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The Ottoman Empire in Europe


The break-up of the Turkish European territories began in 1821 with a major revolt in the Danubian principalities in which Greece joined. The Greek War of Independence lasted from 1821 to 1828. There was much support from Britain, including volunteers one of whom, Lord Byron, died at Missolonghi in 1824. In July 1825 the provisional Greek government asked Britain for its protection. No immediate action was taken but when the Turks began to gain the upper hand by defeating the Greeks and capturing Athens, an Allied fleet was sent and this defeated the Turks at Navarmo on 20 October 1827. The Treaty of London was signed by Britain, France and Russia on 6 July 1828, and marked the emergence of modern Greece. In addition, between 1830-40 Crete was administered from Egypt, and Serbia became an autonomous principality under Turkey in 1829.

Postal History

The first public post in the Turkish Empire was created by the announcement of the Director-General of the Imperial Post on 11 November 1840. This gave particulars of the service which was to be started and stated 'that offices were to be opened in all important places in the Empire'. This was slow to be introduced and by 1863 there were still only 58 POs in the entire Empire including Europe.



The break-up of the European territories continued. Moldavia and Wallachia declared their independence in 1859, after the Russo-Turkish War of 1853-5. (Britain and France entered this war in support of Turkey and, after the Russians withdrew from modern Bulgaria, invaded the Crimea.) The principalities united as Romania in December 1861.

Stamps were issued for the whole of the Empire, which extended from Europe to the tip of Arabia and westward to Libya, and were used at all POs. These can only be recognized by postmarks, but those for the foreign POs are much sought after and can be found for all countries, including Romania.


This period saw the final break-up of European Turkey and its restriction to the eastern part of Thrace. After the Russo-Turkish War, by the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, Bulgaria became a principality, Serbia and Montenegro were made independent and Bosnia-Herzegovina was occupied by the Austrians. In 1881 Greece extended its territory by acquiring Thessaly. In 1899 Crete became autonomous. In 1908 Bulgaria became independent. In 1912 Italy seized the Dodecanese Islands. In 1913 Albania became independent, Crete joined Greece and, as a result of the first Balkan War, Turkey lost all European territory except eastern Thrace. Even this was yielded to Bulgaria in the first instance but was regained before the outbreak of World War I.

The postal effects of these many changes are reflected in the stamps of the different countries in the area. The Balkan Wars led to continuous disruption of civilian communication but the Turkish post continued to operate in each territory until it was replaced by that of the new government.

From 1914 the territory in eastern Thrace was administered by treaty and apart from postmarks is indistinguishable from Asian Turkey (q.v.). See also Turkish (Ottoman) Empire under Asia.

The Danubian Principalities
Before 1871

FIRST STAMPS Turkish from 1853


CURRENCY 1858, 40 parale = 1 piastre.

The Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia were originally part 'of the Roman province of Dacia, hence the Latin language of this area. Until 1858 they were principalities under Turkish control forming the northernmost 'part of the Ottoman Empire.

There was a limited postal service after 1850 and Turkish POs operated in the territories. Stamps were hand-struck on paper in Jassy (Moldavia), while the principalities were still under Turkey. In 1856 the southern part of Bessarabia was annexed and held until 1878. The principalities declared their independence in 1859 after the Russo-Turkish (Crimean) War. On 19 August 1858 a conference in Paris agreed the union of the two provinces. It was also agreed that each principality should have its own prince. In 1859 both principalities elected the same man, Alexander Cuza. On 23 December 1861 the union of the two principalities as the principality of Romania was agreed (see Romania).

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