The “Magnificent Age” - Catherine II TL

Catherine II, 1778, Decree ‘On the appointment of a place for establishing a harbor and shipyard on the Liman, and on naming it Kherson’
Hah, Gerson!
What a silly name
They found a swamp and built city on it.
Goals
No, not my swamp!
- Shrek
What a sober person has in mind, a drunk person has already done.”
Not that they had good things in mind

Then again, maybe getting drunk would make me more productive...

Is what I would say if I wasnt always drunk
If aliens ever come to us and start making irony about the level of our civilization, we will say that we were just joking and that this is all a dummy specially made for them.”
Genius
Boastful speeches are the first sign of weakness, and those who are capable of great things keep their mouths shut.
Then maybe you should have shut up Cicero!

Guy cant take his own advice
You should never brag about the future.”
Sure, the future should brag about me!
Worrying all the time about past mistakes is the worst mistake.”
Mohammed Ali
Both of which can be avoided with a time machine
Building castles in the air costs nothing, but destroying them is very expensive.“
Either François Mauriac or Bismarck or somebody else
Yet cool floating palaces arent a thing, worst timeline
He made a pause, not being able to handle a continuously produced flow of his own lies.”
Saltykov-Schedrin, ‘Modern Idyll’
Should have become a rapper
“- I’m willing to send you fifty male elephants so they can breed in the forests of America.
So they are going to breed with, what, bullmooses? Looking forward to the hybrids!
- Fifty male elephants?
- You’ll figure out the details!”
King and I’
As an yaoi enthusiast I consider this an absolute win
The reason was simple: from that point there was a series of the rapids making further sailing down the river something between extremely risky and suicidal.
Sounds like an adventure!
Of course, there were experienced pilots who routinely managed to get the ships through with an “acceptable rate of the losses”
"Some of you will die but thats a sacrifice Im willing to make"
but the only people willing to experience this type of a fun were Potemkin, and princes de Ligne and Nassau-
Neat!
Throw them into the river!
Of course, the place was prepared in advance in usual wasteful style of a questionable taste favored b6 Catherine
Russia so advanced they already have B-6s

Whatever that is
There was a solemn ceremony of putting foundation of the city cathedral, which was supposed to be “slightly bigger than St.Peter in Rome”.
So about the size of the Aparecida cathedral

How grand, I wonder how many McDonald's could fit into it
The first stone had been placed by Catherine
"Upon this Catherine I found my Empire"
- Someone who is definitely not Jesus
and second by Joseph who commented that this was the shortest construction project ever because “The Empress put the first stone and I the last one.”
Lmao
Below is the project.
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Doesnt look that impressive even on paper
And here is implementation. Not exactly the planned super-St.Peter.
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In all honesty? I like it
Its really pretty and simple
More of a vibe of "place people come to pray on the Sundays" than some megalomaniac tribute to a monarch's own arrogance, and thats good, its what a church is supposed to be
After traveling 400 versts in the carriages the caravan reached Kherson which was planned to be the first exhibit in the Great BS program prepared by Potemkin.
What an appropriate name
the really important viewer, Catherine, had neither opportunity nor desire to see trees behind the forest.
Cringe

The best thing about my city and neighbourhood is getting to see the trees

Really wish I had the skills to walk through them without getting myself killed
Kherson was exactly what she wanted to see: a miracle city built within few years out of nothing.
Well that sounds cool
In her decree about founding the city she insisted only on two things: it has to be placed somewhere near the Dnieper’s estuary and it must be called Kherson
She is terrible at naming
The first one, conducted by lieutenant Pustishkin, produced negative results: the bay was too shallow. The next one was more productive: vice-admiral A.N.Senyavin who conducted it obviously had a better comprehension of the …er… “political situation” (a new city had to be somewhere around)
Hilarious

I would say "fight the waves Cathie!" but I suppose in this place there wouldnt be any
One could argue that building new cities on a swamp was an important part of the Russian imperial tradition
Glorious
On a certain stage of the whole project Potemkin found a person who promised to deal with the rapids by blowing them away. The dynamite was not invented yet, the rapids were big and numerous and result was predictably costly and close to zero leaving the timber supply problematic.
Thought you had mistyped rabbits(twice) and was thinking this was Napoleon's situation all over again
Potemkin was outraged and complained to Segur about the French duplicity
Hahahaha

Whats next, complain about the British duplicity?

Learn to roll my dude
The empress, with thoughts always sublime and courageous, wished that during her stay in Crimea she would be guarded by Tatars who despised the female sex
Oh so they're gamers, nothing to be worried about
enemies of Christians
Cringe
and only recently conquered by her authorities.
What could go wrong?
This scenario definitely would be quite entertaining but it did not happen. [2]
😢

Why cant we have nice things

Great TL material though!
[2] At least not ITTL 😜
*Tries to convince you to make even more TLs*
 
Hah, Gerson!
What a silly name

Goals
No, not my swamp!
- Shrek

Not that they had good things in mind

Then again, maybe getting drunk would make me more productive...

Is what I would say if I wasnt always drunk

Genius

Then maybe you should have shut up Cicero!

Guy cant take his own advice

Sure, the future should brag about me!

Both of which can be avoided with a time machine

Yet cool floating palaces arent a thing, worst timeline

Should have become a rapper

So they are going to breed with, what, bullmooses? Looking forward to the hybrids!

As an yaoi enthusiast I consider this an absolute win
The old Hollywood movies tended to have the good text writers.
Sounds like an adventure!

"Some of you will die but thats a sacrifice Im willing to make"

Neat!
Throw them into the river!

Russia so advanced they already have B-6s

Whatever that is
It is “by”: my old iPad likes to repeat the printed letters and the new one substitutes at will the letters with the numbers. Did not have time, yet, to find out how to set its keyboard properly.

