The Crimean War, 1853-56.
Candan Badem, The Ottoman Crimean War (1853-1856). 432 pp., illus. Leiden: Brill, 2010. ISBN-13 978-9004182055. $229.00.
Ol'ga Vasil'evna Didukh, Donskie kazaki v Krymskoi voine 1853-1856 gg. (Don Cossacks in the Crimean War, 1853-1856). 173 pp., illus. Moscow: VINITI, 2007. ISBN-13 978-5785604940.
Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History. 540 pp., illus. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011. ISBN-13 978-0805074604. $35.00.
Iuliia Aleksandrovna Naumova, Ranenie, bolezn' i smert': Russkaia meditsinskaia sluzhba v Krymskuiu voinu, 1853-1856 gg. (Injury, Disease, and Death: Russian Medical Service in the Crimean War, 1853-56). 314 pp., illus. Moscow: Regnum, 2010. ISBN-13 978-5918870020.
A. D. Panesh, Zapadnaia Cherkesiia v sisteme vzaimodeistviia Rossii s Turtsiei, Angliei, i imamatom Shamilia v XIX v. (do 1864) (Western Circassia in the System of Russian Interaction with Turkey, England, and Imam Shamil in the 20th Century [until 1864]). 240 pp. Maikop: Adygeiskii respublikanskii institut gumanitarnykh issledovanii im. T. M. Kerasheva, 2007. ISBN-13 978-5889410355.
Until recently, the Crimean War (1853-56) has been much neglected in Russian history. Few English-language monographs devoted themselves to the Russian Crimean War. (1) The Soviet historian Evgenii Viktorovich Tarle wrote the last major Russian monograph on the topic during World War II. (2) As opposed to World War I and World War II, in which the tragedy of the eastern front is fairly well documented in the literature, the British experience dominates the general narrative of the Crimean War. (3) The 150th anniversary of the Crimean War has inspired new interest, however, among Russian area scholars. Although much of this work is popular or commemorative in nature, the books under review here offer a variety of innovative approaches to the war and make substantial contributions to the field. (4)
The Crimean War was a Russo-Turkish War first and a European war second--or to borrow from David Goldfrank, the Crimean War consisted of "two wars and a diplomatic struggle," the latter referring to Austria's and Prussia's involvement from the sidelines. (5) Russia and the Ottoman Empire initially went to war in October 1853 over Russia's rights to intervene in the affairs of Orthodox Christians living in Ottoman territory. France and Britain entered in March 1854, after the Russian--Ottoman conflict had clearly turned in Russia's favor. The war had multiple fronts in the Danubian Principalities, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the White Sea, and the Pacific and ended with an Ottoman defeat in Kars in November 1856. (6) With Kars, Winfried Baumgart notes, Russia "controlled more square miles of enemy territory than did the sea powers." In Baumgart's reading of the treaty and preceding events, therefore, Russia came to the Peace of Paris not as the vanquished but as an equal participant. (7)
The war heralded Russia's transition into the modern era by exposing class tensions and introducing technological and scientific advancements. As the most violent episode of the Eastern Question in the 19th century, it profoundly influenced the history of the Black Sea region, the Caucasus, and the Balkan Peninsula. After the Crimean War, Russia and the Ottoman empires swapped hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christian refugees, in what Brian Williams has called the "Great Retreat" of Muslims from Europe. (8) Whether due to battles, population exchanges, or nationalist movements caused by the war, the present-day states of Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and regions such as Crimea and the Caucasus all changed in small or large ways due to this conflict. Today, historians of these regions are investigating the Crimean War as a transformative event. (9)
The six works under review offer new insights into the war and hence expand our understanding of the Nikolaevan era, Russian-Ottoman borderlands, the role of religion in the war, and the vast number of people(s) whose lives were forever changed by the conflict. Iuliia Naumova's Ranenie, bolezn' i smert' examines the Medical Department of the Russian military, and her conclusions challenge traditional criticism of the Nikolaevan system, showing that the Russian military--or at least the Medical Department--was fairly well prepared for war. Candan Badem's pioneering work, The Ottoman Crimean War, offers the first critical study of the war from the Ottoman perspective and draws on Russian, British, and Ottoman archives to do so. In The Crimean War: A History, Orlando Figes recasts the war as the watershed event of the modern era and, in concert with Ian Almond's Two Faiths, One Banner, provides a much-needed spotlight on religious elements of the war. Written from the perspective of the periphery, A. D. Panesh's Zapadnaia Cherkesiia and Ol'ga Didukh's Donskie kazaki v Krymskoi voine bring to light non-Russian imperial subjects involved in the war. These books, along with contributions made by others, introduce a much more diverse cast of actors in the war than that previously addressed in the scholarship.
