The Great Game was was the strategic rivalry between the British and Tsarist Russian Empires whose interests collided in Central Asia. The British interest resulted from the importance of the Raj in India--the most important possession of the British Empire. India was the jewel in the British crown. India bordered on Persian and Afgahaistan along a poorly drawn border, especailly the Northeast Frontier birder with Adgjanistan. Tsarist Russian was extending its borders into Central Asia annxing Islamic emirates there. Historians commonly date the rivalry from the Russo-Persian Treaty (1813) until the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907). It was in Afghanistant that Russia influence from Central Asia met and competed with British interests from the Indian sub-continent. The Great Game was a contributing factor in the Crimean War (1853-56).
The Great Game was largely fought out in the Northwest Frontier, but wider areas were affected. There were two actual wars--the Anglo-Adghani Wars. The Great Game was one of the reasons that Britain negotiated a Naval Treaty with Japan and help develop the Japanese Navy in the late 19th century. THe Great Game essentially ended when British and Russian concerns over the rising power of Imperial Germany overcame their rivalry in Central Asia. Ironically it came at a time in which the discovery of oil in Persia (modern Iran) upped the stakes of the rivalry. After the Russian Revolution (1917) a repeat of the 19th century Great Game occurred in which the Bolsgeviks restored Russian control of Central Asia. The phrase 'The Great Game' is commonly attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It became an element of common knowledge as a result of Rudyard Kipling's colorful novel, Kim, set in Afghanistan and India (1901).
The Great Game was was the strategic rivalry between the British and Tsarist Russian Empires whose interests collided in Central Asia. The British interest resulted from the importance of the Raj in India--the most important possession of the British Empire. India was the jewel in the British crown. India bordered on Persian and Afgahaistan along a poorly drawn border, especailly the Northeast Frontier birder with Adgjanistan. Tsarist Russian was extending its borders into Central Asia annxing Islamic emirates there. Historians commonly date the rivalry from the Russo-Persian Treaty (1813) until the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907).
The Great Game was a contributing factor in the Crimean War. The Great Game is commonly associated with Central Asia. The Crimean War was fought to the West, ptimarily about Russian access to the Drdanelles meaning the ability to projct power into the Msditerranean. The Ottoman Empire had become known as the Sickman of Europe. nd Russian had been steadily seixing land formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire (18th century). Russian was taking control of the Black Sea from a weak Ottoman Navy. While not bordering on India expansion into the cauucases and control of the Dardnelles would significantly imprive the Russian strategic position. The Suez Canal did not yet exist, bur there were connectiins ti India over the Suez Istmus. Thus the British resisted a Russiuan incursion in the Mediterranean. The British ab=nd French this saw it imprtant to shore up the Ottoman Empire. It was not so much they looked favorably on the Ottimans, but because there was no consensus at how to fivide up the Empire.
It was in Afghanistan that Russia influence from Central Asia met and competed with British interests from the Indian sub-continent. North of India was the towering Himalayas. The Russians could not move south or th british north over the towering Himalayas. The great Game would be fought out to the northwest. Here was Afghanistan and Persia. Afghahnistan proved the primary battlefield because it had a weak, unstable poltical structure which was vulnerable to insurection and foreign interference. As a result, the Great Game was largely fought out on the Northwest Frontier, but wider areas of Central Asia were affected. [Norris] There were two actual wars--the First Anglo-Afghani War (1839-42) and Second Anglo-Afghani War (1878-80). Both were engagements between British and Afghani forces. British and Russian diplomats approached Emir Dost Mohammad Khan, hoping to negotiate an alliance. British Governor-General George Eden (Lord Auckland) was worried about Russian Russian diplomats in Kabul (1838). This was the beginning of British involvement in Afghanistan. A substantial part of the British forces were the British Indian Army.
The British used The Russians were involved, but diplomatically, they did not commit their army. The British had superior forces and arms, but were fighting in a remote area against larger locally recruited Afghan forces. The First Afghan War was fouhjt by the Brutish Eas India Company a few years before the Great Indian Mutiny (1857).
The Great Game was one of the reasons that Britain negotiated a Naval Treaty with Japan and help develop the Japanese Navy (1902). Britain wa looking for allies in its efforts to confront Russian expansion and move into Central Asia. There was no potential ally there, but as a result of the Meiji Restoratiion (1870s), Jaoan began to moderize and establish an industrial economy. As Japanese power grew so did Japanese-Russian interests clash in East Asia. This did not directly affect develooments in Central Asia, but did restrain Russia's ability to focus on Central Asia. It would eventually lead to the Russo-Japamese War (1904-05) and Russia's disaterous defeat. At te time it was shocking that an Asian country could defeat a major European power. British aid to Japan was a major factor in th develppmnt of the Imperaial Japanese Navy that destroyed tge Russian Squadron in the Tsushima Straits.
Kokand was an Islamic Khanate in the Fergana Valley north nof Afghanistan. It was located in what is now eastern Uzbekistan, eastern Tajikistan, and southeastern Kazakhstan. The name of the city and the khanate may also be spelled as in modern scholarly literature. The Russians took control as a result of a treaty which turned Kokand into a Russian vassal state (1868). They essentially gave Khudayar Khan an ultimatum. He was allowed to soend his remaining years in luxury, improving his lavish palace. Western visitors were duly impressed by his capital and lkavish palace. The capital of only 80,000 people included some 600 mosques and 15 madrasahs. This was, however, an indicator as to why Cenbtral Asia was so poor with an essntially medieval agrivulture. The population knew a great deal about Islam and the Koran, but secular education that would help the population enter the modeern world was lacking. Violent disturbances against Russian rule and Khudayar�s high taxes to support his luxurious life style forced him into exile (1875). His son, Nasruddin Khan, suceeded him. To appease the population, he adopted an anti-Russian stance. The Russians responded by annexing Kokand. A Russiab force led by Generals Konstantin von Kaufman and Mikhail Skobelev led a campaign which involved 6 months of fierce fighting). Tsar Alexander II announced that he had been forced to "... yield to the wishes of the Kokandi people to become Russian subjects." (January 1876). The Khanate of Kokand was thus abolished. It was made part of the Fergana Oblast of Russian Turkestan. The British of course noted the further Russian exoansion south.
