The Crimean War

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The Crimean War

The Crimean War, which occurred from 1853 to 1856, was a typical conflict in many ways. Typical in that many shots were fired, men injured and lives lost. Also typical is that the underlying causes of this war are not easily adduced. The overt events which precipitated the Crimean War are easily identifiable. However, traditional alliances, diplomatic maneuvering, and imperial aspirations are much more difficult to ascertain.

In an attempt to explore the causes of the Crimean War, one must examine the state at which the European powers, namely Russia, France, Great Britain, Austria and the Ottoman Empire, were in at the turn of the 19th Century. This requires at least a cursory glance at the political, social, and diplomatic situation in the aforementioned European powers.

In the early 19th Century, after years of revolution and warfare, a common sentiment existed among the European leaders. They had become convinced that the main focus or goal of diplomacy and foreign relations was to maintain international peace and stability. The European powers agreed to cooperate in the quashing of any rebellion and they agreed to settle differences through negotiation and compromise. Due to the fact that the majority of European leaders attempted to act together toward a common end the relationship became known as the Concert of Europe.

For many years the Concert of Europe proved to be quite reliable when used as a tool to work out European differences. However, diplomacy broke down over a developing crisis in the Near East and the ensuing conflict became known as the Crimean War. Each of the participating countries had particular reasons for becoming involved in the conflict . Nonetheless, it was simple to see that for the Western powers it was an overwhelming fear of Russia.

Throughout history, Russia had been feared by many nations as European politicians had nervously watched as Russia steadily increased it's frontiers in every direction. Russia and Turkey had been involved in intermittent conflicts for over two hundred years as Russia tried to exert more control over the Balkans. Despite Russia's aggression toward Turkey the smaller European states remained convinced that they were safe from any Russian encroachment because of Russia's economic and technical backwardness. However, most nations realized that if Russian economic power increased it would be much harder to keep the giant at bay because it would have an enormous supply of resources at it's command.

After the widespread European revolutions of 1848, Russia was the only great power of Europe that had not had an overthrow or restructuring of their government. In fact, Russia had come to the aid of Austria during revolution and had also supported suppression of revolution elsewhere as in Walachia and Moldavia; territories which they occupied. This strength, or appearance of strength, however, proved to be a liability as it made European countries even more fearful of the Russian menace. Even the leaders of Great Britain feared that Russia would gain control of the Ottoman Empire and threaten their overland routes to India. The desire ...
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