|This article currently links to a large number of disambiguation pages (or back to itself) (check | fix). (May 2013)|
|Part of Ottoman wars in Europe and the Russo-Turkish wars|
Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904)
|Commanders and leaders|
|Total: 1,000,000||Total: 720,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|Total: 300,000–375,000 dead
|Total: 130,000–220,000 dead:
80,000 killed in action
40,000 died of wounds
100,000 died of disease
Russian sources report 25,000 killed in action
The Crimean War (pronounced // or //) (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between major European powers for influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. Most of the conflict took place on the Crimean peninsula, but there were smaller campaigns in western Anatolia, Caucasus, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the White Sea. In Russia, this war is also known as the "Eastern War" (Russian: Восточная война, Vostochnaya Voina), and in Britain it was also called the "Russian War" at the time.
The Crimean War is known for logistical and tactical errors during the land campaign on both sides (the naval side saw a successful Allied campaign which eliminated most of the ships of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea). Nonetheless, it is sometimes considered to be one of the first "modern" wars as it "introduced technical changes which affected the future course of warfare", including the first tactical use of railways and the electric telegraph. It is also famous for the work of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who pioneered modern nursing practices while caring for wounded British soldiers.
The Crimean War was one of the first wars to be documented extensively in written reports and photographs: notably by William Russell (for The Times newspaper) and Roger Fenton, respectively. News from war correspondents reaching Britain from the Crimea kept the public informed of the day-to-day realities of the battlefield for the first time.
Russia, as a member of the Holy Alliance, had operated as the "Policeman of Europe", maintaining the balance of power that had been established in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. Russia had assisted Austria's efforts in suppressing the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and expected Europe to allow it a free hand in settling its problems with the Ottoman Empire—the "sick man of Europe". The whole discussion over the future of the Ottoman Empire took on the name of "the Eastern Question"—a term that would continue in use with reference to the Ottoman Empire until the beginning of the twentieth century.
For over 200 years, Russia had been expanding in a southerly direction toward the warm water ports of the Black Sea. Warm water ports which did not freeze over in the winter were essential for the development of Russian year-round trade and development of a strong navy. This brought the emerging Russian state into conflict with the Ukrainian Cossacks and then with the Ukrainian Tartars When Russia conquered these groups and gained possession of the Ukraine the Ottoman Empire lost its buffer zone against Russian expansion and Russia and the Ottoman Empire fell into direct conflict. However the conflict with the Ottoman Empire also presented a religious issue of importance.
Ever since the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, Russia fell heir to and assumed the title as the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This inheritance on the part of the new Russian state was confirmed in 1472 when Ivan III (the Great) married Sofia Paleologina, niece of the last Byzantine Emperor--Constantine XI Palaeologus (Dragases), adopted the name "Tsar" or "Czar" which is the Russian derivation of "Caesar" and added the Byzantine two-headed eagle to his royal crest. In 1480, Ivan the Great adopted the Byzantine Court rituals and all other attributes that he felt were part of his Byzantine heritage. Thus, Russia became "Holy Russia and its capital--Moscow--truly became the Third Rome," capital of Eastern Orthodox Christianity following the fall of the "second" Rome to the "infidel Turks" in 1453.
Not only did the state structure of Russia become heavily endowed with the Eastern Orthodox Church, but the people of Russia undertook a strong and emotional attachment the Eastern Christianity. By the early 1800s more Russian pilgrims came to visit the holy sites of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth during the Easter holidays than came from any other branch of the Christian faith. Every year more than 15,000 Russian Christians would journey to Palestine for the Easter festival. Some even made the long journey across Russia, the Caucasus, Anatolia and Syria to the holy land on foot. For the Russians, the shrines of the holy land were objects of intense and passionate devotion. However, visiting the shrines had become an onerous and sometimes dangerous task. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was usually the highlight of any pilgrimage to the holy land. The courtyard in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a busy and colorful market place where pilgrims could purchase food or artifacts. The market place also contained an unsavory element. Pick pockets and thieves lay in wait for the pilgrims. Additionally, leprous beggars extorted money (alms) from the pilgrims with threats to lay leprous hands on the pilgrims. Wealthy pilgrims took to hiring Turkish guides with large sticks which were used against the beggars to clear a path to the Church door.
Roman Catholics, and Protestants also came to the holy land for Easter. On those years, as in April 1846, when Easter fell on the same date on both the Latin and Greek Orthodox calendar, this could lead to serious tensions between the followers of the various Christian sects. By Good Friday in April 1846 there were 20,000 pilgrims in Jerusalem. Thus, tensions between the Christian sects at the Easter festival in 1846 were unusually high. On Good Friday fights broke out between the Catholic priests and the Orthodox priests right at the altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Soon the monks and pilgrims of both congregations joined in and the inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre became a war zone with believers fighting each other with crucifixes, candlesticks, chalices, lamps and incense-burners in addition to the knives and pistols that had been smuggled into the Church.
One of Russia's stated reasons for direct involvement in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire was to serve as guardian of the "holy places" of the Eastern Orthodox Church and protector of the Orthodox believers inside and outside of Russia. Tsar Peter I (the Great) had first expressed this demand in the Treaty of Constantinople signed in July of 1700 ending the Russo-Turkish War of 1686-1700. Specifically, under the terms of the Treaty of Constantinople, the Turks surrendered the warm water port of Azov on the northern coast of the Black Sea. However, the Turks also promised to assist all Orthodox Christians on pilgrimage though Ottoman territory on their way to Jerusalem. Eleven years later, Peter was disastrously defeated by the Turks on July 18, 1711 at the Battle of Stailesti in a subsequent war called the Russo-Turkish War of 1710-1711. Peter's troops had crossed the Pruth River into the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Russian confidence in victory during this campaign was based on Russian hopes that the largely Eastern Orthodox Christian population of both principalities would rise up in support of the Russian troops as those troops entered both principalities. However, uprising did not materialize as expected. Instead of an army of 94,000 men that Peter had anticipated with of 30,000 Wallachians and 10,000 Moldavians, Peter was forced to go to battle only with his 54,000-man Russian army against an Ottoman force of 120,000 infantry and 80,000 cavalry. Peter lost the battle and the war.
Expecting the worst of terms from the Turks, Peter immediately sued for peace. The Treaty of the Pruth was signed on July 21, 1711. As expected the territorial claims by the Ottomans against the Russians were severe. Peter lost all the gains he had achieved in the campaign of 1696 including the port of Azov. However, the terms finally agreed in the Treaty of the Pruth did nothing to weaken Russia's role as the protector of Orthodox Christians both inside and outside the boundaries of Holy Russia. Indeed, the idea of appealing to co-religionists inside the Ottoman Empire to undermine the Turkish rule was born of this war—the Russo-Turkish War of 1710-1711—and would become a policy employed by subsequent Tsars over the next two hundred years.
