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Afghanistan in the geopolitics of Russia and Britain of end of XIX and beginning of XX century
Material posted: Publication date: 13-11-2013

This article discusses and analyzes the developments in Afghanistan in the late XIX and early XX century, in the geopolitical rivalry of Russia and Britain in this country. Reveals the strategic interests of these countries at that period in Afghanistan.

One of the basic principles of any scientific research is the historical approach. The principle of historicism in the study focuses on the analysis of social reality as a natural historical process, and this in turn requires to identify the development of any socio-political events of their past, current state and trends of the future.

It should always be aimed at identifying how the considered phenomenon in the history have any, what are the main stages it has passed in its development, what has been transformed to date, and from the point of view of this evolution, what are his possible ways of development. Historical events in the Middle East region has occurred in the last decades, testify to the growing importance of the Muslim East in world politics.

The Islamic factor, as the new phenomenon of geopolitics, has a decisive influence on the formation of state policy and official ideology of a significant number of countries in the world, plays an increasingly prominent role in international Affairs. The geo-strategic outcome of Russia with the Middle East region, which began with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the formation of new Central Asian States after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the increasing escalation of war and conflict on "Muslim arc", as well as the ongoing attempts of some countries to create their own nuclear weapons, objectively put the problems of the Islamic world in the epicentre of the global contradictions that caused serious destabilization in the balance the balance of forces in the region. One of such centers of conflict in recent decades and was again Afghanistan. Afghanistan holds an important geographical position in the South-Western part of Central Asia, in view of these circumstances, he for centuries has been the scene of great attention and the great conquerors and neighboring States.

In the 18th-19th century, on its territory there was a specific number of independent feudal principalities, headed by feudal lords, constantly warring and fighting among themselves. Gradually, they began to unite, forming the end of the 19th century a unified Afghan state. In 1919 after the third Anglo-Afghan war, Afghanistan gained independence. An important contribution to the study of Afghanistan has made an outstanding Russian scientist, a military geographer A. E. Snesarev in his writings "Afghan lessons", where he analizirovalis war and the Russo-British geopolitical competition in Afghanistan.

In the nineteenth century Anglo-Russian relations has undergone profound changes, largely associated with the strengthening of the colonial expansion of great Britain and Russia in the East. Their rivalry in this extensive and very important from a geopolitical point of view the region of Central Asia has long been a part of history, but the consequences of the Anglo-Russian confrontation are being felt to this day. Suffice it to say that the modern boundaries of Afghanistan and the southern border of the former Central Asian (Central Asian Soviet republics) - Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan - were established in the nineteenth century

Central Asia has always been an important strategic region, to a military-political and economic presence which has sought Russian and British empires. The Russian Empire and Britain, as two political centre of power, joining spatial relations, sought to achieve their strategic objectives in Central Asia, given the peculiarities of geographical location and the advantages of this region. The two powers, especially Britain, considered the region as a necessary living space to enhance its role in world politics.

However, if Britain, the region was essentially perceived as a stage on the way to achieving world hegemony, the Russian Empire viewed Central Asia as an Outpost to protect the southern borders against a potential aggressor. Having received important political and strategic advantages in India, Britain continued its offensive in the direction of Afghanistan, and Turkestan. However, previously there have been active attempts to collect detailed military-geographic, topographic and other intelligence information. The desire of England to establish political control over Afghanistan and even to capture him is understandable. The political importance of this country in the Affairs of Central Asia is its geographic position.

Through Afghanistan ran the path leading to India and Turkestan. Even in HUI V. Abu Fall-and-Allam-mi, a historian, a companion and Minister of the third Sultan of the dynasty of the Great Mogul Akbar, said: "And what of European countries possess Afghanistan, that would establish the domination over the whole of this part of the globe". Russian scientist-orientalist, a military geographer A. E. Snesarev on this occasion said that "the strategic role of Afghanistan is defined by what it stands on the routes leading to India – the most precious colony of England, and is the only base for its capture, - in short, represents the gateway of India. Hence the strategic role of Afghanistan is to be the foremost theatre of India".

