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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Mar 2022 9:12 p.m. PST

"In 1853 Tsar Nicholas I of Russia used the excuse of a brawl between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monks in Bethlehem to proclaim himself the guardian of the Ottoman Empire's fourteen million Orthodox Christians. What he really wanted was Russian access to the Mediterranean through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, and he was quite prepared to set about the virtual dismemberment of Turkey to achieve this. In his new-found capacity as religious champion, therefore, he demanded a number of concessions from the Sultan, knowing full well that their nature was such that no self-respecting sovereign could possibly grant them. Having, as anticipated, been rebuffed, in July he sent his troops to occupy Turkish provinces in Romania.

Unfortunately, he encountered unexpected opposition. France, now ruled by Napoleon III, regarded herself as the traditional protector of Roman Catholic interests in the Holy Land and was not prepared to have these ridden over by Russia. Simultaneously, Great Britain disliked the idea of the naval balance in the Mediterranean being disturbed by the intrusion of a Russian fleet. The despatch of British and French warships to Constantinople stiffened the Sultan's resolve and on 4 November he declared war on Russia.

On land, the Turks did unexpectedly well, but on 30 November the Russian fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron in Sinope harbour. In January 1854 the Anglo-French fleet entered the Black Sea to protect the Turkish coastline and on 28 March the Allies declared war on Russia. At this juncture the Tsar's adventure turned sour, for the following month Austria, with Prussian support, threatened to intervene unless he withdrew his troops from the Balkans. Reluctantly, he complied, but wrecked the ensuing peace talks by insisting on his right to pursue his bullying quarrel with Turkey. The Allies therefore decided to land an expeditionary force in the Crimea with the object of capturing and destroying the heavily fortified Russian naval base of Sevastopol…"
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