|Into the Valley of Death Rode the Six Hundred|
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Crimea is much in the news today. Many people may have trouble finding Crimea on the map. Some say that they have never heard of Crimea before this current crisis. However, that is probably not true. Most of us are aware of the Crimean War or at least of Florence Nightingale, who launched the modern nursing movement, caring for wounded and sick British soldiers during the Crimean War.
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Many have surely heard of The Charge of the Light Brigade. That took place during the Crimean War. Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote the poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade poem in 1854:
"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns! he said.
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade! Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
"Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell, boldly they rode and well,
into the jaws of Death.
Into the mouth of hell rode the six hundred.
"Flashed all their sabres bare, flashed as they turned in air
sabring the gunners there, charging an army,
while all the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke, right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian reeled from the sabre stroke, shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not the six hundred.
"Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them,
cannon behind them volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell, while horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well, came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell.
All that was left of them, left of six hundred.
"When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade, noble six hundred!"
Courage Despite Confusion
Alfred Tennyson's poem was published 9 December 1854 in The Examiner. Inspired by the term in Psalm 23 of the Valley of the shadow of death, it highlights one of the most famous events of the long and costly Crimean War. The Light Brigade had been ordered into a nearly hopeless situation, due to command confusion and incompetence. Yet incredibly they succeeded in reaching the Russian artillery at the end of a valley lined with artillery on both sides, and they actually succeeded in fighting their way out of a Russian trap. Most of the men made it back to their own lines.
Actually there were 666 men, who charged in the Light Brigade that day. There have been a number of films made on that event.
However, for most people that would be the full extent of their knowledge of Crimea.
The First Modern War
The Crimean War was called one of the first modern wars because it saw the first use of major technology, such as railways and telegraphs. It was also one of the first wars to be documented extensively in photographs and written reports. The Crimean War exposed horrendous logistical failures in both the British and Russian armies.
The reports of War correspondents led to widespread demands for sweeping reforms in the military. The sale of commissions in the British Army came under scrutiny and was eventually abolished as a result of exposés of incompetence in the field. The war also led to the establishment of the Victoria Cross as the British Army's first universal award for Valour.
The Crimean War was also a contributing factor in Russia abolishing Serfdom in 1861. Czar Alexander II saw the military defeat of the Russian serf army by free troops from Britain and France as proof of the need for emancipating the Serfs. The Russian government also began a major modernisation of its forces as it had seen its technical inferiority in military practices as well as weapons. Russian military medicine saw dramatic progress through the Crimean War as N.I. Pirogov, known as the Father of Russian Field Surgery, developed the use of anaesthetics, plaster casts, enhanced amputation methods and five-stage triage.
The debts that Russia incurred from the Crimean War led Alexander II to decide to sell Alaska to the United States to help pay their war debts.
Unasked Reason Why
However, as interesting as all of these developments were, the most important question is seldom asked: Why?
Why were British and French forces fighting the Russians in Crimea in the first place?
The Last Crusade
From the Western media at the time, one would have received the impression that the issue was to protect "poor little Turkey" from the predatory aggressions of imperial Russia. However, the Russians saw it very differently. Some Russians called the war: The Last Crusade.
The Turkish Threat
From the 15th century, the dominant Muslim power was the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which oppressed millions of Christians including Armenians, Greeks and many Slavs. With the fall of the greatest city in the world at that time, Constantinople, in 1453, and the massacre of the entire city by Muslim Turks, the Byzantine Empire which has stood for over 1,000 years fell.
The Defenders of the Faith
Russia took up the mantle of the Eastern Roman Empire. Two Romes had fallen, proclaimed the Czars, the third Rome now stands! St. Petersberg and the Russian Empire saw themselves as heir to the Christian Byzantine Empire. Inspired by the vision in Daniel, generations of Russians saw their manifest destiny as liberating the Orthodox Christian world from the sons of Ishmael, whose wild hand was against every man. At the height of the Turkish wars, in the 1770s, Catherine the Great of Russia christened one of her grandsons Constantine. For centuries Russian statesmen saw their manifest destiny to defend Orthodox Christianity against Islamic Jihad and also against Roman Catholicism.
