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Eastern Question- Part III

Eastern Question- Part III

Motives of the different Powers in Crimean War

  • England:
    • England took part in Crimean War because she feared that an aggressive Russia expanding into regions too near the route to lndia would be a serious menace to British interests in the East.
    • It was a cardinal principle of British policy to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire as a barrier to Russia.
  • France:
    • As explained before, the French Emperor Napoleon III was influenced by a variety of motives to turn his arms against Russia.
    • A war with Russia in support of the Latin monks would please the French clericals whose support he considered valuable.
    • It would by avenging the humiliation of Moscow, gratify the French national pride and win for France glory and for himself popularity. This would stabilise his somewhat shaky throne.
  • Sardinia-Piedmont:
    • Sardinia Piedmont joined the allies in the hope of securing the good will and active support of an influential Power for realising the nationalistic ambitions of Cavour.
  • Austria:
    • Although Austria did not take part in the war, her attitude was one of hostile neutrality.
    • She was alarmed at the Russian occupation of Wallachia and Moldavia as it interfered with the freedom of the navigation of the Danube, upon which depended the bulk of her commercial traffic.
    • Hence she joined the allies in putting all sorts of diplomatic pressure upon Russia demanding the evacuation of the Principalities.
    • When Russia complied with the demand, Austria herself occupied the Principalities and thereby prevented Russian armies from advancing on Constantinople.
    • It was Austrian ultimatum which forced the Russians, after the fall of Sebastopol, to cry for peace.
    • Thus Austria’s hostile neutrality was an important factor which contribute to Russian defeat.
    • It should, be noted that Nicholas had counted upon Austrian support in return for the services he had rendered to Austria in suppressing the Hungarian revolt in 1849. But to his great disappointment, he found that political consideration outweighed Austria’s gratitude. In future Austria had to pay dear for her selfish conduct.

Results of Crimean War

  • Russia was checked:
    • The Peace of Paris which closed the Crimean War checked Russian schemes upon Turkey for a time.
    • Russia had to abandon all claims to a protectorate over the Orthodox Christian subjects of Turkey. She was kept back from the Danube by the cession of Bessarabia to Moldavia and from the Black Sea which was neutralised.
    • Moreover, the creation of two autonomous states (Wallachia and Moldavia) placed a barrier between Russia and Turkey and thus for a time prevented the former from pursuing a policy of aggrandizement.
  • Turkey was temporarily saved:
    • In a sense Turkey was the greatest gainer by the Crimean War.
    • She obtained a new lease of life under the joint protection of the Powers, her territorial integrity was guaranteed and she was admitted as a member of the Concert of Europe from which she had been previously excluded.
    • She thus got a fine chance to set her house in order and to develop into a respectable power.
  • It is said that due to this war, the Balkan states were able to achieve their independence later on.
  • Looked at from these points of view the Peace of Paris may be regarded as offering a satisfactory solution of the Eastern Question. Russia was checked and the “sick man” was set on his legs again.

Crimean war was useless war

  • Robert Morier had said: “The Crimean War was the only perfectly useless war that has been waged.” Many consider it useless war which was unnecessary, largely futile and extravagant.
    • The war started with silly reasons of quarrel over the control over the religious places.
    • After the war there was an uneasy feeling that the results obtained were not commensurate with the heavy sacrifices involved, and whatever little was accomplished was not likely to endure long. Future events justified this premonition and confirmed the view that the Crimean War was the most senseless war of the nineteenth century.
    • The Crimean War did not solve the Eastern Question permanently.
      • The war was followed by the Treaty of Paris whose provisions could not remain permanent.
    • The Sultan of Turkey never carried out the reform in the condition of the Christian population living in Ottoman Empire, which he had promised in Paris after war.
      • The hopes entertained of Turkey reforming herself proved deceptive, and integrity of Turkey which was sought to be bolstered up became a diplomatic fiction.
    • The main aim of the war was to weaken Russia and check its expansions.
      • But Russian expansion checked in Europe got transferred in the Central Asia and Britain realised that Russian danger only got transfer from Europe to Asia threatening British position in India.
    • Just fourteen years later, Russia threw to the winds the provision of the Treaty of Paris concerning the neutrality of the Black Sea and in 1878, completely wiped away the Crimean humiliation by recovering Bessarabia.
    • The cost of war was enormous without any enduring result. In war, 25,000 British and 100,000 French died. Russia suffered heavily from the war. She lost half a million men and her resources were drained.

