Story of the Krepost: The first Russian ship sent to Istanbul

Published 26.12.2019 01:48

The Krepost, the first Russian vessel to visit Istanbul in 1699, caused quite a stir in the city, but when the ship's drunk captain fired cannons, a diplomatic crisis broke out

In the wake of the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Vienna (1683), Russia deployed a diplomat named Ukraintsev to negotiate the terms of a treaty with the Turks.

Russian Czar Peter the Great sent a diplomatic delegation to the Ottoman capital aboard the large warship Krepost (Fortress) in a show of strength. The 46-gun frigate was 38 meters long and carried 110 crew members. The ship's captain Piter Fon-Pamburg and his chief mate Gendrihson were Dutchmen.

The Russian ship's sojourn in Istanbul was studied by Fatih Ünal. Again, Montrea, who was in Istanbul when the ship arrived, described the event in great detail.

Toward Istanbul

The Krepost was accompanied by some large warships of the Russian navy. Turkish authorities demanded that the ship not sail up the Bosporus and the ambassador be brought to Istanbul over land, but Ukraintsev refused this request. He only agreed to send back the escort ships.

The Krepost was the first Russian warship to sail on the Black Sea. The ship anchored off Yeşilköy in the evening of Sept. 12, 1699. After waiting for a few days in Yeşilköy, the Russian envoy was brought ashore on an Ottoman caique and escorted to a guest villa. Krepost, on the other hand, arrived at the Seraglio Point a few days later and anchored there.

The drunk captain

The ship's captain Pamburg was fond of drinking. Upon arriving in the city, Pamburg began inviting his French and Dutch acquaintances in Istanbul to the ship and entertaining them on board until after midnight. One day, after he hosted them on board again, he set the city in an uproar. Pamburg entertained his friends and drank with them from the early morning hours to late into the night. He got fully drunk and fired all 46 guns of the ship at midnight.

Since the cannons were loaded with black powder, the city did not sustain any damage.

But he made such a terrible noise in the city in the middle of the night that panic broke out in the palace. Russian sources claim that even the sultan himself dashed out and that pregnant women in the palace had miscarriages as they were terrified by the noise and panic.

Meanwhile, there were rumors in Istanbul's diplomatic circles that the Russian fleet admiral sailed into the Black Sea with 10 warships and a fleet of 40 vessels after seeing the Russian diplomatic delegate headed by Ukraintsev depart from Kerch for Istanbul, and that the fleet was keeping under surveillance the coasts of Trabzon, Amasra and Sinop. Such an incident occurring at that time further made Ottoman officials anxious.

It was commented that the shots fired from the Krepost were actually a signal for the Russian fleet to enter the Bosporus.

Early the next day, the Ottoman dragoman Mavrokordatos was sent to Ukraintsev to protest the incident. The chief dragoman demanded that Capt. Pamburg be removed from duty and taken to the envoy's residence for punishment.

Ukraintsev said that he was also annoyed by the captain's behavior and that he had already ordered the captain brought to his residence for interrogation. Mavrokordatos warned that if such effrontery occurred again, the captain would be sent to the dungeon and the Krepost would be towed to a shipyard. The next day, Ukraintsev duly warned Capt. Pamburg and the incident was smoothed over before turning into a crisis.

Istanbul examines the ship

The Krepost's arrival caused quite a sensation in Istanbul. Thousands of people came on boats and caiques to see the Krepost from close up. Sultan Mustafa II himself and his grand vizier also came to inspect the ship. The sultan was disquieted that such a large ship could come to Istanbul, and expressed his discomfort. Not only ordinary people but also Ottoman naval architects inspected the Krepost.

Ottoman officials rebuked especially the Dutch for teaching shipbuilding to the Russians and lending them captains.

For this reason, Colyer, the Dutch ambassador in Istanbul, was warned.

Ukraintsev signed a treaty on July 15, 1700, in Istanbul, ending the war between the two countries after making some compromises.

According to the treaty, Azov was left to the Russians while some fortresses around Özi were returned to the Ottomans. Additionally, the Russians also won the right to keep a permanent ambassador in Istanbul.

The Krepost sailed back to Russia with 170 Russian captives. In 1704, it underwent extensive repair and was renovated to its former glory. However, the Krepost was left decaying off the Azov Fortress later on, after the Ottoman army defeated the Russians in 1711 and recaptured the fortress.

* Historian, chairman at National Defense University, Ankara

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