Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Russians Are Coming!
Russian Pilgrims to Palestine 100 Years Ago

"Russian priestesses" (circa 1900)
Except for a few historians, does anyone know why the Crimean War (1853-1856) was fought and between whom?

It’s a fact that one of the causes of the Crimean War was a dispute over who controlled the Christian holy sites in the Holy Land. The primary combatants were the Russian Empire versus an alliance of the French, Ottoman and British Empires.

In 1851 Napoleon III sent an ambassador to the Ottoman court to convince the Turks to recognize France as the sovereign authority over the holy sites in Palestine, effectively meaning Roman Catholic control over the sites. After Russia protested, the Ottomans reversed the agreement with the French and proclaimed that Russia was the protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire (not too much to the liking of the Greek Orthodox).
Russian pilgrims on the way to Jericho
France responded with “gunboat diplomacy.”  The Turkish Sultan reversed his ruling again, giving authority over Christian sites to France and the Roman Catholic Church.
Russian pilgrims on the Jordan River

The dispute over the holy sites was part of the general balagan as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, leading to widespread warfare, predominately in the Crimean Peninsula along the northern coast of the Black Sea.
Hospital in the Russian Compound,

Russian Pilgrims on the road
between Jerusalem and
the Jordan River
After the war, Russian Czar Alexander II sent agents to purchase properties in Jerusalem and Nazareth.  The Russian Palestine Society was established in 1860 to encourage and subsidize pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Russian churches, hostels and even hospitals were built to accommodate thousands of pilgrims. The large “Russian Compound” was established in Jerusalem. 

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Click on the captions to see the originals.

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1 comment:

  1. The immediate reason was who would possess the keys to the Church of the Nativity - France and the Roman Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox Church.