The war of 1853-56, known as the Crimean War, began after the Russian emperor Nicholas I tried to obtain further concessions from Turkey. Great Britain and France entered the conflict on Turkey's side in 1854, however, and the Treaty of Paris (March 30, 1856) that ended the war was a serious diplomatic setback for Russia, though involving few territorial concessions.
Crimean War (October 1853-February 1856), war fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French, and Ottoman Turkish, with support, from January 1855, by the army of Sardinia-Piedmont. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine.
Supported by Britain, the Turks took a firm stand against the Russians, who occupied the Danubian principalities (modern Romania) on the Russo-Turkish border in July 1853. The British fleet was ordered to Constantinople (Istanbul) on September 23. On October 4 the Turks declared war on Russia and in the same month opened an offensive against the Russians in the Danubian principalities. After the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, on the Turkish side of the Black Sea, the British and French fleets entered the Black Sea on Jan. 3, 1854, to protect Turkish transports. On March 28, Britain and France declared war on Russia. To satisfy Austria and avoid having that country also enter the war, Russia evacuated the Danubian principalities. Austria occupied them in August 1854. In September 1854 the allies landed troops in Russian Crimea, on the north shore of the Black Sea, and began a year-long siege of the Russian fortress of Sevastopol. Major engagements were fought at the Alma River on September 20, at Balaklava on October 25, and at Inkerman on November 5. On Jan. 26, 1855, Sardinia-Piedmont entered the war and sent 10,000 troops. Finally, on Sept. 11, 1855, three days after a successful French assault on the Malakhov, a major strongpoint in the Russian defenses, the Russians blew up the forts, sank the ships, and evacuated Sevastopol. Secondary operations of the war were conducted in the Caucasus and in the Baltic Sea.
After Austria threatened to join the allies, Russia accepted preliminary peace terms on Feb. 1, 1856. The Congress of Paris worked out the final settlement from February 25 to March 30. The resulting Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30, 1856, guaranteed the integrity of Ottoman Turkey and obliged Russia to surrender southern Bessarabia, at the mouth of the Danube. The Black Sea was neutralized, and the Danube River was opened to the shipping of all nations. The Crimean War was managed and commanded very poorly on both sides. Disease accounted for a disproportionate number of the approximately 250,000 men lost by each side.
The war did not settle the relations of the powers in eastern Europe. It did awaken the new Russian emperor Alexander II (who succeeded Nicholas I in March 1855) to the need to overcome Russia's backwardness in order to compete successfully with the other European powers. A further result of the war was that Austria, having sided with Great Britain and France, lost the support of Russia in central European affairs. Austria became dependent on Britain and France, which failed to support that country, leading to the Austrian defeats in 1859 and 1866 that, in turn, led to the unification of Italy and Germany.
Treaty of Paris, (1856), treaty signed on March 30, 1856, in Paris that ended the Crimean War. The treaty was signed between Russia on one side and France, Great Britain, Sardinia-Piedmont, and Turkey on the other. Because the western European powers had fought the war to protect Ottoman Turkey from Russia, the treaty gave special attention to this problem. The signatories guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Turkey. Russia was obliged to surrender Bessarabia (situated at the mouth of the Danube River) to Moldavia, which along with Walachia were reorganized as autonomous states under Ottoman suzerainty. (These two principalities later joined to form Romania.) The Black Sea was neutralized (i.e., its waters were closed to all warships), and the Danube was opened to the shipping of all nations.