So about the size of the Aparecida cathedral

How grand, I wonder how many McDonald's could fit into it

"Upon this Catherine I found my Empire"
- Someone who is definitely not Jesus

Lmao
A witty Hapsburg definitely warrants this reaction.
Doesnt look that impressive even on paper

In all honesty? I like it
Its really pretty and simple
More of a vibe of "place people come to pray on the Sundays" than some megalomaniac tribute to a monarch's own arrogance, and thats good, its what a church is supposed to be
Nobody cared about it being nice and functional. It had to be “great”.
She is terrible at naming
You don’t know how really terrible it sounds in Russian. A hint: “kher” is one of the names for certain part of a male anatomy. 😂
Thought you had mistyped rabbits(twice) and was thinking this was Napoleon's situation all over again

Nope. The rabbits are the small furry creatures with the big ears and rapids are the huge stones in a river.
Oh so they're gamers, nothing to be worried about

Not that “despice”. 😜
Cringe

What could go wrong?

😢
Absolutely nothing: all ports had been under Russian control, the Tatars had no clue about navigation and had no ships and probably there were other problems. But what do you expect from an Austrian general who, in an absence of a smatphone, was sending daily letters to a person living literally the next door? 😂
Why cant we have nice things

Because you’ll be spoiled.
Great TL material though!

*Tries to convince you to make even more TLs*
One in a time. 😜
 
Nobody cared about it being nice and functional. It had to be “great”.
Oh so like my upbringing
You don’t know how really terrible it sounds in Russian. A hint: “kher” is one of the names for certain part of a male anatomy. 😂
You know its good when it gets even better in its native language
Nope. The rabbits are the small furry creatures with the big ears and rapids are the huge stones in a river
Imagining russian ships being attacked by water rabbits
Absolutely nothing: all ports had been under Russian control, the Tatars had no clue about navigation and had no ships and probably there were other problems.
Fair enough but I think that much like Empress they prefered transport by horses
But what do you expect from an Austrian general who, in an absence of a smatphone, was sending daily letters
Mood
Because you’ll be spoiled.
Too late for that
One in a time. 😜
Yeah and the Catherine bikini show one comes first
 
62. Catherine’s Grand Trip #2. Getting ready to be bulshitted. Part 3 New
62. Catherine’s Grand Trip #2. Getting ready to be bulshitted. Part 3
The prince enjoys unlimited influence; he knows all the secrets, all the virtues and weaknesses of the sovereign; he is necessary for her mind; he has power over her heart; she looks at him as the only person able to manage the army and make some firm decision in the event of a revolution; he is the only subject whose loyalty she considers firm and incorruptible.
de Segur
He is a lazy, careless and too cold to do anything consistently.”
Joseph II
After grabbing many important positions he, due to his laziness, relied too much on others and performed his duties badly. He was a man of pleasure, did not have the necessary energy in his affairs. The military department, entrusted to him, was not in the best order.”
E.I. Golytsin
There is no way to find a more lazy, careless, more indifferent person.”
Whitwort
Great man: great in mind, great in height, did not resemble that tall French ambassador in London, about whom Chancellor Bacon said that the attic is usually badly furnished.”
Suvorov
A man is brilliant and talented; but his mind and character do not make possible to love and respect him.
Dohm
The same can be said about fame as about fortune: wanting to receive too many favors from it, they fall out of favor with it.”
“No matter how high the position an ambitious person occupies, he wants to rise even higher.

Pierre Buast
“The performance ends when the viewer leaves.”
“Lush scenery is a great cover for wrething.”
“Parades are beautiful packaging for cannon fodder.”
“Don't cut the expenses on showing off!”

Unknown authors​

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On June 20 the travelers arrived to Bakhchisarai, the former khanate’s capital (after the Russian conquest only approximately 50,000 Tatars remained in the peninsula) and had been placed in khan’s palace. The city is placed in a narrow valley. Badly built houses were placed in a semicircle on the slopes of the circumferential mountains. “The entrance to the city is not safe, and the Empress herself almost experienced it while, seeing the Bakhchisarai minarets, she was already approaching her goal and enjoyed the pleasure of sitting on the Muslim throne, won by her weapons.” The road was going steeply down, the carriage was heavy and the horses were running so fast that there was a chance for a crash but it did not happen. [1]

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Despite the fact that Bakhchisarai lost a lot of population after the war, it still had up to 9,000 inhabitants, mostly Muslims. The new government did not prevent them from trading and worshiping so everything remained pretty much the same including the laziness, arrogance and the indifference of the Tatars who were sitting silently at the doors of their houses not displaying any interest at the sight of a big procession. This lack of enthusiasm or subservience could look offensive to the new masters but seemingly the only irritated person was Segur who had nothing to do with either side of a situation. Catherine and Joseph took the former khan’s apartments and the ambassadors (and de Ligne) took the rooms of now vacant seraglio [2]. Catherine liked her stay (with almost a complete absence of the Russian population, there were no tiresome receptions, balls, etc.) and spent there five days. Segur: “She enjoyed the pride of the sovereign, woman and Christian at the thought that she had taken the throne of the khans, who were once lords of Russia.” Well, actually, they weren’t; an attempt of the Khanate to replace the GH failed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. But not too many of the travelers and definitely not the ambassadors, had been too deep into the Russian history. Anyway, the point was obvious and simple: “now Catherine is the boss”. However, the natives got used to the fast changes of their rulers and tended to ignore them unless the change inconvenience them directly.

