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The Fighting in the East.
Finances of Austria and France.
Fortification of Constantinople.[392]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, Jan. 20, 1854

The latest mails have brought us some supplementary news with regard to the military events which lately took place in Asia. It appears that the Turks have been compelled entirely to evacuate the Russo-Armenian territory, but the precise result of the engagements which determined their retreat, is not known. The Turks had penetrated on the direct road to Akhalzikh from Ardahan, while another body took the more southern road from Kars by Alexandropol (in Georgian, Gümri) to Tiflis. Both these corps, it appears, were met by the Russians; according to - the Russian accounts, the Turks were routed on either line and lost about forty pieces of cannon; as to the Turkish accounts, we have nothing official, but in private correspondence the retreat is explained by the necessity of going into winter quarters.

The only thing certain is this, that the Turks have evacuated the Russian territory with the exception of Fort St. Nicholas; that the Russians followed them, and that their advanced guard even ventured to within a mile of Kars, where it was repulsed. We know, besides, that the Turkish army of Anatolia, recruited as it is from the Asiatic provinces, the seat of the old Moslem barbarism, and counting in its ranks a great number of irregulars, unreliable, though generally brave, soldiers of adventure, fancy warriors and filibusters, that this army of Anatolia is nothing like the stern, disciplined and drilled army of Rumelia, whose commander knows how many and what men he has from day to day' under his command, and where the thirst for independent adventure and private plunder is held under check by articles of war and courts martial. We know that the Russians, who were very hard up for troops in the beginning of the Asiatic campaign, have been reinforced by 16,000 men under Lieut.-Gen. Obrucheff II, and by a body of Cossacks from the Don; we know that they have been able to keep the mountaineers within bounds, to maintain their communication as well across the Caucasus by Vladikavkaz, as by sea to Odessa and Sebastopol.

Under these circumstances and considering that the Turkish commander Abdi Pasha was either a traitor or a dunce (he has been recalled since and placed under arrest at Kars; Ahmed Pasha was sent in his place), we should not wonder at all if the Turks had been worsted, although there can be no doubt of the exaggeration prevailing in the Russian bulletins. We read in the Augsburger Zeitung[a] that

"towards the end of November, Shamyl made a desperate attempt to force his way to the south, in order to effect a direct communication with the Turks. The strength of his corps was estimated at from 10,000 to 16,000 men, and it is affirmed that the Murides, the flower of his troops, were cut to pieces."

This however wants confirmation.

At last the murder is out, as regards the affair at Sinope. One of the finest three-deckers of the Russian fleet the Rostislav[393], 120-gun ship was sunk there by the Turks. This fact kept back hitherto under the specious pretext that the Rostislav did not sink during the action, but immediately afterward is now admitted by the Russians, and forms a good set-off against the destroyed Turkish ships. If one three-decker was actually sunk, we may suppose that the other Russian vessels received very serious harm indeed during the action and, after all, the victory of Sinope may have more disabled the Russian than the Turkish fleet. Altogether, the Turks appear to fight like Turks when on the water. The Egyptian steam-frigate Pervaz-Bahri, disabled and taken after nearly five hours' struggle by the far larger Russian steam-frigate Vladimir, was so riddled with shot that she could hardly be brought into Sebastopol, and when there, sank at once. So far, then, the prizes carried off by the Russians amount to nothing, and indeed the impossibility for them to carry off a single prize from Sinope shows both the obstinacy of the Turkish defense and the mutilated state of the Russian fleet after the action.

