Orthodox Russia vs Muslim Ottomans

Religion had always been important in Imperial Russia. As early as the ‎seventeenth century, Russian expansion, even the Russian empire itself were perceived by Russian statesmen and ‎historians as the Orthodox Crusade (as opposed to the famous series of Crusades in the middle ages).‎

The rapid dizzying expansion of the Russian empire encouraged the Russians to proclaim Moscow (their own Holy city) as ‎the Third Rome (after Rome & Constantinople)‎. Incorporation of the Orthodox Christian faith into the Russian identity was State and Church sponsored.‎

Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118), whose call for help ignited the Crusades.

Religious fervor and zeal for protecting the Holy lands and Christian pilgrims from Muslim ‎aggression were a significant factor in vitalizing the Christian kingdoms into building armies and sending ‎campaigns to the Middle East.‎ The same tactics were sought once again in Imperial Russia. This time, not just for restoring the Holy lands into the Christian fold, but to ‎resurrect the Byzantine Empire as well.

The Russians missed the first series of crusades in the Holy Lands (1095 – 1291); the Kievan Rus’ started embracing Christianity, in the Byzantine Orthodox faith, in the 11th century A.D. So, the Russians embarked on their own ‎crusade, starting the early 18th century.‎

The early Russo-Turkish skirmishes and wars were a combination of direct confrontations and proxy wars. ‎In Ukraine and around the Black Sea, the Tatar Khanate of Crimea (1441 – 1783) did the Ottoman Sultan’s bidding for a long time. However, with the increasingly powerful and brutal Russian intervention, the Ottoman entered the fray of a long series of wars… and ‎lost spectacularly. The first devastating blow to the Ottoman prestige came with the 1768-1774 war. A war vital in two ‎aspects: it proved to weary Europe that the Russian Empire was indeed the behemoth they feared it was, and the Ottomans were no longer so.‎

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