Dar Al-Harb : the Russian general staff and the Asiatic frontier, 1860-1917
The present thesis aims to examine how the Russian General Staff observed and assessed the Russian Empire’s Asiatic frontier during the period of its greatest extent (between 1860 and 1917). By providing an overview of the entire length of the Asiatic frontier it aims to provide an original addition to the existing historiography. Through analysis of the original records of the Asiatic Department of the Russian General Staff, it furnishes insight into areas of response by the Russian General Staff towards crisis situations where previously little or no scholarly work has been carried out. Thus, to cite just two examples, the thesis contains the first detailed coverage on the posting of the first Russian military agents to China during the so-called ‘Ili Crisis’ of 1881, and of the response of the General Staff to the revolt of Ishaqu Khan in northern Afghanistan in 1888. These new additions are complemented by detailed analysis of more conventional aspects of the existing historiography. For example, by studying the prelude to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 it provides for the first time in English a detailed analysis of the specific difficulties experienced by Tsarist military intelligence in the Far East in the years immediately preceding that conflict. The overall form of analysis is in the main geographically determined, but with the sections examining individual sections of the Russian Asiatic frontier preceded and followed by more general chapters surveying the development of doctrinal, organisational and ideological currents within the General Staff as a whole at both the beginning and end of the period under review. Chapter one in its first par surveys the development of the General Staff system itself in the Russian army. It provides in addition an analysis of available sources alongside a basic military history of the expansion of Russia’s Asiatic frontiers across this period. The first part of chapter two provides an overview of the instruments and ideas that had evolved and that were available to the Russian General Staff in its study Asia on the eve of the major Central Asian conquests of the 1860s. The second section of chapter two analyses how some of these currents, both cultural and doctrinal, intermingled and responded between approximately 1859 and 1873, with the characters of Prince Bariatinskii, Viceroy of the Caucasus during this period, providing a central focus and case study. Chapters three examines how some of the purely tactical and technical tools employed by the Russian army in its Asiatic conquests evolved over time and again looks at the role of individual thinkers in this evolutionary process. Chapter four, the main body of the work, in three major sub-sections analyses the fully developed use of all these instruments and trends in the Russian General Staff’s plans and threat-assessments for the three major areas of their Asiatic frontier - the Far East, the Caucasus, and the region of Central Asia-Afghanistan. The conclusion seeks to contribute a new perspective to current levels of analysis by setting the Tsarist military’s orientalist activities within the context of the current debates regarding European colonialism and the nature of orientalism in general. In doing so it also seeks to draw together the three underlying themes running throughout the work - the development of the General Staff’s analysis of Asia by 1917, the still unresolved conflict of centre-periphery relations that afflicted every aspect of Russian Asiatic policy, and the growing consciousness of a ‘knowledge crisis’ that afflicted the Tsarist General Staff as a whole, a crisis reflected in the press and academic organs of the day. This last phenomenon, along with many of the tools and approaches to tackle it, would form one of Tsarist Russia’s largest legacies to the Soviet Union. The thesis will prove useful to students of military history, Russia-Asia diplomatic relations, and those interested by the development and evolution of the ‘knowledge-state’ between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. Above all it seeks to provide a prism through which the reader can appreciate many of the difficulties attached to the development of military intelligence and the modern ‘knowledge economy’, difficulties that continue to afflict many states, not least Russia, even today.