The Crimean War (1854 –1856)

1854-russian-infantry

Causes:

There was general unrest in the Balkans ever since the Greek war of Independence which inspired the other Balkan States such as Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania to
aspire for Independence. The unrest was greatly intensified because of the fact the Turkish Empire was becoming weaker and less effective. The ascendancy of Russia’s influence
in the Balkan was resented by Austria as the French influence in Italy was disliked by her. To gain the Support of Great Britain. Tsar Nicholas I suggested to her the possibility of
partitioning the Turkish dominions between Russia and Great Britain. He referred to Turkey as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ meaning that arrangement must be made for the disposal of the sick man’s property. He suggested a permanent settlement of the Eastern
Question by offering Egypt and Cyprus to Great Britain while Russia should establish principalities in the Balkans. The British Prime Minister rejected this order. The Tsar failed to realize that the British were entirely convinced that the advance of Russia towards the Mediterranean would prove dangerous to her dominion in India.

 

The British Prime Minister felt that felt that if they could not stop the advance towards the Danube Region, they would have to stop it at the Indus Valley Region. Hence a strong Turkey was the greatest necessity for preventing Russian’s influence from spreading. Napoleon III, Emperor of France realized that joining Britain and taking part in the war would raise the prestige of France.
The immediate cause fur the war was the dispute between the monks of the Roman CatholicChurch and those Greek Orthodox Church over the custody of the Holy Shrines at
Jerusalem France, by tradition, was the protector of the Catholic or Latin Christians in the Turkish Empire, Russia of the Greek Orthodox Church. France neglected her proteges for a
century, while supported here. The result was that many privileges in relation to the place had passed from the Latins to the Greeks. The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem was used by both the groups of Clergy and both sides possessed the keys of the Church. The Greek monks held the key of the great door. For the sake of main training equality of right
the Roman monks claimed a key of the great door also. Emperor Napoleon III championed the cause of the Roman monks in order to strengthen his position in France.
Russia supported the claims of the Greek monks.The French ambassador at Constantinople demanded for the Roman Catholic Clergy, key of the great door of the Church of the Nativity. The Russian ambassador Monshikoff, opposed the French
demand. Moreover, Sultan refused to recognize Russia as the protector of the Greek Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Thereupon Russia declared war against Turkey.

 The Course of the War:

Russia invaded Moldavia and Wallachia and Captured them. Britain and France demanded Russia should evacuate the Principalities. She refused to do so while declaring that
she would not take the offensive, but a Russian squadron sacked the Turkish fleet. Meanwhile, Turkey, also had declared war. The French and British naval squadrons entered
the Black Sea, in 1854. They both declared were as the allies of the Turks. Austria gathered her troops on the frontier but merely as a precaution.
The Russian troops did not advance towards Constantinople as they were help up on the Danube by the Turks at Silistria while the Black Sea fleet was shut up in its ports. The British and the French troops were massed at Varma to prevent the Russian advance. The two governments had instructed their generals to conduct a joint attack upon Russia in Crimea.
Fearing that Austria might join the allies, Russia withdrew from the two provinces. The Russian fleet withdrew to Sebastopol on the shore of the Crimean Peninsula. The Franco -British force occupied Crimea and defeated the Russians at Alma. After a delay which enabled the Russians to strengthen the fortifications of Sebastopol, the Allies laid siege to it. The Russian field army fell back,and attempted to cut the communications between Balaclava and the besieging lines held by the British. Their attempt was foiled at the Battle of Balaclava, known in British annals for the two cavalry charges of the light Brigade and of Scarlete’s Heavy Brigade. The first one, a magnificent but useless blunder was immortalized by Lord Tennyson inhis popular poem, “The Charge of Light Brigade” in 1824. The other one was not a less magnificent, but a successful operation of war. A few days later, the Russian were again beaten off in the Battle of Inkerman fought in a heavy fog and won by sheer disciplined valour. The siege of Sabastobol continued, the men holding on through the terrible Crimean winter were dying from lack of necessary supplies. There was a welcome change of government in Great Britain. Lord
Palmerston was the new Prime – Minister. He reorganized the inefficient methods of the ministry.

