"The Anglo-Russian Trouble"
Something else to "smash."
This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast caricatures a clash
between Russia, depicted as a jack-in-the-box, and the British Lion in
Afghanistan, while symbolic vultures of death circle in the background.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Afghanistan provided an uneasy
buffer zone between the expansionist empires of Russia and Britain (from
its base in India). In the 1860s, the Russians began advancing slowly
into Turkestan, on the northern border of Afghanistan, which put British
officials in India on alert. Herat, the land featured in this cartoon,
is in northwest Afghanistan, and was a potential target for Russian
invasion. In 1877, when the Afghan ruler became resistant to British
authority, the British resumed a policy of expanding northwest from
India into Afghanistan in order to send a signal to the Russians to halt
their southern expansion. The British move sparked the Anglo-Afghan War
of 1878-1880 (at the same time that the Russians were fighting the
The British found it easy to invade Afghanistan, but difficult to
hold it (as the Russians would in the late-twentieth century). The
British, therefore, did not occupy the country, but, instead, installed
a sympathetic ruler who acceded to their foreign policy demands. In
1884, Russian movements again caused the British concern, and in March
1885, British and Russian troops skirmished, producing a diplomatic
crisis. The situation was resolved, with both sides agreeing in
September 1885 to more definite borders for Afghanistan, although
Anglo-Russian tensions would remain high in the region for years.
Robert C. Kennedy