"The Anglo-Russian Trouble"

March 14, 1885

Thomas Nast

"The Anglo-Russian Trouble"

Colonialism/Imperialism; Symbols, British Lion;

No 'People' indexed for this cartoon.

Afghanistan; Great Britain; Russia;

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 Russo-Turkish War).

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

"The Anglo-Russian Trouble"
May 21, 2024

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