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The complexities of chemical composition and crystal structure are fundamental characteristics of minerals that have high relevance to the understanding of their stability, occurrence and evolution. This review summarises recent developments in the field of mineral complexity and outlines possible directions for its future elaboration. The database of structural and chemical complexity parameters of minerals is updated by H-correction of structures with unknown H positions and the inclusion of new data. The revised average complexity values (arithmetic means) for all minerals are 3.54(2) bits/atom and 345(10) bits/cell (based upon 4443 structure reports). The distributions of atomic information amounts, chemIG and strIG, versus the number of mineral species fit the normal modes, whereas the distributions of total complexities, chemIG,total and strIG,total, along with numbers of atoms per formula and per unit cell are log normal. The three most complex mineral species known today are ewingite, morrisonite and ilmajokite, all either discovered or structurally characterised within the last five years. The most important complexity-generating mechanisms in minerals are: (1) the presence of isolated large clusters; (2) the presence of large clusters linked together to form three-dimensional frameworks; (3) formation of complex three-dimensional modular frameworks; (4) formation of complex modular layers; (5) high hydration state in salts with complex heteropolyhedral units; and (6) formation of ordered superstructures of relatively simple structure types. The relations between symmetry and complexity are considered. The analysis of temporal dynamics of mineralogical discoveries since 1875 with the step of 25 years show the increasing chemical and structural complexities of human knowledge of the mineral kingdom in the history of mineralogy. In the Earth's history, both diversity and complexity of minerals experience dramatic increases associated with the formation of Earth's continental crust, initiation of plate tectonics and the Great Oxidation event.
In the 1840s and 1850s the Russians notionally extended their control much deeper into the steppe, where, after the capture of the Khoqandi fortress of Aq Masjid in 1853, they attempted to consolidate a new frontier along the line of the Syr-Darya, to the east of the Aral Sea. The new fortresses at Raim, Kazalinsk, Karmakchi and Perovsk were islands of Russian sovereignty in an inhospitable landscape of salt-flats, marshland and desert, subject to extremes of cold and heat. Supplying their garrisons was difficult and expensive, and threw the Russians into dependence on Bukharan grain-traders and Qazaq pastoralists. Soldiers were bored out of their minds, and deliberately wounded themselves or deserted to the Khoqandi outposts to the south. While the Syr-Darya frontier was reasonably effective as a listening-post for Russian intelligence and resisted attacks from Khoqand, neither Cossacks nor peasants could be persuaded to settle there, and the costs of occupation far outweighed any revenue. By the late 1850s some voices were calling for a retreat to the Orenburg line, but a familiar argument – that of prestige – won the day, and instead an advance to Tashkent began to seem like the best way of escaping this ‘particularly painful place’.
The fall of the great Turkmen fortress of Gök-Tepe in 1881 took place in the full glare of international publicity, but it was preceded by over ten years of skirmishing and raiding between the Russians and the Akhal-Teke and Yomud Turkmen from the shores of the Caspian to the Köpet Dagh mountains. In 1879 the hapless General N. P. Lomakin was defeated beneath the walls of Gök-Tepe and forced to retreat, the most significant defeat inflicted on Russian arms throughout the entire history of the conquest of Central Asia. The celebrated and sadistic General M. D. Skobelev was tasked with wiping out the memory of Lomakin’s humiliation, which he did by storming the fortress and massacring 8,000 Turkmen, women and children included. Over the next four years the Russians would annex Merv and the Panjdeh oasis, arousing Persian and British alarm, before they came to an agreement both with the Qajars and with the British on drawing what would become the new southern frontier of the Empire.
This epilogue examines the ways in which the conquest established the contours of the Russian colonial regime, and some of the – often incomplete – transformations this would bring over the decades before 1914. It brings together certain themes which have run throughout the book – sovereignty, Great Power prestige, violence, camels – and summarises how these manifested themselves during different episodes of the conquest. It also compares the conquest with other periods of military violence in Central Asia – the Revolution and Civil War, and the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
After Tashkent’s fall General M. G. Chernyaev became the first governor of the new province of Turkestan, and immediately began lobbying to keep the city under Russian rule and to embark on further conquests. An apparent threat from Sayyid Muzaffar, Amir of Bukhara, provided him with a justification for further military action, but he retreated before the fortified town of Jizzakh and was recalled shortly afterwards. His successor, General D. I. Romanovskii, defeated the Bukharan forces at the Battle of Irjar, and then launched unauthorised assaults on Khujand and Jizzakh, adding further to Russian territory. After a brief lull, during which Turkestan was made a Governor-Generalship under General K. P. von Kaufman, war with Bukhara broke out again in 1868. Von Kaufman’s forces defeated Amir Sayyid Muzaffar’s army at Chupan-Ata, outside Samarkand, and at the Zirabulak heights. After the Russian garrison in the Samarkand fortress had been besieged and relieved, the whole of the upper Zarafshan valley was annexed to Russia and the Bukharan Emirate’s remaining territory became a Russian protectorate. Von Kaufman realised that in order to have a stable relationship with Bukhara he would need to strengthen the Amir’s authority, which he did by crushing the independent city-state of Shahrisabz and handing it over to Bukharan rule.
