Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia by Peter Hopkirk
New York : W.W. Norton and Co., 1985. First American Edition. Stated. Hardcover. 252 pages ; maps, photographs ; 23 cm. $17.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. A very good copy with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.
Setting the East Ablaze
LENIN'S DREAM OF AN EMPIRE IN ASIA
This book tells for the first time the story of the Bolshevik attempt, between the wars, to "set the East ablaze" with the heady new gospel of Marxism. It is an extraordinary tale of intrigue and treachery, barbarism and civil war, and sometimes pure farce, whose echoes continue to be heard in Afghanistan and elsewhere today.
Lenin's dream was to liberate the whole of Asia. But his starting point was British India, the richest of all imperial possessions. He saw Britain as the main obstacle to his grand strategy of world revolution and believed that if India could be wrested from Britain's grasp, no longer would she be able to buy off her workers with the cheap raw materials and sweated labor of the East; economic collapse—and revolution—would soon follow at home.
So began a brutal, shadowy, undeclared war in the remote oasis of Central Asia's Silk Road in the 1920s and 1930s that spilled over into China proper and Mongolia, involving Chinese warlords, Muslim visionaries, and officers of British Indian intelligence like the mild-mannered F. M. Bailey—who for sixteen months played a game of hide and seek with the Bolsheviks that reads like a vintage John Buchan novel. At one point Bailey—a master of disguise—was hired by the Cheka, the dreaded Soviet secret police, to track himself down.
In this riveting adventure, British, Indian, and Chinese governments come up against professional revolutionaries of the Communist International such as M. N. Roy and Mikhail Borodin. In turn, a bloody reign of terror was conducted by the mad Baron Un-gern-Sternberg, a psychopathic White Russian general who promised to plant an avenue of gallows all the way to Moscow and roasted his Bolshevik captives alive.
Praise for the British edition of Setting the East Ablaze
"[A] gripping account of the terrible, confused struggle for mastery of central Asia that followed the Russian revolution." —Charles Allen, London Evening Standard
"Peter Hopkirk's narrative is irresistible, his style lucid, and, as current events in Afghan-istan show, his theme is ominously topical." —E. C. Hodgkin, former foreign editor of the London Times
"Amazing adventures indeed. [An] excellent and readable study of the Soviet takeover of Central Asia and the early attempts to intro-duce communism to India and China. This was by no means the last round in the Great Game, but the way Hopkirk tells it, it was one of the most exciting." —Far East Economic Review
PETER HOPKIRK has traveled extensively in the regions where the narrative of this book is set—including five visits to Soviet and Chinese Central Asia, several to Himalayan India, and also to Afghanistan and Mongolia. He has lectured on Central Asia to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Asia Society in New York and the Royal Geographical Society in London. He is the author of Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Central Asia and Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Race for Lhasa. Mr. Hopkirk is a foreign specialist with the Times (London), where he has worked for eighteen years, five of them as its chief reporter.
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