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KHIVA, CENTRAL ASIA, AND CABUL.
THE Conflicting relations between Great Britain and Russia, in which the double position held by each of those powers in reference to Europe and Asia has for some time placed them, appear to have been brought, by the results of our advance into Cabul, to the verge of an inevitable collision. The gradual absorption of all the Indian sovereignties into the empire of the Company, and the predominance of Russia over the whole
of Northern Asia, from Kamschatka to the Caucasus, must sooner or later have occasioned this; and the turn
which the adroitness of Russian diplomacy, since the accession of the reigning sovereign, Mohammed Shah, has given to Persian politics, has contributed to hasten the crisis, by converting that country, from a stubborn barrier to Russian encroachment, into a highway to be securely traversed by her troops, in prosecution of her ulterior schemes of conquest. How far this untoward state of affairs might have been prevented or averted by timely management on the part of our administration in the East, it is not our present purpose to enquire; and it is a point on which neither pamphlets nor parliamentary debates seem to have succeeded in throwing much light; but the consequences speedily became apparent in the famous siege of Herat, an event which will probably be hereafter regarded as the opening of a new page in the history of Central Asia. Notwithstanding the failure of the enterprise, the rulers of British India were at last effectually startled and alarmed by the danger to which one of the keys of their empire had been exposed; and the expedition for the restoration of Shah Shooja was planned and undertaken in haste, in order to strengthen their defences in the north-west, and pre-occupy the
exterior points from which their fron tier might have been assailed. Russia appears at first to have regarded this advance on our part as a false step, both in a military and political view, which must so speedily and inevitably work out its own discomfiture, as to relieve her from the necessity of accel erating the catastrophe. The distance and impracticable nature of the coun try to be attacked, separated from our own territories by deserts and hostile independent tribes; the injudicious reductions recently made in our In dian army, opposed to the presumed energy and popularity of the Barukzye rulers, and the valour of the Affghans, whom the siege of Herat had shown not to have degenerated in this respect from their fathers,-all concurred to set Russia at ease as to the British operations west of the Indus; and, with the exception of the (afterwards disavowed) mission of the unfortunate Vikovich to Cabul, she appears to have waited in tranquil expectation for the time when the destruction of the Sepoy columns in the mountain passes of the Affghan country should have left the Anglo-Indian government destitute of disposable troops, and distracted by the innumerable revolts and conspiracies which would have exploded in all parts of India at the first tidings of reverse in Cabul.* Even if these anticipations should not be verified in their full extent, the dearly bought experience of Circassian mountain warfare justified the assumption, that the conquest of Affghanistan must occupy more than a single campaign. But all these seemingly well-reasoned calculations were overthrown by the events of the war. The Affglans recoiled from the encounter of the proverbial ikbal, or luck of the Company, and the bayonets of disciplined troops, in a panic from which the gallant
*There must be many still living who remember the sensation produced by the threatened invasion of India in 1797 by Shah Zemaun, the elder brother of the mo narch whom a British army has just restored to a nominal sovereignty; when, in the words of Elphinstone, "the Rohillas and Patans began to assemble from all quarters in arms, and every Mussulman, even in the remotest regions of the Dekkan, waited in anxious expectation for the advance of the champion of Islam!"
