Earlier in 2014, Crimea was in the headlines owing to the stand-off that had been going on for a long time between Russia and Ukraine over controlling the peninsula. This, however, is not the first time that this region is at the center of a conflict. In the 19th century, a war was fought on the Crimean peninsula, known as the Crimean War.
The Crimean War was fought against Russia by an alliance of the French Empire, Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, and lasted for three years, from 1853 to 1856. This article looks into the causes of this war and its timeline, along with a Crimean War summary.
Various powers have sought to gain control of Crimea for a long time. Control over this region means control over Black Sea ports that are located on this peninsula. These ports provide quick access to the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans, and Middle East, thus providing Central and Eastern Europe access to the Caucasus region. The area around the border of Europe and Asia is known as the Caucasus region. The peninsula is thus important from a trade point of view as well.
The Ottoman Empire had occupied the Crimean Peninsula since the second half of the 15th century. They had annexed it from the Byzantine Empire. Towards the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had started to decline. This coincided with the rise in Russian expansion towards the south. The main reason behind this expansionist policy of Russia was to move to the warmer areas in the south where the ports did not freeze, unlike in the north. Russia put its focus on Crimea, claiming that it had become the 'sick man of Europe'.
The issue has a religious backdrop as well. The Ottoman Empire also had control of the Holy Land. Protecting the rights of the Christian minority there can also be seen as one of the issues that led to the Crimean War.
The British were not happy with the expansion that Russia was seeking. As mentioned earlier, the Crimean ports had strategic importance. Britain did not want the Russians to get control over this area. Russian occupation of the peninsula would have, sooner or later, challenged the role of Britain in the Eastern Mediterranean. From Crimea, the Russians also had an opportunity to move towards Western Europe or India. British participation in the war was more against Russia and less in favor of the Ottoman Empire. This move by Britain can be seen as a move to tip the balance of power in their favor.
The reason of French involvement in the war has a religious background. Russia had seen itself as the protector of Orthodox Christianity. France, on the other hand, was a proponent of Catholicism. The French interest in the war was to oppose Russian domination, that would come at the expense of the Ottoman Empire on the Holy Land. The French had plans to enforce their beliefs in the Holy Land, and this had contributed to the increasing tensions between the two countries.
The Italians had no direct interests of their own to protect in the Crimean War. The Kingdom of Sardinia had entered the war on the side of the Ottoman, French, and British trio alliance. This was mainly done to garner the favors of the French Empire. The Italians were hoping the French would support them in banishing the Austrians from Italian soil, and the unification of the Kingdom of Italy.
|2 Mar||Prince Menshikov arrives in Constantinople with Russian demands.|
|21 May||Prince Menshikov severs ties with Turkey and returns to Russia.|
|31 May||Turkey receives an ultimatum from Russia.|
|8 Jun||A fleet from Great Britain approaches Dardanelles.|
|3 Jul||The Russian army crosses the Pruth river and invades Moldova.|
|27 Sep||Turkey demands that Russia leaves and goes back.|
|5 Oct||Turkey declares war on Russia.|
|28 Oct||At Kalafat, the Turkish army crosses the Danube river.|
|30 Oct||A fleet from Great Britain enters Bosphorus.|
|4 Nov||Turkey defeats Russia at Oltenița.|
|30 Nov||Russia destroys a naval squadron of Turkey at Sinope.|
|4 Jan||Anglo-French fleets enter the Black Sea.|
|8 Jan||Dobruja is invaded by the Russian army.|
|11 Jan||Allies warn Russia to return its ships to Sevastopol from the Black Sea.|
