Understanding the dynamics of Crimean War changing the European occurring over 150 years ago changing European history proved the undoing of the international system existing in Europe for a significant period aligned to how the prevailing rules European leaders conducted foreign policy and maintaining the peace. Until the onset of the Crimean Wars in the early 1850s, Europe’s five major powers engaged in a “complex” practices in dealing with allaying potentially dangerous confrontations.
One example of the outcome of the Crimean War was the disassembling of the pact between the conservative Russian, Prussian, and Austrian monarchies known as the Holy Alliance. This led to a new alliance between the Kingdom of Sardinia, France, and Britain. Conditions in Europe for the common population further gives a better understanding of the shifting times.
Widespread hunger and too many cases of starvation plagued the lives of the majority of people living in Europe during the 1850s. Social inequality, deadly disease epidemics, and little relief from extreme temperatures of hot and cold climates also framed the lives of the people during this era. These extremes of life affected the way European leaders made and fought wars.
Typically found among the rank, and file, the poorest men and least socially influential serving at the call of those wealthy elite in power with France proving somewhat as the exception. Rulers, calling themselves lords, barons, counts, and pashas both organized and commanded armies and navies whose soldiers and sailors found life’s harsh realities even worse in military service than the often despicable civilian lives they left behind.
Regardless the numerous hardship experiences of civilian life, these soldiers, and sailors dealt with rigorous and often brutal training and discipline, poor rations, rampant disease killing many before they ever faced combat. Their bodies remained fatigued from recurring sleepless nights. They suffered intemperate weather, eventual bouts of starvation, and lived with the constant fear of death once they encountered battle set them apart as more capable facing the Crimean War. Officers proved the most cowardly while the tenacity of the majority of the lower ranks forged their determination in meeting the battles fate put before them in this era of disaccord for the people of Europe.
Taking place during October 1853 through February 1856, the Crimean War battles occurred in the Balkans, south of modern Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula sitting within the Black Sea. Nations participating in the fighting as allies against Russia included the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Sardinia, France, and Britain plagued by poor organizational tactics and communication all underpinned by even less effective leadership resulted in prolonging the bloody conflict.
This countered the original anticipation of a short war conceived by the allied strategy having faith in the superior training and experience of both France and Britain’s famous “Charge of the Light Brigade” combined with both nations possessing state-of-the art military weaponry and technology. The allied armies numbered 1,000,000 and Russia 710,000. From battles and disease, and a fair share of desertions, the allies lost an estimated 375,000 soldiers while Russia’s army decimation numbered 220,000 deaths.
The Ottoman Empire quarreled with the Holy Alliance about Christian holy places in Jerusalem began as “a dispute between Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic clerics over the control of certain shrines, and became an international issue when France and Russia backed the claims of their respective confessions.” The Ottoman Turks owned Palestine and had no interest in the dispute between the two Christian groups.
The fact remained the Ottoman rulers worked at avoiding trouble centered on such disputes by evading and even procrastinating when called to direct outcomes. In this case, typical of European powers bullying Turkey, the Ottoman leaders found France first initiating pressure to settle the issue and then Russia. This resulted in forcing the Turkish rulers into making “contradictory promises and concessions” that wound up antagonizing both sides in the issue.
Historians continue debating about any logical reason either France or Russia took the stance they did over such a petty issue. The most probable reason France took its position lay in the actions of an “overzealous ambassador” pushing the issue in 1850. True to the character of Napoleon’s ego, his support lay in both “domestic reasons and personal prestige.”
The long-standing issues between Tsarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire gave more substance to the position they took in pressuring the Turks. The underlying agenda looked at breaking up the centuries old Ottoman Empire. By 1853, the petty quarrel between two Christian denominations in Jerusalem was leading into an international issue albeit initially none of the other European powers took the discourse in Jerusalem serious (logically making the most sense).
Schroeder offers a succinct account of the situation:
Britain, (typically) whose only religious concern was to protect Protestant interests, blamed France for putting Turkey in danger by baiting Russia. Still trusting Nicholas's peaceful assurances, the British in early 1853 had no intention of intervening except with friendly advice to Turkey.4 Austria, interested in reviving her influence in the East, had earlier backed France's claims and vigorously asserted her own treaty rights to protect Catholics in the Ottoman Empire. But by 1853, Austria's stand had become conciliatory and moderately pro-Russian. Urging caution on both sides, Buol suggested solving the religious question by getting Europe as a whole to press Turkey for equal privileges to all Christians alike. He also told France that a return to the status of 1740, on which she based her claims, was impossible, and that she could not expect Turkey to keep promises France had coerced from her, which contradicted others she had made. Buol's advice carried no great urgency, however; like many others, he and Hübner were surprised by the serious turn the issue took later in 1853.
The serious issue in 1853 with the Ottoman’s, declaring what became known as the
Crimean War. Russia’s immediate reaction resulted in the first of many battles during the three-year conflict.
Easily defeating the Turkish naval squadron in the Black Sea Sinope battle, Russia found both France and Britain responding to the victory with an ultimatum directed at Russia. Their warning directed unless Russia immediately ceased further conflict with the Ottoman Empire centered on a March 1854 deadline by withdrawing its forces “from the Danubian Principalities” then they would support the Turks entering the war.
Remaining true to their word, with the expiration of the ultimatum directed at Russia, both France and Britain joined Ottoman forces against the Russians. In the late summer of 1854 the modern metal ships of the Anglo-French fleet proving far more advanced than the wooden hulled Russian fleet, now held the northern Baltic Sea in their command destroying the Bomarsund Russian fortress causing the loss of the enemies foothold in the Balkan area.
