|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: 975,850||Total: 707,500|
|Casualties and losses|
|Total: 350,000–375,000 dead
2,050 died from all causes
|Total: 400,000 dead:
The Crimean War (pronounced // or //) (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox Christians. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the unwillingness of Britain and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. Russia lost the war and the Ottomans gained a twenty-year respite from Russian pressure. The Christians were granted a degree of official equality and the Orthodox gained control of the Christian churches in dispute.:415
The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia in October 1853 and suffered a major defeat that gave Russia control of the Black Sea. The Russian threat to the Ottoman Empire required control of the Black Sea, and the key was the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula. The allies realized that if they captured Sevastopol, they would control the Black Sea and win the war. France and Britain entered in March 1854. Most of the fighting in the Black Sea witnessed a large French army and a smaller British army fighting to capture Sevastopol. Death from disease was very high on both sides. After Sevastopol finally fell, the neutrals started aligning with the allies. Isolated and facing a bleak prospect if the war continued, Russia made peace in March 1856. The original superficial religious issues had already been resolved. The main results of the war were that the Black Sea was neutralised—Russia would not have any warships there—and the two states of Wallachia and Moldavia became largely independent.
The war was largely fought in and near Crimea, with smaller campaigns in eastern Anatolia, Caucasus, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the White Sea. This war is also known as the "Eastern War" (Russian: Восточная война, Vostochnaya Voina).
The war had a permanent impact. Through nationalist movements incited by the war, the present-day states of Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and regions such as Crimea and the Caucasus all changed in small or large ways due to this conflict. Russia was seriously humiliated, but it survived and launched a reform program to remedy its glaring economic, social and military weaknesses.
The Crimean War was one of the first conflicts to use modern technologies such as explosive naval shells, railways and telegraphs.(Preface) The war was one of the first to be documented extensively in written reports and photographs. As the legend of the "Charge of the Light Brigade" demonstrates, the war quickly became an iconic symbol of logistical, medical and tactical failures and mismanagement. The reaction in Britain was a demand for professionalization, most famously achieved by Florence Nightingale, who gained worldwide attention for pioneering modern nursing while treating the wounded.
As the Ottoman Empire steadily weakened decade after decade, Russia stood poised to take advantage by moving south. In the 1850s the British, as well as the French, were determined not to allow this to happen.
Taylor argues that the war resulted not from aggression but from the interacting fears of the major players:
Russia, as a member of the Holy Alliance, had operated as the "police 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 gratitude. It wanted a free hand in settling its problems with the Ottoman Empire – the "sick man of Europe". Britain could not tolerate Russian dominance of Ottoman affairs as that would challenge the British role in the eastern Mediterranean.
For over 200 years, Russia had been expanding in a southerly direction toward the warm water ports of the Black Sea that did not freeze over like the handful of other ports available. The goal was to promote year-round trade and a year-round navy.:11 This brought the emerging Russian state into conflict with the Ukrainian Cossacks and then with the Crimean Tatars and Circassians. When Russia conquered these groups and gained possession of Ukraine, the Ottoman Empire lost its buffer zone against Russian expansion, and Russia and the Ottoman Empire fell into direct conflict. The conflict with the Ottoman Empire also presented a religious issue of importance, as Russia saw itself as the protector of Orthodox Christians, many of whom lived under Ottoman control.(ch 1)
Britain's immediate fear was Russian expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, which Britain desired to preserve. The British were also concerned that Russia might make advances toward India, or move toward Scandinavia, or Western Europe. The Royal Navy also wanted to undermine the threat of a powerful Russian navy.
Taylor says that from the British perspective:
It is often said that Russia was militarily weak, technologically backward, and administratively incompetent. Despite its grand ambitions toward the south, it had not built its railroad network in that direction, and communications were poor. The bureaucracy was riddled with graft, corruption and inefficiency and was unprepared for war. The Navy was weak and technologically backward; the Army, although very large, was good only for parades, suffered from colonels who pocketed their men's pay, poor morale, and was even more out of touch with the latest technology as developed by Britain and France. By wars' end, everyone realized the profound weaknesses of the Russian military, and the Russian leadership was determined to reform it. But Allied forces could do almost nothing. They even were not able to capture the Crimean Peninsula and suffered heavy casualties though Russia was one against all. Besides that Alliance was defeated by Russia in the Caucasus. That means that so called russian weakness was a propagandistic myth.
