The Great Game
"The Great Game" (Also called the Tournament of Shadows (Russian: Турниры теней, Turniry Teney) in Russia) was the strategic economic and political rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia at the expense of Afghanistan, Persia and the Central Asian Khanates/Emirates. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, in which nations like Emirate of Bukhara fell. A less intensive phase followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, causing some trouble with Persia and Afghanistan until the mid 1920s.
In the post-Second World War post-colonial period, the term has informally continued in its usage to describe the geopolitical machinations of the Great Powers and regional powers as they vie for geopolitical power and influence in the area, especially in Afghanistan and Iran/Persia.
The term "The Great Game" is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly (1807–1842), an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's 6th Bengal Light Cavalry. It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901).
- 1 British–Russian rivalry in Afghanistan
- 2 Great Game moves eastward
- 3 Anglo-Russian Alliance
- 4 A less intensive British-Soviet rivalry
- 5 Reviews of the 19th and early 20th century Anglo-Russian rivalry
- 6 Cold War
- 7 Between the end of the Cold War and 2001
- 8 Since 2001
- 9 ‘Pivot to Asia’ and US-Chinese rivalry
- 10 Chronology
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
British–Russian rivalry in Afghanistan
From the British perspective, the Russian Empire's expansion into Central Asia threatened to destroy the "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire, India. The British feared that the Tsar's troops would subdue the Central Asian khanates (Khiva, Bokhara, Khokand) one after another. The Emirate of Afghanistan might then become a staging post for a Russian invasion of India.
It was with these thoughts in mind that in 1838 the British launched the First Anglo-Afghan War and attempted to impose a puppet regime on Afghanistan under Shuja Shah. The regime was short lived and proved unsustainable without British military support. By 1842, mobs were attacking the British on the streets of Kabul and the British garrison was forced to abandon the city due to constant civilian attacks.
The retreating British army consisted of approximately 4,500 troops (of which only 690 were European) and 12,000 camp followers. During a series of attacks by Afghan warriors, all Europeans but one, William Brydon, were killed on the march back to India; a few Indian soldiers survived also and crossed into India later. The British curbed their ambitions in Afghanistan following this humiliating retreat from Kabul.
After the Indian rebellion of 1857, successive British governments saw Afghanistan as a buffer state. The Russians, led by Konstantin Kaufman, Mikhail Skobelev, and Mikhail Chernyayev, continued to advance steadily southward through Central Asia towards Afghanistan, and by 1865 Tashkent had been formally annexed.
Samarkand became part of the Russian Empire in 1868, and the independence of Bukhara was virtually stripped away in a peace treaty the same year. Russian control now extended as far as the northern bank of the Amu Darya river.
In a letter to Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proposed "to clear Central Asia of Muscovites and drive them into the Caspian". He introduced the Royal Titles Act 1876, which added Empress of India to Victoria's list of titles, putting her at the same level as the Russian Emperor.
After the Great Eastern Crisis broke out and the Russians sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul in 1878, Britain demanded that the ruler of Afghanistan, Sher Ali, accept a British diplomatic mission. The mission was turned back, and in retaliation a force of 40,000 men was sent across the border, launching the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The war's conclusion left Abdur Rahman Khan on the throne, and he agreed to let the British control Afghanistan's foreign affairs, while he consolidated his position on the throne. He managed to suppress internal rebellions with ruthless efficiency and brought much of the country under central control.
The Pashtuns battled and conquered the Uzbeks and forced them into the status of ruled people who were discriminated against. Out of anti-Russian strategic interests, the British assisted the Afghan conquest of the Uzbek Khanates, giving weapons to the Afghans and backed the Afghan colonization of northern Afghanistan which involved sending massive amounts of Pashtun colonists onto Uzbek land and British literature from the period demonized the Uzbeks.
In 1884, Russian expansionism brought about another crisis – the Panjdeh Incident – when they seized the oasis of Merv. The Russians claimed all of the former ruler's territory and fought with Afghan troops over the oasis of Panjdeh. On the brink of war between the two great powers, the British decided to accept the Russian possession of territory north of the Amu Darya as a fait accompli.