 

The heroic Florence Nightingale with her band of nurses arrived at the
hospital base at Scutari, brought relief and comfort to the wounded and dying soldiers.
Sardinia joined the Allies in 1855 not out of any particular interest in the East but out of her desire for recognition as a independent power. Nicholas I died and was succeeded by his son Alexander II. Negotiations for peace were opened but broke down. Meanwhile the French brought the fall of Sebastopol which revived the Napoleonic legend and gave France the necessary prestige to maintain it. The War came to an end by the Treaty of Paris in 1856.

 The Treaty of Paris, 1856:

The new Tsar, Alexander II made peace with the Allies Sardinia secured her position as a member of the peace conference. The treaty did not refer to the petty quarrel on
which the war broke out, but it attempted to bring about a settlement for the Eastern Question, The Black sea was neutralized and its ports were thrown open to merchant
ships of all nations. Warships of all nations were to be excluded from the Black Sea. No nation was allowed to keep a fortified place in this region on any account. Russia undertook not to fortify Sebastopol, All conquests made during the war were to be
restored. Moldavia got Southern Bessarabia from Russia, Kars was returned to Turkey, Russia was given back Crimea. Freedom of Serbia was guaranteed by the great powers.
Moldavia and Wallachia were declared autonomous. Russia lost her protectorate over them. The Sultan promised to introduce liberal reforms in the Balkan States. The powers
guaranteed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Turkish Empire and to preserve her territorial integrity. Turkey was recognized as a European power and was empowered
to send representatives to the future Congress of powers.

 Criticism:

The solution suggested by the Treaty of Paris for the settlement of theEastern Question was considered to be insufficient and quite unsatisfactory. The treaty gave the Turkish Empire fresh lease of life, but powers could not arrest the disintegration that was going on in the empire. The separation of Moldavia and Wallachia was short – lived. Serbia and Montenegro became practically independent. Russia repudiated the terms of the treaty in 1870. However for the time being, Russia was weakened and her right to the guardianship of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire was annulled.

Significance:

The Crimean war stopped the Russian expansion for the time being, her influence was greatly diminished. The future of the Ottoman Empire was the concern of the European powers. Turkey became virtually the protectorate under the authority of France and Britain. Napoleon III of France won the prestige that was necessary for maintaining his
position in France. Britain’s national debt increased tremendously. Austria and Russia became enemies. The events in the Balkans including the Crimean war hastened the
Unifications of Italy and that of Germany. Since Russia’s expansion in the Balkans was blacked, she turnedher attention eastwards to Central Asia and westwards to Paris. The
Eastern Question with all its difficulties remained unsolved. The settlement of the Vienna Congress was gradually becoming unsettled.

Let us sum up:

In order to check the expansion of Rusia’s influence in the Balkans, the European powers prevented the disintegration of Turkey. The attempt to settle the Eastern Question ended
in a failure. The Sultan never kept his promise to introduce liberal reforms and to improve the lot of the Christian in the Turkish Empire. Russia never forgot the humiliation she received after the Crimean War. She awaited the earliest chance for revenge.
In spite of the promise of the Sultan the lives of Christian were unsafe because the authorities were anti- Christian and pro-Muslim in sympathy. Taxes were heavy and
were collected without any regard for ability to pay. Bad harvests were not taken into account and taxes were collected even before the harvest had been gathered. In 1S74, due to failure of crops in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other impossible conditions, the peasants revolted and insurrections broke out in other parts of the Balkans against the oppression of the Turks. Religious and racial hatred of the Christians and the Slaves against the Turks flared up throughout the peninsula, the Turks put down these revolts ruthlessly killing many in cold blood.

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