Causes and consequences of the Crimean War

Data Date 1853 – 1856. Place Caucasus region, the Danube delta and the Crimean peninsula. Belligerents Russian Empire and Kingdom of Greece vs. Ottoman Empire, France, Great Britain and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Result Coalition victory.

What was the Crimean War?

The Crimean War was a war between 1853 and 1856 that pitted the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Greece against a coalition made up of the Ottoman Empire, France, Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Sardinia .

The war was triggered by Russian expansionism and the fear of France and Victorian Britain that the Ottoman Empire would collapse and the Russians would be left in control of the Dardanelles and direct access to the Mediterranean Sea .

In addition, the tension was heightened by the disputes between Christians and Muslims, for control of the Holy Places of Palestine and Jerusalem.

The war, which took place in the Caucasus region, the Danube delta and the Crimean peninsula, ended with the defeat of Russia, which in 1856 was forced to sign the Treaty of Paris .

Some historians consider the Crimea the first modern war because of its use of new technologies,  such as the railway, the steamboat, the telegraph, photography and a new generation of rifles.

Development of the Crimean War

The war began in 1853 with the confrontation between the Russians and the Ottomans in the Caucasus region and in the Danube delta . The Russians were superior in training and weaponry, and they defeated the Turks by sinking their fleet at the Battle of Sinope .

The Russian victories in Moldavia and Wallachia aroused the concern of the other European powers, fearful that the balance reached after the Congress of Vienna would be broken in favor of the tsars. France and Great Britain demanded that Russia withdraw troops from it and enter into peace negotiations with the Turks. Russia’s refusal to evacuate the Danubian principalities led to the entry of France and Great Britain into the war, which sent a fleet to the Black Sea.

Faced with the intention of the Austrian Empire to intervene in favor of the Turks, the Russian Tsar Nicholas I ordered the withdrawal of his armies from the Balkans in the summer of 1854. The war could have ended then, but the suspicion that the British had and French that the Russians would resume hostilities, he had them attack the Sevastopol base , where the Russian Black Sea Fleet was anchoring.

After disembarking in the Crimea, on September 14 , 1854 , the allied forces defeated the Russians in the battle of the Alma River and, in early October, began the siege of Sevastopol .

The initial hope of a quick victory was dashed by the fierce resistance of the defenders, leading to trench warfare . There the cold, hunger and disease caused tens of thousands of victims and more deaths than the fighting itself.

The Russians tried several times to break through the encirclement of Sevastopol, but were defeated at Inkerman and Chernaia. The allies, for their part, suffered heavy losses for trying to conquer the Russian redoubts.

Finally, the arrival of reinforcements and the exhaustion of the defenders allowed the French to take the stronghold of Malakoff, forcing the Russians to evacuate Sevastopol.

The fighting continued for a few more months, until Russia agreed to sign the Treaty of Paris on March 30, 1856 .

Attack of the French infantry on the Russian fortress of Malakoff, on September 8, 1855. Painting by the French artist Adholpe Yvon.

Major battles of the Crimean War

The main armed confrontations of this war were the following:

Name Date Outcome Battle of Sinope November 30, 1853 Russian victory. Siege of Petropavlovsk August 18–27, 1853 Russian victory. Storming of Bomarsund Fortress July-August 1854 Anglo-French victory. Battle of Kurekdere August 5, 1854 Russian victory. Battle of the Alma River September 20, 1854 Anglo-Franco-Ottoman victory. Battle of Balaclava or Kadikoi October 25, 1854 Uncertain outcome. Battle of Inkerman November 5, 1854 Anglo-French victory. Battle of Chernaia August 17, 1855 Franco-Sardinian victory. Battle of Malakoff September 7, 1855 French victory. Capture of Sevastopol September 9, 1855 Anglo-Franco-Ottoman victory.

Causes and consequences of the Crimean War


The main causes of the Crimean War were the following:

  • The decline of the Ottoman Empire , which the literature of the time called “the sick man of Europe.” As a result of earlier conflicts with Russia, the empire had lost the Crimean peninsula and other territories north of the Black Sea.
  • The desire of the Russian government to undermine the Ottoman authority to assume the protection of the minorities of Orthodox Christians of the European Ottoman provinces.
  • The fear of the governments of France and Great Britain that the Ottoman Empire would become a Russian vassal or that it would collapse directly, which would have upset the political balance between the European powers.
  • The desire of the Sardinian government to ingratiate itself with France and Great Britain in order to obtain their support in the process of Italian unification, which included the end of Austrian influence.


The main consequences of the Crimean War were the following:

  • The commitment assumed by Russia and the Ottoman Empire not to establish naval arsenals or fortifications on the shores of the Black Sea.
  • The withdrawal of Russia from the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which remained under Ottoman suzerainty but gained greater autonomy.
  • The underpinning of the Ottoman Empire, which did not collapse or become a vassal of the Russian Empire but remained precarious, as the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 would make clear.
  • The end of the European order that emerged from the Congress of Vienna and the preeminence of the particular interests of each of the victorious powers in the Napoleonic wars.
  • The resurgence of France as a power , after the cycle of the French revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848. This was precisely the project of Emperor Napoleon III (1852-70), who ordered military interventions in China, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Senegal and North Africa.
  • The reforms applied in Russia by the new tsar , Alexander II. Among them, the abolition of serfdom and changes in the structure, recruitment and training of the army.
  • The beginning of the decline of the Austrian Empire , which after breaking ties with Russia was left vulnerable and would be defeated by Prussia in 1866.
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