Without any Afghan say in the matter, between 1885 and 1888 the Joint Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission agreed the Russians would relinquish the farthest territory captured in their advance, but retain Panjdeh. The agreement delineated a permanent northern Afghan frontier at the Amu Darya, with the loss of a large amount of territory, especially around Panjdeh.
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This left the border east of Zorkul lake in the Wakhan. Territory in this area was claimed by Russia, Afghanistan and China. In the 1880s the Afghans advanced north of the lake to the Alichur Pamir. In 1891, Russia sent a military force to the Wakhan and provoked a diplomatic incident by ordering the British Captain Francis Younghusband to leave Bozai Gumbaz in the Little Pamir. This incident, and the report of an incursion by Russian Cossacks south of the Hindu Kush, led the British to suspect Russian involvement "with the Rulers of the petty States on the northern boundary of Kashmir and Jammu". This was the reason for the Hunza-Nagar Campaign in 1891, after which the British established control over Hunza and Nagar. In 1892 the British sent the Earl of Dunmore to the Pamirs to investigate. Britain was concerned that Russia would take advantage of Chinese weakness in policing the area to gain territory, and in 1893 reached agreement with Russia to demarcate the rest of the border, a process completed in 1895.
Great Game moves eastward
By the 1890s, the Central Asian khanates of Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand had fallen, becoming Russian vassals. With Central Asia in the Tsar's grip, the Great Game now shifted eastward to China, Mongolia and Tibet. In 1904, the British invaded Lhasa, a pre-emptive strike against Russian intrigues and secret meetings between the 13th Dalai Lama's envoy and Tsar Nicholas II. The Dalai Lama fled into exile to China and Mongolia. The British were greatly concerned at the prospect of a Russian invasion of the Crown colony of India, though Russia – badly defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War and weakened by internal rebellion – could not realistically afford a military conflict against Britain. China under the Qing dynasty, however, was another matter.
Natural disasters, famine and internal rebellions had enfeebled China in the late Qing. In the late 19th century, Japan and the Great Powers easily carved out trade and territorial concessions. These were humiliating submissions for the once-powerful Manchus who ruled China. Still, the central lesson of the war with Japan was not lost on the Russian General Staff: an Asian country using Western technology and industrial production methods could defeat a great European power. Jane E. Elliott criticized the allegation that China refused to modernize or was unable to defeat Western armies as simplistic, noting that China embarked on a massive military modernization in the late 1800s after several defeats, buying weapons from Western countries and manufacturing their own at arsenals, such as the Hanyang Arsenal during the Boxer Rebellion. In addition, Elliott questioned the claim that Chinese society was traumatized by the Western victories, as many Chinese peasants (90% of the population at that time) living outside the concessions continued about their daily lives, uninterrupted and without any feeling of "humiliation".
The British observer Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger suggested a British-Chinese alliance to check Russian expansion in Central Asia.
During the Ili crisis when Qing China threatened to go to war against Russia over the Russian occupation of Ili, the British officer Charles George Gordon was sent to China by Britain to advise China on military options against Russia should a potential war break out between China and Russia.
The Russians observed the Chinese building up their arsenal of modern weapons during the Ili crisis, the Chinese bought thousands of rifles from Germany. In 1880 massive amounts of military equipment and rifles were shipped via boats to China from Antwerp as China purchased torpedoes, artillery, and 260,260 modern rifles from Europe.
The Russian military observer D. V. Putiatia visited China in 1888 and found that in Northeastern China (Manchuria) along the Chinese-Russian border,the Chinese soldiers were potentially able to become adept at "European tactics" under certain circumstances, and the Chinese soldiers were armed with modern weapons like Krupp artillery, Winchester carbines, and Mauser rifles.
Compared to Russian controlled areas, more benefits were given to the Muslim Kirghiz on the Chinese controlled areas. Russian settlers fought against the Muslim nomadic Kirghiz, which led the Russians to believe that the Kirghiz would be a liability in any conflict against China. The Muslim Kirghiz were sure that in an upcoming war, that China would defeat Russia.
