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Beyond the ‘Great Game’: The Russian origins of the second Anglo–Afghan War*

  • ALEXANDER MORRISON (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Drawing on published documents and research in Russian, Uzbek, British, and Indian archives, this article explains how a hasty attempt by Russia to put pressure on the British in Central Asia unintentionally triggered the second Anglo–Afghan War of 1878–80. This conflict is usually interpreted within the framework of the so-called ‘Great Game’, which assumes that only the European ‘Great Powers’ had any agency in Central Asia, pursuing a coherent strategy with a clearly defined set of goals and mutually understood rules. The outbreak of the Second Anglo–Afghan war is usually seen as a deliberate attempt by the Russians to embroil the British disastrously in Afghan affairs, leading to the eventual installation of ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan, hosted for many years by the Russians in Samarkand, on the Afghan throne. In fact, the Russians did not foresee any of this. ‘Abd al-Rahman's ascent to the Afghan throne owed nothing to Russian support, and everything to British desperation. What at first seems like a classic ‘Great Game’ episode was a tale of blundering and unintended consequences on both sides. Central Asian rulers were not merely passive bystanders who provided a picturesque backdrop for Anglo–Russian relations, but important actors in their own right.

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The research for this article was funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. I would like to thank Evgenii Abdullaev, Raushan Abdullaev, Alima Bissenova, Ian Campbell, Valery Germanov, Beatrice Penati, Scott Savran, David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Charles Sullivan, Tom Welsford, Zbigniew Wojnowski, and the reviewers for Modern Asian Studies for their comments on earlier drafts.

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1 Lord Lytton to Sir Fitzjames Stephen, May 1885 Oriental and India Office Collections, British Library (OIOC) Mss Eur F132 Lyall Papers No. 22, f.55; please note that two sets of dates are used throughout this article—Russian documents use the Julian calendar, which was 12 days behind the Gregorian calendar used in British documents. In the text I have stuck to Gregorian dates, but those in the footnotes reflect those given in the source.

2 I visited the monument and took these photographs in the summer of 2008. For a more recent account of its present state see ‘Dzhamskii Otryad’ Pis'ma o Tashkente 24 May 2012 http://mytashkent.uz/2012/05/24/dzhamskiy-otryad/, [accessed 20 August 2016].

3 David Schimmelpenninck van der OyeRussian Foreign Policy 1815–1917’ in Cambridge History of Russia vol. 2 Lieven D. C. B. (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) pp. 565–6; Fuller William Strategy and Power in Russia 1600–1914 (Toronto: The Free Press, 1992), pp. 320–2; Otte T. G. The Foreign Office Mind. The Making of British Foreign Policy 1865–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 120–1; Anderson M. S. The Eastern Question 1774–1923 (London: Macmillan, 1966), pp. 195219 ; Charles and Jelavich Barbara Russia in the East 1876–1880 (Leiden: Brill, 1959), pp. 46 , 79–84. This disgruntlement was particularly true of Russia's former ambassador at Constantinople, Count N. P. Ignat'ev, a diplomatic éminence grise and powerful figure in the empire's Asian policy who was largely responsible for negotiating San Stefano: Khevrolina B. M. Nikolai Petrovich Ignat'ev. Rossiiskii Diplomat (Moscow: Kvadriga, 2009), pp. 320–9.

4 Hopkirk Peter The Great Game. On Secret Service in High Asia (London: John Murray, 1990) p. 380 .

5 Williams BerylApproach to the Second Afghan War: Central Asia during the Great Eastern Crisis, 1875–1878International History Review vol. 2 (1980), pp. 216–38; see also Lowe Duthie JohnPragmatic Diplomacy or Imperial Encroachment? British Policy Towards Afghanistan, 1874–1879International History Review vol. 5 (1983), pp. 475–95.

6 Terent'ev M. A. Istoriya Zavoevaniya Srednei Azii 3 vols (St Petersburg: V. V. Komarov, 1906) vol. 2, pp. 427547 ; Snesarev A. E. Avganistan (Moscow: Gosizdat’, 1921) reprinted as Afganistan (Moscow: Russkaya Panorama, 2002), pp. 216–23.

7 Khidoyatov G. A. Iz istorii Anglo-Russkikh otnoshenii v Srednei Azii (Tashkent: ‘Fan’, 1969), pp. 261 , 265; Kinyapina N. S., Bliev M. M., and Degoev V. V. Srednyaya Aziya vo vneshnei politike Rossii (Moscow: Izd. MGU, 1984), pp. 306–7.

8 Bababekov Kh. N. Anglo-Russkoe sopernichestvo v Srednei Azii XIX vek (Tashkent: Institut Istorii Narodov Azii, 2006), pp. 17 .

9 Sergeev Evgeny Bol'shaia Igra 1856–1907. Mify i realii rossiisko-britanskikh otnoshenii v tsentral'noi i vostochnoi Azii (Moscow: KMK, 2012), p. 162 ; Sergeev Evgeny The Great Game 1856–1907. Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, 2013), p. 183 .

