Harvest of Briars
Harvest of Briars
Turks, Russians, and the Southeastern Frontier
This chapter examines the competition with the Ottoman Empire and Russia, from the reconquest of Hungary to Joseph II’s final Turkish war. On its southern and eastern frontiers, the Habsburg Monarchy contended with two large land empires: a decaying Ottoman Empire, and a rising Russia determined to extend its influence on the Black Sea littorals and Balkan Peninsula. In balancing these forces, Austria faced two interrelated dangers: the possibility of Russia filling Ottoman power vacuums that Austria itself could not fill, and the potential for crises here, if improperly managed, to fetter Austria’s options for handling graver threats in the west. In dealing with these challenges, Austria deployed a range of tools over the course of the eighteenth century. In the first phase (1690s–1730s), it deployed mobile field armies to alleviate Turkish pressure on the Habsburg heartland before the arrival of significant Russian influence. In the second phase (1740s–70s), Austria used appeasement and militarized borders to ensure quiet in the south while focusing on the life-or-death struggles with Frederick the Great. In the third phase (1770s–90s), it used alliances of restraint to check and keep pace with Russian expansion, and recruit its help in comanaging problems to the north. Together, these techniques provided for a slow but largely effective recessional, in which the House of Austria used cost-effective methods to manage Turkish decline and avoid collisions that would have complicated its more important western struggles.
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