The Qing dynasty forced Russia to hand over disputed territory in Ili in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881), in what was widely seen by the west as a diplomatic victory for the Qing. Russia acknowledged that Qing China potentially posed a serious military threat. Mass media in the west during this era portrayed China as a rising military power due to its modernization programs and as major threat to the western world, invoking fears that China would successfully conquer western colonies like Australia.
Russian sinologists, the Russian media, threat of internal rebellion, the pariah status inflicted by the Congress of Berlin, the negative state of the Russian economy all led Russia to concede and negotiate with China in St Petersburg, and return most of Ili to China.
Historians have judged the Qing dynasty's vulnerability and weakness to foreign imperialism in the 19th century to be based mainly on its maritime naval weakness while it achieved military success against westerners on land, the historian Edward L. Dreyer said that "China’s nineteenth-century humiliations were strongly related to her weakness and failure at sea. At the start of the Opium War, China had no unified navy and no sense of how vulnerable she was to attack from the sea; British forces sailed and steamed wherever they wanted to go......In the Arrow War (1856-60), the Chinese had no way to prevent the Anglo-French expedition of 1860 from sailing into the Gulf of Zhili and landing as near as possible to Beijing. Meanwhile, new but not exactly modern Chinese armies suppressed the midcentury rebellions, bluffed Russia into a peaceful settlement of disputed frontiers in Central Asia, and defeated the French forces on land in the Sino-French War (1884-85). But the defeat of the fleet, and the resulting threat to steamship traffic to Taiwan, forced China to conclude peace on unfavorable terms."
In 1906, Tsar Nicholas II sent a secret agent to China to collect intelligence on the reform and modernization of the Qing dynasty. The task was given to Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, at the time a colonel in the Russian army, who travelled to China with French sinologist Paul Pelliot. Mannerheim was disguised as an ethnographic collector, using a Finnish passport. Finland was, at the time, a Grand Duchy. For two years, Mannerheim proceeded through Xinjiang, Gansu, Shaanxi, Henan, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia to Beijing. At the sacred Buddhist mountain of Wutai Shan he even met the 13th Dalai Lama. However, while Mannerheim was in China in 1907, Russia and Britain brokered the Anglo-Russian Agreement, ending the classical period of the Great Game.
The correspondent Douglas Story observed Chinese troops in 1907 and praised their abilities and military skill.
In the run-up to World War I, both empires were alarmed by the unified German Empire's increasing activity in the Middle East, notably the German project of the Baghdad Railway, which would open up Mesopotamia and Persia to German trade and technology. The ministers Alexander Izvolsky and Edward Grey agreed to resolve their long-standing conflicts in Asia in order to make an effective stand against the German advance into the region. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought a close to the classic period of the Great Game.
The Russians accepted that the politics of Afghanistan were solely under British control as long as the British guaranteed not to change the regime. Russia agreed to conduct all political relations with Afghanistan through the British. The British agreed that they would maintain the current borders and actively discourage any attempt by Afghanistan to encroach on Russian territory. Persia, though independent, was divided into three zones of influence: a British zone in the south, a Russian zone in the north, and a narrow neutral zone serving as buffer in between.
A less intensive British-Soviet rivalry
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 nullified existing treaties and a second phase of the Great Game began. The Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919 was precipitated by the assassination of the ruler Habibullah Khan. His son and successor Amanullah declared independence and attacked the northern frontier of British India. Although little was gained militarily, the stalemate was resolved with the Rawalpindi Agreement of 1919. Afghanistan re-established its self-determination in foreign affairs.
In May 1921, Afghanistan and the Russian Soviet Republic signed a Treaty of Friendship. The Soviets provided Amanullah with aid in the form of cash, technology and military equipment. British influence in Afghanistan waned but relations between Afghanistan and the Russians remained equivocal, with many Afghans desiring to regain control of Merv and Panjdeh. The Soviets desired to extract more from the friendship treaty than Amanullah was willing to give.
The United Kingdom imposed minor sanctions and diplomatic slights as a response to the treaty, fearing that Amanullah was slipping out of their sphere of influence and realising that the policy of the Afghanistan government was to have control of all of the Pashtun speaking groups on both sides of the Durand Line. In 1923, Amanullah responded by taking the title padshah – "emperor" – and by offering refuge for Muslims who fled the Soviet Union and Indian nationalists in exile from the Raj.
