The Merv Oasis, Travels and Adventures East of the Caspian during the Years 1879-80-81


Edmund O’Donovan (1844–83) was a British war correspondent who covered conflicts and uprisings in France, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Central Asia. Born in Dublin, he wrote for the Irish Times and other Dublin papers and later for the British paper, the Daily News. In 1879 he traveled to Merv (in present-day Turkmenistan), where he was arrested by the Turcomans, or Turkmen, on suspicion of being a Russian spy. He was released after several months’ captivity, and remained for a total of nearly three years in the region. The Merv Oasis is O’Donovan’s account of his adventures and observations. Volume one covers his voyage from Trebizon (Trabzon), in Turkey, across Georgia and the Caucasus to Baku (in present-day Azerbaijan), his crossing of the Caspian Sea, and his travels in the regions east of the Caspian, in Turkmenistan and Iran. Volume two is almost exclusively devoted to a detailed account of Merv, where he spent five months. The book covers the geography, history, rulers and system of government, religious practices, economy, and food and customs of the oasis. O’Donovan describes the Russian military campaign in the region and the fall of the fortress at Geok-Tepe in early 1881, but his focus is on the peoples and cultures of the region. The appendix includes a collection of documents relevant to the narrative, with translations from Persian and Russian, and facsimiles of several of the Persian and Russian documents. The cover reproduces his Russian passport (laissez-passer), issued in the name of Tsar Alexander II, granting O’Donovan permission to travel from Tiflis (Tbilisi, in Georgia) to Baku.

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Publication Information

G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York


Title in Original Language

The Merv Oasis, travels and adventures east of the Caspian during the years 1879-80-81, including five months' residence among the Tekkés of Merv

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes : maps, plans, facsimilies ; 22 centimeters

Last updated: September 30, 2016