- A waterway connecting the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and separating Europe from the Asian mainland. In the eighteenth century, Russia emerged as the major antagonist of the Ottoman Empire, in part because of the desire to dominate the Black Sea and have access to the Mediterranean Sea. The question of the Dardanelle Straits thus became important strategically.Control of passage through the Dardanelles was an Ottoman prerogative so long as the Black Sea remained its lake, but when Russia gained a foothold there in 1774, the rules governing passage became contested. As a consequence of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829, St Petersburg forced the Porte to sign the Treaty of Inkiar Skelessi in 1833, which closed the straits to warships of countries other than those of Russia.The treaty alarmed the other European governments, especially the British, who feared the consequences of Russian expansion in the Mediterranean. The British government saw its chance to overturn Russia’s advantage and joined the Ottomans to defeat Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt, whose armies threatened the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The successful military intervention of European powers resulted in the London Straits Convention in July 1841, where Russia agreed that only Ottoman warships could traverse the Dardanelles in peacetime. Consequently, the Ottoman government let the British and French fleets through the straits to attack the Crimea during the Crimean War in 1853. The Congress of Paris in 1856 reaffirmed the London Straits Convention, and it remained theoretically in force into the twentieth century, although it was broken numerous times, notably by the British in 1878.During World War I the Entente Powers tried to seize the Dardanelles in an effort to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the conflict, but they failed. Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, strongly advocated the attack over the expedition on Alexandretta favored by War Secretary Lord Kitchener. The failure damaged Churchill’s career. Sir Ian Hamilton’s Mediterranean Expeditionary Force failed to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and a withdrawal was ordered in January 1916.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Anderson, M. S. The Eastern Question, 1774-1923: A Study in International Relations . London: Macmillan, 1966;Macfie, A. L. The Eastern Question, 1774-1923 . New York; Longman, 1996.ANDREKOS VARNAVA
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.