The Crimean War

Through the Ages – The Crimean War (19th Century)

In the late 1840s a dispute flared between Russia, France and the Turkish-controlled Ottoman Empire over religious sites in the Holy Land (now Israel).

At that time, foreign interests controlled many shrines in the Holy Land. France and Russia both claimed ownership of the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem, and both threatened military action against Turkey if they were not granted ownership!

Turkey at this time had a weak Porte (ruler) who tried to resolve the crisis by double-dealing. When this failed, he eventually allowed France to take ownership. Russia duly carried out its threat to invade the Turkish-controlled Ottoman Empire.

France and Britain felt threatened by Russia’s growing influence in Eastern Europe and formed an alliance, sending a naval fleet into the Black Sea, where the Russian troops were in occupation.

Turkey’s attempts to drive the Russians from their territory were unsuccessful, and in early 1854 they entered an alliance with France and Britain, thus beginning the Crimean War in earnest.

The war quickly became a battle of attrition, with the alliance besieging the Russian Naval base at Sebastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. The naval base threatened the alliance’s control of shipping on the Black Sea, but they could not take it by force.

The Russians made various attempts to break the siege, which led to much official bungling on both sides, particularly in the Battle of Inkerman and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Throughout 1855, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia came under increasing domestic pressure as war casualties mounted and hostility to Russia grew throughout Europe. Eventually Russia bowed, and the Treaty of Paris 1856 brought the war to an end.

The terms of the Treaty saw various pieces of territory change hands and the Black Sea demilitarised. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties, through poor planning which saw the troops inadequately fed and clothed more than through actual fighting.

Today, we are left to reflect on the official arrogance that caused such an inconsequential and inconclusive conflict to take place, and the official incompetence that allowed it to claim so many lives.

Another through the ages article coming soon…