But the Crimean war was rich with unintended consequences

  • The importance of the Crimean War should be measured not by its immediate tangible results but by the most important political developments to which it was a prelude. Many consider Crimean War as the watershed of European History.
  • It disturbed the states system established by the Congress of Vienna and let loose forces which secured the triumph of liberalism and nationalism in Europe.
  • It swept aside Metternich’s policy of status quo. Its first fruit was the unification of Italy.
  • Crimean war helped in Italian and German unification:
    • Out of the mud of the Crimea a new Italy was made and, less obviously, a new Germany:
    • Italian unification:
      • Piedmontese-Sardinian PM and diplomat Cavour believed that unification of Italy could be achieved only by foreign assistance.
        • Hence while developing Piedmontese resources to the utmost in preparation for the inevitable struggle, he cast about for allies.
        • At this juncture, the Crimean War broken out and this to Cavour was a Heaven-sent opportunity.
      • Piedmont has no interest in the Eastern Question and had no quarrel with Russia.
        • Piedmont-Sardinia under P.M. Cavour participated in the war with a view to win the sympathies of England and France. Cavour sent 17,000 men on the side of the Allies .
        • Cavour seized the opportunity to join England and France against Russia, because an alliance with these great powers would improve Piedmont’s international standing and would place these powers under moral obligation to be useful at some later time. (for e.g. France reciprocated by offering help against Austria.)
      • It was a bold gamble in politics, but none the less a master-stroke of policy.
      • The Sardinian troops fought brilliantly and returned home covered with glory.
      • The immediate gain to Piedmont was the admission of Cavour to the Congress of Paris which met in 1856 to discuss terms of peace.
        • There Cavour, in the face of considerable opposition from Austria, raised the whole Italian question before the assembled diplomats and gave a very damaging account of Austrian rule and enlisted the sympathy of the Powers, and won over Napoleon III to the cause of Italian independence which proved to be of immense value in his future work for the unification of Italy.
        • The anomalous and unhappy condition of Italy was exposed to Europe and was discussed no longer by revolutionaries only but by accredited representatives of the Great Power.
        • Thus the Italian question was converted into a matter of European concern.
      • The prestige of Piedmont rose high and she won the sympathy of Europe. The gain, though moral one, was enormous. It later led to the Italian unification.
      • Without this foreign aid, Cavour could never have driven Austria out of Italy.
    • German unification:
      • It led to an important regrouping of Powers, which made the unification of Germany possible.
      • During war, Austria’s hostile neutrality irritated Russia who had saved Austrian Empire from dissolution during Hungarian revolt of 1848-49.
        • The result was that old alliance of the three despotic powers (Russia, Austria and Prussia) which was the cornerstone of Metternich’s policy which till now had saved the Austrian Empire from disruption, was now broken.
      • Furious at Austrian ingratitude Russia turned to Prussia whose friendly neutrality she appreciated. The state of things led to a new regrouping of Powers which gave rise to important developments afterwards.
      • Bismarck took advantage of Russia’s estrangement from Austria and began to court the friendship of the Czar in order to further his project of ousting Austria from Germany.
        • The result was that Austria was completely isolated during the Austro-Prussian War that followed, Russia remaining neutral as Austria had done.
        • Austria was defeated and the German Empire (after unification of Germany) that Prussia subsequently built up was largely based upon Russian neutrality.
  • Reform in Russia:
    • In Russia defeat in war led to far reaching reforms which lifted her out of medieval stagnation.
    • The corruption of the Tsarist regime now became public knowledge in Europe and so the Tsar was widely discredited and in the long run the dissatisfaction of the people flared into popular discontent.
    • The war led to a series of reforms carried out by Czar Alexander II, the most important of which was the emancipation of the serfs.
  • New turn of Russian expansion:
    • The war gave a new turn to Russian expansion. That expansion, checked in Europe, was transferred to Central Asia, threatening British position in India.
  • Rise of nationalistic forces in the Balkans:
    • The war fostered the rise of nationalist forces in the Balkans which in turn had a variety of repercussions in European politics.
  • Improvement in camp sanitation and health of soldiers:
    • An unexpected but positive outcome of the Crimean War were the improvements in camp sanitation and the health of soldiers that were effected by Florence Nightingale.
    • She organised a nursing team to take care for the sick and wounded soldiers.
    • This also marked the nascent beginning of the movement which later came to be known as the Red Cross.

Turkey as a sick man of Europe

  • In 1853, in the run up to the Crimean War, Czar Nicholas I of Russia had said as that the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was “a sick man—a very sick man”.
  • The reason was: The Ottoman Empire was increasingly falling under the financial control of the European powers and had lost territory in a series of disastrous wars.
  • By 1914, once a powerful Ottoman Empire was crumbling and Turkey- a sick man of Europe, came to be popularly known as ‘the sick man of Europe’.
  • Finally, the empire fell apart in 1922 and a number of smaller states such as Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania emerged along with the present-day Republic of Turkey.
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