Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk, Chs. 10-17

Chapter 10 - "The Great Game"
  • January 14, 1831: Lieutenant Arthur Conolly, "British officer in disguise...of the 6th Bengal Native Light Cavalry -- and the first of Lord Ellenborough's young bloods to be sent...to reconnoitre the military and political no-man's-land between the Caucasus and the Khyber [Pass]" returns to India; coined the term "Great Game" - 123
  • September 1830: Conolly reaches Herat, "which no British officer had seen since Christie's clandestine visit twenty years earlier" - 128
  • "It was at this moment that Wellington's government fell, taking Ellenborough with it, and the Whigs came to power." - 134
  • January 21, 1831: Lieutenant Alexander Burnes sails from Kutch to see Ranjit Singh - 134
Chapter 11 - Enter "Bokhara" Burnes
  • "A dazzling reception awaited Burnes in Lahore, Ranjit being as anxious to maintain cordial relations with the British as they were anxious to keep on the right side of their powerful Sikh neighbour." - 136
  • Burnes discovers "that the Indus was navigable for flat-bottomed craft," and "it was decided to proceed with plans to open up the great waterway to shipping, so that British goods could eventually compete with Russian ones in Turkestan and elsewhere in Central Asia." - 139
  • February 20, 1833: "just as Burnes arrive in Calcutta to report to the Governor-General on the results of his reconnaissance into Central Asia, a large fleet of Russia warships dropped anchor off Constantinople, causing profound dismay in London and in India. This was the final outcome of a chain of events which had begun in 1831, following a revolt in Egypt...against the Sultan's rule." - 149
Chapter 12 - The Greatest Fortress in the World
  • "Under the terms of a treaty signed in the summer of 1833, Turkey had been reduced...to little more than a protectorate of the Tsar's." - 154
  • "Not for nothing had one Russian general described the Caucasus as 'the greatest fortress in the world.'" - 155
  • "It was around this time that the Russians began to claim that there were British agents operating among the Circassians, supplying them with arms, advising them and encouraging them to resist. Indeed, in addition to its cargo of salt, they alleged that the Vixen had been found to be carrying weapons intended for the rebellious tribesmen." - 158
  • "As the arch-Russophobe of the day...he [Urquhart] had done much to turn British public opinion against St Petersburg, and to deepen the growing rift between the two powers. Indeed, the modern Soviet historians lay some of the blame for today's problems in the Caucasus on British interference in the region" - 161-2
  • Lord Durham said, "The power of Russia had been greatly exaggerated....There is not one element of strength which is not directly counterbalanced by a corresponding...weakness....In fact her power is solely of the defensive kind. Leaning on and covered by the impregnable fortress with which nature has endowed her -- her climate and her deserts -- she is invincible, as Napoleon discovered to his cost." - 162
  • "within a very short time of his arrival in Persia [Sir John McNeill, new Minister to Teheran], the Russians began to make shadowy moves towards Herat and Kabul, the two principle gateways leading to British India. The Great Game was about to enter a new and more dangerous phase." - 164
Chapter 13 - The Mysterious Vitkevich
  • "it was no secret in Teheran that it was he [Count Simonich] who had urged the Shah to march on Herat, which Persia had long claimed, and wrest it" - 166
  • "All of a sudden Kabul too was at risk. If [Captain Yan] Vitkevich was successful in winning over Dost Mohammed, then the Russians would have succeeded, in one spectacular leap, in clearing the formidable barriers of desert, mountain and hostile tribes which lay between themselves and British India." - 167
  • "Ever since the collapse of the great Durrani empire, which had been founded by Ahmad Shah in the middle of the eighteenth century, Afghanistan had been at the centre of an intense and unceasing struggle for power." - 167-8
  • "Addressing Dost Mohammad as though he was a naughty schoolboy, and instructing him on whom he might or might not have dealings with, Auckland [Governor-General of India] offered him nothing in return besides Britain's vague goodwill. Despite his anger, however, Dost Mohammed managed to keep his composure, still evidently hopeful that the British could be won round" to returning Peshawar to him - 171