10 Zagorodnikova T. N., ed. ‘Bol'shaia Igra’ v tsentral'noi azii: ‘Indiiskii pokhod’ Russkoi armii. Sbornik arkhivnykh dokumentov (Moscow: Institut Vostokovedeniya, 2005), pp. 30–1, 39.

11 The standard (and now rather outdated) account of ‘Abd al-Rahman's reign, based on a mixture of British and Afghan sources, is Kawun Kakar Hasan Government and Society in Afghanistan. The Reign of Amir ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1979) and Ashraf Ghani ‘Islam and State-Building in a Tribal Society: Afghanistan 1880–1901’ Modern Asian Studies vol. 12 (1978), pp. 269–284.; see also Lee J. L. The ‘Ancient Supremacy’. Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1731–1901 (Leiden: Brill, 1996), pp. 530–93 for an account of ‘Abd al-Rahman's brutal campaign of conquest in Afghan Turkestan.

12 For a critique of this tendency see Rieber Alfred J.Persistent Factors in Russian Foreign Policy’ in Imperial Russian Foreign Policy, Ragsdale Hugh (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 315–22.

13 Hassan Kakar M. A Political and Diplomatic History of Afghanistan, 1863–1901 (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 26 , 39; quite apart from the fact that the Russians and Ottomans were no longer at war by the summer of 1878, Kakar provides no reference for his first statement; it is repeated without comment by Barfield Thomas Afghanistan. A Cultural and Political History (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 140 .

14 J. A. Norris ‘Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878--80’ Encyclopaedia Iranica vol. II, Fasc.1, pp. 37–41 http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/anglo-afghan-wars, [accessed 20 August 2016].

15 Morgan Gerald Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia, 1810–1895 (London: Frank Cass, 1981), pp. 180–1.

16 Jelavich BarbaraGreat Britain and the Russian Acquisition of Batum, 1878–1886Slavonic and East European Review vol. 48 (1970), pp. 55–7; Medlicott W. N. and Weeks RichardDocuments on Russian Foreign Policy, 1878–1880: Section I: August-December 1878Slavonic and East European Review vol. 64 (1986), pp. 8199 .

17 Morrison A. S. Russian Rule in Samarkand 1868–1910. A Comparison with British India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) p. 34 .

18 Terent'ev Istoriya Zavoevaniya vol. 2, pp. 445–55.

19 ‘Events of 1294/January 1877–January 1878’ History of Afghanistan trans. and ed. by R. D. McChesney, M. M. Khorrami. (Brill Online, 2014); Muhammad Fayz Siraj al-Tawarikh (Kabul: Maṭbaʻah-i Ḥurufi Dar al-Salṭanah, 1912–1914), vol. 2, p. 339 c. On Fayz Muhammad and his text see Robert D. McChesney ‘“The Bottomless Inkwell”. The Life and Perilous Times of Fayz Muhammad “Katib” Hazara’ in Afghan History through Afghan Eyes, ed. Nile Green (London: Hurst & Co, 2015) pp. 97–129.

20 Semenov A. A. ‘Begstvo’ Abdur-Rakhman-Khana iz Tashkenta v Afganistan (Tashkent: Tip. Pri kantselyarii Turkestanskogo General-Gubernatora, 1908) reprinted in Kaufmanskii Sbornik. Izdannyi v pamyat’ pokoritelya i ustroitelya Turkestanskogo Kraya, General -Ad'yutanta K. P. fon-Kaufmana 1-ogo (Moscow: Tip. I. N. Kushnerev, 1910), pp. 100–17.

21 Hevia James The Imperial Security State. British Colonial Knowledge and Empire-Building in Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 94 .

22 Lieven ‘Introduction’ in Cambridge History of Russia vol. 2, p. 3.

23 Platt D. C. M. Finance, Trade, and Politics. British Foreign Policy 1815–1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 357 .

24 Morrison AlexanderTwin Imperial Disasters. The Invasions of Khiva and Afghanistan in the Russian and British Official Mind, 1839–1842Modern Asian Studies vol. 48 (2014), pp. 253300 .

25 Ragsdale HughEvaluating the Traditions of Russian Aggression: Catherine II and the Greek ProjectSlavonic and East European Review vol. 66 (1988), pp. 91117 ; Yapp M. A.The Legend of the Great GameProceedings of the British Academy vol. 111 (2001), pp. 179–98; Hopkins B. D. The Making of Modern Afghanistan (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 3447 .

26 Curzon G. N. Persia and the Persian Question 2 vols (London: John Murray, 1892) vol.1, pp. 34 .

27 This tendency is particularly pronounced in Sergeev Bol'shaia Igra/The Great Game. Despite its title, Mojtahedzadeh Piruz The Small Players of the Great Game. The Settlement of Iran's Eastern Borderlands and the Creation of Afghanistan (London: Routledge, 2007) is also unable to escape from this assumption, and is largely concerned with establishing Iranian territorial claims to what is now western Afghanistan on the grounds that the British-created borders are illegitimate and rode rough-shod over local agency.

