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Treaty of Paris (1856)


Treaty of Paris (1856)

Edouard Louis Dubufe, Congrès de Paris, 1856, Palace of Versailles.
From Auguste Blanchard's copper-plate engraving after Edouard Dubufe's Picture
Treaty of Paris participants

The Treaty of Paris of 1856 settled the Crimean War between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Second French Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The treaty, signed on 30 March 1856 at the Congress of Paris, made the Black Sea neutral territory, closing it to all warships, and prohibiting fortifications and the presence of armaments on its shores. The treaty marked a severe setback to Russian influence in the region. Conditions for the return of Sevastopol and other towns and cities in the south of Crimea were clear; "not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast".


  • Historical context 1
  • Negotiations 2
  • Russian aims 3
  • Great powers aims 4
  • Russian losses 5
  • Short-term consequences 6
  • Long-term consequences 7
  • Provisions 8
  • Russian losses 9
  • Signing parties 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Historical context

The Treaty of Paris was signed on March 30, 1856 at the Congress of Paris with Russia on one side of the negotiating table and France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia Piedmont on the other. The Treaty of Paris came about to resolve the Crimean War which had begun on October 23, 1853 when the Sultan formally declared war on Russia after the Tsar moved troops into the Danubian Principalities. The Treaty of Paris would have far reaching implications on the future of the Ottoman Empire, as would the ending of the war itself. At the time, it was seen as an achievement of the Tanzimât foreign policy. The Treaty saw the European Powers pledge to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and restored the respective territories of Russian and the Turks to their prewar boundaries, neutralizing the Black Sea for open international trade.


As the first modern war came to a close after 18 long months of violence, all sides of the war wanted to come to a lasting resolution. Yet, competing goals would come to spoil the idea of a lasting and definite peace treaty. Even within the allies conflicting notions of what the peace should entail created a less solid peace deal, leading to further problems for the Ottoman Empire—especially in terms of the Turks relations with the Russian Empire and the Concert of Europe. Distrust sewn between the allied nations of France and Britain during the war effort compounded problems in hammering out a comprehensive peace plan.[1] With the signing of the peace deal in 1856 the Crimean War might have formally come to a close but another war became more likely with its signing than without it.[2][3]

Russian aims

The Russians wanted to ensure that while they lost the war they still left the Congress of Paris with some strength left in their empire and with some of their wartime possessions left under their dominion. When Alexander II took the crown of Russia in 1855 he inherited a potential crisis that threatened to collapse the Russian Empire. Problems all throughout the Empire stretching from parts of Finland to Poland, as well as Crimea and many tribal conflicts stretched the Russian economy to the brink of collapse. Russia knew that within a few months a total defeat in the Crimean War was imminent and that would mean the complete humiliation of Russia on a global scale. Peace talks were pursued by Alexander II with Britain and France in Paris in 1856 as not just a means of attempting to keep some imperial possession, but as a means of stopping the deaths of thousands of its barely trained army reserves and an economic crisis.[4] A huge aim of the Russians was ending war with the appearance of some strength left in the Russian Bear that once terrified the Western allies. Russia in the peace talk process “contrived to turn defeat into victory…through…peacetime [internal] reforms and diplomatic initiatives.”,[5] Like the Ottoman Empire, the Russians desired to turn their attention inward to fix many internal problems, such as the economy and growing unrest amongst society that the government had not done enough in the war effort to crush the weak Turks.

Great powers aims

The most interesting relationship at the Treaty of Paris negotiations was probably the French and British, who mid war began to seemingly pick up their Napoleonic War rivalry once again. The French blamed many of the defeats the Great Powers lost to the Russians on the fact that Britain had marched into war without a clear plan of action. This was perhaps illustrated by the celebrated and valourous but fruitless Charge of the Light Brigade in the Battle of Balaclava. While the British were increasingly wary throughout the war that the French might capitalize on a weakened Russia and focus their attention on seeking revenge for French military defeats at Trafalgar and Waterloo by the hands of the British.[6] The British and French diplomats and politicians welcomed the Russian peace talks because it would end the war before either ally could turn their attention to betray the other.

Great Britain and France also desired to ensure that the Ottoman Empire came out of the Peace of Paris stronger and able to keep the balance of power in Europe stable. Britain and France hoped that peace and restricting Russian access to key areas in the area, such as the Black Sea, would free up the limping Ottoman Empire to focus on internal issues such as rising tides of nationalism in many nations under Turkish authority. Without the Ottomans being in full control of their empire, the Great Powers feared that there could potentially be a mad grab for Turkish territory, strengthening nations that could pose a threat to the French and British. A strong Russia and German force, bolstered by the acquisition of lands from a decaying Ottoman Empire, scared them into desiring nothing more than protecting the "Sick Man of Europe" from further external stress.[7] Thus, full removal of Russian presence of the Danubian provinces and the Black Sea was necessary to protect not just Turkish interests but those of Britain and France as well.

