The Great Game (1813-1907)

Figure 1.--Russia began the exporation and colonization of Siberia in the 18th century and quickly reached Alaska. The Tsars extended their rule into Central Asia in the mid-19th century beginning the Great Game with the British in India. Central Asia at the time was a time capsule with few changes since the 13th century. Here is a scene from Russian Central Asia about 1910.

The Great Game was was the strategic rivalry between the British and Tsarist Russian Empires for aimed at entending their infuence into Central Asia. Historians commonly date the rivalry from the Russo-Persian Treaty (1813) to the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907). The British interest derived from the importance of the Raj in India--the most important element of the British Empire. 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 ws largely fought out in the Northwest Frontier, but wider areas were affected. 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 pgrase "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).


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Created: 8:15 AM 10/14/2008
Last updated: 8:20 PM 4/21/2013