Crimean War (1853-1856)Crimean War (1853-1856) - The Crimean War began as a sort of modern-day crusade between Russia and the Ottoman Empire over the rights of Christians in the Holy Land; but it evolved into a conflict over expansion in the Black Sea region.  It was the first major conflict in Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  The peace that followed was due mainly to the Congress of Vienna, which met in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon.  It's purpose was to restore a balance of power so that no one nation could dominate Europe.  And it held for about 35 years.  What changed over that time was the internal decline of the Ottoman Empire.  It was in the mid-19th century that the empire acquired its nickname, "Sick Man of Europe".  Russia was well aware of its decline and poised to take advantage.  It had wanted to control the Black Sea going back to the days of Peter the Great, and now that the Ottoman Empire was much weaker, felt it was in a position to do so.  Tsar Nicholas I sent his foreign minister, Karl Nesselrode, to Sultan Abdülmecid I under the pretext of protecting Orthodox Christians living in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.  But Nesselrode made a demand with which he did not expect the sultan to agree.  The sultan must allow Russian troops into Ottoman territory in order to protect its Christians.  The sultan agreed to protect his Christian citizens, but rejected outright any prospect of allowing Russian soldiers into his empire.  Meanwhile Tsar Nicholas was moving his troops south toward the Ottoman border.  Sultan Abdülmecid knew what was coming and declared war on Russia in October 1853.  The Russian navy won the initial conflict, the Battle of Sinop, and looked to achieve a quick knockout blow after it destroyed the Ottoman fleet.  But the victory alarmed European powers, France and England, which feared a strengthened Russian Empire might upset the balance of power.  In addition, Great Britain worried Russian expansion into the Middle East might disrupt trade to its colony in India.  So they delivered an ultimatum demanding Russia withdraw by March 1854.  Russia refused and the two nations joined the war on the side of the Ottomans.  In addition, Austria moved 280,000 troops into the Danubian Principalities to oppose Russia.  The two countries never fought though, as Russia retreated from Moldavia and Wallachia to avoid a fight with Austria.  Both France and Great Britain brought modern navies into the fight which shifted the advantage back to the newly formed Allied side.  An Allied force laid siege to the Russian port of Sevastopol in October 1854, and captured it a year later.  It featured the famous "Charge of the Light Brigade" which was immortalized in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  The loss of its port on the Crimean Peninsula was enough to bring Russia to terms.  In 1856 the Treaty of Paris ended the war.  The results were somewhat contradictory, in that, although Russia lost the war, it demonstrated its growing power; while at the same time, exposed the waning strength of the Ottoman Empire.  Had it not been for France and Great Britain shoring them up, the Ottomans surely would have lost the war.