Amanullah's programme of reform was insufficient to strengthen the army quickly enough and in 1928 he was forced to abdicate. The individual who most benefited from the crisis was Mohammed Nadir Shah, who reigned from 1929 to 1933. The Soviets and the British played the situation to their advantage: the Soviets getting aid in dealing with Uzbek rebellion in 1930 and 1931, while the British aided Afghanistan in creating a 40,000 man professional army.
With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 during World War II came the temporary alignment of British and Soviet interests. Both governments pressured Afghanistan for the expulsion of a large German non-diplomatic contingent, which they believed to be engaging in espionage. Afghanistan immediately complied. A period of win-win cooperation continued between the USSR and UK against Nazi Germany until the end of the war in 1945. This less intensive second phase of the Great Game would enter a new era owing to post WW2 geopolitical changes.
Reviews of the 19th and early 20th century Anglo-Russian rivalry
Gerald Morgan’s Myth and Reality in the Great Game (1973) approached the subject by examining various departments of the Raj to determine if there ever existed a British intelligence network in Central Asia. Morgan wrote that evidence of such a network did not exist. At best, efforts to obtain information on Russian moves in Central Asia were rare, ad hoc adventures. At worst, intrigues resembling the adventures in Kim were baseless rumours and Morgan writes such rumours "were always common currency in Central Asia and they applied as much to Russia as to Britain".
In his lecture "The Legend of the Great Game" (2000), Malcolm Yapp said that Britons had used the term "The Great Game" in the late 19th century to describe several different things in relation to its interests in Asia. Yapp believes that the primary concern of British authorities in India was control of the indigenous population, not preventing a Russian invasion. According to Yapp, "reading the history of the British Empire in India and the Middle East one is struck by both the prominence and the unreality of strategic debates".
After the success of the temporary Second World War alliance among the Allied forces, which included the United States of America, the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union (USSR); a new era of geopolitical realignment began which left the US and the USSR as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences. During this post-Second World War, post-colonial period, the legacy of the Great Game would sow the seeds of a new sustained state of political and military tension between the powers of the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies; and the Communist world, led by the Soviet Union together with its satellite states and allies. This era, coined the "Cold War", or "Great Game II" by Eric Walberg, was so named because it never featured any direct military action as both sides possessed nuclear weapons and their use would have probably guaranteed their mutual assured destruction.
Historians trace the start of Cold War era to 1947. This was the year that decolonisation of the British Empire started, which has been described as one of the focal points of Cold War evolution. Britain's withdrawal changed the dynamics of inter-Asian geopolitics, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East, leading to several conflicts including the Arab-Israeli conflict, the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and the 1958 Iraqi Revolution. The USSR discovered the same bitter truth within its 1979 misadventure in Afghanistan as the British had found in the 19th Century, and withdrew its last troops from the so-called "graveyard of empires" – Afghanistan– in 1988. The Cold War culminated with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The relevance of the Great Game in the Cold War context is evident in the final years of Mohammad Najibullah, the last Soviet-backed president of Afghanistan. During his 1992-96 refuge in the UN compound in Kabul, while waiting for the UN to negotiate his safe passage to India, he engaged himself by translating Peter Hopkirk's book The Great Game into his mother tongue, Pashto. A few months before his execution by the Taliban, he quoted, "Afghans keep making the same mistake," reflecting upon his translation to a visitor.
Between the end of the Cold War and 2001
With the end of the Soviet involvement in the region and the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s the expression The New Great Game was used to describe renewed geopolitical interest in the Central Asia based on the mineral wealth of the region which was becoming available to foreign interests after the break up of the Soviet Union. For example, in 1997 the New York Times published an opinion piece titled The New Great Game in Asia in which was written:
While few have noticed, Central Asia has again emerged as a murky battleground among big powers engaged in an old and rough geopolitical game. Western experts believe that the largely untapped oil and natural gas riches of the Caspian Sea countries could make that region the Persian Gulf of the next century. The object of the revived game is to befriend leaders of the former Soviet republics controlling the oil, while neutralizing Russian suspicions and devising secure alternative pipeline routes to world markets.
