The Crimean War: Unpacking history’s most poorly planned conflict
What had five countries, one sea, and took the lives of millions of people who shouldn’t even have been involved? The Crimean War, of course. This unique and muddled conflict was one of the most deadly wars in history, and in some respects, it probably shouldn’t have happened. Many consider the Crimean War a useless conflict that gave way to a plethora of senseless tragedies. Others argue that, without the war, Russia would have run rampant across Western Europe and stolen a boatload of land. Can you make sense of the purpose of the Crimean War?
Where the garbage fire began
The roots of the Crimean War can all be traced back to one country: Russia. So, how did Russia get tied up in a conflict involving countries that they hadn’t even threatened…and directly involved one of the most powerful empires in history? There were plenty of reasons that Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the two original enemies, started into a conflict. One of the main reasons was that the Russian leader, Nicholas I, lost out on the role of the protector and overseer of the Ottoman Empire’s Orthodox Christian population to Napoleon III of France in 1853. Nicholas, who was obviously a little possessive, got super pissed that they took the role away from him. In the same year, Russian armies charged into the Ottoman Empire’s land near what is modern-day Romania with the eager goal of protecting the Orthodox population there. The armies may not have realized that, instead of protecting anyone, they were going to cause a crapton of deaths across Europe.
The ultimate ‘I don’t even go here’
When Russia invaded the lands belonging to the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdulmejid I had no other choice than to declare war. Unfortunately, in his efforts to drive out Russia, he ended up causing far more panic than progress. Other European countries began to get paranoid that Russia would want to invade their space, too. Many tried to take preventative measures to ensure that Russia wouldn’t expand their communist influence to countries to the West of the Middle East. They dove headfirst into a conflict that had next to nothing to do with them simply to satisfy the prevention of theoretical situations. Yipee. Many central political powers in Western Europe got involved, including the governments and militaries of Britain, France, and Austria. While they thought they were accomplishing something by chucking themselves into the conflict, everyone involved was brewing a recipe for disaster…and hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost in the process.
In the first battle of the war, Russia came out victorious, taking down Turkish ships belonging to the Ottoman Empire near Sinope on the Black Sea. After this event, in 1854, Britain and France felt a compulsion to show their loyalty to their land and the Turkish by sailing through the Black Sea to go help out their ally, the Ottoman Empire. To be fair, they told Russia to screw off first…and when they didn’t, both countries eagerly announced war against the Russians occupying the Ottoman Empire. Russia was holding their own in the Danubian Principalities of the empire, yet, to please everyone, they decided to withdraw their troops and let Austria, an old ally, occupy the Ottoman Empire instead. You think that’d be the end of it, right? Well, once you declare war, you can’t exactly go back. Instead of letting the conflict die, the Turks, French, and Brits all followed the Russians across the pond to Crimea. What could possibly go wrong?
Where the pointless war led
When the European Troops sailed across the Black Sea and got to Crimea, they dedicated an entire year to overthrowing a singular fortress: Sevastopol. All the while, they fought a handful of reckless battles throughout land and sea, tossing victories back and forth from side to side. In late 1855, the French got a leg-up over Russia, and they were kicking their butts at one of Russia’s defensive points. The three-day conflict was so bad that Russia actually destroyed a ton of their own stuff, including forts and ships, that could possibly trace the Ottoman’s allies back to them. To make matters worse, Austria wanted in on the drama, and they continually teased each side about turning up as their ally. Oh, and a crapton of people were dying. So there’s that. If you think poor planning went into this war, you’re not wrong. 250,000 casualties were reported during the war, and they weren’t all to bombs, gunfire, and fistfights. Everything from disease to malnutrition to crummy medical care took down soldiers from Britain, France, Russia, and Turkey. After a fruitless war on every side, Russia was finally exhausted of battle and of Austria’s threat to team up with the allies to take Russia down. They signed a peace treaty in 1856, officially ending what could be considered one of the most uselessly tragic wars in history.
Although the war was over, no one forgot about the ridiculous number of preventable deaths that occurred during the conflict. The atrocious conditions that the soldiers were living in quickly became public knowledge. As a result, people like nurses Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale began to revolutionize battlefield medicine so that such extreme medical negligence wouldn’t occur again. I guess those millions of deaths weren’t for nothing! To add icing to the cake, that peace treaty definitely didn’t stop Russia from being pissed at the rest of Europe. In fact, it only stimulated the need for a stronger leader to make the Russians better competitors for the next round of conflict, be it economic, political, or physical. Ultimately, the Crimean War was a conflict full of senseless tragedy, obscure allies, destructive theoreticals, and utter chaos when it came to protecting one’s own people.