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In the middle of the 19th century, Russia entered the war with a powerful coalition of countries represented by France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia. The fighting unfolded from the Danube to the Barents Sea, from the Black Sea to Kamchatka.
But the greatest tension was in the Crimea. That is why that war is known as the Crimean one. Conflict erupted over disagreements between Russia and France over control of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Wanting to put pressure on Turkey, Emperor Nicholas I ordered the occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia. As a result, the Ottoman Empire, and then Great Britain and France, declared war on Russia. In the Crimea, a landing was landed, as a result of a year-long siege, the Allies captured Sevastopol, the main base of the Black Sea Fleet.
The conflict ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty in 1856, which was very humiliating for Russia. If the West exaggerated the significance of the victory, Russian scientists scolded the "rotten" tsarism.
Was the war really the result of an ill-conceived policy, and the result was predetermined by Russia's backwardness? We will consider the most popular misconceptions about that conflict.
The Crimean War was fought in the Crimea. Back in October 1853, clashes with the Turks began on the Danube. Then hostilities began in the Caucasus. The battle of Sinop, in which Nakhimov's squadron destroyed the Turkish fleet, was the reason for England and France to enter the war. In April 1854, the Allies bombed Odessa. And only in June 1854 the invasion of Crimea began, followed by the siege of Sevastopol. In May 1855, the allies attacked Genichesk, Taganrog and Mariupol, trying to land a landing there. Clashes with the British took place in the Baltic and the White Sea. An attempt to land a landing near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was unsuccessful for the allies. As you can see, the hostilities were conducted along a wide front.
The war began because of the desire of the Russian emperor to divide the Ottoman Empire. In 1853, Nikolai deliberately strained relations with a weakened Turkey. In the distant plans of the king was the capture of the Black Sea straits, and even the annexation of the European part of Turkey. It is believed that this is what the emperor announced to the British ambassador. However, historians refute this version. Nikolai, on the contrary, wanted to protect the integrity of Turkey and its control over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The British were only required to guarantee the status quo. Instead, Russia agreed to give Crete and Egypt under British control. The myth of the tsar's aggressiveness was invented by the British, but Nikolai himself said that since the 1830s he did not plan to annex Turkish lands to Russia. The conquest of them would not give any benefit to the country. Later Western historians cite more realistic reasons for that war. With its help, England and France wanted to weaken Russia's influence on Europe.
Russia would have easily defeated Turkey, but was forced to yield to a powerful alliance. According to this myth, the Turks were a second-rate country that could have been easily defeated. But such a delusion appeared only because in the 19th century all the largest military conflicts in the region were fought by Russia, which won them. However, a detailed study of those wars does not show Turkey's weakness. The loss ratio for the Russian army was worse than in the war of 1812. At the same time, it would never occur to anyone to call Napoleon's army second-rate. In the European theater, victories over the Turks could not be won, and in the Transcaucasus the enemy showed his strength. The two largest victories of the Russian army cost it 15 and 17 percent of the personnel. She lost the same amount as a result of the defeat at the Battle of Alma.
Backward Russia could not withstand the modern armies of England and France. Do not idealize Europeans so much. The British were regularly defeated by a wide variety of opponents, including even the Africans with their spears. If during the entire Crimean War the losses of the British amounted to 2,755 people, then during the battle with the Zulus in 1879 alone, the losses amounted to 1,300 people. But the weapons of the Europeans have evolved greatly over 25 years. And the French weren't that invincible either. In 1862, their army, led by the hero of the Crimean War, yielded to half-dressed and weakly armed Mexicans, of whom there were even fewer.
