The Crimean War

For more than 100 years conflicts have flared up again and again between the rising Russia and the decaying Ottoman Empire.

Thus, in the Russian Ottoman war in the mid-18th century, areas on the Black Sea were occupied by Russia. In addition, the country declared itself the protector of the Orthodox Christians living in the Ottoman Empire. The Crimea itself was annexed by Russia in 1783.

In further conflicts in the following decades Russia was able to conquer territories again and help former territories such as Serbia, Moldova and Wallachia to autonomy.

The reason for the renewed conflict between the two countries was the promise of the Ottoman Sultan in 1852 to protect the holy places in Jerusalem for the French monks. Russia protested because it claimed this task. Since the protest had no effect, Russia began in 1853 to occupy the Danubian provinces.




The beginning of the war:

The beginning of the war took place in November 1853 when the Russian navy, equipped with the new Paixhans guns and explosive grenades, destroyed the Ottoman fleet.


Die russische Flotte zerstört die osmanische in der Seeschlacht bei Sinope. Gemälde von Iwan Aiwasowski

The Russian fleet destroys the Ottoman in the naval battle at Sinope. Painting by Ivan Aivazovsky


By this victory, the European powers France and England feared that Russia could expand too far towards the Mediterranean and completely destabilize or even completely occupy the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the two countries declared war on Russia in March 1854. 1855 followed the two countries Sardinia-Piedmont, who wanted to secure by the declaration of war against Russia, the later French support for the unification of Italy.

But already at the beginning of the war, the shortcomings of the French and English were revealed. On the one hand, the logistical supply of the troops over this distance presented both countries with great challenges, on the other hand, the English troops were poorly trained, equipped and had to fight hard with the spread of cholera.



The course of the war:

From the Bulgarian coast of Varna, the French and English troops were transported across the Black Sea. The target of the attack was the naval fort of Sevastopol, whose capture was to end Russia's domination of the sea in the area.

The landing of the troops took place in the west of the Crimean peninsula which then marched south to the naval fort. At Alma they then met the well entrenched Russian soldiers there. The attack began on September 20, 1854, when the French and English troops had to attack the Russians after crossing the river. The losses were accordingly very high and only the bad leadership of the superiors and the outdated weapons forced the Russians to retreat.

The French and English troops continued to come within sight of Sevastopol, but were only able to carry out the siege from the land side, as the Russian navy blocked the entrance to the port. The siege was exacerbated by the fact that the fortress was completed shortly before the attack and thus was well prepared for an artillery fire.

Although the Russians tried to break through the siege and carried out an attack on October 25, 1854 on a base camp at Balaklava, but could win no victory. In return, the French were able to conquer the approach to the fortress with the ridge at Inkerman. A third battle on 5 November was again without a winner and so the siege was continued.


Armeelager bei Balaklawa, Fotografie von James Robertson und Felice Beato

Army camp at Balaklava, photograph by James Robertson and Felice Beato


The upcoming winter made the British troops again hard to deal with. Due to the poor supply situation, the troop strength dwindled to only about 12,000 soldiers. Reports of the desolate state of the troops were sent by William Howard Russell to London for the Times newspaper, which printed these reports. The English government was forced, after publication, to quickly improve the general condition and supply of the troops.




The end of the war:

In the spring of 1855, the French and English troops began the continuous artillery shelling of the fortress. As a result, over the next few weeks, Russian troops lost around 350 troops per day, but were still able to hold the fort until July.

On September 8, the only really well-planned attack by the French took place, conquering the Bastion of Malakov. As a result, the Russian troops destroyed the fortifications of the city in the following night and gave them up.

At the same time a stalemate situation broke out in the secondary theater of war in the Baltic Sea. Although French and British ships shelled the fortifications of the city of St. Petersburg, but a direct attack shunned the commanders, as they considered the fortifications too strong. In return, the Russian ships were too weak to be effective against the enemy ships.




The peace of Paris:

After the fall of Sevastopol, the Russian Tsar Alexander II sought peace. In 1856 the treaty was signed, in which Russia recognized the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire and gave up its protective function over the Orthodox Christians. His dominant role in the Balkans was also limited, if only on paper.






You can find the right literature here:


The Crimean War: A History

The Crimean War: A History Hardcover – April 12, 2011

The Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale―these are the enduring icons of the Crimean War. Less well-known is that this savage war (1853-1856) killed almost a million soldiers and countless civilians; that it enmeshed four great empires―the British, French, Turkish, and Russian―in a battle over religion as well as territory; that it fixed the fault lines between Russia and the West; that it set in motion the conflicts that would dominate the century to come.

In this masterly history, Orlando Figes reconstructs the first full conflagration of modernity, a global industrialized struggle fought with unusual ferocity and incompetence. Drawing on untapped Russian and Ottoman as well as European sources, Figes vividly depicts the world at war, from the palaces of St. Petersburg to the holy sites of Jerusalem; from the young Tolstoy reporting in Sevastopol to Tsar Nicolas, haunted by dreams of religious salvation; from the ordinary soldiers and nurses on the battlefields to the women and children in towns under siege..

Original, magisterial, alive with voices of the time, The Crimean War is a historical tour de force whose depiction of ethnic cleansing and the West's relations with the Muslim world resonates with contemporary overtones. At once a rigorous, original study and a sweeping, panoramic narrative, The Crimean War is the definitive account of the war that mapped the terrain for today's world..

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Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856

Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856 Hardcover – May 19, 2000

The Crimean War is one of history's most compelling subjects. It encompassed human suffering, woeful leadership and maladministration on a grand scale. It created a heroic myth out of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade and, in Florence Nightingale, it produced one of history's great heroes. New weapons were introduced; trench combat became a fact of daily warfare outside Sebastopol; medical innovation saved countless soldiers' lives that would otherwise have been lost. The war paved the way for the greater conflagration which broke out in 1914 and greatly prefigured the current situation in Eastern Europe.

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The Crimean War at Sea: The Naval Campaigns Against Russia 1854-56

The Crimean War at Sea: The Naval Campaigns Against Russia 1854-56 Hardcover – July 26, 2011

Too often historical writing on the Russian War of 1854-56 focuses narrowly on the land campaign fought in the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. The wider war waged at sea by the British and French navies against the Russians is ignored. The allied navies aimed to strike at Russian interests anywhere in the world where naval force could be brought to bear, and as a result campaigns were waged in the Baltic, the Black Sea, the White Sea, on the Russian Pacific coast and in the Sea of Azoff.

Yet it is the land campaign in the Crimea that shapes our understanding of events. In this graphic and original study, Peter Duckers seeks to set the record straight. He shows how these neglected naval campaigns were remarkably successful, in contrast to the wretched failures that beset the British army on land. Allied warships ranged across Russian waters sinking shipping, disrupting trade, raiding ports, bombarding fortresses, destroying vast quantities of stores and shelling coastal towns. The scale and intensity of the naval operations embarked upon during the war are astonishing, and little appreciated, and this new book offers the first overall survey of them.

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