Later during the reign of Peter the Great's niece, Empress Anna Ioannova, the Ottoman Turks grew restless. In 1735 they sought to take advantage of Russian military involvement in Poland and encuraged their Tartar allies to raid villages in southern Russia. In a war that has become known as the Austro-Russian-Turkish War (1735-39) Empress Anna's government declared war on the Tartars in the summer of 1735 and on the Ottoman Empire a few months later. Russian troops invaded the Crimea, stormed the defenses of Perekop and sacked the Tartar capital of Bakhchysarai. The war continued until a peace treaty was signed in 1739. Under the terms of this treaty, the Black Sea port of Azov was returned to the Russian Empire.
The policy of weakening the Ottoman Empire by appealing to the interests of the Orthodox Christian subjects living under the Muslim rule of the Ottomans, really matured and took formal shape during the reign of Catherine II (the Great) of Russia. Catherine had been Empress of Russia for only five years. During that time her attention in foreign affairs had been taken up with the recent happenings in Poland. Poland had a colorful practice by which the nobles of the country elected a king. All the nobles in Poland (usually 10,000 to 15,000 nobles) would gather on horseback on Wola Field near Warsaw for this Royal Election to decide on their unanimous choice for king. This chaotic system sometimes worked and sometimes broke down resulting in fights between groups of nobles with two or more kings being elected. Upon the death of King Augustus III on October 5, 1763, Poland faced another Royal Election to decide on a successor. Various factions within the Polish nobility each had their own candidates for the throne of Poland. The Russian-influenced party in the Polish Court favored Stanislaw August Poniatowski. Russia had often asserted an unofficial suzerainty over the Polish nation. In Russia, Catherine II decided to act on this unofficial suzerainty and actively back Stanislaw Poniatowski for king at the Royal Election. To assure that all went well at the Royal Election on August 16, 1764, Catherine arranged for Russian troops to be present at Wola Field to help the Polish Army maintain order. Not surprisingly Stanislaw Poniatowski was elected as King Stanislaw II August of Poland. Stanislaw's election was a major foreign policy success for the young Catherine II newly become Empress of Russia.
However, a group of Polish nobles were outraged at the election and the influence of the Russian party in the Polish Court. These nobles gathered in the fortress in the Polish town (now located in Ukraine) of Bar on February 29, 1768, to form a confederation which has become known as the Bar Confederation. The Bar Confederation armed itself, surprised Russia with a declaration on war and attacks on some frontier towns in Russia. The Ottoman Empire thought to take advantage of Russia's preoccupation with Poland and declared war on Russia on September 25, 1768. This became known as the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774. The Russians decisively defeated the Ottoman Turks in this war. Both Austria and the rising Prussian state took note of Russia's success in this war. During a truce in early 1772, Prussia and Russia renewed their alliance with a convention that recognized shares of Poland that each state was annexing. In March of 1772, Austria joined the Russo-Prussian agreement and also claimed a share of Polish territory. This has become known in history as the "first partition" of Poland.
War between Russian and the Ottomans resumed following the truce and in June of 1774, Russian Field Marshall Peter Rumiantsev took his forces across the Danube River. Led by General Alexander Suvorov and General General Mikhail Kamensky the Russian forces shattered the main Turkish force in the field, surrounded the main Turkish fortress, repulsed all reinforcements attempting to break through to the fortress and forced the Turks to sue for peace. A peace treaty was signed in the obscure Bulgarian of Küçhük-Kaynarca July 10, 1774. Under the terms of the Treaty of Küçhük Karynarca, Russia was given the Karbaria region in the Caucasus and a small stretch of Black Sea coastline between the Dneiper River and the Bug River. (On this small stretch of land, Prince Grigory Potemkin would build his first "Potemkin village"—the future warm water port of "Kherson.") Furthermore, the Treaty established the independence of the Crimean Tartar Khanate on the north coast of the Black Sea. The cities of Kerch and Enikale and the territory of Kinburnwere all part of the Khanate along with the old port city of Azov were all contained within the lands of the Khanate. However, the "independent" Khanate was very much an illusion as the Khanate was under the "protection" and within the orbit of the Russian Empire. Accordingly, for all practical purposes, the warm water port of Azov, which had been taken away in 1711 by the Treaty of the Purth was returned to Russian control. All illusions of independence were removed in 1783, when the Khanate was officially annexed into the Russian Empire. Additionally, the terms of the Treaty of Küchűk Kaynarca, forced the Ottomans to recognize Russia's rights to interfere in Ottoman internal Ottoman affairs in order to protect any and all Christians living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.
Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Gregory Potemkin remained in the Crimea and built more of his Potemkin villages—founding and settling Odessa, Ekaterinoslav, Nikolaev and Sevastopol all destined to be great south Russian cities in the future.
In 1787, The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia with the object of attempting to recover the Crimean territory lost in the previous war, especially the independent Crimean Khanate. In October 1787, the Turks attempted an amphibious landing in Kinburn. However, this attack was repulsed by Russian forces under General Suvorov. Thus, the Great Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792 began. Emperor Joseph II of the Austria Empire, working in co-ordination with Catherine II of Russia also declared war on the Ottomans. In the summer of 1788, Prince Potemkin and General Suvorov led Russian forces which surrounded and laid siege to Özi. The siege lasted for six months while Suvorov and Potemkin beat off several attempts by the Turks to relief the siege. Finally in the freezing cold of December 1788, the Russians were able to conquer Özi. (After the war the town was part of the territory annexed by the Russians and they renamed the town, Ochakov. On July 21, 1789, General Suvorov together with an Austrian force under Austrian Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld attacked and drove off a larger Ottoman army in an entrenched position at the town of Focşani in Moldavia. The war was ended when both sides gathered in the Moldavian capital of Jassy. There the Treaty of Jassy was signed on January 9, 1792. Under the terms of the Treaty, the Ottomans were required to recognize Russia's annexation of the Crimean Tartar Khanate and Russia obtained the additional territory of Yedisan along the coast of the Black Sea which brought the boundary between Russia and the Ottoman Empire westward right up to the banks of the Dniester River.
Inspired by the French Revolution, the Polish citizenry began demonstrating in favor of a constitution and a representative government. In December of 1789, representatives from 141 towns across Poland gathered to form a representative government. In 1790, this assembly (called "the Sejm") divided into two chambers to speed up business. Finally, on May 3, 1791 Poland adopted a Constitution. This was too much radicalism and democracy for Russia to live with. However, the Russian involvement in the war against the Ottoman Empire, prevented Catherine from doing anything about it until May 18, 1792 when without a declaration of war, 90,000 Russian troops invaded Poland in what has come to be known as the Polish-Russian War of 1792.
