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Full text of "The British Intervention In Transcaspia 1918 1919"

INTERVENTION BY BRITISH- T .>.UIAN TRC ^ 
in Transcaspia in 1918, and the tem- 
porary occupation of the great oil city of 
Baku by a British force from N.W. 
Persia, were to give rise to a controversy 
that continues to-day. This little-known 
military venture, hardly more than a side- 
show of the First World War, has assumed 
considerable importance because of its use 
in Soviet Cold War propaganda in an 
area vital to the defence of the Western 
World. 

Colonel Ellis, who took part in the 
operations in Transcaspia and was an eye- 
witness of many key events, is the first to 
give a detailed authoritative account of 
what really happened. In the Soviet view 
Britain, with the connivance of American 
cc capitalism" , perpetrated a deliberate act 
of aggression, as part of a long-term plan 
to seize and colonise Russian Central 
Asia: but from the British standpoint it was 
simply part of a hastily improvised plan 
to block a Turko-German advance through 
the Caucasus to India and Afghanistan. 
Colonel Ellis shows how the two con- 
trasting versions arose, and throws light 
on the strange episode of the twenty-six 
Bolshevik Commissars supposedly shot on 
British orders, and in the presence of 
British officers, in the desert to the east of 
Krasnovodsk in 1918. 

Although his personal knowledge of 
events enhances the value of the book, 
Colonel Ellis has not neglected the wider 
aspects of this campaign in miniature, and 
draws fully on material in English, 
German and Russian that has become 
available during the intervening years. 



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The British "intervention 11 in 

Trans caspia^ 1918-1919 




The British "Intervention 5 
in Transcaspia 
1918-1919 



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Colonel Oraz Sirdar with Obez Baev seated oa his right, and General Beatty 
and Colonel Alania standing behind 



C. H. ELLIS 



The British "Intervention 9 
A in Transcaspia 

1918-1919 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS 

BERKELEY AND LOS ANGELES, 1963 



Published in the United States of America by 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS 

Berkeley and Los Angeles, California 

Published in Great Britain by 

HUTCHINSON&CO. 

London 

* 

1963 by C.R Ellis 



Printed in Great Britain 



Contents 

Acknowledgements 9 

Introduction 1 1 

1 The Aftermath of the Russian Collapse 17 

2 Malleson moves into Transcaspia 2,6 

3 Dunsterville at Baku 33 

4 Agreement with Ashkhabad 41 

5 Tashkent Attacks 49 

6 The Fall of Baku and the Twenty-Six Commissars 57 

7 Malleson Acts 66 

8 Reactions at Tashkent 71 

9 The Battle of Dushakh 76 

10 Meshed 83 

1 1 The Move to Ashkhabad 89 

12 The Executive Committee 97 

13 Life at Ashkhabad 105 

1 4 Sinews of War 112 

15 After the Turkish Capitulation 121 

1 6 Crisis in Transcaspia 128 

17 Winter Stalemate 134 

1 8 Envoy from Bukhara 139 

19 Decision to Withdraw 145 

20 Rearguard Action 152 

21 End of a Mission 158 

Appendices 

I Soviet Declaration of Rights, 1917 163 

II British and Indian Troops in Transcaspia 164 

Notes 165 

Bibliography 169 

Index 173 

CITY (MO.) PUBLIC LIBRARY 
6806817 



Illustrations 

Colonel Oraz Sirdar, Obez Baev, General Beatty and Colonel 
Alania frontispiece 

Meshed: A street scene, the British Consulate and the Maidan 

facing page 52 

Annenkovo : The front line and 28th Indian cavalry officers 53 

The author at Ashkhabad 53 

A wrecked train and Turkman troops 60 

Bairam Ali: British staff headquarters, Turkman officers and 
medical staff 61 

The Bukharan Envoy and General Beatty 1 16 

White Russian reinforcements to Transcaspia 116 

The British Consulate at Meshed in winter, the garrison church 
at Ashkhabad and the road between Meshed and Ashkhabad 117 

The 28th Indian Cavalry, Russian and British officers and the sole 
reconnaissance aircraft of the campaign 124 

Soviet stamps commemorating the death of the Twenty-six 
Commissars 125 

The Cheka in the Caucasus in 1919 125 



Line Drawings 

The shooting of the Twenty-six Commissars 63 

A promissory note of the Malleson Mission and a forgery 117 

Maps 

Soviet Central Asia front endpaper 

Transcaspia back endpaper 



Acknowledgements 



Although the main facts of my account of events in Transcaspia and 
Baku during the revolutionary years of 1918 and 1919 are based on my 
own recollections, I am indebted to a number of former colleagues 
whose memories and impressions of north Persia and the Caspian area 
at that time have contributed to this study. Among these, happily still 
living, who shared my experiences are Major T. S. Jarvis (Malmiss), 
Captain D. Preston (Dunsterforce and Malmiss) and E. G. Longstaff, 
who was resident in Baku at the time of the British occupation. 

My indebtedness extends to Colonel F. M. Bailey, on whose recol- 
lections of events in Tashkent and Bukhara I have drawn; also to 
Colonel G. E. Wheeler of the Central Asian Research Centre and Mr. 
David Footman of St. Antony's College, Oxford, from whom I have 
received much help and advice. 

I am likewise indebted to the staff of the libraries of the School of 
Oriental and African Studies and the School of Slavonic Studies 
(London University), and the Royal Central Asian Society for facilities 
placed at my disposal. 

Sources for historical research regarding events in Central Asia and 
the Caucasus are not easily available to those who do not command a 
knowledge of the Russian language. Although a number of works 
dealing with the so-called 'intervention period' have appeared in the 
Soviet Union of recent years, most of these suffer from their authors* 
need to conform to current theory or the approved "party line', and 
are therefore unreliable both in their presentation of facts and their 
interpretation of motive and policies. I am therefore more than grateful 
for the painstaking research and careful sifting of facts relating to the 
history of the period evidenced in the recent works of Dr. R. H. Ullman, 
Mr. A. G. Park, Dr. Baymirza Hayit and M. A. Bennigsen which have 
greatly extended the range of my knowledge of the wider issues of 
Central Asian affairs. 

I wish to extend my thanks to the Central Asian Research Centre for 
permission to reproduce the maps of Soviet Central Asia and Transcaspia. 



Introduction 



The events described in the following pages took place in Russian 
Central Asia, formerly known as Turkistan, a region that until the 
middle of the last century had become shadowy and remote in the mind 
of the Western world. Although there had been vague references to 
Central Asia, and to the peoples inhabiting its vast expanse of steppe 
and desert in the sixteenth-century chronicles of English travellers to 
Muscovy, it was not until the beginning of the southward Russian 
expansion towards the borders of China, Afghanistan and Persia early 
in the nineteenth century, undertaken at a time when Britain was 
engaged in extending and consolidating her rule in India, that Europe 
once more became aware of Bukhara, Khiva, Merv and Samarkand, 
cities hitherto almost as legendary as the Bagdad of Sultan Haroun 
al-Rashid. 

By the eighties and nineties of the last century the writings of 
Vanbery, Curzon, Marvin and O'Donovan drew British public atten- 
tion to Turkistan as a place whence the 'Russian Bear' threatened to 
descend on India. The position of Persia and Afghanistan in relation 
to the defence of India was the subject of frequent public and parlia- 
mentary debate in London throughout the last quarter of the century, 
a period in which the 'Eastern Question' and the future of the Darda- 
nelles loomed large in European politics. The 'Great Game' (as it was 
called) of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Afghanistan, Persia and along the 
barrier of the Pamirs was a recurrent theme in the Press of the disputing 
parties and the subject of diplomatic exchanges between London and 
St. Petersburg. The ebb and flow of conflicting interests coincided with 
the ever-changing pattern of Anglo-Russian relations elsewhere, notably 
in the Balkans and what was then known as the Levant. Russian moves 
towards the Afghan and Persian frontiers, at times initiated by ambi- 
tious and adventurous soldiers and administrators in Turkistan with 
the secret connivance of the Imperial Court, and not always undertaken 
as acts of state policy, were regarded in government and military circles 

ii 



INTRODUCTION 

in India as another stage in the long-range Russian plan to seek an 
outlet to the sea in the Persian Gulf, or, by securing control over 
Afghanistan, to extend Russian influence to the valley of the Indus and 
beyond. Conversely, British moves in relation to Persia or Tibet gave 
rise to suspicion of British imperial policy. 

Despite a certain amount of scepticism regarding Russian intentions 
on the part of some British statesmen, this view of the ultimate object 
of the Russian advance in Central Asia coloured the military policy of 
the Government of India throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century. From the time of General Skobelev's descent on Transcaspia in 
1 88 1 and Russian moves towards the Afghan frontier several years later, 
the issue was kept alive until the Anglo-Russian settlement of 1907 
defining their respective interests in relation to Afghanistan, Persia and 
Tibet eased the situation between the two governments. 

The threat to India and the Persian Gulf had become less real after 
the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 and the 
revolutionary outbreaks which followed. After the signing of the Anglo- 
Russian Convention in 1907 British public interest subsided until 
British-Indian military intervention took place in the Caspian area in 
1918 and 1919, once more bringing the region to public notice. 

The brief episode of the Anglo-Afghan war in 1919, and the former 
Turkish leader Enver Pasha's dramatic appearance at Bukhara after 
the Turkish collapse, occupied the headlines for a time, but an ex- 
hausted world paid little attention to these events or to the Basmachi 
revolt of the Muslim population of Turkistan against the Soviet 
regime. Enver Pasha's defeat and death attracted hardly any notice; 
even the Comintern's first serious effort to set the East aflame at the 
Communist-sponsored Baku conference of 'Peoples of the East' in 
September 1920 was not taken seriously by a public satiated with news 
of war and revolution. 

Intervention by British-Indian troops in Transcaspia in 1918 and 
the temporary occupation of the great oil city of Baku by a British force 
from north-west Persia were actions that were to give rise to contro- 
versy that has lasted until the present time. These operations, primarily 
undertaken against Turko-German arms as part of a hastily improvised 
plan to block an enemy advance through the Caucasus towards India 
and Afghanistan, brought British troops into conflict with Soviet 
Russian naval and military forces on the Caspian and in Transcaspia. 

12 



INTRODUCTION 



They were, however, not planned as anti-Bolshevik moves, although 
their commanders took advantage of the opportunities presented by the 
existence of anti-Bolshevik and nationalist regimes in the Caucasus and 
in Transcaspia to pursue their military objectives. Nor did they arise 
from the traditional conflict of interests in Asia between Great Britain 
and Russia the 'Great Game' of diplomatic exchanges and military 
moves and counter-moves that had exercised the minds of the political 
and military leaders of both countries for the best part of a century. As 
military operations, they were tactical moves, undertaken with the 
minimum of troops, to cope with an emergency brought about by the 
Russian collapse and an enemy advance eastwards in which involve- 
ment with the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces in 
Russian territory could hardly be avoided. 

In the Soviet view, however, the presence of British and Indian 
troops in Transcaspia and the Caucasus was a deliberate act of aggres- 
sion aimed at securing political and even territorial advantage at a time 
of Russian weakness. These small-scale operations were therefore 
regarded as evidence of British 'imperialist' policy; in other words, the 
'Great Game' was still being played, the declared British objective being 
regarded merely as a subterfuge to disguise the real intentions of Simla 
and London. This viewpoint has been vigorously maintained by Soviet 
historians and propagandists until the present day. 

Having taken part in the operations in Transcaspia and the Caucasus 
in 1918 and 1919, I was moved by two considerations in deciding to 
place on record the events of those troublous years in Central Asia. 
First, that this little-known military episode, hardly more than a side- 
show of the First World War, has became of considerable political 
significance in relation to the 'Cold War' and Soviet propaganda 
activities. Second, that in the absence of any detailed and authoritative 
account of these events by a participant, a completely distorted view of 
British policy and of the role of British forces in the Caspian area at that 
time largely based on Soviet misrepresentation and unsupported 
assertion has become widely current. 

At a time when Soviet diatribes against 'imperialism' and 'colonial- 
ism' are the substance of their propaganda campaigns among the newly 
emerged Asian and African states, as well as in the corridors of the 
United Nations, it may be salutary to recount events which took place 

13 



INTRODUCTION 

in an area in which the native Muslim population was the subject of the 
earliest Soviet denunciations of imperialism and colonialism Tsarist 
Russian colonialism and the right of self-determination. 

The early Soviet attitude in relation to this question, and towards 
their own minority races, has undergone a considerable change since 
tiiatjjme. I^^alismjLnd the demand for freedom of subject people 
from foreign control are themes \lm1^ 

propaganda abroad, but at home both sentiments are regarded as 
"deviations' from Communist orthodoxy and even as crimes against 
the state. 

My own participation in military operations in Transcaspia and 
Baku was fortuitous. After serving as an infantry officer for two years 
in France and Egypt I was posted to India, and in the autumn of 1917 
found myself attached to a battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment 
stationed at Quetta in Baluchistan. Apart from minor brushes with 
Mam tribesmen along the Afghan frontier, this was garrison soldiering, 
but early in 1918 there were rumours of operations against gun-runners 
and raiders in Seistan in south-east Persia. A short period of service in 
that desolate and forbidding area was followed by staff duties in the 
course of which my attention was drawn to developments in Russian 
Turkistan and the Caucasus arising from the collapse of the Russian 
armies in north-west Persia and along the Turkish frontier of Trans- 
caucasia. When news of the impending despatch of a British military 
mission to Meshed became known in the summer I volunteered, and 
on the strength of some knowledge of Russian and Persian (acquired 
to ease the boredom of garrison service) I was accepted and in July 
1918 was posted to Meshed. 

At this time some Indian units had taken over the duties of guarding 
the Persian-Afghan frontier region, hitherto the responsibility of 
Russian Cossack units which until recently had been stationed at 
Birjand, Turbat-i-Haidari and Meshed. A base had been established at 
the terminus of the Quetta-Seistan railway, and work was in progress in 
improving the road through the mountains and semi-desert country 
between Duzdab and Birjand, whence a Russian-built road extended to 
Meshed and beyond to the Russian frontier at Bajgiran. 

The Mission at Meshed under the command of Major-General W. 
MaUeson consisting of three or four officers, a field-wireless unit and 
14 



INTRODUCTION 

a small guard of Indian cavalry was already installed in the old 
Consulate building. Contact had been made with anti-Bolshevik rebels 
against a Soviet government at Tashkent, and a relationship with them 
was growing up that was to lead to British and Indian troops being 
involved in military operations against Bolshevik troops along the 
Central Asian railway. The story of these operations and of the un- 
expected developments that followed is the subject of this book. 

My original intention was to write an account of my own experi- 
ences during these operations, but after making a close survey of official 
and other records, and of recent Russian historical accounts of events 
in Turkistan and the Caucasus in 1918 and 1919, 1 decided to present 
the wider picture in as objective a manner as possible, basing it not 
only on my personal recollections but also on material in English, 
German and Russian which has become available since that time. 

c. H. ELLIS 



The Aftermath of the Russian Collapse in the 
Caucasus and Central Asia 



THE seizure of power in Russia by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 was 
quickly followed by the disintegration of the Russian army. The 
Russian collapse not only freed German manpower for transfer to the 
West but also opened the way for German and Turkish penetration of 
the Caucasus and an advance towards Persia and Central Asia. Such an 
advance constituted a serious threat to British forces operating against 
Turkey in Mesopotamia, and ultimately to India. A hostile, if not 
actively belligerent, Afghanistan (already subjected to Turkish and 
German propaganda) would pin down large numbers of British and 
Indian troops which could be more usefully employed elsewhere. A 
shaky Persian government might be forced to join the Central Powers 
and become a base for operations against India. 

