The Rival Powers in Central Asia, or the Struggle between England and Russia in the East


The Rival Powers in Central Asia is an English translation of a work originally published in Vienna in 1890 under the title Antagonismus der Englischen und Russischen Interessen in Asien: Eine Militär-Politische Studie (The antagonism between English and Russian interests in Asia: A military-political study). The study analyzes what the author sees as the threat to British India posed by an aggressive Russia. The author characterizes the Russian Empire as a “reckless, expansive force,” which, having reached its natural limits on the seas to the east and the north, was now concentrating “all its energies on the South, and chiefly in the direction of Constantinople and Central Asia.” While the Russian thrust into Central Asia is portrayed as a threat mainly to British interests, Russian ambitions toward Constantinople are seen as most threatening to the continental European powers, “Austria in particular,” which “cannot at any cost permit Russia to take possession of Constantinople.” On this basis, the author argues that it is in Great Britain’s interest to join a “Central European Coalition” with Austria-Hungary and imperial Germany. Chapter four, the longest in the book, entitled “Strategical Relations of the Two States,” assesses the relative strengths of Russia and Great Britain in a contest for control of Central Asia and ultimately India, with sections on land forces, naval forces, and the transport and logistical routes likely to be used by each power. The concluding chapter discusses the benefits that Great Britain would gain by allying with the Central European powers against Russia, stresses the value to those powers of a British alliance, and argues that only through such an alliance would Britain be able to retain its hold on India. Ultimately, of course, the envisioned alliance did not come about, as some two decades later Great Britain allied with Russia (and France) and against Germany and Austria-Hungary in the great European conflict that came to be known as World War I.

Last updated: August 25, 2016