With Turkey, the allied forces numbered 60,000 troops gathering in force revealing its impressive army as well as Russia desiring avoiding any alienation with Austria thus, resulted in Nicholas I reluctantly pulling his army from the Danubian Principalities. Further allied action by early autumn of 1854 found them crossing the Black Sea landing in the Crimea intent on attacking the Russian stronghold at Sevastopol.
The allies expecting the confrontation ending after no more than a 12-week campaign actually faced the reality it turned into a 12-month attack nonetheless proved victorious for the Anglo-French navy with the destruction of the fleet and seizing the naval base making this specific major battle on the Crimea Peninsula that named the war.
While Sinope and Sevastopol remain lessor battles, they nonetheless reveal key facts as stated leading to the first major battle in 1854 early autumn, with the battle of Alma. Here, the superior equipped French and British troops bearing rifled muskets, better trained, as well as out numbering the Russian army rapidly drove them from their northern position in Sevastopol.
The allies failing to use this victory and make further advances into Russian held territory, provided the time for the enemy staging attacks on the allies while fortifying their position in the city. The Russian initiated Battle of Balaclava in October of 1854 promulgated as ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ resulted in heavy casualties on both sides with incorrect information the elite British troupes.
As already explained, the allies remained plagued with poor leadership and communication resulting once again, with the Russians regrouping ahead of the allies making the ensuing Battle of Inkerman in November of 1854 more bloody than at Balaclava. With 42,000 troops, the Russian army marched on the much smaller allied forces of 15,700 soldiers. Nonetheless, standing their ground, the allied forces overcame the waves of Russian attacks. While Russia failed in gaining an overwhelming victory at this battle, they did weaken the allied progress.
With Balaclava and Inkerman behind them, both the Russian and allied forces dug in for the long winter ahead of them without much needed supplies. The January 1854 battle of Chetate’ proved Turkish forces defeating the Russians and again in February at the Siege of Calafat. Continuing their victory streak, the Turks again face the Russians in June defeating them at the Siege of Silistria.
That winter of 1854 into 1866 forces from the Kingdom of Sardinia fortified the allied army so by February of 1855 with the battle of Eurpatoria they won a clear and convincing victory. In March of 1855, the allies attacked Malakoff but made little impact on the Russian hold. The British defeat the Russian in the August 9-15, 1854 battle of Sveborg. With the fall of the city of Sevastopol to the allies, the war was all but over. Even with the Russian victory taking the city of Kars, this would go back to the Ottomans with the treaty ending the war.
As previously discussed, much of the allied campaign strategy looked at ending the war in a short time, with the opposite proving true. In addition, the enormous and unexpected loss of life throughout the battled war remained an unexpected failure of the allies. February of 1856 with the assemblage of the Congress of Paris resulting with the March 30, 1856 signing of the Treaty of Paris officially brought the Crimean War to it end.
Resulting key factors of the treaty and peace negotiations ending the Crimean War returned Kars and any other Russian held Ottoman territories to the Turks. All factions agreed to the demilitarization of the Black Sea. In turn, all Russian ports and towns occupied by the Turks and its allies went back to Russia. Particular intent of the treaty looked at banning Russia having its naval forces anywhere in the Black Sea aimed at re-establishing peace incurred from the 1815 Congress of Vienna that had lasted nearly four decades prior to the Crimean War outbreak.
Changes in the balance of power resulting with the treaty exemplified the disintegration of the traditional peace settlements among the powerful of Europe in previous eras. Napoleon III played a key role in this change because of his ambiguous attitude from the onset of the insignificant but growing crisis plaguing the Turks in Jerusalem. Austria and France both showed they viewed the outcome of the treaty ending the Crimean War as having insignificant parts. A cornerstone of the alliance showed the Anglo-French partnership disintegrating. England now solely aligned with Turkey in connection to its Eastern interests resulted initiating changes in its Eastern policies. No more than three years of signing the treaty passed before Austria and France declared war on one another.
Other results of the Crimean War peace treaty or rather the lack of interest in the settlement proved the rising power of Prussia toward replacing Austria’s leadership of the ‘Germanic’ state. Russia continued gaining its own prestige while recovering her strength from the war. Ultimately, the Ottoman Empire expressed its own resentment toward the imposed coaching from the European with the Treaty of Paris. Consequently, these policy changes of the power relationships “in their cumulative effect undermined the foundations of the Crimean system.”
The Paris Treaty grew increasingly problematic with the insidious disintegration of the Crimean system as stakeholders continued posing progressively acute forms of revisions. This resulted in the treaty no longer reflecting the original distribution of interests and powers. Growing determination not only by governments challenging the treaty arrangements but also, by people as well resulted in a unification of varieties of national stipulations demands with existing international obligations.
The Paris Treaty ending the Crimean War forever altered the historical spirit of the European style of diplomacy. It also made way for the 1863 Polish revolution, the confederation of Rumania, as well as “the attendant European crisis, and the wars of Italian and German unification.” In the end, the fate of the Paris Treaty on the destiny of the Crimean system, for some seemingly confirms there exist no peace treaty, no absolute guarantee, solemn avowal or protocol with the ability for a long term protections of arrangement, stipulations, or groupings when they no longer correspond to changes within the international realities.
Subsequently, aside from the historical documentation of a specific arrangement or situation, peace treaties may serve no useful purpose. Therefore, a fair “conclusion seems clear: the arrangements of 1856 -- though perhaps the best attainable in the circumstances -- did not stand the test of time The Crimean system was built on sand: it offered no prospect whatever of a lasting solution of the 'Eastern question'.”
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