King Frederick-William II of Prussia shared Catherine's abhorrence of radicalism and constitutions. Accordingly, even though Prussia had an alliance with Poland, a Convention was signed with Russia on August 7, 1792 which violated this alliance. By this Convention, both Russia and Prussia agreed to a second partitioning of Poland. The second partitioning reduced Poland to about 1/3 the size the country had been in 1772. The Poles rose up in armed protest against the humiliating partitions. The National Rising or Kościuszko Uprising broke out on March 24, 1794. A joint invasion of Prussian and Russian armed forces fought to put down the Kościuszko Uprising. Finally, General Suvorov's Cossacks attacked the Warsaw suburb of Praga on November 4, 1794 and defeated the Poles. When the last of the Poles surrendered on November 19, 1794, the Uprising was finally suppressed. Empress Catherine II of Russia died on November 17, 1795. Catherine was succeeded to the throne by her son Paul I. Paul did not agree with many of his mother's governmental policies but on January 15, 1797, a Treaty was signed in Moscow between Russia, Prussia and Austria instituting the third partition of Poland and the elimination of the Polish State for the next 123 years.
After some attempts at unpopular reforms of the army, Tsar Paul I was assassinated on March 22, 1801 by his own military guards. Paul was succeeded to the throne by his 23-year old son--Alexander I. Alexander had long been worried about the rising power of Napoleonic France. In 1803, Alexander led the Russian Empire into the "Third Coalition" against Napoleon. The War of the Third Coalition ended suddenly when Napoleon crushed the armies of the Coalition on November 20, 1805 at the Battle of Austerlitz. Russian and the other nations opposing Napoleon had formed a new coalition and initiated another war—the War of the Fourth Coalition—lasting from 1806 until 1807 against France.
Napoleon's continued successes carried him through Germany and into territory of the former Polish state. Indeed, in 1806, Napoleon established a new Polish state, the Duchy of Warsaw, right on the borders of Russia. This created the gravest of concern and insecurity. Everybody expected Napoleon to invade Russia next and they expected that invasion to come right out of the new Polish state.
Meanwhile, encouraged by Russia's defeat at Austerlitz and advised by France, Sultan Selim III of the Ottoman Empire, gathered his troops for a march through Wallachia and on to Bucharest, Rumania, to retake territory lost to them in previous wars. In early November, 1806, Russian troops crossed the Dniester River—the frontier with Wallachia to stop the Ottoman drive to Bucharest. The drive on Bucharest was checked but Alexander was hamstrung by attempting to fight against the Ottomans in the south while worrying about threats of invasion by Napoleon further north.
On June 22, 1811, General Mikhail Kutuzov met and repulsed at advance by an Ottoman armed force at the town of Rouse on the banks of the Danube River in Bulgaria. After defeating the Ottomans, Kutuzov conducted a retreat back across the Danube River to the north. This odd retreat by Kutuzov, convinced the Ottomans that they had actually won the battle. There were celebrations by the Sultan and his entourage within the Sublime Porte in Constantinople the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Tsar Alexander was livid when news of Kutusov's retreat reached St. Petersburg. However, it was all part of Kutuzov's plan. As Kutuzov expected the Ottoman Turks, flushed with "victory", immediately pursued the Russians across the Danube and walked right into Kutuzov's trap. In the battle on the north bank of the Danube, the Ottoman armies lost 9,000 men while the Russians lost only 25 men. The Ottomans were forced to sue for peace. A peace treaty was signed on May 28, 1812 in Bucharest, Rumania, which among other terms allowed Russia to outrightly annex Bessarabia to itself. The Treaty of Bucharest of 1812 was ratified by Alexander I on June 11, 1812. Kutuzov quickly moved his armies to the north, where on June 22, 1812 he met the long-expected French invasion of Russia. Without Kutuzov's brilliant victory at Rouse, Russia would have faced war on two fronts in 1812.
Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Russia, Austria, Britain and Prussia gathered the Vienna for the Congress of Vienna. Meeting from September 1814 until May 1815, this Congress re-established the Holy Order of Europe—a balance of power that would last in Europe until the First World War of 1914-1918. Russia under Tsar Alexander I took a large role in the decisions at Vienna and in the creation the new balance of power in Europe. Russia with its huge army was looked as the main base of support, by which this order would be maintained. Indeed under Tsar Nicolas I, brother of Alexander, who succeeded to the throne of the Russian Empire, upon the sudden and unexpected death of Alexander I, Russia on November 19, 1825 would be called "the policeman of Europe."
Nicolas I abhorred revolutionaries even more than his grandmother—Catherine the Great. Additionally, his abhorrence extended to nationalist movements. In the 1820s one of the nationalist movements that caused Tsar Nicolas the most concern was the rising movement for an independent Greek nation free from the Ottoman Empire. On the one hand, Nicolas wanted to encourage the Greek independence movement. The Greeks were, after all, Eastern Orthodox Christians by faith and Russia had always sought to be the protector and supporter of the aspirations of all Eastern Orthodox Christians under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Greek independence movement was attracting all sorts of romantics as supporters—like the British poet Lord Byron. There just was no telling what kind of government these supporters might wish for Greece—a constitutional monarchy or worse some kind of representative democracy with no monarchy!
The agitation for an independent Greece led to another war between the Russian and the Ottoman Empires. This war has been called the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. The Russians crossed the Danube River into the province of Dobruja in June 1828. The Russian army of 92,000 men laid siege to three fortresses in Bulgaria--Shumla, Varna and Silestria. Varna fell to the Russians on September 29, 1828. However the siege of Shumla proved much more problematic. The Russians were outnumbered by the 40,000 defenders inside the fortress. As winter approached, the Russians were obliged to withdraw from Shumla back across the Danube. The next spring, as the Russians once again lay siege to Silestria. Meanwhile, 40,000 Ottoman troops attacked Varna. The Russians, however, beat back this attack at the Battle of Kulevicha on May 30, 1829.
For all the combat in this war, however, it remained a fact that the Russians lost over half of their troops in the Danube campaign to cholera and illness, because there extremely poor military medical service. The war ended on September 14, 1829, with the Treaty of Adrianople. Under the terms of the treaty, the Ottoman Empire guaranteed the autonomy of Greece and re-guaranteed the autonomy of Serbia (which had been promised in the Convention of Akkerman in 1826). The Ottomans also recognized the Russian possession of Georgia and Russia's right to heavy indemnities from the Ottoman Turks and the right to occupy Moldavia and Wallachia until the indemnities were paid. The straits at the Dardanelles, which were previously held by the Ottomans were made open to all shipping. Additionally, Russian navigation access rights to the mouth of the Danube were recognized. The Treaty of Adrianople shocked world opinion and pressure was brought to curtail what looked like a 250 years of Russian expansionism with no end in sight. Accordingly, the terms of the Treaty of Adrianople were blunted and modified by the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi which Russia and the Ottoman Turks signed on July 8, 1933. Even in this treaty there were advances for Russia. European nations feared that a secret article existed in the treaty that closed the straits at the Dardanelles to all non-Russian ships.
