“The” Ottoman Crimean War: (1853 - 1856)
The Crimean War was a defining event in both European and Ottoman history, but it has principally been studied from the Europeans point of view. This study analyzes the role of the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War and the War s impact on the Ottoman state and Ottoman society. Based on hitherto unused Ottoman and Russian sources, it offers new insights into the Crimean War s financial, social and political implications for the Empire, emphasizing the importance of the Ottomans as both actors and victims. In addition to analyzing Ottoman and European public opinion and the diplomatic, economic and political origins of the War, "The Ottoman Crimean War (1853-1856)" also contains a critical review of the voluminous existing literature on the subject.
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A large number of English and French (and a smaller number of Russian and Italian) texts deal with the Crimean War. Filling a serious gap in the published record of his country's history, Dr. Badem (Okan University, Istanbul) has produced what is, I believe, the first complete English-language text on the war specifically written from the Turkish point of view. In many ways, it is an eye-opener on a cultural and governmental system very unfamiliar to Western readers. The author has conducted major in-depth studies in the Ottoman and Russian archives and has drawn freely on British and other sources, generating some 1071 scholarly references. Chapter I - 'Introduction and Review of the Sources' (45 pp.) sets the scene and adds critical reviews of the existing texts. Chapter II - 'The Origins of the War' (52 pp.) begins with an overview of the Ottoman Empire and its international relations. The question of the 'Holy Places' is viewed as no more than a pretext in the escalating movement to war. Menshikov's 'mission' is seen as a blatant attempt to browbeat the Ottoman government, with military action as the clearly anticipated fall-back position. The various futile efforts to avoid conflict are described, with an overview of European and Ottoman public opinion. Chapter III - 'Battles and Diplomacy during the War' (189 pp.) presents much information on Ottoman activities in the Crimea. Most significantly, a wealth of detail on the Danubian, Circassian and Caucasus campaigns is set out - a very high proportion hitherto entirely unknown to Western scholars. Desperate and wholly admirable Ottoman defensive actions were all too often vitiated by endemic corruption of all kinds. The text indicates that, for the Ottomans, their campaign in the Crimea was decidedly a 'side-show' compared to their struggles in the other theatres. Chapter IV - 'Financing the War' (39 pp.) is a striking account of the often repellent machinations required to provide the sinews of war, involving Rothschild and others. The staggering fact is that the annual Ottoman military expenses increased from 40% to no less than 67% of the state budget during the war - a clear illustration of the extreme stress forced upon their government. Chapter V - 'The Impact of the War on Ottoman Social and Political Life' (76 pp.) offers a vivid account of the attempted and partial liberalisation of the Ottoman state and of the profound opposition, rising to civil unrest, which that inspired. The 'Conclusion' (10 pp.) leaves little doubt that the Ottoman Empire effectively became a protectorate - drawn into the Concert of Europe, but not as an autonomous member. A Bibliography (20 pp.) and a short Index complete the text.
I judge that Dr. Badem's book is required reading for anyone interested in the wider aspects of the conflict and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
Douglas J. Austin