Circassia-The Vixen - Freeman's Journal - Friday 24 March 1837


(From the Journal des Debats.)

Freeman's Journal - Friday 24 March 1837

To understand the question relative to the Vixen, it is necessary to be acquainted with the present state of the coast of the Black Sea, more particularly as respects the country of the Abasians. The Abasians are composed of about forty thousand families. They inhabit the western side of the Caucasus, and the valleys which descend from that mountain range towards the sea. Behind them, in the glens and on the summits of those mountains, dwell the Circassians. These Abasians are the descendants from the ancient inhabitants of the country; they were independent of the Emperors of Byzantium, as they have since been of the Turks ; at most they occasionally paid a tribute. Nevertheless, they became Christians at the instance of the emperors, and received Islamisms from the hands of the sultans.

The Turks had three points on the coast-Anapa, Sudjuk, and Sogumkale ; these three places were depots for the slave-trade which the Turks carried on in Circassia. These slaves were the prisoners taken by the different Circassian tribes, in the course of their intestine wars, and war was not unfrequently waged for the sake of having slaves to dispose of. The Turks did not possess any ground beyond the walls of these three places. The Abasians grazed their flocks up to the very base of those walls ; independent of the Turks, and even of the Persians, when the latter were most powerful ; the Abasians lived upon the produce of their lands, their gardens, and their flocks. They exchanged their surplus for the foreign goods brought them by trading vessels, and particularly for salt, an article which nature has denied to the inhabitants of the Caucasus.

When the Russians began to obtain possession of Georgia and Mingrelia, they wishes likewise to become masters of the lands of the Abasians ; the country was desirable to them on many accounts. Firstly, it would enable them to cut off the Georgians and Mingrelians from all communication with the sea, and so from all foreign aid. Moreover, the possession of those districts afforded a connection with their possessions beyond the Caucasus, the roads to Georgia and Mingrelia being more secure and commodious through Abasia, and along the coast of the Black Sea, than through the passes of the Caucasus, occupied by the Circassians, who incessantly dispute passage, so that the marches of the Russians over the Caucasus are always military expeditions, with frequent disastrous results.

In the war which concluded in 1812, by the treaty of Bucharest, Russia obtained possession of the three Turkish forts mentioned above. The 6th article of that treaty formally stipulated that all the conquests made by the Russians in Asia during the war should be restored, a trifling price for a peace granted by the Porter, at a time when Napoleon was marching upon Moscow, and when Alexander required all his forces to oppose so formidable an enemy. Russia, however, attached so much importance to the possession of these three places, that Alexander, which all his loyalty, chose rather to break his faith than evacuate those places, and accordingly he eluded the execution of the treaty. Thence the reiterated complaints of the Porter, and those complaints, combined with other grievances, led to the war of 1828, a disastrous war for Turkey, and which terminated in the treaty of Adrianople. By that peace Turkey ceded these three places to Russia, but without naming them. The article is drawn up so as to comprehend in the cession the whole country of the Abasians, which did not belong to the Porte. The Porte, says the fourth article, cedes to Russia the whole coast of the Black Sea, from Anapa to Fort St. Nicolas. From that period Russia has chosen to consider herself the legitimate sovereign of the country.

[The article then proceeds to argue from the above data that Russia is, neither de jure nor de facto, in possession of the country, and concludes by some statements, the substance of which is taken from the Algemeine Zeitung.]

The affair of the Vixen is one of the signs of that latent struggle which is at present agitating the world, from the shores of the Ganges to those of the Frozen Ocean, and from the Tagus to the wall of China-a fearful struggle, of which it is the duty of all the friends of humanity to retard or prevent the explosion, but of which the symptoms break forth at times, as in the human frame a trifling accident will reveal the secret malady from which it suffers. On both sides-on that of Russia as on that of England-the stake is large, and their hesitation to risk it very natural. We learn, however, that the St. Nicolas, and Ionian vessel, sailing under British colours, has been turned away from the mouth of the Danube ; and Austrian and a Sardanian vessel, bound for Varna, have been forced by a Russian man-of-war to return. Nine men-of-war have sailed from Nicolaief to enforce the pretensions of Russia ; indeed, Russia has never shown any want of firmness in her Eastern relations.

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