The Russians in Central Asia

The economic and cultural transformation of Russia’s vast possessions in Central Asia is still rapidly going forward. Geoffrey Wheeler describes how she began to enter this field during the first half of the eighteenth century.

During the second half of the nineteenth century the Russian conquest of Central Asia1 and the consolidation there of Russian power aroused a lively interest and much apprehension in the minds of western statesmen and historians, and particularly among the British.

The threat that the conquest was thought to hold over British India was greatly diminished by a number of subsequent events—the Russo-Japanese War, the 1914-18 war, and finally the Russian Revolution—and interest accordingly subsided.

After the end of the Russian Civil War in 1922, Soviet military designs on India were again spoken of; but fears of these, as well as of the more real menace of communist infiltration, were to a large extent allayed by the belief that the Soviet regime was economically and politically too heavily embarrassed to attempt any extension of its influence or territory. Even the later consolidation of Soviet political and economic control in Central Asia before and after the Second World War failed to excite much interest or alarm.

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