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Russo-Turkish War // Anglo-Russian Crisis

Russia and the Ottoman (or Turkish) Empire fought a series of wars from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, which gradually allowed Russia to extend its territory southward.  In 1877, in the last and most important of these wars, Russia and Serbia intervened militarily to support rebellions against Turkish rule in the Balkan regions of Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Bulgaria.

During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, the United States was a neutral power that furnished arms to both sides in the conflict.  A cartoon in the April 28, 1877 issue of Harper’s Weekly presented the Ottoman Empire (a “Moslem”) and Russia (a “Muscovite”) threatening each other.  Brother Jonathan, personifying the United States, stood impatiently in the background, encouraging them to fight so that he can sell them “Provisions, Guns, Ammunition, Ships” (as the billboard on his storefront announced).  Standing in the shadows near his pawnshop, John Bull, the symbol of Great Britain, looked concerned.  Britain had interests in the Middle East (protecting the Suez Canal in Egypt and the trade route to India), and was in a decades-long struggle with Russia for dominance of the region around Afghanistan.

Six months later, artist Theodore Davis’s cover illustration for the October 13 issue showed workers making cartridges at an arms factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The accompanying article explained that the ammunition was intended for the Russo-Turkish War:  “Both parties to the great struggle … turn to America for a large proportion of the arms and ammunition supplied to their respective armies…”  The factory featured on the front page and another in New Haven together produced two million cartridges daily to fill large orders from Russia and Turkey.  Most of the two companies’ 4000 employees were women.  The article concluded, “In short, America leads the world in the manufacture of arms of precision.”

The war ended in March 1878 when victorious Russia and defeated Turkey signed the Treaty of San Stefano.  It recognized the independence of Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia, granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and put much of Bulgaria under Russian protection.  Opposition to its terms from Britain and Austria-Hungary led to its revision a few months later in the Treaty of Berlin.

Harper's Weekly References

1)  April 28, 1877, p. 336, c. 1-2
cartoon, US and Russo-Turkish War

2)  October 13, 1877, p. 797
illustration, “Making Cartridges”

3)  October 13, 1877, pp. 802-803
article, “Making Cartridges”

Sources Consulted

“Russo-Turkish Wars.”  Encyclopædia Britannica 2003.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.

“Russo-Turkish War 1877-1878.”

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Russo-Turkish War // Anglo-Russian Crisis





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