28 Von Kaufman to Geiden 23 March 1878 Russian State Military-Historical Archive [RGVIA] F.846 ‘Voenno-uchenyi Arkhiv. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya Rossii’ Op.1 D.17 ll.3-4 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 44.

29 Dokladnaya zapiska nachal'nika Kavkazskogo Gorskogo Upravleniya ‘O voine protiv Anglii v Avganistane’ 26 March 1878 RGVIA F.1396 ‘Shtab Turkestanskogo voennogo okruga’ Op.2 D.103 ‘O Dzhamskom pokhode’ ll.4-ob. Also reproduced in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 45–9, though from a different source. The last comment was a reference to the suppression of the rebellion among the ‘Gortsy’ (mountaineers) of Chechnya and Daghestan in 1877. See Bobrovnikov V. O. Musul'mane Severnogo Kavkaza. Obychai, pravo, nasilie (Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 2002), pp. 7981 .

30 ‘O voine protiv Anglii v Avganistane’ 26 March 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.4-ob.

31 Svyatopolk-Mirskii to Miliutin 28 March 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.12 – 19ob. Also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 49–52, from a different source.

32 Pashino to the Minister of Foreign Affairs 28 March 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.17 ll.55-58ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 53–5; Pashino was the author of one of the first post-conquest descriptions of Central Asia, which included the earliest lithographs of the region to appear in Russia— Pashino P. I. Turkestanskii Krai v 1866 godu (St Petersburg: Tip. T. I. Tiblen, 1866). He was expelled from the region in 1866 after the governor, General N. I. Romanovskii, accused him of being too involved with the ‘natives’ and passing on bazaar rumours: Romanovskii to Stremoukhov 26 June 1866 in Serebrennikov A. G. Turkestanskii Krai. Sbornik materialov dlya istorii ego zavoevaniya vol. XXI 1866g Ch.I (Tashkent: Tip Turk. V.O., 1915) Doc.181, pp. 316–8. By 1878 he was presumably a fairly marginal figure.

33 Williams ‘Approach to the Second Afghan War’, p. 233.

34 ‘Zapiska barona N. E. Tornau o polozhenii anglichan v Indii i ob usloviyakh pokhoda na Indiiu cherez territoriiu Persii’ 19 February–29 March 1878 RGVIA F.846 op.1 D.17 ll.8-13 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 56–9; Tornau was a senator and member of the State Council, whose proposals seem to have received a hearing partly owing to endorsement from Count Geiden, and partly on the strength of his supposed expertise on the Muslim world, as he was a noted scholar of Islamic law: Tornau N. E. Izlozhenie nachal musul'manskogo zakonovedeniya (St Petersburg: Tip. Sobst. E. I. V. Kants., 1850).

35 Miliutin D. A. Dnevnik 1876–8 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2009), pp. 408–9.

36 D. A. Miliutin ‘Ministerstvo Voennoe doklad po glavnomu shtabu chast’ Aziatskaya’ 8 April 1878 Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire (AVPRI) F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.1-9; it appears to have been circulated to most of the Asian military districts—there is another copy in RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.20-28, and in the National Archives of Georgia in Tbilisi: NAG F.545 Op.1 D.1154 ll.174–179ob. The text is reproduced in Shastitko P. M., ed. Russko-Indiiskie otnosheniiia v XIXv. (Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 1997), pp. 205–8, and in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 80–4, from a further copy held in RGVIA.

37 This would, indeed, remain the key structural obstacle to any Russian invasion of India. See Morrison AlexanderCamels and Colonial Armies. The Logistics of Warfare in Central Asia in the Nineteenth CenturyJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient vol. 57 (2014), pp. 443–85. The British General Staff had also realized this by the 1880s, in London if not in Delhi: Hevia The Imperial Security State, pp. 168–9.

38 For another account of these discussions, see Marshall Alexander The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1800–1917 (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 135–7. Geyer Dietrich also refers to the episode in passing in Russian Imperialism. The Interaction of Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1860–1914 (Leamington Spa: Berg, 1987), p. 96 ; Khidoyatov gives a full and reasonably accurate account in Iz istorii Anglo-Russkikh otnoshenii, pp. 259–61.

39 Miliutin Dnevnik 1876–8, p. 409.

40 ‘Proekt sekretnago otnosheniya k Turkestanskomu General-Gubernatoru’ 25 April 1878 ‘Na podlinnom proekte Sobstv. E. I. V. rukoiu napisano ‘byt’ po semu’ AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.13-15; Giers repeated this information in a letter to von Kaufman on the same date: RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.69-71ob, which is also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 90–1, from a different source.