The immediate chain of events leading to France and Britain declaring war on Russia on 27 March and 28 March 1854 can be traced to the coup d'état of December 2, 1851, in France. Napoleon III knew that as he set out to restore the grandeur of France, he would gather the support of the political left in France, who would be reminded of Napoleon I. However as to the Catholic political right of France, Napoleon III knew he would have to gather their support. Louis Napoleon knew that the Catholic Church of France had long pushing for a crusade against "the Orthodox heresy." He also knew that Marquis Charles de La Valette was a zealous Catholic and a leading member of the "clerical party" which was deeply concerned about French policy toward the protection of the Holy Places in Palestine. Accordingly, Louis Napoleon's appointment of La Valette in May 1851, as his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire was sure to lead to a fight with Russia over Orthodox and Catholic rights in the Holy Lands. The appointment was sure to gain Napoleon III Catholic support at home. The appointment was made with the intent to force the Ottomans to recognize France as the "sovereign authority" over the Christian population. Russia disputed this attempted change in "authority". Pointing to two more treaties, one in 1757 and the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, the Ottomans reversed their earlier decision, renouncing the French treaty and insisting that Russia was the protector of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire.
Napoleon III responded with a show of force, sending the ship of the line Charlemagne to the Black Sea. This action was a violation of the London Straits Convention. However, the Ottomans knew that the Charlemagne sailed at a speed of 8-1/2 knots and could defeat the technically backward Russian and Ottoman navies combined. Thus, France's show of force presented a real threat and when combined with aggressive diplomacy and money, induced Sultan Abdülmecid I to accept a new treaty, confirming France and the Roman Catholic Church as the supreme Christian authority with control over the Roman Catholic holy places and possession of the keys to the Church of the Nativity, previously held by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Tsar Nicholas I then deployed his 4th and 5th Army Corps along the River Danube, and had Count Karl Nesselrode, his foreign minister, undertake talks with the Ottomans. Nesselrode confided to Sir George Hamilton Seymour, the British ambassador in Saint Petersburg:
[The dispute over the holy places] had assumed a new character—that the acts of injustice towards the Greek church which it had been desired to prevent had been perpetrated and consequently that now the object must be to find a remedy for these wrongs. The success of French negotiations at Constantinople was to be ascribed solely to intrigue and violence—violence which had been supposed to be the ultima ratio of kings, being, it had been seen, the means which the present ruler of France was in the habit of employing in the first instance.
As conflict emerged over the issue of the holy places, Nicholas I and his Foreign Minister Karl Nesselrode began a diplomatic offensive, which they hoped would prevent either Britain's or France's interfering in any conflict between Russia and the Ottomans, as well as to prevent their allying.
Nicholas began courting Britain by means of conversations with British Ambassador Seymour in January and February 1853. Nicholas insisted that he no longer wished to expand Imperial Russia but that he had an obligation to the Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire. The Tsar next dispatched a diplomat, Prince Menshikov, on a special mission to the Ottoman Sublime Porte in February 1853. By previous treaties, the Sultan was committed "to protect the (Eastern Orthodox) Christian religion and its churches". Menshikov attempted to negotiate a new sened, a formal convention with the power of an international treaty, under which the Ottomans would allow to Russia the same rights of intervention in the affairs of the Orthodox religion as recently allowed France with respect to Catholic churches and churchmen. Such a treaty would allow Russia to control the Orthodox Church's hierarchy in the Ottoman Empire. Menshikov arrived at Istanbul on 16 February 1853 on the steam-powered warship Gromovnik (Thunderer in English). The name of the ship (Thunderer) that Menshikov sailed to Constantinople aboard was aptly named. Once in Constantinople, Menshikov proceeded to break protocol at the Porte. At his first meeting with the Sultan, he insulted the Turks by appearing in civilian clothes rather than customary and traditional military uniform for his official welcome to the Porte. He then proceeded to condemn the Ottomans' concessions to the French. Menshikov also began demanding the replacement of highly placed Ottoman civil servants—particularly Fuad Efendi the Ottoman Foreign Minister.
Since the departure in January 1853 of the Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, the British embassy at Constantinople had been run by Hugh Rose, chargé d'affaires for the British. Using his abundant resources within the Ottoman Empire, Rose gathered intelligence on Russian troop movements along the Danube frontier, and became concerned about the extent of Menshikov's mission to the Porte. On March 8, 1853, Rose, using his authority as the British representative to the Ottomans, ordered Vice-Admiral Sir James Whitley Deans Dundas, stationed on the island of Malta, to bring a British squadron of warships to Urla, İzmir, on the Ionian coast of Turkey. However, Sir James Dundas, refused to leave Malta and resented the diplomat (Rose) for believing he could interfere in the Admiralty's business. Within a week, Rose's actions were cancelled. The French Fleet sailed from Toulon on March 22, 1853, and headed for the Bosporus. Their intent was to head off any naval attack on Constantinople on the west side of the narrows at Bosporus. Thus, only the French sent a naval task force to support the Ottomans.
In February 1853, the British government of Prime Minister Lord Aberdeen re-appointed Stratford Canning to the Ambassadorship to the Ottoman Empire. Having resigned the Ambassadorship in January, he had been replaced by Colonel Hugh Rose as envoy to the Ottoman Empire. Lord Stratford, now, turned around and, once again, sailed for Constantinople, arriving there on April 5, 1853. There, he convinced the Sultan to reject the Russian treaty proposal, as compromising to the independence of the Turks. The Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, Benjamin Disraeli, blamed Aberdeen and Stratford's actions for making war inevitable, thus starting the process which would eventually force the Aberdeen government to resign in January 1855 over the issue of the war.
Shortly after he learned of the failure of Menshikov's diplomacy toward the end of June, 1853, the Tsar sent his armies under the command of Field Marshall Ivan Paskevich and General Mikhail Gorchakov, across the Pruth River into the Ottoman-controlled Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Of the 80,000 Russian soldiers that crossed the Pruth River in 1853, less than half would survive. By far most of the casualties would occur as a result sickness rather than combat. The Russian Army still suffered from medical service that ranged from bad to none.