Russia's Manifest Destiny
Systematically Russia worked at freeing Christians from Ottoman Turkish control, liberating the Balkans and forcing the Turks to respect the religious freedom of their Christian subjects. As Russia extended Christian civilisation across the whole of North Asia to the Pacific Ocean, they also were pushing southward in their civilising mission, seeking to liberate the holy places in Palestine, which were then controlled by the Muslim Turks.
Propping Up Turkey
If it had not been for the intervention of Great Britain and France, the Russians would have undoubtedly overrun the whole rotten, corrupt and crumbling edifice of the Turkish Empire, and established Orthodox Christianity throughout the Middle East.
The Scandalous Alliance
However Britain dreaded the establishment of a Russian superpower stretching from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. So, to prevent Russia gaining ice-free ports for their Navy, Britain became the protector and guarantee of the Ottoman Empire. As leader of the opposition at that time, Gladstone declared: Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli "Is not such a Turk as I thought. What he hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction." Gladstone described the British alliance with Turkey as "The Scandalous Alliance."
Turkey had been the greatest threat to the freedom of Europe throughout the centuries. The Turks had twice besieged Vienna in the heart of Europe. They had sacked Budapest, taking hundreds of thousands of Christians into Islamic slavery from the very heart of Europe. In 1822 the entire population of the Island of Chios, tens-of-thousands of people, were massacred, or enslaved. In 1823, 8,750 Christians were slaughtered by the Turks at Missolonghi. Thousands of Assyrian Christians were murdered in the Province of Mosul in 1850. It was such atrocities as these that led the Russians to demand the right to protect the Holy Places which were under Orthodox supervision, in the Middle East.The Greatest Threat
The New Napoleonic Empire of France
The status quo was destabilised in 1852 with the accession to power in France of Napoleon III. In order to increase his prestige, he sought to provoke an international crisis by demanding that the Turks place the Holy places in the Middle East under the power of the Roman Catholic church, rather than the Orthodox. As Napoleon III's new French regime was completely secular, this was a cynical and manipulative diplomatic move designed to provoke war.
Extending the Life of Ottoman Oppression
So Napoleon III's France assumed the role of Catholic crusader, effectively supporting the blood-stained, despotic and corrupt Ottoman Turkish Empire. This move led to soaking the continent in blood. Over 800,000 died in the Crimean War. Far more serious than the actual loss in lives and limbs, was that the British and French actions in the Crimean War extended the worthless existence of the Turkish tyranny, who now targeted the Christians who had previously been under the protection of Czarist Russia.
The Butcher's Bill
In 1860, over 12,000 Christians were slaughtered by the Turks in Lebanon. In 1876, 14,700 Bulgarians were murdered by the Turks. At the town of Batao, out of 7,000 inhabitants, 5,000 were put to the sword by the Muslims. However, reports of these and other routine atrocities by the Ottoman Turks were generally supressed by British government of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, for political reasons. He saw it as more important to block Russian Naval ambitions to secure an ice-free port by promoting an alliance of convenience with Turkey.
Supporting the Enemies of Christian Civilisation
As Serge Trifkovic in The Sword of the Prophet, observed: "The great Western powers – the heirs of those who had looted Constantinople in the Crusades and refused to help when the Turks were breaking through the walls with a canon built by an Hungarian Catholic, who forced the last Emperors to forswear their Orthodox Faith at the Council of Florence as the price of Western help that never came – those same Western powers, and Great Britain in particular, actually supported the Turkish subjugation of Christian Europeans on the ground that the Muhammadan Empire was a stabilising force and a counter weight against Austria and Russia. The scandalous alliance with Turkey against Russia in the Crimean War, reflect a pernicious frame of mind that has manifested itself more recently in the overt, covert, or de-facto support of certain Western powers for the Muslim side in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Cyprus, Sudan, East Timor and Kashmir."
