colony of Algeria, which also formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire until 1830. A year later, in 1882, the British Empire occupied the Ottoman Khedivate of Egypt, with the pretext of giving military assistance to the Ottomans for putting down the Urabi Revolt (Britain later declared Egypt a British protectorate on 5 November 1914, in response to the Ottoman government's decision to join World War I on the side of the Central Powers.[17]) It is worth noting that the Ottoman government had frequently declared the tax revenues from Egypt as a surety for borrowing loans from British and French banks.[9][13] The Ottoman government had earlier leased Cyprus to Britain in 1878, in exchange for British support at the Congress of Berlin in the same year (Cyprus was later annexed by Britain on 5 November 1914, for the same aforementioned reason regarding the Ottoman participation in World War I.[18]) By obtaining Cyprus and Egypt, Britain gained an important foothold in the East Mediterranean and control over the Suez Canal; while France increased its lands in the West Mediterranean coast of North Africa by adding Tunisia to its empire as a French protectorate.

Historian Maroš Melichárek writes that the Great Eastern Crisis could not have been fully resolved without Serbia.[19]

Chronology of the Great Eastern Crisis and its aftermathEdit




  1. ^ Timothy C. Dowling. Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond. 2 Volumes. ABC-CLIO, 2014. P. 748
  2. ^ Мерников, АГ (2005), Спектор А. А. Всемирная история войн (in Russian), Минск.
  3. ^ Урланис Б. Ц. (1960). "Войны в период домонополистического капитализма (Ч. 2)". Войны и народонаселение Европы. Людские потери вооруженных сил европейских стран в войнах XVII—XX вв. (Историко-статистическое исследование). М.: Соцэкгиз. pp. 104–105, 129 § 4.
  4. ^ Scafes, Cornel, et al., Armata Romania in Razvoiul de Independenta 1877–1878 (The Romanian Army in the War of Independence 1877–1878). Bucuresti, Editura Sigma, 2002, p. 149 (Romence)
  5. ^ a b Борис Урланис, Войны и народонаселение Европы, Часть II, Глава II
  6. ^ a b Мерников А. Г.; Спектор А. А. (2005). Всемирная история войн. Мн.: Харвест. ISBN 985-13-2607-0.
  7. ^ Dixon, Jeffrey S.; Sarkees, Meredith Reid (2015). A Guide to Intra-state Wars: An Examination of Civil, Regional, and Intercommunal Wars, 1816-2014. CQ Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-1506300818. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  8. ^ Dünya Bülteni: "Osmanlı Devleti ilk kez dış borç aldı"
  9. ^ a b Derin Strateji: "Osmanlı Borçları ve Düyun-u Umumiye İdaresi"
  10. ^ "Yazarport: "Kırım Savaşı ve İlk Dış Borçlanma (1854-1855)"". Archived from the original on 2018-06-15. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  11. ^ "History of the Ottoman public debt". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
  12. ^ Douglas Arthur Howard: "The History of Turkey", page 71.
  13. ^ a b c Mevzuat Dergisi, Yıl: 9, Sayı: 100, Nisan 2006: "Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nda ve Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'nde Borçlanma Politikaları ve Sonuçları"
  14. ^ a b c d e Niall Ferguson (2 January 2008). "An Ottoman warning for indebted America". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  15. ^ Gold for the Sultan: Western Bankers and Ottoman Finance, 1856–1881, by Christopher Clay, London, 2001, p. 30.
  16. ^ Krasner, Stephen D. "Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  17. ^ Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)
  18. ^ Articles 20 and 21 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)
  19. ^ Melichárek, Maroš (January 2019). "Srbské nádeje a sklamania: Jovan Ristić a Berlínsky kongres /Serbia's Hopes and Disillusions: Jovan Ristić and the Congress of Berlin/". Od moravských luk k balkánským horám: Václavu Štěpánkovi k šedesátinám.

Further readingEdit