Libmonster ID: SE-278
Author(s) of the publication: V. PLASTUN

The name of the Lipetsk historian Yu. N. Tikhonov became known to Russian readers and orientalists after the publication of his first book " The Afghan War of the Third Reich "(Moscow, 2003), which aroused great interest. In addition to this monograph, he published six other works devoted to the opposition of the special services of the Soviet Union to the activities of various foreign intelligence agencies in the Central Asian region, mainly in Afghanistan.

A new book by Yu. N. Tikhonov- Politics of the Great Powers in Afghanistan and Pashtun Tribes (1919-1945) (Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lipetsk State Pedagogical University, Moscow-Lipetsk, Inform LLC, 2007, 384 p.) is devoted to the activities of foreign special services among Pashtun tribes.

Based on previously unavailable materials, the author reveals the background of the secret struggle of the great powers for influence on the state policy of Afghanistan, the attempts of their special services to take advantage of the Pashtun "tribal factor", which is of key importance for Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it is the tribes that have always determined and determine the nature of foreign policy, the leaders and elders decide on the most important issues of relations with foreign countries at jirgas (tribal meetings) and bring their decisions to the attention of the government. No Afghan monarch could sign an agreement or treaty without receiving the approval of tribal authorities.

Political events in Russia, which were marked by the February and then October revolutions of 1917 and the civil War, radically changed the situation on the outskirts of Russia and caused its traditional rivals, especially Britain, to seek to snatch the most delicious pieces from the former powerful empire. Moreover, in Central Asia in 1917-1925, the" Big Game "* entered an even more acute stage: it was supplemented by Comintern attempts to open the "eastern front" of the world revolution, the "leading edge" of which included Afghanistan.

From the second half of the 1920s, the offensive intensity of the Comintern's policy of inciting a "proletarian revolution" in the Eastern countries began to weaken. The purpose of intelligence special operations was a long and in-depth study of the approaches to the region, countering the activity of the special services of other countries, primarily Britain and Germany, and using the "fifth column" against its rival. So, Soviet Russia helped the rebellious Pashtun tribes of British India with weapons, and the main force supporting the anti-Bolshevik actions in Central Asia were the British residency and the British diplomatic missions, which supplied the Basma detachments with weapons and money.

The role of intelligence agencies in many actions of the great Powers in Asia has always been significant. Russian (Soviet) intelligence, without a doubt, has written many bright, heroic pages in the history of our state and its foreign policy. But the results of the dedicated work of its employees, the information they obtained, were not always used in the best possible way (by the way, it was the same under the imperial regime). Political games aimed at achieving short-term success often prevailed over long-term national and political interests.

The negative attitude towards the tribal system of Afghanistan has cost our country dearly. Even earlier, Great Britain gained valuable, but paid for with great blood, experience and, as Yu writes in his book. Tikhonov, was able to keep in 1941-1943. its excessively active allies-the USSR and the United States - from sending their troops to Afghanistan.

In the book by Yu. Tikhonov presents the richest factual material found by the author in the Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation (including personal archives of public and political figures of the USSR), documents from reference collections in Afghanistan, India, and Germany. The reader gets an opportunity to get acquainted with the author's conclusions drawn on the basis of his analysis of archival documents of the Foreign Intelligence Service and the FSB, the Russian State Military Archive, etc. He also found and thoroughly analyzed a number of documents from the Indian Political Intelligence funds. In his work, Yu. Tikhonov relies on the research of Russian Orientalists, as well as English, Afghan, German, and Indian authors.

Of particular value, in my opinion, are nine appendices (pp. 338-376) containing correspondence between representatives of Russia and radical groups in eastern countries who proposed their plans to fight British colonialism with the support of the Comintern, involving Pashtun tribes in this struggle, and calling on Moscow to assist in this struggle.

The Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan, living on the territory of Afghanistan and present-day Pakistan, have always been characterized by an indomitable desire for independence. The struggle against the conquerors contributed to the development of their courage and determination, coolness, and the development of special forms of military art. That is why the special services of the British, Russian, Japanese and other powers sought first of all to gain the confidence of the tribal leaders and attract them to their side. They could be made their supporters "for an hour" for considerable sums of money and privileges, but you can not force them to give up the right to be themselves. In this regard, the well-known researcher of Central Asia A. E. Snesarev emphasized: "There is no doubt that no matter what artificial measures the British take, no matter how much gold they pour, in the fateful moment of a big war, the Afghan group will merge


* This was the name given to the military-political confrontation between the British and Russian empires in Central Asia in the mid-19th century.

page 79


in one unanimous family, and will not go apart " 1.

Even today, the Pashtun tribes do not "go apart". Outside observers express outrage that " Afghans are fighting against Afghans." However, things are much more complicated if you think about why all the Afghan governments have not decided to fix the state border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Conclusion, the author sums up his research, which is limited to the two world wars, and concludes that the great powers constantly used the dispute over territories inhabited by Pashtun tribes in their geopolitical and geostrategic interests. Thus, in 1941-1945, the interests of world politics forced the heads of state participating in the anti-Hitler coalition to direct the efforts of their special services to disrupt the "Afghan" plans of the Third Reich. In December 1941, Moscow decided to begin active counteraction to the "special services of Germany, Italy and Japan in Afghanistan"2.

Currently, the situation in this part of the world is far from stable. Central to the ongoing battle is once again the Pashtun tribes on both sides of the virtual Afghanistan-Pakistan border (the"Durand Line"), as well as the contacts of representatives of the CIA and the UMR (Pakistan Interagency Intelligence Agency - ISI) with tribal leaders. The current situation in Afghanistan, where for the past six years the US and NATO troops have been unsuccessfully trying to find a solid foothold for the implementation of their geopolitical goals under the slogan of fighting "international terrorism", shows that it is unrealistic to achieve such goals. The problem rests on the same Pashtun tribes, a clash with which can only lead to an expansion of the conflict and draw new countries of the Islamic world into it.

Russian historiography on the problems of Afghanistan has made a great contribution to the study of various aspects of the life of the East. A new generation of historians-orientalists supplemented their knowledge and numerous works of such brilliant specialists on the problems of the Central Asian region as A. E. Snesarev, Yu. V. Gankovsky, V. A. Romodin, V. G. Korgun, L. Temirkhanov, A.V. Raikov and others.

Yu. N. Tikhonov's monograph is a worthy addition to this valuable heritage.

V. PLASTUN, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Novosibirsk State University


Snesarev A. E. 1 Afghanistan. Moscow, 1921, p. 93.

Kuznets Yu. L. 2 Teheran-43. Moscow, 2003, p. 251.


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V. PLASTUN, AFGHANISTAN: GREAT POWERS AND PASHTUN TRIBES // Stockholm: Swedish Digital Library (LIBRARY.SE). Updated: 02.07.2023. URL: https://library.se/m/articles/view/AFGHANISTAN-GREAT-POWERS-AND-PASHTUN-TRIBES (date of access: 20.04.2024).

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