Article Review: "The Crimean Campaign"
In "The Crimean Campaign: Official Exposition of the Policy of the War," the authors of The New York Times presented an account of the events leading up to the Crimean War, as well as the policies that informed the way in which it was run. The authors create an account of an editorial on the Crimean War created by the Moniteur, a French publication, which is considered to be an authority on the French perspective on the Crimean War. As the French were undoubtedly part of the Allied forces fighting against the Russian invasion of the Ottoman Empire, their perspective is decidedly anti-Russia as they defend their own interests and demonize those of Russia's. Strong language is used to portray Russia as imperialistic and opportunistic, as well as sacrilegious. Toward that end, it is easy to see the desire for French publications to champion their interests at the expense of the enemy's. The author, in general, wishes to give off the impression of desiring peace, while being prepared for war all the same - "on the eve of the decisive solution now under achievement, public opinion, completely enlightened, may accept with equal confidence peace, if it is possible - war, if it is necessary"1.
Russia's behavior throughout the campaign, as well as their actual reasons for entering the war, are presented as unethical and disingenuous. The actual account starts with a "small" claim brought against Turkey regarding concessions given to Latins in the Holy Land; this is presented as a reasonable request that is shot down by the Russians. "Russia only wanted a pretextfor her the tomb of Christ was only a stepping-stone to power"2. Russia, altogether, is displayed as abusing this religious debate and controversy to grab for worldly power, and does not actually have a stake in what happens to the tomb of Christ. After pressing from the French government, Russia is said to have "only originated the discussion [of the validity of the holy places] to open the Bosphorus to her sovereignty"3. There is talk of a "forced interpretation" of the Treaty of Kuinardji, indicating the illegitimacy of Russia's idea of their rights and properties.
Russia's presentation as "mistress of the Black Sea" lends it a mysterious and ominous figure, with its only goal being conquest4. Russia "wished to dominate at Constantinople," this mere concept itself being enough for the French to feel it "necessary to prevent it"5. One particular advantage it held was its proximity to a number of countries bordering the Mediterranean, including the Dardanelles; Russia's own omnipresence as a threat is described, painting the nation as an inexorable and all-reaching foe. The enemy nation is treated with hyperbolic scorn by the language in this publication, as Russia was at first considered an ally of the French, but eventually saw in the Russians "an adversary of our influence and of our civilization"6.
The French government, meanwhile, is labeled as a righteous force that champions for peace and goodness, directly contrasted with the barbarity of Russia; "that sacred stone could not become a stumbling-block for the peace of the whole world"7. The French government, in presenting the issue of peace or war in an "equitable manner," is described as unveiling the truly rotten ulterior motives of the Russians8. In the early days of the war, France is presented as the means by which Europe was made to "understand its interests, defend its rights, and show its strength"9. Later on, their bravery is noted as soldiers are said to fight and die for other countries that maintain neutrality and cannot decide if they will enter the war, like Germany. Soldiers "lavished their blood for the independence and equilibrium of Europe" and made many sacrifices to secure freedom10.
England, though regarded as an ally, is given lip service, and is sometimes even described as being less prescient or perceptive regarding the politics of the Eastern Question than France; England is "deceived at first by the pretended religious character of the question," but then quickly understands its true purpose - the perceived political takeover of the Ottoman Empire11. England and France are then presented as equal partners in the humble defense of the Holy Lands, as their interests regarding the Ottoman Empire are "superior to that of their own ambition"12. According to this publication, these nations are paragons of order and "equilibrium," conducting themselves with honor. They also are claimed to have had the advantage of superior fleets and armies, which were "the avant-gardes of Europe"13.
The smaller countries in the Holy Alliance, the ones without as much military might as France and England, as portrayed as weak nations that need France and England's guidance; "Greece, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and all the secondary States, found themselves struck by the same blow in their security and independence"14. France and England are absolutely portrayed as the saviors of the North, as they carry the majority of the military might and influence, and also have right on their side. England and France are stated to have drawn the "sword in the cause of every other State," acting as protector and guardian for these poor, disenfranchised and powerless countries15. That being said, the countries are also given lip service in their participation, allying themselves ideologically, if not militarily, with England and France.
The distillation of the French portrayal of the Russians is portrayed by an authentic document published in a Russian admiral's memoirs, in which the Russian Emperor Alexander, in 1812, gave orders to "employ every means in its power to disconcert the hostile intentions of [France and Austria]"16. In this order, Alexander calls for the consolidation of power of the Selavonic people, including Bodnia, Montenegro, Croatia and other such Slavic nations, to supplement their existing military. The presentation of this speech, shown (or at least translated) to sound supremely evil (calling for "Slave kingdoms"), paints Russia in an extremely negative light, and further justifies the position of the French, for whom the publication this was translated from was written17. Russia, in addition to being portrayed as all-powerful and evil, also are interpreted as cowards; when they approach Austria and Prussia during this time, they are "not daring to ask their support, [but]propos[ing] to them resignation and neutrality"18.
France's own reply to the actions of the Russians, whose motives are linked directly to this 1812 address by Alexander, is seen as "legitimate," "necessary," and "more just before God and universal conscience than this resistance of which the two naval Governments of the West gave the signal in the month of April, 1854"19. In the issue of getting Germany over to their side, France is seen as apologetically and graciously outlining the issues at hand for a hesitant Germany, which "hesitated to act" until the object of war was clearly defined20. Toward that end, the Emperor's speech of his Legislative session notes the just nature of all France's military and political moves: "if France draws the sword it is because she is compelled to"21. The Emperor's speech emphasizes justice and honor, stating that nations that are often "at the head of generous ideas," as France is, become powerful; this is implied as a contrast to Russia, who wish to expand their own territories to gain their power. It also unequivocally paints France and England as perpetually virtuous and good, as "it allowed no distrust of the intentions of the Governments of France and England," and would have brought the Germans into the war on their side, if not for their perceived indecisiveness22.
France and England are celebrated at the end of the article for its graciousness and tenacity, as they now fiercely negotiate with Russia to bring about "an honorable and possible peace"; they are absolutely presented as the ones who can facilitate that. With a defeated Russia, the ball is in their court, and Russia must now depend on the graciousness of the Allied nations to decide how much Russia gets to keep. This article is presented, first and foremost, as the truth - "Truth is only a danger for the weak" - and France and England are stated to have the truth on their side, as well as strength23. This unequivocally nationalistic conclusion helps to cement France's opinion of itself as the guardians of Europe, who mean to safeguard defenseless countries like Austria and Prussia from the evil overlords of Russia. It is a decidedly one-sided level of propaganda that portrays Russia as proud but defeated cretins who live only by virtue of France's kindness.
In conclusion, "The Crimean Campaign: Official Exposition of the Policy of the War" translates an exposition from a French publication to show the incredible nationalism shown in the country's own media. In reflection of the Crimean War, France and England are shown to be virtuous warriors who defend the lesser countries in the Alliance from the blasphemous and intimidating actions of Russia, who are effectively labeled as villains within the work. France's overall goal was "limiting the power of Russia in the Black Sea," which the publication presented as all-encompassing and immensely threatening24. In the end, France and Russia are said to be on the side of right and good, and implied to always be so; their actions are never called into question, nor the complexities of the issues of the Crimean War discussed. Instead, Russia is an evil nation that is soundly defeated, and the victory is prematurely celebrated by this translated French publication.
The Crimean Campaign: Official Exposition of the Policy of the War. New York Daily Times
(1851-1857); May 5, 1855, p. 2.