Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Crimean War by Orlando Figes

I am a true birder.  When I take a break from writing and practicing the piano I get my mother on the phone, Hercule on my shoulder and get in the car and, after swinging by McDonald's for my giant diet coke, no ice (don't judge me!) I drive through the country while my mother and I talk.  Because she can't drive, she's kind of stuck at home so I make sure to talk to her every day or while I'm driving somewhere.  Cell phones are wonderful!

Lately, I've been taking Percy on our rides too.  The workers at the drive through window at McD's have begun to recognize me.  No doubt they think I'm an eccentric lady with her bird and pig.  Let them.

I took Hercule with me to Florida and he rode on my shoulder everywhere we walked around.  I find that he is a friend magnet.  No child could resist him.  Many children now have photographs taken by their parents with a little green parrot on their shoulder.

I'm brushing up on Hindemith's Flute Sonata.  I'll be performing it with a flutist at the University where I work.  She's just joined the faculty and a pleasure to work with.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Crimean War: A HistoryThe Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Orlando Figes' book, The Crimean War is an excellent account of a little known war. It took place in 1855-57, and it is a war that did not involve the United States for a change, since the States' impeding war between the north and the south kept that country's citizens otherwise occupied.

Russia wanted a warm water port so it decided to invade Turkey. This threatened the British and France so they came to Turkey's defense. Each country had mixed motives.

One, they did not want Russia or each other to get a bigger chunk of the middle east than they had. Napolian III (nephew of the first Napoleon) wanted a glorious war. It was his turn. England, spurred on by the prejudices of their Turkish ambassador were lashed into a feverish Russophobia, aided by the Times London paper. Sounds familiar. Has there ever been a time when the media did not try to form rather than inform the masses?

Russia did not last long in Turkey. They soon, after a massive slaughter, retreated to the Crimea. The British and French were not satisfied with that. They had not come so far for a quick war. They followed the Russians into the Crimea and for the next two years took turns trying to eliminate each other.

The death toll was horrific. Most soldiers of every side died due to illness, disease, starvation and the elements. The British officers saw no need to provide winter clothes or blankets for their soldiers. The Russian ones saw no need to feed their soldiers.

In the end, the Crimean should never have happened, but good results were produced.

For one, attention was given to the plight of the common soldier. Laws were passed to demand the humane treatment of them. Buying officer positions was abolished and the military system became based on meritocracy. Flogging was abolished. Instead of heroism focused on military leaders, greater focus centered around the bravery and courage of the fighting soldier.

For anyone interested in the religious, political, and personal motives of this little known war this is a great source of information.

Orlando Figes writes in a beautiful and fluid style that makes his book not only informative but also a literary treat.

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  1. brilliant review, really... short, but precise and informative... i read quite a bit about that war forty years ago and it was truly an exercise in incompetence and stupidity; like every modern war but worse... i think your relaxing procedure is eminently sane; it's very nice of you to include your mother in your life... I'll listen to the Hindemith later: i'm sure it shares properties with the other H works i've played and listened to... tx...

    1. Thanks, Mudpuddle. The Crimean does seem to rank first in some of the most senseless wars out there. Many wars were fought by people because an aggressor threatened their security, as was the case in the two World Wars. Of course why did the Kaiser and Hitler believe they needed to invade countries that were not threatening them? Some leaders are obsessed with power and glory

      The Crimean war was fought for no good reason by anyone involved. The British and the French were not threatened by Russia and Russia could have simply retreated. But everyone wanted "Glory" for their native land". In the end thousands of soldiers died senselessly.

      Hope you enjoy the Hindemith. The flute sonata is one of the more lyrical works by him.

  2. Super review Sharon. I know only a little bit about The Crimean War. This sounds like a good book to fill in details. I am currently reading Crucible of War, which is about The French and Indian War which took place about one hundred year earlier. That book talks about the brutal conditions that British troops endured. Based on your commentary, it seems that those conditions lasted about another hundred years.

    Hercule Is very cool.

    1. Hi Brian. We read this book because it was a war I had heard about but knew practically nothing about (I wasn't even sure where the Crimea was). This is a great book for fairly thorough information, although he does not mention Florence Nightingale as much as I think she merits.

      Hercule says, "Why thank you. I'm blushing through my feathers." :)

  3. You say.....
    In the end, the Crimean should never have happened, but good results were produced.

    I say....
    I wonder if any wars should have happened. Do rewards ever outweigh costs? I wonder.

    1. Hi R.T. I did not mean to imply that the war was justified because good results were produced; I was simply making the observation that even though the Crimean War was a senseless disaster, nevertheless more humane treatment towards soldiers was an outcome.

      If there were no wars there would be no need of soldiers in the first place but that isn't going to happen until the final trumpet sounds.

  4. Dear Sharon - your parrot is adorable. I think it is so cute how he rides on your shoulder when you are driving. I too talk or visit my Mom everyday - she has great difficulty getting out as well. Great review on your book. I know very little about the Crimean war. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a delightful day. Also so happy to see your visit to my blog. Thank you friend. Hugs!

    1. Hi Debbie! I always enjoy looking at the photos in your blog. It allows me to "leave" Texas for a little while and see beautiful New England! God bless!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.