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The Great Western War (Russian: Западная война, Zapadnaya voyna), also known as the California War (Spanish: Guerra de California), was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and Mexico against the liberal government of Spain over the control of Fort Ross and most of Spanish North America. The war spanned three years, ending in 1823 with the joint Franco-Russian invasion and occupation of Madrid.
Tensions between Russia and Spain had been escalating since the 1790s, as both empires claimed the exclusive right to the Pacific coast of North America (along with the United Kingdom and the United States). The Ross Colony was established in 1812, during which time Spain was under the occupation of the First French Empire (see Peninsular War). Another consequence of the Napoleonic Wars would be many wars of independence fought across Spanish America. New Spain would declare their independence in 1821 as the Mexican Empire, with the Spanish continuing to oppose independence.
The war began in early 1821, when a Spanish expedition force entered the Ross colony and demanded the Russian colonists to surrender. The invasion proved a failure, as the Russians were able to fight off the Spanish forces. The death of several colonists (including administrator Ivan Kuskov) sparked outrage in the Russian Empire, which would declare war against Spain. Shortly after the attack, the Russian Empire would formalize their claims to the Pacific Northwest and establishing an alliance with the Mexican Empire. The Russians would also agree to send 150,000 troops to join the French in their toppling of the Trienio Liberal government in Spain.
Upon the restoration of Ferdinand VII, the Spanish capitulated and the war ended. The Russian Empire would inherit the Spanish claims to the Pacific Northwest and the Mexican Empire is formally recognized by Madrid. Following their recent victories against the Swedish and Napoleonic France, the Russian Empire would solidify their Great Power status after defeating the Spanish Empire. Subsequent treaties with the United Kingdom and the United States would also assure that a Russian presence would remain within North America.