Very recently, back in 2014, the entire world celebrated the 160th anniversary of Britain declaring war against the Russians marking the formal beginning of the Crimean War. On the war, there was Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire on one side, and Russia on the other, with the motif to curtail the presence of Russian and their ambition in ruling over the Black Sea and Eastern Europe. And those who think that the name Crimean is given just because it was fought in Crimea are completely wrong since the venue shifted in several places. But why is the war so bright in the history of the world? Why is the Crimean War still spoken of whenever scholars sit to discuss the history of Russian culture?
While finding the answer to this question, Orlando Figes found out that it is the only single war in the history of mankind, where a battle was vaunted as glorious and heroic by the side that lost it. But what does the entire world owe to the battle? Figes has always been keen about the cultural impacts that a war has always had in a community. And these studies actually make the entire research work much more interesting.
The first Battle that most people speak of is the Battle of Balaclava, which is a bay south of Sevastopol. Since the battle was fought on 25th October 1854 during the chilling seasons, all the British soldiers wore a knitted pull over head coverings. All these came to be known as the Balaclava helmets, and over the years, it came to be known only as the Balaclavas. However, the use of these helmets have gone passed the authentic use, and it is now associated with crime than the Crimea these days.
One of the noted heroes from the Battle of Balaclava was the James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan. All the British officers in the Crimean war wore knitted waistcoats and this actually made Brudenell quite a famous figure in the war. As a result of it, the entire buttoned up sweater vests used in the war came to be named after him. Once being associated with this dashing cavalry hero, the cardigans are now seen on the bookworms and in the stories of grandmothers.
But what was this Earl of Cardigan famous for? This next obvious question made Orlando Figes work on it gravely. It was as dumb as a suicide mission in an already lost battle. He actually led the cavalry brigade, the Light Brigade which was made up of units of dragoons, lancers, and even the hussars. All that he had was a poorly written order, and it was sloppy miscommunication and poor understanding between the soldiers that actually made the entire Battle go on different terms. But, the insane bravery of the charge actually unnerved the Russians, and the Light Brigade was immortalized by Alfred Tennyson, in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. The poem actually portrayed the charge as more doomed than it was, and the entire credit for this goes to the report which was mistaken.
Even though it’s a battle filled with mistakes, it’s a battle that brought quite a few interesting trends that we are aware of now. This is where history lies in, finding the little changes that appear to be huge trends.