Crimean War

Baltic theatre
The Åland Islands during the Crimean War. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1854 Apr 1

Baltic theatre

Baltic Sea

The Baltic was a forgotten theatre of the Crimean War. Popularisation of events elsewhere overshadowed the significance of this theatre, which was close to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital. In April 1854, an Anglo-French fleet entered the Baltic to attack the Russian naval base of Kronstadt and the Russian fleet that was stationed there. In August 1854, the combined British and French fleet returned to Kronstadt for another attempt. The outnumbered Russian Baltic Fleet confined its movements to the areas around its fortifications. At the same time, the British and French commanders Sir Charles Napier and Alexandre Ferdinand Parseval-Deschenes although they led the largest fleet assembled since the Napoleonic Wars, considered the Sveaborg fortress too well-defended to engage. Thus, shelling of the Russian batteries was limited to two attempts in 1854 and 1855, and initially, the attacking fleets limited their actions to blockading Russian trade in the Gulf of Finland. Naval attacks on other ports, such as the ones in the island of Hogland in the Gulf of Finland, proved more successful. Additionally, allies conducted raids on less fortified sections of the Finnish coast. These battles are known in Finland as the Åland War.

The burning of tar warehouses and ships led to international criticism, and in London the MP Thomas Gibson demanded in the House of Commons that the First Lord of the Admiralty explain "a system which carried on a great war by plundering and destroying the property of defenceless villagers". In fact, the operations in the Baltic sea were in the nature of binding forces. It was very important to divert Russian forces from the South or, more precisely, not to allow Nicholas to transfer to the Crimea a huge army guarding the Baltic coast and the capital. This goal Anglo-French forces have achieved. The Russian Army in Crimea was forced to act without superiority in forces.

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