The armistice on the Russo-Turkish front was almost immediately 
followed by the withdrawal in disorder of the Russian army, its arms 
and equipment being abandoned to the enemy or falling into the hands 
of the insurgent groups in Transcaucasia. Two Russian columns in 
Persia, one operating in the north-west under General Baratov, in co- 
operation with the British army in Mesopotamia which had recently 
captured Bagdad, and the other in east Persia, were also withdrawn 
leaving the right flank of the British army exposed, and removing the 
barrier to the penetration by enemy agents into Afghanistan and India. 
Faced with this situation, British military staffs in India and at Bagdad 
had become acutely aware of the danger of a Turko-German advance 
^through the Caucasus to the Caspian port and oil centre of Baku, and 
thence across the Caspian to Krasnovodstf and Turkistan. 

With the conclusion of the Brest-Litov&k Treaty, the Germans 
entered into a separate agreement with the Ukrainian Rada, which had 

B 17 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

declared its independence of Russia, German troops occupied the 
Ukraine and the Crimea, thus gaining mastery of the Black Sea and the 
Caucasian coastal littoral. A German column entered the Caucasus at 
Poti, and having reached an agreement with the Georgians who had 
also declared their independence of Russia, occupied Tiflis. Turkish 
forces occupied Kars and Batum and began their advance through 
Armenia into Azerbaijan and north-west Persia. 

The chief aim of the German Command was to secure Baku oil and 
the vast store of Turkistan cotton, both urgently needed for war pur- 
poses, while threatening the vulnerable British flank in Persia, and, via 
Afghanistan, India. Turkish aims seemed to be chiefly directed towards 
the fulfilment of pan-Turanian plans for uniting the Turkish-speaking 
and Muslim peoples of Azerbaijan and Turkistan under the flags of 
Turkey and the Caliphate. 

Despite some conflict of aims between Germans and Turks, there 
was sufficient unity and co-ordination of effort between them to enable 
them to continue their advance unless effective resistance could be 
organized in Transcaucasia and Transcaspia. The existence of some 
35,000 Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners of war in Turkistan, 
the remnant of a far greater number, now freed from restraint, consti- 
tuted an additional threat to India in the event of an enemy advance 
along the Central Asian railway eastwards from Krasnovodsk. 

In Turkistan a confused situation had arisen about which little was 
accurately known to the British authorities in India. A Soviet, Bolshe- 
vik in character, but supported by Menshevik and Socialist-Revolution- 
ary elements, consisting of railway workers and returned soldiers, and 
entirely Russian in its composition, had seized power in Tashkent and 
other centres of Russian population, including the Transcaspian towns 
of Merv, Ashkhabad and Krasnovodsk. The Taskhent Soviet, acting as 
an autonomous body but taking its cue from the Supreme Soviet in 
Russia, proclaimed its authority over the whole of the Turkistan area? 
and having arrested or shot ex-officials of the former Tsarist and pro- 
visional governments, extended its administrative control to those 
centres where there was a substantial Russian population. Despite a 
declaration made by the Supreme Soviet in Petrograd in November 
1917, which invited the Muslim peoples of Russia to organize their own 
affairs and establish autonomous administrations if they so wished, the 
Tashkent Soviet sought to prevent the development of any Muslim 

18 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

regional governments and, by decree, excluded representatives of the 
native population (which at that time comprised nearly 90 per cent of 
the total population of Turkistan) from any part in the government 
and public services. 1 

Cut off from central Russia at Orenburg by a Cossack force under 
the anti-Bolshevik Ataman Dutov, the Turkistan Soviet, often acting 
in opposition to policies proclaimed at Petrograd and Moscow, adopted 
a chauvinistic Russian policy towards the Muslim population. An 
attempt by Muslim Turkistani leaders, in accordance with the declara- 
tion of the Supreme Soviet in Petrograd on November isth 1917, to 
establish an autonomous Turkistan government at Kokand, was crushed 
with great severity by 'Red* Guards, the city being destroyed and 
many hundreds of its unfortunate inhabitants massacred. 1 The survi- 
vors took refuge in the mountain country and the steppe, or in the still- 
independent Khanate of Bukhara, forming the nucleus of the so-called 
Basmachi bands which were soon in active revolt against Soviet Russian 
domination in Turkistan. 2 

Now faced with a widespread revolt of the Muslim population, and 
threatened by Ataman Dutov's Cossacks at Orenburg and other anti- 
Bolshevik forces in the north and north-east, the Tashkent Soviet began 
to organize a 'Red' Army, mobilizing Russian railway workers and troops 
recently withdrawn from Persia or former local garrison forces; also 
recruiting many Austro-Hungarian war prisoners who were given the 
alternative of enlistment or starvation. Although firmly entrenched in 
Tashkent and other centres of Russian population, the authority of the 
Tashkent Soviet was questioned by the majority of the native Muslim 
population, particularly in Transcaspia, where the rumblings of revolt 
had already begun to be heard in the spring of 1918. In Transcaspia the 
Turkman population, smarting under the high-handed attitude of the 
Soviet authorities, waited an opportunity to revolt. A deteriorating 
economic situation caused much dissatisfaction, and the local Russian 
railwaymen, mainly Socialist-Revolutionary in outlook, and perhaps 
more apprehensive than the Tashkent workers regarding the impending 
Turko-German threat from the other side of the Caspian, also began to 
display a determined resistance to Tashkent policies which was to 
culminate in the revolt in June and July 1918. 

The failure of the Tashkent Soviet to recognize the threat to which 
it was exposed by the Turko-German advance can be explained only by 

19 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

the character and inexperience of the men who comprised it. Mostly 
railway workers, ex-soldiers and petty officials, their ignorance of the 
outside world was only exceeded by their revolutionary fervour. 
Ignoring the Turkish threat, already manifesting itself in pan-Islamic 
propaganda and intrigue, they embarked on a violent anti-British 
campaign, taking their cue from declarations made by Soviet spokes- 
men in Petrograd and Moscow, but also expressing the latent anti- 
British sentiment common to all classes of Russians in Turkistan, the 
outcome of suspicion and distrust fostered by propaganda in Tsarist 
times. 

This atmosphere was being effectively exploited by German and 
Turkish agents. The propensity of Soviet historians to attribute to 
British intrigue the disorders of the revolutionary years in Turkistan 
may be partly due to propaganda as reflected in the local Press and 
Soviet public records of that time, but in the main it is an attempt to 
divert attention from the errors and high-handedness of the Turkistan 
Soviet towards the Muslim population. 

It was in the light of these circumstances that the military authorities 
in London and Simla decided to send missions to north Persia to ob- 
serve the rapidly developing situation, and, in the event of Turkish and 
German forces reaching the Caspian, to attempt to organize such local 
resistance to their further advance as was possible. In addition to these 
missions, a further mission was planned to proceed to Tashkent via 
Kashgar to establish contact with the local Soviet and ascertain what 
steps, if any, might be taken to deny the use of the Central Asian rail- 
way and cotton stocks to the enemy. 

The first of these missions was 'Dunsterforce', a composite group of 
British officers and men under the command of Major-General Dunster- 
ville, with a convoy of armoured cars, which left Bagdad for Enzeli, the 
Caspian port now known as Pahlevi, via Kermanshah and Hamadan in 
January 1918. This column followed closely in the wake of the retiring 
Russians, part of which force, a group of several hundred Cossacks 
under General Lazar Bicharakov, remained behind, having refused to 
obey the Soviet order to withdraw to Baku. The aim of the Dunsterville 
Mission was to secure the road to Enzeli and report on Turkish moves 
in the direction of Tabriz and developments in Baku, while at the same 
time to establish contact with friendly elements in Transcaucasia who 

20 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

might be willing and able to resist the Turkish advance towards the 
Caspian. 

At this stage the British Command possessed little accurate know- 
ledge concerning the situation in Transcaucasia. It was known that the 
Turks had formed a new 'Army of Islam' under General Nuri Pasha, 
and that this army, which had already established contact with Muslim 
leaders in Azerbaijan and Daghestan, was advancing towards Baku 
while another Turkish column was proceeding towards Tabriz. German 
and Turkish forces were in command of the railways leading eastwards 
from Erzerum and Batum. In the Persian province of Gilan a revolu- 
tionary band known as the Jangalis under the command of one Kuchik 
Khan, assisted by a number of Turkish and Austrian officers, blocked 
the road to Enzeli, acting as a 'Fifth Column' for the Turkish army 
marching eastward. 

At Baku, where there was a large Russian and Armenian population 
consisting largely of oil and railway workers, a Soviet government had 
assumed power, but had little authority outside the city area, where the 
Azerbaijan Muslim population, although somewhat divided in its 
loyalties, was largely under Turkish influence. Krasnovodsk, on the 
eastern shore of the Caspian, and the terminus of the Central Asian 
railway, was in Tashkent Soviet hands. The merchant fleet, or that 
portion of it that was in southern Caspian harbours, wavered in its 
loyalties, but, on the whole, favoured resistance to the advancing Turks. 

Opposition to Bolshevik control was, however, developing both in 
Baku and in the railway towns of Transcaspia. Conflicts between the 
various national and political groups in Baku, Armenian Dashnaks, 
Azerbaijan Mussavatists, Socialist-Revolutionary, Menshevik and 
Bolshevik Russians; and in Transcaspia, Socialist-Revolutionaries, 
Menshevik and Bolshevik railwaymen, as well as Turkmans and 
Russians of all political creeds absorbed the attention of the local 
population more than the threat of Turko-German invasion. The 
Armenians of Baku, who had already been subjected to pogroms at the 
hands of the Azerbaijan Tartars', were perhaps more apprehensive than 
others, being fully aware of the fate in store for them should the Turks 
and their local allies occupy Baku. 

As the Turko-German advance through the Caucasus continued 
with little local resistance, tension between the various national and 
religious groups in Baku developed to a point where common interests 

21 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

gave way to racial rivalry. Local Muslim sympathy with the Turks 
could not be reconciled with Christian Armenian fear of their tradi- 
tional enemy; anti-Russian sentiment among the non-Russian elements 
of the population developed as it became known, or was widely sus- 
pected, that there was connivance between the Soviet government and 
the German High Command in regard to the disposal of Baku oil. 

The 'bourgeois' population of Baku, whether Russian or Armenian, 
having lost all confidence in the willingness or capacity of the handful 
of Soviet Russian troops to defend the city, supported the growing 
tendency on the part of the political parties (other than the Bolsheviks) 
to turn to the British in Persia for help. 

During the spring and early summer of 1918 this question was de- 
bated in the Baku Soviet, all parties, with the exception of the large 
but already less influential Bolshevik group, eventually declaring in 
favour of an approach being made to the British as news of General 
Dunsterville's advance towards the port of Enzeli became known. 

The Bolshevik group, led by Stepan Shaumian, an active and 
influential party man who had already played a leading part in Trans- 
caucasia, acting under direct orders from Lenin in Moscow (with whom 
Shaumian was in close touch), attacked the British as 'imperialists', 
denounced proposals to secure British help against the advancing 
Turks and declared that the British objective was Baku oil. Despite all 
their efforts, the Bolshevik group continued to lose support in the 
Soviet and the confidence of a majority of the oil workers. They there- 
upon withdrew from the government, concentrating all their energies 
on underground agitation. 3 

Secret emissaries were sent to Enzeli by the Armenian 'Dashnak' 
and Socialist-Revolutionary parties in Baku, with the object of enlisting 
Dunsterville's help, but owing to delays in the British advance through 
the jungle country of Gilan, no contact was made until early June. 

The second British Mission to be sent to Persia was the Military 
Mission under Major-General W. Malleson which left Quetta for 
Meshed in the Persian province of Khorasan in June 1918, arriving at 
its destination about the middle of July. The mission was later enlarged 
by the attachment of several additional Russian and Persian-speaking 
officers, two of whom had served as liaison officers at army head- 
quarters in Russia before the revolution. A small detachment of Indian 

22 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

troops from units stationed in the Persian province of Seistan acted as 
escort and guards. 

The Mission travelled by road from the railhead near the border of 
Baluchistan and south-east Persia. The road was little more than a 
rough track over the mountains and semi-desert of Seistan and Qainan. 
At Birjand, about halfway between the railhead and Meshed, two 
squadrons of British-Indian cavalry and a company of Pioneers formed 
the so-called East Persian Cordon, a small force patrolling the Afghan- 
Persian frontier region, and now being extended northwards to replace 
the Russian Cossack brigade which had recently been withdrawn from 
frontier guard duties between Birjand and Meshed. 

The task of the Malleson Mission (known as 'Malmiss') was to keep 
a close watch on the situation in Transcaspia, to take counteraction 
against enemy agents endeavouring to penetrate Afghanistan and 
Baluchistan from the west, to keep an eye on developments in Herat 
and to take advantage of any possibilities of denying the use of the 
Central Asian railway to the enemy in the event of Baku being occupied 
by Nuri Pasha's army. 

Aside from the activities of German and Turkish agents, the internal 
situation in Afghanistan was a cause for anxiety to the Government of 
India. In Kabul restless nationalists and reactionary mullahs, influ- 
enced by German gold and promises of help, agitated against the Emir 
Habibullah's policy of friendly neutrality towards British India. Pan- 
Islamic propaganda was rife, its influence extending to the North-West 
Frontier and the Punjab. This agitation was fostered by the Caliphat 
organization, a pro-Turk section of the Muslim community in northern 
India, which at that time, and later during the Afghan war, played an 
active part in disturbances in the Punjab and along the North-West 
Frontier province region. 

Trouble in this area was, of course, unrelated to questions of world 
politics. Hitherto largely local in character, it was now linked with the 
growing Indian demand for independence. The political aspirations of 
the Indian Congress, coupled with pan-Islamic propaganda, and politi- 
cal and religious unrest throughout India, created a situation of excep- 
tional gravity, intensified in northern India by widespread agitation and 
Turkish propaganda following the Russian collapse and the Turkish 
advance towards Persia and Afghanistan. 

In eastern Baluchistan and across the Persian frontier in Seistan, 

23 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

British, military operations against bands of robbers, armed and sup- 
ported by enemy agents, had been in progress during 1916 and the early 
part of 1917. These seemed likely to be resumed in the event of further 
Turkish successes and a Turko-German advance through the Caucasus, 
encouraging banditry and attacks against the British lines of communi- 
cation between Bagdad and Enzeli and Baluchistan and Meshed. In 
central and southern Persia, the German agent Wilhelm Wassmuss, 
former German consul at Bushire, had stirred up the tribes against the 
British, and was still active in the province of Pars. 

The railway in Baluchistan from Quetta to Nushki, completed after 
much argument between civil and military authorities in London and 
India in 1905 and extended to the Seistan border in 1916, had been 
planned as a counter measure to the building by the Russians of a line 
from Merv, on the Central Asian railway, to Kushkh on the North- 
West Frontier of Afghanistan, and to a threatened Russian drive to 
Herat and against Khorasan. For many years the building of the 
Nushki railway had been the subject of dispute between two official 
schools of thought regarding the national defence of India, namely 
the 'forward' school, chiefly military, castigated by its opponents for 
advocating a policy of 'mischievous activity', and an opposing party 
which was in turn charged with 'masterly inactivity'. Finally the 
military advisers won but only after a protracted struggle. 