In February 1808 in Afghanistan, where, in 1803, of the rules of Shujaul-Mulk kind of sadozai, came the first English Embassy — the mission of Mountstuart of Elphinstone, who had the task, along with in-depth study on Afghanistan, the conclusion of an agreement between the UK and Afghanistan. This was the first attempt to bring him to their side in the confrontation with Russia in Central Asia. So in June of 1809 in Peshawar was signed the first Anglo-Afghan Treaty by which Afghanistan was to participate on the side of England against France and Iran in case of their attack on India. In case of an attack of Iran on Afghan land England would not necessarily-called the to help Afghanistan.

But this Treaty has not entered into force - since a few days after its signature half-brother of the Afghan ruler Mahmud Shah overthrew Shujaul-Mulk, who left Afghanistan and settled in Ludhiana, Punjab near the border of the state. However, in 1818 Mahmud Shah, the last representative saudosismo dynasty, was overthrown and fled to Herat, where he soon died; Herat was owned by his son Kamran; in Kabul since 1826, the rules of Dost-Mohammed of the genus Barakzai. The Durrani dynasty ended in 1829, having existed for 76 years. Afghanistan disintegrated into independent principalities — Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Peshavaria and others. In 1832 came to power members of the genus Barakzai. The ruler of Kabul and Gasnikova principalities Emir Dost-Muhammad (1790-1863), was founded Barasuishou dynasty. In 1838 began the first Anglo-Afghan war, which lasted four years. The reason for the war for the British was the negotiation of Dost-Muhammad, arrived in Kabul at the request of the Afghan Emir who wanted to get Russia's help in the fight against his rival, Shujaul-Mulk, adjutant Orenburg Governor V. A. perovskii to Lieutenant I. V. Vitkevich, to ascertain the situation and to prevent the Anglo-Afghan rapprochement directed against Russia and Persia. He held talks on a Treaty between Iran, Kabul and Kandahar principalities under the guarantee of Russia.

However, the British accusing the Emir Dost-Muhammad in conspiracy with Iran and Russia, sent troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Keane to Afghanistan. The new Emir of Shujaul-Mulk, "restored" by the British signed a Treaty by which Afghanistan lost its independence. In may 1839, British troops occupied Kandahar. In July 1839 Ghazni, and Kabul in August. Dost Muhammad entered into negotiations with the Persian Shah and the Emir of Bukhara khanate Nasrallah Khan; however, instead of assistance on arrival in Bukhara he was captured and was able to return home only in April 1840. In November 1840 the Afghan army at the head of Dost-Muhammad at the battle of Parwan, he defeated the British. But after this, Dost-Mu-hammed had left the army, came to Kabul and surrendered to the British. The causes and circumstances of this act of Emir and weren't elucidated.

In November 1841 as a result of the Kabul uprising, the British were forced to sign an agreement by which English troops were supposed to return home by Dost-Mohammed, the return of captives and to leave Afghanistan. In January 1842 criminal authorities have always lived the British army withdrew from Kabul on the road to India was destroyed by the Afghan guerrillas. English garrisons were destroyed in almost all cities of Afghanistan. In early 1842 buraczeski Sardar was shot and Shujaul-Mulk. Took the throne by his son Fath Jang. In August 1842 the British took Kabul, but to take control of Afghanistan in a protracted people's war could not and were forced to leave the country.

In early 1843, the British released Dost-Muhammad. The war was lost by Britain, whose army, Afghan twice, lost 30 thousand soldiers — more than half of all troops who fought in Afghanistan. In the works of A. E. Snesarev and some Englishmen can be found a thorough assessment of this war's political and military point of view. "Hardly in the history of there another example of such a brazen campaign started and ended so sad.

