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.


The War

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 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The following month, though the immediate cause of war was withdrawn, allied troops landed in the Crimea and besieged the city of Sevastopol, home of the tsar's Black Sea fleet and a threat of future Russian penetration into the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. During the war the Russians lost four 110- or 120-gun 3-deckers, twelve 84-gun 2-deckers and four 60-gun frigates in the Black Sea, plus a large number of smaller vessels. Admiral Nakhimov was mortally wounded in the head by a sniper shot, and died on 30 June 1855. The city was captured in September 1855.

Final phase and the peace

Missing image
Ottoman losses (in red)

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 Crimean War caused a mass exodus of Crimean Tatars towards the Ottoman lands, resulting in massive depopulation in the peninsula. Crimean Tatars became a minority in their homeland.

Characteristics of the war

The war became infamously known for military and logistical incompetence, epitomised by the Charge of the Light Brigade which was 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. The scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers in the desperate winter that followed was reported by war correspondents for newspapers, prompting the work of Florence Nightingale and introducing modern nursing methods. The Crimean War also introduced the first tactical use of railways.

The Crimean War occasioned the introduction of hand rolled "paper cigars" — cigarettes — to 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.

Major events of the war

  • It was the first war where the electric telegraph started to have a significant effect, with the first 'live' war reporting to The Times by William Howard Russell, 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 came into prominence during the Crimean War for her contributions in the field of nursing during the war.

Prominent Military Commanders

Related Topics


  • Baumgart, Winfried (2000). The Crimean War, 1853-1856, Arnold Publishers. ISBN 034061465X
  • Pottinger Saab, Anne (1977). The Origins of the Crimean Alliance, University of Virginia Press. ISBN 0813906997
  • Rich, Norman (1985). Why the Crimean War: A Cautionary Tale, McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070522553
  • Royle, Trevor (2000). Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403964165
  • Schroeder, Paul W. (1972). Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert, Cornell University Press.ISBN 0801407427

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