The threat from the north had subsided after the signing of the 1907 
Treaty between London and St. Petersburg, defining spheres of respon- 
sibility and influence in Persia, and the railway had been little used for 
ordinary traffic. It now provided a means of communication and supply 
for the British-Indian frontier force in Seistan and the 'East Persian 
Cordon' in east Persia, and, as Malleson's Mission was established in 
Meshed, as the main channel of communication with the rear military 
base at Duzdab in Seistan. 

Raids into east Persia and Baluchistan from beyond the Afghan 
border were now infrequent, but Afghan nationalism and fanaticism, 
stirred by the activities and financial support of a German agent, von 
Hentig, was awake, needing only a spark to start the flame of revolt. 
Thus far the Afghan Emir Habibullah had held out against the extre- 
mists, but the threat of revolt in Afghanistan and of disturbance on the 
North-West Frontier of India, coinciding with Turko-German pene- 
tration of Persia and Central Asia, was a serious one. 

24 



THE AFTERMATH OF THE RUSSIAN COLLAPSE 

In the event of a Turko-German advance beyond the Caspian, 
the Mission in Meshed would be precariously situated, its line of com- 
munication with India being thinly held and in part traversing hostile 
territory. 

Malleson's first action was to establish contacts across the border 
in Transcaspia with the object of denying to the Turks the use of the 
port of Krasnovodsk and the Central Asian railway. No immediate 
trouble was expected in Afghanistan, but within six months Habibullah 
was to die by the hand of an assassin at Jelalabad, and his unlucky 
successor Amanullah, in order to divert the fanaticism of his followers 
towards external objectives, was to embark, with Soviet encouragement, 
on the Anglo-Afghan war of 1919. 

Major-General Malleson, who had served on the Intelligence staff 
of the Indian Army G.H.Q. and on Lord Kitchener's staff almost 
continuously from 1904 until 1914, was thoroughly conversant with 
conditions in Afghanistan and Persia. He had visited Kabul on Sir 
Louis Dane's mission to Afghanistan in 1904, and had made a complete 
study of communications throughout the whole Middle Asian area. 

Apart from a short period as brigade commander in the operations 
against the German colonial army in East Africa in 1915 and 1916, 
Malleson passed most of his army career on staff and intelligence 
duties. 

Among his colleagues he had the reputation of a somewhat dour 
personality with little interest in society or the lighter graces of an 
army career. His choice as commander of the Mission to Meshed was 
evidently due to his exceptional knowledge and ability as an Intelligence 
officer, rather than to his experience as a commander of troops in the 
field, a role that was clearly not foreseen in Simla when the project 
for sending a mission to north-east Persia was being considered. 



2 

Malleson moves into Transcaspia 



WHILE the Malleson Mission was on its way to Meshed, a transfor- 
mation in the situation in Transcaspia offered prospects of local co- 
operation in organizing resistence to the Turko-German advance into 
Persia and Central Asia. Towards the end of June Russian railwaymen 
on the Central Asian railway between Ashkhabad and Krasnovodsk 
struck against the imposition of a general mobilization order by 
Tashkent. For some time past there had been considerable local 
dissatisfaction with Tashkent administration, and the reported inten- 
tion of the Soviet to transfer the railway workshops and headquarters 
staff from Transcaspia to Tashkent had aroused discontent on the part 
of local railway workers. Efforts made by the Soviet to pacify the 
region having failed, strong-arm tactics were adopted. There had 
been demonstrations against the Soviet at Ashkhabad and Kizyl Arvat, 
and local committees had been set up to air grievances. The Tashkent 
Soviet, alarmed by these developments, sent Frolov, the head of the 
newly formed Cheka, with a bodyguard of 'Red' Guards to Transcaspia 
to deal with the situation. On his arrival at Ashkhabad, Frolov, who had 
been authorized by F. E. Kolesov, a railway worker, who was now 
President of the Turkistan Soviet of Peoples* Commissars (Sovnarkom), 
to declare martial law if necessary, proceeded to do so. A number of 
people, including several of the railway workers' leaders in Ashkhabad, 
were arrested and shot. 

The workers* committees were dissolved and a reign of terror was 
instituted. Having, as he thought, 'pacified' Ashkhabad, Frolov pro- 
ceeded to the railway town of Kizyl Arvat, where news of his high- 
handed action in Ashkhabad had preceded him. On his arrival at the 
railway centre he was faced with a hostile and resolute body of railway 
workers, who, after a short struggle, shot him and several of his body- 
guards and disarmed the rest. 

26 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPIA 

When news of this event reached Ashkhabad, the anti-Bolshevik 
revolutionary workers 5 committees reappeared and on July I4th a 
provisional government was formed. This consisted of the leader of 
the Ashkhabad revolt, T. Funtikov, a Socialist-Revolutionary worker, 
Vladimir Dokhov and D. Kurilov, both railwaymen, and L. A. Zimen, 
a schoolmaster. 

Funtikov was appointed President of the Executive Committee (as 
the government was called), with Zimen as Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, the other members dividing ministerial responsibilities between 
them. Funtikov, an energetic and ruthless character, seemed to have 
few other qualifications for leadership of a government, and indeed, 
apart from Zimen, who was an educated man and something of an 
orientalist, none of them had any experience of public affairs. 

The revolts at Ashkhabad and Kizyl Arvat were quickly followed up 
by uprisings at Krasnovodsk and Merv. An improvised defence force 
seized Merv a week later, while at Krasnovodsk a stachkom or strike 
committee, under a Caucasian officer, Kuhn, accepted direction from 
Ashkhabad, and, having seized control of the town and port, ousted 
the Bolshevik authorities there. 

The Ashkhabad Committee then proceeded to take revenge for the 
shooting of Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders by Frolov, 
and with very little ceremony shot the Bolshevik Commissars who had 
been arrested at Merv, Kizyl Arvat and Krasnovodsk, as well as a 
number of the leading Bolsheviks in Ashkhabad itself. 

Having burnt its boats by this action, the Ashkhabad Committee 
had no alternative to surrender but to defend itself against the inevitable 
onslaught from the 'Red' forces of Tashkent. A number of ex-officers, 
including a former general of the Tsarist army, General Krutin, im- 
mediately proffered their services, and a few hundred ex-soldiers, as 
well as remnants of the 'Red' Guard troops who had gone over to the 
anti-Bolshevik government, were enrolled. 

Very little military equipment was available, and practically no 
artillery. The main store of guns and ammunition was at Kushkh, the 
fortress on the Afghan frontier, south of Merv, but its garrison having 
declared for the Bolshevik regime, it was too strong to be overcome by 
the military force available to the Ashkhabad government. 

Armoured trains were hastily improvised with bales of cotton to 
protect gun-crews, and the little army, with no cavalry to protect its 

27 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPIA 

flanks, moved up the line towards the rail crossing of the river Amu- 
Darya (Oxus) at Chardzhou. By July 24th a position had been taken 
astride the railway at Repetek, a few miles south-west of the river- 
crossing. Colonel Oraz Sirdar, the Transcaspian commander, aimed at 
seizing the bridge and destroying it, and entertained a vain hope that 
help might be forthcoming from the Emir of Bukhara, at that time on 
unfriendly terms with the Soviet at Tashkent. 1 

Although taken by surprise by events in Transcaspia, the Tashkent 
authorities were quick to act. A Military Commissariat and a Politico- 
Military staff were improvised, and additional 'Red' Army regiments 
were hastily formed in which railway workers and many ex-prisoners of 
war, mainly Hungarians, were enrolled. Armoured trains, protected 
by steel plates and bales of cotton and armed with field guns, adapted 
for the purpose, were quickly assembled. 

On the morning of July 24th the 'Red* Army, having occupied 
Chardzhou and now in possession of the railway bridge, attacked in 
force, driving the Transcaspians back to Uchaji, and thence to a position 
several miles east of Bairam Ali, covering the Merv oasis. 

The attitude of the Turkman tribes in Transcaspia thus far had been 
uncertain. Strongly anti-Russian, and now influenced by Turkish 
propaganda, at first they displayed no strong disposition to support the 
new government in Ashkhabad. Their hatred of the Bolsheviks, at whose 
hands they had suffered many indignities, was, however, greater than 
their fear and dislike of Russians in general, and several of their leaders, 
notably Colonel Oraz Sirdar, a Turkman officer of the Tsarist army, 
Obez Baev and Hadji Murat, all educated men, favoured giving pro- 
visional support to the new regime. Although suspicious of the Turk- 
man leaders, the Executive Committee had no alternative but to come 
to terms with them, and in return for several thousand rifles and a 
considerable sum of money they undertook to provide cavalry units 
for service at the front. Some of these Turkman units had already 
reached Merv where they were settling old scores. Under Oraz Sirdar's 
leadership, however, steps were taken to move some of these horsemen 
to the front, where cavalry was badly needed to screen the flanks of the 
vulnerable armoured trains. 

General Malleson, who had been fully informed of these develop- 
ments by Intelligence agents who had preceded the Mission and had 

28 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPIA 

visited Transcaspia and Baku in the role of Persian traders, sent one 
of his officers to a point on the Persian-Transcaspian frontier near 
Muhammedabad to report on the situation. As a precautionary meas- 
ure he ordered a company of the I9th Punjabis, then stationed at 
Birjand, to proceed to the frontier and establish a line of communi- 
cations between the zone of operations along the Central Asian rail- 
way and Meshed. 

Up to the middle of July the attitude of the Government of India 
and the War Office in London to the possibility of British forces being 
engaged in operations on Russian territory was one of indecision- 
General Dunsterville, who had arrived at Enzeli, after a brush with the 
Jangalis, sought authority to send a reconnaisance party to Baku but 
thus far had been denied permission. Representatives of the 'Dashnak' 
party in Baku had established contact with his advance party at Resht, 
and had requested British help in organizing resistance to the 
approaching Turks. 2 

So far, both London and Simla had shown reluctance to become 
militarily involved in the turmoil beyond the northern Persian border. 
Dunsterville's main task had been achieved in securing the road from 
Hamadan to Kazvin and establishing a defence line between Kazvin 
and the Caspian port of Enzeli (since renamed Pahlevi). Although 
thinly held with a precarious line of communication to Bagdad, the 
existence of a British force screening Tehran from the depredations of 
the Jangalis and the Turkish advance guards gave courage to the weak 
and vacillating Persian government which had been on the point of 
collapse. 

By occupying Enzeli and obtaining control of a number of ships at 
this port, Dunsterville was well placed to observe developments in 
Baku, and at the same time to take steps in collaboration with Malleson 
to prevent the port of Krasnovodsk and the Central Asian railway 
falling into enemy hands. 

Malleson's instructions contained no provision for military inter- 
vention in Transcaspia, although he had been given carte blanche to 
devise means to hold up a Turko-Gennan advance along the railway. 
Without troops at his disposal, other than a small detachment from the 
East Persian Cordon, and limited financial resources, his first duty 
was to avoid the risks of physical involvement. Yet the changed 
situation in Transcaspia and the possibilities for rendering the railway 

29 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPIA 

useless to the Turks and preventing the store of Turkistan cotton falling 
into enemy hands, now presented by the Transcaspian revolt against 
Tashkent, urged him to recommend that the risk be accepted if his help 
was sought by the Ashkhabad Committee, as now seemed likely. 

Early in August contact had already been established with the 
Transcaspian authorities. Malleson's representative at Muhammedabad 
had already been approached by officers of Oraz Sirdar's command, 
and tentative inquiries were now being made by agents of the Ashkha- 
bad Committee as to the possibility of British military and financial 
assistance being made available. Alarmed by the defeat of their troops 
near Bairam Ali, the Ashkhabad Committee, feeling themselves unable 
to cope with the consequences of their own action, and now on the 
defensive in face of a threatened attack on Merv, decided to make a 
formal approach to the Malleson Mission. When informed of the 
Committee's intention, General Malleson despatched a liaison officer, 
Captain Teague- Jones, to Ashkhabad with authority to enter into 
discussions with the Transcaspian authorities for the conclusion of 
an agreement, whereby, in return for their taking steps to improve the 
defences of Krasnovodsk and, if necessary, to render the Central 
Asian railway useless for the transport of enemy traffic, some British 
assistance would be forthcoming. 

In making this proposal to Ashkhabad, General Malleson availed 
himself of the Tree hand' accorded to him by the authorities at Simla. 
In reply to his report to headquarters in India regarding his proposed 
course of action he was instructed by the Commander-in-Chief, General 
Munro, to sound out the new regime in Transcaspia and make whatever 
arrangements with them he deemed necessary to deal with the emergency 
that had arisen. No offer of reinforcements from India was made and 
no additional funds were made available for the purpose, a circumstance 
that was to give rise to considerable difficulty at a later date. 3 

Malleson immediately took steps to survey the road between Meshed 
and Bajgiran on the Transcaspian frontier, and to bring up reinforce- 
ments from the East Persian Cordon, in the shape of the 28th Indian 
Cavalry Regiment, and two more companies of the I9th Punjabis 
from Birjand. 

Agreement in principle having been reached with very little delay 
in the preliminary talks in Ashkhabad, arrangements were made to 

30 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPIA 

reinforce the detachment of Indian troops at Muhammedabad. A 
further retreat by the Transcaspians to Bairam Ali, after several 
engagements in which casualties had been high on both sides, was 
followed by an urgent appeal to Malleson from Ashkhabadforimmediate 
help. The loss of Merv and the surrounding irrigated area was a severe 
blow to Ashkhabad which depended on the resources of the area for 
food supplies. Moreover, the railway from Merv to Kushkh was now 
in Bolshevik hands, enabling them to draw on stocks of artillery, 
ammunition and other supplies in the Kushkh fortress, 

On August 8th Malleson was authorized by headquarters in India 
to afford limited military and financial assistance to the Transcaspian 
government. So far, however, the War Office in London had confined 
itself to taking note of Malleson's moves. On the loth the company of 
infantry and a machine-gun section crossed the frontier at Muhamme- 
dabad to Artyk, a station on the Central Asian railway. To aid the 
now hard-pressed Transcaspian army, the British-Indian machine-gun 
section was sent up the line with orders to assist Colonel Oraz Sirdar 
in consolidating a new position astride the railway. 

On August 1 3th the Tashkent *Red* forces attacked, driving the 
defenders, who took to the armoured trains, back to Dushakh, nearly 
100 miles to the rear. The British, machine-gun section later joined the 
defenders at this point, playing an active part in covering a further 
retreat several days later to a more defensible position at Kaakha. 

The action at Dushakh, although little more than a skirmish, 
brought British and Indian forces into conflict with Russians in Central 
Asia for the first time. 

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and in the early 
years of the present century, the possibility of Russian and British 
forces meeting along the Afghan or Persian frontiers with Russian 
Turkistan was a frequent theme of political writers. Such a possibility 
no doubt exercised the minds of military strategists and planners on 
both sides, and while the Foreign Offices of London and St. Petersburg 
were undoubtedly actuated by a sincere desire to restrain the ambitions 
or allay the fears of general staffs, the planning and construction of 
railways and roads in Turkistan, Persia and Baluchistan had been 
undertaken with this possibility in view. After the Anglo-Russian 
Agreement of 1907 the apparent danger had receded, the threat of war 
from other quarters drawing official and public attention elsewhere. 

31 



MALLESON MOVES INTO TRANSCASPI4 

By 1914 it seemed unlikely that the conflict would be resumed in the 
near future. In the event, the action at Dushakh did not arise fron 
Anglo-Russian rivalry but from largely fortuitous circumstance} 
stemming from the advance of a common enemy, the Turko-Germar 
invaders of Persia and Transcaucasia. 

While these operations were in progress the wretched populatioi 
of Merv and Tedzhen had suffered from depredations by both sides 
as well as from the attentions of a local Turkman bandit, Aziz Khan 
This man, formerly an important personage (in his own estimation) i 
the Tedzhen oasis, had until recently lived in retirement in Afghanistar 
and was believed to be acting in collusion with ambitious politician 
in that country. Taking advantage of the prevailing disorder, he ha 
descended on Tedzhen, robbing and murdering its inhabitants. With th 
return of the Bolsheviks, he withdrew beyond the frontier, doubtlej 
awaiting an opportunity to renew his brigandage. Aziz Khan, who m< 
the end he deserved at the hands of the Ashkhabad Committee son: 
months later, was a thorn in the flesh to friend and foe, and has wo 
spurious renown in Soviet historical accounts of the period by beir 
represented as a British agent, a role he certainly never played. 

In the meantime the Ashkhabad Committee sent one of its member 
Dokhov, to Meshed to complete the negotiations for an agreemen 
which was formally reached and signed on August I9th. 



32 



3 

Dunsterville at Baku 



AT THE time these events were taking place in Transcaspia a parallel 
situation had developed in Baku. The Bolshevik group which had hither- 
to dominated the Baku Soviet had resigned, and a new government, 
known as the 'Centro-Caspian Directorate' in which Dashnaks and 
Socialist-Revolutionaries predominated, followed up its tentative 
approach to General Dunsterville, formally requesting his assistance 
in men and equipment for the organization of a defence force. 1 

The change-over in Baku took place within a few days of the revolt 
of the railwaymen against Tashkent in Kizyl Arvat and Ashkhabad 
and the formation of a new government in Transcaspia. Malleson and 
Dunsterville had been keeping each other informed, via India and 
Tehran, but, as we have seen, their initiative was to some extent ham- 
pered by the reluctance of the authorities in London to agree to British 
troops becoming involved in operations beyond the Persian frontiers. 

The force at General Dunsterville's disposal, although now rein- 
forced by several companies of infantry, some light artillery and 
armoured cars, was quite inadequate to undertake a full-scale defence 
of Baku. However, by agreement with the Baku government, General 
Bicharakov's Cossacks were shipped from Enzeli to Baku to form part 
of the defence line, and several merchant ships belonging to the Russian 
Caspian merchant fleet were taken over by Dunsterville and armed as 
auxiliary cruisers. 

By the end of July Dunsterville was authorized to send a recon- 
naissance party to Baku, and to enter into discussions with the Centre- 
Caspian government for an agreement for British help in defending 
Baku against the Turks. In the absence of any unity of command the 
military force at the disposal of the Baku government, although sub- 
stantial in numbers, was clearly incapable of withstanding a determined 
attack. It was hoped that by providing better leadership and training 

c 33 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

and raising the morale of the troops that an effective force could be 
formed. These hopes were to be disappointed, owing to the lack of 
discipline and unwillingness to fight displayed by both Armenian and 
Russian troops, but in the meantime Krasnovodsk was safe from attack 
by Soviet forces from Astrakhan, and a naval force under British 
command had been brought into being. 

A small British advance party left Enzeli on August 4th for Baku 
to undertake a reconnaissance of the military situation and to ascertain 
what military stores and equipment were in the Baku arsenal. 

It had been made clear to the agents of the Baku government that 
no large British force could be made available for the defence of the 
city, but that some arms and equipment might be supplied as well as a 
small detachment of troops and instructors for the training and organi- 
zation of local forces. It was known that considerable supplies of anus 
were stored in Baku, and that these had not been placed at the disposal 
of any single force ostensibly because of the absence of a central military 
comman A In fact the failure to make military stores available was largely 
due to the political and racial jealousy and fears that hampered the work 
of organized government in the distracted city. 2 

The most Duasterville could do with the meagre resources at his 
disposal would be to plan and organize the defence, and stiffen the 
mixed forces of tlie Baku authorities with a few hundred British infantry 
aod gunners. At that time about 2,500 Soviet Russian troops still 
occupied the line of defence, although maintaining their independence 
of command. Soviet official policy in relation to the German and Turk- 
ish advance in the Caucasus was apparently still undecided in Moscow, 
negotiations between the Soviet and German governments over the 
question of oil and other matters not having yet been completed. The 
part that Soviet Russian troops would play in defence of the city was 
uncertain, but the clamour agjunstalle^BritkhaM American designs 
on Baku oil, emanating from Moscow, suggested that the harassed 
Soviet gcwermBent, although anxious to prevent the city and oil 
fields falling into Turkish hands, was more concerned with ideological 



practical steps to safeguard a key point of snefe vital importaiiee as 
Baku. 

Information was now being received from Hffis and Vladikavkaz 
regarding German plans in the Caucasus, The Gteonan commander m 

34 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

Tiflis, General Kress von Kressenstein, had entered into an agreement 
with the Menshevik government of Georgia, which had undertaken 
to provide the Germans with manganese and other minerals, seeking 
in return to secure German support against the Turks who were 
encroaching on Georgian territory. Negotiations were also being 
conducted between Georgian emissaries and the German Foreign 
Office in Berlin. 3 

Towards the end of July one of the Georgian representatives, 
Avalishvili, who had been sent to Berlin, visited Oslo, where he got 
into touch with the British and French Ambassadors, informing them 
of the discussions in Berlin, and of German negotiations with Moscow 
for the supply to the Germans of oil and cotton. The Georgians wished 
to convey to the Allied governments that their relations with the 
Germans were dictated by necessity, and did not imply hostility to the 
Allies. 4 

The action of the Bolshevik Commissars in withdrawing from the 
Baku government, the ambiguous attitude of Bolshevik Russian milt- 
tary commanders and the arrival of a German mission in Baku, coupled 
with the information now being received by the British from Tiflis and 
Oslo, all pointed towards collusion between Berlin and Moscow. 
Moreover, German efforts to restrict Turkish movements, while 
pursuing their own aims, supported persistent reports of the conclusion 
of a deal between Moscow and Berlin to give the Germans access to 
Baku oil and Turkistan cotton. 

The permission given to General Dunsterville at the beginning of 
August to accept the invitation of the Centro-Caspian government in 
Baku was accorded by the authorities in London and Simla in recog- 
nition of the gravity of the situation as disclosed by the latest infor- 
mation regarding German and Turkish plans and Soviet discussions 
with Berlin. 

Tentative plans to deploy part of Dunsterville's force in the direction 
of Tabriz were now postponed, and arrangements were made in Bagdad 
to reinforce the troops in Enzeli and along the Hamadan-Kazvin- 
Enzeli road. In recognition of the fact that enemy control over Caspian 
shipping would enable the Turks to continue their advance into 
Transcaspia and north Persia, Dunsterville had taken steps to form the 
nucleus of a Caspian naval force by arming several merchant ships. 

35 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

He now entered into negotiation with the Baku government to make 
other ships available and to build up a reserve of oil fuel and stores at 
Enzeli and Krasnovodsk, and arranged with Malleson for joint action 
in defending Krasnovodsk against attack from Astrakhan or Baku. 

The outlook at Baku had not improved. While Dunsterville's 
representatives in Baku were endeavouring to persuade the Baku govern- 
ment to strengthen the natural defences of the city, in view of the absence 
of any unity of command over the local troops, and the unreliability 
of these forces, largely Armenian, there seemed to be little prospect of 
holding off the Turkish attack. Precautionary steps had been taken to 
hold several ships in the Baku harbour for the eventual withdrawal of 
the British force should this prove necessary. 

At the time of arrival of the first British detachments under Colonel 
C. B. Stokes on August 4th, the total strength of the local troops 
nominally under the command of the Baku government was about 
8,000, including nearly 3,000 Soviet Russian infantry and artillery, 
about half of which had recently arrived from Astrakhan under a 
Soviet General, Petrov. Bicharakov's cavalry, which had been operating 
on the left flank of the defence line, had met with difficulties in regard 
to supply and co-ordination of command, and had withdrawn north- 
ward. The main body of the Baku army consisted of Armenians, 
some volunteers, but the majority conscripted men. 

Of the extremely mixed population of Baku, the Armenians had 
most to fear from the Turks. The loyalties of the Tartars' were divided; 
most were pro-Turk, but in general they stood for Azerbaijan inde- 
pendence. The pro-Bolshevik Russians sought to maintain the Russian 
connection and took their orders from Moscow, while the attitude of 
the rest of the population mainly concerned about their personal 
affairs, seemed undecided. After the withdrawal of the Bolsheviks from 
the Baku Soviet, and the establishment of the Centre-Caspian Direc- 
torate on July 3 ist, Soviet Russian troops no longer took an active 
part in the defence arrangements. A further detachment arrived from 
the north a few days later, but after an unsuccessful attempt to stir 
up the local population against the new government, the Russians, 
seemingly on instructions from Moscow, decided to withdraw. On 
August I2th the Soviet Russian force, accompanied by the Bolshevik 
members of the former government, sailed for Astrakhan in twelve 
ships which had been placed at their disposal by the Baku authorities. 

36 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

When it was discovered that a considerable part of the contents of 
the Baku arsenal had been removed and shipped away, the ships were 
intercepted by armed vessels of the new government and forced to 
return to Baku. The military stores were unloaded and the Soviet 
Commissars placed under arrest. The ships and Soviet troops were then 
allowed to depart and made their way unmolested to Astrakhan. 

The withdrawal of the Soviet Russian troops from Baku completely 
alienated even that section of the population, chiefly oil and railway 
workers, which had so far supported the Soviet, and popular approval 
of the new government's policy of seeking British support was now 
overwhelming, despite the differences of opinion between the various 
parties and the antagonism between the Armenian and Muslim popu- 
lation. 

The arrival in Baku about this time of a German mission from 
Astrakhan to discuss the supply of oil, cotton and manganese and the 
repatriation of prisoners of war added to the hostility of the new Baku 
government towards the Bolsheviks. The suspicion of Soviet acceptance 
of German demands for deliveries of raw materials, including oil and 
cotton, was confirmed by the arrival of the German mission which had 
travelled with every facility placed at its disposal through Russia to 
the Caspian port of Astrakhan. 

The mission, which was evidently unaware of the turn of events or 
the presence of the British, was interned. This incident, and the infor- 
mation being received from Tiflis and London regarding negotiations 
between Berlin and Moscow for the supply of oil to Germany, provided 
conclusive evidence in British eyes that the Soviet government was in 
no position to resist German demands, and thus, in effect, was party 
to the latter's plans to secure shipments of oil, manganese, cotton and 
other supplies from the Caucasus and Turkistan. This in itself, it was 
felt, fully justified the British step in providing assistance to the Baku 
government in defending Baku against Turko-German seizure. 5 

German and Turkish aims were now clearly in conflict in the Cauca- 
sus, and the Bolsheviks were endeavouring to take advantage of this 
situation. By assenting to German demands, the Soviet government in 
Moscow sought to persuade Berlin to put pressure on the Turkish 
government and military command to halt the attack on Baku, the main 
source of oil supplies. With this end in view, the Bolsheviks had entered 
into an agreement with the German government for the provision of 

37 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

supplies in addition to those which were included in the terms of the 
Brest-Litovsk Treaty. This supplementary agreement, which was 
negotiated by the Soviet plenipotentiary in Berlin, Joffe, and signed on 
August 27th, had become known to the Turkish Command, which 
thereupon decided to hasten the advance to the Caspian. 

As one of Dunsterville's aims was to prevent supplies of oil reaching 
the enemy, the hostility towards him displayed by the Soviet's represen- 
tatives in Baku was understandable. The intervention of the British 
force in Baku on the invitation of the local government was (and still 
is) represented as 'imperialism*, whereas the German advance into the 
Caucasus was glossed over as a breach of the terms of the Brest-Litovsk 
Treaty. 6 



On his arrival in Baku on August ivth with reinforcements con- 
sisting of a small detachment of the Hampshire and North Staffordshire 
regiments and several armoured cars, Dunsterville at once entered 
into negotiations with the Centro-Caspian government for the substi- 
tution of the existing division of military command for a single com- 
mand, and for the provision of supplies. His efforts in that direction, 
however, were unavailing. The Baku government evidently looked to 
him to provide not only military equipment but also troops in sufficient 
numbers to take over the main task of defending the city. The Centro- 
Caspian government was informed that Dunsterville's small force was 
in Baku to help in the organization of defence, to provide a limited 
amount of equipment and to assist in the training of the government's 
own troops, but not to undertake the whole task of defending the 
city. It was evident that the government had little faith in their own 
forces, and that the declarations of its members to fight to the last man 
were little more than empty rhetoric. Within a fortnight after the arrival 
of the British force in Baku it was evident that little reliance could be 
placed on the local troops or on the ability of the Centro-Caspian 
government to organize their own resources for defence. In addition 
to the military stores recaptured from the Soviet ships on the evacuation 
of Soviet military forces from Baku on August I2th, vast stocks of army 
equipment, including guns and ammunition, were discovered at different 
points in the city, unused and unguarded. Dunsterville took steps to 
have these assembled at a central point near the docks, and set up 
workshops to repair and assemble guns, vehicles and other equipment. 

38 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

More than fifty guns, many of them new weapons that had been sup- 
plied by the Allies to the Russian government during the war, were 
discovered, as well as a large quantity of shells and explosives. 

There was no lack of equipment and ammunition for the defence 
of the city; what was lacking was willingness to fight, and, in the case 
of commanding officers, to subordinate themselves to a central and 
unified command. The Armenians, who formed the major part of the 
Baku troops, despite their fear of the Turks, showed no disposition to 
fight, abandoning their position on the slightest sign of enemy move- 
ment. The Tartar' population was hostile to the Armenians, and waited 
only for the entry of the Turks to slaughter and loot the properties of 
their hated rivals. The government made promises to put their house 
in order and build up an effective defence system, but it was obvious 
that having obtained British co-operation, they were content to leave 
the fighting to the British and make them responsible for the outcome, 
whether favourable or otherwise. 

Such was the picture of the position in Baku at the end of August. 
The fall of Baku seemed to be imminent, and the fate of General 
Dunsterville's 900 troops uncertain, despite steps taken to hold ships 
in readiness for evacuation. With less than this number of troops in 
Enzeli and along the line of communication with Kazvin and Bagdad, 
and only one battalion of infantry and three squadrons of cavalry at 
Malleson's disposal, continued resistance to a determined enemy 
advance eastward towards India would seem to depend mainly on 
naval control of the Caspian, fortification of the ports of Krasnovodsk 
and Enzeli, and some measure of British control over the western 
sector of the Central Asian railway. 

Failing an early enemy defeat on the Western front, or a separate 
Turkish collapse, which at that time seemed unlikely, there now 
appeared to be little hope of holding Baku. Effective Soviet resistance 
to German and Turkish military plans in the Caucasus and Central 
Asia was unlikely in view of the breakaway of the three Transcaucasian 
peoples from Russian control, the confused state of affairs in Turkistan 
and the recently concluded arrangements for supply of oil and other 
raw materials to Germany. Soviet leaders seemed at that time to be 
more concerned with consolidating their own power and putting into 
force their social and revolutionary theories, whether these conformed 

39 



DUNSTERVILLE AT BAKU 

to the aspirations of the Russian people or not, than in resisting 
German and Turkish demands. 

Faced with counter-revolution in south Russia, the north Caucasus 
and Siberia, the Soviet government's hands were too firmly tied by the 
terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the supplementary agreements to 
do more than offer token resistance without outside help. British help 
in the Caucasus was rejected as having imperialist aims, and more 
violent hostility was being displayed towards Russia's former allies 
than towards the German and Turkish invaders. 



40 



4 

Agreement with Ashkhabad 



THE negotiations between the Ashkhabad government and General 
Malleson were conducted in Meshed, on behalf of the former, by 
Vladimir Dokhov, representing Zimen, the Minister for External 
Affairs, and hi Ashkhabad by Captain Teague- Jones, who on General 
Malleson's behalf dealt directly with Zimen. As Dokhov, although fully 
authorized, did not inspire complete confidence, it was thought desirable 
to maintain direct liaison with Zimen, so that knotty points could be 
resolved without delay, but also to be assured from Teague- Jones's 
personal contacts and from his observation on the spot that the Com- 
mittee was in a position to implement any undertakings they might 
assume. Teague- Jones, who spoke fluent Russian, as well as several 
Eastern languages, and had had a wide experience on the North-West 
Frontier of India and in Persia, had already made himself familiar 
with the situation in Baku and Transcaspia, and had a keen appreciation 
of the seriousness of the impending threat to Baku and Central Asia 
generally. The possibilities presented by co-operation with the Trans- 
caspian government of checking that threat, and of denying to the enemy 
access to the oil and cotton he so ardently sought, did not blind Teague- 
Jones to the inherent weakness of the Transcaspian regime, the inex- 
perience of its members and the internal difficulties with which it 
inevitably would be beset. His advice was therefore of the greatest 
value to General Malleson and enabled the General, in his dealings 
with Dokhov, to keep the negotiations on a realistic basis. 

Dokhov was a typical example of the Russian worker-revolutionary. 
Full of partially digested theory, he combined a supreme confidence in 
his own knowledge and capacity with an extremely limited under- 
standing of the outside world. Like many Russians of peasant origin, 
he was suspicious and cunning, although not lacking intelligence. In a 
destructive phase of the revolution he showed some constructive ability, 

41 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

or at least seemed to grasp the idea that the smashing of idols and 
slaughter of opponents were not ends in themselves, as so many 
revolutionary leaders appeared to think at that time. 

The Transcaspian government, in desperate straits, was chiefly 
concerned in obtaining help in the form of supplies, equipment and 
money. Conscious of its weakness in manpower, it sought assistance 
from the British from necessity rather than from any fraternal desire 
to welcome their presence. Although fully aware of the Turko-German 
threat, the Transcaspians, not unnaturally, were less concerned with it 
than with their own immediate needs. Their willingness to co-operate 
with the British in measures to contain that threat and, if necessary, 
to block enemy progress from across the Caspian, derived from the 
desperate situation in which they found themselves since their break 
with Tashkent. 

In Baku, as we have seen, Dunsterville was finding little inclination 
on the part of the local politicians and national leaders to sink their 
internal differences and organize resistance to the Turks, or to put the 
oil and harbour installations out of action. Malleson, faced with the 
possibility of a similar situation arising at Krasnovodsk and along the 
Central Asian railway, now made it known to the Executive Committee 
at Ashkhabad that he was not prepared to leave these and other defen- 
sive measures to chance or to expressions of goodwill by the local 
authorities, and therefore insisted that the British Mission be given 
some measure of control over the working of the railway and the port 
of Krasnovodsk during the period of hostilities. 1 

This stipulation, accepted by the Ashkhabad Committee, no 
doubt contributed to the suspicion, subsequently to be presented in 
Soviet journalism and official histories as a 'fact', that British aims were 
to establish themselves in Turkistan permanently. 

The need to reconcile the aims and needs of both parties gave rise 
to hard bargaining, but the pressure of events brought about agreement. 
The approval of Simla and London to the agreement had to be obtained. 
A draft of the 'protocol* or proposed text of the formal agreement was 
submitted to London and to headquarters in India, and was supported 
by an urgent plea by Malleson for authority to confirm the arrangement 
and provide the necessary equipment required by Ashkhabad. After 
some delay Malleson's proposals were accepted, but evidently with 
some hesitation, the authorities in London being in some doubts as to 

42 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

the desirability of British troops being involved in operations in 
Transcaspia. 2 

Although no formal agreement was ever signed between the two 
parties, the 'protocol' was initialled on August I9th and immediately 
came into operation. 

In the introduction to the agreement both parties expressed their 
aims as follows : 

(a) The establishment of peace and order in Transcaspia and 
Russian Turkistan. 

(b) Agreement to resist Turko-German plans to seize and exercise 
political authority in Transcaspia and Turkistan. 

In the characteristic parlance of official diplomatic documents the 
Transcaspian Committee declared that it sought British assurance that 
Baku, as the 'key to Russian Central Asia', would be defended, and that 
British troops and guns would be made available for the defence of 
Krasnovodsk against a Bolshevik or Turko-German attack. On the 
British side an undertaking was given that Baku would be defended 
against the advancing Turks, and that steps would be taken to ensure 
a supply of oil and petrol to Krasnovodsk; also that measures would be 
undertaken to put Krasnovodsk into a state of defence against enemy 
attack from the sea. 

For their part the Transcaspian government undertook to place at 
the disposal of the British for this purpose steamers and other vessels 
in its possession; to grant use of the port of Krasnovodsk and provide 
assistance in building up its defences; and, in the event of necessity^ 
to withdraw all rolling stock from the port, destroy all oil and water 
tanks along the railway, and render the railway unusable by the enemy 
by wrecking bridges, telegraphs and lines. The government also under- 
took to withhold the export of cotton during the period of hostilities. 

For its immediate needs the Transcaspian government sought and 
the British Mission agreed to the provision of 1,000 rifles with ammu- 
nition, machine-guns, Mauser ammunition, explosives for use against 
bridges, etc., instructors in the use of these weapons and supplies and 
the training, at Meshed, of a Transcaspian machine-gun section. In 
addition, the agreement provided for the participation by British troops, 
at mutually agreed points, in operations along the railway; it being 
understood that, owing to the difficulties of supply and the length of the 

43 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

line of communications with India, large numbers could not be expected. 
The Transcaspian government also undertook to provide the British 
with facilities in the use of railways, telegraphic and radio communi- 
cations, and for the supply of provisions for their troops; to accept 
liaison officers at the front; and to repair the road between Meshed and 
the Persian frontier. 

In response to the Transcaspian government's request for financial 
assistance, it was agreed on the British side that financial help would be 
granted 'for the fulfilment of these aims', the sum and method to be the 
subject of further discussion. It was also agreed that the expenditure 
of any subsidy that might be provided would be subject to joint 
control. 

On the subject of Command it was agreed that any British troops 
that might be made available for service on the front facing Tashkent 
would come under the command of the Transcaspian 'High Command', 
but that any orders issued to them would be transmitted through British 
liaison officers. However, British troops stationed for specific defence 
purposes at Krasnovodsk would not be moved except with British 
agreement. 3 

It will be seen from the above that the agreement, in certain points, 
had something of a provisional character. However, regarding measures 
to resist or impede the Turkish advance, the Transcaspian government 
gave definite assurances that it would take certain precautionary steps 
with British supervision for the defence of Krasnovodsk. Its further needs 
for military material were noted, and steps were taken by a Malleson to 
satisfy them to the best of Ms ability. 

The agreement was necessarily indefinite concerning finance and the 
availability of troops, as there was no certainty on the British side that 
additional troops would be placed at General Malleson's disposal. 
Final agreement with Ashkhabad on the provision of funds would also 
depend on his own assessment of the Committee's needs and of its 
capacity to make proper use of any financial assistance that might be 
made available. Moreover, the difficulties of exchange and currency 
would have to be surmounted, as more than one currency was in use, 
with varying and unpredictable rates of exchange. 

It cannot be said that the Transcaspian government was wholly 
satisfied with the terms of this agreement, which committed them to 
actions in which a large section of the population seemed to have little 

44 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

interest, and which, in the eyes of some of them at least, infringed their 
sovereignty. Members of the government, however, publicly expressed 
themselves as satisfied and, in the Press, emphasis was placed on the 
military and financial help that was forthcoming and the steps that 
were to be taken with British financial assistance to overcome the eco- 
nomic crisis, raise wages and relieve the public lot generally. 

In anticipation of the signing of the agreement, preliminary steps 
had been taken by the Mission to speed up supplies. Troops were 
beginning to arrive in Meshed from Birjand and Seistan; a transport 
park was set up, and motor vehicles, many of them in need of recon- 
ditioning after their long journeys over the still only partly reconstructed 
road, were gradually replacing camel transport for the delivery of 
urgently needed equipment and stores. 4 

By the end of August preparations to reinforce the detachment of 
the igth Punjabis in Transcaspia were in full swing. Disillusioned with 
the faded charms of east Persia, even the more hard-bitten officers and 
men were elated with the prospect of action in the land beyond the 
Hindu Rush, a region that had stirred the imagination of the British 
army in India for the past fifty years. Beyond the border lay Bukhara, 
Samarkand, Khiva legendary cities that had attracted nineteenth- 
century explorers like Wolff and Vambery, and the two unfortunate 
British officers, Conolly and Stoddart, who had been murdered by the 
Emir of Bukhara in 1842. Although it was realized that these fabulous 
places were far beyond the probable scene of action, their propinquity 
stirred the imagination. Most frontier officers of the Indian army had 
read Kipling's Kim, or had observed the Uzbek and Bukharan traders 
who came down to the bazaars of Peshawar through the Khyber Pass 
with their rugs, silks and lambskins. The two Indian regiments under 
Malleson's command were familiar with frontier duties, and were to 
acquit themselves well in the operations to follow, and add to the 
honourable traditions of the Indian army. 

The MaUeson Mission was now committed to support of the 
Transcaspians in resisting attack from Tashkent. For its part, the 
Transcaspians had undertaken to place the railway and the port of 
Krasnovodsk at the disposal of the British in the event of a Turkish 
advance across the Caspian. Arrangements were quickly made for the 
exchange of liaison officers, and for communications, and by arrange- 
ment with Dunsterville for some reinforcement by a small detachment 

45 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

of British troops from Enzeli to join the British-Indian detachments 
already in Transcaspia. 

The terms of this agreement with Ashkhabad, and the circumstances 
in which it was concluded, have been misrepresented in Soviet and 
many other accounts (based on Soviet reports) of events in Central 
Asia in 1918 and 1919. It may therefore be appropriate at this point 
to recapitulate briefly the particular circumstances that prevailed at 
that time. 

Despite the conclusion of the Peace Treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk, 

the Germans and Turks had continued to advance into Russian territory, 

. to seize raw materials to enable them to prosecute the war against the 

Allies and extend their operations into Persia, Afghanistan and Central 

Asia and to threaten India. 

Animosity directed against the Allied Powers, and particularly the 
British, was being whipped up by Soviet propaganda and intrigue, and 
anti-British agitators were being given sanctuary by Moscow and 
Tashkent and provided with funds and facilities to conduct their activi- 
ties. While denying the right of national minorities in Turkistan (despite 
fair promises made to them to accord them freedom to manage then- 
own affairs) to participate in local government and administration, 
the Soviet government and its Turkistan offshoot directed charges of 
'colonialism' and 'imperialism' in Asia against Allied governments, 
while continuing the former Tsarist policy of repression and exclusion 
against the Muslim population of Turkistan. 5 

In these circumstances the authorities in India were obliged to take 
defensive action. Turkish and German penetration of Persia was 
increasing in scope. In view of the growing Turkish military threat to 
north Persia, the British Command at Bagdad had no alternative but 
to improvise means to fill the gap in the defence positions in Persia 
created by the withdrawal of Russian troops. That these steps would 
be suspect in Soviet eyes was to be expected, but that they would be 
regarded in Moscow with greater hostility than German and Turkish 
penetration of the Caucasus and other Russian territory was a lesson 
that had yet to be learnt. 

Bolshevik radio propaganda, which had now reached a shrill note 
(the Murmansk landing having taken place, and opposition to the 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

Soviet regime developing in Siberia, the Caucasus, Turkistan and else- 
where), was now accusing the British of acting with the connivance of 
American 'capitalism' in accordance with a specific plan to seize and 
colonize Russian Central Asia. It may well be that the Soviet govern- 
ment, like the Tsarist regime, suspicious of British policies in that part 
of the world, and obsessed with the characteristic Russian search for 
a motive behind every action, at that time did really believe in the 
existence of such a plan. But to members of the Mission, and to those 
in command of British forces in Persia, only too well aware of the 
vacillations of their own authorities in Whitehall, and at Bagdad and 
Simla, and of official reluctance to accept the recommendations of the 
two generals in the field of operations, there was no sign of any plan, 
territorial or otherwise, in the often vague and cautious communica- 
tions that they were receiving from their headquarters in London and 
India. 

Despite all evidence of the hastily improvised character and limited 
scope of British operations in north-east Persia and in the Caspian 
area, it is invariably stated in Soviet accounts of these operations that 
they formed part of an overall plan to seize and subjugate Russian 
Turkistan. The Ashkhabad revolt in July 1918 continues to be repre- 
sented as having been instigated by the Malleson Mission, whereas the 
Mission had not arrived in Meshed at that time. Dunsterville is equally 
charged with having brought about the replacement of the Baku 
Soviet by the Centro-Caspian government. These Soviet accusations 
are in keeping with the official Soviet version of domestic events 
throughout Turkistan in 1918 and 1919, hi which it is alleged British 
and American intrigue played an active part. The then American Vice- 
Consul in Tashkent, Roger G. Tredwell, is accused of having aided 
and abetted * White' Russian forces, and of having supported (in collab- 
oration with the British) 'White' Russian counter-revolutionary activity 
in Tashkent. The 'Basmachi* revolt of the Muslim population in 
Turkistan which followed the Tashkent Soviet's suppression of an 
attempt to create an autonomous government at Kokand, and the 
splits and betrayals within the Tashkent Bolshevik's own ranks, are 
indiscriminately attributed to British and American machinations. (The 
part played by Americans in these activities is never clearly defined, 
but is usually referred to the influence of Wall Street!) In fact, all these 
events stemmed from local causes, chiefly from the chauvinism and 

47 



AGREEMENT WITH ASHKHABAD 

short-sighted policies of the Russian-dominated Soviet in Tashkent in 
excluding all but their own Russian party members from the govern- 
ment and administration. 

It was not until Moscow intervened in the autumn of 1919 by sending 
the so-called Turkistan Commission' to Tashkent that steps were 
taken to pacify the Muslim population and win their support for the 
Soviet regime. 

Several years were to elapse before pacification of the region was 
achieved by a combination of military strength and promises of internal 
reforms, which, however, were to prove illusory to those Turkistanis 
who laid down their arms in the hope of achieving some measure of 
autonomy and self-government by negotiation. Union of the various 
racial groups was precluded by division of Turkistan into five separate 
regional republics, nominally autonomous, but controlled by the centre 
at Moscow. The form of autonomy was conceded, but the substance was 
lacking, and all attempts by Turkistani leaders, whether in the service 
of the state or not, to place national interests first, were destined to be 
mercilessly crushed. 



5 

Tashkent Attacks 



HAVING extricated his badly mauled forces from Dushakh, Oraz Sirdar 
had taken up a position at Kaakha, a station ninety miles east of Ash- 
khabad. The village, a small one, was surrounded by walled gardens, 
irrigated from a stream which crossed the railway about a mile to the 
east of the station buildings. The position occupied by the Transcaspians 
in and to the left of the station was dominated by a hill north-east of 
the village, to the south of which the railway circled before continuing 
eastwards to the Bolshevik position nine miles away. 