A rich analysis of archival material--particularly statistics, reports from the front, and correspondence between military officials and doctors--forms the basis of Naumova's Ranenie, bolezn' i smert'. In addition to utilizing multiple collections in the Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA), Naumova also draws from memoirs, diaries, medical manuals, military medical journals, and contemporary publications of the army and navy; and her introduction offers an extensive review of primary and secondary sources. The first chapter charts the development of Russian medicine from the 18th through the mid-19th centuries. The majority of the book--four of its seven chapters--examines the activities of the Medical Department on each front of the war. She devotes a sixth chapter to the Russian navy and a final chapter to the soldiers' daily experiences.
Naumova shows that when the Crimean War opened, the Russian military had careful plans in place to meet the medical needs of its soldiers. Following a series of regulations in the 1820s and 1830s, the regime created an effective military medical bureaucracy and doubled the number of military hospitals. Several military engagements (i.e., the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, the campaigns to annex the Caucasus, and the invasions of Romania and Hungary in 1848-49) forced the Medical Department to refine its network of permanent, field, and station hospitals, as well as procurement, triage, and transportation procedures. In light of the high percentage of non-battle losses during the Russo-Turkish War and the Hungarian campaign, doctors had also learned the lesson of hygiene and insisted on clean billeting for troops. With a peacetime capacity to treat 100,000 men in permanent military hospitals and a solid, tested strategy for increasing the number of beds on the front lines during war, Naumova argues that the Russian military had good reason for confidence in its medical treatment plan. Optimism about the Medical Department's ability to cope with raging epidemics or to heal wounded soldiers evaporated, however, as the war evolved.
According to Naumova, during the course of the Crimean War, the Medical Department treated 4,605,796 men; more than 400,000 died. Medical staff treated most men for epidemics rather than battle injuries. Of the nearly 900,000 men registered in the camp hospitals of the Crimean Army, for example, doctors treated only 80,000 for wounds, a number closer in line with prewar expectations. On average, during the Crimean campaign men treated for battle wounds died at a rate of 1 : 5, and 1 : 6 for illness. The death rate for the entire armed forces was somewhat less bleak at 1 : 11. Still, this ratio fell considerably lower than the acceptable target of 1 : 25 posed by the government in 1853. While these numbers alone suggest that the military Medical Department failed Russian soldiers and sailors, Naumova argues that statistics reveal only a limited view of Russian medical service.
Through a detailed examination of preparedness on the eve of war, Naumova challenges the image of failure that permeates traditional scholarship and memoir literature. Except in terms of finding sufficient numbers of qualified medical staff, the Russian armed forces managed to meet targets set by medical advisers. During the war, the military established adequate pharmacies, hospital beds, and field stations on all fronts. Analysis of medical manuals and education programs further reveals that Russian doctors possessed a mastery of medical science on a par with their European counterparts. Statistical analysis--chiefly comparison of death, casualty, and recovery rates--shows that the Russian medical service produced a similar success and failure rate to that of the French and British. The medical problems encountered during the war were thus, according to Naumova, not a function of Nikolaevan governance. Rather, the high death rate stemmed from unprecedented modern warfare. To summarize Naumova, killing technology (particularly the introduction of long-range rifle shot and field guns) outpaced medical technology on all sides of the battlefield. Similarly, the devastating spread of disease stemmed from exceptionally large modern armies crowded and often trapped in small spaces.
Naumova's analysis of military medicine on the different fronts constitutes a major strength of her work, as most histories of the war focus exclusively on the Crimean campaigns. Her meticulous review of the evidence shows that the Medical Department worked in a dynamic and innovative military bureaucracy that with a few exceptions reacted effectively to changing circumstances. Her research bears out Frederick Kagan's hitherto untested assertion that Nicholas I's 1830s military reforms produced a highly efficient military administration, "ahead of those of the rest of Europe." (10) Additional case studies examining the Russian military administration during the war are needed to determine whether the Medical Department is an anomaly or typical of the Nikolaevan military system.