41 Orders from Major-General Mozel’ to Major-General Stoletov 26 May 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.19-25

42 Rieber ‘Persisent Factors’, pp. 351–3.

43 N. P. Ignat'ev, military attaché in London, to the War Minister A. V. Dolgorukov 26 July 1857 in Shastitko Russko-Indiiskie Otnosheniya, pp.105–18; L'vovich K.Ocherk Vozmushcheniya Sipaev v Ost-IndiiVoennyi Sbornik No.1 (1858), pp. 107–38.

44 See Geins A. K. Sobranie Literaturnykh Trudov A. K. Geinsa 2 vols (St Petersburg: Tip. M. M. Stasiulevicha, 1897), which contains his diaries from his time on the Steppe Commission in 1865–6.

45 ‘Zapiska general-maiora A. K. Geinsa o politicheskom polozhenii i anglichanakh v Indii, o chislennosti i sostoyanii ee voisk, o ee naselenii’ 2 April 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.42ob-45ob; also reproduced in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 62–80, from a different source.

46 ‘Zapiska general-maiora A. K. Geinsa’ 2 April 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.47-8

47 Omissi David The Sepoy and the Raj. The Indian Army 1860–1840 (London: Macmillan, 1994), pp.1046 .

48 ‘Zapiska general-maiora A. K. Geinsa’ 2 April 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.48-50; see Dalrymple William The Last Mughal. The Fall of Delhi, 1857 (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), pp.439–41.

49 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 15 May 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.72-3; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 97–100, from a different source.

50 Otte Foreign Office Mind, p. 126.

51 On the 1877 durbar see Cohn B. S.Representing Authority in Victorian India’ in his An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 632–82; Cannadine David Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2001), pp. 44–8.

52 Duthie argues that Lytton also toyed with the idea of dismembering Afghanistan altogether and annexing the Qandahar region, with British agents stationed in the north of the country. See Duthie ‘Pragmatic Diplomacy’.

53 ‘Mission to Cabul’ 1876 OIOC Mss Eur E218 Lytton Papers No.125a Viceroy's minutes and notes relating to Afghanistan and the frontiers of India, 1876 and 1877, f5.

54 Lytton Memorandum 12 August 1876 OIOC Mss Eur E218 Lytton Papers No.125a ff.16-17; he was still complaining of this a year later: ‘There can be no doubt that the communications between General Kauffman and Shere Ali Khan exceed the requirements of mere exchanges of courtesy; and are regarded as something much more than complimentary by the person to whom they are addressed’ Lytton to Salisbury 3 May 1877 IOR/L/P and S/7/13 Secret and Political Letters from Bengal and India No.11, pp. 733–4.

55 Lytton Memorandum? August 1876 OIOC Mss Eur E218 Lytton Papers No.125a ff.34-37; this was indeed the general British attitude throughout the second half of the nineteenth century—see Yapp M. A.British Perceptions of the Russian Threat to IndiaModern Asian Studies vol. 21 (1987), pp. 647–65.

56 Lytton to Salisbury 10 May 1877 Parliamentary Papers 1878--79 [C.2190] Afghanistan. ‘Correspondence respecting the relations between the British Government and that of Afghanistan since the accession of the Ameer Shere Ali Khan’ No. 36, pp. 170–2.

57 Miliutin to von Kaufman 13 April 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.29-34; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 85–9, from a different source.

58 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 14 April 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.104 l.10 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 95–6.

59 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 15 May 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.72-3; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 97–100, from a different source. Apparently the Tsar read this copy himself.

60 ‘Prikaz No.249/253 po deistvuiushchim voiskam Turkestanskogo Voennogo Okruga’ 12 and14 June 1878 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, 111–13.

61 Report 24 June 1878 RGVIA F.1435 ‘Shtaba Voisk Syr-Dar'inskoi Oblasti’ Op.2 D.2 ‘O vystuplenii glavnogo otryada voisk iz Tashkenta v Dzham’ ll.7, 27, 36, 56ob; ‘Dislokatsiya voisk glavnogo deistvuiushchego otryada’ 3 July 1878 Central State Archive of the Republic of Uzbekistan [TsGARUz] F. .I-1 Op.27 D.1303 l.137.

62 ‘Prikaz No.3 po deistvuiushchim voiskam komanduiushchego voiskami Turkestanskogo Voennogo Okruga’ 1 October 1878 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 118–9.

63 The Tashkent caravanbashi who had supplied some of the commissariat animals later complained that nine of his camels had been stolen by four workers who were then apprehended in Bukhara: Petition from Babakhan Muhammadjan to the Turkestan G.G. 27 November 1878 TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.29 D.359 ll.1-2.

64 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 6 July 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.50-52; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 122–3, from a different source.

65 Telegram Miliutin to von Kaufman 18 July 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.17 ll.142-ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 129.

