3.2b Foreign Policy Affairs
Greatly inspired by the ideas of Peter, Catherine took up his ideas of expansion and followed a vigorous policy of aggrandizement with a view to annex territory on every side. Catherine was a charming but shrewd politician. She was an eminent diplomat. The policy that she adopted for her foreign affairs was fruitful and farsighted. She was aware that nations like Turkey and Poland checked the expansion of Russia and she succeeded in humbling both these countries.
Several causes favored Catherine's designs against Poland and
Turkey. Europe was exhausted by the Seven Years' War and Russia
had suffered less than the other combatants in the war. As a result,
Russia was now the most powerful state in northern Europe. Moreover
the decline of Poland in military and political strength due to
internal anarchy and oppressive misrule of its government, also
excited the greed of neighboring rulers including Catherine. The
chronic weakness of the Turkish government too offered an opportunity
for Russian expansion in the south.
3.2c The Turks and the Russian Policy
Catherine organized her forces to get a window in the Black Sea. Turkey's Sultan was opposed to Catherine's intervention. With the French encouragement, the Sultan declared war against Russia in 1768. The armies of Russia easily overran Moldavia, and the Turks had to run away. The Russians thus occupied Wallachia in 1770.
They also captured Azov and encouraged the Greeks to rebel against the Sultan. The Turks had no way but to accept a treaty in 1774. This treaty ended the war.
By this treaty, Russia received Azov and Kinburn, and restored other provinces on the condition that they be better governed. She was also recognized as the spiritual protector of the orthodox Christian subjects of Turkey. This gave Russia an opportunity to interfere in Turkey's affairs and thus marked the opening of the Eastern question in the 19th century. Russia gained the right of free navigation in the Black Sea and on the Danube and also the use of Turkish harbors. Thus the treaty marked the starting point of Russian expansion in the Near East.
Catherine's lust of aggrandizement did not stop with this. With the help of Austria, she wished to make further acquisitions at the expense of Turkey. In 1787, war was declared against the Turks. Turkey was exposed to the simultaneous attack of its two most powerful neighbors. She again suffered a series of reverses and signed the Treaty of Jassy in 1792. Turkey gave up her hold on the northern coast of the Black Sea upto the river Dniestes which henceforth became the boundary between Russia and Turkey. By the annexation of Crimea, Catherine got the "window" in the Black Sea region.