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The next stop was Akhtiar now called Sevastopol. Above is an official depiction of her entry into the city, which, as you may guess, has little to do with a reality except for the fact that there was a sea nearby. But would not depiction of a sovereign arriving to a naval base in a comfortable carriage and not waiving a scepter a little bit, shall we say, not appropriately majestic? Of course, what one can see on a background has nothing to do with the buildings in Sevastopol and, personally, I’m tempted to assume that this was a fake depiction of her entry into some other place but this is what Google search produced and who’d dare to question its accuracy and authenticity. So she rode into the city on a pure-breed horse accompanied by the high-ranking companions also on the horseback. There was a triumph arch (actually, there was one) and the guns from mighty fortifications (which were of a type that became obsolete at least century earlier) and the troops lined along the road. This is how it should be, which mean that it how it was [3].
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Catherine was placed in the only presentable building, house of vice-admiral McKenzie. By Potemkin’s order for the visit the interior was luxuriously decorated turning it into a small palace. The most important feature, essential for the Big BS Show, was a balcony with a view of a harbor. Here came apotheosis of the show. While “their majesties sat at the table, to the sounds of beautiful music, the doors of a large balcony suddenly opened, and a majestic spectacle appeared to your eyes; between two rows of Tatar horsemen we saw a bay 12 verststs long and 4 wide; in the middle of this bay, in view of the royal dining room, a formidable fleet was lined up in battle order, built, armed and completely equipped in two years” and now saluting to Catherine. The ships were saluting, the crews were cheering and everyone present was supposed to be impressed.
Catherine definitely was quite excited: “These places are the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is difficult to find a harbor similar to one in Sevastopol; there are many different bays in it, the depth is the same everywhere, so that not only merchants, but also the largest warships can land close to the shore everywhere.”
Joseph not too much so: “From Sevastopol I drove forward to see Balaklava, to see the famous harbor. It is not large, but it is safe, and some trade has started in it. The entrance to the harbor is inconvenient, narrow and filled with pitfalls, which I could personally see from my boat. However, since most of the inhabitants fled, there were only ruins and empty houses.”
Joseph’ statement regarding the empty Balaklava hardly was correct because its population was big enough to have a considerable number of the noblewomen: as a part of the entertainment, Catherine was presented with the “Amazon company” formed by Potemkin’s order out of the wives and daughters of the noble Greeks living in Balaklava.
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Hundred of them met the cortege near Balaklava and Catherine was quite satisfied with their appearance. The uniform of the "amazon" consisted of velvet crimson skirts with fringe and green jackets. Both the skirts and jackets were tied with gold galun. The heads were covered with white turbans with gilded sequins and ostrich feathers. The personnel were armed with rifles, for which three cartridges were issued. However, when Potemkin asked Catherine’s permission for them to show a fire practice she prudently forbade. As soon as Catherine was out of the Crimea the company was disbanded but it was awarded 10,000 rubles as a show of Catherine’s pleasure.

Getting back to the “historic dinner”, of course, most of the ships presented were rather old and not very big vessels, which were a part of the former Azov Flotilla and quite a few things could be (and will be later) said about quality of these ships and their equipment, but the view was impressive. The claim that within 30 hours her ships can reach Constantinople and the colors of her army could be set on its walls had been somewhat on excessively optimistic side and, politically, quite stupid being a direct provocation, but in a general excitement this aspect of the boasts passed unnoticed. Flattering and congratulations, the bellicose speeches of Potemkin, de Ligne and Nassau-Siegen seemingly did not shake Catherine’s peaceful mood and Bulgakov was sent to Constantinople with the instruction to present Porte with the peaceful proposals developed during the conference in Kherson.

Sevastopol at that time consisted of few warehouses, Admiralty, city fortifications, 400 houses. The crowds of workers(their barracks were outside the city), strong garrison, hospital, shipyards, commercial and quarantine piers were giving it appearance of a reasonably significant city. As in Kherson, the ability to complete a major construction within a relatively short period of time was quite impressive. Everybody who was somebody in the local establishment was presented to the Empress and there was an avalanche of across the board promotions and material awards. Among other beneficiaries was captain first rank Feodor Ushakov, commander of the 66 gun ship “St. Paul”, whom Catherine promoted into “captain of brigadier rank”. He was not a completely “obscure” figure: in 1780 he served as a captain of the imperial yacht and in 1785 he got his first award, St.Vladimir IV class for the successful fight against the plague epidemic in Kherson (saved most of his ships crew); however, probably the most important was the fact that he was Potemkin’s protege.

Catherine gave Prince de Ligne the estate "Parthenitsa" (lands of Partenit, Kuchuk-Lambat and Nikita). Unlike many other new owners of estates in the Crimea who have never been to them, de Ligne, together with Nassau-Siegen, the new owner of Massandra [4] , went on horseback, to inspect the new estates. He hasn't been here again and neither was Nassau-Siegen. Perhaps inspection did not produce the results warranting a second look.

From Sevastopol Catherine traveled back to Bakhchisarai and stayed here for few more days after which went to Simferopol and then, by a newly created good road, to Karasu Bazar where Potemkin built a palace with the big English- style park. Here Catherine was presented with the huge fireworks with a grand finale of 300,000 rockets.
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Joseph: “To give us the opportunity to see an Angora goat with a goat, and some semblance of an English garden, which Prince Potemkin laid out in the local vicinity on one of his plots, the prince forced us to travel along mountain roads, which were made even worse by the rains, so that the court and carriage suffered greatly….
Along the way we saw a detachment of about a thousand people, composed of Dalmatians, Greeks and immigrants from Morea, who in the last war went over to the Russian side and settled here on the coast. During our passage, they were forced to carry out an exemplary attack on the Dalmatian style, as Prince Potemkin put it, comparing it with the attacks of our Croats. They grabbed their sabers, ran into the forest and, in great disorder, with a terrible cry, climbed up the mountain, looking more like some kind of raiders than real soldiers.”

Of course, being a true Hapsburg, he probably decided that one witticism (regarding cathedral in Ekaterinoslav) per trip is being more than enough and proceeded with being negative as a matter of principle. Or, perhaps, he anticipated potential results of all that showmanship and got pissed off in advance.

