Journey through Afghanistan. Adventures of a Russian Traveler


The book presented here is a personal account by the author of his journey to Afghanistan in 1901. Boris Leonidovic Tageev was a former officer in the Imperial Russian Army who undertook this journey at his own initiative, notwithstanding his continued links with Russian scientific and intelligence circles. Under the rule of Amir ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan (1880‒1901), visitors from other countries, with the limited exception of those from Great Britain, were not allowed to enter Afghanistan. The author, who was Persian by origin and fluent in the language, therefore had to disguise himself as a Tajik pilgrim visiting the shrine of Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif. Afraid of being arrested, he did not keep a diary and wrote the book from memory after the journey, hence its simple colloquial style. His journey took him through the cities of Balkh, Mazar-i-Sharif, Tashkurgan (present-day Khulm), Kabul, Bamiyan, and Jalalabad. He traveled by horse, donkey, camel, and on foot. Tageev describes the rule of ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan, including his army (based on British military traditions), the structure of his government, the educational system, and the improved position of women under his rule. ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan in fact abolished the rule according to which, after her husband’s death, a widow had to marry a relative of her husband. Tageev’s narrative includes comments about nature, rivers, fauna and flora, and legends and stories he heard from people during the journey. He describes Kabul with its buildings, bazaars, vineyards, the Kabul River, the palace, and numerous manufacturing facilities. Fearful that he would be recognized as a foreigner, he stayed in Kabul only for a very short time. From there he moved to Jalalabad, crossed the Khyber Pass, arrived at Peshawar, continued to India, and then returned to Europe. Between 1900 and 1928 other works by Tageev appeared under the name Boris Rustam-Bek-Tageev.

Last updated: August 31, 2017