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 powers, rightly or wrongly, began to think, hey, not only are these Ottomans no longer a power, they’re actually pretty easy pickings, all things considered. If you’ve ever heard of the late Ottoman Empire being referred to as the “sick man of Europe,” this is the point when that meme begins to take hold. The snootier academic way to refer to this is as the “Eastern Question.” France, Britain, and Austria were doing the asking, and the “question,” specifically, was “how in the hell are we going to keep Russia from swallowing the Ottoman Empire up whole?”

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