Another work that prompts a rethinking of the Crimean War is Candan Badem's outstanding monograph, The Ottoman Crimean War. Seeking to "reconstruct the narrative of the war as experienced by the Ottomans," Badem examines the "conduct of the war itself ... its implications, results, and impact upon the Ottoman state and society" (1). Badem's book is the first monograph on the subject in any language that combines Russian and Ottoman sources and addresses Ottoman failures as well as successes. (11) He devotes nearly one-half of The Ottoman Crimean War to an analysis of major Ottoman battles, particularly the disastrous naval battle of Sinope in November 1853 and the extended campaign in the Caucasus. The book incorporates material from Ottoman Historical Archives (BOA), British National Archives (TNA), and RGVIA, as well as an impressive body of published primary and secondary sources.
The Black Sea battle of Sinope on 30 November 1853 was the first and most important naval battle of the Crimean War and resulted in catastrophe for the Ottoman Empire. Although Russian historians have celebrated this victory, few Turkish scholars have attempted to explain the horrific loss of 1,875 Ottoman sailors compared with Russia's loss of 35 men. To some degree, Badem blames this tragedy on the interference of British and French officers who acted as unofficial advisers, served on ships anchored near Beykoz, and promised Ottomans support. Assistance from the French and British never materialized, and the one British officer working for the Ottoman navy, Adolphus Slade, fled the Russian advance in the Taif leaving his Ottoman colleagues to die.
Once the Allies officially entered the war in March 1854, according to Badem, cooperation with the Ottoman Empire hardly improved. That the Allies chose to make a landing in Crimea rather than the Caucasus made little sense to the Ottomans, for Crimea had been lost to Russia in the 18th century, whereas the Ottoman Empire struggled to maintain its foothold in the Caucasus through the 19th century. Badem shows that the Ottoman Empire concentrated its efforts not in Crimea, therefore, but in the Caucasus, where it found itself ill-matched to Russian soldiers well-trained from guerilla warfare against the forces of Imam Shamil. Allies provided limited assistance to the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus, and the officer they did send, William Fenwick Williams, alienated Ottoman generals and soldiers alike with his imperious behavior.
Despite Badem's often harsh (though probably fair) analysis of Allied intervention, he does not hold the Allies responsible for Ottoman failures. Instead, he points to a series of systematic problems in the Ottoman government and military, including methods of soldier recruitment and remuneration, as well as rampant corruption among Ottoman military leaders (who typically held the title of pasha). Badem shows that Ottoman pashas earned several times more than Russian generals, an amount they supplemented with fraud. Furthermore, the Ottoman bureaucracy did not reward meritorious service but assigned positions based on personal connections. Thus, for example, he points to Mahmud Pasha, who commanded the Ottoman navy during the battle of Sinope yet had no prior naval training. Most Ottoman commanders viewed the war less as a duty than as an opportunity for self-enrichment.
Badem's comparative approach further reveals that Ottoman soldiers earned more than their Russian counterparts but received their wages at the end of the war. In stark contrast to the lavish lifestyle led by their leaders, Ottoman troops slept in the poorest, dirtiest quarters of occupied villages, subsisted on starvation diets, and went without proper clothing. Naturally, Ottoman soldiers deserted in droves. To make matters worse, Ottoman pashas took advantage of their departure by committing muster-roll fraud. Instead of reporting the thousands dead or deserted, the pashas pocketed money meant for their supplies. Badem's analysis of the court trials of Ottoman commanders preserved in Ottoman archives constitutes one of the strongest points of his work. He finds that the Ottoman courts always charged commanders with incompetence rather than graft, extortion, or fraud, a fact that for Badem symbolizes the depth of corruption in the Ottoman government.
Badem's analysis of Ottoman reliance on basibozuks and redif troops (conscripts and reserves) opens another unexplored facet of the war. At least one-fourth of the Ottoman forces were built on the basis of these "irregular" regiments, the majority of whom were arrested and forcibly conscripted into the military. These men were neither properly trained nor disciplined. The basibozuks terrorized the countryside as they moved through each front. Those who could do so, deserted. Still others--like Yezdanser, a Kurdish commander--raised rebellions. Throughout the war, irregular troops alienated regions in the Caucasus that would have aided Ottoman forces, and many Muslims in Dagestan and Georgia switched sides after experiencing the terror of the basibozuks. Ottoman dependence on irregular troops, Badem persuasively argues, contributed to the empire's poor military performance in the war.
