The History Behind The Crimean War- Telling The Tales Untold

The Crimean War was fought by an alliance of France, Britain, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia. In October 1853, it broke out although France and Britain only became involved in 1854 and ended in February 1856.

In short, Russia was intensifying into the Danube region, Romania at present. This was under Turkish control. Hence, in 1853, Russia and Turkey went to war and the following year France and Britain– apprehensive of Russian expansion became involved. France and Britain did not like to see Russia pushing down into the Danube region. They dreaded Russia would continue pushing down, and ultimately come into British India through Afghanistan.

Spiritual and religious tensions also played a part. Russia made a matter of the fact that the holiest sites in Jerusalem, Christianity, Bethlehem etc – were beneath Turkish control. The war was fought on the Black Sea, and also on the Crimean peninsula. It was believed to play out in the Danubian Principalities (Walachia and Moldavia), but unbeaten Turkish martial action and political pressure from France, Britain, and Austria forced Russia to depart.

The new target for Britain and France became the Russian naval base at Sevastopol – they wanted to obliterate Russian naval power in the Black Sea. There were three major battles: on 20 September 1854 the battle of the Alma, on 24 October the battle of Balaclava, and a foremost Russian attack at the Inkerman, in November.

The city was besieged by French, British, and later Sardinian troops after the battle of the Alma. The Russians came out in October and November and tried to shove the allies back. But these were not key, and until September 1855, the siege dragged on.

This was trench warfare, with French and British troops trying to stick to certain Russian positions. There were heavy fatalities. More than 200,000 were slaughtered. That is for all armies, counting the Russians.

How did the war come to a conclusion?

The Russians evacuated Sevastopol in September 1855 following the storming of the vital Malakhov supported by French troops. In small, Russia gave in, and there began a shift towards harmony talks. On 30 March 1856, the Treaty of Paris was signed.

This is history with a disagreement. Orlando Figes maintains that the difference was fundamentally a religious war, and he is disturbed that most writers have neglected that subject matter. Figes writes of Turks and Russians clashing over “religious battlegrounds, the fault line between Orthodoxy and Islam,” and elucidates that every country, none more so than Russia, went to war in the conviction that God was on its side. The Crimean War brought in the Muslim world of the Ottoman Empire to the Western militia and flickered an Islamic reaction against the West which continues to this present day. The designation of the British edition of the book is “Crimea: The Last Crusade.”

Like other scholars, Orlando Figes distressingly shows how open institutions and British freedoms helped drive the country into upheaval. This was a war, the first war in history to be brought about by public opinion and by the pressure of the press.

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