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News From The European Contest[131]

Frederick Engels

Our journals and letters by the Europa contain a positive confirmation of the reported bombardment of Odessa. The present advices on that subject are official and leave no possibility of doubt as to the event. The works of the harbor have been destroyed, two powder magazines blown up, twelve small Russian vessels-of-war sunk and thirteen transports captured, all with the loss of eight men killed and eighteen wounded in the allied fleet. This trifling loss of men proves that it was [by] no means a formidable achievement. After it was done the fleet sailed away for Sevastopol, the destruction of which we fancy they will find to be a different sort of work.

From the Danube there is a new report of a decisive victory gained by Omer Pasha over Gen. Lüders, but of this affair we have nothing beyond a telegraphic dispatch by way of Vienna[a], the great manufactory of stock-jobbing hoaxes. The story runs that the Turks, 70,000 strong, overhauled Lüders somewhere between Silistria and Rassova, the latter being a place on the Danube some ten miles above Chernavoda, and that while Omer Pasha was pressing the Russians in front, another corps, sent around for the purpose, fell upon their flank, and so between the two fires they were used up. This is not an impossible thing, but we do not see how Omer Pasha could concentrate so large a force at any point below Silistria with such rapidity as to take Lüders unprepared[132]. According to the last previous advices, the gross of his army, —which altogether cannot be more than 120,000 strong, including the garrisons that must be provided for along his extended line, was being collected at Shumla, some hundred miles from the scene of the reported battle, and it is not an easy thing to surprise an enemy at such a distance where 70,000 men have to be brought upon the field to do it. Still we repeat, it is possible; the next steamer will probably inform us whether it is true.[133]

The Greek insurrection has suffered another defeat, but that it is extinguished by the disaster it would be impossible to believe. Men and leaders will no doubt appear to renew the contest and carry on a harassing guerrilla war at least against the Turkish forces on the frontiers. Whether it will become anything more serious must depend upon circumstances; as our readers will see in another column[134] an extensive conspiracy of Greeks and Russians came near exploding in the midst of Turkey; accident put the whole into the hands of the Porte[135], but other such conspiracies may occur without any interposing event to hinder their course. Meanwhile the allied powers ply the Greek Court with menaces, and land troops in Turkey as if to take final possession of the country for themselves. Most of these forces still remain near Constantinople, though at the instance of the French Embassador[b], a detachment has gone north to Varna, where there is likely to be fighting any day. It is doubtful, however, whether the body of the allied forces will so soon engage in the active work of the campaign. This point cannot be determined till the commanding generals arrive at Constantinople.[c]

In the Baltic Sir Charles Napier still remains in the vicinity of Stockholm, attacking none of the Russian strongholds on the coast. It appears that he is anxious with respect to the gun-boat flotilla with which the Russians propose to operate against him in the shallow waters and among the islands of the Gulf of Finland, and has sent to England for small steamers of light draught, which can pursue these boats to their places of refuge. On the other hand, it is reported by the St. Petersburg correspondent of a journal of Berlin[d] that the Russian Court is fearful that Kronstadt cannot stand the onslaught which is expected from the British Rough and Ready[e], that the men-of-war in the harbor do not succeed well in maneuvering and firing even for the purposes of a review; and that preparations are even [in] making to resist the debarkation of a hostile land force at that place.

It is not likely, however, that any attack will take place in the Baltic until the French fleet has also arrived, and then Kronstadt will very probably receive the honor of the first bombardment. Its capture or destruction is another question; but before such means of destruction as the allies will bring against it, its fall would not be surprising.

The western powers flatter themselves that Austria is coming over to their side, and derive encouragement from agreeable things said to the Duke of Cambridge at the festivities of the Emperor's[f] wedding. But from Prussia there is no such pleasing intelligence. Altogether, Germany stands just where she did before, and the allies have no prospect of drawing her into any engagement in their favor. There is no doubt that Austria will be ready to occupy Serbia and Montenegro, where a positive rebellion has broken out against the Sultan[g], but such an occupation, as we have previously shown[136], would only be another step toward the partition of Turkey, and would be, in fact, more favorable to Russia than to her antagonists.

Written on May 4, 1854
Reproduced from the newspaper
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4084, May 20, 1854 as a leader


[a] "Defeat of the Russians", The Times, No. 21732, May 4, 1854.—Ed.

[b] Baraguay d'Hilliers.—Ed.

[c] Raglan and Saint-Arnaud.—Ed.

[d] The reference is to a report of the National Zeitung reprinted in The Times, No. 21732, May 4, 1854.—Ed.

[e] A nickname for British soldiers in the nineteenth century, which became common after the battle of Waterloo when Colonel Rough distinguished himself. The Duke of Wellington used to say to him "Rough and ready, Colonel".—Ed.

[f] Francis Joseph I.—Ed.

[g] On the rebellion in Montenegro see this volume, pp. 178-79.—Ed.

[131] The authorship of this article was established on the basis of Engels' letters to Marx of May 1, 6 and 9, 1854, the entry in the Notebook ("5. Mai. Freitag. Militaria") and comparison of its text with the reports in The Times which Engels used as a source for describing military operations on the Danube front. There are signs of the Tribune editors' interference with Engels' text.

[132] Engels' doubts as to the authenticity of the information about "a decisive victory" gained by Omer Pasha at Chernavoda were fully confirmed. On May 9, 1854, The Times carried an article by its own Vienna correspondent who regarded this event as an ordinary encounter with enemy troops and the data on Russian casualties as highly exaggerated.

[133] This sentence was inserted in Engels' text by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune.

[134] These words are added to Engels' text by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune and refer to the article "The Greek Insurrection" printed in the same issue of the newspaper.

[135] In January 1854 it was announced in Constantinople that the police had discovered a conspiracy of the Greeks, and a Greek priest named Athanasius had been arrested in Vidin. According to the Western press, the conspiracy was headed by Baron Oelsner, ex-adjutant of General Lüders, and its aim was to incite the Greeks and Slays living in Turkey to revolt.

[136] Engels refers to Marx's articles "Parliamentary Debates of February 22.—Pozzo di Borgo's Dispatch.—The Policy of the Western Powers", "English and French War Plans.—Greek Insurrection.—Spain.—China", "The Secret Diplomatic Correspondence" (this volume, pp. 26-34, 35-42 and 84-99) and in part to his own article "The Turkish Question" (present edition, Vol. 12). This reference corresponds to Engels' intention about which he wrote to Marx on May 1, 1854: "It is time we harked back to our first articles on the subject, including the political aspect. Here, too, we have been splendidly vindicated by circumstances" (present edition, Vol. 39).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.181-183), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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