66 Jelavich ‘Great Britain and the Russian Acquisition of Batum’, pp. 55–6. Not long after this Alexander II and Bismarck would seek to end Russian isolation by reviving the Dreikaiserbund between the three continental monarchies: Barbara and Jelavich CharlesBismarck's Proposal for the Revival of the Dreikaiserbund in October 1878Journal of Modern History vol. 29 (1957), pp. 99101 .

67 Kaufman to Miliutin 21 July 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.17 ll.183-4, 186-7 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 130–1.

68 ‘Obshchii ocherk polozheniia del v 1878 godu na granitsakh Turkestanskogo V. O. i v aziatskikh vladeniiakh s nim sopredel'nykh’ 29 Jan 1879 RGVIA F.846 Op.16 D.6919 ll.69-93 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 259.

69 Telegram TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.27 D.1302 ‘telegrammy, poluchennye vo vremya pokhoda v 1878’ l.1.

70 ‘Letter published in the Sovremenoi Isvestii [sic] 10/22 October 1878’ Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2188] Central Asia. No. 2 (1879). ‘Further correspondence respecting Central Asia’ No. 10, p. 17

71 ‘Events of 1294/January 1877–January 1878’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 341.

72 Zagorodnikova Bol'shaya Igra, p. 39.

73 ‘Latest Intelligence (by telegraph, from our correspondents)—Central Asia’ The Times Wed 17 July 1878; Loftus to Salisbury 11 October 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2188] Central Asia. No. 2 (1879). ‘Further correspondence respecting Central Asia’ No. 5, p. 11.

74 W. G. Waterfield, Offg. Commr. And Supdt., Peshawur Division ‘Memorandum on the objects of the Russian Mission now in Kabul’ 13 August 1878 National Archives of India [NAI]/Foreign/S. S./Dec. 1878/No.852 Letters and Memoranda Containing Kabul and Frontier News, p. 1.

75 Griffin to A. C. Lyall 14 September 1878 Enclosing a letter from Kami Khan Doulat Khel, 16th Ramzan 1295 NAI/Foreign/S. S./Dec. 1878/No.864, p. 3.

76 Lytton to Cranbrook Simla 12 Aug 1878 OIOC Mss Eur F132 Lyall Collection No. 21, f.13v.

77 Yavorskii I. L. Puteshestvie Russkogo posol'stva po Afganistanu i Bukharskomu khanstvu v 1878-1879gg. 2 vols (St Petersburg: Tip. Doktora M. A. Khana, 1882).

78 Zaman-Bek is described by the Tatar religious biographer Qurban ‘Ali Khalidi as coming from Shaki in Azerbaijan, and as having served the Amir of Kashgar, Ya'qub Beg as an ambassador. See Frank Allen J. and Usmanov Mirkasym, ed. An Islamic Biographical Dictionary of the Eastern Kazakh Steppe (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 36–7.

79 Von Kaufman to Stoletov 26 May 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.80-89; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 102–6, from a different source.

80 Stoletov to von Kaufman 27 June 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.53-5; see also Razgonov to Mozel’ 25 June 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.107 ll.33-6ob and von Kaufman to Miliutin 8 July 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.17 ll.156-9 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 115–7, 126–7.

81 It is interesting that Shir ‘Ali was apparently aware of that well-known forgery, the ‘Testament’ of Peter the Great, which supposedly laid out a grand scheme of Russian conquest in Asia. See Rieber Persistent Factors’ and David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye ‘Paul's Great Game: Russia's Plan to Invade British IndiaCentral Asian Survey vol. 33 (2014), pp. 143–52.

82 ‘Kabul Intelligence furnished by Munshi Bakhtiar Khan’, dated Peshawur, the 6th June 1878 NAI/Foreign/S. S./Dec. 1878/849 Letters and Memoranda containing Kabul and Frontier news No. 849, p. 1.

83 Yavorskii Puteshestvie Russkogo posol'stva vol.1, pp. 312–3.

84 Stoletov to von Kaufman 1 August 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 l.319ob; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 136–40, from a different source.

85 Stoletov to von Kaufman 1 August 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 l.321.

86 Stoletov to von Kaufman 1 August 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.321ob–324ob.

87 Loftus to Salisbury 3 July 1878 NAI/Foreign/Secret/January 1879 No. 23 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 119–21; see Loftus to Salisbury 27 September 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2188] Central Asia. No. 2 (1879). ‘Further correspondence respecting Central Asia’ No. 2, pp. 7–8 reporting an interview with Gorchakov at Baden-Baden in which the latter denied any attempt by Giers to deceive. It is possible that Loftus was mistaken, as he did not have a great reputation for intelligence (one of his contemporaries later described him as an ‘ass’, who had been continually hoodwinked by Bismarck when ambassador in Berlin). While stationed in St Petersburg his opinions ranged from the unusually pro-Russian to the suspiciously Russophobe. See Otte The Foreign Office Mind, pp. 27, 97–8, 112–3.