There is a report that the combined French and English fleets, together with the first division of the Turkish Navy, are transporting 17,000 Turks to Batum. If this be true, it is as much an act of war as if they made a direct attack upon Sebastopol, and the Czar[b] cannot but declare war at once. Immediately prior to the entrance of the combined fleets into the Black Sea, the Czar is said to have sent his mandate for the withdrawal of all his vessels of war from the waters of the Euxine to Sebastopol. A letter dated Odessa, Dec. 24, reports that

"the commander of the Russian flotilla in the Sea of Azov had sent one of his aides-de-camp to Sebastopol to explain how critical his position was. Two corps of 12,000 men each were ready to be embanked at Sebastopol, when this operation of war was paralyzed by the news of the imminent entrance of the united fleets into the Euxine."[c]

From the last telegraphic news received it appears that the Russians intended attempting a general attack on the Turkish lines at Kalafat, on the 13th inst., the Russian New-Year's day. They had already pushed forward about 10,000 men in entrenchments at Chetatea, a village nine English miles north of Kalafat, but were prevented from concentrating their whole available force by the Turkish General's getting the start of them, storming the enemy's entrenchments with 15,000 or 18,000 men, proving victorious in a series of most murderous encounters that took place on the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th inst., and finally forcing the Russians to retire in the direction of Krajova. The Russians themselves confess a loss of 1,000 killed and 4,000 wounded. Gen. Anrep, we are told by the telegraph, "who commanded the Russians, was severely wounded, as well as Gen. Tuinont." On the 10th, it is stated, the Turks who were commanded by Selim Pasha (the Pole Zedlinsky), again retired to Kalafat. Thus far the telegraphic news, hitherto the only source of information about these most important events. The report winding up, on the one hand, with the retirement of the Russians on Krajova, and of the Turks, on the other, to Kalafat, evokes a suspicion that great strategical faults have again been committed on both sides. There is one report afloat that Omer Pasha caused a whole corps to pass the [Danube] between the Aluta and the Shil, thus menacing the communications of the Russian corps at Krajova. But how could the Turks cross the Danube, which is filled with floating masses of ice, at any other point than Kalafat, where alone they were prepared for such an emergency?

The defeats the Russians met with at Kalafat are perhaps more important in a political than a military view. Coupled with the entrance of the united fleets into the Black Sea, they cut off the last probability of the Czar's yielding to the humble supplication for peace forwarded by the courier of the Vienna Conference to St. Petersburg. On the other hand they must produce the immediate effect on neighboring Servia of strengthening the National party and intimidating the Russian one, who have lately been lifting up their heads with amazing impudence at Belgrade. Prince Alexander, it is true, and the mass of the Servian people, could not be prevailed upon to break the bonds between their country and the Sultan[d], although a crowd of Russian agents is simultaneously overrunning Servia, carrying on their intrigues in opposite senses seeking out and applying themselves to the places and persons formerly known for their attachment to the banished family of the Obrenović speaking to some of the young Prince Michael to others of his old father Miloš now making them hope, through the protection of Russia, for the extension of the limits [of] Servia the formation of a new kingdom of Illyria, which would unite all those who speak the Servian language now under the domination of Turkey and Austria and now announcing to them, in case of resistance, innumerable armies and utter subjugation. You are aware that Prince Miloš, residing at Vienna, is the old protégé of Metternich, while Michael, his son, is a mere creature of Russia, who in 1842 rendered the princedom vacant by flying from Servia. The Russian defeat at Kalafat will, at the same time, relieve Austria from the fear of a Russian army appearing before Belgrade and evoking among the subjects of Austria, of common origin and faith with herself, the consciousness of their own strength and of the degradation they endure in the domination of the Germans.

As to Austria, I may state en passant, that she has at last renounced the long-cherished hope of raising a new loan. The state of her Exchequer may be inferred from the expedient her Government has recently resorted to, of exacting a discount of 15 per cent. upon its own paper money —a financial maneuver only to be compared with the devises of the swindling ingenuity of the French Rois Faux Monoyeurs[e], who appreciated the coin when they had to pay, and depreciated it when they had to receive money. According to the German papers, the Austrian budget for 1854 will show a deficit of 45,000,000 florins on the ordinary service, and 50,000,000 florins on the extraordinary Whenever news of warlike character reaches Vienna, people throng to the banking-houses, in order to change paper currency for silver coin.

