Crimean (Eastern) war became the prototype of the First World War. Usually they focus on the battles in the Crimea, the heroic defense of Sevastopol. However, the theater of operations had an almost global (Eurasian) character. The fighting was conducted on the Danube and Caucasus fronts, in the Crimea, on the Black, Baltic, White seas and the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it was the confrontation of the then "world community" in the person of Turkey, France, England, Sardinia (much of modern Italy) with Russia. In addition, Austria was preparing to oppose Russia, and Prussia took the position of cold neutrality.
The enemies of Russia had global objectives. They planned to dismember Russia, deprive it of the fruits of victories 18 and the beginning of 19 centuries. They wanted to cut off Russia from the Black and Baltic Seas. The Western powers sought to prevent Russia from breaking into the Mediterranean, pushing it out of the southern regions, where the road opened up to the Persian Gulf and India. The goals of the Allies were formulated by Lord Henry Palmerston (England’s Prime Minister from 1855). The British wanted to take away the Crimea, the Kuban and the Caucasus from Russia, to transfer them to the Ottoman Empire. In the Caucasus, were going to create a vassal Turks state education - Cherkessia. By this, Russia was deprived of its gains in the Black Sea region, strengthened the position of the Ottoman Empire, as the old and active enemy of Russia. It was planned to restore the Kingdom of Poland at the expense of the Russian state by creating a buffer between Russia and Germany. It is clear that Poland would be a hostile state to Russia, which was supported by London and Paris. Sweden was asked to transfer Finland and the Aland Islands, Prussia - the Baltic States. Thus, Russia was ousted from the Baltic. Moldavia and Wallachia and the entire mouth of the Danube were handed over to Austria. Russia was cut off from the Balkans and the opportunity to actively participate in the fate of the Christian and Slavic peoples of the Balkan Peninsula. The Russian state wanted to deprive the territories for which it paid tens of thousands of lives during the wars with the Poles, Swedes, Caucasian mountaineers, Turks and Persians. At the same time, Russia suffered a powerful economic blow - it lost most of its trade in the Black and Baltic Seas.
Russia achieved great success in this period in the southern and south-western directions. Moldavia and Wallachia were under Russian influence and control. The Russian Empire was able to achieve a radical change in the Balkans, where there was a religious factor on its side: the Orthodox faith of the Bulgarians, Moldovans, Vlachs, Serbs, Greeks, that is, a significant part of the population of the Ottoman Empire at that time, gave Russia a strong trump card in the Big Game. On the side of Russia there was also a factor of common Slavic origin with such large peoples as the Bulgarians and Serbs. This gave rise to and strengthened the thought among Christians and Slavs that Russia would help and protect them from Turkish oppression, restore their independence. The prospects were brilliant. No wonder the Slavophil and the great Russian poet Tyutchev exclaimed that the Russian tsar would pray to God in the church of St. Sofia and will rise "like a Pan-Slavic king."
True, Austria was underfoot, which had its plans in the Balkans. But after the events of 1848-1849, when Vienna saved Russia from the Hungarian uprising, St. Petersburg hoped for benevolent neutrality on the part of the Austrians. In addition, the position of Austria was unstable; the Austrian army, after the Hungarian uprising, was disregarded. The position of the Austrian Empire was so unstable, the war with Russia in its position was very dangerous and could lead to the collapse of the state. Austria will eventually collapse, joining the war with Russia, but this will happen later, after the First World War.
However, in St. Petersburg, they made a mistake about Vienna; gratitude to Europeans is not inherent, only a bare calculation. The behavior of Vienna, the “betrayal” during the Eastern War became an extremely unexpected event for St. Petersburg. After all, they still remembered how the Austrian Count Kabog implored Paskevich to save Austria by kneeling. And the young Austrian emperor Franz-Joseph publicly, at a reception in Warsaw, kissed the hand of the Russian tsar, asking for help against the Hungarian revolutionaries. Emotions did not allow us to make a logical chain of conclusions. Vienna was concerned about the activity of the Russians on the Danube since 1812, when Russia took Bessarabia from Turkey. Yes, and in time campaigns 1812-1813. Austria’s behavior was very hypocritical, it was looking for the greatest benefits. With the victory of France, the Austrians were going to profit at the expense of Russia. In 1813, Vienna waited a long time, deciding which side to take, weighed the benefits. Metternich managed to substitute Napoleon. Even more concerned about Vienna after the Peace of Adrianople 1829. The Ottoman Empire weakened before our eyes and could no longer be a reliable barrier on the way of the Russians to the Balkan Peninsula. A grave anxiety settled in the Vienna court - the annexation of Russia in one form or another by Moldova, Wallachia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Thrace and Constantinople threatened Austria with a girth of Russian forces not only from the east and north, but also from the south. Moreover, the Slavic peoples of the Austrian Empire - the Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Croats, Slovenes, Rusyns - would hardly have remained loyal subjects of the Austrian monarchy with such fundamental geopolitical changes. Austria threatened the collapse or loss of political independence. Moreover, the penetration of the Russians into the Balkans undermined the economy of the Austrian empire — the eastern market for goods was shrinking, Austria was deprived of a cheap and abundant source of bread, its interests on the Danube were undermined.