British and Russian foreign policy began to shift with rising concerns over Imperial Germany overcame their rivalry in Central Asia. Chncellor Bismarck has studioualy kept Prussia out of the Crimean confrntation with Russia. The defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian ar and the unification of Germany (1870-71) made Prussia, now Imperial Geemany a major player in the Eurooean ballance of power. Bismarck as a major part of his foreign policy intently maintained treaty connections with Russia. The new young kaiser, Wilhelm II, had a very different attitude toward Russia (1888). He was critical of Bismarck's cautious foreign policy, especially maintaining treaty relations with Russia. Soon after becoming kaiser, Bismarck was dismissed and treaty conndections with Russia terminated.
This was almost immediately followed by the Russo-French Rapprochement (1891-94). This was at the time a starteking development, a security treaty between absolutist Tsaris Russia and liberal republican France. This develoopment would have a fundamental impact on the 20th century. The growing power of Germany and the increasing belicosity of Kaiser Wilhelm would end the Great Game as the British shifted its security concerns from Russia to Gedrmany.
Britain and France had fought the Crimean War (1854-56). This had poisoned relations with Russia for decades. And the Great Game further alienated the two powers. The rise of Imperial Germany might not have destabilized Europe, bur the boisteroys new kaiser, Wilhelm II, led Germany into a new aggressive policy. And his dismisal of Bismarck and allowing treaty relations with Russia to lapse opened up major realignments. France was the first to sign a treaty with Russuan, but Britain soon followed suit. Thus was the end of the Great Game. A series of diplomatic actions occured (1890s) Most historians point to
The Durand Line was delineated by Mortimer Durand, a British Raj diplomat and civil servant and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Emir (1893). It fixed the limits of their respective spheres of influence, essentially establishing a border. It both improved diplomatic relations and trade, and allayed Russian fears that Britain might seize Afgahanistan.
An exchange of diplomatic notes Between Britain and Russia was vanother big step (1895). The notes defined the British and Russian spheres of influence east of Lake Sari-Qul. This defined the northern boundary of the Wakhan Corridor east of the lake. This led agreements on borders.
The Pamir Boundary Commission protocols, defining the border between Afghanistan and the Russian empire (1895). This alayed Britush fears that Russia might seize Afghanistan. Finally a new era of afinity was sealed with the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907) which settled issues with Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet. The motivating force of course was the increasing threat from Imperial Germany.
Dating the end of the Great game is a little complicated. It certainly ended with the British-Russian raprochment (1890s). The key step was the fixing of the Afgani border w=ith Russia and British India (1893-95). This did not, hoever, end British-Russian issues as the British continued their relationship with Japan. And the Brutush did sign a naval treaty with Japan (1902). The growth of German power and the behavior of the eratic Kaiser finally as with the case of France drove Britain and Russia together. The Kaiser's decision to build a High-Seas fleet was seen by the Brutish cas a direct threat. Britain and Russia decided to settle their dufferences. The two countries negotiated their colonial differences in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet--the Anglo-Russian Entente (1907). They negotiated spheres of influence in Persia and agreed that neither country would interfere in Tibet's internal affairs. Russia recognized Britain's influence over Afghanistan. The agreement and the similar accord with France led eventually to the formation of the Triple Entente. Thus the Anglo-Russian Convention on Central Asia can also be seen as the end of the Great Game.
The 19th century was dominated by coal. Coal powered the Industral Revolution. It poered factories and rail roads. After mid-century it also began to power shipping. Coal worked, but had some disadvantages. Coal took up a huge area. This large aeas of a ship had to be devoted to carrying coal. This meant that the amount of cargo was limited on merchant shipping and guns limited on naval vessels. In addition, coal left a noticable smoke trail--a real problem in naval wardare. And by the end of the century a more energy dense fuel requiring less storage space was available--oil. And it left a much smaller smoke trail. Neither Britain and oil had significant oil fields, but the Royal Navy could guarantee oil imports from the burgenoing American fields. The Germans realizing their ports coulf be blockaded could not make the shift to oil. At the same time, the discovery of oil in Persia (modern Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq). The peoximity to the Great Game upped the stakes of the rivalry, but here the concern was the Germans who were building a major High Seas fleet. The Royal Navy could guarantee delivery, but the Germany Navy could not. It is at this time that the Germans began thinking of the Berlin to Bagdad Railroad. This again shifted Britains leader to shift their thinking from a Russian to German security threat.
As a result of the Russian Revolution (1917), the Russians temprarily lost control of Central Asia. A repeat of the 19th century Great Game occurred in which the Bolsgeviks restored Russian control of Central Asia. After defeartung the Whites in Euriopean Russia. The Bolsheviks sent military forces into Central Asia. The British were unwilling to respond.
The phrase 'The Great Game' is commonly attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It became an element of common knowledge as a result of Rudyard Kipling's colorful novel, Kim, set in Afghanistan and India (1901).
Norris, J.A.. The First Afghan War 1838-1842 (Cambridge: 1967).
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