Russian losses

While only losing a few battles during the course of the whole Crimean War, the Russians for many reasons came out the losers of the conflict. The Ottomans, British and French governments would have desired a more crushing defeat for the Tsar; however, the defeat left Russia crippled in many key areas. For one, the Russians lost over 500,000 troops and knew by pressing further militarily with their untrained army they would lose even more lives. Russia was forced with their desired for peace to remove themselves from the Danubian provinces completely restoring power back over to the Turks.[8] Russian battleships were banned from sailing the Black Sea, which drastically decreased their influence over the essential warm water port. Another loss the Russians needed to contend with after the Peace of Paris was the stretched economy and a restless people unhappy with the way in which the war was executed. The political and social unrest, compounded by economic decay, led indirectly to the emancipation of the serfs and revolutionary ideas spreading.[9] The goals that Russia sought in finding peace with the Great Powers, in finding diplomatic solutions that benefited Russia and internal reforms seemed to be unattained by the Tsar in the signing of the Peace of Paris.

Short-term consequences

One immediate result of the Peace of Paris of 1856 was the reopening of the Black Sea for safe, open international trade. Prior to the peace the naval war and presence of Russian warships made trade difficult. The Russian fleet in the Black Sea was formidable, as they sank the Turkish fleet. Now that the Russian fleet was banned from the waterway, peaceful trade could commence once again.[10]

The Peace of Paris also allowed for the war to end and for temporary stability to return to Europe. The Ottomans could focus their attention on the crumbling internal infrastructure, while the Russian could look to their faltering economy. Tensions built up by opportunistic fears between Britain and France could for the time being ease. Yet, nothing in the Peace of Paris could keep Europe stable for the long run, for much more troubling long-term consequences were cause by the peace deal.

The Peace of Paris was also affected by the general public in places such as France and Britain because the Crimean War, as the first modern war, was also the first in which the general public through the media received timely and accurate coverage of the carnage. The British people voted out of office their prime minister, who was viewed as being incompetent with the war effort in favor of Lord Palmerston, who was seen as having a clearer plan to victory.[11] Peace was necessary because for the first time foreign policy was very accessible to the people, and the people demanded an end to the bloodshed.

Long-term consequences

Nationalism was bolstered in many ways by the Crimean War and very little was done at a systemic level to stem the tides of growing nationalist sentiment in many nations. The Ottoman Empire for the next few decades after the Crimean War leading up to World War I would have to squash nationalist sentiment in many of its provinces. The once mighty and flourishing united empire was splintering as many ethnic groups cried out for more rights—most notably self-rule. Britain and France may have for the time being allowed the situation in Europe to stabilize, but the Peace of Paris did little to create lasting stability in the Concert of Europe. The Ottomans joined the Concert of Europe after the Peace was signed, but most European nations looked to the crumbling empire with either hungry or terrified eyes. The Crimean War revealed to the world just how important solving the “Eastern Question” was to the stability of Europe; however, the Peace of Paris provided no clear answer or guidance.[12]

Austria and the Germanic states also were affected by nationalism as a result of the signing of the Peace of Paris. Austria was normally an ally of the Russian Empire; however, for the Crimean War the nation chose to remain mostly neutral. Neutrality during the brutal war, and the Russian defeat, led to relations between the two nations to start to falter. Austria would soon look to the German states for support, and a unified and strengthened Germany was not a pleasant thought for Britain and France.[13] Germany would pose a threat to French borders, and British political and economic interest in the East.

Essentially the war that sought to stabilize power relations in Europe only brought about temporary peace. By fighting the brutal war the Great powers only strengthened nationalist aspirations of ethnic groups under the control of the Turks and in the German states. The Peace of Paris may have ended the Crimean War, and by 1877 the Russians and Turks would once again be at war.[14]


The treaty admitted the Ottoman Empire to the European concert, and the Powers promised to respect its independence and territorial integrity. Russia gave up a little land and relinquished its claim to a protectorate over the Christians in the Ottoman domains. The Black Sea was demilitarised, and an international commission was set up to guarantee freedom of commerce and navigation on the Danube River.