Turkish Slaughter of Christians
The Turks slaughtered over 200,000 Armenian Christians in Bayazid (1877). Other massacres followed in Alashgurd (1879), Sassun (1894), Constantinople (1896), Adana (1909), and Armenia (1895-1896). In 1915 the Turks massacred over 1.5 million Armenian Christians. In 1881 the Turks slaughtered Christians in Alexandria. In 1915-1916, over 100,000 Christians were murdered in Lebanon and Syria.
A Terrible Track Record
As Prime Minister Gladstone observed concerning the Turks: "They were upon the whole, from the dark day when they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went a broad line of blood marked the track behind them. As far as their dominion reached, civilisation disappeared from view. They represented everywhere, government by force, as opposed to government by law."
The Destruction of Smyrna
Even as the Ottoman Empire crumbled and was replaced by the new Republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the ancient city of Smyrna, with its 300,000 Christian population, was destroyed. The burning of Smyrna and the massacre of its Christian population marked the end of Greek civilisation in Asia Minor. Incredibly, British, American, Italian and French warships anchored in Smyrna's harbour were ordered to maintain neutrality and even refused the pleas of refugees swimming to their anchored ships. Even as late as 1955, Istanbul's Christians suffered what one reporter called "the worst race riot in Europe".
An Unmitigated Cultural Disaster
It is no wonder that William Muir (1819-1905), one of the greatest orientalists of all times, concluded at the end of his long and distinguished career: "The sword of Muhammad and the Quran are the most fatal enemies of civilisation, liberty and truth which the world has yet known… an unmitigated cultural disaster parading as God's Will…"
Counter Productive Intervention
So, 160 years ago, Western European powers interfered in the policies of Russia, invaded the Crimea, and, as a result, strengthened the hand of radical Islam. Instead of supporting civilisation and advancing freedom, the Western powers intervention in Crimea, in the 1856-1856 Crimean War, actually undermined freedom, retarded civilisation and unintentionally led to even worse massacres of Christians in the extended life granted to the tyrannical Turkish Empire.
Secular and Spiritual Concerns
Obviously Russian policies are influenced by both religious and secular motives. Russia desires ice-free, warm water naval bases. Odessa and Sevastopol are considered most strategic and essential for the Russian Federation's security. However, there is also the strong national conviction that it is Russia's manifest destiny to extend Orthodox Christian civilisation throughout the Middle East and its sworn duty to protect Orthodox Christians in the Middle East.
Protecting the Persecuted
That is why Russia has extended its strong arm over the secular regime in Syria, which has provided protection for the 6% of its population who are Christian. The Russian government has been one of the only European governments to speak out against Islamic persecution of Christians, Russia called for international intervention to protect the Christians of the Middle East from persecution.
Partnership Between the Orthodox Church and The Russian State
Since the fall of the Soviet Union the Russian government has worked intimately with the Orthodox Church who have enthusiastically participated in consecrating national events. The Russian government has helped rebuild many Orthodox Cathedrals and monasteries, which have been confiscated and devastated by the Communists during the terrible 70 years of Soviet control.
Understanding the Times
One would hope that those making their assessments and decisions concerning what the United States and Europe should do during this new crisis in Crimea, would consider these historic realities. The results of the Treaty of Paris, 1856, which ended the Crimean War, included that Wallachia and Moldovia were moved from Russian rule and placed under the Muslim Turks. The boundaries of Ukraine, Moldovia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia were all changed as a result of the Crimean War and the Treaty of Paris - inevitably leading to future disastrous wars.
Learning From History
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote: "If we do not know our own history, we will simply have to endure all the same mistakes, sacrifices and absurdities all over again."
"Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted… now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition…" 1 Corinthians 10:6-11
Dr. Peter Hammond
To better understand the threat of Islam, read:
To understand the broad sweep of the last 2,000 years of Church History, obtain: