Crimean War

Crimean War (krīmē´ən), 1853–56, war between Russia on the one hand and the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, France, and Sardinia on the other. The causes of the conflict were inherent in the unsolved Eastern Question. The more immediate occasion was a dispute between Russia and France over the Palestinian holy places. Challenging the claim of Russia to guardianship of the holy places, France in 1852 secured from Sultan Abd al-Majid certain privileges for the Latin churches. Russian counterdemands were turned down (1853) by the Ottoman government.

In July, 1853, Russia retorted by occupying the Ottoman vassal states of Moldavia and Walachia, and in October, after futile negotiations, the Ottomans declared war. In Mar., 1854, Britain and France, having already dispatched fleets to the Black Sea, declared war on Russia; Sardinia followed suit in Jan., 1855. Austria remained neutral, but by threatening to enter the war on the Ottoman side forced Russia to evacuate Moldavia and Walachia, which were occupied (Aug., 1854) by Austrian troops.

In Sept., 1854, allied troops landed in the Crimea, with the object of capturing Sevastopol. The Russian fortress, defended by Totleben, resisted heroically until Sept., 1855. Allied commanders were Lord Raglan for the British and Marshal Saint-Arnaud, succeeded later by Marshal Canrobert, for the French. Military operations, which were marked on both sides by great stubbornness, gallantry, and disregard for casualties, remained localized. Famous episodes were the battles of Balaklava and Inkerman (1854) and the allied capture (1855) of Malakhov and Redan, which preceded the fall of Sevastopol. On the Asian front the Russians gained advantages and occupied Kars.

The accession (1855) of Czar Alexander II and the capture of Sevastopol led to peace negotiations that resulted (Feb., 1856) in the Treaty of Paris (see Paris, Congress of). The Crimean War ended the dominant role of Russia in SE Europe; the cooling of Austro-Russian relations was an important factor in subsequent European history. The scandalous treatment of the troops, particularly the wounded, depicted by war correspondents, prompted the work of Florence Nightingale, which was perhaps the most positive result of the war.

See studies by D. Wetzel (1985), A. Palmer (1987), T. Royle (2000), S. Markovitz (2009), and O. Figes (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Death or Glory: The Legacy of the Crimean War
Robert B. Edgerton.
Westview Press, 1999
Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert
Paul W. Schroeder.
Cornell University Press, 1972
The Rise and Fall of the Crimean System, 1855-71: The Story of a Peace Settlement
W. E. Mosse.
MacMillan, 1963
Why Wars Widen: A Theory of Predation and Balancing
Stacy Bergstrom Haldi.
Frank Cass, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Crimean War (1853-56)"
Coping with Complexity in the International System
Jack Snyder; Robert Jervis.
Westview Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Domestic Politics of Crisis Bargaining and the Origins of the Crimean War"
Enforced Disarmament: From the Napoleonic Campaigns to the Gulf War
Philip Towle.
Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Crimean War and The Demilitarization of the Black Sea"
The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886
K. Theodore Hoppen.
Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Crimean War and Indian Mutiny"
Naval Warfare, 1815-1914
Lawrence Sondhaus.
Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "The Crimean War (1853-56)" begins on p. 57
Imperial Russia: 1801-1905
Tim Chapman.
Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "The Eastern Question: The Crimean War" begins on p. 71
The Russian Empire, 1801-1917
Hugh Seton-Watson.
Clarendon Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "The Crimean War" begins on p. 319
Mrs. Duberly's War: Journal and Letters from the Crimea, 1854-6
Christine Kelly; Frances Isabella Duberly.
Oxford University Press, 2007
Giving Voice to the Crimean War: Tennyson's "Charge" and Maud's Battle-Song
Markovits, Stefanie.
Victorian Poetry, Vol. 47, No. 3, Fall 2009
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