Crimean War

Crimean War
Crimean War
Part of Ottoman wars in Europe
Panorama dentro.JPG
Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904)
Date October 1853 – February 1856
Location Crimean Peninsula, Caucasus, Balkans, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, White Sea, Far East
Result Allied victory, Treaty of Paris
Commanders and leaders
Total: 1,000,000
  • Flag of France 400,000 French
  • Ottoman Empire 300,000 Ottoman
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 250,000 British
  • Kingdom of Sardinia 15,000 Sardinians
  • War flag of the German Confederation 4,250 German legion
  • Flag of Switzerland 2,200 Swiss legion
  • Modern flag of Italy 2,000 Italian legion
  • Modern flag of Poland 1,500 Polish legion
Total: 720,000
  • Russian Empire 700,000 Russians[1]
  • Flag of the First Bulgarian Legion, 1862 3,000 Bulgarian legion
  • Principality of Montenegro 2,000 Serbian-Montenegrin legion
  • Kingdom of Greece 1,000 Greek legion
Casualties and losses
Total: 300,000–375,000 dead[2]

 Ottoman Empire
Total dead est. 175,300[1]

France French Empire
Total dead: 95,000,[2] of which:
10,240 killed in action;
20,000 died of wounds;
c. 60,000 died of disease

 British Empire
Total dead: 21,097 of which :
2,755 killed in action;
2,019 died of wounds;
16,323 died of disease

 Kingdom of Sardinia
2,050 died from all causes[3]
total dead est. 50,000[4]

Total: 220,000 dead:
80,000 killed in action
40,000 died of wounds
100,000 died of disease[5]

The Crimean War (pronounced /krˈmən/ or /krɨˈmən/) (October 1853 – February 1856)[6][7] was a conflict fought 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 the 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.

The war has gone by different names. In Russia it is also known as the "Eastern War" (Russian: Восточная война, Vostochnaya Voina), and in Britain at the time it was sometimes known as the "Russian War".

The Crimean War is known for the 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 telegraph.[8] It is also famous for the work of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who pioneered modern nursing practices while caring for wounded British soldiers.[9]

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 correspondence reaching Britain from the Crimea was the first time the public were kept informed of the day-to-day realities of war.


Pre-battle tensions: "The Eastern Question"

Conflict over the Holy Land

As early as 1850, observers, including Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, had been predicting the outbreak of a Russo-Turkish War.[10] 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 and suppressing all revolutionary uprisings in Europe. In exchange for providing the armies required to maintain that balance of power and suppress the revolutions of 1848 and 1849, Russia had expected Europe to allow it a free hand in settling its problems with the Ottoman Empire—the "sick man of Europe." However, Marx and Engels predicted that England and France could not allow Russia this freedom of action. Thus, any Russo-Turkish War would become a European War.[11] The whole discussion over the future of the Ottoman Empire took on the name of "the Eastern Question"[12]—a term that would continue in use with reference to the Ottoman Empire/Turkey until the beginnings of the twentieth century.

The immediate chain of events leading to France and Britain declaring war on Russia on 27 March and 28 March 1854[6] can be traced to the coup d'état of 1851 in France. Napoleon III sent his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire to attempt to force the Ottomans to recognise France as the "sovereign authority" in the Holy Land.[13] Russia disputed this newest change in "authority" in the Holy Land. 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, a violation of the London Straits Convention.[13] France's show of force, 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 in the Holy Land with control over the Christian holy places and possession of the keys to the Church of the Nativity, previously held by the Greek Orthodox Church.[14]

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 St. 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.[15]

As conflict emerged over the question 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 together.

Cornet assistant Surgeon Henry Wilkin, 11th Hussars. He survived the Charge of the Light Brigade. Photo: Roger Fenton.