Russia had, previously, obtained from the Ottoman Empire/Turkey recognition of the Tsar's role as special guardian of the Orthodox Christians in these two provinces. Now Russia used the Sultan's failure to resolve the issue of the protection of the Christian sites in the Holy land as a pretext for Russian occupation of these Danubian provinces. Nicholas believed that the European powers, especially Austria, would not object strongly to the annexation of a few neighboring Ottoman provinces, especially given that Russia had assisted Austria's efforts in suppressing the Hungarian Revolution in 1849 and the Polish uprising in 1863.
When on 2 July 1853 the Tsar sent his troops into the Danubian Principalities, Britain, hoping to maintain the Ottoman Empire as a bulwark against the expansion of Russian power in Asia, sent a fleet to the Dardanelles, where it joined another fleet sent by France.
At the same time, however, the European powers hoped for a diplomatic compromise. The representatives of the four neutral Great Powers—Britain, France, Austria and Prussia—met in Vienna, where they drafted a note which they hoped would be acceptable to the Russians and Ottomans. The peace terms arrived at by the four powers at the Vienna Conference were delivered to the Russians in St. Petersburg by the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Karl Von Buol on December 5, 1853. The note met with the approval of Nicholas I; however, Abdülmecid I rejected the proposal, feeling that the document's poor phrasing left it open to many different interpretations. Britain, France and Austria united in proposing amendments to mollify the Sultan, but the court of St Petersburg ignored their suggestions.
Britain and France set aside the idea of continuing negotiations, but Austria and Prussia did not believe that the rejection of the proposed amendments justified the abandonment of the diplomatic process. Nonetheless, the Sultan formally declared war on Russia (23 October 1853) and proceeded to the attack, his armies moving on the Russian army near the Danube later that month. Russia and the Ottoman empire massed forces on two main fronts, the Caucasus and the Danubian front. The Ottoman leader Omar Pasha managed to pull in some victories on the Danubian front. In the Caucasus, the Ottomans were able to stand ground with the help of Chechen Muslims, led by Imam Shamil.
Nicholas responded by dispatching warships, which in the Battle of Sinop on 30 November 1853 destroyed a patrol squadron of Ottoman frigates and corvettes while they were anchored at the port of Sinop in northern Anatolia. The destruction of the Ottoman ships provided Britain and France with the casus belli for declaring war against Russia on the side of the Ottoman Empire. By 28 March 1854, after Russia ignored an Anglo-French ultimatum to withdraw from the Danubian Principalities, Britain and France formally declared war.
Nicholas felt that because of Russian assistance in suppressing the Hungarian revolution of 1848, Austria would side with him, or at the very least remain neutral. Austria, however, felt threatened by the Russian troops. When Britain and France demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from the principalities, Austria supported them and, though it did not immediately declare war on Russia, it refused to guarantee its neutrality.
Russia then withdrew its troops from the Danubian principalities, which were then occupied by Austria for the duration of the war. This removed the original grounds for war, but Britain and France continued with hostilities. Determined to address the Eastern Question by putting an end to the Russian threat to the Ottoman Empire, the allies proposed several conditions for a peaceful resolution, including:
When the Tsar refused to comply with these Four Points, the Crimean War commenced.
The Danube campaign opened when the Russians occupied the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia in May 1853, bringing their forces to the north bank of the river Danube. In response, the Ottoman Empire also moved their forces up to the river. This established strongholds at Vidin in the west, and Silistra, which was located in the east, near the mouth of the Danube.
The Turkish/Ottoman move up the Danube River was also of concern to the Austrians, who moved forces into Transylvania in response. However, the Austrians had begun to fear the Russians more than the Turks. Indeed, like the British, the Austrians were now coming to see that an intact Ottoman Empire was necessary as a bulwark against the Russians. Accordingly, the Austrians resisted Russian diplomatic attempts to join the war on the Russian side. Austria remained neutral in the Crimean War.
Following the Ottoman ultimatum in September 1853, forces under the Ottoman general Omar Pasha crossed the Danube at Vidin and captured Kalafat in October 1853. Simultaneously, in the east, the Ottomans crossed the Danube at Silistra and attacked the Russians at Oltenitza. The resulting Battle of Oltenitza was the first engagement following the declaration of war. The Russians counterattacked, but were beaten back. On December 31, 1853, the Ottoman forces at Kalafat moved against the Russian force at Chetatea or Cetate, a small village nine miles north of Kalafat and engaged them on January 6, 1854. The battle began when the Russians made a move to recapture Kalafat. Most of the heavy fighting however, took place in and around Chetatea until the Russians were driven out of the village. Despite the setback at Chetatea, on January 28, 1854, Russian forces laid siege to Kalafat. The siege would continue until May 1854 when the Russians lifted the siege. The Ottomans would also later beat the Russians in battle at Caracal.
In the spring of 1854 the Russians again advanced, crossing the Danube River into the Turkish province of Bulgaria. Soon they occupied the whole of the Bulgarian district of Dobruja. By April 1854, the Russians had reached the lines of Trajan's Wall where they were finally halted. In the centre, the Russian forces crossed the Danube and laid siege to Silistra from April 14 until June 23, 1854. In the west, the Russians were dissuaded from attacking Vidin by the presence of the Austrian forces, which had swelled to 280,000 men. On May 28, 1854 a protocol of the Vienna Conference was signed by Austria and Russia. One of the aims of the Russian advance had been to encourage the Serbs and Bulgarians living under Ottoman rule to rebel; when they showed no interest in doing so, and faced with increasing pressure from Austria, the Russians raised the siege of Silistra on June 23, 1854, and began to abandon the Principalities.
In June 1854 the Allied expeditionary force landed at Varna, but made little advance from their base there. In July 1854, the Turks under Omer Pasha crossed the Danube into Wallachia and on July 7, 1854, engaged the Russians in the village of Giurgevo and conquered that village. The capture of Giurgevo by the Turks, immediately threatened Bucharest in Romania with capture by the same Turk army. In September, following up on the Russian retreat, the French staged an expedition against the Russian forces still in Dobruja, but this was a failure.
By then the Russian withdrawal was complete, except for the fortress towns of northern Dobruja, while their place in the Principalities was taken by the Austrians, as a neutral peacekeeping force. There was little further action on this front after the autumn of 1854 and in September the allied force at Varna moved on to the invasion of the Crimea.
The naval operations of the Crimean war commenced with the dispatch, in summer of 1853, of the French and British fleets sailed to the Black Sea region, in order to support the Ottomans and to dissuade the Russians from encroachment. By June 1853 both fleets were stationed at Besikas bay, outside the Dardanelles. With the Russian occupation of the Danube Principalities in October they moved to the Bosphorus and in November entered the Black Sea.