Moldavia and Wallachia would stay under nominal Ottoman rule, but would be granted independent constitutions and national assemblies, which were to be monitored by the victorious powers. A project of a referendum was to be set in place to monitor the will of the peoples regarding unification. Moldavia received the south of Bessarabia (Budjak), creating a buffer between the Ottoman Empire and Russia in the west. Romania, which would later be formed from the two territories, would largely remain an Ottoman puppet-state

New rules of wartime commerce were set out: (1) privateering was illegal; (2) a neutral flag covered enemy goods except contraband; (3) neutral goods, except contraband, were not liable to capture under an enemy flag; (4) a blockade, to be legal, had to be effective.[15]

The treaty also demilitarised the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, which belonged to the autonomous Russian Grand Principality of Finland. The fortress Bomarsund had been destroyed by British and French forces in 1854 and the alliance wanted to prevent its future use as a Russian military base.

Russian losses

The Peace of Paris confirmed Nicholas I's failures.

  • Russia lost territory it had been granted at the mouth of the Danube.
  • Russia was forced to abandon its claims to protect Christians in the Ottoman Empire in favour of France.
  • Russia lost its influence over the Romanian principalities, which, together with Serbia, were given greater independence.
  • In the long run the war marked a turning point in Russian domestic and foreign policy. Russian intellectuals used the defeat to demand fundamental reform of the government and social system.

Signing parties

See also

  • In 2006, Finland celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the demilitarisation of the Åland Islands by issuing a commemorative coin. Its obverse depicts a pine tree, very typical in the Åland Islands, and the reverse features a boat's stern and rudder, with a dove perched on the tiller, a symbol of 150 years of peace.
  • Berwick-upon-Tweed — an apocryphal story concerns Berwick's status with Russia


  1. ^ James, Brian. ALLIES IN DISARRAY: The Messy End of the Crimean War. History Today, 58, no. 3, 2008, pp. 24–31.
  2. ^ Temperley, Harold. The Treaty of Paris of 1856 and Its Execution.'The Journal of Modern History, 4, no. 3, 1932, pp. 387–414.
  3. ^ Pearce, Robert. The Results of the Crimean War.'History Review, 70, 2011, pp. 27–33
  4. ^ James, Brian. ALLIES IN DISARRAY: The Messy End of the Crimean War. History Today, 58, no. 3, 2008, pp. 24–31.
  5. ^ Gorizontoy, Leonid. The Crimean War as a Test of Russia's Imperial Durability.Russian Studies in History, 51, no.1, 2012, pp. 65–94
  6. ^ James, Brian. ALLIES IN DISARRAY: The Messy End of the Crimean War. History Today, 58, no. 3, 2008, pp. 24–31.
  7. ^ Pearce, Robert. The Results of the Crimean War.'History Review, 70, 2011, pp. 27–33
  8. ^ Wedgewood Benn, David.The Crimean War:and its lessons for today.''International Affairs, 88, no. 2, 2012, pp. 387–391
  9. ^ Stepanov, Valerii.The Crimean War and the Russian Economy.'Russian Studies in History, 51, no.1, 2012, pp. 7–34
  10. ^ Wedgewood Benn, David.The Crimean War:and its lessons for today.''International Affairs, 88, no. 2, 2012, pp. 387–391
  11. ^ James, Brian. ALLIES IN DISARRAY: The Messy End of the Crimean War. History Today, 58, no. 3, 2008, pp. 24–31.
  12. ^ Pearce, Robert. The Results of the Crimean War.'History Review, 70, 2011, pp. 27–33
  13. ^ Trager, Robert. Long-Term Consequences of Aggressive Diplomacy: European Relations after Austrian Crimean War Threats.'Security Studies, 21, no. 2, 2012, pp. 232–265.
  14. ^ Pearce, Robert. The Results of the Crimean War.'History Review, 70, 2011, pp. 27–33
  15. ^ A.W. Ward, G.P. Gooch (1970). the cambridge history of british foreign policy 1783–1919. Cambridge U.P,. pp. 390–91. 

Further reading

  • Baumgart, Winfried, and Ann Pottinger Saab. Peace of Paris, 1856: Studies in War, Diplomacy & Peacemaking (1981) 230pp
  • Edouard Gourdon, Histoire du Congrès de Paris, Paris, 1857, full text at google Print
  • Taylor, A.J.P. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848–1918 (1954) pp 83–97
  • Temperley, Harold. "The Treaty of Paris of 1856 and Its Execution," Journal of Modern History (1932) 4#3 pp. 387–414 in JSTOR

External links

  • Some photos of the Treaty
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