But what mark has left the war in the national consciousness of Afghanistan? This track, for the British became extremely profitable. The war only raised the confidence and pride of the people, before him, illustrated the military weakness of Albion and its unpopularity in Central Asia. In the collection of Afghan songs relating to the 30th and 40th years of the last century, you will find a clear imprint of this sad for the British proled.

In Asia without war will not do – it is inevitable proof and reinforcement of your forces, but the war must be decisive and victorious. The first Anglo-Afghan war damaged many British, lowered their prestige, and only our carelessness and the lack of needed political acumen are given the opportunity to recover England and the war, and other means to maintain a difference between the authority of the country-the mistress". In the fulfilment of its tasks, the British practiced not only direct the armed seizure of new territories but also bribery, blackmail, diplomatic pressure. So in 1874 to power in England came to the Cabinet of Benjamin Disraeli. Soon, the British rulers of India asked Afghanistan to accept a British President and allow the British to construct on Afghan territory their strong points. In 1877, at the negotiations of the ambassadors of the Emir Sher Ali Khan and England, the representative of great Britain required the consent of the Emir to set of control over the foreign policy of Afghanistan and was refused. Intensified their efforts in Afghanistan and Russia.

In early August 1878 in Kabul came the Russian diplomatic mission led by General N. G.Stoletov, with the objective of "bond with the Emir of the Afghan our friendly relations, clarifying the Emir of all of the events for his benefit and for the conclusion, if it be possible, an Alliance with him in case of armed clashes with our England". Already on August 9, 1878 was drafted Russo-Afghan Treaty, in which Russia, calling Afghanistan an independent state, "wanted to have with him, as with other independent States, the friendly relations of friendship". The Afghan Emir, in case of his appeal to Russia, was guaranteed any help.

General N. G.Stoletov took the draft Treaty at Tashkent, but to sign him failed — 1 July 1878 at the Congress in Berlin was signed the treatise, the closing outcome of the Russo-Turkish war, the threat of war between great Britain and Russia had passed. In response, the Britain demanded that the Afghan Emir to take in the Kabul English mission N. B.Chamberlain, consisting of a thousand people. The British demanded that Sher Ali Khan to break all ties with Russia and to expel the Russian mission and to prevent the entry into Afghanistan of British officers. In September, the Khyber pass the British Embassy was stopped — Kabul was in mourning on the death of crown Prince Abdullajon and the Emir said that he would take the Embassy later. Of course, the adoption of the Russian Embassy, and his long stay in Kabul in the highest degree irritated the British and provoked them to immediate armed interference in Afghan Affairs. Besides the refusal to accept of the Embassy of the Kingdom was an affront to the crown, that in the end, the British demanded that Sher Ali Khan apology, showed him the ultimatum.

However, not waiting for a reply on 21 November 1878, the British started the second Anglo-Afghan war. As noted by A. E. Snesarev: "this war is at a crossroads between the first and second periods of the Anglo-Russian political competition, though in time lies in the second period. The guiding purpose that penetrated this war were, perhaps, the achievement of complete control over Afghanistan and stop active claims Russia". The UK has entered on territory of Afghanistan of the 60-thousandth army and took Kandahar, Jalalabad and Kabul. Emir Sher Ali Khan together with the Russian mission went to the North of the country, leaving the departure of the Viceroy in Kabul, his son Yakub Khan. December 1, 1878, the Amir stated that he intended to go to St. Petersburg to work towards convening an international Congress, condemning the actions of the UK. To leave him could not — February 20, 1879, Sher Ali Khan died. Rus-sky mission was forced to leave Afghanistan.

