The Russian Empire survived a conflict ridden existence of violent political change and internal reform from 1721 up to the Russian revolution in 1917. One point of interest, in this vast historical time period, is the Crimean War that took place in the mid-19th century from October 1853 to February 1856, culminating in a Russian defeat by a coalition of French, British, and Ottoman Turks. Understanding the history and relation of Russia and Crimea play into current events and understanding Russian interest in the region from a historical aspect.
The Crimean war was spurned on by poor relations between Russia and the ruling Ottomans in the contested area of Crimea. Russia viewed their rights to protect ethnic and Russian Orthodox citizens from Ottoman subjugation, within the region that is now largely the Ukraine and Romania, as paramount in maintaining sovereignty of the empire. The expansion and protection of Russian Orthodox Christianity in the region was viewed as an affront to the supremacy of the holy Roman Church, of which France had a vested interest in maintaining at the time. This led to violations of multiple treaties and the escalation of full blown naval and land based warfare between the aforementioned parties.
The heaviest fighting was seen when the allied troops landed a coalition fighting force in Russian controlled Crimea. The battle of Sevastopol began, a siege that would last a full year and mark the focal point of the fighting. Russians eventually retreated and gave up Sevastopol late in 1855. The amount of casualties in the war is viewed in retrospect as costly and unnecessary by all sides, totaling near 750,000 deaths combined.
The Crimean war brought upon some valuable lessons to be learned by all parties, but specifically Russia. The realization that Russia had become weaker than the rest of the modernizing European powers was highlighted by their inability to effectively wage war for their own national interest. Technologically, they were far behind the French and British in naval superiority, and socially it had become apparent that the feudalistic ways of serfdom were no longer effective in maintaining and implementing national interest. The eventual emancipation of the serfs in 1861 can be drawn back to, in part, the failure of Russia to succeed in this costly and embarrassing war that reshaped the political geography of the region and set the tone for World War one, as well as the following revolution that would prompt a great change in Russian history.