lthough the long term causes of the Crimean War probably were more crucial, the immediate causes of the war — ostensibly, at least — were over religion, particularly over the protectorship of the Holy Places in Jerusalem. The Holy Land was part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire but also was the home of Judaism and Christianity. In the Middle Ages, Christian Europe and the Muslim east had fought the Crusades over control of this land. However, the Christian Church was divided into numerous small denominations. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church were the two major branches of Christianity. Unfortunately, these main denominations could not work together. Both of them wanted to control the Holy Places.
In 1690 the Ottoman Sultan granted to the Roman Catholic Church the dominant authority in all the churches in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem; then in 1740 a Franco-Turkish treaty stated that Roman Catholic monks should protect the Holy Places. This was intended to ensure the safety of Christians and to enable pilgrimages to Jerusalem; furthermore, the French had asserted their right to rebuild the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a Catholic church. However, between 1740 and 1820 the influence of the Roman Catholic Church had been allowed to lapse by natural erosion: there were not many Roman Catholics in that part of the world and Christians tended to belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Consequently, protection of the Holy Places had gradually devolved to Orthodox monks. Russia represented the Orthodox Church as its protector and Czar Nicholas I seems to have thought that he had been ordained by God as the leader of the Orthodox Church and the protector of Orthodox Christians. By the 1840s, Russian pilgrims were flocking to the Holy Land, which gave the Czar the excuse to demand that the Russians should be able to provide some form of protection for his subjects there.
Map of the Ottoman Empire. The map has been taken from the...
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