The Allies won thanks to their superior weapons. There is a popular myth that the coalition was armed with modern rifled guns and fittings. The Russian army continued to use outdated smooth-bore guns. Allied rifles could fire several shots per minute and hit targets at a distance of 1200 meters, while Russian samples could only shoot once per minute at a distance of 300 steps. The fittings actually surpassed the guns only after the invention of the Minier bullet. Its diameter was smaller than that of the barrel. This made it possible to drive a bullet without a hammer. But the Russian army conducted experiments with them even before the war, having samples of imported fittings. Their number could be increased with the help of the tasks assigned to the arms factories. But this became relevant already during the Crimean War. During this time, factories produced 136 thousand of these guns in addition to 20 thousand already available, mostly imported. In theory, it was possible to arm all the infantry with modern fittings, but this was not included in the plans of the military ministries. And rifled small arms cannot be considered so advanced. The technology was known back in the 15th century. But then each shot took a minute, since the bullets had to be hammered into the barrel with a hammer. A smooth-bore weapon could fire four times per minute, which determined its popularity. Even after a series of explosions, the allies did not use the rifled cannons. During the Crimean campaign, only a third of the French and three quarters of the British had modern fittings. It turned out that "backward" Russia during the war was able to give its army more new rifles than France and England. The Tula plant was the most powerful in Eurasia, the first in the world to introduce interchangeability. The machines were started by steam engines, which the British did not have at that time. Yes, and the thesis about the firing range of 1200 meters of allied rifles arose from a confusion of concepts. People confuse "bullet range" and "sighting range". The second concept had not yet been introduced in those years. There is no special sense in such a range; further than a third of this indicator, it was possible to hit the target only by accident. In total, near Sevastopol, the allies used up 28 million bullets, managing to kill and injure 85 thousand people with them. Part of the losses can be attributed to the fired 1.35 million shells. But in the end it turns out that each hit required hundreds of shots. The Russian infantry fired 16.5 million bullets with comparable efficiency. So there is no need to talk about the superiority of weapons.
The Allied fleet had many steamers, because of which the Black Sea Fleet had to be flooded. During the fighting, a minority of the Allied fleet was steam. But do not consider such ships to be powerful weapons. Primitive engines required large volumes of coal and water, which impaired the capabilities of weapons. The single tube was as vulnerable as the sails. An illustrative example is the Russian frigate Flora, which managed to fight off three Turkish ships. A decade earlier, Mexican sailboats had shown the weakness of the new weapon. The sinking of the sailing fleet was not the result of fear of battle, but a simple maneuver. After the defeat at Alma, Sevastopol lost the cover of the army. Sailors and guns were urgently launched ashore from the ships. But without them the fleet lost its meaning. Admiral Nakhimov ordered to get rid of the sailboats by flooding them. As a harbor barrier, the dead ships were bad - storms moved them from their place. The ships could have been used to make ryazh, but the Allies quickly abandoned the shelling of the city from the sea. Since the time of Alexander I, a civil shipping company has been actively developing in Russia. By 1856, more than 300 vessels of this type were sailing along the rivers. But Minister Alexander Menshikov was rather careful about the budget. The official treated the introduction of the steam engine in the fleet with restraint, which is why the Black Sea Fleet did not receive the desired steam battleships. It must be said that after Menshikov left the capital for the Crimea in the Baltic, 81 warships were built in 1855 alone.
The defeat was the result of incompetent command. The French spoke of the Russian army: "Lion-headed soldiers, donkey-headed officers, and headless generals." According to this opinion, the heroism of the soldiers was multiplied by zero because of the stupid leadership. Indeed, many decisions of the command are puzzling. For example, for the battle on Alma Menshikov did not use all the forces in the Crimea. And even then half of his army stood, and did not take part in the battle. It is not clear why the command did not foresee the possibility of landing and did not strengthen Sevastopol. Even conventional naval reconnaissance was essentially not carried out. But this theory is not so straightforward. Outstanding military specialists, generals Liders, Dibich, Muravyov, Zavoiko, served in the Russian army. In that war, all successful battles for Russia took place outside its European part. There was even an opinion that the further the commander was from the top leadership, the more chances he had to prove himself. If the enemy landing near Yevpatoria came as a surprise for the Black Sea Fleet, the commander of the Kamchatka garrison, Admiral Zavoiko, was able to learn from the King of Hawaii in advance about the impending attack. Thanks to this, during the landing, the Allies lost 270 of their 2,600 men, while the Russians only 37. The British did not help their rifled weapons either. The defenders were able to demolish the landing with a bayonet attack. It was said in St. Petersburg that it was Menshikov who destroyed the Baltic Fleet with his command. And what is good about the Black Sea happened despite his actions. Kamchatka had a clear advantage in the form of the ability to act relatively independently.
General Zavoiko defeated a British squadron in Castries Bay. The patriotic myth says that the Russian admiral was able to defeat the British squadron, which was four times larger than him. In fact, the two ships of Zavoiko were opposed by three Allied warships. The commander decided to take the fight, while the enemy dodged, waiting for reinforcements. Zavoiko wisely left in the fog by the Tatar Strait at the mouth of the Amur. So there was no brilliant victory, not even the battle itself.