The immediate chain of events leading to France and Britain declaring war on Russia on 27 and 28 March 1854 came from the ambition of the French emperor Napoleon III to restore the grandeur of France. He wanted Catholic support that would come his way if he attacked Eastern Orthodoxy, as sponsored by Russia.:103 The Marquis Charles de La Valette was a zealous Catholic and a leading member of the "clerical party" which demanded French protection of the Roman Catholic rights to the holy places in Palestine. Napoleon appointed La Valette in May 1851 as his ambassador to the Porte (the Ottoman Empire).:7–9 The appointment was made with the intent to force the Ottomans to recognise France as the "sovereign authority" over the Christian population.:19 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.:19 However, the Ottomans knew that the Charlemagne sailed at a speed of 8½ knots and could defeat the technologically inferior Russian and Ottoman navies combined.:104 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.:20
Tsar Nicholas I then deployed his 4th and 5th army corps along the River Danube in Wallachia, as a direct threat to the Ottoman lands south of the river, 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.:21
As conflict emerged over the issue of the holy places, Nicholas I and 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 the British ambassador, George Hamilton Seymour, in January and February 1853.:105 Nicholas insisted that he no longer wished to expand Imperial Russia:105 but that he had an obligation to the Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire.:105 The Tsar next dispatched a highly abrasive 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 demanded a Russian protectorate over all 12 million Orthodox Christians in the Empire, with control the Orthodox Church's hierarchy. A compromise was reached regarding Orthodox access to the Holy Land, but the Sultan, strongly supported by the British ambassador, rejected the more sweeping demands.
The British and French sent in naval task forces to support the Ottomans, as Russia prepared to seize the Principalities.:111–15
In February 1853, the British government of Lord Aberdeen, the prime minister, re-appointed Stratford Canning as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.:110 Having resigned the ambassadorship in January, he had been replaced by Baron Strathnairn. Lord Stratford then turned around and sailed back to Constantinople, arriving there on 5 April 1853. There he convinced the Sultan to reject the Russian treaty proposal, as compromising 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 war.
Shortly after he learned of the failure of Menshikov's diplomacy toward the end of June 1853, the Tsar sent armies under the commands of Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich and General Mikhail Gorchakov across the Pruth River into the Ottoman-controlled Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Fewer than half of the 80,000 Russian soldiers who crossed the Pruth in 1853 survived. By far, most of the deaths would result from sickness rather than combat,:118–119 for the Russian army still suffered from medical service that ranged from bad to none.
Russia had previously obtained recognition from the Ottoman Empire of the Tsar's role as special guardian of the Orthodox Christians in Moldavia and Wallachia. 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 neighbouring Ottoman provinces, especially considering that Russia had assisted Austria's efforts in suppressing the Hungarian Revolution in 1849.
In 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.
Sultan Abdulmecid I formally declared war on Russia and proceeded to the attack, his armies moving on the Russian army near the Danube later that month.:130 Russia and the Ottoman empire massed forces on two main fronts, the Caucasus and the Danube. Ottoman leader Omar Pasha managed to achieve 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.
The European powers continued to pursue diplomatic avenues. 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 both the Russians and the Ottomans. The peace terms arrived at by the four powers at the Vienna Conference were delivered to the Russians by the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Karl Von Buol on 5 December 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.:143 Britain and France then 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.
The Russians sent a fleet to Sinop in northern Anatolia. In the Battle of Sinop on 30 November 1853 they destroyed a patrol squadron of Ottoman frigates and corvettes while they were anchored in port. Public opinion in Britain and France was outraged and demanded war. Sinop provided Britain and France with the casus belli ("case for war") for declaring war against Russia. On 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 in the Balkans. On 27 February 1854 Britain and France demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from the principalities; Austria supported them and, though it did not declare war on Russia, it refused to guarantee its neutrality. Russia's rejection of the ultimatum caused Britain and France to enter the war.
Russia soon 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 in August 1854 proposed the 'Four Points' for ending the conflict, in addition to the Russian withdrawal:
These points (particularly the third) would require clarification through negotiation, but Russia refused to negotiate. The allies including Austria therefore agreed that Britain and France should take further military action to prevent further Russian aggression against the Ottoman Empire. Britain and France agreed on the invasion of the Crimean peninsula as the first step.
