Journey of the Russian Embassy through Afghanistan and the Khanate of Bukhara in the Years 1878-79


Ivan Lavrovich Iavorskii (1853–circa 1920) was a Russian physician who in 1878–79 accompanied an imperial Russian embassy to Afghanistan, the goal of which was to establish a Russian ambassador in the court of Afghan ruler Sher Ali Khan (1825–79, reigned 1863–66 and 1868–79) with the aim of extending Russian control over the foreign policy of Afghanistan. The success of the mission was the spark that kindled the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878–80. Led by General Nikolai Stoletov (1834–1912), the mission left Tashkent on June 13, 1878. Iavorskii joined it later, in Samarkand. Sher Ali wanted to remain neutral in the rivalry between the Russia and Great Britain for influence in Central Asia and at first tried to prevent the mission from proceeding to Kabul. The Russians used ‘Abd al-Rahman, Sher Ali’s nephew and rival who was at that time living in exile in Russian-controlled Samarkand, to exert pressure on Sher Ali. After being forced to wait in Mazar-i-Sharif for several weeks, Stoletov eventually was allowed to proceed and arrived in the Afghan capital on July 9. Sher Ali’s admission of the Russian embassy to Kabul, however reluctant, was seen by Lord Lytton, the British viceroy in India, as a slight that could not be allowed to stand. When Sher Ali refused to admit a similar British mission, Lytton ordered the invasion that began the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The British marched a force to Kabul, deposed Sher Ali, and installed ‘Abd al-Rahman on the throne. This book is Iavorskii’s account of the mission, written in Russian and translated into German by Eduard Iulʹevich Petri, a professor at the University of Bern.

Last updated: August 31, 2016