International Journal of Middle East Studies


An Overlooked Problem in Turkish–Russian Relations: The 1878 War Indemnity

Michael R. Milgrima1

a1 Pahlavi University, Shiraz, Iran

The 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War left the Ottoman Empire burdened with a new debt that was to play a crucial role in the relations between Russia and Turkey in subsequent years. Diplomatic and financial histories, however, have largely overlooked this indemnity for a number of reasons. Foremost among them is the timing of the ratification of the indemnity treaty. The actual agreement governing the procedure for the payment of the indemnity was drawn up four years after the San Stefano negotiations and the Congress of Berlin. While monographs concerned with these events mention the indemnity, they fail to follow it up. Second, in the post-Berlin period the European bondholders of the Ottoman Public Debt were primarily interested in securing control over the administration of the revenues servicing their debt. The indemnity, however, remained apart from those revenues ceded to the Ottoman Public Debt Administration. The standard financial histories naturally concentrate on the projects of the bondholders and refer to the indemnity only in passing.