Nicholas began courting Britain through Seymour. Nicholas insisted that he no longer wished to expand Imperial Russia, but that he had an obligation to Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire. The Tsar next dispatched a diplomat, Prince Menshikov, on a special mission to the Ottoman Sublime Porte. By previous treaties, the Sultan was committed "to protect the 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 in respect of Catholic churches and churchmen.[16] Such a treaty would allow Russia to control the Orthodox Church's hierarchy in the Ottoman Empire. Menshikov arrived at Constantinople on 16 February 1853 on the steam-powered warship Gromovnik.[17] Menshikov broke protocol at the Porte when, at his first meeting with the Sultan, he condemned the Ottomans' concessions to the French. Menshikov also began demanding the replacement of highly-placed Ottoman civil servants.

The British embassy at Constantinople at the time was being 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. Rose, using his authority as the British representative to the Ottomans, ordered a British squadron of warships to depart early for an eastern Mediterranean cruise and head for Constantinople.[18] However, Rose's actions were not backed up by Whitley Dundas, the British admiral in command of the squadron, who resented the diplomat for believing he could interfere in the Admiralty's business. Within a week, Rose's actions were cancelled.[19] Thus, only the French sent a naval task force to support the Ottomans.

First hostilities

Battle of Sinope, by Ivan Aivazovsky

At the same time, however, the British government of Prime Minister Lord Aberdeen sent Lord Stratford to replace Colonel Hugh Rose as envoy to the Ottoman Empire.[20] Lord Stratford convinced the Sultan to reject the treaty, which compromised the independence of the Turks. Benjamin Disraeli blamed Aberdeen and Stratford's actions for making war inevitable, thus starting the process by which the Aberdeen government would be forced to resign over the issue of the war. Shortly after he learned of the failure of Menshikov's diplomacy, the Tsar marched his armies into the Danubian Principalities the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.[21] Wallachia and Moldavia were Turkish/Ottoman-controlled provinces on the banks of the Danube River. Russia had, previously, obtained from the Ottoman Empire/Turkey recognition of their 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 their 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 given Russia had assisted Austria's efforts in suppressing the Revolutions of 1848.

Russo-French skirmish during Crimean War

When on 2 July 1853[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] The note met with the approval of Nicholas I; it was, however, rejected by Abdülmecid I, who felt that the document's poor phrasing left it open to many different interpretations. Britain, France and Austria were united in proposing amendments to mollify the Sultan, but their suggestions were ignored in the court of St Petersburg.

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 23 October 1853[6] and proceeded to the attack, his armies moving on the Russian army near the Danube later that month.[25] 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.[26] The destruction of the Ottoman ships provided Britain and France 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.[7][27][28]

Mahmudiye (1829), built by the Imperial Naval Arsenal on the Golden Horn in Constantinople, was for many years the largest warship in the world. The 201 x 56 kadem or 76.15 × 21.22 m (249.8 × 69.6 ft) ship of the line was armed with 128 cannons on 3 decks and carried 1,280 sailors on board. She participated in numerous important naval battles, including the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) during the Crimean War.

Peace attempts

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:

  1. Russia was to give up its protectorate over the Danubian Principalities;
  2. It was to abandon any claim granting it the right to interfere in Ottoman affairs on behalf of Orthodox Christians;
  3. The Straits Convention of 1841 was to be revised;
  4. All nations were to be granted access to the River Danube.

When the Tsar refused to comply with these Four Points, the Crimean War commenced.


Map of Crimean War
French zouaves and Russian soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat at Malakhov Kurgan

Danube campaign

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,[29] 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.[30] Accordingly, the Austrians resisted Russian diplomatic attempts to join the war on the Russian side. Austria remained neutral in the Crimean War.[31]

Following the Ottoman ultimatum in September 1853, forces under the Ottoman general, Omar Pasha, crossed the Danube in at Vidin and captured Kalafat in October 1853.[32] Simultaneously, in the east, the Ottomans crossed the Danube at Silistra and attacked the Russians at Oltenitza. The resulting Battle of Oltenitza was actually the first engagement following the declaration war.[33] 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.[34] Occurring on January 6, 1854, the Battle of Chatatea was actually the second major battle of the Crimean War after Oltenitza.[35] The battle began when the Russians made a move to recapture Kalafat. Most of the battle, however, took place in heavy fighting around Chatatea, the Russians were driven out of Chetatea.[36] Nonetheless, the Russians began a siege of Kalafat on January 28, 1854. This was the last operation before the winter ended campaigning. However, the siege of Kalafat would continue until May 1854 when the Russians lifted the siege. The Ottomans also beat the Russians in a battle at Caracal.