That the Ottoman Empire did not strive for an alliance with Shamil and the Circassian Muhammad Amin remains one of the biggest mysteries of the war, a problem that Badem sketches in detail but for which he found no answer. To be sure, the Ottomans corresponded with Shamil and met with Muhammad Amin, but they never made a "Circassian-Caucasian-Ottoman" union a priority (285). Shamil marched toward Tiflis in 1854, but when the Ottomans failed to appear, he gave up hope of Ottoman support and retreated to the role of an interested bystander for the remainder of the war. Such a union, Badem suggests, could have turned the tide in the Caucasus.
Other noteworthy topics explored by The Ottoman Crimean War include the relationship between the international controversy over the Ottoman slave trade and war diplomacy, financing of the war, Islamic religious rhetoric surrounding the war, and Polish and Hungarian volunteers in the Ottoman army. In such a broad study, which investigates cultural and financial aspects of the war as well as battles, Badem is not able to address all areas in equal depth. The Crimean campaign receives comparatively short shrift. His stated argument--that for the Ottoman Empire the war was about "material interests" rather than "personal matters or religious quarrels" (3)--is not entirely borne out by the evidence. Nevertheless, Badem has written an excellent book that charts a path for other scholars to follow. His decision, moreover, to focus on the campaign in the Caucasus rather than in Crimea reflects Ottoman war aims rather than British and provides new insight into an understudied aspect of the war.
Orlando Figes departs from his 20th-century roots in the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union to retell the history of the Crimean War for a general audience. Published initially as The Crimean War: The Last Crusade, The Crimean War:A History (its U.S. title) charts the war from the rise of English Russophobia through the awkward settlement of the Peace of Paris. A final chapter explores the Crimean War in modern memory. The commitment to explore the war from the perspective of all major belligerents, something that no other historian of the war has seriously attempted, makes Figes's work unique. More a narrative history than a scholarly monograph, Figes's Crimean War offers a rich mosaic that blends a variety of primary and secondary sources to capture the human experience across the lines of battle, from general to soldier, diplomat to reporter.
Figes weaves a huge cast of characters into his work. Florence Nightingale, Nikolai Pirogov, Dasha Sevastopol'skaia, William Russell, Lev Tolstoi, Queen Victoria, Napoleon III, Nicholas I, Henry Temple Palmerston, and Generals Paskevich and Canrobert, among others, make repeat appearances. Figes's attention to the human costs of war constitutes one of the main strengths of the book. He draws heavily on letters and memoirs of soldiers--especially the surprisingly underexploited Crimean War narratives composed by Lev Tolstoi--to recreate the war experience as well as the panic in the villages in or near the conflict. His work is one of the few studies to date that discusses the widespread exploitation of civilian resources during the war and the massacres of civilian populations committed by all sides. Although Figes's chapters on the origins of the Crimean War follow a fairly conventional path, his integration of recent or lesser known research on the role of lobbies adds an important complication to the usually oversimplified political picture. Adding to the Turcophiles examined previously by John Shelton Curtiss, Figes highlights the agitation of the Polish lobby in Britain led by Adam Czartoryski and, based on the research of Radu Florescu, the concerns of Romanian refugees who feared a reprisal of the 1848 Russian atrocities in the Danubian Principalities. (12)
Figes's attention to religion also distinguishes his work from other sweeping narratives of the Crimean War. Religion played a huge role in this conflict, a fact acknowledged yet largely dismissed by most historians as a smokescreen. (13) Of the scholars who mention the Holy Lands controversy in passing, few pay attention to repeated descriptions of the war as a holy war in both Ottoman and Russian discourse. Figes revisits earlier scholarship on the Holy Lands controversy with new evidence from British Foreign Office archives and memoir literature to give credence to the "religious passions that had been building over centuries" (9). He also synthesizes my own research into Russian religious nationalism (including Orthodox war rhetoric) with the findings of Candan Badem and Ann Pottinger Saab, who have studied Islamic nationalist sentiment during the Crimean War, to show how deeply religious discourse permeated both the Russian and the Ottoman empires. (14)
Although to a far lesser degree, French and British war discourse also incorporated religious themes. One of the more interesting passages in Figes's book describes British clerical sermons during the war, which asserted that "Balkan Christians ... had more religious freedom under the Sultan than they would ever have under the Tsar," and that the Crimean War was "a 'religious war' for the defense of the true Western religion against the Greek faith; the 'first Eastern War since the Crusades'" (163). Throughout the book, Figes demonstrates that "all the powers used religion as a means of leverage in the Eastern Question, politics and faith were closely intertwined in this imperial rivalry, and every nation, none more so than Russia, went to war in the belief that God was on its side" (xxiii). Unfortunately the genre of Figes's history does not permit a more penetrating analysis of religious violence during the war. Yet his description of religious fervor across all battle lines offers a worthy contribution to the literature.