During this period the Russian Black Sea Fleet was operating against Ottoman coastal traffic between Istanbul and the Caucasus ports, while the Ottoman fleet sought to protect this supply line. The clash came on 30 November 1853 when a Russian fleet attacked an Ottoman force in the harbour at Sinop, and destroyed it. There was little additional naval action until March 1854 when on the declaration of war the British frigate Furious was fired on outside Odessa harbour. In response the British fleet bombarded the port, causing much damage to the town.
In June the fleets transported the Allied expeditionary forces to Varna, in support of the Ottoman operations on the Danube; in September they again transported the armies, this time to the Crimea. The Russian fleet during this time declined to engage the allies, preferring to maintain a "fleet in being"; this strategy failed when Sevastopol, the main port and where most of the Black Sea fleet was based, came under siege. The Russians were reduced to scuttling their warships as blockships, after stripping them of their guns and men to reinforce batteries on shore. During the siege, the Russians lost four 110- or 120-gun, 3-decker ships of the line, twelve 84-gun 2-deckers and four 60-gun frigates in the Black Sea, plus a large number of smaller vessels.During the rest of the campaign the allied fleets remained in control of the Black Sea, ensuring the various fronts were kept supplied.
In April 1855 they supported an invasion of Kerch and operated against Taganrog in the Sea of Azov. In September they moved against Russian installations in the Dnieper estuary, attacking Kinburn in the first use of ironclad ships in naval warfare.
The Russians evacuated Wallachia and Moldavia. With the evacuation of the Danubian Principalities the immediate cause of war was withdrawn. Nonetheless, allied troops landed in the Crimea and besieged the city of Sevastopol, home of the Tsar's Black Sea Fleet. The Russian fleet was a threat to the Mediterranean in the eyes of the Allies (especially the British and French, who wished to keep the Russians an effectively land-locked power for as long as possible). If the Russian Black Sea Fleet were allowed through the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Mediterranean might then effectively be under contested control between British, French, and Russian interests. Additionally, Russian maritime and military access to the Mediterranean meant that the balance of power in Europe might thereafter be forever changed to the detriment of the Western European powers. Seeing this as an unacceptable outcome of a Russian victory in their war with the Turks—as the war had indeed begun, and which the Turks, whom the Allies came to aid, had started.
The Crimean campaign opened in September 1854 with the landing of the allied expeditionary force at Eupatoria, north of Sevastopol. After crossing the Alma River on September 30, 1854, the allies moved on to invest Sevastopol. The Russian army retreated to the interior. A Russian assault on the allied supply base at Balaclava was rebuffed on October 25, 1854. The Battle of Balaclava is noteworthy to history because of the bravery of two British units. The 93rd Highlanders stood solidly against repeated attacks by a larger Russian force. This stand led the 93rd Highlanders to be remembered in history as the "Thin Red Line". The second British unit to gain immortality in the Battle of Balaclava was the Light Cavalry Brigade under the command of the Earl of Cardigan. An extremely ambiguous order sent the brigade on the near suicidal charge of the Light Brigade into the South Valley of the Balaclava battlefield. The heights around the South Valley were brimming with Russian artillery which bombarded the Light Brigade. Of the original nearly 700-man strength of the Light Brigade 278 were killed or wounded. The Light Brigade was memorialised in the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called the "Charge of the Light Brigade".
The failure of the British and French to follow up on the Battle of Balaclava led directly to another and much more bloody battle—the Battle of Inkerman. On November 5, 1854, the Russians attempted to raise the siege at Sevastopol with an attack against the allies near the town of Inkerman which resulted in another victory for the allies.
Meanwhile at Sevastopol, the allies had surrounded the city with entrenchments and, in October 1854, unleashed an all–out bombardment (the first of many) against the city's defences. Winter, and a deteriorating supply situation on both sides, led to a halt in ground operations. Sevastopol remained invested by the allies, while the allied armies were hemmed in by the Russian army in the interior.
In February 1855 the Russians attacked the allied base at Eupatoria, where an Ottoman army had built up and was threatening Russian supply routes. The battle saw the Russians defeated, and led to a change in command. On the allied side the emphasis of the siege shifted to the right-hand sector of the lines, against the fortifications on Malakoff hill. In March there was fighting over the fort at Mamelon, located on a hill in front of the Malakoff. Several weeks of fighting saw little change in the front line, and the Mamelon remained in Russian hands.
In April the allies staged a second all-out bombardment, leading to an artillery duel with the Russian guns, but no ground assault followed. In May the allies landed a force at Kerch, to the east, opening another front in the Crimea in an attempt to outflank the Russian army. The landings were successful, but the force made little progress thereafter. In June a third bombardment was followed by a successful attack on the Mamelon, but a follow-up assault on the Malakoff failed with heavy losses. During this time the garrison commander, Admiral Nakhimov, suffered a fatal bullet wound to the head and died on 30 June 1855.
In August the Russians again made an attack on the base at Balaclava. The resulting battle of Tchernaya was a defeat for the Russians, who suffered heavy casualties. September saw the final assault. On 5 September another bombardment (the sixth) was followed by an assault on 8 September resulting in the capture of the Malakoff by the French, and the collapse of the Russian defenses. The city fell on 9 September 1855 after a year-long siege.
At this point both sides were exhausted, and there were no further military operations in the Crimea before the onset of winter.
In spring 1855, the allied British–French commanders decided to send an Anglo-French naval squadron into the Azov Sea to undermine Russian communications and supplies to besieged Sevastopol. On May 12, 1855, British–French warships entered the Kerch Strait and destroyed the coast battery of the Kamishevaya Bay. On 21 May 1855 the gunboats and armed steamers attacked the seaport of Taganrog, the most important hub in proximity to Rostov on Don. The vast amounts of food, especially bread, wheat, barley, and rye that were amassed in the city after the outbreak of war were prevented from being exported.
The Governor of Taganrog, Yegor Tolstoy, and lieutenant-general Ivan Krasnov refused the ultimatum, responding that "Russians never surrender their cities". The British–French squadron bombarded Taganrog for 6½ hours and landed 300 troops near the Old Stairway in downtown Taganrog, but they were thrown back by Don Cossacks and a volunteer corps.
In July 1855 the allied squadron tried to go past Taganrog to Rostov on Don, entering the Don River through the Mius River. On 12 July 1855 HMS Jasper grounded near Taganrog thanks to a fisherman who repositioned the buoys into shallow waters. The Cossacks captured the gunboat with all of its guns and blew it up. The third siege attempt was made August 19–31, 1855, but the city was already fortified and the squadron could not approach close enough for landing operations. The allied fleet left the Gulf of Taganrog on September 2, 1855, with minor military operations along the Azov Sea coast continuing until late autumn 1855.
