From Anapa to Adrianopol

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna gave Europe a welcome respite from incessant warring. No European government believed, however, that peace would last and, indeed, the struggle for control over the territory of the Ottoman Empire already augured war. In 1816 an experienced and educated seaman, Vice-Admiral Alexey Greig, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet. He had carefully overseen the preparation of his ships and was confident they would prove superior in any conflict. He ordered ships be considerably re-inforced with iron and their hulls protected with copper sheathing. Some of the largest warships, which were armed with 84 cannon, were re-armed with 108. Greig decided that the southern shipbuilding centre must be Nikolayev because the shipwrights there were the most skilled and had even extended the seaworthiness of many ships from six to eleven years. Some ships built at Nikolayev remained in service for as long as seventeen years. Admiral Greig personally assisted in the design of the 120-gun ship of the line Varshava [Warsaw], whole displacement was an incredible five thousand tons. The crews were trained by the admiral himself, who each year spent several weeks with his officers, carefully instructing them in every aspect of seamanship and giving them the benefit of his many years of experience at sea. He outlawed flogging and severely limited other forms of corporal punishment. Greig even founded a finishing school for young ladies, intended to educate the daughters of his officers and, in addition, authorized the establishment of an observatory at Nikolayev for the study of astronomy.

By the outbreak of the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829, the Black Sea Fleet consisted of nine ships of the line, five frigates, twenty small cruisers, three steamers and seventeen transports. Emperor Nicholas I ordered Admiral Greig to maintain Russia's naval supremacy in order to assist the army in its main line of advance along the coast of Rumelia to Constantinople. The fleet's first objective was Anapa, which surrendered on 12 June 1828 after prolonged bombardment from sea and land.

On 8 July the 20-gun brig Orphee supported the Russian ground forces during their successful assault on the Kustendzhi fortress on the western coast of the Black Sea. On 17 August Captain Nikolay Kritsky landed near the fortress of Inada and captured it with a unit of frigates and two small cruisers.

At approximately the same time, the main body of the fleet, commanded by Greig, joined with the army to lay siege to Varna. On 29 September, unable to withstand the prolonged bombardment, the Varna garrison capitulated, and the surviving 9,000 defenders of the fortress surrendered.

In the beginning of the next year Rear Admiral Mikhail Kumany attacked the seaside fortress of Sizopol. After heavy bombardment Russian seamen entered the fortress when the Turks ceased to resist further. In May, Captain Ivan Skalovsky carried out a daring operation against Turkish vessels being built on the coast of Anatolia. At Penderaklia fifteen minor craft, a transport and a newly-launched 60-gun ship were burnt, and a 26-gun corvette was destroyed on its slipway at Akchesor.

Admiral Greig remained at anchor near Sizopol, abandoning the Russian plan to blockade the Bosporus. The Turks took advantage of Greig's hesitance and three times entered the Black Sea without encountering Russian resistance.

The Russian 36-gun frigate Rafail became a victim of one such Turkish incursion. On 12 May, off the coast of Anatolia, the Rafail was surrounded by six ships of the line, two frigates, five corvettes and two brigs. Taken by surprise, Captain Semyon Stroynikov surrendered to the Turks. Lieutenant-Commander Alexander Kazarsky, commander of the 20-gun brig Mercury, reacted otherwise. His slow-moving brig was pursued by the 130-gun Selimier, flagship of the Kapudan Pasha, and the junior flagman's ship of the line. The Turks had ten times the cannon power of Kazarsky's ship, and yet the battle lasted four hours while the Mercury skilfully fended off Turkish attacks. In the end the enemy relented, leaving Kazarsky's ship still afloat; the Mercury, although heavily damaged, had survived.

The Mercury was awarded the ensign of St. George; Kazarsky was promoted to Captain; and he and his navigator, Ivan Pro-kofiev, were decorated with the Order of St. George. In addition, all members of the ship's crew were awarded medals for distinguished service in battle. In response to Turkish attacks on Russian ships, the Black Sea Fleet, joined by ground forces, retaliated, capturing the seaside fortresses of Messemvria and Midia. Captain Ivan Zavadovsky's Danube flotilla played a critical role in ending the war. In 1828, the vessels of his flotilla helped transport troops across the Danube, routed the Turkish galley flotilla in the Machinsk Branch and, on 29 June 1829, blockaded the fortress of Silistria.

On 2 September 1829, the Adrianopol Peace Treaty halted hostilities. Russia received the eastern coast of the Black Sea from the Kuban estuary to the port of St. Nicholas, the Danube estuary, and the right to sail merchant ships through the Bosporus. In addition, Turkey pledged to pay restitution and grant autonomy to Greece, Serbia, Moldavia and Wallachia.