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Initial plan was to go along the coast and return through Arabat Split, Mariupol, Taganrog, Chercassk and Azov. However, the coming fall and the state affairs forced her to limit herself to visiting Feodosia and from it go to St. Petersburg via Ukraine, Orel, Tula and Moscow. Of course, along the way there were more receptions and military shows including reenactment of the Battle of Poltava (taking into an account that it was directed by Potemkin, there should be no surprise that it was not exactly precise but definitely flattering to the Russian side). After this spectacle Potemkin presented the Empress with a wonderful pearl necklace; she showered him with gifts and generously distributed ranks and orders to the present generals and officers. Nothing else detained the empress, and she left Poltava for Kharkiv. Here Potemkin said goodbye to her and went to Kremenchug with an order to speed up preparations for war, in case of impossibility to keep peace... Which was approximately as wise as assigning a fox to guard henhouse but by that time Catherine, with her excessive reliance upon Potemkin, maneuvered herself into a corner: situation in the South was controlled by Potemkin and as a result so were Russian-Ottoman relations. Catherine did not want a war, Bezborodko did not want a war, the landowners class in general did not want a war because the recruits would be taken from their estates, the free taxable classes did not want a war because one way or another it would cost them money, many of the high ranking military and naval personages did not want a war because they were quite comfortable where they were and could gain little of a substance by risking their careers, Rumyantsev did not want it because, with Potemkin in charge and his own troops suffering from the lack of supplies, he could see nothing but unnecessary losses and, unlike many people in his positions, he tended to care about his soldiers [5]. Who wanted. it? Potemkin - because he wanted St. George 1st class and this was the only way to get it (this way sound absurd but he was seemingly obsessed with his own aggrandizement and, after being made a field marshal without any military glory to his credit, felt himself inferior to Rumyantsev). Suvorov - because he was obsessed with a wish to become a field marshal and because, unlike many other high-ranking military, he could not expect any other career but military (his extravagant manners protected him from many problems but nobody would consider him on administrative or diplomatic position). Middle- and low-rank officers because a war was their chance for career.

Potemkin being now “irreplaceable”, he would conduct the military preparations in a most bombastic manner, scaring the Ottomans and giving Russian ill-wishers in Istanbul an abundant material for scaring the Porte into the war.

Price tag of the trip was up to 15,000,000, not counting the “personal means” of Potemkin [6]. Its purpose was to make an impression and impression it made. The question was which impression on whom? And the answer would be not to Catherine’s satisfaction.

However, Catherine was excited: “They tried me in every possible way to deviate from this trip, everyone assured me that I would meet a lot of difficulties and troubles on the way; I was frightened by the fact that the road would tire me, that the steppes are unbearable, that the climate in the south is harmful. These people know me too little; they don't understand that contradicting me means exciting me, and that any difficulty they present to me gives me more determination.”

The international reaction was not necessarily too positive . For example, de Segur, who clearly had overdeveloped imagination and general problem with the numbers, ended up with an impression that Catherine may abandon her peaceful course because her huge military force on land and the sea would make all obstacles insignificant. It could be so if Catherine really would be able to have 500,000 troops on the Dniester or put enough army troops on her Black Sea Fleet to threaten Constantinople but both ideas were a pure fantasy. Somewhat contradicting to himself, he was also quite justly criticizing most of Potemkin’s “miracles” that they saw on a trip, stressing that they were all for show. “They took care of everything to decorate, dress up, revive for a period of time, to show to the empress; but after Catherine leaves, all the embellishments of this vast region will disappear with her. I know Prince Potemkin. He produced a theatrical effect, and the curtain goes down, and he will take up new performances in Poland or Turkey. Management and everything that requires consistency is incompatible with its temper. If he started a war, and he would soon get tired of the war; after waiting for the St. George's ribbon, he will harass peace as he is now trying to break it.”

Joseph was not taking situation as seriously as de Segur but after the Big BS Show was clearly overestimating Catherine’s might, sincerely believing, among other things, that she has an army of 600,000. “She has a huge, fresh, tireless army. It will go wherever she wants... Far from the capital, roads are made, piers are arranged, cities are built on swamps, palaces are erected, parks are created in the steppes, and all this is done without payment, without cover, sometimes without food and always without murmur. Of all the monarchs in Europe, the empress is only really rich. She spends a lot everywhere and has no debts; she estimates her paper money as much as she wants; if she wanted, she could introduce leather money. Meanwhile, England is burdened with its paper money. France has publicly acknowledged the upset situation of its finances and I can with a great difficulty cover expenses for the settlements and new fortifications in Galicia.

Well, all speculations and peaceful intentions led to nothing: on September 12 the news arrived to St.Petersburg. The Sultan declared a war. The ironic part was that none of the parties directly involved wanted it and none was adequately prepared for it.
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______

[1] Not yet. 😜
[2] No, there is absolutely no indication that Catherine played “khan and harem.” Which, of course, a pity but I’m not sure if we’d be allowed to explore this possibility in detail. 😢
[3] An argument that WC used regarding existence of King Arthur.
[4] A rather bizarre gift because by Catherine’s order in 1787 the Crimean Tatars were evicted from coastal villages to the interior of the peninsula and this measure applied to all 36 Massandra’s inhabitants. The settlement remained empty until 1828 when its new owner, Count Vorontsov, established a winery there. In 1836 it had 6 households, in 1864 - 18 households with 59 inhabitants. In 1894, Prince Golitsyn founded the Massandra winery. Massandra's wine collection (about one million bottles) is the largest in the world and was included in the Guinness Book of Records in 1998. But Catherine’s “generosity” amounted to few empty buildings in a middle of nowhere.
[5] At least as far as the “legend of a general” goes, he knew by name all non-coms in his army.
[6] “Personal means” - taking into an account that most of his “means” were those he was given by the state, or embezzled from the state, or extorted using his position within the state, it does not impress as an act of a generosity. It is like Gregory Orlov buying and presenting to Catherine diamond “Orlov”: returning a small part of what one was given to improve his position. But, the idea was seemingly lost on Catherine: after Potemkin’s death she ordered to write off his huge debt because “he was contributing a lot of his own money”, which were coming from where?
 