88 Telegrams Lytton to Cranbook 7 June 1878 and 1 July 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2190] Afghanistan. ‘Correspondence respecting the relations between the British Government and that of Afghanistan since the accession of the Ameer Shere Ali Khan’ Nos. 39 and 41, pp. 226–7.

89 Sir Louis Mallet to Lord Tenterden 27 January 1877 Parliamentary Papers 1878 [C.2164] Central Asia. No.1 (1878) ‘Correspondence respecting Central Asia’ No.97, p. 99.

90 Telegrams Lytton to Cranbrook 30 and 31 July 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2190] Afghanistan. ‘Correspondence respecting the relations between the British Government and that of Afghanistan since the accession of the Ameer Shere Ali Khan’ Nos. 42, 42a, p. 227; in fact A. K. Abramov (1836–86) had moved from Samarkand to become head of the newly created Ferghana province in 1877.

91 Lytton to Cranbrook, Simla, 3 August 1878 OIOC Mss Eur F132 Lyall Collection No. 21, ff.1-2.

92 Ibid., f.6.

93 Ibid., f.9

94 Cowling MauriceLytton, the Cabinet, and the Russians, August to November 1878English Historical Review vol. 76 (1961), pp. 5979 .

95 ‘Dépêche de Mr. Bartholomei a Mr. le Chancelier de l'Empire en date de Londres, le 29 Juillet/10 aout 1878’ AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 l.44.

96 ‘Dépêche de Mr. Bartholomei a Mr. De Giers en date de Londres, le 2/14 aout 1878’ and ‘Lettre de Mr. Bartholomei a Mr. De Giers en date de Londres, le 2/14 aout 1878’ AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.45, 46ob-7.

97 Plunkett to Giers 26 August 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.58-63; Russian translation available in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 145–7, from a different source. Also in Parliamentary Papers 1878 [C.2164] Central Asia. No.1 (1878). ‘Correspondence respecting Central Asia’ No.158, pp. 155–6.

98 Giers to Plunkett 27 August 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 l.78; this reply was forwarded to von Kaufman in Tashkent a few days later: RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.103 ll.112 – 113ob. Also in Parliamentary Papers 1878 [C.2164] Central Asia. No.1 (1878) No.164, p. 164.

99 Gorchakov to Giers 4/16 September 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.83-4; this is quoted in Khidoyatov Iz istorii Anglo-Russkikh otnoshenii, p. 272, though apparently from a different copy.

100 Bartolomei to Gorchakov and von Kaufman 10/22 September 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.92-3.

101 Shir ‘Ali to von Kaufman 9 August 1878; von Kaufman to Shir ‘Ali 5 September 1878 TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.29 D.269 ‘Perepiska s Emirom Avganskim’ ll.1, 40.

102 Razgonov to Stoletov 27 August 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.2195 ll.108-114 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 147–50.

103 Von Kaufman to Miliutin, cipher telegram 5 September 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 l.334; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 151, from a different source.

104 Telegram Miliutin to von Kaufman 6 September 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.2195 l.96 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 152.

105 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 9 September 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.2-9 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, p. 155.

106 ‘Proekt druzhestvennoi konventsii mezhdu Rossiiskoi imperiei i Afganistana, gosudarstvom’ 9 August 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.10-17 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaia Igra’, pp. 156–9.

107 Von Kaufman to Miliutin, cipher telegram 18 September 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.102-ob; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 160, from a different source.

108 Miliutin to von Kaufman, cipher telegram, 20 September 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.24 ll.25-ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 163.

109 Telegram Lytton to Cranbrook 22 September 1878; Cavagnari to Chamberlain 22 September 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2190] Afghanistan. ‘Correspondence respecting the relations between the British Government and that of Afghanistan since the accession of the Ameer Shere Ali Khan’ Nos.55 and 60, pp. 236, 248–9.

110 Gorlov to Miliutin 24 September/6 October 1878 RGVIA F.401 Op.3 D.15 ll.75-76ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 163–5.

111 Miliutin to von Kaufman 30 September 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.24-ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 169–70.

112 Bartolomei to the MID 3/15 October 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.16 D.6901 ll.258-9-ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 169–70.

113 Miliutin to von Kaufman 18 October 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1 ll.163 – ob; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 172, from a different source.

114 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 23 October 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.28-29ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 175–7.

115 ‘Zapiski o pozitsii russkogo pravitel'stva po sobytiyam v Avganistane’ 27 October 1878 RGVIA F.846 op.1 D.24 ll.29-33 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 192–5.

116 Telegrams Cranbrook to Lytton, Lytton to Cranbrook, 1, 4, 5 and 7 November 1878 Parliamentary Papers 1878–79 [C.2190] Afghanistan. ‘Correspondence respecting the relations between the British Government and that of Afghanistan since the accession of the Ameer Shere Ali Khan’ Nos.69–72, p. 260.

