Romanian War of Independence (1877–1878)
Part of Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78
Franz Mandy - Intoarcerea victorioasa in Bucuresti a armatei romane de pe frontul din Bulgaria.jpg
Romanian troops returning to Bucharest after the war, 8 October 1878.
Date 24 April 1877 – 3 March 1878 (10 months, 1 week, 2 days)
Location Balkans
Result Romanian / Bulgarian / Russian victory
Treaty of San Stefano, Treaty of Berlin
Northern Dobruja passed from Ottoman Empire to Romania
Southern Bessarabia passed from Romania to Russian Empire
Romanian Principality
Russian Empire Russia
Bulgaria Bulgaria
 Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Carol I
Russian Empire Grand Duke Nikolai
Bulgaria Alexander of Battenberg
Ottoman Empire Ahmed Muhtar Pasha
Ottoman Empire Ghazi Osman Pasha
66,000 troops[1]
190 cannons
Russian Empire 280,000 troops (European front)
500 cannons[2]
Bulgaria 50,000 troops
200 cannons [1]
Ottoman Empire 186,000 troops[1]
210 cannons
Casualties and losses
Romania — 4,302 killed and missing,
3,316 wounded,
19,904 sick [3]
Russia – 15,567 killed,
56,652 wounded,
6,824 died from wounds,
81,363 died from disease,
1,713 died from other causes,
3,500 missing total dead and missing:108,967
Bulgaria — 3,000 killed and wounded

(during the entire Russo-Turkish War)
30,000 killed in battle, 90,000 died from wounds and diseases [5]
(during the entire Russo-Turkish War)[6]
2 river monitors sunk[7][8]
Part of a series on the
History of Romania
Coat of arms of Romania
  • Cucuteni-Trypillian culture
  • Hamangia culture
  • Bronze Age in Romania
  • Prehistory of Transylvania
Early Middle Ages
Middle Ages
  • History of Transylvania
  • Foundation of Wallachia
  • Foundation of Moldavia
Early Modern Times
  • Principality of Transylvania
  • Phanariotes
  • Danubian Principalities
National awakening
  • Transylvanian School
  • Organic Statute
  • 1848 Moldavian Revolution
  • 1848 Wallachian Revolution
  • United Principalities
  • War of Independence
Kingdom of Romania
  • World War I
  • Union with Transylvania
  • Union with Bessarabia
  • Greater Romania
  • Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
  • World War II
Socialist Republic of Romania
  • Soviet occupation
  • 1989 Revolution
Romania since 1989
  • Timeline
  • Military history
  • Christianity
  • Romanian language
By historical region
  • Banat
  • Bessarabia
  • Bukovina
  • Dobruja
  • Crișana
  • Maramureș
  • Moldavia
  • Muntenia
  • Oltenia
  • Transylvania
  • Wallachia
Portal icon Romania portal

The Romanian War of Independence is the name used in Romanian historiography to refer to the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), following which Romania, fighting on the Russian side, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. On April 16 [O.S. April 4] 1877, Romania and the Russian Empire signed a treaty at Bucharest under which Russian troops were allowed to pass through Romanian territory, with the condition that Russia respected the integrity of Romania. The mobilization began, and about 120,000 soldiers were massed in the south of the country to defend against an eventual attack of the Ottoman forces from south of the Danube. On April 24 [O.S. April 12] 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire and its troops entered Romania through the newly built Eiffel Bridge.


On May 21 [O.S. May 9] 1877, in the Romanian parliament, Mihail Kogălniceanu read the act of independence of Romania as the will of the Romanian people. A day later, on May 22 [O.S. May 10] 1877, the act was signed by Prince Carol I, officially declaring the full state independence. The Romanian government immediately canceled paying tribute to Turkey (914,000 lei), and the sum was given instead to the War Ministry.

Initially, before 1877, Russia did not wish to cooperate with Romania, since they did not wish Romania to participate in the peace treaties after the war, but the Russians encountered a very strong Turkish army of 40,000 soldiers led by Osman Pasha at the Siege of Plevna (Pleven) where the Russian troops led by Russian generals suffered very heavy losses and were routed in several battles.[9]


Map of the Siege of Plevna

The battlefield of Plevna and Grivița

Romanian troops storming the Grivița Redoubt

Due to great losses, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, the Russian commander-in-chief, asked Prince Carol I for the Romanian Army to intervene and join forces with the Russian Army.[9][10]

Prince Carol I accepted the Duke's proposal to become the Marshal of the Russian troops in addition to the command of his own Romanian army, thus being able to lead the combined armed forces to the conquest of Plevna and the formal surrender, after heavy fighting, of the Turkish General Osman Pasha. The Romanian Army won the battles of Grivitsa and Rahova, and on 28 November 1877 the Plevna citadel capitulated, and Osman Pasha surrendered the city, the garrison and his sword to the Romanian colonel Mihail Cerchez. After the occupation of Plevna, the Romanian Army returned to the Danube and won the battles of Vidin and Smârdan.

