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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2020

Alexander Morrison
Affiliation:
New College, Oxford
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Summary

The historiography of the Russian conquest has been blighted by a number of persistent myths about Russian motivations. Chief amongst these are the so-called ‘Great Game’ with the British in India, and the ‘Cotton Canard’, which suggests that Central Asia was conquered to provide a source of raw cotton and a captive market for Russian industry. Neither of these arguments stands up to closer scrutiny – the ‘Great Game’ is a product of Anglo-Indian paranoia which tells us nothing about Russian motives, while the ‘Cotton Canard’ is a Soviet orthodoxy derived from Lenin’s writings rather than from evidence. What the sources reveal instead is a contingent, messy process with no overall strategic or economic purpose. The Russian Empire’s military and diplomatic elite took a series of ad-hoc decisions that were often driven by very local factors, and prioritised short-term military security and relations with Central Asian states and peoples. What we do see running through these decisions is the need to maintain Great Power prestige, a resentment of Central Asian ‘insolence’, and mutually incomprehensible understandings of sovereignty. An overview of Russian military technology and tactics concludes that logistics were the most crucial factor in Central Asian campaigns – this puts the focus on camels and those who bred and managed them.

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The Russian Conquest of Central Asia
A Study in Imperial Expansion, 1814–1914
, pp. 1 - 51
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Introduction
  • Alexander Morrison, New College, Oxford
  • Book: The Russian Conquest of Central Asia
  • Online publication: 19 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139343381.002
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  • Introduction
  • Alexander Morrison, New College, Oxford
  • Book: The Russian Conquest of Central Asia
  • Online publication: 19 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139343381.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Alexander Morrison, New College, Oxford
  • Book: The Russian Conquest of Central Asia
  • Online publication: 19 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139343381.002
Available formats
×