Yakub Khan in may 1879 in the village of Gandamak signed the Afghanistan-English Treaty, whereby the British India left the South of Afghanistan, the country was deprived of the right to pursue an independent foreign poli-tick in Kabul was established by the English residency at the head with Louis Cavagnari who arrived in the capital in July, 1879, early In 1880 from Samarkand to Afghanistan arrived nephew of Sher Ali Khan, Emir Abdur Rahman Khan. In July 1880 the British after the arrival of reinforcements tipped the Afghans, Ayub Khan had gone to Herat. Abdur-Rahman Khan was recognized as the Queen of great Britain. England withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, but under an agreement dated 31 July 1880, the British managed to establish control over the foreign policy of Afghanistan; part of the southern Afghan lands at the request of the England were transferred to the British possessions in India. In the middle of 1881 the authority of Abdur-Rahman Khan extended to all Afghan land, in addition to Herat, the ruler Ayub Khan launched a war against the Afghan Emir for the possession of Kandahar. After two big battles in September 1881, the troops of Abdurrahman Khan went to Kandahar, and at the beginning of October, 1881, and took Herat. Ayub Khan went to Iran, where he died in 1914. Abdurrahman Khan became sovereign, the great representative of Afghanistan. Abdurrahman Khan has created in Afghanistan is a strong state; he improved the state apparatus, considerably strengthened the secret police, superintended the operation, both commanders and rank-nicks. Caravan routes were completely safe. The scope of internal and external trade grew significantly, providing a regular flow of taxes to the Treasury. In Kabul opened mint, which minted silver and copper coins. In the country, trade was growing, was created the internal market, were built new and grew old of the town, was formed the national elite. Strengthening of Afghanistan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries associated with the name of the Amir Abdurrahman, who ruled from 1880 to 1901 and created a single administrative unit, a regular army, started to create a unified monetary system.

In 1893 England imposed to the Emir contract, according to which many Eastern Pashtun tribes "independent zone" — the territory between Afghanistan and British India — was the "Durand line", i.e., were incorporated into the British Empire. The agreement of 1893 was a serious obstacle for national consolidation of pakhtuns and have hindered economic, political and cultural development of the Afghan state. This agreement, as well as the capture by the British of the Punjab in 1849. later became the cause of "the problem of pashtunistan" in the following years and in the modern period. In 1899 the post of Vice-king of India took George Nathaniel Curzon. He made reforms in the field of economic and military control on the border of India. One important step was the construction of a railway from Cairo to Shanghai, via Persia and Afghanistan. By this construction the UK has achieved the necessary goals for yourself, first of all, neutralized the significance of the Baghdad railway in the middle East, and secondly, separated Russia from the coast of Persia and did not advance through Afghanistan. But the construction of this road has not begun.

At the end of XX century, Russia and great Britain continued to treat each other with distrust. In 1900 the Petersburg and London began a correspondence, the object of which was Afghanistan. This was a Memorandum passed on 25 January (6 February) in 1900 the Prime Minister – the Minister of foreign Affairs to Lord Salisbury, in which the Russian foreign Ministry had notified Britain about his "intention to enter into an agreement with Afghanistan on non-political aspects of border properties." In the Memorandum it was said that the Imperial government "considers it inevitable to establish direct relations with Afghanistan on border Affairs, and these Affairs will not be of a political nature" and Afghanistan is still considered outside the sphere of influence of Russia. The accession to Russia of Merv in 1884, made the Russian possessions bordering Afghanistan.

In 1885 Lord Salisbury tried to make the border relations between Russia and Afghanistan was waged through the Afghan officers, but received a refusal from the Russian side. The introduction in 1897 of Bukhara in customs hell with Russia and the development of trade and economic relations with the Afghan territory, "put on the issue of securing Russia a more valid way relations with Afghanistan". In this situation it was not possible to neglect the direct contact with a neighbouring state and be indifferent to what is happening in it. In 1902 Russia several times secretly entered into relations with Afghanistan, ignoring the terms of the agreement of 1873. In connection with its direct proximity to Afghanistan, it would be unwise to leave Kabul out of reach.

Notifying Britain about their plans, the Russian foreign Ministry sent a letter to the Emir, which reported on the need for closer trade relations, and open trade routes for merchants. This proposal was rejected by the Durbar bluntly, Habibullah Khan said he was not against the discussion, but later was advised to exchange views through the Indian government. The attempt to establish direct relations with Afghanistan have caused the Anglo-Indian government was particularly alarming. Concerned about this question, Lord Curzon twice invited Habibullah Khan to come on a visit to India to discuss a new contract, to which the Emir did not give consent.

In connection with these events, on November 27, 1904 from Peshawar had left the mission directed by the British government. The Russian Consul Terminals 20 November reported that Afghan border were concentrated the British army in case "if needed to support the requirements of the Embassy by force".

Also in 1904 in the UK was developed by a note, which stated that in case of war with Russia a decisive theater of war will serve as Central Asia. UK Afghanistan now longer than an ally, and the vanguard of the Anglo-Indian army, not the buffer, and advanced theatre politically and militarily. On 10 December, a British mission arrived in Kabul. And already on December 14th Habibulla-Han raised a question on military cooperation and suggested the plan of a joint attack on Russia. The Anglo-Indian government, taking advantage of the moment and the willingness of the Emir on cooperation, insisting on the unwillingness of the Afghan army to resist the Russian troops, wanted to improve communication between India and Kabul. Habibullah Khan by refusing to sign the proposed contract offered, in which Khan confirmed the undertakings given by his father.

But the terms offered were Habibulla cancer for the prestige of Britain in Afghanistan and threat to the interests of India. But Habibula Khan still offered control over the foreign policy of his country, and this proposal makes sense, given the "Russian threat". March 21 was signed the Treaty by which was confirmed the annual pension of the Emir, the control of great Britain to the foreign relations of Afghanistan and the permission to import military equipment through India.

But the recognition of Habibullah Khan "independent ruler" of Afghanistan was only on paper. A. Hamilton, examining the results of the mission, wrote: "the Situation until the arrival of Mr. Deng in Kabul has not changed before his departure from the Afghan capital, except for the significant concessions made by the Afghan Amir, who in return, nothing lost". Despite the assessment of the mission A. Hamilton, the government of Lord Curzon in may 1905 wrote that the Emir was pleased with the results of this mission, and noted that such an attitude Habibulla Khan is very valuable in itself. The results of this Treaty, in 1907 paved the way for the Emir to India. After this visit, the Emir declared a policy of friendship with great Britain that ensured Afghanistan neutral during the first world war.

According to the results of several years we can say that the UK has not achieved what she had hoped, but, nevertheless, the agreement was signed by the Emir retained Afghanistan's dependence on the UK and "not irritating tsarist Russia", in which Britain saw ally in the struggle against Germany. And if we consider the results achieved by the Emir, then, first of all, he did not take upon themselves new obligations, and secondly, would receive a cash subsidy from the British government, and thirdly, have achieved, and if only on paper, for Afghanistan the status of an independent state. In the beginning of XX century Afghanistan was an important socio-economic processes — developed specialization of agriculture, growing cities, expanded trade, began to develop the Afghan national market. Afghanistan increasingly drawn into the global economy. Of Russia's intention to establish a direct border relations with Afghanistan and the attempts of great Britain to expand its influence in this country, testified that Afghanistan in the early 20th century remained an object of Anglo-Russian geopolitical rivalry. In parallel with this world hovering in the tense situation.

At the turn of the twentieth century exacerbated the contradictions between the leading world powers. Starting to form military-political blocs (the Entente, the Triple Alliance), in connection with this and begins the arms race. In the international arena in the early XX century determined the two leading rival imperialist powers – Britain and Germany. Each country was trying to attract Russia. Given this situation the United Kingdom is committed to resolving conflicts in Central Asia. In addition, Britain's position was complicated due to the fact that her industrial monopoly was undermined by rivalry, colonial rivalry with France and Russia added the threat from Germany. Based on its position, the UK has decided to go on rapprochement with Russia. It should be noted that the British Empire is very hard to make concessions on the issue of Afghanistan. Despite lengthy negotiations in 1907, was signed the Anglo-Russian Convention. Under the agreement, Russia recognized British control over foreign policy of Afghanistan and agreed not to enter into direct communication with the Afghan Emir.