France, too, it is known, has long been moving for a loan of 200,000,000 francs (L8,000,000 sterling), but the dearth of food, the failure of the wine and silk crops, the prevailing commercial and industrial distress, the great apprehensions entertained about the payments to be made at the end of February, the downward tendency of the public funds and railway shares, all these circumstances have by no means tended to facilitate such a transaction. Bonaparte could not succeed in finding takers at the Bourse for the new loan. There remained no resource save that recurred to on the eve of the coup d'état—sending Persigny to the Bank of France, forcing out of it 50,000,000 francs ($10,000,000), and leaving in their place that amount of treasury bonds, under the head of "securities." This was actually done on New-Year's day. The fall of the funds to 69 hailed this financial coup d'état. The Government will, as we are now officially informed, obtain a loan from the Bank of France of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 francs, against treasury bonds. Those not acquainted with what passed on New-Year's day in the parlor of the Bank of France, will be at a loss to understand how the Bank has been prevailed upon to accept a loan rejected at the Bourse.

As to Persia the news continues to be contradictory. According to one report the Persian army is marching upon Erzerum, and Bagdad; according to another the Russian intrigue has been baffled by the British Chargé d'Affaires, Mr. Thompson, who menaced withdrawal from Teheran, by the dread of an immediate explosion of the dislike of the Persian people for Russia, and by the arrival of an Afghan Embassy, threatening, if Persia formed an alliance with Russia, an invasion of the Persian territory by the Afghans.

According to private correspondence from Constantinople, published in the Patrie, the Divan has resolved to fortify Constantinople on the land side. A mixed commission, consisting of European and Ottoman officers, is said to have already commenced the preparatory survey of the localities. The fortification of Constantinople would altogether change the character of Russo-Turkish warfare, and prove the heaviest blow ever dealt to the eternal dreams of the self-styled heir of the Byzantine Emperors.

The rumor of Austria's concentrating a corps d'armée in the Banat, to be placed under the command of Gen. Count Schlick, is contradicted by the German Press.

The Correspondenz, of Berlin, states that general orders have been given to the authorities to hold themselves prepared, in case of a mobilization of the Landwehr.[394]

Overtures have been made from St. Petersburg to the Cabinet of Copenhagen for the cession of the Island of Bornholm to Russia.

"Bornholm," as it is justly remarked by The Daily News[f], "might be a Malta or Gibraltar of the Baltic. It is within a day's sail of the Sound and Copenhagen, and [...] placed by nature at the very throat of the Baltic."

In the message sent by Lord Redcliffe to the Governor of Sebastopol, and intimating to him the appearance of the united squadron in the Black Sea, the only object of the movement is stated to be "the protection of the Ottoman territory from all aggression or hostile act"[g], no mention being made of the protection of the Ottoman flag.

As all the accounts received from Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Constantinople and St. Petersburg, indicate the prospect of war, prices have generally declined in all stock markets on both sides of the Channel.

Written on January 20, 1854 Reproduced from the newspaper
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3997, February 8, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Issue No. 9, January 9, 1854.—Ed.

[b] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[c] Here and below the facts are cited according to The Times, No. 21639, January 6, 1854.—Ed.

[d] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[e] Royal counterfeiters.—Ed.

[f] Issue No. 2391, January 18, 1854.—Ed.

[g] Redcliffe, Baraguay d'Hilliers, "To the Governor of Sebastopol", The Daily News, No. 2390, January 17, 1854.—Ed.

[392] A part of this article was published under the title The War in Asia" in The Eastern Question.

[393] The report on the sinking of the Russian battleship Rostislav published in The Times, No. 21631, on January 9, 1854 was incorrect. According to Russian official documents, after the battle of Sinope the Rostislav returned safely to Sevastopol for repairs.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.583-588), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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