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For nearly a century the two most powerful nations on earth, Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, fought a secret war in the lonely passes and deserts of Central Asia. Those engaged in this shadowy struggle called it 'The Great Game', a phrase immortalized by Kipling.
When play first began the two rival empires lay nearly 2,000 miles apart. By the end, some Russian outposts were within 20 miles of India. This classic book tells the story of the Great Game through the exploits of the young officers, both British and Russian, who risked their lives playing it. Disguised as holy men or native horse-traders, they mapped secret passes, gathered intelligence and sought the allegiance of powerful khans. Some never returned. The violent repercussions of the Great Game are still convulsing Central Asia today.
Half-mad Russian czar Paul I dispatched an invasion force to India in 1801. It was hastily recalled upon his assassination. But 70 years later a succession of ambitious czars had crushed the Muslim peoples of Central Asia, and confident St. Petersburg again cast a covetous eye southward on India. Fearing a Russian invasion, the British rulers of India sent English spies disguised as holy men to find out what the Russians were up to. In 1880, after bloody fighting, the British eradicated Russian influence in Afghanistan and established a buffer state. The Great Game, as the Anglo-Russian struggle in Central Asia was called, unfolds in Hopkirk's ( Setting the East Ablaze ) intricate narrative as an incredible tale of high adventure and political intrigue, conveyed here through the exploits of Cossacks, Muslim guerrillas, courageous travelers, spies, mapmakers and soldiers. The Great Game ended in 1907 with an Anglo-Russian pact, but as Hopkirk notes in a foreword, a new imperialist rivalry is underway in Central Asia, pitting the U.S. against Russia, Turkey, China and Iran. Photos.