Crimean War

How did Russia, a major power which had the world’s largest army, lose a war? This article is about the Crimean War and Russia's defeat against an alliance of France, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, and Piedmont-Sardinia.

Crimean War Crimean War

Create learning materials about Crimean War with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    The background to the Crimean War

    The great powers in Europe (France, Austro-Hungary, Britain, and Russia) had been carefully balanced since the 1815 Treaty of Vienna. However, the Ottoman Empire had been in decline since 1820. This provided an opportunity for other European powers to expand their influence.

    What caused the Crimean War?

    Tsar Nicholas I saw the decline of the Ottoman Empire as an opportunity to increase Russian influence in the Middle East. Nicholas called himself the Protector of Slavs and Christians and demanded the right to protect the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Sultan. The Slavonic Benevolent Committee, a pan-Slavic movement of Russian intellectuals, put pressure on the Tsar to intervene.

    Tsar Nicholas’ demands were opposed by Turkey, Britain, and France, who wanted to stop Russia from expanding.

    Sultan

    A King or sovereign, usually of a Muslim state.

    Crimean War Map

    The Crimean War Crimean War Map StudySmarterFig. 1 - Crimean War Map

    The Crimean War battles

    In June 1853, Tsar Nicholas I sent a Russian army to Moldavia and Walachia. Turkey responded by declaring war in October 1853. After Russia sank a Turkish squadron in Sinope, Britain, and France entered the war in defence of Turkey.

    In September 1854, France and Britain began a joint Crimean campaign. They sent over 60,000 troops to the Crimea, attacking the naval base of Sebastopol.

    The Russians were defeated at Balaclava in October and Inkerman in November 1854.

    Tsar Nicholas died in March 1855, passing on command to his son Alexander. By September 1855 Sebastopol had fallen. Peace negotiations began in Paris in February 1856. This resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in March 1856.

    Crimean War Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting Siege of Sevastopol StudySmarterFig. 2 - Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting Siege of Sevastopol

    Crimean War dates

    The Crimean War spanned around three years. Below are the most important dates:

    • The Battle of Sinop, November 1853.

    • The Battle of Balaclava, October 1854.

    • The Siege of Sevastopol, October 1854.

    • The Siege of Taganrog, May 1855.

    • The Congress of Paris, March 1856.

    The short term consequences of the Crimean War

    • 450,000 Russians died

    • The Treaty of Paris prevented Russian warships from using the Black Sea in peacetime - this was humiliating and limited Russia's influence in the Middle East

    • Economic disruption - the Crimean War had prevented trade and used up much of Russia’s grain and industrial capacity

    • Peasant unrest - serfs protested against conscription and against Alexander II’s delay in freeing conscripted serfs after the war had ended

    Crimean War Bradshaw and Blacklock Art The Crimean War StudySmarterFig. 3 - Bradshaw and Blacklock Art The Crimean War

    The long term consequences of the Crimean War for Russia

    The Crimean War revealed Russia's pre-existing military inadequacies. Let’s explore them in detail.

    Poor transport

    Transport across the Empire was underdeveloped. It took the Russians longer to send equipment to the front line than for France and Britain to send resources from their ports.

    Inferior technology

    Military equipment was outdated and in short supply. The Russian troops had just one musket to every two soldiers. The Russian navy still used sails, wooden ships, and even galley boats rowed by conscripted serfs. Western ships were steam-powered and had metal cladding.

    Inadequate leadership

    Military offices were given to nobles on the basis of status, not ability. While the Russian army outnumbered the French and British forces, they lacked a winning strategy.

    Military failure shocked the government and led to public discussions about the future of the Russian empire. Dmitry Milyutin, a Russian military scholar and member of the intelligentsia, argued that military reform was necessary to avoid similar failures. The Crimean War was a key factor for future reforms, most significantly the Emancipation of the Serfs.

    The Crimean War's impact elsewhere

    Not only did the Crimean War have lasting consequences for Russia, but it is also associated with key developments in wartime photography and the legacy of two nurses; Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.

    Crimean War photos

    The Crimean War became the first conflict to be systemically covered due to the work of the photographer Roger Fenton, who spent around three months taking over 300 photos of the war. His images did not display the destruction and death of the Crimean War, more the impact of war on daily life. This new development in documentation led to a deeper understanding among the general public of what war was like.

    Crimean War Crimean War Zouave 2nd Division StudySmarterFig. 4 - Crimean War Zouave 2nd Division

    The Crimean War, Florence Nightingale, and Mary Seacole

    Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, British and British-Jamaican nurses respectively, became renowned for their work supporting injured soldiers during the Crimean War. Nightingale’s work improving sanitary conditions in the hospital saved hundreds of lives and her report from Crimea led to the establishment of the Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857. Mary Seacole worked tirelessly healing the sick in the Crimean War, as well as riding into battle to treat wounded soldiers on the front line.

    The Crimean War - Key takeaways

    • The Crimean War was primarily caused by Tsar Nicholas I’s desire to expand Russian influence in the Middle East
    • Nicholas claimed he was the protector of Slavs and Orthodox Christians
    • Failure in the Crimea was damaging and surprising for Russia
    • It exposed Russia’s poor transport, technology, and military leadership
    • The Crimean War was a significant motivation for future reforms
    Frequently Asked Questions about Crimean War

    When was the Crimean War?

    The Crimean War began in October 1853, when the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. It ended in March 1856, when Russia sued for peace.

    Who won the Crimean War?

    The Crimean War was fought by Britain, France, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. Russia lost the Crimean War. France and Britain won.

    What was the main reason for the Crimean War?

    The main reason for the Crimean War in the short term was the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land. The main reason in the long term was the decline of the Ottoman Empire. This was an opportunity for Russia to increase its influence in the Middle East.

    Why did the British fight in the Crimean War?

    Britain fought in the Crimean War because they were worried about Russia’s expansion. They feared that Russian expansion in the Danube region could continue through Afghanistan into British India.

    What were the key events of the Crimean War?

    The Battle of Sinop, November 1853

    The Battle of Balaclava, October 1854

    The Siege of Sevastopol, October 1854

    The Siege of Taganrog, May 1855

    The Congress of Paris, March 1856

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What did Nicholas style himself as?

    Which power first declared war, and when?

    In September 1854, France and Britain began a joint Crimean campaign. Where did they attack?

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team History Teachers

    • 5 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner