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Crimean War

The Crimean War lasted from 28 March 1854 to 1856. It was fought between Russia and an alliance of the United Kingdom, France, and the Ottoman Empire, joined somewhat tardily by Piedmont-Sardinia. The majority of the conflict took place on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea.


Beginning of the war

After a dispute with the Ottoman Empire over the guardianship of several holy towns in Palestine and the protection of Orthodox Christians, Russia invaded Moldavia and Wallachia, both semi-autonomous vassals of the Ottoman Empire, resulting in a declaration of war by the Ottomans in late 1853. The Russians, under the command of Admiral Nakhimov, the hero of the Battle of Navarino, sank part of the Ottoman fleet at Sinop, Turkey on 30 November. The Ottomans were joined by Britain and France on 28 March 1854, and by Piedmont-Sardinia (though her participation was merely token) in January 1855. Austria also threatened to enter the war on the Ottoman side, causing the Russians to withdraw from the occupied areas, which were immediately occupied by the Austrians, in August 1854.

Siege of Sevastopol

The following month, though the immediate cause of war was withdrawn, allied troops landed in the Crimea and besieged the city of Sevastopol, home of the tsar's Black Sea fleet and a threat of future Russian penetration into the Mediterranean. The Russians had to scuttle their ships and used the naval cannons as additional artillery, and the ships' crews as marines. Admiral Nakhimov was mortally wounded in the head by a sniper shot, and died on 30 June 1855. The city was finally captured in September 1855.

Final phase and the peace

In the same year, the Russians occupied the Turkish city of Kars.

After the occupation of Sevastopol and the accession of Alexander II peace negotiations began. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris (1856).


The war became infamously known for military and logistical incompetence, epitomised by the Charge of the Light Brigade immortalised in Tennyson's poem. Cholera undercut French preparations for the siege of Sevastopol, and a violent storm on the night of 14 November 1854 wrecked nearly thirty vessels with their precious cargoes of medical supplies, food, clothing and other necessaries. In the desperate winter that followed, scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers, which was covered by war correspondents for newspapers, prompted the work of Florence Nightingale, introducing modern nursing methods. The Crimean War introduced the first tactical use of railways.

The Crimean War also occasioned the invention of hand rolled "paper cigars" — cigarettes — by French and British troops, who copied their Turkish comrades in using old newspaper for rolling when their cigar-leaf rolling tobacco ran out or dried and crumbled.


  • It was the first war where the electric telegraph started to have a significant effect; the first 'live' war reporting to The Times, and British generals' reduced independence of action from London due to such rapid communications. Newspaper readership informed public opinion in Britain and France as never before.
  • Florence Nightingale

Military commanders

Obscure cross-links

  • Beryl Bainbridge's novel Master Georgie is set in the Crimean War.
  • Stephen Baxter's novel Anti-Ice starts with the siege of Sebastopol, which is shortened dramatically by a new Anti-Ice weapon. The book asks the question - what if nuclear weapons had existed in Victorian times?
  • Roger Fenton, Crimean War photographer

External links

  • Crimean War Research Society.
  • Immediate causes of the War detailed in context.

Further Reading

  • Winfried Baumgart. The Crimean War 1853-1856 (2000)
  • Norman Rich. Why the Crimean War: A Cautionary Tale (1985)
  • Trevor Royle. Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856 (2000)
  • Anne Pottinger Saab. The Origins of the Crimean Alliance (1977)
  • Paul W. Schroeder. Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert (1972)

Last updated: 02-05-2005 01:07:09
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38