In 2004 Lutz Kleveman wrote a book, The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, which further popularised the term The New Great Game linking the expression to the exploration of mineral wealth of the region. While for many other people the direct American military involvement in the area was as part of the "War on Terror" rather than an indirect Western governmental interest in the mineral wealth, authors such as Eric Walberg suggests that access to the region's minerals and oil pipeline routes is still an important factor.
In the aftermath of the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan in order to aid Afghan rebels of the Northern Alliance in removing the Taliban regime which had allowed al-Qaeda to operate training camps within Afghanistan. By the end of 2001 the Taliban regime had lost control of most of the territory it had held and its leadership had crossed the border into Pakistan's tribal areas. United States forces and their NATO allies remained in Afghanistan and supported the regime of President Hamid Karzai. This has led to new geopolitical efforts for control and influence in the region. Many commentators have either compared these political machinations to the Great Game as played out by the Russians and British in the nineteenth century, or described them as part of a continuing Great Game, and has become prevalent in literature about the region, appearing in book titles, academic journals, news articles, and government reports. While energy resources and military bases are mentioned as part of the Great Game, so is the continuing jostling for strategic advantage between great powers and between the regional powers in mountainous border regions in the Himalayas. In the 21st century, the Great Game continues.
Addressing the Ambassador directly, Prince Andrew then turned to regional politics. He stated boldly that "the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too)" were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: "And this time we aim to win!"
After Halford Mackinder in his book The Grand Chessboard (1997), Zbigniew Brzezinski had emphasized the unparalleled value Central Asia had among US geostrategic imperatives. Yet in his later book (post 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan), The Choice: Global dominance or Global Leadership (2004) Brzezinski notably argued the USA should resort to more Soft Power in attempting to politically command key areas of central Asia. Similarly, Idriss Aberkane claimed Noopolitik was playing a more central role than ever in the balance of power of the new Great Game, as innovation was the simplest way for Great Gamers to alter the complex status quo and regional balance of power.
Aberkane therefore argued that the projection of development and Confidence building measures was gaining momentum as a means to leverage political intercourses by other means in Central Asia, and that such was a novel feature of the new Great Game as opposed to the classic Great Game.
Man is thus free to demonstrate the realist political profitability of peace and the Millennium Development Goals in this new round of the Great Game (...) we anticipate it be defined by noopolitik and the knowledge economy, beyond geography, the most promising means for any Great Gamer to decisively prevail over the many others.
Afghanistan expert Seth Jones published In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan, a book analyzing Afghanistan's popular name as "The Graveyard of Empires". It is argued that Afghanistan is a position of the Great Game that is impossible to hold over a protracted period, which seems to have remained an invariant over the centuries.
‘Pivot to Asia’ and US-Chinese rivalry
After 2012, US foreign policy has progressively ‘pivoted towards Asia’, a policy realignment predicated upon the idea that the center of gravity of the world economy would shift towards the Asia Pacific area. Think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the World Pensions Council (WPC) have argued that this geopolitical evolution could have profound financial consequences,  leading potentially to the initiation of a “New Great Game” pitting America against China, as the “new Asian champion.”
The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) established in July 2015 and corollary One Belt, One Road Chinese-led initiative demonstrate the PRC government’s capacity to garner the financial and political resources needed to "export" their economic development model, notably by persuading neighboring Asian nations to join AIIB as founding members : “as Asia (excluding China) will need up to $900bn in infrastructure investments annually in the next 10 years (which means there’s a 50% shortfall in infra spending in the continent), many [Asian] heads of state […] gladly expressed their interest to join this new international ﬁnancial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth.”
- 1582-1639: Russians occupy the forest zone north of Central Asia.
- 1717: Russians fail to take Khiva.
- 1735: Baskir War blocks plan to invade Central Asia.
- 1743: Orenburg founded.
- 1757: British are victorious in the Battle of Plessey in India.
- 1801: Russian invasion called back. — About this time most of central Asia was divided between the Khanate of Khiva (south of the Aral Sea), the Emirate of Bukhara (center) and the Khanate of Kokand (east).
- 1810: Henry Pottinger and Charles Christie reach Isfahan from Nushki, Balochistan, Christie via Herat.