storm of Ghazni* gave them no time to recover; and the blow thus struck produced an impression through all the tribes of Central Asia, of the promptitude and invincibility of English warfare, which made it imperative on Russia to vindicate her own military reputation, and counterbalance the prestige of the English successes, by a corresponding display of power and energy. The announcement, therefore, that an armament had been dispatched against Khiva, could excite no surprise in the minds of those who had regarded with attention the changes of the political horizon-the only doubt was, where the bolt would be aimed. We have thus briefly traced the successive movements by which the two great aggressive powers of Asia, issuing from the boundaries within which they had hitherto restrained themselves, have at length descended into the arena which the annihilation of the political independence of Persia, and the division and limited extent of the Turkman and Uzbek states, have left clear for the coming contest. The mountains of Affghanistan, at the upper extremity of the valley of the Oxus, have already been occupied by British forces-the lower part of the course of that river has probably, even while we write, become a component part of the Muscovite empire the plains of Mawara'Inahr, unbroken, from the foot of the Hindoo Koosh to the Sea of Aral, by a mountain or intersecting river, alone separate the advanced posts. The existing circumstances of the sovereignties comprehended in this region, (in past ages the battle-field of the Moguls and Moslems,) as well as their political relations with each other, and with the more powerful states in their vicinity, are as little generally known in Europe as Affghanistan was before the events of the
last few years brought it into notice; but more accurate information exists in the jealously guarded archives of Petersburg and while our politicians at home, and our military leaders in India, are exulting in having secured our Oriental empire from any future approaches on the side of Herat and Western Affghanistan, Russia has lost no time in repairing this check by a move in flank, the success of which will (as we shall endea vour in the course of the present arti cle to show) give her the command of a position at once beyond the reach of any offensive operations on our part, and presenting equal advantages with Herat as a basis for attacking both our commerce and rule in India. Since the siege of Herat, indeed, and the undisguised avowals of its ulterior objects which the European journals in the pay of the Czar were permitted to make, Russia seems to have felt that any effectual concealment of her designs in that quarter is no longer practicable: the mask, once raised, has been thrown aside as useless; and arms have taken the place of intrigue and diplomacy. eastern affairs in January 1839, we alluded to a prevalent report that the Uzbek sovereignties had been deterred from sending troops to the relief of Shah Kamran, by the impending advance of a Russian force against Khiva. The rumour proved, however, to be at that time premature; but its accomplishment was only delayed. Late in last year it became known that an expedition had marched under the command of General Peroffski ; † and the strength of this corps, which is said to amount to 24,000 men of all arms, with seventy-two pieces of cannon, (besides a powerful reserve, and the volunteered aid of 10,000 Kirghizes,) obviously denotes, when directed against a principality the
In our article on
* The ancient capital of Mahmood Shah Ghaznevi, the first Moslem conqueror of India, who rifled the virgin treasures of the idol shrines for the embellishment of his native city, has become, in the lapse of eight centuries, an appendage to the title of an English noble, Baron Keane of Ghazni !
† The similarity of name has led some to imagine this officer identical with the General Berowski reported to have been killed before Herat in 1838; but this is not the
Berowski was a Polish Jew by birth, who had long been employed in Egypt and elsewhere as an emissary of Russia, before his appearance in a military capacity. Some years since he presented himself to Sir John Malcolm, at Bombay, in search of employment, but was speedily sent out of India. He then proceeded to Persia, and was actually killed before Herat.
population of which does not exceed 300,000, a design, not of reprisals or chastisement for past injuries, but of conquest and permanent occupation. [A well-informed French journal, Le Commerce, states the divisions of the Russian force as follows:-9000 infantry of the line, ten regiments of the regular Cossacks of Siberia, five regiments of Ural Cossacks, eight regiments of Tartars, Kalmucks, &c., in all 11,500 cavalry; two demi-brigades of artillery of mounted Cossacks, and a siege-battery-the disproportionate force of the cavalry is explained by the opposition expected from the Turkmans in crossing the steppe. The reserve is stated by the same journal, on the authority of letters from Odessa, at 12,000 infantry, 8000 Don Cossacks, and twenty-four guns, detached from the army of the Caucasus, under the orders of the Vice-Ataman Orloff.] The fate of Khiva may therefore be considered as sealed, unless the desert and the Turkman hordes prove more efficient auxiliaries than is probable; but since its incorporation with the Russian dominions will bring that empire into close contact (if not with the immediate outposts of our own frontier) with countries in which the recent events render it essential that British interests should predominate, it may be useful, before entering into the consideration of the concomitant questions of po. licy, to give some account of the past history and present state of Khiva itself, the very position of which on the map is scarcely known, we suspect, to the majority of the English reading public.
The Khanate of Khiva or Orgunj, against which the formidable force above detailed is directed, is of limited extent, consisting principally of an oasis, about 200 miles in length from north to south, and half as much from east to west, extending along both banks of the Amoo or Oxus, before its course is lost among the vast thickets of reeds and rushes which precede its entrance into the sea of Aral.
