Afghanistan: The Russians at the Gates of India


L’Afghanistan: les Russes aux portes de l’Inde (Afghanistan: The Russians at the gates of India) is a comprehensive analysis of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia in the 19th century. The book is intended to help explain this rivalry to a French audience. The author is Charles Simond, an alias for Paul Adolphe van Cleemputte (1837–1916), a French-Belgian publicist, journalist, and novelist. The book was published in Paris in May 1885, two months after the Panjdeh incident, to which reference is made in the introduction. The incident involved the seizure by Russian forces of Afghan territory south of the Oxus River (the present-day Amu Darya), leading to a clash with Afghan troops and a diplomatic crisis with Great Britain. The work is divided into three books, each of which is further divided into chapters. In Book I, Les clefs de l'Indie (The keys to India), Van Cleemputte portrays Afghanistan as the probable route through which Russia would invade India. He discusses various aspects of Afghanistan’s strategic position, including its geography, strategic routes and passes, population, military strength, and history. Book II, L’intrigue russe (The Russian intrigue), covers Russian expansion into Central Asia, including the recent annexation of Merv (present-day Mary, Turkmenistan) in 1884 as well as the Russian plans for the region as developed by General Mikhail Skobelev, the architect of the expansion. In Book III, L’intrigue anglaise (The English intrigue), Van Cleemputte discusses Britain’s Indian Empire and the British involvement in Afghanistan, including the Afghan policy of William Gladstone, the prime minister at the time. The book includes a color map of Afghanistan showing the country’s location between the Russian and the British-Indian empires. In the introduction Van Cleemputte suggests that war between Britain and Russia is inevitable and recommends that France remain strictly and sincerely neutral in any conflict between the two rivals.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

H. Lecène and H. Oudin, Paris


Title in Original Language

L’Afghanistan : les Russes aux portes de l’Inde

Type of Item

Physical Description

323 pages : maps ; 19 centimeters

Last updated: August 31, 2016