The decisions which triggered the Russian conquest of Central Asia were taken by the generation of soldiers and statesmen who came of age during the Napoleonic Wars – Nesselrode, Chernyshev, Speranskii and above all Count Vasily Perovskii, Governor of Orenburg during the 1830s. This chapter argues that Russia’s victory against Napoleon transformed the self-perception of the Empire’s ruling elite: Russia was now unquestionably a European Great Power, and as such the constant raiding, rebellion and other forms of ‘insolence’ on her steppe frontier could no longer be tolerated. An account of Russian relations with Persia and Afghanistan is followed by an overview of the empire’s relationship with the Qazaqs from the early eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, and the growing Russian frustration with the khanate of Khoqand, and above all with Khiva.
By the end of the nineteenth century Semirechie would be known as the ‘granary of Central Asia’, and the only significant Russian settler colony in Turkestan, but in the 1840s it was still largely populated by Kyrgyz and Qazaq nomadic pastoralists under the contested rule of the Khoqand Khanate. Russian contacts with Qazaq Chinggissids of the Great Horde dated back to the early 1800s, but a Russian military presence came only in the 1840s, with the construction of fortresses at Kopal and Lepsinsk, before they crossed the Ili river to found Fort Vernoe in 1854. In 1860 Khoqandi forces suffered a shattering defeat at the Battle of Uzun-Agach, paving the way for extensive Cossack and peasant settlement in Semirechie’s gentle climate. In 1871 the Russians seized the Upper Ili Valley, which had seen a rebellion against Chinese rule in 1866. In 1881, however, following the reconquest of the region by the Qing, they returned the territory to them – the only instance of this happening throughout the whole history of the conquest.
For some historians the conquest of Central Asia begins in 1865 with the fall of Tashkent to General M. G. Chernyaev. In fact this was the culmination of a series of steppe campaigns which had begun in the 1840s, but it did mark the point at which the Russian empire moved from the steppe to the settled zone of Southern Central Asia. Tashkent was Central Asia’s largest city and a major trading entrepôt, but it has long been argued that Chernyaev disobeyed orders when he captured the city. This chapter demonstrates that Chernyaev’s apparent disobedience was really a product of the ambiguity of his instructions, and above all of Russian ignorance of the geography of the region, which meant the War Ministry was convinced a ‘natural frontier’ would somehow present itself when it was needed. After Aulie-Ata, Chimkent and Turkestan had fallen to Russian forces, Chernyaev was instructed to separate Tashkent from the influence of Khoqand. While not quite the daring coup de main of legend, Chernyaev’s assault was risky, and resulted in two days of fighting in the streets before he reached an accommodation with the Tashkent ‘ulama. However, it was still unclear whether Tashkent would remain in Russian hands, or be turned into a city-state under Russian protection.
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.
The conquest of the Ferghana valley and the final destruction of the Khoqand khanate are often overlooked in histories of the conquest. Having survived in uneasy limbo as a protectorate from 1866 until 1875, Khoqand was rocked by a series of rebellions against its unpopular Khan, Khudoyar, prompting a Russian military intervention. Attempts to preserve Khoqand as a protectorate by putting Khudoyar’s son on the throne failed, and further rebellions broke out in Andijan and other cities of this rich and fertile region. General M. D. Skobelev led a series of vicious punitive expeditions against the Sart, Qipchaq and Kyrgyz inhabitants of Ferghana, which saw Russian forces deliberately making war on women, children and non-combatants. The last resistance to the Russians in Khoqand’s name came from the Kyrgyz of the mountainous Alai region, who did not made peace until 1876. Ferghana would become the richest province of Russian Turkestan, while Khoqand’s demise would be mourned by a whole generation of intellectuals and commemorated in an extraordinarily rich historiography.