Figes's ambitious work is sure to revive interest in this hugely important conflict. The broad scope of his project does depend largely on synthesizing the work of others, and some scholars might appreciate more precise citation of their research. Those who have kept pace with recent research on the Eastern Question, Russo-Ottoman relations, and traditional and more recent scholarship on the war will discover few new insights in this book. For many readers, however, Figes's work will come as an enjoyable revision of standard narratives of the Crimean War. A peppering of archival sources--principally Russian and British, and some Ottoman and French add dimension to his account, as does the integration of a wide strata of published memoirs and correspondence from elite and nonelite writers. The northern and the Caucasian fronts make less of an appearance than they might, while the British and Russian experience receive comparatively more attention than the Ottoman, French, or Sardinian experience. Those areas that do receive most consideration will be of most interest for his target audience.
The question of religion in the Crimean War is an important one, and so Ian Almond's Two Faiths, One Banner merits a brief consideration here as well. This book is a quirky synthetic account composed by a literary scholar who ironically uses a shared history of violence to promote a future of peace between Turkey and European Union member nations. In his words, the book aims to "show how Muslims do not belong to an 'other' civilization but rather to the essence of a 'Europe' we are quickly in the process of forgetting" (1). Thus Almond explores episodes in European history in which "Muslims and Christians collaborated and co-operated with one another to fight against a common enemy" (1). Five chapters describe several different battles "over eight hundred years, and a territory stretching from Barcelona to Bulgaria" (226). These were struggles in which Muslims and Christians cooperated. Of most interest here, of course, is the final chapter on the Crimean War, in which the belligerents "would try to see the conflict as a religious one, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary" (186).
Almond finds multiple layers of Muslim-Christian cooperation during the Crimean War apart from the main Ottoman alliance with Christian European states. In an age of empire, Almond emphasizes that Muslims fought within French and British armies. British officers commanded Muslims from their own empire as well as a special regiment of Muslim basibozuks, while Algerian Muslims fought within the French army. Similarly, Almond points to the Uhlan and Crimean Tatar Muslim regiments in the Russian army and notes that Muslims fought in Russian armies from the era of Ivan III on. Even the Ottoman Empire, where soldiers cried the name of Allah as they charged, had Christian regiments, most notably Cossacks from the Dobrudja. The prince of Armenia exhorted Turkish Armenians to fight loyally with the Ottoman Empire against the "Russian tyrant" (197). The Ottoman army also took in several Christian officers. Most notably, Michal Czajkowski, who also figured prominently in Badem's work, led a Cossack regiment for the Ottoman army. To do so, he converted from Catholicism to Islam and took the name Mehmet Sadik.
While interesting and thought-provoking, Almond's book by his own admission is not deep. Nor does it draw on primary research. His discussion of Muslim and Christian alliances makes no attempt to account for the many cases of conflict therein, whether the mistrust between the Ottomans and the Allies or Russian suspicions of Crimean Tatars. (15) His broad definition of cooperation, moreover, largely depends on examples of Muslim imperial subjects in Christian armies or conscripts. Furthermore, he does not address the religiously inflected population exchanges between the Russian and Ottoman empires following the war. The alliance of Muslims and Christians was tenuous at best. Like Figes's Crimean War, Almond raises more questions about religion in the Crimean War than he can resolve. Still, his book serves as a good reminder that the war's religious landscape was far more complex than the contemporary holy war rhetoric dominating the surface. Future studies might analyze the Crimean War in respect to comparative and theoretical scholarship on religion and violence, as Regina Schwartz, Mark Juergensmeyer, Charles Selengut, Charles Kimball, J. H. Ellens, and others have done. (16)
A. D. Panesh's Zapadnaia Cherkesiia represents a different trend in Crimean War literature, one that explores the history of the war from the viewpoint of nations and peoples rather than states or empires. Constructed on a wide base of imperial files stored in RGVIA and regional archives in Krasnodar, published Russian and English primary sources, and oral tradition, the book focuses on the Circassian Adyghe (known also as the karabadintsy). Panesh makes a compelling argument for the importance of the Caucasus to the Eastern Question and shows how the Adyghe struggle for independence became an "epicenter of important historical events" (229-30).
