Crimean War

1857 Jan 1



Orlando Figes points to the long-term damage the Russian Empire suffered: "The demilitarization of the Black Sea was a major blow to Russia, which was no longer able to protect its vulnerable southern coastal frontier against the British or any other fleet... The destruction of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol and other naval docks was a humiliation. No compulsory disarmament had ever been imposed on a great power previously... The Allies did not really think that they were dealing with a European power in Russia. They regarded Russia as a semi-Asiatic state... In Russia itself, the Crimean defeat discredited the armed services and highlighted the need to modernize the country's defences, not just in the strictly military sense, but also through the building of railways, industrialization, sound finances and so on... The image many Russians had built up of their country – the biggest, richest and most powerful in the world – had suddenly been shattered. Russia's backwardness had been exposed... The Crimean disaster had exposed the shortcomings of every institution in Russia – not just the corruption and incompetence of the military command, the technological backwardness of the army and navy, or the inadequate roads and lack of railways that accounted for the chronic problems of supply, but the poor condition and illiteracy of the serfs who made up the armed forces, the inability of the serf economy to sustain a state of war against industrial powers, and the failures of autocracy itself."

After being defeated in the Crimean War, Russia feared that Russian Alaska would be easily captured in any future war with the British; therefore, Alexander II opted to sell the territory to the United States.

Turkish historian Candan Badem wrote, "Victory in this war did not bring any significant material gain, not even a war indemnity. On the other hand, the Ottoman treasury was nearly bankrupted due to war expenses". Badem adds that the Ottomans achieved no significant territorial gains, lost the right to a navy in the Black Sea, and failed to gain status as a great power. Further, the war gave impetus to the union of the Danubian principalities and ultimately to their independence.

The Crimean War marked the re-ascendancy of France to the position of pre-eminent power on the Continent, the continued decline of the Ottoman Empire and a period of crisis for Imperial Russia. As Fuller notes, "Russia had been beaten on the Crimean peninsula, and the military feared that it would inevitably be beaten again unless steps were taken to surmount its military weakness." To compensate for its defeat in the Crimean War, the Russian Empire then embarked in more intensive expansion in Central Asia, partially to restore national pride and partially to distract Britain on the world stage, intensifying the Great Game.

The war also marked the demise of the first phase of the Concert of Europe, the balance-of-power system that had dominated Europe since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and had included France, Russia, Prussia, Austria and the United Kingdom. From 1854 to 1871, the Concert of Europe concept was weakened, leading to the crises that were the unifications of Germany and of Italy, before a resurgence of great power conferences.