On 19 January 1878, the Ottoman Empire requested an armistice, which was accepted by Russia and Romania. Romania won the war but at a cost of more than 10,000 casualties. Its independence from the Porte was finally recognised on 13 July 1878.

Naval operations[]

The gunboat România

The spar torpedo boat Rândunica

The Romanian Navy consisted of three gunboats: Ştefan cel Mare, România and Fulgerul and one spar torpedo boat, Rândunica.[11] The three gunboats displaced 352, 130 and 85 tons respectively.[12] Ştefan cel Mare and România were each armed with four guns and Fulgerul with one gun.[13] Despite its inferiority on paper, the Romanian Navy destroyed many Turkish river gunboats.[14]

According to the Russian-Romanian treaty signed in April that year, the Romanian spar torpedo boat Rândunica served under joint Romanian-Russian command. She was also known as Tsarevich by the Russians. Her crew consisted of two Russian Lieutenants, Dubasov and Shestakov, and three Romanians: Major Murgescu (the official liaison officer with the Russian headquarters), an engine mechanic and a navigator. The attack of Rândunica took place during the night of 25-26 May 1877, near Măcin. As she was approaching the Ottoman monitor Seyfi, the latter fired three rounds at her without any effect. Before she could fire the fourth round, Rândunica's spar struck her between the midships and the stern. A powerful explosion followed, with debris from the Ottoman warship raising up to 40 meters in the air. The half-sunk monitor then re-opened fire, but was struck once again, with the same devastating effects. The crew of Seyfi subsequently fired their rifles at Rândunica, as the latter was retreating and their monitor was sinking. Following this action, Ottoman warships throughout the remainder of the war would always retreat upon sighting spar torpedo boats. The Russian Lieutenants Dubasov and Shestakov were decorated with the Order of St. George, while Major Murgescu was decorated with the Order of Saint Vladimir as well as the Order of the Star of Romania. Rândunica was returned to full Romanian control in 1878, after the Russian ground forces had finished crossing the Danube.[15][16] The Ottoman monitor Seyfi was a 400-ton ironclad warship, with a maximum armor thickness of 76 mm and armed with two 120 mm guns.[17]

Another Ottoman monitor, the Podgoriçe, was shelled and sunk by Romanian coastal artillery on 7 November 1877.[18]


The peace treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was signed at San Stefano, on 3 March 1878. It created a Bulgarian principality and recognized the independence of Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania.[19]

The Convention between Russia and Romania, which established the tranzit of Russian troops through the country, is one by which Russia obliged itself "to maintain and have the political rights of Romanian state observed, such as they result from the internal laws and the existent tratatives and also to defend the present integrity of Romania".[20] The Romanians believe that "defend" in a diplomatic act means recognition of the status-quo set by Congress of Paris of 1856, whereby three counties in Southern Bessarabia-part of Budjak, an originally Romanian region (as Strabo states, the region was occupied by the Dacians and Daco-Romans -ancestors of the present-day Romanians- since the Antiquity), conquered by Turks around late 15th century and ruled until late 19th century when it was conquered by Russians-were taken from the Russian Empire, defeated in the Crimean War, and given back to the Romanians in Principality of Moldavia. Russian empire never wanted to "maintain and defend" the integrity of Romanian Old Kingdom, they wanted to conquer as much as possible from the sick man of Europe, the Black Sea region (control of Danube) all the way to Constantinopole (Dardanelles/Bosphorus) and the Mediterranean Sea.[21][22]

To understand the context we have to realize that the Russian empire was expanding in the Caucasus region (Russian conquest of the Caucasus), Asia (Russian conquest of Central Asia) and wanted a "warm water port" in the Indian Ocean (The Great Game).

