fought directly in Russia s backyard on the Black Sea, yet the Western forces won,
driving the Russian armies from their entrenched positions. (Each side lost about 250,000 troops in a
truly difficult struggle.) The loss was profoundly disturbing to Russian leadership, for the Western
powers won this little war not because of great tactics or inspired principles but because of their industrial
advantage. They had the ships to send masses of military supplies long distances, and their artillery
and other weapons were vastly superior to Russia s home-produced models. This severe blow to
a regime that prided itself on military vigor was a frightening portent for the future.
The Crimean War helped convince Russian leaders, including the new tsar, Alexander II, that
it was time for a change. Reform was essential, not to copy the West but to allow sufficient economic
adjustments for Russia to keep pace in the military arena. First and foremost, reform meant
some resolution of Russia s leading social issue, the issue that most distinguished Russian society
from that of the West: serfdom. Only if the status of serfs changed could Russia develop a more vigorous
and mobile labor force and so be able to industrialize. Russian concern about this issue paralleled
the attacks on slavery in the Americas in the same period, reflecting a desire to meet Western
humanitarian standards and a need for cheap, flexible labor.