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 its forces up to the river. It established strongholds at Vidin in the west, and Silistra,:172–84 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 Calafat in October 1853. Simultaneously, in the east, the Ottomans crossed the Danube at Silistra and attacked the Russians at Oltenița. The resulting Battle of Oltenița was the first engagement following the declaration of war. The Russians counterattacked, but were beaten back. On 31 December 1853, the Ottoman forces at Calafat moved against the Russian force at Chetatea or Cetate, a small village nine miles north of Calafat, and engaged them on 6 January 1854. The battle began when the Russians made a move to recapture Calafat. 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 28 January 1854, Russian forces laid siege to Calafat. 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.:130–43
In the spring of 1854 the Russians again advanced, crossing the Danube River into the Turkish province of Dobruja. By April 1854, the Russians had reached the lines of Trajan's Wall where they were finally halted. In the center, the Russian forces crossed the Danube and laid siege to Silistra from 14 April until 23 June 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 28 May 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 Orthodox Christian Serbs and Bulgarians living under Ottoman rule to rebel. However, when the Russian troops actually crossed the River Pruth into Moldavia, the Orthodox Christians still showed no interest in rising up against the Turks.:131, 137 Adding to the worries of Nicholas I was the concern that Austria would enter the war against the Russians and attack his armies on the western flank. Indeed, after attempting to mediate a peaceful settlement between Russia and Turkey, the Austrians entered the war on the side of Turkey with an attack against the Russians in the Principalities which threatened to cut off the Russian supply lines. Accordingly, the Russians were forced to raise the siege of Silistra on 23 June 1854, and begin abandoning the Principalities.:185
In June 1854 the Allied expeditionary force landed at Varna, a city on the Black Sea's western coast (now in Bulgaria). They made little advance from their base there.:175–176 In July 1854, the Turks under Omar Pasha crossed the Danube into Wallachia and on 7 July 1854, engaged the Russians in the city of Giurgiu and conquered it. The capture of Giurgiu by the Turks immediately threatened Bucharest in Wallachia with capture by the same Turk army. On 26 July 1854, Tsar Nicholas I ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Principalities. Also in late July 1854, following up on the Russian retreat, the French staged an expedition against the Russian forces still in Dobruja, but this was a failure.:188–190
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.:189 There was little further action on this front after the autumn of 1854 and in September the allied force boarded ships at Varna to invade the Crimean Peninsula.:198
The naval operations of the Crimean war commenced with the dispatch, in summer of 1853, of the French and British fleets to the Black Sea region, 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 Constantinople (currently named 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 at the Battle of Sinop. The battle outraged opinion in Britain, which called for war. 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 (see HMS Tiger). To show support for Turkey after the battle of Sinop, on 22 December 1853 the British-French ships squadron entered the Black Sea and the steamship HMS Retribution approached the Port of Sevastopol, the commander of which received an ultimatum not to allow any ships in the Black Sea.
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 in late July 1854. With the evacuation of the Danubian Principalities the immediate cause of war was withdrawn and the war might have ended at this time.:192 However, war fever among the public in both Britain and France had been whipped up by the press in both countries to the degree that politicians found it untenable to propose ending the war at this point. Indeed the coalition Government of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen fell on 30 January 1855 on a no-confidence vote as Parliament voted to appoint a committee to investigate mismanagement of the war.:311
The Crimean campaign opened in September 1854 with the landing of the allied expeditionary force on the sandy beaches of Calamita Bay on the south west coast of the Crimean Peninsula. Their main strategic goal was to capture the Russian fortresses at Sevastopol located to the south of Calamita Bay.:194 However, to protect the allies' left flank from attack by the Russians, the allied armies first moved north and west along the coast of the Peninsula to occupy the city of Eupatoria.:201 After the crossing the Alma River on 30 September 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 25 October 1854.:521–527 The Battle of Balaclava is remembered in England for the actions of two British units. The 93rd Highlanders held out against repeated attacks by a larger Russian force. The unit was memorialized as the "Thin Red Line". The second British unit to be remembered in the Battle of Balaclava was the Light Cavalry Brigade under the command of the Earl of Cardigan. An ambiguous order sent the brigade on the near suicidal charge of the Light Brigade into the north Valley of the Balaclava battlefield. The heights around the north 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, "The Charge of the Light Brigade". Although traditionally the charge of the Light Brigade was looked upon as a glorious but wasted sacrifice of good men and horses, recent historians say that the charge of the Light Brigade did succeed in at least some of its objectives. The aim of any cavalry charge is to scatter the enemy lines and frighten the enemy off the battlefield. The charge of Light Brigade had so un-nerved the Russian cavalry, which had previously been routed by the Heavy Brigade, that the Russian Cavalry was set to full-scale flight by the subsequent charge of the Light Brigade.:252
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 5 November 1854, the Russians attempted to raise the siege at Sevastopol with an attack against the allies which resulted in another allied victory.
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. A storm sank 30 Allied transport ships 14 November.
