Today in European history: the Mongols sack Kiev (1240)

So describing the siege of Kiev as the "end" of Kievan Rus' is kind of a cop out, akin to identifying Odoacer's conquest of Rome in 476 as the "end" of the Western Roman Empire. It's not not true, and it is a sort of dramatic punctuation mark on which to hang a basic understanding … Continue reading Today in European history: the Mongols sack Kiev (1240)

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Today in World War I: the Battle of Sarikamish ends (1915)

and that's the way it was

The Battle of Sarikamish was an overwhelming Russian victory whose outcome put the Ottomans on the defensive in World War I’s Caucasus theater of operations right up until the 1917 October Revolution took Russia out of the war altogether. Its military impact was fairly substantial–World War I might have been much different if the Ottomans had been able to make a sustained offensive into Russia via the Caucasus–but the Ottomans ultimately gained back the territory they’d lost as a result of this battle. Sarikamish’s greatest impact was felt off the battlefield, by the Armenian people. The Armenian Genocide was a long time coming and had multiple causes. But Sarikamish was one of the most immediate ones, owing to one man’s desperate need to dodge the blame for his failures on the battlefield.

The state of Europe and the Caucasus in January 1915; note Sarikamish there on the right (via mental_floss

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Today in European History: the Russians capture Plevna (1877)

and that's the way it was

If you think the state of Russo-Turkish relations is bad these days…well, actually it’s kind of good lately. But historically that hasn’t always been the case. Consider that the Russian Empire, one of the precursors of modern Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern Turkey, fought a whopping 12 wars against one another between the second half of the 16th century and World War I (which, of course, brought about the end of both empires). The Russians, who were on the ascendance for most of this period, won most of these wars, while the Ottomans, who were not so ascendant, needed help from Britain and France to win their biggest victory against the Russians, in the Crimean War.

By 1877, both empires were in pretty steep decline. What was on the rise was Balkan nationalism. All those Christian and/or European provinces and peoples that had been part…

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Today in European History: the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774)

The Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) marked the end of the Ottoman Empire’s tenure as the heavyweight military power in Eastern Europe. Then passed several decades where the Ottomans won some, probably lost more, but still sort of held their own. But the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed on this date in 1774, marked the point where European … Continue reading Today in European History: the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774)

Today in European history: the Battle of the Kalka River (1223)

The 1240 siege of Kiev occurred on the Mongols’ second incursion into the eastern European steppe and the first that was intended to conquer territory. The Mongols’ first European invasion amounted to a raid, but holy mackerel, what a raid. By 1221 the Mongols’ war against the Khwarazmian Empire in Central Asia/eastern Iran was over, although that empire’s … Continue reading Today in European history: the Battle of the Kalka River (1223)

Today in European history: the Skirmish at Bender (1713)

The Ottoman Empire of 1713 wasn't the Ottoman Empire of 1513 or even 1613, but it was still a formidable enough power that it could play an active role in European affairs. The so-called "Skirmish at Bendery" (known in Swedish as the Kalabaliken i Bender, from the Turkish word kalabalık or "crowd") shows that the … Continue reading Today in European history: the Skirmish at Bender (1713)

Today in World War I: the Battle of Sarikamish ends (1915)

The Battle of Sarikamish was an overwhelming Russian victory whose outcome put the Ottomans on the defensive in World War I's Caucasus theater of operations right up until the 1917 October Revolution took Russia out of the war altogether. Its military impact was fairly substantial--World War I might have been much different if the Ottomans … Continue reading Today in World War I: the Battle of Sarikamish ends (1915)