Originally published by The Moscow Times, 11 May 2010
By Richard Lourie
The April uprising in Kyrgyzstan illuminates the latest phase of the Great Game.
The game’s initial phase ran fr om 1807, when Napoleon proposed to Tsar Alexander to invade British India, until 1907, when tsarist Russia and imperial Britain sat down and — like civilized Europeans — divided spheres of interest, some of which ran right through countries like Iran.
For Britain, the Great Game had primarily been about securing the jewel of the imperial crown — India — fr om Russian encroachment. For Russia, eastward expansion was a form of Manifest Destiny that wouldn’t be satisfied until the mountains of Asia were under its control and the shores of the Pacific were reached.
There was another flare-up of the game during World War I when Kaiser Wilhelm tried to instigate a Muslim jihad against Russia and Britain, a process that Punch, the British humor magazine, termed “Deutschland Uber Allah.”
Soviet control of the area seemed to terminate the contest, but as Peter Hopkirk, who quite literally wrote the book on the subject (“The Great Game”), says, Central Asia is a “volatile area wh ere the Great Game has never really ceased.”Continue Reading →