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The Great Game of the 19th Century
The Great Game was an intense rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia, beginning in the nineteenth century
British Lord Ellenborough started “The Great Game” on January 12, 1830, with an edict establishing a new trade route from India to Bukhara, using Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan
The aim was to create a buffer against Russia to prevent it from controlling any ports on the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, Russia wanted to establish a neutral zone in Afghanistan allowing for their use of crucial trade routes.
This resulted in a series of unsuccessful wars for the British to control Afghanistan, Bukhara and Turkey.
The British lost at all four wars — the First Anglo-Saxon War (1838), the First Anglo-Sikh War (1843), the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848) and the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878) — resulting in Russia taking control of several Khanates including Bukhara.
Although Britain’s attempts to conquer Afghanistan ended in humiliation, the independent nation held as a buffer between Russia and India
The Great Game officially ended with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which divided Persia into a Russian-controlled northern zone, a nominally independent central zone, and a British-controlled southern zone.
The Convention also specified a borderline between the two empires running from the eastern point of Persia to Afghanistan and declared Afghanistan an official protectorate of Britain.
Relations between the two European powers continued to be strained until they allied against the Central Powers in World War I
The term “Great Game” was popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his book “Kim” from 1904, wherein he plays up the idea of power struggles between great nations as a game of sorts.
Today, the Great Game is often quoted to describe the Geopolitical competition between America, China and Russia over Central Asia.
Afghanistan plays a vital geopolitical role in this Great Game as it borders Central Asia
The Struggle for Afghanistan lies in an even Greater Game for control over the Eurasian Landmass
This theory was first talked about by Sir Halford Mackinder but reinforced by Nicholas Spykman where he famously outlined his core geopolitical argument in 1944
“Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia, who rules Eurasia controls the destiny of the world”