Nazeni Hovhannisyan

 

The ambassador considered it necessary to introduce the new dragoman into the course of Russia’s Middle East policy and formulated for him the concept of the struggle for the «Byzantine heritage.» He revealed it clearly, point by point: the first, he said, the second, the third. Here is how Nelidov laid them out.

1. The successor to the spiritual and political Byzantine hegemony in the Balkans and the entire Christian East, Russia must control the territories that have become the cradle of Orthodox civilization. At the same time, Constantinople should belong to the empire directly, and the neighboring states — Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, etc. — will form a friendly military-political union.

2. As a stronghold of the Eastern Christian world, Russia can no longer tolerate abuse of Orthodox shrines. The cross over Hagia Sophia, defeated in 1458, must be restored, and Constantinople must become the spiritual center of the union of states of the same faith with Russia at the head.

3. Military control over the Black Sea straits and communications in the Middle East and the Mediterranean (quick access to Suez, Gibraltar) will make it possible to firmly secure our southwestern borders not only from a weakening Turkey, but also from the encroachments of England; To this end, the Black Sea Fleet should be qualitatively improved and operational space should be obtained for its operations.