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:321–22 and led to a change in command. The strain of directing the war had taken its toll on the health of Tsar Nicholas. The Tsar, full of remorse for the disasters he had caused, caught pneumonia and died on 2 March.:96
On the allied side the emphasis of the siege at Sevastopol shifted to the right-hand sector of the lines, against the fortifications on Malakoff hill.:339 In March there was fighting by the French 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 1855, the allies staged a second all-out bombardment, leading to an artillery duel with the Russian guns, but no ground assault followed.:340–41 On 24 May 1855, sixty ships containing 7,000 French, 5,000 Turkish and 3,000 British troops set off for a raid on the city of Kerch east of Sevastopol in an attempt to open another front on the Crimean peninsula and to cut off Russian supplies.:344 The allies landed the force at Kerch. The plan was 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 was killed on 30 June 1855.:378
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 French bombardment (the sixth) was followed by an assault by the French Army on 8 September resulting in the capture of the Malakoff by the French, and the collapse of the Russian defences. Meanwhile the British captured the Great Redan, just south of the city of Sevastopol. The city fell on 9 September 1855 after a year-long siege.:106
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 12 May 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 19–31 August 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 2 September 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 Circassians and Muridists of the Caucasian Imamate, 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.:335 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 Erzurum, 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 26 November 1853, the Russians beat the Ottoman armed forces at the battle of Akhaltsikh. On 1 December General Bebutov led 10,000 soldiers and 32 guns to win a victory over a 36,000-man Ottoman Army under Ahmed Pasha at the battle of Bashkadiklar.
In the spring of 1854 the Russians planned an invasion of Ottoman territory. On 16 June Prince Andronikov with 10,000 soldiers and 18 guns achieved a victory over a 34,000-man Ottoman Army at the Cholok river; on 31 July Russian forces seized Bayazid; on 5 August General Bebutov with 18,000 men and 64 guns had successfully waged the battle of Kurekdere, 11 miles from Kars. Following these encounters there was little further action that year.
In 1855 both sides returned to the offensive; after initial maneuverings the Russians staged two assaults on Kars, beginning from 16 June and then on 29 September, which were beaten back with huge losses. However they settled down to a siege on 18 June, which had became almost total from the middle of August. The siege had been successful and Kars surrendered on 28 November 1855. Commander of its garrison Mehmet Vasif Pasha had yielded the fortress keys, 12 Ottoman banners and 18,500 soldiers as captives. As a result of this operation the Russian Army assumed control not merely over the forts and city, but also over the whole area including Ardahan, Kagyzman, Oltu and part of Basen district. 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 seaport of Kronstadt and the Russian fleet stationed there. In August 1854 the combined British and French fleet returned to Kronstadt for another attempt. 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, the blockade forced Russia to rely on more expensive overland shipments from Prussia. The blockade seriously undermined the Russian exports economy, and helped shorten the war.
The burning of tar warehouses and ships led to international criticism and, in London 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 August 1855 Russian Bomarsund fortress on Åland Islands was captured and destroyed by a combined British and French navy force. In the same month 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 harbor. 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 defences 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 Piedmont-Sardinia (Italy) sent an expeditionary corps of 15,000 soldiers, commanded by General Alfonso La Marmora, to side with French and British forces during the war.:111–12 This was an attempt at gaining the favour of the French especially when the issue of uniting Italy would become an important matter. The deployment of Italian troops to the Crimea, and the gallantry shown by them in the Battle of the Chernaya (16 August 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.
Greece played a peripheral role in the war. When Russia attacked the Ottoman Empire in 1853, King Otto of Greece saw an opportunity to expand North and South into Ottoman areas that had large Greek Christian majorities. However, Greece did not coordinate its plans with Russia, did not declare war, and received no outside military or financial support. Greece, an Orthodox nation, had considerable support in Russia, but the Russian government decided it was too dangerous to help Greece expand its holdings.:32–40 When the Russians invaded the Principalities, the Ottoman forces were tied down so Greece invaded Thessaly and Epirus. To block further Greek moves, the British and French occupied the main Greek port at Piraeus from April 1854 to February 1857, and effectively neutralized the Greek army. The Greeks, gambling on a Russian victory, incited the large-scale Epirus Revolt of 1854 as well as uprisings in Crete. The insurrections were failures that were easily crushed by the Ottoman army. Greece was not invited to the peace conference and made no gains out of the war.:139 The frustrated Greek leadership blamed the King for failing to take advantage of the situation; his popularity plunged and he was later forced to abdicate.
A Kiev cossack revolt that initially started in the Vasylkiv county of Kiev Governorate (province) in February 1855 spread across the whole Kiev and Chernigov governorates. Led by peasants, the revolt found a great support among the Ukrainian landowners who opposed the war. The events were contemporary with the popular movement of Chłopomania that laid foundations of the Ukrainian national awakening and creation of the Kiev Hromada (Kiev Community).
Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war was growing with the public in Britain and in other countries, aggravated by reports of fiascos, especially the humiliating defeat of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. In parliament, Tories demanded an accounting of all soldiers, 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; they were especially concerned with the Battle of Balaclava. When Parliament passed a bill to investigate by the vote of 305 to 148, Aberdeen said he had lost a vote of no confidence and resigned as prime minister on 30 January 1855. The veteran former Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston became prime minister. Palmerston took a hard line; he wanted to expand the war, foment unrest inside the Russian Empire, and permanently reduce the Russian threat to Europe. Sweden and Prussia were willing to join Britain and France, and Russia was isolated.:400–402, 406–408
France, which had sent far more soldiers to the war than Britain, and suffered far more casualties, wanted the war to end, as did Austria.:402–405
Peace negotiations at the Congress of Paris resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 March 1856. In compliance with article III Russia restored to the Ottoman Empire the city and citadel of Kars in common with "all other parts of the Ottoman territory of which the Russian troop were in possession." Russia ceded some land in Bessarabia at the mouth of the Danube to Moldavia. By art. IV Britain, France, Sardinia and Turkey restored to Russia "the towns and ports of Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kamish, Eupatoria, Kerch, Jenikale, Kinburn, as well as all other territories occupied by the allied troops." In conformity with art. XI and XIII the Tsar and the Sultan agreed not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast. The Black Sea clauses weakened Russia, and it no longer posed a naval threat to the Ottomans. The principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia were nominally returned to the Ottoman Empire; in practice they became independent. The Great Powers pledged to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire.:432–33
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 lost the most from the Crimean War despite having barely taken part in the war.:433 Having abandoned its alliance with Russia, Austria was diplomatically isolated following the war,:433 which contributed to its defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War:433 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, Montenegro, and Bulgaria achieved their autonomy from direct Ottoman rule.
The Crimean War marked the ascendancy of France to the position of pre-eminent power on the Continent:411, the continued decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the beginning of a decline for Tsarist Russia. As Fuller notes, "Russia had been beaten on the Crimean peninsula, and the military feared that it would inevitably be beaten again unless steps were taken to surmount its military weakness." The Crimean War marks 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 Britain.
According to historian Shepard Clough, the war:
was not the result of a calculated plan, nor even of hasty last-minute decisions made under stress. It was the consequence of more than two years of fatal blundering in slow-motion by inept statesmen who had months to reflect upon the actions they took. It arose from Napoleon's search for prestige; Nicholas’s quest for control over the Straits; his naïve miscalculation of the probable reactions of the European powers; the failure of those powers to make their positions clear; and the pressure of public opinion in Britain and Constantinople at crucial moments.
This view of 'diplomatic drift' as the cause of the war was first popularised by A. W, Kinglake, who portrayed the British as victims of newspaper sensationalism and duplicitous French and Ottoman diplomacy. More recently, historians Andrew Lambert and Winfried Baumgart have argued that, first, Britain was following a geopolitical strategy in aiming to destroy a fledgling Russian Navy which might challenge the Royal Navy for control of the seas, and second that the war was a joint European response to a century of Russian expansion not just southwards but also into western Europe.
Notable documentation of the war was provided by William Russell (writing for The Times newspaper) and the photographs of Roger Fenton.:306–309 News from war correspondents reached all nations involved in the war and kept the public citizenry of those nations better informed of the day-to-day events of the war than had been the case in any other war to that date. The British public was very well informed regarding the day-to-day realities of the war in the Crimea. After the French extended the telegraph to the coast of the Black Sea during the winter of 1854, the news reached London in two days. When the British laid an underwater cable to the Crimean peninsula in April 1855, news reached London in a few hours. The daily news reports energised public opinion, which brought down the Aberdeen government and carried Lord Palmerston into office as prime minister.:304–11
As the memory of the "Charge of the Light Brigade" demonstrates, the war became an iconic symbol of logistical, medical and tactical failures and mismanagement. Public opinion in Britain was outraged at the logistical and command failures of the war; the newspapers demanded drastic reforms, and parliamentary investigations demonstrated the multiple failures of the Army. However, the reform campaign was not well organized, and the traditional aristocratic leadership of the Army pulled itself together, and blocked all serious reforms. No one was punished. The outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 shifted attention to the heroic defense of British interest by the Army, and further talk of reform went nowhere. The demand for professionalization was, however, achieved by Florence Nightingale, who gained worldwide attention for pioneering and publicizing modern nursing while treating the wounded.:469–71
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 condition of British forces deployed in 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: Tsar Alexander II (Nicholas I's son and successor) 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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