Bears in the Bosporus

The arrival in 1833 of a Russian fleet signalled Russian control for several years of the Bosporus and of the Turkish Empire, writes Lansing Collins.

Jetting down the Bosporus from the Black Sea, a sharp chill wind was kicking up puffs of spray on February 20th, 1833 when seven huge ships-of-the-line, each flying a blue cross on a white field, dropped anchor off Buyukdere, a small village on the European shore about ten miles above Constantinople. The people in Buyukdere were astounded. Never before, in the four hundred years since the Turks had captured Constantinople, had a foreign naval force been seen in the Bosporus.

Occasionally a frigate or other small warship had been permitted to bring an Ambassador to Constantinople; but no infidel force of such size had ever penetrated these waters. For these big warships were Russian, sent by the ambitious Tsar Nicholas to ‘help’ Sultan Mahmud II defend himself against the rebellious Viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, whose men, led by his son Ibrahim, were then deep into Anatolia on their way to the capital.

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