In the spring of 1854 the Russians again advanced, crossing the Danube River into the Turkish province of Bulgaria.[37] Soon they occupied the whole of the Bulgarian district of Dobruja.[38] 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 began to lay siege to Silistra on April 14, 1854.[39] The siege would last until June 23, 1854.[40] In the east 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.[41]

One of the aims of the Russian advance was to encourage the Serbs and Bulgarians living under Ottoman rule to rebel; when they showed little 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 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 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 peace-keeping 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.

Black Sea theatre

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 Constantinople 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.[42] 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.

Crimean campaign

The final assault of the French brought about the capture of Sevastopol after one of the most memorable sieges of the 19th century

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.

Russo-British skirmish during Crimean War

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,[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

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 defences. The city fell on 9 September 1855, after about 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.

Azov Campaign

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.

Bombardment of Taganrog from a British raft during the first siege attempt

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.

Caucasus theatre

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 the other mountain areas. In the region the Russians were opposed by Muridists of the Caucasian Imamate, but were grudgingly supported by Circassians, 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.[46]

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.

Baltic theatre

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.[47] 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.

Bombardment of Bomarsund during the Crimean War, after William Simpson

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 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.

"Bombardment of the Solovetsky Monastery in the White Sea by the Royal Navy". A lubok (popular print) from 1868

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.[48]

White Sea theatre

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.

Pacific theatre

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.

The Anglo-French forces in the Far East also made several small landings on Sakhalin and Urup, one of the Kuril Islands.[49]

Italian involvement

Camillo di Cavour, under orders by Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia (also known as Piedmont), sent an expeditionary corps of 15,000 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.

Greek rebellions

Greek battalion during the siege of Sevastopol

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 in to Moldavia and Wallachia and co-ordinated 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[50] and soon spread to Epirus, Thessaly, and Macedonia.[51] 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 national Greeks fought in the Crimean War with the "Greek Battalion of Balaklava" who was in the ranks of the Russian army since the first Russo-Turkish war (1768–1774).

End of the war

Peace negotiations began in 1856 under Nicholas I's son and successor, Alexander II, through the Congress of Paris. Furthermore, 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. 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.

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 re-named 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.

The Crimean War was 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, and The British Empire.

Criticisms and reform

A tinted lithograph by William Simpson illustrating conditions of the sick and injured in Balaklava

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.[52] 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.[53] The Crimean War also led to the eventual realisation by the Russian government of its technological inferiority, namely in its military practices as well as its military weapons.[54]
Meanwhile, the 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.

Chronology of major battles of the war

Crimean War Memorial at Waterloo Place, St James's, London

Prominent military commanders

Chapel in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, commemorating the Siege of Petropavlovsk in 1854

Last veterans

  • Yves Prigent (1833–1938). Was in French Navy.[55]
  • Charles Nathan (1834–1934). Last French soldier, also saw action in Italy, Syria, Mexico and the Franco-Prussian War.[55]
  • Edwin Hughes (1830–1927). Last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.[56]
  • Colonel Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton (1845–1940). Repeatedly claimed that he was a cadet on HMS Dragon during the siege of Sevastopol, earning two campaign medals before his twelfth birthday. This is absolutely untrue, because he was never enrolled in the Navy and only visited the Crimea in mid-May to mid-July, 1856, when nobody was entitled to the award of the British Crimea Medal.[57]
  • Timothy the Tortoise (1839–2004). The naval mascot of HMS Queen[58]

