Our Notes & References
Steam navigation was a game-changing technological advancement for global communication, trade and travel. This rare and handsome chart outlines the routes of steamships operating in the Black Sea and its environs just before the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853. The map shows colour coded boat traffic lines, with a detailed timetable beneath including the ports of call, names of steamboats and their companies (both Russian and European), classification of cabins, price of fairs. Goods are also listed with estimated times for chartered cargoes of different type: mail, passenger or freight.
As the meeting point between Europe, Asia and Turkey, the Black Sea has always been a significant arena for trade and exchange. The port towns in particular were of great strategic importance and were often fortified strongholds, designed to facilitate vital commerce as well as movement of information, whilst ever prepared to protect the inland populations from invasion. Odessa in particular grew through the nineteenth century to become the trade centre of the Northern Black Sea coast, and one of Russia’s primary ports, second only to St. Petersburg. Between 1819 and 1858 Odessa held the status of a free port, meaning that goods could pass in and out of the city without duties. This gave the city’s economy a considerable boost, making it a cosmopolitan nexus and encouraged commerce with merchant ships from all over the Mediterranean. It’s no wonder therefore that the majority of these regular chartered routes terminated at Odessa, and that amongst the steamboat owners listed in the text are Turkish, Austrian and English companies.
Alongside the coloured ship routes, the map gives a detailed record of the main ports of the Black and Azov seas, with outlines of the surrounding regions. These include: Oblast Besarabskaia (Bessararbia, now Moldova), Khersonskaia Guberniia (Kherson, Ukraine), Tavricheskaia Guberniia (Taurida Goverornate, Crimea) including the cities of Mariupol and Berdiansk, as well as the Crimean Peninsula. The port of Taganrog would link these steamships to the Don River, which would in turn facilitate onward travel north to Central Russia, or east to connect with the Volga and continue towards Astrakhan and the Caspian Sea. The regions to the east of the Azov and Black seas are described as Zemlia Chernomorskikh Kazakov (land of the Black Sea Cossacks) and Kavkaskaia Oblast, which covers the whole northern and southern Caucasus range, including Circassia.
This map was produced near the end of the hundred-year-long Russo-Circassian War, and it is an indicator of Russian imperialist attitudes towards Circassia – there is no hint of its recognition as an independent state. The route which traces its coastline however has more stops than any other, beginning at Kerch and closely tracking each port from Anapa to Redoubt Kale. On the east coast are Romania and Bulgaria, with one route linking the Danube to the Bosphorus. The Sea of Marmora would then act as a gateway to the Mediterranean, or the north coast of Anatolia could be traced east to Trabzon.
The advent of steam travel around the Black Sea would have been an attractive prospect for travellers seeking passage to the east, their regular schedules and published fares making for a reliable and predictable means of transport. “[The] development of steam transport, especially screw-driven ships that had begun to displace sailing vessels even before the Crimean war, meant that getting from one coastal city to another was easier than ever. Riverboats of the Austrian Steam Navigation Company ran down the Danube from Vienna, and ships of the Austrian Lloyd Company sailed from Trieste” (King, 197). Indeed such routes are in part responsible for the great boom in European travel writing about the region which happened in the nineteenth century. By the 1860s British traveller to the Crimea K. Arthur Arnold “complained about the traces left behind by his American predecessors. ‘The United States appears to have sent an ignoble army of scribbling visitors as her contingent to the Crimea, and the soft stone of the country has been delightful to their pocket knives'” (King, 202).
In 1852 however, the Russian grip on the Crimean and Circassian sea ports was as tight as could be. The 1829 Treaty of Adrianopole had relinquished the east coast ports of the Black Sea to Russia, with only limited trade access granted to Britain and other European powers. This had almost come to conflict in the aftermath of the Vixen Affair, and by the time this map was
produced, tensions were rising again over the extent of Russian expansion. These, amongst other factors, would ultimately lead to the outbreak of the Crimean War in the following year.
Amongst the English packet ships listed in timetable is the Elborus, making monthly trips from Kerch to Redoubt Kale. Originally equipped for transporting trade goods and passengers, including invalids, the Elbrous was requisitioned and armed during the Crimean War, and again during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
Extremely rare: we have found no copies of this map listed in library holdings or auction records in the West or in Russia. We have only found reference to a single copy held by the Alupka Palace-Museum in Crimea (cf. Mikailov).
Mikhailov A. I. Ukazatel putei paketbotnykh parokhodov, kotorye plavali v Chernom i Azovskom moriakh. Iz fondov ADPMZ. // Voenno-istoricheskiie chteniia, Simferopol, 2019; King, Charles. The Black Sea: A History. Oxford University Press, 2005.