The first three chapters explore the history of the Adyghe, their socioeconomic development, and their status between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in the first quarter of the 19th century. Panesh shows how, until Russia's colonial drive in the Caucasus in the 1830s, the Adyghe remained independent by balancing trade with Russia and a religious affiliation with the Ottoman Empire. He next charts the militarization of the western Circassians under Muhammad Amin, Shamil's deputy, and describes the role of Muridism in unifying the Caucasians to resist Russian encroachment. Muridism, according to Panesh, was a mystical Sufi movement that spread from Bukhara in the 19th century to the Caucasus. The spiritual movement's emphasis on individual conscience, he argues, dovetailed easily with a nationalist liberation program. Although Muridism may have attracted some people to Amin's army, Panesh suggests that democratic impulses of Amin's ideology were more important than religious ones.
The last two chapters pertain more immediately to the Crimean War. Here Panesh answers the question that Badem could not: why did the Ottomans not strive for a Circassian-Caucasian-Ottoman union? According to Panesh, the Ottoman Empire--and the other Allies, for that matter--counted on it. One of Palmerston's war aims was to attack Russia's "weak spots: Poland, Circassia, and Georgia" (184). The British planned "either to give Circassia to Turkey to the sovereignty of the Sultan or to make it independent" (182). During the Crimean War, the British sent an expedition to western Circassia, hoping to raise 6,000 cavalry, and proposed creating an independent Circassia consisting of the northwestern Caucasus, Dagestan, Chechnya, and territory Russia gained following the Russo-Persian War (1827-29) and the Russo-Turkish War (1828-29). The Ottomans likewise sent Mustafa Pasha to Circassia to raise an irregular militia of 20,000 men. Allied efforts to work with the Circassians fell flat, however, as more Adyghe volunteered to fight with Russia against the Allies during the war than the reverse. When the Allies landed on the Caucasian coast, one Russian officer reported that the Circassians were "more likely to harm than to help the invaders" (194).
Due to limitations of the source base, particularly the absence of documents composed by Adyghe themselves, Panesh occasionally makes large inductive leaps. His assertion that Circassians were less motivated by Islam than economics, for example, rests on interpretation of Adyghe songs and folklore. Similarly, to explain why the Circassians refused to cooperate with the Allies, Panesh speculates that the Adyghe mistrusted British "traditional politics of 'stealing fire with another's hands'" (195). That said, Panesh makes the most of available sources to provide a balanced study that well analyzes Circassia's importance to the Eastern Question and the Crimean War.
Like Panesh, Didukh's Donskie kazaki v Krymskoi voine brings a new cast of characters to traditional narratives of the Crimean War. She has pieced together a variety of sources to capture Don Cossack activity, including diaries, rosters, and battle accounts stored in collections located in RGVIA, the State Archive in the Russian Federation (GARF), and local archives in Rostov. A targeted array of published sources--principally imperial newspapers, publications of the War Ministry, and Don regimental journals--add another layer of detail. Her work is long overdue, as Cossacks (organized into 14 cavalry units and 83 regiments) constituted nearly 10 percent of Russian armed forces in the Crimean War and approximately two-thirds of Russia's cavalry. Of these, Don Cossacks accounted for 40 percent of the Cossack army and 50 percent of the Cossack cavalry and played a particularly active part in the Crimean campaign. Scholars interested in a penetrating examination of Don Cossack activity during the war will be disappointed, however, as Didukh's principal goal is to shed light on the "heroism of the Don Cossacks and their commanders" (3), not to offer a critical assessment.