Reports received in Meshed from liaison officers and from the com- 
mander of the machine-gun section at Artyk indicated that the morale 
of the Ashkhabad troops was low, and that in numbers and equipment, 
particularly artillery, they were far inferior to the enemy. The total 
force at Oraz Sirdar's disposal consisted of about 1,000 infantry, of 
which not more than 100 were ex-soldiers of the old Russian army; the 
rest being only partially trained Russian and Armenian workers, a 
few Turkman infantry, a company of railway engineers and about 
800 Turkman horsemen. The only artillery, apart from two i6-pounders 
mounted on an armoured train, was a battery of four light field guns 
and three muzzle-loaders, all served by ex-officers. 

A second armoured train, which also carried water-butts and stores, 
provided accommodation for troops and was used by them for sleeping 
quarters. Chastened by events at Bairam All, the train-crews kept their 
trains in readiness to move at a moment's notice, a situation that was not 
conducive to any serious attempt to construct a defensive position on 
the flanks of the railway line. 

The Turkman cavalry had so far proved to be of little military value. 
Undisciplined and independent, they came and went as they thought 
fit, and could not be relied upon to carry out any orders in an operation 
where their protective role on the flanks of a defensive position would 

D 49 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 

be an essential factor. Ready enough to cut up stragglers, and addicted 
to looting, their only use was in reconnaissance or in following up an 
enemy retreat. So far there had been little opportunity to use them in 
either capacity. 

The Bolshevik force, superior in numbers and equipment, was 
provided with several 4-5 guns from the Kushkh arsenal. Austro- 
Hungarian ex-prisoners in its ranks had been told that the only obstacle 
to freedom and repatriation was the 'White guard' rebel force on the 
railway between Chardzhou and Krasnovodsk, and that, on reaching 
the Caspian, arrangements would be made for their return to their home- 
lands. 

The armoured trains on the enemy side were heavier and equipped 
with artillery of longer range than those possessed by the Transcaspians. 
This gave them a distinct advantage over the Transcaspians, who were 
obliged to keep at a safe distance from their opponents. Except for 
long-range shelling, and defensive action, trains were of little use to 
the enemy in offensive action in the early stage, as sections of the rail- 
way line were removed ahead of the position to prevent use being made 
of a 'runaway' locomotive. 

Intelligence reports, now coming in from Sarakhs, Tedzhen and 
Merv, where all messages passing through the telegraph office were being 
tapped, showed that considerable reinforcement of the Bolsheviks was 
in progress. In spite of the demand on their resources for the operations 
against Dutov near Orenburg, and the native Muslim revolts against their 
rule throughout Turkistan, the Tashkent Bolsheviks had succeeded in 
mobilizing a fairly large force, and was now making extensive use of the 
35,000 Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners of war who had been 
incarcerated in camps near Samarkand and Tashkent. Their most serious 
shortage was fuel, and they were greatly hampered by the near famine 
conditions that prevailed throughout the countryside. 1 

On the morning of August 24th the Bolsheviks moved up one 
armoured train and shelled the Transcaspian position at Kaakha for a 
short period without doing much damage. This was followed by cavalry 
reconnaissance action, enemy patrols on both flanks and on the high 
ground east of Kaakha penetrating within rifle shot of the station. After 
a certain amount of rifle and machine-gun fire by each side the Bol- 
sheviks retired to their main position, and no further action took 
place on that day. 

50 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 



The morale of the Transcaspians, still low after the series of re- 
verses suffered in the retreat from Repetek, rose a little after this 
engagement. The inability of their artillery to outrange the Bolshevik 
guns confined their use to defence, a difficult task in view of the nature 
of the country and the lack of protection on the flanks of the position. 

Both sides lived in trains, and in the case of the Transcaspians 
the experience of the past month induced the rank-and-file to place 
more reliance on the mobility of the trains than on defensive positions. 
The limited range of the guns on the armoured train disposed the troops 
to remain in its vicinity, so that their freedom of action was determined 
by their means of retreat. 

One company of the igth Punjabis and a machine-gun section 
arrived at Kaakha from Artyk on the evening of the 25th. Its commander 
immediately made a reconnaissance of the defences and the disposition 
of the Transcaspian forces, which at first glance seemed to be placed to 
facilitate a quick retreat rather than to resist an enemy attack in force. 
Apart from a small body of Turkmans who had taken up a position in 
an old fort on a small hill about a mile to the north-east of the railway 
station, the high ground east of the main position was unoccupied. The 
main body of troops was concentrated in and around the station or 
in the orchards and gardens in its vicinity. An advanced post with one 
machine-gun was at the bridge a few hundred yards east of the station, 
and the three field guns were in position behind a low ridge south of 
the station. The muzzle-loaders, more dangerous to the gunners who 
operated them than to the enemy, were behind the northern extension 
of the same ridge, on the left of the railway. 

The left flank was thus almost completely exposed, while failure 
to occupy the high ground east of the station made the mam position 
particularly vulnerable. 

On the arrival of the second and third companies of the I9th 
Punjabis later in the day, Lieutenant-Colonel Knollys, in command of 
the regiment, took part in a conference with the Transcaspian com- 
mander Colonel Oraz Sirdar and his staff. It was evident that Oraz 
Sirdar had little confidence that his troops would be able to hold the 
position in the event of a resolute attack, and that the dispositions 
made by his officers were little more than precautionary. The arrival of 
the Indian troops, and the promise of further reinforcements, including 
several guns which were on their way from Krasnovodsk, did something 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 

towards raising morale, and Colonel Knollys's suggestions for some 
modification of the existing arrangements were readily accepted. Before 
any major changes could be put into effect, however, news of an im- 
pending enemy advance from Annan Sagat began to come in. During 
the night of the 25th one company of the Punjabis and a machine-gun 
section were posted on the exposed left flank, the remainder being held 
in reserve near the railway station where they could be quickly des- 
patched to reinforce a counter-attack on either flank or assist in holding 
up an attempt to seize the station. 

At about 7 a.m. on the 26th the 'Red' forces, which had occupied 
the high ground east of Kaakha, began to shell the Transcaspian lines 
with its forward batteries, but as their fire was very inaccurate, little 
damage was done and casualties were light. Some 'Red' infantry advanced 
down the hill and directed sporadic fire into the Transcaspian lines, 
but were driven off by machine-gun fire and the noise, if not the missiles, 
of the ancient muzzle-loaders. 

The expected turning movement against the Transcaspian left 
flank began at 8 a.m. covered by rifle fire from the high ground and a 
certain amount of artillery fire. The fort occupied by the Turkman 
cavalry proved to be no obstacle to the advance, the Turkman troops 
scattering in disorder without making any serious attempt to defend 
it. The enemy advance into the cultivated ground north of the station, 
although slowed down by the rifle and machine-gun fire of the Punjabis, 
continued, and by n a.m. an attack on the station developed. 

The Transcaspian infantry had fallen back on the trains, and for a 
moment it looked as though the position was lost. The reserve company 
of the Punjabis came up at this time, charging the enemy with fixed 
bayonets. Completely taken by surprise at this unexpected resistance, 
and to a form of warfare to which they were evidently unaccustomed, 
the 'Reds' fell back in disorder, and a running fight through the orchards 
and gardens continued for some time, and was rather belatedly joined 
by some of the Transcaspian troops who had retired to the shelter of 
the trains. 

At close quarters it was difficult to distinguish friend from enemy, 
the Russian and Hungarian troops on the Bolshevik side being attired 
in the same nondescript uniforms as the troops of the Transcaspian 
force. This caused considerable confusion, and doubtless casualties 
on both sides were incurred through mistaken identity. 

52 




A street scene 



The British Consulate 



MESHED 




The Maidan 




Anncnkovo; iHth Indian cavalry officers 




TASHKENT ATTACKS 

At one point during the retirement the enemy made an attempt to 
hold a parley, but, while this was under discussion, rifle fibre recom- 
menced from the direction of the hill and fighting continued. The 
enemy then began to retire in disorder, leaving several machine-guns 
and a quantity of ammunition. By the early evening they had disap- 
peared into the desert, and, except for some fire from one of their 
armoured trains, no further action took place until early in September. 

There can be little doubt that the action of the Punjabis saved the 
situation. The Russian gunners, mainly ex-officers, and some of the 
Transcaspian infantry, behaved admirably, but the main body of the 
Transcaspian force, consisting chiefly of Armenians, showed little 
fight. Staff work was poor, none of Oraz Sirdar's aides displaying any 
initiative or intelligent appreciation of tactics, or of the use of natural 
features. 

On the credit side, medical arrangements were good, nursing order- 
lies and even nurses from Ashkhabad hospitals appearing on the 
scene during the course of the action and displaying more courage 
than many of the troops. 

Casualties on both sides were fairly high, considering the numbers 
engaged; proportionately the British-Indian force suffered a high 
percentage, having lost three officers killed and wounded (including the 
two liaison officers, both wounded) and twenty-four rank-and-file 
killed and wounded. The Transcaspians lost between thirty and forty* 
mainly wounded, while the enemy's losses were estimated to be at least 
three times that number, a considerable proportion of these having 
been incurred during the counter-attack on the station and orchards. 

On the morning following the engagement a reinforcement, in the 
shape of a company of the 1/4 Hampshire Regiment, arrived from Enzeli 
via Krasnovodsk. The expected guns, a battery of the 44th Royal Field 
Artillery, followed a few days later. 2 

The engagement at Kaakha made it clear that the British contingent 
would have to rely on its own initiative in future action. This would 
necessitate the exercise of much tact in relations with the Transcaspian 
Command, particularly as Colonel Oraz Sirdar was being subjected 
to continual interference by his own government and by the rule of 
committees. The indiscipline of the Turkman troops and their unreli- 
ability in action ruled them out as a factor in defensive planning, 
while the latent suspicion between proletarian and non-profeteian al 

53 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 

Ashkhabad and elsewhere militated against efficiency in government and 
administration. 

Oraz Sirdar and his staff, however, showed a disposition to lean 
on the British commander for advice, and made no serious difficulties 
when the latter, concerned for the safety and proper use of his own 
officers and men, made his own decisions. The government, weak and 
divided as it was to be, and inexperienced in public affairs, was becoming 
dependent on the army for its own continuance in office, as the loss of 
the Merv oasis had deprived it of its chief source of foodstuffs. Unless 
Merv, or at least Tedzhen, could be regained before the winter, famine 
would intervene, in which case popular support for the government 
would inevitably be withdrawn. 

These questions were discussed in Ashkhabad in a conference which 
followed the Kaakha battle. The Askhabad government, with the pro- 
mise of British support to sustain them, called for an immediate ad- 
vance and the early reoccupation of Merv; the Army Command in 
return demanded reforms and improved arrangements for supply- 
The British stood by their undertakings, and promised to speed up the 
arrival of the cavalry force from Meshed and guns from Krasnovodsk, 
but at the same time urged certain changes in staff organization and 
personnel, both at the front and in the rear. 

After some discussion agreement was reached to put into effect the 
changes demanded, and the Transcaspian Army Commander under- 
took to prepare for an advance as soon as reinforcements became 
available, supply and equipment needs satisfied, and, above all, the 
artillery position improved. 

To add to other difficulties at the front, sickness was taking a heavy 
toll of the Transcaspian force. This was partly due to the insanitary 
conditions on the trains and at the front line, the extreme heat and lack 
of water. Influenza was also rife, many men of the Indian regiment 
being temporarily out of action with this complaint. 

The rigour of the Turkistan climate was to prove a severe test of 
our men's endurance. Even the Indian troops, accustomed to the high 
temperatures of the Indian plains, found the dust and heat of the Central 
Asian desert extremely trying. In summer the temperature at midday 
rose to more than 120 R, falling steeply at ni$it. In winter tempera- 
tures below zero were common, while high winds, both in summer and 

54 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 

winter, raged across the desert, carrying dust in summer and sharp 
gritty snow in winter as additional discomforts. 

Following the battle of Kaakha and the subsequent talks at Ash- 
khabad, the Kaakha position was reorganized. The line was extended 
well out into the flanks, and advance posts were established along the 
ridge and on the hill to the east. The main position on the left flank 
was taken over by the Punjabis, while detachments from the same 
regiment were posted on the ridge and at the bridgehead; the remainder 
of the Punjabis were kept in reserve with the Hampshires. Barbed wire, 
brought up from Meshed in Persian fourgons (large springless carts), 
was extensively used to strengthen the trenchworks and the gun 
positions, shortly to be increased in number with the arrival of the 
battery from Krasnovodsk. 

By arrangement with General Malleson, some fifty selected men, 
mainly Russians, were sent from Ashkhabad to Meshed, there to be 
trained in the use of Vickers machine-guns. Equipment for this unit 
was found by the Meshed Mission, which also undertook the cost of 
maintenance and supply while they were in Persia. 

Reinforcement by the 28th Cavalry Regiment, which had been in 
Meshed for several weeks, was speeded up. Rifles, ammunition and 
explosives were beginning to arrive from India, and their further trans- 
port to Ashkhabad was put in hand without delay. 

Meanwhile a critical situation had developed at Baku, where 
General Dunsterville's troops were now fully engaged, preventing 
any additional troops and equipment being made available to Malleson 
from that quarter for any purpose other than the fortification of 
Krasnovodsk. Steps had been taken by General Malleson's officers to 
ensure that the undertaking of the Ashkhabad government to immo- 
bilize the railway and port installations in any emergency would be 
carried out. A mobile railway and mining unit was formed by the 
Transcaspian command, and arrangements were made by Malleson 
with Dunsterville for Engineers from Enzeli to be transported to 
Krasnovodsk in the event of the fall of Baku. 

The Ashkhabad government had in the meantime been strengthened 
by the appointment of General Kruten as 'Defence Adviser*, and the 
appointment of additional Ministers. These changes, while enhancing 
the capacity of the government to carry out its functions, somewhat 

55 



TASHKENT ATTACKS 

altered its political constitution, and were to play a part in the crisis in 
its internal affairs which was to develop towards the end of the year. 
As was to be expected, changes in command and in the organization 
of its forces were also made by the Tashkent government after the 
defeat at Kaakha. A whole series of decrees issued by the Revolutionary 
Military Soviet, dealing with mobilization of men and resources, 
agitation among the Moslem population and the tightening up of 
controls, became known to British Intelligence officers almost as soon 
as they were promulgated, and information received from points behind 
the front indicated clearly that a further attack, on a much heavier 
scale, must shortly be expected. 

Before going on to the story of these operations, however, it is 
essential to return to the position at Baku. The presence of British and 
Indian troops in Transcaspia was mainly due to the Turko-German 
threat to Persia and India. That threat now seemed more immediate, 
and the danger existed that the small Anglo-Indian force might find 
itself too heavily involved in purely Transcaspian affairs at a time 
when all available resources might be needed to stem the threat from 
the Caucasus. 



The Fall of Baku and the Twenty-six 
Commissars 



THE first news received in Ashkhabad and Meshed of the fall of Baku 
came from a Turkish wireless message intercepted on September isth. 
No official intimation of the disaster was received by the Malleson 
Mission until the morning of the i6th. The news was not unexpected, 
as it was known that Dunsterville had lost confidence in the ability of 
the Centro-Caspian government to organize defence or inspire its 
troops to fight. He had already taken steps to hold ships ready to 
evacuate his force, but in the chaotic conditions that prevailed it seemed 
far from certain that he would be able to get them away. 

