Russian Foreign Policy 1815-1856 British Foreign Policy
Mid 19th Century

The Crimean War of 1853-1856

A.) The Diplomatic situation before the War

In the first half of the 19th century, the Czar was the leading proponent of the Holy Alliance, intent to guarantee the inviolability of the political order of Europe. In Asia, however, Russia pursued a policy of expansion, which was successful especially in the Caucasus region, but also in Central Asia, where the Elder Horde of the Kazakhs was subjugated in 1847.
Britain eyed at Russian expansion with suspicion, fearing that Russia might at one time gain access to the world's oceans and challenge British supremacy on the sea.

B.) The Cause of the War

In December 1852 the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, responding to a French request, transferred the key to (and control over) the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (hitherto Orthodox) to the Catholic Church. Russia, claiming to be the protector of the Orthodox christians living in the Ottoman Empire, demanded it to be restored to the Greek Orthodox Church. Britain and France were opposed to an expansion of Russian influence in the region and dispatched a fleet to the Dardanelles (June 1853); in August, the Russians occupied the Duchies of Moldavia and Wallachia.

C.) The Military Cource of Events

In October 1853 the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. In January 1854 the Anglo-French fleet entered the Black Sea. On March 28th 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia.
Savoy-Piemont-Sardinia joined the British and French in 1855. Russian Czar Nicholas I. died in 1855 and was succeeded by Alexander II. When Austria threatened to enter the war on the side of Russia's enemies in an ultimatum (Dec. 16th 1855), Russia accepted the peace conditions.

C.I) The Black Sea Theatre

Russian forces laid siege to Silistria (Dobruja, April 14th-June 26th, broken off). On July 28th they withdraw across the Pruth River. On September 14th the allied landed on the Crimea peninsula, 60,000 men strong. The Battles of Alma (Sept. 20th), Balaclava (Oct. 25th) and of Inkerman (Nov. 5th) end in allied victories, though not without significant losses, and not decisive. Sevastopol was repeatedly bombarded; on Sept. 9th 1855 it was ecavuated by the Russians.
All belligerents suffered considerably from infectious diseases (Disentery, Cholera).

C.II) The Baltic Sea and other Theatres

Being granted benevolent neutrality by Sweden, the British fleet established a base at Farösund (Gotland). From there it sailed off to Kronstadt outside St. Petersburg (June 26th 1854) where little could be achieved due to seamines produced by the the factory of Alfred Nobel's father. On August 16th 12,000 French soldiers took Bomarsund fortress on the Åland Islands; the bombardment of Sveaborg (Finland) August 9th 1855 was of limited success.
British warships evan appeared in the White Sea off Archangelsk, and hunted Russian ships along the coast of the Far East.

D.) Diplomatic Solution and Legacy

A Peace Treaty was signed in Paris on March 30th 1856. Sevastopol was returned to Russia, which in turn returned the Kars district (taken Nov. 25th 1855) to the Ottoman Empire and a small coastal strip in Bessarabia to Moldavia; Wallachia and Moldavia were granted political autonomy (independence in all but by name. The Åland Islands remained Finnish (i.e. Russian), but were demilitarised.
The Crimean War had ended Russia's illusion of a working Holy Alliance. With Russia giving up the idea, the Alliance effectively ended. Russia was disappointed about the opportunistic position taken by Austria, which in 1848/49 had accepted Russian aid which had been given to them selflessly without conditions attached.
Russia also realized that in order to keep up with the western powers militarily and economically, it had to enter on a modernization course; one of the major steps in this direction was the Liberation of the Serfs in 1861.

The Crimean War was the first recorded by photographs.
Another legacy of the Crimean War was that the world became aware of the suffering of the wounded soldiers. Nurse Florence Nightingale became famous; her role model, among others, has inspired Henri Dunant in his establishment of the IRC (Int'l Red Cross) in 1863.

Crimean War Research Society
Chronology of the Crimean War, from British
Chronology of the Events of the Crimean War, 1853 - 1856, from Crimean War Research Society
The Crimean War 1853-1856, from G. Rempel, Western New England College
The Crimean War, from British Forces.con, text & links
The Crimean War 1854-1856, from Alex's Military History Homepage, several subfiles, from British perspective, has a number of quotes on the war.
Sevastopol history : Crimea war 1854-1855 (1st Sevastopol defence), from
Sveaborg and the Crimean War, from Pauli Kruhse
Crimean texts, by David Kelsey
Military Operations of the Crimean War, by Michael Hargreaves Mawson
Historien om Bomarsund, from Åland Museum, in Swedish (Histories on Bomarsund)
Alfred Nobel Biography, from PageWise
Nurses in the Crimea, from Women in Uniform
DOCUMENTS Crimean War Documents from Hillsdale College
Sources on the Crimean War, posted by David Kelsey
Image of the Bombardment of Bomarsund, image of Bombardment of Sevastopol, Battle of Balaclava from Mappe di Citta Italiane ed altre mappe antiche diversi
From British Military Medals : Baltic Medal, 1854-1855, Crimean War Medal, 1854-1856, Turkish Crimean War Medal, 1854-1856
REFERENCE Crimean War, in : John Channon and Robert Hudson, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, London : Penguin 1995, pp.76-77
REFERENCE Balaclava (Charge of the Light Brigade & The Thin Red Line), 55 min. documentary from Cromwell Productions, not captioned; filmed in cooperation with Sandhurst Military Academy

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on March 25th 2006

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