Before the first world war and at its beginning in Afghanistan with the support of a certain part of the ruling elite intensified its activities of German and Turkish agents, who sought to draw him into a war against Britain and Russia. However, the Emir in 1914 a special decree, declared the neutrality of Afghanistan.

But British diplomacy Habibullah declined to participate in anti-Soviet intervention in Central Asia. Thereby it is hoped to carry out a military occupation of Afghanistan under the pretext of redeployment of British troops on Afghan territory from India to Turkestan. England rejected the request of the Emir, contained in his message to the Viceroy of India, on the admission of the Afghan delegation at the Paris peace conference and the recognition and restoration of independence of Afghanistan. Under the influence of British intelligence in the country have intensified opposition to the ruling regime. On the night of 20 February 1919 Amir Habibullah was assassinated. The Kabul garrison and the population of the capital was on the side close to the youthful-afghancalendar Khan, son of the murdered Amir, who on 21 February was declared the Emir. Amir Amanullah proclaimed as its goal the achievement of full independence of Afghanistan and the intention to implement a number of reforms within the country. The Soviet government first recognized the independence and complete sovereignty of Afghanistan and already on March 27, 1919, notified the Afghan government.

The Soviet recognition of the state independence of Afghanistan and establishment of Soviet-Afghan diplomatic relations ended with the political isolation of Afghanistan. However, the British government refused to recognize the independence of Afghanistan and began to prepare for war.

At the beginning of may 1919, "the Durand line" was a clash of the English and Afghan troops and then British aircraft bombed the Afghan border areas. May 6, 1919, England officially declared war, concentrating against Afghanistan's army in 340 thousand people, had good artillery, a large number of armored vehicles and aircraft. Military actions were developed in three directions: at the Khyber pass, in the district of Khost and South of Kanda-Gara. Having suffered a serious defeat at the fortress of Tal, the British soon began talks on a truce.

In these negotiations the English diplomacy had attempted to impose on Afghanistan a protectorate regime, demanded control over Afghan foreign policy. However, the British action had no success. 8 August 1919 at Rawalpindi was signed preliminary Anglo-Afghan Treaty. The British government was forced to acknowledge the independence of Afghanistan. 28 February 1921 was signed the Soviet-Afghan Treaty of friendship in Moscow. After the signing of the Soviet-Afghan Treaty began a period of recognition of independence of Afghanistan. So, Afghanistan established diplomatic relations not only with Russia but also with Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Turkey, Iran and Egypt. However the British Empire still attempted to maintain their domination in Afghanistan. But by that time the situation in the East was not in favor of Britain. The red Army liberated from English occupation of Transcaucasia; in Turkey, the Kemalists gained the victory in Anatolia, in Iran came to power, the new government sent a delegation to the wave of liberation movement in British India. However, according to Western historians, the most powerful of the Afghan argument in negotiations with the British was the Soviet-Afghan Treaty.

Anglo-Afghan Treaty was signed in December 1921, the Successful end of the war with England, the restoration of independence of Afghanistan, the liberation from British control over foreign policy allowed the government to begin reforms aimed at further centralization of the state and its economic development, thus, the country has entered in recent times. Afghanistan for centuries, is one of the main fields of the collision of geopolitical interests of the leading world powers and regional players.

In the second half of the twentieth century the number of these players in Afghanistan and the contradictory nature of their interests has reached such proportions that the country fell into a series of incessant wars, in which, paradoxically, intertwined conflicting interests of different States. Afghanistan, no doubt, remains a challenge in contemporary world politics, as the interests of the US and the UK, and with them, all of NATO is concentrated in Afghanistan.


Andreev Yu. M.


The list of sources

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