117 Shuvalov to Giers 16/28 November 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 No.1. This seems to have been prompted by a meeting with Disraeli the day before, of which Shuvalov gave an account in a draft despatch to Giers, published in Medlicott and Weeks ‘Documents on Russian Foreign Policy’, pp. 93–4.

118 Shuvalov to Giers 26 November 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.214-7; ‘Circular dispatch addressed by Prince Gortchakow to Russian Representatives abroad.’ 21 November 1864 Parliamentary Papers 1873 [C.704] Central Asia No.2 (1873) ‘Correspondence Respecting Central Asia’ Appendix, p. 70 (French original), p. 73 (English translation).

119 Shuvalov to Giers 26 November 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.225-7; Medlicott and Weeks ‘Documents on Russian Foreign Policy’, p. 96.

120 Shuvalov to Giers 7 December 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.264-6; more of the correspondence between von Kaufman, Shir ‘Ali and the Russian mission between 1870 and the amir's death in February 1879 would fall into British hands once their mission reached Kabul, after which it was used as evidence of Russian conspiracy and bad faith: IOR/L/PandS/20/MEMO/5 Central Asia and Afghanistan 1878-9 No.5 ‘Russian Correspondence with Kabul’ 1 April 1880, pp. i–38.

121 Razgonov to von Kaufman 25 October 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.50-59ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 179. (Emphasis in the original.)

122 Terent'ev severely criticized Razgonov's failure to do this, though indicating that the blame was shared with Stoletov, who had left no clear instructions behind: Istoriya Zavoevaniya vol. 2, pp. 471–5.

123 Razgonov to von Kaufman 25 October 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.50-59ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 182–3.

124 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 19 November 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16ll.47-49ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 199–201.

125 Medlicott and Weeks ‘Documents on Russian Foreign Policy’, pp. 95–6.

126 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 19 November 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16ll.47-49ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 199.

127 Von Kaufman to Miliutin 19 November 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16ll.47-49ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 200–1.

128 Miliutin to von Kaufman 6 December 1878 RGVIA F.846 Op.2 D.16 ll.68-70ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 217–8.

129 Razgonov to von Kaufman 6 December 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.257-60; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 218–21, from a different source.

130 ‘Events of 1296/December 1878–December 1879’ History of Afghanistan trans. and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 343.

131 On the Vitkevich mission in 1838, see Morrison ‘Twin Imperial Disasters’, pp. 270–9.

132 Shir ‘Ali Khan to von Kaufman 27 Dhul-Qi'dah 1295 [1 December 1878] AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 l.286ob; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 222–3, from a different source.

133 Razgonov to Mozel’ 6 December 1878 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.107 ll.42-3ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 223–4.

134 Von Kaufman to Gorchakov 24 December 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.283-4; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 231–2, from a different source.

135 Gorchakov to von Kaufman 25 December 1878 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 l.302; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 230–1, from a different source.

136 Telegram Gorchakov to von Kaufman 28 December 1878; Miliutin to von Kaufman 11 January 1879 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.24 ll.70, 75-7 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 235, 236–8.

137 Von Kaufman to Miliutin cipher telegram 27 January 1879 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.379-ob, also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, p. 251 from a different source, and without the annotation.

138 ‘Traduction d'un firman adresse par l'Emir Schir Ali Khan au Gouverneur de Herat, Mohammed Omer Khan’ 27 Dhul-Qi'dah 1295 [10 December 1878] AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.385-6.

139 Kaufman to Gorchakov 8 February 1879; 20 February 1879 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.415, 425; Yavorskii's account of the amir's death is in Puteshestvie Russkogo posol'stva vol. 2, pp.214–6.

140 ‘Dokladnaya zapiska Polkovnika Kuropatkina’ 18 January 1879; Sviatopolk-Mirsky to Gorchakov 7 February 1879 AVPRI F.161 I-5 Op.4 1878 ll.407-414ob; 428-435; also in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 243–9, 265–9, from a different source.

141 ‘Proekt Dokladnoi zapiski po Glavnomu Shtabu’ 1 February 1879 RGVIA F.846 Op.1 D.28 ll.43-8 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 269–72.

142 Morrison ‘Twin Imperial Disasters’, pp. 265–7, 297–8.

143 Letter (in Russian) from ‘N. N. P.’ (signature in latin letters), Simla, 9 June 1879 AVPRI F.147 ‘Sredneaziatskii Stol’ Op.485 D.902 l.44; I have not been able to identify N. N. P., though presumably he was working as a Russian translator.

144 Gorlov to Miliutin 28 August/10 September 1879 RGVIA F.401 Op.3 D.1 ll.185-6 in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 278– 9.

145 ‘Kopiya s perevoda pis'ma Mirzy Seid-Ali-Khana’? September 1879; Fride to von Kaufman 8 October 1879 AVPRI F.147 Op.485 D.1260 ll.59 -60, 62.