|10 Feb||A delegation from Great Britain meets Tsar Nicholas I to negotiate.|
|23 Feb||A guard from Great Britain sets sail for Turkey.|
|27 Feb||Russia served with ultimatum to withdraw forces from Moldova and Walachia in six days.|
|10 Mar||Troops from France head towards Turkey.|
|11 Mar||Russia served ultimatum by Anglo-French forces to withdraw from Danube principalities.|
|28 Mar||Great Britain along with France declare war on Russia.|
|5 Apr||British fleets arrive at Gallipoli.|
|14 Apr||Russia capture Silistra.|
|18 Apr||Victory for the Turks at Rohova.|
|20 Apr||Austria and Prussia declare their neutral stand in the war.|
|22 Apr||Bombardment of Odessa.|
|28 May||The allied forces leave for Varna.|
|23 Jun||The Siege of Silistra is abandoned by Russia.|
|26 Jun||Allied fleets arrive near St. Petersburg.|
|28 Jun||An order to invade Crimea given to British forces.|
|7 Jul||The Turks defeat the Russians at Giurgiu.|
|28 Jul||Russia is defeated by Turkey at Bayezid.|
|13 Aug||Bomarsund is besieged by Allies.|
|16 Aug||Russian forces surrender to the Allies at Bomarsund.|
|21 Aug||The British naval fleet bombards Kola in the White Sea.|
|30 Aug||At Petropaulovsk, the British fleet faces failure.|
|5 Sep||The Allied forces leave for Crimea.|
|14 Sep||The Allied forces land unopposed at Kalamata Bay, north of Sevastopol.|
|19 Sep||At the river Bulganek, the Allied forces face Russian troops.|
|20 Sep||The Battle of Alma takes place.|
|23 Sep||Russian troops scuttle their ships to block entrance to the harbor at Sevastopol.|
|24 Sep||Allied forces begin the siege of Sevastopol.|
|26 Sep||British forces arrive at Balaklava.|
|17 Oct||Sevastopol faces its first bombardment.|
|25 Oct||The Battle of Balaklava takes place.|
|20 Oct||'Little Inkerman' attack of Russian troops.|
|5 Nov||The Battle of Inkerman takes place.|
|17 Jan||Eupatoria, located north of Kalamata Bay, is attacked by Russia.|
|26 Jan||Sardinia joins the war on the Allies side.|
|24 Feb||Failure of French attack on Sevastopol.|
|15 Mar||Conference of Vienna commences.|
|9 Apr||Sevastopol is bombarded for the second time.|
|26 Apr||Conclusion of Conference of Vienna.|
|25 May||Allied forces capture Kerch and Yenikale.|
|5 Jun||Finnish boat crews are massacred by Russian forces at Hanko, Finland.|
|6 Jun||Sevastopol is bombarded for the third time.|
|16 Jun||First attack on Kars, Armenia, by Russian forces.|
|17 Jun||Sevastopol bombarded for the fourth time.|
|18 Jun||The attack on Malakov and Redan is defeated.|
|14 Jul||Turkish commander asks permission to withdraw his troops and focus on Asia Minor.|
|7 Aug||Kars attacked for the second time by Russia.|
|16 Aug||Allied forces defeat Russian troops at Tchernaya.|
|17 Aug||Bombardment of Sevastopol for the fifth time.|
|5 Sep||Sixth bombardment of Sevastopol.|
|9 Sep||Russian troops evacuate Sevastopol.|
|29 Sep||Russian forces attack Kars, where they are defeated by Turkish commander Omar Pasha.|
|17 Oct||Russian forces evacuate Ochakov after the Allied forces capture the Fortress of Kinburn.|
|26 Nov||Surrender of Turkish forces is accepted by Russia.|
|29 Jan||Bombardment of Sevastopol by Russia.|
|24 Feb||Commencement of the Paris Peace Conference.|
|29 Feb||Armistice in Crimea.|
|30 Mar||Signing of the Treaty of Paris, which officially brings the Crimean War to an end.|
This war claimed the lives of over a million soldiers and civilians of the conflicting parties. It had brought forth a glaring need of change in the Russian system, which in turn led to many reforms. As a result of this war, Europe was able to witness a very long period of peace. The historical significance of the Crimean War lies the fact that, since its conclusion, Europe has flourished and prospered. Sardinia, having been a part of the Allied forces, received French support in uprooting the Austrians from Italy. In fact, the unification of Italy and Germany was catalyzed by this war.
The battles of Balaklava, Tchernaya, and Sevastopol are few of the important battles of the Crimean War, in which, after a long battle of three long years, the Allied forces had managed to emerge victorious by defeating Russia.