Enveloped on all sides by deserts, it presents the appearance of a fertile island among the waste: the deserts of Kara-koom, or "the black sand," (sometimes termed the steppe of Kharasm,) extending from its western border to the Caspian Sea; while the Kizil-koom, or "red sand," covers its eastern frontier, forming also the northern boundary of the Bokhara territory, and reaching in that direction as far as the confines of Kokan or Ferghana. In the middle ages of Mohammedan history it was of far greater power and consideration than at present-the governors of Kharasm (as Khiva was then called) hav. ing, in the early part of the 12th century, thrown off their dependence on the Turkish Sultans of Persia, founded a dynasty before which the power both of the Seljookians and Ghorians was subverted, and which extended its supremacy from Kashgar to Kerman, and from the Indus to Rei and Ispahan. But the contest which the fifth Sultan of this race, Mohammed Kootb-ed-deen, undertook against the hitherto unknown might of the Moguls, proved fatal to his power and family; and the ruin of the Kharasmian monarchy opened the door to the irruption into Southern Asia of Jenghiz Khan and his descendants, whose career of bloodshed and desolation was arrested only on the confines of Egypt by the prowess of the Mamlukes. But their fury raged most unsparingly in the provinces on which their thirst for blood and plunder was first glutted: Transoxiana was left desolate both of cities and inhabitants -and Khiva does not again emerge into notice till the commencement of the 16th century, when it fell, with the adjoining countries, into the power of the Uzbeks, who expelled the princes of the House of Timur from all their remaining possessions; and from that time to the present, the people of Orgunj (the name more commonly used in the East) are constantly mentioned in the annals of Persia as a rapacious and predatory
* From other accounts it would appear that this reserve is a sort of condemned corps, destined to garrison Khiva after its capture, and selected from the army of the Caucasus to punish its disaffection, which has co-operated with the valour of the Circassians in rendering the further prosecution of the war in that quarter for the present hopeless. See the article on the Cossacks in our September number of last
race, sending out frequent chappows, or plundering parties into the neighbouring territories, particularly those subject to the Persians, with whom religious differences (all the Uzbeks being Soonis) placed them in a state of perpetual hostility; while the insulated situation of their own country, environed on all sides by extensive and almost impassable deserts, secured them against the advance of a Persian army. In 1739-40, however, the reduction of the Uzbek states was resolved on by Nadir Shah, then flushed with the conquest of India, and elated by the unexampled height of power to which he had raised the Persian monarchy. Bokhara yielded without resistance on the advance of the conqueror, and its ruler, Abul-Fayez Khan, a descendant of Jenghiz, was restored by Nadir to a vassal throne; but Ilburz, the Khan of Khiva, trusting to his deserts and fortresses for defence, refused to do homage, and even put to death the envoys sent from Bokhara to persuade him to submission. But the desert was quickly traversed by the Persian army, with its field artillery and battering train; the Khan, rashly issuing from the impregnable fortress of Hazarasp* to give battle in the plain, was taken prisoner and put to death, with twenty of his principal officers, in vengeance for his late violation of the law of nations; and Khiva surrendered after a few days' siege.
20,000 Persian slaves, according to Hanway, were delivered from bondage on the capture of this stronghold of the Uzbek freebooters; and a great number of Russian captives are further said by Meerza Mahdi, the biographer of Nadir, to have been released by the generosity of the victor, the more laudable in this case, as exer. cised towards those of a different faith. Two Englishmen,† who had penetrated into these remote regions, in the fruitless hope of establishing a com
mercial intercourse with the Uzbek and Turkman states over the Caspian, from Russia, were also found in the van quished city, and dismissed with honour and safety.
But no permanent conquest resulted from this inroad. The Khivans threw off the yoke in a few months after the Persians retired; resuming, at the same time, their former habits of rapine, which the distracted state of Persia, after the death of Nadir, enabled them to prosecute with even more than their previous impunity. The sove reign of Bokhara, however, availed himself of the anarchy in which the death of Ilburz had left them, to assert a supremacy over Khiva, which continued to acknowlege a nominal subjection to Bokhara till the commencement of the present century, when its independence was re-established by Mohammed Raheem Khan, father of the present ruler, Allah-Kooli; and at present the sway of the Khan of Khiva extends over the Turkman tribes, who wander over the desert between his country, the Persian frontier, and the Caspian; the fortresses of Merv and Shurukhs, in Khorassan, were also, when Burnes travelled, subject to him; and, under the father of the present Khan, the Khivan forces once ventured completely across the desert into Persia, in order to oppose the advance of a Persian army which threatened these detached points of his dominions.
