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The Ottoman Army advances from its largest garrison in Rumelia located in the city of Sofia.

The Austro–Turkish War of 1787 was an inconclusive struggle between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires. It took place concurrently with the Russo–Turkish War of 1787–1792.


Emperor Joseph II

The decision to launch the war was made by the Austrian ruler Joseph II, who was in an alliance at the time with the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great.[1] The Turks took the military initiative, driving back the Austrians from Mehadia and overrunning the Banat (1789). Later on, the balance shifted toward Austria: Belgrade was taken from the Turks in a three-week campaign by the aging Field Marshal Laudon.[2] However, in the final negotiated outcome (see: Treaty of Sistova), Austria's gains were "meagre".[1] Miller specifies these as being "nothing more than the town of Orsova and two small places on the Croatian frontier."[3]

Selim III, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire during the war. Portrait by John Young

On the Turkish side, the war was a disaster, due not to the losses of land to Austria (which were largely recovered in negotiation) but to the victories of Austria's ally Russia; see Russo–Turkish War (1787–1792).

At the front, disease played a major role. According to Volkmar Braunbehrens, in the Austrian army during 1788 there were "epidemics: the lazarettos were filled to capacity, half the army was sick, and thousands of soldiers died". Joseph II spent most of the war at the front, and was one of those who fell ill there; he ultimately died of his illness after his return home (20 February 1790).[4]

The home front in Austria

Within Austria the war was "debilitating and unpopular" (Maynard Solomon).[5] He adds that "the morale of the cultural elite was severely eroded; fears of conscription led many aristocratic families to leave Vienna, and there were widespread feelings of disillusionment with Emperor Joseph, a sense that he had betrayed the promise of an enlightened reform movement.";[6] see Enlightened despotism. Braunbehrens describes the war thus: "There was open opposition, ... fueled by the enormous economic burden it placed on the population. Food prices had risen drastically and in some cases doubled; bakeries had been looted for the first time in Vienna's history."[7] A consequence of this social disruption was that the vibrant musical life of Vienna was greatly diminished, with the closure of two opera companies and decline of concerts and salon performance. This created trouble for the career of Mozart and other musicians similarly dependent on the aristocracy.[6]

Field Marshal Laudon, the leading general on the Austrian side

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Britannica, 1988
  2. Britannica, 11th edition
  3. Miller (1901, 459)
  4. Braunbehrens 1990, 311
  5. Solomon 1995, 432
  6. 6.0 6.1 Solomon 1995, 433
  7. Braunbehrens 1990, 312


  • Braunbehrens, Volkmar (1990) Mozart in Vienna. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition
  • Encyclopædia Britannica, 1988 edition, article "Austria", p. 500
  • Miller, W. (1901) "Europe and the Ottoman Power before the Nineteenth Century," The English Historical Review, Vol. 16, No. 63. (Jul., 1901), pp. 452–471.
  • Solomon, Maynard (1995) Mozart: A Life. Harper Perennial.

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