On the lyth news was received by the Mission at Meshed that 
Dunsterville had arrived back at Enzeli with his troops, and that he 
had succeeded in evacuating his sick and wounded and a considerable 
quantity of military equipment. The story of the evacuation, at night 
and under fire not only from Turkish guns but also from Baku guard- 
ships, is an epic which General Dunsterville has described with dramatic 
force in his book The Adventures of Dimsterforce. 

As the mixed local force of Baku defenders fell back on the city in 
face of the Turkish onslaught, abandoning positions with little attempt 
to defend them, rearguard action was left to the British infantry, 
which held out until the main body of the British had withdrawn through 
the town to the dock area. 1 

Shelling was heavy, taking its toll of casualties among the civilian 
population, especially in the Armenian quarter, which had evidently 
been chosen as a target by the Turkish gunners. The Azerbaijani 
mob, organized by Turkish agents, was already on the prowl, killing 
Armenians and looting their houses. 

The Centro-Caspian government had collapsed, and all semblance 

57 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

of public order was at an end by nightfall In the dock area British 
troops held key points, holding several ships with steam up to evacuate 
sick and wounded. 

As it became clear that no further resistance was to be expected 
from government forces, Dunsterville decided to evacuate the whole of 
his force. 

As night fell, all British troops were withdrawn to the docks. 
Despite a threat by the commander of a government gunboat to prevent 
the departure of the British, several ships, with the whole of the British 
force, including its sick and wounded, crept out of the harbour in the 
darkness, while the crash of bursting shells reverberated among the 
rooftops of the stricken city. 

A considerable quantity of artillery and ammunition had been 
evacuated with the troops. By agreement with Malleson part of this 
equipment was later sent to Krasnovodsk with a small detachment of 
artillerymen and naval personnel to help build up the defences of that 
port against a possible Turkish attack. 

By withdrawing the best of the Caspian ships, several of which had 
been armed as auxiliary cruisers, Dunsterville sought to keep control 
of the southern waters of the Caspian, while at the same time depriving 
the enemy of the means of transporting large numbers of troops and 
military equipment to Krasnovodsk. 

The fall of Baku, although not unexpected, aroused the Ashkhabad 
Committee to a sense of the danger to which it was now exposed from 
two sides. As so often happened when Allied forces intervened during 
the civil war period, there was a tendency on the part of the local 
authority to sit back and leave the brunt of the fray to Allied troops. 

In Meshed, where General Malleson's headquarters staff was still 
located, news of the withdrawal of Dunsterville's troops brought with 
it recognition of the dangerous position of the small mixed force strung 
along the length of the Central Asian railway. 

Messages received from liaison officers at Ashkhabad were indi- 
cative of the state of near panic in Transcaspian circles. Plots against 
their own security were suspected, and drastic action against suspects 
was already taking place. 

On the morning of September i8th the Ashkhabad Committee's 
liaison officer of Meshed, Dokhov, called on the Mission in a state of 
great excitement. He announced that he had received a telegram from 

58 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

Ashkhabad on a matter of great importance and urgency, and that he 
had been instructed to communicate its contents to General MaUeson 
and ask for his comments and advice. 

Without producing the actual telegram, Dokhov informed General 
Malleson, in the presence of two of the General's staff officers, that a 
party of Bolshevik Commissars, former members of the Baku govern- 
ment that had been replaced by the Centro-Caspian Directorate at 
the end of July, had arrived at Krasnovodsk on the steamship Turkman 
and were being held under arrest by the Krasnovodsk Town Com- 
mandant, Kuhn. The Commissars, about thirty in number and includ- 
ing Shaumian, the former head of the Baku government, Korganov, 
Fioletov, Petrov and other prominent Bolsheviks, had been imprisoned 
by the Centro-Caspian authorities at the time of the evacuation of 
Soviet Russian forces to Astrakhan on August I4th, but had been 
released, or had escaped on the eve of the Turkish entry into Baku. 
According to Dokhov's account, the Commissars had left by sea that 
same evening, intending to go to Astrakhan, but for some reason, 
unknown to Dokhov, the ship had brought them to Krasnovodsk. 2 

Their presence in Krasnovodsk was a matter of great concern to 
the Ashkhabad Committee, the members of which were seriously 
alarmed that opposition elements in Transcaspia might take advantage 
of the presence of the Commissars to stage a revolt against the govern- 
ment. The chairman of the Committee therefore requested General 
Malleson to state his views as to what should be done. 

Questioned by General Malleson, Dokhov was unable or unwilling 
to add very much to the message he had been instructed to convey. 
He admitted that his government was alarmed by the fall of Baku and 
was nervous about the revival of opposition to its authority in Ashkha- 
bad, Krasnovodsk and elsewhere. They considered that the presence 
of the Commissars, even under arrest, constituted a danger, particu- 
larly at a time when the situation in the Caspian area was uncertain 
and the Merv area was still in Bolshevik hands. 

General Malleson replied that he considered that in no circum- 
stances should the Commissars be allowed to proceed along the railway 
to Ashkhabad. While it was a matter for the Committee to decide what 
steps they proposed to take to prevent this, he suggested that the best 
course would be for the Committee to hand the prisoners over to him 
to be held as hostages for British citizens imprisoned or held under 

59 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

restraint by the Soviet government. He saw some difficulty in deter- 
mining a convenient point for the prisoners to be handed over, but 
thought this could be arranged. 

Dokhov seemed to be dubious, but undertook to inform his 
government of General Malleson's suggestion, though adding the words : 
'If it is not already too late/ Asked what he meant, Dokhov said his 
government might already have decided what steps to take. He then left. 

Immediately afterwards General Malleson sent a telegram to his 
representative in Ashkhabad, Captain Teague- Jones, informing him 
what Dokhov had said and instructing him to get in touch with Zimen, 
the Foreign Minister, ascertain what the position was and telegraph a 
reply without delay. The General then telegraphed a summary of the 
conversation with Dokhov to his chiefs at Simla, notifying them of his 
suggestion that the Commissars be taken over by him and conveyed 
to India for internment as hostages and asking for instructions. 

On the same evening Teague- Jones replied that he had been informed 
by Zimen of the arrival in Krasnovodsk of the Commissars and their 
arrest there. Zimen had undertaken to keep him, informed and had said 
that the Committee was considering the matter that night. Teague- 
Jones added that Zimen was in a very nervous state but had given no 
indication of what the Committee had in mind. 

As was subsequently ascertained, the Committee, consisting of 
Funtikov, Kurilov, Zimen and Dorrer, sat until a late hour that night, 
apparently without reaching an agreement. Teague- Jones endeavoured 
to keep in touch with Zimen, but when the latter, together with Dorrer, 
left the meeting after midnight Teague-Jones was told that the question 
had not yet been settled, and it was hinted that there was disagreement 
between the members as to the course to be taken. Teague-Jones also 
ascertained that Kuhn had been pressing for a decision, as he feared 
there might be a local insurrection to secure the release of the prisoners. 
Funtikov was in a semi-intoxicated state and suspicious of British 
motives in suggesting that the Commissars be held as hostages. 

On the following morning Teague-Jones tried to get into touch with 
Zimen but without success. That evening he approached Funtikov 
personally, and found him still in a state of intoxication and not dis- 
posed to discuss the matter. Finally, when pressed, Funtikov admitted 
that it had been decided to shoot the prisoners, and that he had sent 
Kurilov to Krasnovodsk on the previous night to instruct Kuhn and 

60 




A wrecked armoured 
train at Dushakh 



Tekke Turkmans 



Turkman troops 
oftheTranscaspian 
government force 




The Palace used as British staff headquarters 

BAIRAM ALI 

Turkman officers Medical staff 




THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

make the necessary arrangements. He declined to discuss the matter 
any further. 

Teague-Jones immediately informed Malleson, who sent for 
Dokhov. On presenting himself at the office of the Mission, Dokhov, 
who was in one of his taciturn moods, said in reply to Malleson's 
questions that he had 'just been notified that the prisoners have been 
shot; that the Committee has decided to take this action in view of the 
seriousness of the situation, and the difficulties involved in acceding to 
General Malleson's proposal*. 

General Malleson's reply to this was that in his opinion they were 
'all alike Red or White' and that Dokhov could inform his chiefs 
that he, Malleson, was 'horrified at the action taken'. 

Dokhov, who was clearly shaken by Malleson's outburst, withdrew 
without any further comment. Neither at that time nor subsequently 
did he intimate that he had had any prior information about the 
Committee's intentions concerning the shooting of the prisoners. 

Teague-Jones was thereupon instructed to pass to Zimen the same 
comment given to Dokhov. When he did so, Zimen, in a state of extreme 
agitation, stated that the decision was Funtikov's; that he (Zimen) and 
Dorrer were opposed to having the Commissars shot, and that Funtikov 
and Kurilov had taken matters into their own hands after the meeting 
and had given the order. 

It transpired that on receipt of this order Kuhn had brought the 
Commissars, twenty-six in number, under guard from the prison late 
at night, indicating that they were being sent to Ashkhabad by 
order of the government authorities there. The train proceeded to a 
point some 200 kilometres east of Krasnovodsk, where it stopped. 
The prisoners were taken a short distance into the desert, and there, 
in the early morning of September 2Oth, were summarily shot Exactly 
who carried out the shooting never became known, nor is it certain 
that any emissary of the Committee at Ashkhabad was present. 

Every effort was made by the Ashkhabad Committee to keep the 
matter secret, and some time elapsed before rumours of what had 
happened reach the public. Members of the Committee, including those 
directly involved, began to show a disposition to dissociate themselves 
from Funtikov's views, and then and later sought a convenient scape- 
goat on whom responsibility for the shootings could be placed. 

Several days after this episode took place, General Malleson was 

61 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

informed in reply to Ms telegram to Simla that they agreed with his 
suggestion that the Commissars be sent to India. Although it was 
already too late, the authorities in London, still unaware of what had 
happened, were considering the possibility of exchanging the Commis- 
sars, as well as other Bolsheviks who were in British hands, for British 
diplomats and officials who had been imprisoned by the Soviet govern- 
ment. At a later date, when the Soviet Foreign Commissar, M. 
Chicherin, sought information through neutral channels regarding the 
whereabouts of the Commissars, the Soviet government was informed 
that they were not and had never been in British hands. 

Although anticipating the course of events it would be useful at 
this point to relate briefly what subsequently happened in relation to 
this affair. The fate of the Twenty-six Commissars did not become 
known in Moscow until early in the new year, or, if it was known, no 
public announcement was made. A short time after the reoccupation 
of Baku by British troops from Enzeli, following the Turkish capitu- 
lation, a Socialist-Revolutionary journalist, Vadim Chaikin by name, 
who had played some part in Soviet domestic affairs in Tashkent, and 
now evidently seeking to ingratiate himself with the Bolsheviks, visited 
Transcaspia from Baku, and there interviewed Funtikov in prison. On 
his return to Baku, then in British occupation after the Turkish with- 
drawal, he published an article in a local newspaper in which he accused 
the British of being responsible for the arrest and execution of the 
Twenty-six Commissars. He followed this up later with a book, pub- 
lished in Moscow, elaborating this theme, making the accusation that 
British officers were directly involved, and that the shooting had been 
carried out on British orders. He cited the 'confession' of former 
members of the Ashkhabad Committee, including Funtikov, as evidence. 

Although Chaikin produced no factual evidence to substantiate his 
assertions, the Soviet government now publicly accused the British 
government of responsibility for the evacuation of the Commissars 
from Baku and for their subsequent arrest and execution. Statements 
contained in Chaikin's article and book were cited as 'evidence'. Reports 
of the shooting of the Commissars were broadcast by the Soviet Radio, 
while the Soviet Press was filled with articles describing how the 
Commissars were supposed to have met their end. 3 

Since that time the Soviet government has persisted in this charge, 
62 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

and has declined to accept any assurance from the British government 
that the facts are otherwise than as stated by Chaikin and other Soviet 
spokesmen at that time. The case of the Twenty-six Commissars now 
forms part of the epic story of the Soviet revolution. The version 
presented by Chaikin has become Soviet official history, so that it is 
included in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia as a factual account of the 
episode, and paintings by Soviet artists and illustrations to books deal- 
ing with the civil-war period depict British officers as being present at 
the execution. 

In fact no British officer was in the vicinity, nor was any British 
officer or official aware of what was happening to the prisoners until 
information was extracted from a drunken Funtikov after the event. 4 

The circumstances in which the Commissars were brought over 
from Baku have never been satisfactorily cleared up. It is uncertain 
whether the Centro-Caspian authorities ordered their release, or whether 
friends rescued them from prison during the chaos that prevailed on 
the eve of the Turkish occupation of the city. Various Soviet personali- 
ties claim to have effected their release, but there seems to be some 
mystery surrounding their departure on the Turkman. The captain of 
the vessel informed the authorities in Krasnovodsk that the ship was 
bound for Astrakhan when it left port, but that the crew declined to 
take it there, ostensibly because of fuel shortage. In all probability, 
some members of the crew were uncertain what fate held in store for 
them on their arrival in Astrakhan. In any case, the arrival of the ship 
was quite unexpected in Krasnovodsk, and it was only through the 
action of the guard-ship from which a message was sent ashore to 
Kuhn that the latter was able to apprehend the Commissars before 
they were able to land. 

The full impact of this unhappy episode on relations between the 
Malleson Mission and the Ashkhabad Committee, and subsequently 
between the Soviet and British governments, was not to make itself felt 
for some time. Funtikov's action in disregarding Malleson's advice 
completely destroyed any reputation he may have enjoyed in the 
General's eyes. Malleson had no high regard for revolutionary leaders, 
whether Bolshevik, Menshevik or Socialist-Revolutionary. He con- 
sidered them to be unprincipled demagogues, self-seeking leaders of the 
ignorant mob, all equally untrustworthy. If he had had any knowledge 
of the Russian language his attitude, forcibly expressed in public as well 
64 



THE FALL OF BAKU AND THE TWENTY-SIX COMMISSARS 

as in private, might well have added to the difficulties experienced by his 
Russian-speaking staff in their relations with members of the Com- 
mittee and its representatives. 

Meanwhile, direct communications had been established with 
Enzeli. General Dunsterville had returned to Bagdad shortly after the 
evacuation of his troops from Baku, and the command of the force, 
shortly to be renamed 'Norperforce', was taken over by Major- 
General Thompson. Captain Noras, R.N., who had been made avail- 
able to General Dunsterville to organize naval units in the Caspian, 
made use of some of the retrieved artillery brought from Baku to arm 
several ships in case the Turks made an attempt to cross the Caspian to 
Krasnovodsk or tried to land troops in Persia. The detachment of 
infantry and gunners sent from Enzeli to Krasnovodsk early in October 
quickly took steps to strengthen the defences of the port. 

