Russian occupations of Beirut
The Russian occupations of Beirut were two separate military expeditions by squadrons of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. The first one took place in June 1772 and the second one from October 1773 to early 1774. They formed part of its Levant campaign during the larger Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. Russia’s main objective was to assist local forces led by Egypt’s autonomous ruler, Ali Bey al-Kabir.
About Russian occupations of Beirut in brief
The Russian occupations of Beirut were two separate military expeditions by squadrons of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. The first one took place in June 1772 and the second one from October 1773 to early 1774. They formed part of its Levant campaign during the larger Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. Russia’s main objective in this campaign was to assist local forces led by Egypt’s autonomous ruler, Ali Bey al-Kabir, who was in open rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. The occupations are of debatable historical importance. Despite their brevity, they marked the first time in over 250 years that Beirut was ruled by a power other than the Ottomans. It was also the first occasion on which Russian rule was imposed over an Arab city. The pressure of Austria and Russia on the northern Ottoman frontiers since the beginning of the 18th century had encouraged insubordination among local governors in the largely decentralised Arab provinces of Ottoman Syria. In 1768, while the Russian Empire was suppressing a Polish uprising near the Ottoman border, a Cossack regiment chased some of the rebels across the border and reportedly carried out a massacre in the town of Balta. At the same time, Tsarina Catherine the Great, lacking an organised Russian fleet in the Black Sea, drew up plans with Count Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov to detach a large number of ships from the Baltic Fleet and deploy them to the Mediterranean.
Russia hoped they would attack the Turkish Straits from the rear, and that its naval presence in the Aegean would provoke a Greek rebellion. By March 1770, the first detachment was anchored off the southern Morea, where the revolt broke out. This was followed by bombardments and troopings at different locations in the region over the coming months. On July 7, 177, the Battle of Chesma, which crippled the Ottoman Navy and gave the Russians the command of the Mediterranean, was crushed at a direct assault on Constantinople by John Elphinstone, Rear-miral of the Dardanelles. The Russians gave the command to Admiral Gridov, who sailed to the southern tip of the Adriatic Sea and defeated a Turkish fleet off the coast of Cyprus. By the end of the year, Morea was under the control of the Russians and they were able to take control of a number of islands in the Red Sea, including the island of Lesvos, where they would go on to take part in the Second Battle of Thermopylae in 1778. The Russian squadron sailed for Beirut and occupied it from June 23 to 28, 1772. The bombardment of the town began on August 2, and Jazzar surrendered after two months, on October 10. The latter had agreed to pay the Russians a tribute in exchange for their liberation of Beirut from Jazzar Pasha, Shihab’s insubordinate vassal whom he had recently appointed as governor.