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This review is from: Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia (Paperback)
'Setting the East Ablaze' completes Peter Hopkirk's Central Asian trilogy. Kicked off in 'the Great Game' (which starts at around 1800 and ends with the Anglo-Russian detente just before World War I), and followed by 'On Secret Service East of Constantinople' (German meddling in the East in World War I and the events in the Caucasus up to about 1918), this final part of the trilogy takes off where 'On Secret Service' left, discussing events in Central Asia proper (east of the Caspian) from about 1918 onwards.
As one would expect from Hopkirk, this is again a great read. Hopkirk has a knack for telling good stories that, together, provide an excellent historic overview of this volatile region. The characters populating this book include a British secret service agent who gets himself hired by the Cheka, an insanely bloodthirsty buddhist Russian baron who manages to conquer Mongolia with his private army, the fickle Afghan king, the former Ottoman dictator Enver Pasha who embarked on a second career in Central Asia (hired by the Russians to defuse muslim uprisings and then double crossing them and joining the rebellion), the octogenarian Emir of Bokhara and his giggling harem girls, Indian revolutionaries ending up in Bolshevik training camps in the deserts of Central Asia and many more, including, interestingly, large amounts of mainly Austro-Hungarian Prisoners-of-War who actually came to be a significant factor in the local military equation during the chaotic times just after the Russian Revolution.
Despite all the bloodshed and unbelievable cruelty, in the end it all came to nothing: the East was never set ablaze in the way Lenin intended (the 'toilers of the East' were so busy toiling they apparently had no time to listen to inflammatory Marxist rants), the Russians basically re-established control of what was already theirs in Tsarist times, and the English just gave away India after having spent so much effort on 'forward defence' in Central Asia of this supposedly crucial part of their Empire.