|Mushroom Models Publications|
|Notes:||#3107 ISBN 978-83-65281, 224 pages, A4 format|
A lot of history enthusiasts seem to forget that during the 19th century, there were a lot of conflicts involving the major powers of the time. In the 1850s, Russia suffered a major defeat at the hands of other European powers in the Crimean War. The results of that defeat lasted for a considerable time. One has to remember that it was not unusual for huge war reparations to be paid by the loser in wartime, a situation that was a direct cause of WWII in the 20th Century. It took time for nations to recover from the losses and often there was a desire to not only regain lost territory, but also to gain some vengeance on the 'winner'.
It would not be too far fetched to say that Imperial Russia and the Ottoman Empire were not exactly the best of friends. The Russians wanted influence in the Balkans (as they do to this day), and the Ottoman Turks wanted to spread Islam into Russian territory. It was not uncommon even then for Islamic extremists to foment violence in the border areas, especially in the Caucuses.
By 1877, Russia had managed to amass a considerable army. Where they were weak was not just in Naval power in general, but in the Black Sea in particular. With the Ottoman's controlling access from the Mediterranean, it was obvious that any conflict at sea would have to be quite low level, at least on the Russian side. They had few ironclad ships and were mostly a coastal defense force.
Russian movements came along the border of Romania and the Ottomans which was formed by the Danube. Romania was an ally of Russia and not only allowed troop movement through the country, but also actively participated. At this time, the Ottoman Empire was having major difficulties in Serbia and Montenegro so Russia thought this would be a good time to strike. In the process, they felt they could liberate the Bulgars from Turkish rule.
The initial phase of the war was the Russians crossing the Danube. So this was very much a riverine conflict at first with the Russians basically using mine warfare to deny the Turks access and protecting Russian crossings. This was actually very successful and thanks to the use of pontoon bridges and ferries, the Russians were able to get their huge army with all its equipment over into the southern side of the Danube. This began the land war as the Russians slowly headed towards Istanbul.
However, on the Black Sea itself, the Turks landed troops on the Caucasian coast in hopes that local Muslims would rise up against the Russians. This did not exactly go as planned and it is during this episode, which lasted several months, that most of the actual ship to ship naval battles happened, small as they were.
I don't want to give up which is really a riveting story, but to say the least, the book covers both the land and sea campaigns as well as all the major movements and battles. It is chock full of superb period illustrations and some photographs as well as well drawn maps and explanations of what was going on. While many of the names are not well known outside the region, the author does a superlative job of telling the story and making it come alive.
This was the age where the switch from sail to steam was still going on and while the ships involved were, for the most part, steam powered, they still kept masts and sails, other than the really small boats. It is a book that will take a while to read, but one that I know you will enjoy. Highly recommended.
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Review book courtesy of Mushroom Models Publications where you can order your copy. Australian readers can get theirs from Platypus Publications, and US readers can get theirs from Casemate Publishing.
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