Ironic that the Sultan is the one who pulled the trigger...
Likely there was great provocation, but yes, this is not a smart move. It’s hard to think what reasonable goals he could be trying to achieve as the reconquest of Crimea seems fantastical and the risks to him seem very high.
 
Likely there was great provocation, but yes, this is not a smart move. It’s hard to think what reasonable goals he could be trying to achieve as the reconquest of Crimea seems fantastical and the risks to him seem very high.
In OTL Catherine violated Kuchuk Kainarji Treaty by annexing the Crimea and the Ottomans held Ochakov so their moral and military position was better. ITTL the Ottomans still in theory have naval advantage and there is still a strong domestic “lobby” itching for revenge and optimistic expectation of the rebellion in the Crimea. There are still French/British/Prussian incitements (could not find any specifics on those) and probably some promises of help.

Of course, the games Potemkin was playing in Novorossia and Catherine’s trip had been a provocation and I’m not sure if the Porte considered Russian-Austrian-French “reasonable requests” as anything but a hidden ultimatum. OTOH, the instructions to the Russian ambassador to be agreeable worked well against the Asiatic mentality which took them as a weakness. Combination could be interpreted as a pure bluff to hide a weakness.
 
I love the implied AH scenarios this chapter presents like if the Khanate HAD managed to restore the GH or the idea of Catherine liking the place so much that she says "screw it" and retires there while a very confused Paul is proclaimed Czar
 
63. Before fighting starts New
63. Before fighting starts #1

What could we do? We are ordered to do everything contrary to the wishes of France. It wanted peace between you and Porta, we made war; if France wanted war, we would worry about peace.
Fraser, the British charge d’affairs in St.Petersburg
It takes war to give meaning to the reign.”
Gustav III of Sweden
“I wish only peace and will take up arms only if I am forced to do so. Some restless Turks and Prussians are dangerous for the tranquility of Europe; meanwhile they don't trust me, but they help them.”
If I wanted Turkey to die, the weak help of French ships, artillerymen and engineers would not hurt me. However, let them beware: if I want to, I'll immediately attract England to my side.
Catherine II
Really, the Turks are the scourge of humanity. If three or four strong powers united, it would be very easy to push these barbarians to Asia and free Egypt, the Archipelago, Greece and all of Europe from this ulcer.
Potemkin to Segur
You, a reasonable person, will no doubt understand that you cannot destroy a state like Turkey without dividing it into parts and in that case all trade connections and political balance in Europe will be destroyed…Believe me, your main ally, the Austrian Emperor, will never allow you to take over Turkey.”
Segur to Potemkin
“The throne looked like a chariot with a broken axis, carried away by horses that bit the bit.”
Segur about situation in France​

In this chapter I will try to provide outline of a general political framework in Europe and military/naval situation by the time war started so that there would be a minimal need to interrupt description of the events with the technicalities.

Political situation.

Britain.
In Russian Empire the “Panin’s System” was replaced by “Potemkin’s System”, which implied realignment from Prussia and Britain to Austria and France. There was no intention to sour relations with Britain but, due to the fact that Britain considered France as its main opponent, the law of unintended consequence worked and now Britain was intriguing against Russia: the Russian-French trade treaty was interpreted as anti-British even if in a reality it was not even ratified by a French side, which, rather realistically, considered it to be a too small potato to bother: there was a little appetite in France in upgrading the existing level of trade with Russia because it would require establishing necessary infrastructure (credit institutions, warehouses, distribution network, etc.) from the scratch. But it was a clear sign of the intention and the Brits acted in their usual manner trying to prevent strengthening of the French position in Europe. So Russia was losing an old partner in a hope to get a new one, better positioned for its (or rather Potemkin’s) great plans. In the practical terms the British government did not want any specific gains besides re-acquiring position of a best friend. Not to be isolated, the Brits got cozy with the new King of Prussia, Frederick Wilhelm II, and was encouraging Gustav III of Sweden in his anti-Russian plans, which so far looked rather fantastic. And, of course, both Britain and Prussia had been working hard in Istanbul trying to convince the Porte that the time is very fortuitous for starting a war of revenge with Russia. Of course, it was not a big secret that, with a change of the Russian political course, the Brits will be …er… pragmatic.

Prussia. FWII would not give a blip about the Ottomans but he wanted (a) to help his brother-in-law Stadtholder William V to stay in power in the Netherlands and (b) to get Danzig and Thorn from the PLC. The Brits promised him to prevent the French intervention on the “patriots” side in the Netherlands, which they did, and to help in achieving his second goal: if the Russian (and Austrian) war with the Ottomans would drag on without a decisive outcome, Britain and Prussia will serve as the mediators and the peace treaty will stipulate that Russia and Austria are not going to object to the Prussian acquisitions in the PLC. Considering himself a wise politician who never lays all eggs in one basket, FWII also started secret discussions with the PLC promising support in getting back the territories lost to Russia and, more importantly, support in adopting a new constitution which would not contain a clause regarding the Russian guarantees of it and the PLC’s territorial integrity, which quite a few Polish patriots had been considering an infringement upon their independence. In the Russian-Ottoman business he was a second fiddle (a remote second, in the terms of importance) but in the affairs of Baltic region his position could not be ignored.

