on 27 March 2015
This remarkable book is a fine introduction to the Crimean War of 1854-56. In this war, an extremely unholy alliance of British, French, Italian and Turkish forces attacked Russia. The death figures are appalling, and not precise. Possibly 446,000 Russians were killed in action, or died of wounds or sickness, and 45,400 Turks, 22,800 British, 2,200 Italians and 95,600 French, maybe 612,000 in all.
The war was triggered by religious fanatics, Orthodox and Muslim, killing each other in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1846. As Figes notes, “religion plays a vital role in fuelling wars.”
He points out that “It was the British, not the French, who wanted war and pushed hardest for it in the early months of 1854.” In the Caucasus the British government backed Muslim tribes against Russia. Some things don’t seem to change.
Against the intentions of the ruling classes of the warring empires, the war broke the conservative alliance between Russia and Austria and weakened both empires, allowing the new nation states Germany, Italy and Rumania to emerge.