In my recent post about Crimea, and the potential for it to breakaway from Ukraine/become the target of another Russian
invasion protective intervention, I made an omission:
Yes, I neglected to let you know that the Crimean War was, in fact, fought mostly in Crimea, which is the kind of insight you only get from the Great News-papers. “and that’s the way it was” regrets the error. We are undertaking a thorough internal review to determine the cause of the error, and so far we’re looking at “because the Crimean War didn’t actually have that much to do with Crimea aside from much of the fighting happening to take place there.” By the time the Crimean War started in 1853, the peninsula had been part of the Russian Empire for 70 years; nobody was disputing Russian control over Crimea and the 1856 Treaty of Paris didn’t do anything to alter Crimea’s status. The war was fought over Russian expansionism in the Black Sea region, the Ottoman weakness that was allowing it, and the British and French desire to prop the walking dead Ottoman Empire up as a check on the Russians. It happened that a lot of the fighting took place in Crimea because Russia’s Black Sea fleet was based there, and that fleet was a direct threat to the Ottomans and, so the British and French believed, to the Mediterranean should Russia ever gain control of Istanbul.
The Crimean War is a fascinating historical event and had long-term implications that were a lot greater than most people probably realize. If I somehow continue the Islamic History Series that long, I’ll write about it in more detail. Historians often thing of the American Civil War as the first “modern” war in terms of the importance of communications, industrial capacity, etc., and I think that’s a far characterization, but things like railroads, telegraphs, trenches, new artillery tactics, and rifled weapons first became important tools of war in Crimea, a few years before the ACW started. Florence Nightingale and several other British nurses effectively invented modern nursing in British field hospitals during the war, and Russian doctors developed tools like triage, anesthetics, and improved amputation procedures.
France, where Napoleon III still had that “new emperor” smell, was probably the only belligerent who came out of the war in better shape than it had been going in, though it wasn’t that the war boosted France so much as it really damaged France’s only rival for supremacy on the Continent, Russia. In 1870 Napoleon, by then considerably older and worse-smelling, would pointlessly fritter away whatever boost France got from Crimea by going to war against a genuine rising power in Prussia. France’s post-war ascendency, coupled with Russia’s decline, upset the Vienna system that was keeping the peace on the continent, which helped create the climate that would lead to World War I. Russia entered a steep decline that wouldn’t be arrested until 1917, and the Austrian Empire, which actually remained neutral during the war and thereby left itself completely isolated in European politics, entered a similar decline phase that wouldn’t be arrested until there was no Austrian Empire anymore. Ottoman subjects in the Balkans, who were cheering the Russians on in the early days of the war, continued after the war to agitate for national self-determination and didn’t stop until they got it. Geo-politically, then, the war accomplished nothing positive for any of the great powers who were involved in it (except arguably the French, briefly), but on the other hand it did pointlessly kill a lot of people and set Europe on course for the two most destructive wars in human history outside of the Taiping and An Lushan Rebellions in China and anything involving the Mongols. You have to take the good with the bad.
So there was a lot of stuff going on in the Crimean War, but very little of it had to do with Crimea itself. The people living there were lucky enough to bear a significant portion of the fighting anyway.