France. Potemkin envisaged his schema as a great political coup, perhaps equal to the “diplomatic revolution” which created French-Austrian-Russian alliance, and at least in 1877 Catherine also was thinking so, being persuaded by his rhetoric regarding the “Greek Plan”. However, as it often happens when the amateurs are being in charge, this plan was conceived without having a clear idea regarding the French domestic situation and its impact on the foreign policy. Of course, consideration #1 was that France is not going to abandon its old ally, the Ottoman Empire and in the best (for Russia) case scenario will be friendly neutral to Russia and potentially a moderator in the peace talks. Would France be able and willing to balance Britain and Prussia? The events demonstrated that it was not.
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After Louis XVI appointed Archbishop Brienne as his finance minister, France adopted extremely meek foreign policy. While help to the “patriots” in the Netherlands was quite popular in France, its two major proponents, the Ministers of War and Navy (marshals of France), had been fired and a small Prussian army of the Duke of Brunswick crushed rebellion with an ease: the Duke had explicit instruction from FWII not to enter the Dutch territory if the French troops are mobilized but there was none of them. Similarly, while the Russians started pushing for an alliance, the French response was procrastination following by more of procrastination and rather dubious activities in the OE and Sweden with the lame explanations along the lines “this is a tradition”. Of course, it could be argued that it would make sense to start with making an official alliance and only then to provoke the Turks but this was neither here nor there and the French government had been blamed. Initial high opinion regarding Louis XVI was steadily down the tubes. The only “good deed” was Louis’ refusal to waste effort and money on the Polish affairs but in practical terms this opened a greater niche for Prussia.

Ottoman Empire . The diligent British and Prussian efforts finally produced results. The Sultan Abdul Hamid I was convinced that this is “now or never” opportunity to get revenge for the lost war: Joseph had to handle issues in the Austrian Netherlands and Catherine had a problem with a bad harvest in Russia.
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Plus, Potemkin’s activities in Novorossia and Catherine’s visit that looked like a pre-war review of the troops seriously smelled of a military threat, which would be better preempted by a bold strike. In Istanbul and along the Russian border there were plenty of people clamoring for a war and demanding return of the Crimea. Of course, neither British nor Prussian ambassadors were too specific regarding the help which their states are going to provide but, so far, the Brits at least promised not to help the Russian ships to repeat voyage to the Med.
The Ottoman Navy was, by all reports, much more numerous and powerful than a new Russian Black Sea Fleet and this would be a very important factor in a coming war, allowing the Ottomans to bring troops to the Crimea and Kuban thus forcing Russians to spread their armies along very long front. Plus, thanks to the British and Prussian efforts, now the Ottoman Empire could rely upon an ally in the Baltic.

Sweden. Gustav III, encouraged by the “well-wishers”, got very enthusiastic about an idea to return territories lost by Charles XII. After all, this was seemingly the only way to prove to the world how really great he is. The money were coming mostly from Britain but, rather paradoxically, France contributed as well in an attempt to preserve its influence in Sweden. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire promised him 15,000,000 piasters if he goes to war. On a top of everything else, he was deeply offended by the fact that Catherine was refusing to take his military preparations as a serious threat, which was making the whole thing even more personal. Of course, there was a minor problem: he could not start a war without Riksdag’s approval and so far the idea was distinctively unpopular. But he already came with a solution: staging a border provocation with few soldiers dressed in the Cossack costumes taken from the theatrical garderobe and you have Sweden defending itself against the invader.

Austria. Joseph did not like an idea of going to war and did not have a clear plan for a war except the rather “conventional” approach of fighting both in a Bannat and in the Principalities. However, he had to join Russia according to the treaty so he requested description of a Russian plan from Potemkin who did not answer by a simple reason: he did not have any. Anyway, Joseph had to make sure that this time Austria will not end up empty-handed and at least would restore the borderline as defined by the peace of Passawrpwitz in 1718 (Belgrade, northern Serbia and Little Walachia), the whole Bosnia and the fortress of Khotin, plus Venetian Dalmatia.

Russia.
Segur about “public opinion” in Russia circa 1877: “Being in frequent communications with Russian ministers and getting acquainted with several people close to them, I had the opportunity to explore their way of thinking, which they carefully concealed. They did not share the political opinions of Prince Potemkin and did not love him. They sincerely wanted peace, because the war and conquests did not represent any personal benefits for them, on the contrary, they hampered the course of their affairs and were disastrous for the entire state composition. Vorontsov feared that the war would interrupt trade relations with Britain; Bezborodko foresaw numerous obstacles in diplomatic affairs, and they were all afraid of the increase in Potemkin's power. The nobles, not wanting to conquer any steppes at all, only knew that they would bear the new heavy duties necessary to multiply the army. Only some generals and young officers wanted a war that promised them fame and rewards. However, except for the latter, everyone hid their thoughts, fearing to lose the favor of the sovereign. Individuals close to her were afraid to present to her frankly how dangerous her impossible plan to restore the Greek Empire was then.”

Catherine was fully relying upon Potemkin by a reason that couple centuries later would require shrink’s intervention: she considered Potemkin as her “creation” and something of a mascot of her greatness so he had to succeed because his fall would mean a disaster of her reign. The notion was rather idiotic but this is how the things were in 1877. As a result, she was going to defend all his failures and shows of an ineptitude because by doing so she (in her mind) was defending herself.

As of 1877 Russia did not have any practical goal in a war and hence no clear plan. It had an ambitious plan of a Quadruple Alliance of Russia, Austria, France and Spain but France was not saying “yes” or “no” and Spain pretended that it is not there. Possibility of the Swedish attack was shrugged off but, anyway, to a certain degree Russian could rely upon Denmark (which could be significant) and Holstein (which would be insignificant). The only bright spot on a political sky was that now the conflict could be presented to the European public opinion as a defensive war against an aggressor.