In fiction

  • The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson depicted a brave but disastrous cavalry charge during the Battle of Balaclava.
  • Iron Maiden song The Trooper is about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 during the Crimean War, and is at least partially based upon Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem The Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • Leo Tolstoy wrote a few short sketches on the Siege of Sevastopol, collected in The Sebastopol Sketches. The stories detail the lives of the Russian soldiers and citizens in Sevastopol during the siege. Because of this work, Tolstoy has been called the world's first war correspondent.
  • Jack Archer: A Tale of the Crimea by G.A. Henty, 1883, a historical novel, details the adventures of two British midshipmen in the Crimean War.
  • The events of the Crimean War are depicted in the 1973 novel 'Flashman at the Charge' in which the eponymous antihero participates in the battles of Sevastopol and Balaclava.
  • An Enola Holmes Case, Book 5

See also

Topcu arma.jpg Military history of the Ottoman Empire portal



  1. ^ a b Военная Энциклопедия, М., Воениздат 1999, т.4, стр.315
  2. ^ a b Napoleon III, Pierre Milza, Perrin edition, 2004
  3. ^ John Sweetman, Crimean War, Essential Histories 2, Osprey Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1-84176-186-9, p.89
  4. ^ Clive Pointing, The Crimean War: The Truth Behind the Myth, Chatto & Windus, London, 2004, ISBN 0-7011-7390-4, p.344
  5. ^ Зайончковский А. М. Восточная война 1853—1856. СПб:Полигон, 2002
  6. ^ a b c Kinglake (1863:354)
  7. ^ a b Sweetman (2001:7)
  8. ^ Royle. Preface
  9. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  10. ^ "Review" published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politische-Ökonomische Revue No. 2 contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 10(International Publishers: New York, 1978) p. 259.
  11. ^ "Review" published in the neue Rheinische Zeitung Ploitische-Ökonomische Revue contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 10, p. 260.
  12. ^ Karl Marx, "British Politics--Disraeli--The Refugees--Mazzini in London--Turkey" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 5.
  13. ^ a b Royle. Pg 19
  14. ^ Royle. Pg 20
  15. ^ Royle. Pg 21
  16. ^ Jelavich, Barbara (2004). Russia's Balkan Entanglements, 1806–1914. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 118–122. ISBN 9780521522502. 
  17. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "British Politics--Disraeli--The Refugees--Mazzini in London--Turkey" contined in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12 (International Publishers: New York, 1979) pp. 4-5.
  18. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "British Politics--Disraeli--The Refugees--Mazzini in London--Turkey" contained in the Collected works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 5.
  19. ^ Karl Marx, "Turkey and Russia--Connivance of the Aberdeen Ministry with Russia--The Budget--Tax on Newspaper Supplements--Parliamentary Corruption" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 145.
  20. ^ See note 119 contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Fredereick Engels: Volume 12, p. 654.
  21. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Turkish Question" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Mrx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 24.
  22. ^ Kinglake (1863:195)
  23. ^ Karl Marx, "Turkey and Russia--Connivance of the Aberdeen Ministry with Russia--The Budget--Tax on Newspaper Supplements--Parliamentary Corruption" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 143.
  24. ^ Karl Marx, "The Quadruple Convention--England and the War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, pp. 527-530.
  25. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Crimean War. 1994. 
  26. ^ Karl Marx, "The Russian Victory--Position of England and France" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 536 and also see note 360 located on page 690 in the same volume.
  27. ^ Correspondent (28 March 1854). "In the House of Lords". The Morning Chronicle: p. 4. 
  28. ^ Kinglake (1863:463–4)
  29. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Siege of Silistria" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13 (International Publishers: New York, 1980) pp. 234-245.
  30. ^ Karl Marx, "Excitment in Italy--The Events in Spain--The Position of the German States--British Magistrates" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, pp. 296-297.
  31. ^ Frederick Engels "The War on the Danube" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 281.
  32. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Progress of the Turkish War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 450.
  33. ^ Fredereick Engels, "The Progress of the Turkish War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 450.
  34. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Last Battle of Europe" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 479.
  35. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Last Battle in Europe" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 579 and see note 390 on page 693 of the same volume.
  36. ^ See note 390 contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 693.
  37. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "The European War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 129.
  38. ^ Frederick Engels, "Position of the Armies in Turkey" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 150.
  39. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Seige of Silistra" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 242.
  40. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "The Russian Retreat" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, pp. 254-256.
  41. ^ See note 158 contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 690.
  42. ^ Karl Marx, "Debates in Parliament" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13 (International Publishers: New York, 1980) p. 12.
  43. ^ Frederick Engels, "The News from the Crimea" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, pp. 477-479.
  44. ^ Frederick Engels, "The War in the East" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, pp. 521-527.
  45. ^ Frederick Engels, "The Battle of Inkerman" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, pp. 528-535.
  46. ^ Frederick Engels, "Progress of the Turkish War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 547.
  47. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "State of the Russian War" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 251.
  48. ^ Mining in the Crimean War
  49. ^ Mikhail Vysokov: A Brief History of Sakhalin and the Kurils: Late 19th
  50. ^ Note 31 contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 674.
  51. ^ Karl Marx, "Parliamentary Debates of February 22--Pozzo Di Borgo's Dispatch--The Policy of the Western Powers" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 13, p. 32.
  52. ^ Ian V. Hogg, The British Army in the 20th Century (London: Ian Allan, 1985), 11. ISBN 0-7110-1505-8
  53. ^ Moon, David (2001). The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, 1762–1907. Harlow, England: Pearson Education. pp. 49–55. ISBN 058229486X. 
  54. ^
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^ "Hall of Fame: Balaclava Ned". BBC News. 27 July 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  57. ^
  58. ^


