The Russian Occupation of Beirut, 1773–1774

in Russian History
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The brief and little known Russian occupation of the Levantine port of Beirut in 1773–1774 reveals much about the nature of Russian engagement with the Arab Middle East. Rather than passing as an insignificant episode, it instead complemented a well documented Russian desire to play an expanded role in the Levant and take advantage of Catherine II’s first war with the Ottoman empire (1768–1774) to establish forward positions in the Mediterranean. Alongside the Russian naval victory at Chesme in July 1770, Russia accepted alliance overtures from Egypt’s Mameluk governor Ali Bey, who was in rebellion against the Ottoman Sultan. In a complicated series of diplomatic and military maneuvers, Russian forces offered to aid Ali and his allies. By 1773 this process came to involve an agreement with the Druze Emir Yusuf al-Shihab, who accepted Russian protection as part of a military alliance that called for a Russian attack on Beirut in exchange for tribute. Yusuf’s inability to pay the tribute led to a prolonged Russian presence in Beirut, but the situation’s eventual resolution and the Kücük Kainardja peace treaty of 1774 led to the Russians’ departure. Despite the episode’s brevity, it nevertheless allowed for the development of pronounced Russian intentions to create favorable relationships with the peoples and leaders of the Levant. The Russian relationship with Yusuf and other local potentates, moreover, mirrored Russia’s interactions with peoples and leaders on its vast steppe frontier, indicating another axis of imperial advance.

The Russian Occupation of Beirut, 1773–1774

in Russian History

References

2

William Persen“The Russian Occupations of Beirut, 1772–1774,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 42 nos. 3–4 (1955): 275.

3

P. Perminov“Tri epizoda iz istorii russko-arabskikh sviazei v XVIII veke. Epizod vtoroi: vziatie Beiruta,” Aziia i Afrika segodnia 8 (1987): 56–58.

7

Auriant“Catherine II et l’Orient, 1770–1774 (documents inédits),” Acropole 5 (1930): 195.

10

 Quoted in Charles-RouxLes Échelles104.

11

LusignanHistory102–105.

13

RafeqProvince of Damascus252–271. For a near contemporary account see C.-F. Volney Travels through Syria and Egypt in the Years 1783 1784 and 1785 2 vols. (London: Robinson 1787) 2: 110–115.

14

Ibid. 271–279. VolneyTravels2: 115–116.

15

LusignanHistory105–107; Auriant “Catherine II et l’Orient” 209.

16

LusignanHistory106.

17

Auriant“Catherine II et l’Orient” 209.

20

LusignanHistory113–120.

22

RafeqProvince of Damascus293.

23

LusignanHistory121.

24

Persen“Russian Occupations” 281.

25

Édouard LockroyAhmed le boucher (Paris: Ollendorf1888) 73.

26

Giovanni MaritiIstoria della guerra della Soria. Parte II. Proseguita fino alla morte di Aly-Bey dell’Egitto (Florence: Cambiagi1774) 124–125; Charles-Roux Les Échelles 104; Marcel Égypte 237. The Russian military effort in the Mediterranean was crewed largely by local sailors and soldiers hired for that purpose.

27

Charles-RouxLes Échelles105; Volney Travels 2: 120–121; Marcel Égypte 237–238.

30

Charles-RouxLes Échelles105 211.

31

VolneyTravels2: 122.

33

Perminov“Vziatie Beiruta” 57–58; Al-Shihabi Lubnan 98; Tannus Shidyaq Kitab akhbar al’ayan fi jabal lubnan (Beirut: Bustani 1859) 394; Volney Travels 2: 122. The language about Russian protection along with the other terms is in Bazili Siriia i Palestina 55.

34

Charles-RouxLes Échelles106.

36

Al-ShihabiLubnan98; Shidyaq Kitab 394.

37

RafeqProvince of Damascus301.

38

Charles-RouxLes Échelles213; Volney Travels 2: 122–123.

39

Perminov“Vziatie Beiruta” 58.

40

Charles-RouxLes Échelles212; Lockroy Ahmed le boucher 99; al-Shihabi Lubnan 99. Shidyaq Kitab 395 claims that it was paid in full.

42

BaziliSiriia i Palestina55.

44

VolneyTravels2: 128.

45

Ibid. 127; RafeqProvince of Damascus305–306.

46

RafeqProvince of Damascus307–308.

47

VolneyTravels2: 131.

48

RafeqProvince of Damascus309–313.

51

Persen“Russian Occupations” 284–285.

52

Charles-RouxLes Échelles108–109.

53

P. Perminov“Tri epizoda iz istorii russko-arabskikh sviazei v XVIII veke. Epizod tretii: pervyi russkii konsul v Aleksandrii,” Aziia i Afrika segodnia 9 (1987): 51–54.

56

 See Paul du Quenoy“The Russian Empire and Egypt, 1900-1915: A Case of Public Diplomacy,” Journal of World History 19 no. 2 (2008): 213–233. On the Cold War relationship see Rami Ginat The Soviet Union and Egypt 19451955 (New York: Routledge 1993) and Rashid Khalidi Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East (Boston: Beacon 2009).

57

Michael KhodarkovskyRussia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire 1500–1800 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press2002) 50–69.

58

A. Sokolov“Arkhipelagskaia kampaniia 1769–1774,” Zapiski gidrograficheskogo departamenta Morskogo ministerstva VII (1849): 379.

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