Tendra and Kaliakria


Hussein Pasha did not grieve long over his losses in the Kerch Strait. In August of the same year, having received reinforcements and several new ships of the line, he positioned his fleet between Tendra Island and the Hadgy Bay. At that location there were no fewer than 1,360 guns and 12,500 men aboard 14 ships of the line and eight frigates. In addition, 23 minor craft were attached to the Turkish force.

Ushakov could not long allow the Turks to maintain control over such a strategic position. On 25 August he left Sevastopol with ten ships of the line and one bomb-vessel escorted by twenty minor craft. In all, the Russian squadron numbered a little over 6,500 men, less than half the size of the Turkish force.

On 28 August the Russian seamen reached their destination. Even before all his ships could be arranged for battle, Ushakov began his pursuit of the enemy. Taken by surprise, Hussein Pasha was forced to turn and defend his rear. The battle had begun. Ushakov managed to keep the advantage of sailing with the wind and, having closed the battle line, attacked with all the force of his combined fleet. The Russians and Turks met with no more than a hundred metres between them. The Russians immediately aimed and opened fire on the Turkish vessels. Three frigates from Ushakov's reserve corps barred the enemy flagship's route when she attempted to tack downwind. Ushakov dislodged Hussein's flagship from the line, and the Turks took flight.

Ushakov pursued them throughout the next day, arranging his ships according to their ability to keep pace with the fleeing enemy so that the fastest vessels rushed ahead. Over-taking the 74-gun ship of Admiral Sait Bey, the Rozhdestvo Khristovo cut down all three masts of the Turkish ship with a fore-and-aft salvo. The damage had been done: the Turkish vessel caught fire at once and exploded. Meanwhile, under the command of Commodore Golenkin, the 66-gun Maria Magdalena, together with three other vessels, forced the Turkish Meleki Bahri to surrender. The battle was over. Turkish losses totalled two ships of the line, three minor vessels, and 1,400 seamen killed or wounded. In addition, 733 were captured, among them one admiral and four commanders.

After suffering this defeat, Hussein was compelled to withdraw the remaining Turkish forces to Constantinople, and Russia quickly reasserted its control of the Black Sea. Communication was resumed between Sevastopol and the Liman Firth. Now the Liman rowing flotilla could obtain reinforcements and operate without Turkish hindrance. Under the command of Rear-Admiral Iosef de Ribas, the flotilla moved to the Danube and would later assist Suvorov's troops during the seizure of Izmail.

The commander himself was also rewarded. For taking Tendra, Ushakov was decorated with the Order of Saint George.

In the next year, 1791, the Turkish sultan ordered his Algerian, Tunisian and Tripolitanian squadrons into the Black Sea. The Turks at once sought to avenge the defeat at Tendra and support the Ottoman troops in Rumelia and on the Caucasian coast. They assembled 60 pendants, including eighteen ships of the line and seventeen frigates. The total number of guns was over two thousand; the complement consisted of 20,000 men. Lacking confidence in their ability to win a war at sea, the Turks invited British instructors to train their crews. Finally, after exercises and preparations, the armada left the Bosporus.

Repeating the surprise tactic he had employed at Tendra, and without deploying his forces in the usual battle formation, Ushakov, with sixteen ships of the line and two frigates, approached the Turkish fleet on 31 July. The Turks were lying at anchor off the Cape of Kaliakria when the Russian fleet took them by surprise. The Russian ships, coming up into the wind, set a course between the shore and the Turkish fleet and from there began their attack. By this skilful maneuvre, Ushakov kept the Turkish ships away from shore, separating them from a significant portion of the forces that were on land celebrating the festival of Bai Rham. Algerian Admiral Seit-Ali nevertheless took the initiative to oppose the giaours [infidels]. In response Ushakov placed himself at the head of the battle line and, from close range, fired at the Algerian admiral's ship. The heavy cannonballs of the Rozhdestvo Khristovo crushed the masts, boarding ladders and stern mouldings of the Turkish vessel. In the excitement the Turks took flight without raising anchor: they hacked off their cables, abandoned their anchors and hoisted sail. Pursued by Ushakov, Seit-Ali attempted to hide behind his own battle line. The Russian commander's attack was supported by the Alexander Nevsky, the Ioann Predtecha and the Fyodor Stratilat. Within an hour the battle was over, and the opponent had taken flight. Darkness and wind once more saved the Turks from complete disaster.

The next day, however, cruisers sent by Ushakov destroyed five smaller Turkish vessels and several transports carrying provisions for the army. Victory allowed Russia to dictate its own conditions during the peace negotiations. The Yassi Peace Treaty of 29 December 1791 gave Russia control over the Crimea and the northern Black Sea coast from the Dniester to the Kuban. Russia had once more strengthened its position in the south.