- 1819: Nikolay Nikolayevich Muravyov visits Khiva.
- 1820 (circa): Aga Mehdi or Mehkti Rafailov, Russian agent in Kashgar or Yarkand.
- 1821: Russians visit Bukhara.
- 1825: William Moorcroft (explorer) visits Bukhara.
- 1830: Arthur Conolly fails to reach Khiva, then travels from the Caspian to India.
- 1831: Alexander Burnes charts the Indus, then reaches Kabul and Bukhara.
- 1838: British force Persia to abandon Herat.
- 1839: British occupy Kabul.
- 1840: Russian attack on Khiva fails; Abbott and Shakespear at Khiva.
- 1842: British expelled from Kabul with great loss, retake Kabul and withdraw (First Anglo-Afghan War); Arthur Conolly and Charles Stoddart executed at Bukhara.
- 1843: British annex Sindh .
- 1849: British annex Punjab.
- 1853: Russians found Kazala on the Aral Sea and Ak-Mechet to the east.
- 1853-56: Crimean War.
- 1856: British again keep Persians from Herat.
- 1857: Indian Rebellion.
- 1858: Ignatyev visits Khiva and Bukhara.
- 1860s and later: British agents explore north of India.
- 1863: Afghans annex Herat.
- 1864: Chernyayev takes Chimkent from Bukhara; Turkestan (city) taken from Kokand.
- 1865: Chernyayev takes Tashkent which becomes the capital of Russian Turkistan.
- 1868: Kaufman takes Samarkand; Bukhara a protectorate; part of Zarafshan River valley annexed.
- 1868: George W. Hayward, Robert Shaw and a Russian at Kashgar.
- 1869: Krasnovodsk founded on the east side of the Caspian.
- 1871: Russians occupy upper Ili River.
- 1873: Kaufman makes Khiva a Russian protectorate.
- 1875: Kaufman conquers Kokand.
- 1877: China regains Xinjiang from Yakub Beg.
- 1878: Second Anglo-Afghan War.
- 1879: Russian defeat at Geok Tepe.
- 1881: Russians take Geok Tepe; Ili valley returned to China .
- 1884: Russians take Merv.
- 1885: Russians take Pandjeh south of Merv on the road to Herat.
- 1888: Trans-Caspian railway from Krasnovodsk reaches Samarkand; Russians in Hunza.
- 1891: British take Hunza.
- 1895: British take Chitral.
- 1895-1914: The Great Rapprochement. The USA and British begin a rapprochement that will significantly affect Russia for the next century.
- 1904: Younghusband reaches Tibet.
- 1906: Tashkent Railway: direct rail connection to European Russia.
- 1914-1918: World War I British and Russian allied against Central European powers until 1917.
- 1917: Bolshevik Revolution. Tsarist Russia falls. Marxist–Leninist regime rises.
- 1922: Treaty on the Creation of the USSR unites Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia under Communist rule.
- 1939-1945: World War II British and Soviets allied against Axis powers.
- 1947: India becomes independent. Dominion of Pakistan is formed. India becomes a republic in 1950; Pakistan in 1956.
- 1953: Anglo-American powers foment 1953 Iranian coup d'état; install the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
- 1956: Suez Crisis takes place, reducing much European influence in the Middle East and accelerating decolonisation.
- 1979: Iranian Revolution. Shah is deposed.
- 1979-1989: Soviet war in Afghanistan. Anglo-American powers support Afghan insurrections. Soviets withdraw completely by February 15, 1989.
- 1990-1991: Gulf War
- 1991: Dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.
- 1992: Russian Federation is established.
- 2001: War in Afghanistan (2001–present) NATO-led operations.
- 2003-2011: Iraq War
- 2008: Russo-Georgian war. Georgia loses 25% and 40% of Abkhazia and South Ossetian territory respectively.
- 2011: Syrian Civil War. Anglo-American powers support Rebels. Russia supports the government of Bashar al-Assad.
