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The Crimean War

The History and Legacy of the Conflict That Modernized Warfare and Weakened Tsarist Russia
Narrated by: Colin Fluxman
Length: 2 hrs and 17 mins
Categories: History, European
4 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Some have called the Crimean War history’s most unnecessary war, and while it is misunderstood, often overlooked, and sometimes ignored, it also involved many of the 19th century’s major powers, namely Russia, Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria, as well as men from lands these powers would call their empires. It was a war bridging the old with the new, mixing Napoleonic fighting styles and modern weapons, old world diplomacy and modern communications, and the traditional rules of war and modern death tolls. The conflict is proclaimed either as the last war of one era or the first of another, with deaths numbering over 775,000, the breaking and strengthening of traditional alliances, and setting precedents for conflicts to come. As historian A.J.P. Taylor put it, “In some sense the Crimean war was predestined and had deep-seated causes. Neither Nicholas nor [Napoleon III] nor the British government could retreat in the conflict for prestige once it was launched. Nicholas needed a subservient Turkey for the sake of Russian security; Napoleon needed success for the sake of his domestic position; the British government needed an independent Turkey for the security of the Eastern Mediterranean...Mutual fear, not mutual aggression, caused the Crimean War.”

It was certainly a harbinger of the kind of European war that would occur when various alliances came into conflict with each other. The Crimean War was particularly interesting due to the giant political standoff that preceded it, the geopolitical changes at work, and the balance of power at the time. On a broader geopolitical scope, the fact that France and Britain sided with the Ottomans against Russia highlighted concerns over the growing threat represented by Russian ambitions in the Black Sea. Russia’s reaction to the crisis was also a sign of the importance of this area, a key to Moscow’s ability to project its power outside of its natural area of influence. The recent war in Ukraine and Russian intervention in Syria, which began by the sending of ships from Sebastopol to Tartus, may also be a good reminder of the strategic value of this region. 

The actual trigger to the crisis - though the war had much deeper roots - was also significant, underscoring growing rivalries over the holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the emergence of religious tensions there. Tensions between France and Russia indeed increased years before the war after a series of incidents surrounding the Christian holy sites in Palestine. Local disputes between the Roman Christians and Orthodox worshipers often broke out in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the Ottomans even had to place soldiers in front of the site during the holidays.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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