146 ‘Doklad General'nogo Shtaba Polkovnika Grodekova’ 18 March 1879 RGVIA F.400 Op.1 ‘Glavnyi Shtab: Aziatskaya Chast’’ D.577 ‘O poezdke Polkovnika Grodekova po Avganskomu Turkestanu’ ll.14 – 17ob. See Marvin Charles (trans.) Colonel Grodekoff's ride from Samarcand to Herat through Balkh and the Uzbek States of Afghan Turkestan. With his own Map of the March-Route from the Oxus to Herat (London: W. H. Allen & Co, 1880).

147 Abramov to von Kaufman 5 July 1868 RGVIA F.1396 Op.2 D.56 ‘Svedeniya o Bukhare i Afganistane’ ll.1-6.

148 Abramov to von Kaufman 15 February 1870 TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.29 D.24 l.4.

149 Ivanov to von Kaufman 15 October 1877; 6 November 1877 TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.29 D.221 ll.2-7.

150 Kakar Government and Society, pp. 4–7; Semenov ‘‘Begstvo’ Abdurrakhman Khana’, pp. 100–1.

151 ‘Events of 1294/January 1877–January 1878’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 341.

152 Diplomatic Chancery of the Turkestan Gov-Gen to Arendarenko 22 January 1879 TsGARUz F.I-1 Op.29 D.276 l.19

153 Semenov ‘“Begstvo” Abdurrakhman Khana’, p. 102.

154 ‘Events of 1296/December 1878–December 1879’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 348.

155 Terent'ev Istoriya Zavoevaniya vol. 2, p. 521.

156 ‘Events of 1296/December 1878–December 1879’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 348.

157 Semenov ‘“Begstvo” Abdurrakhman Khana’, pp. 104–5.

158 ‘Events of the Year 1297/December 1879–December 1880’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 360.

159 Semenov ‘“Begstvo” Abdurrakhman Khana’, pp. 108–14.

160 OIOC P/1624 Punjab Foreign Proceedings January–May 1881 No. 15, p. 278.

161 For a description of these manoeuvrings, in which ‘Abd al-Rahman successively despatched or neutralised a series of potential rivals, see ‘Events of the Year 1297/December 1879–December 1880’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, pp. 365–75.

162 Lytton to Griffin 6 March 1880 OIOC MssEur E218 No.522/6 ‘Correspondence relating to Sirdar Abdul Rahman. Commencing from March 1880. Viceroy's Copy’, f.7.

163 Griffin to Lytton 6 April 1880 MssEur F132/33 Correspondence with Lepel Griffin regarding the succession of ‘Abd ur-Rahman Khan, ff.38–9.

164 Griffin to Lyall 23 May 1880 Mss Eur F132/33, ff.18–1.

165 ‘Events of the Year 1297/December 1879–December 1880’ History of Afghanistan trans and ed. McChesney and Khorrami; Fayz Muhammad Siraj al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p. 372.

166 Gorlov to Miliutin 25 May 1880 RGVIA F.401 Op.3 D.31a ll.23-ob in Zagorodnikova ‘Bol'shaya Igra’, pp. 281–2.

167 Karimkhanov had originally been in the service of the amir of Bukhara, but was one of 200 Afghans who joined the Russians after the fall of Jizzakh in 1866. He had a long career as a ‘native’ administrator in Samarkand province. See Pospelov F. F.Seid-Khan KarimkhanovSpravochnaya Kniga Samarkandskoi Oblasti Vyp.X (Samarkand: Tip-Lit. T-va B. Gazarov i K. Sliyanov, 1912), pp. 126–31.

168 ‘Pokazanie Said-Khana Karimkhanova’ 8 December 1883 AVPRI F.147 Op.485 D.1260, l.104.

169 The most revealing contemporary assessment is Marquess Curzon of Kedleston ‘The Amir of Afghanistan (Abdur Rahman Khan)’ in Tales of Travel (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923), pp. 41–84; on the British inability to obtain any redress for Russian grievances against Kabul, see Siegel Jennifer Endgame. Britain, Russia, and the Final Struggle for Central Asia (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002), pp. 27–8, 69–71, 129–31, 145–7.

170 Otte Foreign Office Mind, p. 98. This was pure hypocrisy, of course—the divergence between communications from the metropole and the actions of proconsuls on the spot was at least as frequent on the British side, as Lytton's behaviour shows only too clearly—see Cowling ‘Lytton, the Cabinet and the Russians’, p. 73; Duthie ‘Pragmatic Diplomacy’, pp. 482–8.

* The research for this article was funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. I would like to thank Evgenii Abdullaev, Raushan Abdullaev, Alima Bissenova, Ian Campbell, Valery Germanov, Beatrice Penati, Scott Savran, David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Charles Sullivan, Tom Welsford, Zbigniew Wojnowski, and the reviewers for Modern Asian Studies for their comments on earlier drafts.

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