Didukh divides the book into four chapters. The first examines the status of the Don Cossacks on the eve of the Crimean War. She reviews their organization into the Russian military under Nicholas I's reforms in the 1830s and their service in the Caucasus, Hungary, and border maintenance on the eve of the Crimean War. The next three chapters describe their participation in the Danubian, Crimean, and Caucasian campaigns, respectively. She shows that Don Cossacks participated in all major battles and skirmishes in each theater. They were particularly active in Kerch and the northern shores of the Sea of Azov, where they composed the only military units posted in this eastern region of the Crimean Peninsula. In the Caucasian theater, she points out, they drew on decades of experience fighting Shamil to help Russia achieve victory in the battle of Kars under the lead of Ia. P. Balkonov.
As a military history focused on outfitting, battles, and tactics, the book does not address more controversial issues surrounding the Cossacks during the Crimean War. One of the most pressing questions about the Crimean theater, for example, relates to the Cossacks' troubled interaction with the Tatars. Because military command considered the defense of Sevastopol' Russia's main objective, it refused (much to the consternation of civil officials) to dispatch regiments from the regular army to the other regions of the peninsula. Instead, Russian commanders called on the Don Cossacks to protect the local population from enemy attack. At the same time, the military command charged Cossacks with requisitioning supplies. The consequences were perhaps predictable. V. E. Vozgrin, for example, has shown that Cossacks assigned to protect local populations terrorized them instead. (17) Didukh does not investigate strife between Cossacks and Tatars but writes only that war creates conditions for moral transgression. Didukh's focus on the good deeds of the Don Cossacks is symptomatic of a nationalist project that permeates much of the writing about the Crimean War in the territories of the former Soviet Union. Although a more critical approach would be more useful, one that questions the Russian army's dependence on irregular troops as well as the Cossacks' interaction with local populations, Didukh does bring to light a group in the war that has hitherto been nearly anonymous. By identifying where and in what capacity the Don Cossacks served, Didukh creates a lasting foundation for future studies.
The Crimean War was a critical event in Russo-Ottoman relations as well as borderland identity formation. It unleashed religious tensions that had long simmered under the surface and caused a profound demographic shift still painfully evident today. Despite the excellent contributions made by recent scholarship, we still have much to learn about how Russia fought the war, who fought the war, how the war influenced imperial policy, and what happened to imperial subjects near the front lines of battle. Other areas needing further research include the treatment of prisoners of war, war requisitions, and war recovery. Scholars know that policy changed toward Russian Muslims after the war, but not how or why. Similarly, the population exchange between the Russian and Ottoman empires after the war--a huge historical phenomenon--needs much more attention, as does the peace process and the role of religion. It is likely that reinvigorated interest in the Eastern Question, greater attention to Russo-Ottoman borderlands in the scholarship, and the post-2001 appreciation for religion as a historical force will make the Crimean War a subject of research for years to come.
Dept. of History
380 Humanities Building
University of South Alabama
Mobile, AL 36688 USA
(1) Of the scholars who did study the war, John Shelton Curtiss, Russia's Crimean War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1980), and Albert Seaton, The Crimean War." A Russian Chronicle (New York: St. Martin's, 1977), wrote without access to archives. David Goldfrank's Origins of the Crimean War (London: Longman, 1994) does not explore the war itself.
(2) Tarle's double-volume study inevitably was influenced by the time in which he wrote it. Consequently, Prussian and Austrian wartime diplomacy loomed large. See Evgenii Viktorovich Tarle, Krymskaia voina (Moscow: 1944-45; repr. Moscow: ACT, 2005).
(3) British scholars have written hundreds of books about the Crimean War, examining a range of aspects from medicine to industrialization and cultural productions, as well as more traditional military histories. The following are just a few representative titles: Olive Anderson, A Liberal State at War: English Politics and Economics during the Crimean War (London: Macmillan, 1967); Kingsley Martin, The Triumph of Lord Palmerston: A Study of Public Opinion in England before the Crimean War (London: Allen and Unwin, 1924; repr. 1963); Stefanie Markovits, The Crimean War in the British Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); John Shepherd, The Crimean Doctors: A History of the British Medical Services in the Crimean War, 2 vols. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991); and John Sweetman, War and Administration: The Significance of the Crimean War for the British Army (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1984).