The first recorded intercourse between Khiva and Russia was in the reign of Peter the Great, who, in 171617, dispatched thither Prince Alexander Bekevich, a Georgian by birth, ostensibly on a mission to the Khan, and to ascertain the practicability of re-opening an ancient channel, by which tradition states the waters of the Oxus to have been discharged in primitive times into the Caspian sea, at the Gulf of Balkan, but from which they had, at a remote period, been diverted, either by artificial mounds or a
*This castle is celebrated in story for the siege which Atsiz, the founder of the Kharasmian dynasty, sustained in it against the Seljookian Sultan Sandjar; while the laureats of the two monarchs, the poets Anwari and Raschidi, emulated the warfare of their patrons by verses attached to arrows, and shot backwards and forwards from the camp to the castle.
†The names of these adventurous merchants were Thompson and Hogg. Their journal is published by Hanway, (vol. i. p. 345, 4to edition;) and, though brief, is interesting as the only account of the country derived from English travellers.
convulsion of nature, to their present course into the Lake of Aral. It was believed, however, that Bekevich's real instructions were to take possession of the mines of gold and lapis-lazuli said to exist in the mountain range between Khiva and Samarkand; and, for the accomplishment of this insidious project, (which implied the occupation of all the intermediate country,) he was accompanied by an escort of 2000 regular troops, with several pieces of artillery. The Khivans at first dissembled their suspicions, or were, perhaps, too weak to resist; but, on the Russian force being imprudently dispersed into winter quarters, the different detachments were simultaneously surprised and cut off.* Bekevich was carried into the presence of the Khan, and, after being reproached by him for his meditated perfidy, put to death by being cut limb from limb! His fate, however, appears to have passed unavenged; and, for more than a century after it, no direct communication with Khiva was attempted, though caravans frequently passed through its territory from Bokhara, &c., to trade with the Russians at the Bay of Mungushluk, in the north-east angle of the Caspian; and merchants from Khiva, according to Jooke, occasionally attended the great fair of Astrakhan with precious stones and ingots of gold and silver, the produce of their Indian commerce.
In 1819-20, however, (nearly at the same time with the fruitless embassy of M. de Négri to Bokhara,) General Yermoloff, then governor of Georgia, sent his aid-de-camp, Captain Mouraviev, on a mission to the Khan of Khiva, Mohammed Raheem, who had then lately shaken off his dependence on Bokhara; and from the narrative of this expedition, published at Paris in 1823, nearly all our recent knowledge of Khiva is derived. But the envoy totally failed in the declared objects of his legation, which were the ratification of commercial and friendly
relations between Russia and Khiva, the transference of the point of destination for the Bokhara caravans from Mungushluk to the nearer and more commodious haven of Krasno-voda† in the Bay of Balkan, and the abolition of the trade in Russian slaves, of whom Mouraviev says there were more than 3000 in Khiva.‡ All these propositions were, however, rejected or evaded: Mouraviev was even detained some time in a fortress, on the not unreasonable suspicion of being the precursor of an army, or at best a spy; but two years later, when the return of Négri and his suite had proved the practicability of the direct route from Orenburg, a caravan was dispatched under an escort to penerate to Bokhara over the steppe east of the Sea of Aral, thus avoiding the Khivan territories altogether. The success of this scheme would have deprived Mohammed Ra heem of the valuable duties which he derived from the transit of goods through his dominions; and the caravan was accordingly attacked by 7000 horse, near the mouth of the Sirr or Jaxartes, and driven back to Russia, after a great part of the merchandise had been carried off or destroyed by the assailants. Yet even this daring outrage passed unnoticed by the Rus sian government, on the allegation of there being no proof that it had been instigated by the Khan; and the caravans returned, without further molestation, to the old route by Khiva to Mungushluk.
From this sketch of the past history of the country now apparently des tined to be absorbed into the Muscovite empire, it is obvious that, political motives apart, Russia has ample grounds of complaint to justify her in suppressing a nest of ruthless brigands, who have not only perpetrated acts of open hostility against her trade and subjects, but have long systematically carried on, under shelter of the deserts which surround and protect them,a merciless and man-stealing warfare against
The guns taken from Bekevich are said, by Hanway, to have been used in the defence of Khiva against Nadir.
Krasno-voda, (the Crimson Water,) nearly opposite the mouth of the Araxes, i only seventeen days' journey from Khiva-Mungushluk thirty.
From the information acquired by Burnes, he considers that there are not fewer than 30,000 Persian slaves in Khiva, and about 2000 Russian; the latter, however, are no longer sold in Bokhara, in consequence of a convention with Russia to that