The Austrian government felt threatened not only by the eastern neighbor. Austria has traditionally been sensitive to the threat from the Italian direction and from France (they were interrelated). The French emperor Napoleon III encouraged Piedmont (Sardinian kingdom) in anti-Austrian politics. At that time, Piedmont sought to unite all Italy under its rule. Italy was then divided into several state formations, part of the Italian lands were ruled by Austria and France. Paris hinted that if Vienna remained aloof from the war with the Russians, France and Piedmont would jointly drive the Austrians out of Lombardy and Venice. It was necessary to choose the right side. And the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph decided that it would be more profitable to quarrel with Russia. Like, nothing personal, just business.
They made a mistake in Petersburg about the British, considering that it would be possible to divide Turkey into spheres of influence with them. In London, they knew very well that the assertion of Russia in Moldavia, Wallachia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, the passage of the straits and Constantinople into her hands cannot be compensated for with Crete and Egypt. The British knew that the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire, naturally, would lead to the inclusion in Russia of part or all of Asia Minor, adjacent to the Russian Caucasus. Russia would go to the Persian Gulf, the southern seas. Yes, and it was impossible to give Russia to establish itself in the Eastern Mediterranean. The British saw only themselves in the role of a world empire, and were not going to encourage geopolitical rivals.
Another strategic mistake the government of Nicholas made in relation to France. After the collapse of Napoleon’s empire, France was not considered a serious military-political force that could pursue an aggressive policy towards Russia. France was regularly shaken by coups, revolutions, uprisings, in Petersburg it was believed that the new French emperor, Napoleon III, would be more concerned with internal problems than with the situation around the Danube principalities, the straits and Constantinople. In Russia, they did not take into account the economic interests of France in Turkey, nor the desire of the new emperor to take part in a victorious campaign that would distract the public from internal affairs to foreign policy. And participation in the war of England indicated that success was assured. In addition, Napoleon III wanted to temper the army in a victorious war, dreaming of the glory of Napoleon Bonaparte, personal ambitions mixed with political interests.
It should also be noted the dexterity of French politics. French diplomats in 1853-1855 could not only put pressure on Austria, threatening to help Piedmont, take away Lombardy and Venice, in case of refusal to speak out against Russia, but also put pressure on Piedmont (Sardinia), promising to give the Sardinian king Victor Emmanuel as a reward for participating in the war with the Russians, the same Lombardy and Venice. Naturally, France was not going to reward Sardinia for sending thousands of soldiers to die in the battle for Sevastopol. France will soon quietly take Savoy and Nice.
Petersburg miscalculated about the fact that the two "mortal enemies" - England and France, never enter into a union. Against the "northern barbarians" England and France were ready to speak in a united front. Here the conflict reached the level of civilizations: the West against the East, the western civilization against the Russian. Past resentment retreated to the side. The conflict between the Western elites could be postponed until later, when the question was decided who would be the “king of the mountains” on the planet. Unfortunately, they did not take this into account in Petersburg. There was no understanding that it was impossible in principle to "agree" with the Western powers. There was an illusion of "monarchical unity." And in the West, this was well understood - the “Russian question” could only be solved with the complete destruction of the Russian people (the core of Russian civilization).
In many ways, the mistakes of Nikolai Pavlovich were associated with the name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, Karl Nesselrode. Nesselrode led Russia’s foreign policy for several decades - from 1816 to 1856 a year. Nesselrode 40 assured for years at first emperor Alexander I, and then Nicholas I, that Russia needed an alliance with Austria, since only in these powers there is a true monarchist spirit and they can stand up to all sorts of revolutionaries in Europe. It should also be noted that it was Nesselrode who impeded the advancement of Russia in the Far East, fearing the displeasure of Europe, and especially the British.
The tool of the Western powers was Turkey, which once again played the role of a “ram” directed against Russia. At the same time, Britain and France gained political and economic benefits. Supporting the revanchist sentiments of the Ottomans, both Western powers were going to reward themselves with the utmost generosity, to finally take their hands on the economy and finances of the Ottoman Empire (this would be one of the prerequisites for the degradation and future collapse of Porta). The Ottoman Empire was already in unpaid debts to the French, English, and partly, Austrian financiers. Especially hard, and with excellent profits, Turkey was given loans at a time when it was necessary for the Ottomans to start a war with Russia. In financial and economic terms, Turkey was already a semi-colony of the West. There was even an idea after the Eastern (Crimean) War to plant in the Ottoman Empire a European prince, and divide the country into spheres of influence between England and France. So the British and French "defended" Turkey.
The war with Russia was declared a "battle of civilization against barbarism." However, she also had hidden economic implications. The British piously blued the "monetary principle." Russian emperor Nicholas I pursued a protectionist policy. Russia introduced high import duties, supporting the development of domestic production. Britain wanted to force Petersburg to introduce a customs regime favorable for the import of British goods. In general, the British have achieved this goal. In 1857, Emperor Alexander II introduced a liberal customs tariff, which reduced Russian customs duties to a minimum. The free trade regime was extremely beneficial to England, which became the first powerful industrial power and "workshop of the world." The industry of other countries could not compete with an abundance of high-quality English goods. As a result, the economies of other countries grew weaker, and Britain became a monopolist (later the US will pursue a similar policy).