- 2014: Russians take Crimea. Crimean population votes to join Russia in a referendum
In popular culture
- Kim by Rudyard Kipling
- The Lotus and the Wind by John Masters
- Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
- Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser
- Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser (1999) ISBN 0-00-651299-2
- The Game by Laurie R. King (2004), a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, one of the Mary Russell series. ISBN 0-553-80194-5
- The song "Pink India" from musician Stephen Malkmus' self-titled album.
- The documentary The Devil's Wind by Iqbal Malhotra.
- Afuganisu-tan a Webcomic by Japanese manga artist, Timaking
- Declare by Tim Powers
- The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye Viking Press, LLC, New York, 1978
- The plot of the James Bond film The Living Daylights partially revolves around an updated version of the Great Game. Bond's character travels to Afghanistan and convinces the local mujaheddin to turn upon the Soviet occupiers, to whom the mujaheddin had previously sold heroin.
- Race to Tibet by Sophie Schiller, Amazon Publishing, 2015, tells the story of Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orléans' 1889-1890 attempt to reach Lhasa during the height of the Great Game.
- The Age of Ice: A Novel by J. M. Sidorova, Scribner, New York, 2013
- The sixth episode of the television series Ripper Street, entitled "Tournament of Shadows," portrays the Russian Empire using the London Dock Strike of 1889 as a cover for a terrorist act.
- Chaturanga by Andrew C. Katen, Inner Compass Publishing, 2015, is a Young Adult novel about a modern American teenager who visits Central Asia and learns about its history and geopolitics.
- Golshanpazhooh 2011.
- Gratale 2012.
- Hopkirk 1992, p. 1.
- Morgan 1973, pp. 55-65.
- Penzev 2010.
- Gandamak at britishbattles.com
- Mahajan 2001, p. 53.
- Brian Glyn Williams (22 September 2011). Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 32–. ISBN 0-8122-0615-0.
- Bleuer, Christian (17 October 2014). "From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing". Afghanistan Analysts Network.
- International Boundary Study of the Afghanistan-USSR Boundary (1983) by the US Bureau of Intelligence and Research
- Robert Middleton, The Earl of Dunmore 1892–93 (2005)
- Forty-one years in India – From Subaltern To Commander-In-Chief, Lord Roberts of Kandahar – The Hunza-Naga Campaign
- Tamm 2011, p. 3.
- Tamm 2011, p. 4.
- Jane E. Elliott (2002). Some did it for civilisation, some did it for their country: a revised view of the boxer war. Chinese University Press. p. 143. ISBN 962-996-066-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Late Chʻing, 1800-1911, pt. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 94–. ISBN 978-0-521-22029-3.
- Alex Marshall (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917. Routledge. pp. 78–. ISBN 978-1-134-25379-1.
- Alex Marshall (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917. Routledge. pp. 79–. ISBN 978-1-134-25379-1.
- Alex Marshall (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917. Routledge. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-1-134-25379-1.
- Alex Marshall (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917. Routledge. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-134-25379-1.
- John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Late Chʻing, 1800-1911, pt. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 96–. ISBN 978-0-521-22029-3.
- David Scott (7 November 2008). China and the International System, 1840-1949: Power, Presence, and Perceptions in a Century of Humiliation. SUNY Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0-7914-7742-7.
- David Scott (7 November 2008). China and the International System, 1840-1949: Power, Presence, and Perceptions in a Century of Humiliation. SUNY Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-0-7914-7742-7.
- John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Late Chʻing, 1800-1911, pt. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-0-521-22029-3.
- PO, Chung-yam (28 June 2013). Conceptualizing the Blue Frontier: The Great Qing and the Maritime World in the Long Eighteenth Century (PDF) (Thesis). Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. p. 11.
- Tamm 2011, p. 353.
- Douglas Story (1907). To-morrow in the East. Chapman & Hall, Limited. pp. 224–.
- Lloyd 2001, p. 142.
- Hopkirk 1992, p. 520.
- Yapp 2000, pp. 179–198.
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Piper 2012.
- Farndale 2012.
- Hitz 2004, p. [page needed].
- Latifi 2012.
- Coll 2004, p. 333.
- NYT editor 1996.
- Kleveman 2004.
- Cooley 2012, p. 53.
- Rashid 2000, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia.
- Edwards 2003, pp. 83–103.
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