(4) See, for example, Ian Fletcher and Natalia Ishchenko, A Clash of Empires (Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount, 2004); Clive Pointing, The Crimean War: The Truth behind the Myths (London: Chatto and Windus, 2004); and Aleksandr Iakovlev, Krymskaia voina, 1853-1856 (Moscow: Palomnik, 2007).
(5) Goldfrank, Origins of the Crimean War, 4. Austria also mobilized along the Danube in 1854 to force Russia from the Principalities.
(6) Winfried Baumgart, The Peace of Paris, 1856: Studies in War, Diplomacy, and Peacemaking trans. Ann Pottinger Saab (Oxford: ABC-Clio, 1981), 1-5.
(7) Ibid., 5.
(8) Brian Williams, "Hijra and Forced Migration from Nineteenth-Century Russia to the Ottoman Empire," Cahiers du monde russe 41, 1 (2000): 79-108, here 79. The literature on the population exchange is not insignificant. For representative publications, see Alan W. Fisher, "Emigration of Muslims from the Russian Empire in the Years after the Crimean War," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 35, 3 (1987), 356-71; Willis Brooks, "Russia's Conquest and Pacification of the Caucasus: Relocation Becomes a Pogrom in the Post-Crimean War Period," Nationalities Papers 23, 4 (1995): 675-86; Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment to date is Mark Pinson's dissertation, later published in a series of articles: "Demographic Warfares--an Aspect of Ottoman and Russian Policy, 1854-1866" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1970).
(9) See, for example, V. G. Shavshin, Sevastopol' v istorii Krymskoi voiny (Sevastopol': Teleskop, 2004); P. M Liashuk and S. F. Sundukov, Srazheniia na beregakh Al'my: Sbornik dokumentov i materialov (Simferopol': Antikva, 2007); V. M. Volkovyns'kyi and O. P. Reient, Ukraina u Krymskii viini 1853-1856 rr.: Do 150-richchia Skhidnoi viiny (Kyiv: Instytut istorii Ukrainy NAN Ukrainy, 2006); Antic Cedomir, Neutrality as Independence: Great Britain, Serbia, and the Crimean War (Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Institute for Balkan Studies, 2007); Jerzy W. Borejsza and Grzegorz Pawel Babiak, Polacy i ziemiepolskie w dobie wojny krymskiej (Warsaw: Polski instytut spraw miedzynarodowych, 2008); and G. P. Genov, Bulgariia sled Krimskata voina: 1853-1856: Bulgarski revoliutsionen komitet v Bukuresht. Osnovavanie. Deinost. Deitsi i truzhenitsi (Sofia: 1965; repr. Van'o Nedkov, 2008). See also Ibraim Abdullaev's contributions to "Istoriia i kraevedenie," at www.Goloskrima.com.
(10) Frederick W. Kagan, The Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army (New York: St. Martin's, 1999), 5. Kagan examined the reform, but not the performance of the reformed military in war.
(11) Badem notes that "the Ottoman and Turkish historians themselves have neglected this topic and their references have also come primarily from Western sources" (1).
(12) Radu Florescu, The Struggle against Russia in the Romanian Principalities (Iasi: Center for Romanian Studies, 1997).
(13) For a discussion of the literature, see relevant chapters in Mara Kozelsky, Christianizing Crimea: Shaping Sacred Space in the Russian Empire and Beyond (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2009).
(14) Figes principally relies on Ann Pottinger Saab and Badem for his discussion of jihadism (both of whom take a materialist approach to religion, thus leaving Figes to read them against the grain). See Ann Pottinger Saab, The Origins of the Crimean Alliance (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977). Stephen M. Norris's analysis of imperial broadsides in A War of Images: Russian Popular Prints, Wartime Culture, and National Identity, 1812-1945 (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006) offers an earlier analysis of religious themes in the Crimean War.
(15) The evolution of Russian attitudes toward Tatars during the Crimean War is a subject I explore in "Casualties of Conflict: Crimean Tatars during the Crimean War," Slavic Review 67, 4 (2008): 866-91.
(16) The following represents only a handful of important studies: Regina Schwartz, The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); J. Harold Ellens, ed., The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, 4 vols. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004); Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003); and Charles Selegnut, Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence (Lanham, MD: Altamira, 2003).
(17) V. E. Vozgrin, Istoricheskie sud 'by krymskikh tatar (Moscow: Mysl', 1992), 324-30.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2012|
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