January 01, 2016

Pyrrhic Defeat

Political cartoons in Punch, April 8, 1854.

In february 1856, representatives of most major (and some minor) European powers gathered in Paris: Russia, France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. The main purpose of the Congress of Paris was to bring an end to the Crimean War, but its ramifications went much further. It put in place a new system of international relations.

In 1853, when Nicholas I set out on a path toward war with Turkey, he was certain of victory and of Russia’s unshakable prominence within Europe. During the decades since Napoleon’s defeat, Russia had been one of Europe’s undisputed leaders. The Holy Alliance of Europe’s great monarchies had largely been brought about by his brother, Tsar Alexander I, who had regularly attended Holy Alliance congresses to take part in discussions of the most diverse economic and political issues affecting Europe, and, on occasion, decisions to militarily intervene in one country or another that was tottering on the brink of revolution.

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