The treaty was not recognised by the Central Powers and the 1878 peace conference in Berlin decided that Russia would give Romania its independence, the territories of Northern Dobruja, the Danube Delta and access to the Black Sea including the ancient port of Tomis, as well as the tiny Snake Island (Insula Şerpilor), but Russia would nevertheless occupy as a so-called "compensation" the old Romanian Southern counties of Bessarabia (Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail), which by the Treaty of Paris of 1856 (after the Crimean War) were included in Moldavia. Prince Carol was most unhappy by this unfavorable turn of negotiations; he was finally persuaded by Bismarck (in now-published original letters exchanged at that time) to accept this compromise with Russia in view of the great economical potential of Romania's direct access to the Black Sea and its ancient ports at the expense of Bulgaria.[23]

See also[]

  • National awakening of Romania
  • Kingdom of Romania
  • Great Eastern Crisis


  1. ^ a b c Istoria Militară a Poporului Român (The Military History of the Romanian People), Centrul de Studii și Cercetări de Istorie și Teorie Militară, Editura Militară, București, 1987 (Romanian)
  2. ^ Мерников А. Г., Спектор А. А. Всемирная история войн. — Минск: 2005. — С. 376.
  3. ^ Scafes, Cornel, et. al., Armata Romania in Razvoiul de Independenta 1877–1878 (The Romanian Army in the War of Independence 187-1878). Bucuresti, Editura Sigma, 2002, p. 149 (Romence)
  4. ^ Урланис Б. Ц. Войны и народонаселение Европы. — М.: 1960. (Rusça)
  5. ^ Мерников А. Г., Спектор А. А. (2005). Всемирная история войн. Template:Мн.: Харвест. ISBN 985-13-2607-0. 
  6. ^ Kaminskii, L. S., și Novoselskii, S. A., Poteri v proșlîh voinah (Victimele războaielor trecute). Medgiz, Moscova, 1947, pp. 36, 37
  7. ^ Cristian Crăciunoiu, Romanian Navy Torpedo Boats, p. 19
  8. ^ Nicolae Petrescu, M. Drăghiescu, Istoricul principalelor puncte pe Dunăre de la gura Tisei până la Mare şi pe coastele mării de la Varna la Odessa, p. 160 (in Romanian)
  9. ^ a b "Reminiscences of the KING OF ROMANIA", Edited from the original with an Introduction by Sidney Whitman, Authorized edition, Harper& Brothers: New York and London, 1899
  10. ^ The telegram of Nikolai to Carol I (translated in Romanian): "Turcii îngrãmãdind cele mai mari trupe la Plevna ne nimicesc. Rog sã faci fuziune, demonstratiune si dacã'i posibil sã treci Dunãrea cu armatã dupã cum doresti. Între Jiu si Corabia demonstratiunea aceasta este absolut necesarã pentru înlesnirea miscãrilor mele" ("The Turks, massing together the largest army at Pleven, are laying us waste. I ask you to make mergers, demonstrations and if it is possible cross the Danube with the army as you wish. Between Jiu and Corabia this demonstration is absolutely necessary to facilitate my movements.)
  11. ^ Cristian Crăciunoiu, Romanian Navy Torpedo Boats, p. 13
  12. ^ Constantin Olteanu, The Romanian armed power concept: a historical approach, p. 152
  13. ^ W. S. Cooke, The Ottoman Empire and its Tributary States, p. 117
  14. ^ Béla K. Kiraly, Gunther Erich Rothenberg, War and Society in East Central Europe: Insurrections, Wars, and the Eastern Crisis in the 1870s, p. 104
  15. ^ Mihai Georgescu, Warship International, 1987: The Romanian Navy's Torpedo Boat Rindunica
  16. ^ Cristian Crăciunoiu, Romanian navy torpedo boats, Modelism, 2003, pp. 13-18
  17. ^ Navypedia: HİZBER river monitors (1876)
  18. ^ Nicolae Petrescu, M. Drăghiescu, Istoricul principalelor puncte pe Dunăre de la gura Tisei până la Mare şi pe coastele mării de la Varna la Odessa, p. 160 (in Romanian)
  19. ^
  20. ^ Istoria Romanilor de la Carol I la Nicolae Ceausescu By Ioan Scurtu, pp 132
  21. ^ Babcock, Alex (30 June 2017). "Russian Mediterranean Sea Interest Before World War I". Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  22. ^ Spencer C. Tucker (2016). The Roots and Consequences of 20th-Century Warfare. California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 1. 
  23. ^ "Reminiscences of the KING OF ROMANIA", Edited from the original with an Introduction by Sidney Whitman, Authorized edition, Harper& Brothers: New York and London, 1899, pp.15–20.

External links[]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Template:Great Eastern Crisis