Military and Naval situation. When the war was declared, none of the three (four) participants were prepared to it and these preparations began only when they were already officially at war.

Austria. By September 1787 mobilization throughout the Habsburg Monarchy was in full swing but the relatively cautious strategy adopted for 1788 stood in stark contrast to the Emperor’s extremely ambitious war aims. According to a plan devised by the unpopular military reformer Lacy, Joseph’s éminence grise in all matters military, no fewer than six armies of varying strength were to cover the whole stretch of the Habsburg-Ottoman frontier, from the Adriatic to the Dniester: first, the main army under the personal command of Joseph II (assisted by Lacy) concentrating around Semlin opposite Belgrade; second, the Una army in Croatia; third, an army corps operating along the Sava in Slavonia; fourth, a corps to cover the Banat; fifth, another corps protecting Transylvania; sixth, an army under Friedrich Josias of Sachsen-Coburg deployed in Galicia and the Bukovina. All in all some 245,000 men with 898 field guns and 252 siege guns were mobilized along the Turkish front; later, the number was to rise further to 294,000 men but a sizeable proportion of the army had to stay behind in the north to guard the frontier with Prussia. This was Lacy’s favorite cordon strategy extended to its extreme.
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The main army was to capture Belgrade first, while by means of a pincer movement the Croatian and Slavonian corps were to invade Bosnia via the Una and Sava. Together with the corps in Transylvania, Sachsen-Coburg’s Bukovina army was to undertake diversions towards the Danube further east and capture Khotin on the Dniester. It was hoped rather naively that after the first campaign the left bank of the Danube would be under Austrian control as far as its confluence with the river Aluta; that done, the road to the Ottoman capital would be open.
For implementation all the miracles along the Danube and contact with the Russian forces a corps of 18,000 under command of Prince Coburg had been sent toward Khotin.

Russia.
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Army. During the winter of 1787-88 Russia formed two armies. The main, Army of Ekaterinoslav, under Potemkin’s command (82,000 and 180 guns, not counting the regimental artillery) and auxiliary Ukrainian Army under command of Rumyantsev (37,000 and 50 guns). Potemkin also detached significant force to protect the Crimea and one more corps to protect Kuban border. By his own admission his forces had been spread along 3,000 versts covering against potential Ottoman attacks. Most of the “exotic” contingents demonstrated to Catherine during her trip did not materialize on any of the fronts.

Potemkin’s troops had new, convenient uniforms but logistics of his army was not good at all and supply problems started even before it reached the Bug River. The ill-wishers had been gossiping about the big sums of money being spent on his own jewelry and pompous accommodations. Anyway, he was moving with something of his own little court.

Potemkin’s army was assembled to the East of the Dnieper so it had to cross it and then the Bug (which he crossed only in June of 1788) to get to the theater of operations. Its main task was to take a strong fortress of Bender and then march deeper into the Principalities: the plan post-Bender was rather vague. Rumyantsev with his small army would have to help the Austrians at Khotin and then march down the Dniester and toward the Danube where the main Ottoman forces were located. In other words, the weaker and smaller army had been assigned the main task while a much bigger and better equipped one concentrated on seemingly easier task. For which, however, Potemkin was expecting to get, with Catherine’s cooperation, most of the glory. Following principle “help yourself and God will help you”, he assembled under his direct command the best top ranking generals: Suvorov, Repnin and Kamensky and, during the last few years, moved most of the available troops to the South leaving St. Petersburg region practically unprotected.

In 1877 - early 88, Suvorov was staying near Ochakov, organizing protection of the naval squadron placed in the Dnieper’s estuary. It was not clear if the Ottomans decide to attack it (and try a reverse Chesma) but not having to listen to his barbs about someone’s slowness and indecisiveness surely was a serious consideration.

Navy. To repeat schema of the past war, on the Baltic and in Archangelsk a squadron had been formed to sail to the Mediterranean. However, this would be a long story even under the best circumstances and for a while the Black Sea Fleet was on its own, which was not good at all. Out of 12 ships of the line planned in 1785 only 6 had been built. But of these, the 66-gun “Alexander” was wrecked shortly after completion of construction (1786), and two ships, including the first 80-gun ship “Joseph II”, had not yet been brought to the sea from Kherson because of a low water level in the Dnieper.

In addition to the battleships, there were three more large and eleven small frigates, three of the latter being already very unreliable for navigation. A rowing flotilla of galleys and double-boats was also being prepared in the Dnieper estuary, and small cruising sailing ships under the command of Greek volunteers were being prepared for operations on the high seas. Speedy construction of the new ships had been going on in Kherson, Nikolaev and on Azov and they were ready in the course of war but this replenishment, neither in quantity nor in quality of ships, did not yet provide the combat strength of the fleet necessary for waging war. It is no coincidence that in 1788, by a special order of Potemkin, the appointed commander-in-chief of the entire army and the Black Sea Fleet, it was prescribed to call large 46-gun and 50-gun frigates battleships. Such improvisation was considered necessary to at least roughly equalize the Russian line of battle with the Turkish one.

In terms of quality, most Russian Black Sea ships were inferior to the Baltic and ships of the best European fleets. When they were built hastily, it was not always possible to achieve a combination of successful drawings and quality finishing. Not a single ship had copper plating in the underwater part. The largest ship, the Joseph II, later renamed the Nativity of Christ and becoming the flagship of the Sevastopol naval fleet, was not an exception. The fleet also lacked artillery, which did not always correspond to the standard one. On a good side, Joseph II had, as its bigger caliber, 36 pounders and other battleships and big frigates had 30 pounders. Some ships had 2 - 4 48-pound unicorns. But the Black Sea 40-gun frigates, besides their relatively small size, also had weak-caliber artillery - 12-pound guns on the deck. Not a single ship of the Black Sea Fleet was armed with carronades, which were very effective at short distances, already adopted in the Baltic.

