Given that the Crimean peninsula has been in the news over the past year or so, it is important to remember that this territory has for years [centuries really] been of strategic importance and a lightning rod for conflict.
In 2014 the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. From the time of the annexation in March 2014, The Russian Federation has administered the territory as two federal areas—the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol—within the Crimean Federal District.
The military intervention and annexation by Russia took place in the aftermath of the Ukrainian Revolution and many stories have circulated about the direct involvement/direction of/by Vladimir Putin and commanders of the Russian Army. This conflict was a part of the wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine. In February 2014 pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. One week later masked Russian troops without insignias took over the Supreme Council of Crimea and captured strategic sites across Crimea, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Aksyonov government in Crimea, the declaration of Crimea’s independence and the holding of a disputed, unconstitutional referendum. The rest is [recent] history.
At St. James, London, stands a monument to an earlier period of conflict in Crimea’s long history – the Crimean War Memorial. This memorial commemorates the Allied victory in the Crimean War of 1853–56. It is located on Waterloo Place, at the junction of Regent Street and Pall Mall, approximately one-quarter of the way from the Duke of York Column to Piccadilly Circus. It was unveiled in 1861 and consisted of the statues of three Guardsmen, with a female allegorical figure referred to as Honor. It was cast in bronze from the cannons captured at the siege of Sevastopol.
The Crimean War was a conflict in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox Christians. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the unwillingness of Britain and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. Russia lost the war and the Ottomans gained a twenty-year respite from Russian pressure. The Christians were granted a degree of official equality and the Orthodox gained control of the Christian churches in dispute.
The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia in October 1853 and suffered a major defeat that gave Russia control of the Black Sea. The Russian threat to the Ottoman Empire required control of the Black Sea, and the key was the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula. The allies realized that, if they captured Sevastopol, they would control the Black Sea and win the war. France and Britain entered in March 1854. During most of the fighting in the Black Sea, a large French army and a smaller British army fought to capture Sevastopol. Death from disease was very high on both sides. After Sevastopol fell, the neutrals started aligning with the allies. Isolated and facing a bleak prospect if the war continued, Russia made peace in March 1856. The original superficial religious issues had already been resolved. The main results of the war were that the Black Sea was neutralized—Russia would not have any warships there—and the two states of Wallachia and Moldavia became largely independent.
In total, it is estimated that the Crimean War left 350,000–375,000 dead, from which over 20,000 were from the British Empire.