3 minutes 45 seconds
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When you invite 1 European great power to a war, it's only polite that you invite them all. Normally, this would see wars grow ever larger, like the 7 Years' War or the French Revolutionary Wars, until everybody was involved. Yet the Crimean War, fought between Russia on the 1 side and France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia on the other, was contained. Neither the Austrian Empire nor the Kingdom of Prussia got involved, despite both being able to gain something from it. Which raises the obvious question.
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Why didn't they get involved? Why did Prussia and Austria stay neutral during the Crimean War? So since the mid-18th century, the Emperor of Russia had been the protector of the Christian people within the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon III, the Emperor of
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France, wanted to increase France's prestige and please his Catholic supporters. And so he
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got the Ottomans to give him the title instead. The Russians protested and placed armies across the Ottoman border and the Ottomans recanted. Napoleon, none too pleased about this, sent ships to the Ottoman coast and a sack of cash to Constantinople and they changed their minds again. Enraged, the Russians invaded the Ottoman puppets of Wallachia and Moldavia. This panicked all of the European great powers who met to sort out a compromise.
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This compromise was largely that Russia should go home and just deal with it, and shockingly the Russian Emperor Nicholas I refused. As such, for both Britain and France, war would keep the declining Ottoman strong enough to be a permanent thorn in Russia's side. So why did Austria and Prussia not get involved? Well, the Austrian Empire had recently become a close friend of Russia, especially after Russian troops put down the Hungarian Revolution half a decade prior. As such, the Russians expected the Austrians to pressure Britain and France to de-escalate or even join the war on their side.
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Yet, as you'll know, they did not. In fact, the Austrians were extremely worried about Russian troops marching to their south. Its emperor, Franz Joseph, yes he lived that long, saw the Balkans as Austria's rightful sphere of influence. In fact, as the war continued, Austria built up its forces along the southern border, which meant that Russian forces had to stay there in case of an invasion. Russia soon agreed to leave and the Austrians occupied the Ottoman puppet states to its south.
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It did this for 2 reasons. The first was to nominally protect its southern border but the real hope was that they'd just sort of be given it after the war.
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And the second reason was that Austria still wanted to preserve the balance of power.
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And the reason that it needed to keep its army in position was that its leaders were deeply concerned that Russia was going to
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be carved up, which was a legitimate concern and brings us on to Prussia. So the Prussians also stayed out of the war despite both sides trying to
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get them involved. The British had secretly offered the Prussians these lands if they invaded, and also offered Finland back to Sweden if it also got involved.
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The King chose not to. This wasn't out of altruism, but because Prussian sentiment for both sides was so strong that he didn't want
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to cause long-term damage to its internal harmony. Another reason which kept Prussia neutral was that since the Baltic and Black Seas were blockaded, Russia could only really trade with Prussia which was very lucrative.
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And with that, the Prussians just sort of sat the war out and without them there
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was no way that Sweden-Norway was going to get involved. And this is where those Austrian troops were useful. Austria's plan was that these troops were now there to pressure the Ottoman flank and dissuade the Allies from marching too far into Russia. The Austrians stressed that the losses France had suffered in Crimea would leave it vulnerable to a war with Prussia. This, combined with the expense of the conflict, meant that Britain and the Ottomans were now under pressure to swiftly end the war, and without major territorial concessions from Russia.
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In the short term, Austria's proactive neutrality saw them avoid conflict whilst appearing strong. Long term, though, it meant that
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the Russian emperors now sort of hated them and favoured Prussia, meaning that when the 2 went to war a decade later, Russia made no attempts to help their former Austrian allies.
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I hope you enjoyed this episode and a special thanks to my patrons... Swan, Marvin Casale, Camoon Yoon, Winston K. Wood, Boogily Woogily, Daniel Tobian, Miss Izzet, Matthew Shipley, Aaron the White, Corey Turner, The McWhopper, Alex Schwinn, Anthony Beckett, Copper Tone, Maggie Patskowski, Shuenin, Spinning 3 Plates, and Charles the First. You
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