The senior command of the Black Sea Fleet in 1787, in addition to Commander-in-Chief G.A. Potemkin, was represented by the senior member of the Black Sea Admiralty Board, Rear Admiral S.I. Mordvinov (in charge of the ships based upon Kherson), and the commander of the Sevastopol naval fleet, Rear Admiral M.I. Voinovich. Both had some merits as the administrators but had been bad fleet commanders. To some degree this could be compensated by the talents of their subordinates, P. Alexiano and F. Ushakov. By the reasons not quite clear Potemkin appointed Nassau-Siegen a commander of the rowing fleet with a rank of a rear admiral making more experienced and popular Alexiano his subordinate. The junior commanders were generally good or at least brave.

The Black Sea naval fleet was divided into two squadrons - Sevastopol (otherwise known as the Sevastopol ships fleet) and Limanskaya, which was based at Glubokaya Pristan - below Kherson. The future rowing fleet was also concentrated there, in Liman (estuary). Sevastopol was actually the main and most convenient operating base of the naval fleet, but at that time it was still weakly fortified and did not have a dry dock for repairing ships. Kherson and Taganrog were important as rear bases, inconvenient for basing active fleet forces.

The common problem of both army and naval artillery was a low quality of the gun barrels produced by the Novorossia’s manufactures. The quality control was rudimentary, if any, and nobody was remedying the problems found and fixed in the arsenals of the North: the only task was to produce more. As a result, the guns were often exploding killing or maiming their crews.

Ottoman forces.
The grand strategy was not too complicated but rather optimistic:
  • Kick the s—t out of the Austrians in Bannat
  • Destroy the Russian Black Sea Fleet
  • Take Ochakov thus closing access to the Black Sea from the Dnieper.
  • Use the naval dominance on the Black Sea to land 5 - 6,000 troops in the Crimea and, being backed by the Tatar uprising, reconquer the peninsula.
  • On the Dniester-Danube hold the main fortresses.
Army. Precise size of the Ottoman land force was hard to define because a big part of it were irregulars raised for specific war and the numbers of those who were, in theory, regulars also were not necessarily corresponding to the official lists. Both the Ottoman commanders and their Russian counterparts routinely exaggerated the Turkish numbers: the first - to pocket the salaries and the second - to make their victories to look more impressive.

The tactics remained pretty much the same with a reliance on a personal bravery and swords but the Ottomans learned to avoid the battles in open field and became quite proficient in making primitive fieldworks. Field artillery was not bad but personnel was not too good. There were numerous strong fortresses, some of them recently modernized with the help of French engineers and the Turks, when they decided to defend a fortress, could put quite a resistance.

The punishments (ditto for the navy) were severe: commandant of a fortress who surrendered it could be beheaded (unless there are mitigating circumstances) but if it was taken by storm, he would be off the hook.

Navy. The Turkish fleet in 1787 consisted of 29 battleships and 39 frigates, with a significant number of cruising ships, bombardment ships and galleys. Part of this large fleet was in the Mediterranean Sea, part could not be armed due to lack of personnel, but on the whole the Turkish fleet had an overwhelming superiority in strength. Three 40-gun frigates and naval guns were purchased from England during the war. Turkish battleships were two-deck and, as a rule, relatively larger than Russian ones of the corresponding ranks. They also had a larger crew.

The artillery in the Turkish fleet was more varied in caliber and relatively less powerful than in the Russian fleet. On the lower decks of the 66-gun ships, 22-pounder guns were installed - less than 150 mm caliber. But there were many copper cannons of better quality. In addition, many battleships had four especially powerful cannons that fired 40-kg marble cannonballs.

The weak point of the Turks remained the organization and training of personnel, although after Chesma peacetime training voyages began to be practiced to train crews. The diverse rank and file was supplemented with new recruits during the war. Turkish naval gunners were inferior in training to European ones. The same can be said about naval officers, although since 1770 they were trained in a specially founded naval school (naval corps). Under pain of severe punishment, Turkish crews showed courage and tenacity in battle as long as their flagships remained in formation.
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The fleet was under command of experienced Kapudan Pasha Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha who did considerable work in its modernization (among other things ,
established the Naval Engineering Golden Horn Shipyard) but, of course, could not resolve all problems. He just returned from Egypt when he run a successful campaign against insubordinate Mameluke emirs.
 
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Of course, there was a minor problem: he could not start a war without Riksdag’s approval and so far the idea was distinctively unpopular. But he already came with a solution: staging a border provocation with few soldiers dressed in the Cossack costumes taken from the theatrical garderobe and you have Sweden defending itself against the invader.
LOL
 
Greek Plan

AH writers:
Yaaaaaaay, do it, bring glorious Byzantium back from the dead Russia! Fulfill your destiny!

Alex:
And so the idea was very dumb, not thought out and proposed by an idiot who only got it to be humoured because he was the Empress's pet and she was a narcissistic b-
 
Greek Plan

AH writers:
Yaaaaaaay, do it, bring glorious Byzantium back from the dead Russia! Fulfill your destiny!

Alex:
And so the idea was very dumb, not thought out and proposed by an idiot who only got it to be humoured because he was the Empress's pet and she was a narcissistic b-
The problem (for everybody) was that Potemkin was not an idiot. He was an overly ambitious person who reached and well exceeded his level of incompetence.
 
Greek Plan

AH writers:
Yaaaaaaay, do it, bring glorious Byzantium back from the dead Russia! Fulfill your destiny!

Alex:
And so the idea was very dumb, not thought out and proposed by an idiot who only got it to be humoured because he was the Empress's pet and she was a narcissistic b-
But... but the funni (the fact this isn't part of Russia's mission tree in EU4 is a crime)
 
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