  • Bridge and Bullen, The Great Powers and the European States System 1814–1914, (Pearson Education: London), 2005
  • Bamgart, Winfried The Crimean War, 1853–1856 (2002) Arnold Publishers ISBN 0-340-61465-X
  • Figes, Orlando, Crimea: The Last Crusade (2010) Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9704-0
  • Ponting, Clive The Crimean War (2004) Chatto and Windus ISBN 0-7011-7390-4
  • Pottinger Saab, Anne The Origins of the Crimean Alliance (1977) University of Virginia Press ISBN 0-8139-0699-7
  • Rich, Norman Why the Crimean War: A Cautionary Tale (1985) McGraw-Hill ISBN 0-07-052255-3
  • Royce, Simon The Crimean War and its place in European Economic History (2001) University of London Press ISBN 0-3825-2868-6
  • Royle, Trevor Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854–1856 (2000) Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 1-4039-6416-5
  • Schroeder, Paul W. Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert (1972) Cornell University Press ISBN 0-8014-0742-7
  • Turkey Treaties between Turkey and foreign powers, 1535–1855. Compiled by the librarian and keeper of the papers, Foreign Office (1855)
  • Wetzel, David The Crimean War: A Diplomatic History (1985) Columbia University Press ISBN 0-88033-086-4
  • Russell, William Howard, "The Crimean War: As Seen by Those Who Reported It". Baton Rouge LA. :Louisiana State University Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-8071-3445-0
  • Walter Zander, Israel and the Holy Places of Christendom, (Weidenfield & Nicolson), 1971

Further reading

  • Hamley, The War in the Crimea, (London, 1891)
  • Kinglake, The Invasion of the Crimea, (nine volumes, London, 1863–87)
  • Kovalevski, Der Krieg Russlands mit der Türkei in den Jahren 1853–54, (Leipzig, 1869)
  • Lodomir, La guerre de 1853–56, (Paris, 1857)
  • Marx, The Eastern Question, 1853–56, (translated by E. M. and E. Aveling, London, 1897)
  • Rein, Die Teilnahme Sardiniens am Krimkrieg und die öffentliche Meinung in Italien, (Leipzig, 1911)
  • Russell, The War in the Crimea, 1854–56, (London, 1855–56)
  • (Russian) Berg Nikolai. (1858) Sevastopol album by N. Berg (Севастопольский альбом Н. Берга) at in DjVu and PDF formats
  • (Russian) Bogdanovich Modest I. (1876) Eastern War 1853-1856 (Восточная война 1853-1856 гг.) at in DjVu format
  • (Russian) Dubrovin Nikolai Fedorovich. (1900) History of the Crimean War and the defense of Sevastopol (История Крымской войны и обороны Севастополя) at in DjVu format

External links

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