Chapter 14 - Hero of Herat
  • August 18, 1837: "His skin darkened with dye, and posing as a Muslim holy man, Lieutenant Eldred Pottinger...entered Herat on a routine Great Game reconnaissance....Aged 26, and the nephew of that veteran of the game Colonel Henry Pottinger, he had been sent into Afghanistan to gather intelligence." - 175
  • "in the Persian camp, Count Simonich cast aside any remaining pretence of being there simply as a diplomatic observer and personally took over direction of the faltering siege" of Herat - 181
Chapter 15 - The Kingmakers
  • "Having thus forced the Russians and Persians to back off, the British might have been well advised to leave it at that. But from the moment that Dost Mohammed spurned Lord Auckland's ultimatum, and officially received Vitkevich, he was considered in London and Calcutta to have thrown in his lot with the Russians...it was decided that he must be forcibly removed from his throne and replaced by someone more compliant." - 188
  • June 1838: "a secret agreement was signed by Ranjit Singh, [Shah] Shujah and Great Britain, swearing eternal friendship and giving approval to the plan" to replace Dost Mohammad with Shujah - 190
  • October 1, 1838: "Auckland issued the so-called Simla Manifesto in which he made public Britain's intention of forcibly removing Dost Mohammed from the throne and replacing him with Shujah. In justification of this, Dost Mohammed was portrayed as an untrustworthy villain...and Shujah as a loyal friend" - 190
  • "To occupy Afghanistan would not only be prohibitively expensive...but it would also push the Persians even further into the welcoming arms of the Russians. The Duke of Wellington for one was strongly against it, warning that where the military successes ended the political difficulties would begin." - 192
  • June 30, 1839: after taking Ghazni, "Keane resumed his march, and a week later, opposed only by a line of abandoned cannon, the British appeared before the walls of Kabul. Dost Mohammed, they found, had fled, and the capital surrendered without a shot being fired." - 200
Chapter 16 - The Race for Khiva
  • "in the coming years 'scientific expeditions' were frequently to serve as covers for Russian Great Game activities, while the British preferred to send their officers...on 'shooting leave', thus enabling them to be disowned if necessary." - 204
  • December 24, 1839: Captain James Abbott sets off for Khiva, it being his responsibility "to convince the Khan of the urgent need to jettison the slaves before Perovsky advanced too far to turn back." - 205
  • February 1, 1840: "the [Russian] general gave orders for the exhausted and depleted columns to turn about and head back to Orenburg." - 208
  • "Few in Britain or India were willing to see that it was largely panic over Britain's own forward move in Afghanistan which had driven St Petersburg into such precipitate action over Khiva." - 210
Chapter 17 - The Freeing of the Slaves
  • "Until news of Eldred Pottinger's role in Herat's defense reached Khiva, few if any Khivans had ever heard of them....Many believed them merely to be a sub-tribe, or a vassal state, of the Russians." - 213
  • "Accompanied by a number of Russian slaves...[Abbott] was to proceed to...St Petersburg where he would negotiate on Khan's behalf the return of the rest of the slaves. These would be freed if the Tsar agreed to abandon all military operations against Khiva and to return the Khivan hostages held at Orenburg." - 217
  • August 3, 1840: Lieutenant Richmond Shakespear, sent to Khiva after lack of word from Abbott, records, "The Khan...has made over to me all the Russian prisoners, and I am to take them to a Russian fort on the eastern shore of the Caspian." - 222
  • November 3, 1840: "Shakespear arrived in St Petersburg en route for London...It was no secret in court circles...that privately the Tsar was infuriated by the young British officer's unsolicited but now widely published act. For just as Shakespear's superiors had hoped, it effectively removed any excuse which St Petersburg might have had for advancing again on Khiva" - 227

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