The Caucasus was already a scene of confrontation for the Russians and the Ottomans, as both had sought to extend their influence in the region.
Russian expansion into the region had been resisted by local peoples in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Circassia. In the region the Russians were opposed by Muridists of the Caucasian Imamate and Circassia, but were grudgingly supported by Georgians and Kakhetians, who valued their independence, but were at odds with their neighbours.
In 1853 the leader of the mountain peoples, Imam Shamil, staged an insurrection against the occupying Russian forces. His forces fought the Russians at Zaqatala, and Meselderg, but were beaten back by the Russian forces. In 1854 he tried again, advancing on Tiflis before being defeated at Shulda.
In summer of 1853 the Ottoman forces held strongholds at Kars, Batum, and Erzerum, with lesser forts at Ardahan and Bayazid. The Ottoman forces planned an invasion of Georgia but after some initial success were unable to maintain this and were forced to retreat. Russian forces in the region were spread thinly, due to the demands of holding down the region against insurrection, but during 1853 were reinforced. In September 1853 there were a number of clashes between Russian and Ottoman forces. Additionally, there were later battles at Fort St. Nicolas in October 1853 and twice at Alexandropol in October 1853 and again in December 1853. On November 26, 1853, the Russians beat the Ottoman armed forces at the Battle of Akhatzikh.
In the spring of 1854 the Russians planned an invasion of Ottoman territory, fighting inconclusive battles at the Cholok river and Kurekdere. Following this the invasion came to nothing and there was little further action that year.
In 1855 both sides returned to the offensive; after initial manoeuvrings the Russians staged an assault on Kars, which was beaten back with losses. However they then settled down to a siege which was successful, Kars surrendering in November 1855. Meanwhile the Ottoman army at Batum invaded Georgia, but after an inconclusive clash at the Ingur river the offensive collapsed and they retreated to Batum.
In 1856 the Russians had plans to advance on Erzurum, but the peace of Paris in March 1856 put an end to further operations.
The Baltic was a forgotten theatre of the Crimean War. The popularisation of events elsewhere had overshadowed the significance of this theatre, which was close to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital. In April 1854 an Anglo-French fleet was sent into the Baltic to attack the Russian sea port of Kronstadt and the Russian fleet stationed there. In August 1854 the combined English and French fleet returned to Kronstadt for another attempt. However, from the beginning, the Baltic campaign remained a stalemate. The outnumbered Russian Baltic Fleet confined its movements to the areas around its fortifications. At the same time, British and French commanders Sir Charles Napier and Alexandre Ferdinand Parseval-Deschenes—although they led the largest fleet assembled since the Napoleonic Wars—considered the Sveaborg fortress too well-defended to engage. Thus, shelling of the Russian batteries was limited to two attempts in the summers of 1854 and 1855, and initially, the attacking fleets limited their actions to blockading the Russian trade in the Gulf of Finland. Naval attacks on other ports, such as the ones at Hogland were more successful. Additionally, they conducted raids on less fortified sections of the Finnish coast.
Russia was dependent on imports for both the domestic economy and the supply of her military forces and the blockade seriously undermined the Russian economy. Raiding by allied British and French fleets destroyed forts on the Finnish coast including the newly constructed Bomarsund on the Åland Islands which was raided on July 3 through July 16, 1854, and Fort Slava. Other such attacks were not so successful, and the poorly planned attempts to take Hanko, Ekenäs, Kokkola, and Turku were repulsed.
The burning of tar warehouses and ships in Oulu and Raahe led to international criticism and, in Britain, MP Thomas Gibson demanded in the House of Commons that the First Lord of the Admiralty explain "a system which carried on a great war by plundering and destroying the property of defenceless villagers".
In 1855 the Western Allied Baltic Fleet tried to destroy heavily defended Russian dockyards at Sveaborg outside Helsinki. More than 1,000 enemy guns tested the strength of the fortress for two days. Despite the shelling, the sailors of the 120-gun ship Rossiya, led by Captain Viktor Poplonsky, defended the entrance to the harbour. The Allies fired over twenty thousand shells but were unable to defeat the Russian batteries. A massive new fleet of more than 350 gunboats and mortar vessels was prepared, but before the attack was launched, the war ended.
Part of the Russian resistance was credited to the deployment of newly created blockade mines. Perhaps the most influential contributor to the development of naval mining was inventor and civil engineer Immanuel Nobel, the father of Alfred Nobel. Immanuel helped the war effort for Russia by applying his knowledge of industrial explosives such as nitroglycerin and gunpowder. Modern naval mining is said to date from the Crimean War: "Torpedo mines, if I may use this name given by Fulton to self-acting mines underwater, were among the novelties attempted by the Russians in their defenses about Cronstadt and Sevastopol", as one American officer put it in 1860.
In autumn 1854 a squadron of three British warships led by HMS Miranda left the Baltic for the White Sea, where they shelled Kola (which was utterly destroyed) and the Solovki. Their attempt to storm Arkhangelsk proved unsuccessful.
Minor naval skirmishes also occurred in the Far East, where at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula a strong British and French Allied squadron including HMS Pique under Rear Admiral David Price and a French force under Counter-Admiral Auguste Febvrier Despointes besieged a smaller Russian force under Rear Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin. In September 1854 an Allied landing force was beaten back with heavy casualties, and the Allies withdrew. The Russians escaped under the cover of snow in early 1855 after Allied reinforcements arrived in the region.
Camillo di Cavour, under orders by Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia (also known as Piedmont), sent an expeditionary corps of around 18,000 soldiers, commanded by General Alfonso La Marmora, to side with French and British forces during the war. This was an attempt at gaining the favour of the French especially when the issue of uniting Italy under the Sardinian throne would become an important matter. The deployment of Sardinian troops to the Crimea, and the gallantry shown by them in the Battle of the Chernaya (August 16, 1855) and in the siege of Sevastopol, allowed the Kingdom of Sardinia to be among the participants at the peace conference at the end of the war, where it could address the issue of the Risorgimento to other European powers.
When the Crimean War broke out, many Greeks felt that it was an opportunity to regain Ottoman-occupied Greek territory to add to the recently liberated territory of the independent Kingdom of Greece. The Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) was still fresh in people's minds, as well as the Russian intervention that had helped secure Greek independence. Just before the Greek War of Independence a leader of Filiki Eteria, Alexander Ypsilantis, and his brother Demetrios Ypsilantis had led Russian troops into Moldavia and Wallachia and coordinated the preparations for uprisings throughout Ottoman-occupied Greece which they later led. Moreover, Greeks have always considered Orthodox Christian Russia as an ally and viewed the Crimean War as a grave injustice against Russia and any support of the Ottoman Empire a grave threat to Greece's recent independence.
