Crimean War

Conflict in the Balkans,
1853 - 1856

The Crimean War was fought between 1853 and 1856 on the peninsula of the same name on the Black Sea, in what is now Ukraine.
A religious quarrel started the conflict. In 1853 Czar Nicholas I of Russia demanded the right to protect Christian shrines in Jerusalem, then part of the Turkish empire. As a first step, his troops moved into the Turkish Balkans. The Turkish sultan, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, refused the czar's demands. Great Britain feared its route to India would be cut off if Russia took Constantinople. Napoleon III, emperor of France, was eager to show that he was the true successor to his uncle, Napoleon I. War finally began in March 1854. By August, Turkey, with the help of Britain, France, and Sardinia, had driven the Russian forces out of the Balkans.

In order to bring the war to a decisive end, the allied fleets proceeded to the Crimean peninsula. Troops landed on Sept. 16, 1854, and laid siege to the Russian fortress of Sevastopol. Severe battles were fought in the Crimea at the Alma River, at Balaklava (immortalized in Tennyson's poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'), and at Inkerman. During the siege of Sevastopol' disease took a dreadful toll of French and British troops. Florence Nightingale's heroic work as head of the hospital service did much to improve conditions. Not until September 1855 was the smoking ruin of Sevastopol in allied hands.

In 1856 the powers signed a treaty at Paris. The new Czar, Alexander II, withdrew all claims to Balkan territory and the Black Sea was declared neutral. Turkey was admitted to the family of European powers, the sultan promising to treat his Christian subjects according to the public law of Europe. At the peace conference the powers also agreed to the Declaration of Paris, abolishing privateering on the sea and allowing trade in neutral goods in time of war. Hostilities were over for the present, but the Balkan problem was not settled.

The sultan soon proved unwilling to treat the Christians as he had promised, and Russia took the first opportunity of resuming its advance to the south. Not until after World War II would the Balkan region become fairly stable, being subjugated by the USSR

The European powers entered the war because they were concerned for their own trade if the Ottoman Empire were defeated or dismembered. Rivalries between France, an established ally of the Ottomans, and Russia finally provided the spark that led to war. British and French troops bore the brunt of fighting and the allies were ultimately victorious. The war broke Russian dominance in south-eastern Europe.

Timeline key events in the Crimean War include:

1851-53 France challenged Russia's position as custodian of Christian holy places within the Ottoman Empire; it sought special considerations for Latin Christian churches from the Ottoman Turks; these were granted (1852) and the Russians, who favoured Greek Orthodox Christians, were roused to action.

1853 Russian Tsar Nicholas I delivered an ultimatum to the Turkish government in May. The Russian demands were refused and in July its forces occupied Moldavia and Walachia (now part of Rumania).

1853 The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia (Oct. 23).

1854 France and Britain declared war on Russia during March.

1854 Russia withdrew from Moldavia and Walachia under pressure from Austria; the Austrian army moved into the region in August.

1854 British and French forces landed on the Crimean Peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea and were victorious in the Battle of Alma River on Sept. 20. Soon after this the Russian forces withdrew to Sevastopol.

1854 During October the Allied forces began siege of Sevastopol, key Russian position on Black Sea.

1854 On October 25th at the Battle of Balaklava the Russians failed to break siege of Sevastopol but inflicted heavy casualties on the British; this battle inspired Tennyson's famous poem Charge of the Light Brigade.

1854 On November 5th the Russians were defeated at the Battle of Inkerman but the siege of Sevastopol continued.

1854-55 The military action halted during the winter. The severe conditions suffered by the war casualties led to Florence Nightingale's celebrated nursing efforts.

1855 During January Sardinia declared war against Russia.

1855 Nicholas died in March and Alexander II became Russian Czar. He made moves to negotiate an end to the war.

1855 On August 16th the Russian forces marching to relieve Sevastopol were defeated at Battle of Chernaya River.

1855 On September 8th the Allied forces besieging Sevastopol captured Malakhov fortress, By September 11th the Russians were forced to evacuate Sevastopol.

1856 The Treaty of Paris was signed on March 30th, formally ending hostilities.

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