March 9th, 2014
03:27 PM ET

Crimea and the first photos of war

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Over the past week, images of troops massing in Crimea have been broadcast to millions around the globe. It so happens that the first ever official war photographs were from the very same region.

In 1853, the Russian Empire fought the allied armies of the Ottoman Empire, France and Great Britain in the short but brutal Crimean War that claimed the lives of three quarters of a million soldiers. And for the first time, photographers were able to give people a glimpse of what war was like.

The most famous image perhaps is Roger Fenton's "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," which showed cannonballs strewn throughout a valley. (Some say it was the first staged war photo, that he moved the cannonballs into the road). The technology didn't allow for action shots, but the images captured the moments between battles.

So the folly of the war was probably best articulated with a pen and paper. Listen to this 1890 recording of Alfred Lord Tennyson himself reading his famous poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"

Was there a man dismay'd?

Not tho' the soldier knew

Someone had blunder'd:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

So we can see – and we can hear – what conflict over Crimea was like 160 years ago. Then, as now – as leaders plot and plan – every soldier must think, "ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die."

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. FriendsofIndia

    Hi Fareed,

    Kudos. Great job on promoting India's great interests at an international heavyweight like the CNN. India will be forever grateful for your contributions.

    It is a wonderful thing that America is going to invade Ukraine, you are doing a fine job of making sure of that happens. Additionally, America should start talking turkey with Russia, the only large country that can ever rival India. As the world's greatest democracy and its only super duper power, India should join the US in this invasion, for this is the only chance that the invasion can ever succeed.

    On the one hand, the US has plenty of experience of invading other countries, with the skills honed in the invasion of Panama, Greennada, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, that India lacks. On the other, India has resources and ways and means to manage large dalit populations. We can send 100 million of our dalit armies, that completely overwhelm all the population in Ukraine. We can make all the Ukraine girls to be married to our dalit soldiers, that will instantly solve our problem of too few girls, and at the same time all the next generation of them will be our content India dalits instead of Russians who are constantly a pain on America's butt. As for the rest of the Ukrain men, they will either all be vaporized in their unholy and futile so called resistance, or that they can all migrate to Russia to co-habit with their fellow Slaves.

    This will completely change the geostrategic situation, it will make India the strongest nation in the world, and enhancing our world's greatest and largest and duperest super power status. And in fact, that should turn it around immediately to make the USA our vassal state because of our immediate control of Ukrain oil and gas and our chokehold on the Russian land mass.

    Submit to your fate under our Hindu Colossus, beg our 5 rupee meal middle classes, bow to our super powers.

    Pray for India. Jai Hind!

    March 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      Good thing for really big and expansive oceans that keep us reasonably separated.

      March 11, 2014 at 7:29 am | Reply
  2. JAL

    John Mccain used a word this week that I had to look up. The word: "fomenting". It means to stir up acts or emotions. It is a good word. At what point does genuine concern become fomenting?

    March 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Reply
    • JAL

      Amazing article btw...

      March 9, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  3. John Taylor

    It's interesting that the reason that Russia gave for entering Crimea, is essentially the same sort of rational they used to do so during the initial Crimean war. History truly repeats itself.

    March 9, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  4. Joseph McCarthy

    This conflict clearly points out the endless greed of the British in building their huge empire. This dates well back into the Middle Ages when King Edward I took over Scotland and an even shinier example of this is the story of Joan of Arc where the British managed to bribe the corrupt bishop Pierre Cauchon into having her burned at the stake in 1431!

    March 11, 2014 at 11:46 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Fareed, have you watched the silent film, "Battleship Potemkin" of 1925? It's brilliant! You will see how Ukraine looked like in the 1920s.

    March 12, 2014 at 9:02 am | Reply

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