Although the official Greek state, under severe diplomatic and military pressure from the British and French (allies of the Ottomans), which included a naval blockade and the occupation of the country's main port of Piraeus, refrained from actively entering the conflict, a number of uprisings broke out in Albania in January 1854 and soon spread to Epirus, Thessaly, and Macedonia. A revolt also broke out in Crete, with support from individuals and groups within independent Greece and Constantinople. However, all Greek revolts in the Turkish provinces were soon suppressed. A small Greek volunteer force under Colonel Panos Koronaios went to Russia and fought during the Siege of Sevastopol. However, more Greek nationals fought in the Crimean War with the "Greek Battalion of Balaklava" which had been in the ranks of the Russian army since the first Russo-Turkish war (1768–1774).
Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war was growing with the public in Britain and in other countries. On Sunday, January 21, 1855, a "snowball riot" occurred in Trafalgar Square near St. Martin-in-the-Field in which 1,500 people gathered to protest the war by pelting buses, cabs, and pedestrians with snow balls. When the police intervened, the snowballs were directed at them. The riot was finally put down by troops and police acting with truncheons. Public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war, aggravated by reports of fiascos like the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava, led to questions being raised in Parliament about the war. On Thursday, February 1, 1855, Edward Law, Earl of Ellenbrough, a Tory member of parliament, pushed the Aberdeen Coalition government for an accounting of all soldier, cavalry and sailors sent to the Crimea and accurate figures as to the number of casualties that had been sustained by all British armed forces in the Crimea. Following this two more opposition Tory MPs, the Earl of March and Charles Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, raised questions about the war and about the Battle of Balaclava in particular. Lord Aberdeen a Peelite, was heading up a Coalition (Whig-Peelite) government, with the Protectionist Conservatives in opposition. The Peelites—who were still technically Conservatives—had sided with the Whigs on religious and free trade issues and especially the repeal of the protectionist "Corn Laws", which repeal had hurt the land-owning interests traditionally represented by the Tory party, but benefitted the rising urban, manufacturing, commercial and financial sectors. Karl Marx argued that the war had become the scapegoat in the continued battle between free trade and protectionism.
Another attempt to question British involvement in the war was introduced on January 29, 1855, in the form of a bill authored by radical MP John Arthur Roebuck, asking for a Parliamentary investigation into the conduct of the war. Parliament passed this bill with 305 in favour and 148 against. Aberdeen chose to view the vote on this bill as a "vote of no confidence" on the Coalition government. Aberdeen resigned as prime minister on January 30, 1855, and after the official party leaders Lord Derby and Lord John Russell had declined Queen Victoria's request to form a new government, the veteran former Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston formed a Whig government with backing from the Irish MPs. Roebuck eventually became the chairman of the select committee conducting the investigation.
Peace negotiations began in 1856 under Nicholas I's son and successor, Alexander II, through the Congress of Paris which resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris on March 30, 1856. In the Paris Treaty, the Tsar and the Sultan agreed not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast. The Black Sea clauses came at a tremendous disadvantage to Russia, for it greatly diminished the naval threat it posed to the Ottomans. Russian protectorates of Moldavia and Wallachia acquired in the previous war were returned to the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, all of the Great Powers pledged to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire.
The Treaty of Paris stood until 1871, when France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. While Prussia and several other German states united to form a powerful German Empire, the Emperor of the French, Napoleon III, was deposed to permit the formation of a Third French Republic. During his reign, Napoleon III, eager for the support of Great Britain, had opposed Russia over the Eastern Question. Russian interference in the Ottoman Empire, however, did not in any significant manner threaten the interests of France. Thus, France abandoned its opposition to Russia after the establishment of a republic. Encouraged by the decision of the French and supported by the German minister Otto von Bismarck, Russia renounced the Black Sea clauses of the treaty agreed to in 1856. As Great Britain alone could not enforce the clauses, Russia once again established a fleet in the Black Sea.
Although it was Russia that was punished by the Paris Treaty, in the long run it was Austria that would lose the most from the Crimean War despite having barely taken part in the war. Having abandoned its alliance with Russia, Austria was diplomatically isolated following the war, which contributed to its defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and its loss of influence in most German-speaking lands. With France, now hostile to Germany, allied with Russia, and Russia competing with the newly renamed Austro-Hungarian Empire for an increased role in the Balkans at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, the foundations were in place for creating the diplomatic alliances that would lead to World War I.
Notwithstanding the guarantees to preserve Ottoman territories specified in the Treaty of Paris, Russia, exploiting nationalist unrest in the Ottoman states in the Balkans and seeking to regain lost prestige, once again declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 24 April 1877. In this later Russo-Turkish War the states of Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro achieved independence and Bulgaria its autonomy from Ottoman rule.
The Crimean War marked the ascendancy of France to the position of pre-eminent power on the Continent and the beginning of a decline for Russia. Thus, the Crimean War represented one of the main causes of the demise of The Concert of Europe, the balance of power that had dominated Europe since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and which had included France, Russia, Austria and The British Empire.
The Crimean War was notorious for the military and logistical immaturity of the British army. However, it highlighted the work of women who served as army nurses. War correspondents for newspapers reported the scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers in the desperate winter that followed and prompted the work of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Frances Margaret Taylor and others and led to the introduction of modern nursing methods.
The Crimean War also saw the first tactical use of railways and other modern inventions such as the electric telegraph, with the first "live" war reporting to The Times by William Howard Russell. Some credit Russell with prompting the resignation of the sitting British government through his reporting of the lacklustre shape of the British forces deployed to the Crimea. Additionally, the telegraph reduced the independence of British overseas possessions from their commanders in London due to such rapid communications. Newspaper readership informed public opinion in the United Kingdom and France as never before. It was the first European war to be photographed.
The war also employed modern military tactics, such as trenches and blind artillery fire. The use of the Minié ball for shot, coupled with the rifling of barrels, greatly increased Allied rifle range and damage.
The British Army system of sale of commissions came under great scrutiny during the war, especially in connection with the Battle of Balaclava, which saw the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. This scrutiny eventually led to the abolition of the sale of commissions.
The Crimean War was a contributing factor in the Russian abolition of serfdom in 1861: Alexander II saw the military defeat of the Russian serf-army by free troops from Britain and France as proof of the need for emancipation. The Crimean War also led to the eventual realisation by the Russian government of its technological inferiority, in military practices as well as weapons.
Meanwhile, Russian military medicine saw dramatic progress: N. I. Pirogov, known as the father of Russian field surgery, developed the use of anaesthetics, plaster casts, enhanced amputation methods, and five-stage triage in Crimea, among other things.
The war also led to the establishment of the Victoria Cross in 1856 (backdated to 1854), the British Army's first universal award for valour.
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