The allies did not pursue Zavoiko, mistakenly considering Sakhalin a peninsula and the strait as a bay. Back in the 1830s, Belinsky called Bulgarin an ignoramus for his views on the peninsular nature of Sakhalin. In 10 years the British admirals hardly knew the geography of this region worse than the Russian writer.
As a result of the war, Russia was forced to sign the "bonded" Paris Peace. It is believed that the peace treaty became humiliating for Russia, moreover, it contained some secret points. And this myth was supported even by very serious historians. The trade tariff introduced by the British in 1857 for Russia was intended to undermine the country's economy, as happened in its time with China. After its introduction, a third of jobs disappeared, and the rapidly growing industry under Nicholas went to zero. The economic blow looks serious, but there were no secret articles in the treaty. The circumstances of the signing of the agreement were detailed by the historian Tarle. And for the British, the war was not an easy walk, but an expensive campaign, the result of which was the capture of a small town. The sharp breakdown of economic policy took place for other reasons. Nikolai himself was not very much interested in studies, the ideas of free trade passed his attention. In economics, the emperor was content with intuition, which is why he adhered to a policy of protectionism. Alexander II, who replaced him, received a good education. As a result, the new emperor managed to reduce duties, and to give state-owned factories, railways and banks to private hands.
In the Crimean War, Russia suffered a humiliating defeat. Direct combat losses of Russia amounted to 41 thousand people. The French and the British lost 35 thousand killed, the data on the Turks and Italians are unknown. It seems strange that such a ratio, and even given the "backwardness" of Russia, is considered humiliating. And during the war, there was not even a tenth of the total strength of the Russian army in Crimea. It was difficult for the limited forces to resist the armies of the two leading powers. Given the close command, one would expect a complete defeat. But thanks to the morale of the Russian army, the outcome of the war was somewhat strange. It is worth noting that the command made serious mistakes among the allies. So, the main losses fell on the assault on Sevastopol. But the usual blockade could force the defenders to surrender without a fight. And in the West, the results of the war were disappointing. Even the well-known Russophobe Austrian minister Metternich wrote that Sevastopol was not worth the price paid for it. British Empire Treasury Secretary Gladstone noted that the success was heavily paid for with the blood of the French and British. The Turks received twenty years of rest, but they could not use this time for transformations. Territorially, Russia lost only a section of Southern Bessarabia. At the time of the conclusion of peace in the Caucasus, the important fortress of Kars was taken, even an English general was captured. The captured Kara region was 15 times larger than the lands seized in Crimea. Some English textbooks even say that Britain was defeated. On all fronts, except for the Crimea, success was on the side of Russia.
The battle for Sevastopol was his siege. It would be a mistake to consider such a struggle a siege, since no encirclement took place. From the north side of the city, ammunition, weapons and troops were transported across the bridge to the battlefield. It was not easy, but it is difficult to consider military actions. Bad roads, supplying the army, and the hostility of the Tatars became a problem. And because of the difficult geopolitical situation, the Russian army was mainly located along the western border. But this is not at all the merit of the allies. In fact, a positional war was fought near Sevastopol. It's just that this term appeared later.
The main heroes of the defense of Sevastopol are sailors. This statement is not entirely true. Most of the sailors died in the first months of the city's defense. Further, it was mainly army units that fought for him. A similar myth developed in 1941, when the Siberians "saved" Moscow. And the army fought for Sevastopol no less enthusiastically, which is confirmed by the diaries of the allies. So the contribution of ordinary soldiers cannot be belittled. The attack on Fedyukhin Heights demonstrated the spirit of the army, although this action turned out to be useless. Often, the lagging soldiers even refused to stay in the rear, moving to the front to join their dying comrades.
Arabs fought for the British as part of the Zouaves. Initially, the Zouaves were indeed composed of Arabs. But by the time of the Crimean War, only the outer surroundings remained - temperament and an exotic form. These units were considered the bravest; real thugs served in them. But the soldiers were no longer Arabs, but the Parisian poor, and adventurers from different countries of Europe.
The Russian army was opposed by a professional English one.The Russian army can be considered no less professional than the English. The soldier served 25 years, during which time he perfectly comprehended his craft. The British had no less problems with the training of soldiers and the adequacy of the command than the Russians. The attack of light cavalry in the Battle of Balaklava was a murderous decision by the British. The same Caucasian corps demonstrated excellent training, defeating the Turks in Asia and capturing Kars.