During the next few weeks the inhabitants of Krasnovodsk waited 
anxiously to see what the Turks would do next, but in fact no Turkish 
move was made in that direction. It is uncertain whether they were 
deterred from making the attempt by lack of shipping or by the growing 
weakness of Turkish military strength. Conflict between the Turkish 
and German Commands may have played a part. After having con- 
solidated their position in Baku, where many thousand unfortunate 
Armenians were massacred by the Azerbaijanis, the Turks moved part 
of their forces northward up the coast to Derbent in support of the 
Daghistanis who were in revolt against the Bolsheviks. Before Nuri 
Pasha had time to organize his forces for a more spectacular move the 
Turkish government sued for peace and the game was up. 5 



7 

Malleson Acts 



IN RETROSPECT it is not easy to see what the military authorities in 
Simla and London hoped might be achieved with the small British 
forces in north Persia in holding up the Turko-German advance. Al- 
though the Turks were known to be weakening, and that on some issues 
they were in conflict with the Germans, they had between 30,000 and 
40,000 troops in the Caucasus, and two German divisions were already 
in Georgia or being rapidly formed there. The Bolsheviks, although 
occupied with counter-revolutionary and nationalist risings in the north 
Caucasus and Kuban, had a considerable naval and military force at 
Astrakhan, and were only awaiting the dislodgement of Ataman 
Dutov from Orenburg to pour *Red* Army troops into Turkistan. The 
Austro-Hungarian and German war prisoners were potentially avail- 
able to the enemy as reinforcements if the advance into Central Asia 
continued. 1 

Pan-Islamic propaganda, relatively ineffective elsewhere, mainly due 
to the successful Arab revolt against the Turks and the absence of any 
real unity of outlook in the Muslim world, was not without effect in 
Afghanistan and northern India and among the *Ulema' and some 
native political leaders in Russian Turkistan. The Azerbaijanis were, 
for the most part, in collusion with Nuri Pasha's *Army of Islam' and 
had facilitated its eastward advance, while in Transcaspia some Turk- 
man leaders were known to be placing their hopes on Turkish help to 
regain their independence from the Russians, lost after a sanguinary 
struggle in the eighties of the last century. 

In Meshed, at that time, the significance of the minor success at 
Kaakha was not overestimated. The strength and capacity of the 
Tashkent army had been tested, and it was the opinion of the com- 
mander of the Malmiss detachment in Transcaspia that with some 
reinforcement from Meshed and Krasnovodsk it would be possible to 

66 



MALLESON ACTS 

drive the Bolsheviks back beyond the Merv oasis and even to the 
Oxus, provided the attack could be made before the Tashkent Soviet 
government had obtained help from Russia and had completed the re- 
organization of its command. It was considered that this would help to 
stabilize the position of the Ashkhabad government and keep control of 
Krasnovodsk and the Central Asian railway between that port and the 
vital Merv-Tedzhen area in friendly hands. Occupation of Merv would 
also relieve the food shortage in Transcaspia, and would enable force 
to be brought to bear on the Kushkh outpost on the Afghan frontier^ 
then in Bolshevik hands, from which point a road leads to Herat and 
via Farah to Kandahar and Quetta. 

Although no promise of reinforcements was forthcoming from 
India, Malleson decided to proceed with his plan to provide additional 
support for the hard-pressed Ashkhabad government and strengthen 
Colonel Knollys's detachments. Orders were given to recruit additional 
local and Herati levies for lines of communications duties, while at the 
same time the Ashkhabad government was urged to try to win the con- 
fidence of the Turkman leaders by taking a prominent Turkman into 
the government. By this means it was hoped to encourage the Turk- 
man leaders to provide a greater degree of support to the Trans- 
caspian government. 

Virtually isolated, and dependent on a line of communications 800 
miles long, a thinly held mountain and desert track for supply and 
support, the position of Malmiss was even more precarious than that 
of the British base at Enzeli. Although the Enzeli base and line of 
communication was liable to be attacked by unfriendly Jangalis, and 
threatened from the direction of Tabriz, reinforcements could be sent 
to Enzeli from Bagdad by the Russian-made military road, whereas 
the Meshed-Quetta line of communications with long stretches of only 
partially constructed road was flanked by a potentially hostile Afghanis- 
tan and subjected to raids by tribesmen in the Seistan sector. 

The speed with which work was being carried out along lines of 
communication between the railhead in Seistan and Meshed might 
have suggested to an intelligent enemy observer that preparations were 
on foot for the despatch of a considerable force to Meshed. In all 
probability, Turkish and German agents, as well as those employed by 
the Bolsheviks, reached this conclusion. But at the time the Malmiss 
Mission was despatched from India the possibility of a British military 

67 



MALLESON ACTS 

force crossing the frontier into Transcaspia was not visualized. If this 
contingency had even been remotely considered by the chiefs of staff 
in Simla there was no sign that any provision had been made to deal 
with it. Apart from those troops already in operation as part of the East 
Persian Cordon force, and the locally recruited levies, no reinforce- 
ments were assembling at Quetta, nor did any additional troops arrive 
on the scene other than a few pioneers and signallers from Seistan and a 
small detachment from north-west Persia, sent at Malleson's request 
from Enzeli to Krasnovodsk at a later stage in the proceedings. Work 
on the road, and the establishment of supply depots, in a region where 
wheeled transport was hardly known, and supplies hard to obtain, 
served to meet the needs of the existing force but made little serious 
provision for contingencies that might arise should enemy forces 
succeed in crossing the Caspian. 2 

The East Persian Cordon Command, with its staff at Birjand, was 
now subordinate to General Malleson, and the appointment of an 
Inspector General of Communications, in the person of Brigadier- 
General W. E. Dickson, a capable and energetic officer with a flair for 
maintaining good relations with the local population and Persian 
officialdom, was to ensure that the flow of supplies along the long line 
would be maintained. 

In these circumstances the most dangerous course was inaction. 
After consultation with the Transcaspian command plans were there- 
fore put in hand to attack the Bolshevik line near Dushakh at the 
earliest possible moment and drive the 'Red* Army back beyond Merv. 
Colonel Knollys, commanding the British-Indian detachment, estimated 
that with the additional troops and artillery now promised from 
Enzeli, including the Russian machine-gun section that had been 
trained at Meshed, it should be possible to accomplish this by the end 
of September. It was known that the morale of the Red force had 
suffered as a result of the set-back at Kaakha, and that the performance 
of the Indian troops had struck terror in the hearts of the mixed col- 
lection of 'Red* Guard volunteers, ex-prisoners and conscripts that so 
far constituted the Tashkent army. Some weeks would elapse before the 
reorganization and reinforcement of the Bolsheviks could materially 
alter the situation. The engagement at Kaakha had almost ended in 
disaster for the Tashkent 'Red' Army and would undoubtedly have led 
their withdrawal beyond Merv if the Transcaspians had possessed 

68 



MALLESON ACTS 



reliable cavalry and had displayed some initiative in following up the 
retreat. 

Preparations for the attack were interrupted but not seriously 
delayed by long-range shelling and probing operations carried out by 
the enemy on September nth and i8th. While bringing up troop 
trains and reorganizing their forces, the Bolsheviks kept up recon- 
naissance with their cavalry, and on September nth attempted a wide 
turning movement on the left flank which was easily repulsed. On the 
1 8th a more determined turning movement by 'Red' cavalry, supported 
by heavy artillery fire from armoured trains, succeeded in reaching the 
railway in the rear of the Kaakha position, but was driven off by the 
Punjabi and 4th Hants reserves. The lack of reliable cavalry on the 
Transcaspian side hampered the defence in these operations. No 
reliance could be placed on the Turkman mounted troops, and it was 
not until the arrival of two squadrons of the 28th Cavalry on September 
25th that this weakness was overcome. 

By this time plans for the offensive were well advanced. The Trans- 
Caspian staff had been reorganized. A new chief of staff, Colonel 
Urusov, a regular staff officer, had been appointed, so that for the first 
time operational planning could be conducted on practical military 
lines. An aeroplane, so far lacking vital parts, had been made air- 
worthy, and was brought up to the front for reconnaissance purposes. 
The armoured train was strengthened and provided with a heavier gun, 
and the fire power of the infantry had been improved by the provision 
of a number of Vickers machine-guns with trained crews. 

The plan provided for an enveloping surprise attack on the enemy 
trains at Annan Sagad, the main attack to be made by a flank march 
to the north by infantry and artillery, while the 28th Cavalry was to 
proceed through the foothills to the south and attack from the right 
flank. The armoured train was to advance along the line in support, 
while the Turkman cavalry, with the co-operation of that wily bandit 
Aziz Khan, whose services had been enlisted by Oraz Sirdar, were to 
block the enemy's line of retreat by cutting the railway north-east of 
Dushakh. 

While this plan was being formulated at the front, the Committee at 
Ashkhabad was undergoing one of its periodical crises. The shortage of 
food, brought about by the loss of Merv, was acute, and the railway 
workers, who were responsible in the first place for the revolt against 

69 



MALLESON ACTS 

Tashkent, were once more showing signs of restiveness. To add to these 
difficulties, the fall of Baku on September I4th had reduced the Com- 
mittee, never sure of themselves, to a state of near panic, which mani- 
fested itself in repressive legislation and a witch-hunt against those 
suspected of Bolshevik sympathies. This was conducted with the ruth- 
lessness characteristic of Russian police action, thus lowering the 
prestige of the Committee in the eyes of the railway workers and others 
who were revolutionary in their outlook if opposed to the regime in 
Tashkent. It was widely rumoured that the action taken by Funtikov 
and his colleagues was being undertaken in response to British orders, 
an impression that gained acceptance among those who looked upon the 
British as interlopers, and which Funtikov did little to counteract. As 
became clear later, the Transcaspian leader took care to cover his 
actions by spreading the rumour than he acted under pressure from 
Malleson and his representatives in Ashkhabad. 



70 



8 

Reactions at Tashkent 



ABOUT the same time that the Malleson Mission arrived in Meshed 
another British Mission to Tashkent was on its way to the Soviet 
Turkistan capital from Kashgar in the Chinese province of Sinkiang. 
The British Consul-General in Kashgar, in the person of Sir George 
Macartney, was admirably placed to observe the confused situation 
across the border in Turkistan where a Muslim native revolt against 
the Bolsheviks was gathering force. 

Macartney was on the point of retirement, and despite chaotic 
conditions had hoped to be able to make the return journey to England 
via Russia instead of travelling by the difficult mountain road through 
Chitral and India. His successor, Colonel Etherton, had arrived in 
Kashgar, accompanied by two officers whose mission was to report on 
the situation in Central Asia and, if possible, to establish contact with 
the new regime in Tashkent. 

As we have seen, the Tashkent Soviet government derived its main 
support from the Russian railway workers and factory hands in Tash- 
kent and other towns, and from soldiers of the former military garrison. 
To all of these the native Muslim intelligentzia of the towns and the 
Kirghiz and Kazakh leaders who were rallying the nomad tribes in their 
struggle for freedom against Russian oppression were no less obnoxious 
than officers and officials of the Tsarist government had been. Betrayed 
by the Russian revolutionary leaders in Turkistan, the native Muslim 
population, still smarting from the ruthless crushing of a revolt against 
the military regime of General Kuropatkin in 1916 and more recently 
from the suppression by the Tashkent Soviet of a Muslim autonomous 
government at Kokand, had turned against the 'Red* successors of the 
Tsarist regime, who were, if anything, even more chauvinistic and 
autocratic than officials of the former Tsarist government had been. 

The sending of a British mission to Tashkent, via Kashgar, in 

71 



REACTIONS AT TASHKENT 

August 1918, without informing its members of developments in Trans- 
caspia, is indicative of the lack of co-ordination that prevailed at 
Simla at that time. Difficulties of communication between India and 
Kashgar may have been partly responsible for the failure to keep the 
Consul-General at Kashgar fully informed, but it seems hardly likely 
that no information regarding the Transcaspian revolt against Tash- 
kent could have reached Kashgar via India by the beginning of August. 
Colonel F. M. Bailey, a Political Officer of wide experience in Tibet and 
the frontier regions of India, and Captain L. V. Blacker, a 'Guides' 
officer, left India for Kashgar via Gilgit in April. The existence of 
Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners of war in Turkistan, the store 
of cotton and the threat of an enemy advance along the Central Asian 
railway were all matters that exercised the minds of the military staff 
in India and on which information was needed. On the arrival of the 
party in Kashgar on June yth, Bailey spent several weeks making a 
survey of the situation beyond the Turkistan border. At that time 
Malleson was still in Simla, and there was as yet no sign of any revolt 
against the Bolsheviks in Transcaspia, although tribal disturbances 
were already taking place throughout Turkistan. 

After consultation with the Consul-General Colonel Bailey decided 
to make an effort to reach Tashkent and establish direct contact with the 
authorities there in the hope that some understanding might be reached 
with them regarding the war prisoners and the disposal of cotton 
stocks. It was estimated that only by going to Tashkent could a clear 
picture be obtained of a very confused situation. Sanction having been 
obtained from Simla, Bailey and Blacker left Kashgar for Tashkent on 
July 24th, and arrived at the Turkistan capital on August I4th. A few 
days later they were joined by Sir George Macartney. 1 

Their departure from Kashgar thus took place some ten days after the 
revolt of the railwaymen in Kizyl Arvat and the change-over in Ashkha- 
bad, and the beginning of fighting along the railway at Charzhou. A 
less propitious time to enter into negotiations with Kolesov, the head 
of the Tashkent Soviet, could hardly have been chosen. News of the 
arrival of British forces on the Traascaspian frontier had reached 
Tashkent, so that the Mission, which was without any knowledge of 
recent events in Transcaspia, was placed in a position of acute em- 
barrassment, and was unable to make any progress in their talks with 
Kolesov and his colleagues. 

72 



REACTIONS AT TASHKENT 

Macartney returned to Kashgar with Blacker, who was ill, but as the 
situation in Tashkent at that time was extremely tense, and the Turkistan 
Soviet government in a state of near panic, expecting to be crushed 
between the advancing Transcaspians and Dutov, Bailey decided to 
remain behind in hiding, estimating that if the local Soviet collapsed 
his presence as a British representative might prove useful. Unfortu- 
nately, he possessed no sure means of communication with Kashgar, 
and was entirely dependent on his own ingenuity to escape detection, 
while keeping himself informed of what was taking place. 

Colonel Bailey's subsequent adventures, and his eventual escape 
from Tashkent, disguised as an Austrian prisoner of war, and his 
journey across the desert to Sarakhs via Bukhara, are vividly described 
in his book Mission to Tashkent. His presence in Tashkent, in disguise, 
for more than a year, his meeting while there with some of the leading 
spirits in the revolt against Bolshevik authority, and his dramatic 
escape to Meshed through Bukhara, have become something of a legend 
in Soviet histories of the period. 

In Soviet accounts, Colonel Bailey, together with the American 
Consul Tredwell, are credited with the role of having inspired and 
directed revolts against the Soviet, of having entered into agreement 
with 'White Guard' organizations for the 'colonization' of Turkistan 
by the British government and of having encouraged and supported the 
Basmachi rebellion. 

The ubiquity and influence attributed to Colonel Bailey in the 
Soviet legend are a tribute to the mystery which surrounded his move- 
ments and the ability with which he escaped detection when in hiding at 
Tashkent. 

His presence in Tashkent was quite unknown to the Meshed Mission 
for some time after the return of the rest of the party to Kashgar. No 
contact with him was ever established by Meshed, nor did any message 
from him reach the Mission until he was well on his way to Sarakhs. 

Among the Soviet charges made against Colonel Bailey is that he 
entered into a conspiracy with one Djunkovsky, an ex-official of the 
Tsarist government, to promote a rebellion against the Soviet govern- 
ment in Turkistan by a 'White* organization known as the Turkistan 
Military Organization. 

Bailey gives no account of ever having met Djunkovsky, who was in 

73 



REACTIONS AT TASHKENT 

Transcaspia during the summer of 1918. In the early part of July 1918 
Djunkovsky arrived in Meshed, and made himself known to the 
British military attache, to whom he outlined an elaborate scheme for 
the co-ordination of anti-Bolshevik activities in Turkistan. As the 
military attache was less interested in Russian counter-revolutionary 
schemes than in securing intelligence concerning the enemy advance 
through the Caucasus and the situation at Krasnovodsk and along the 
Central Asian railway, he gave Djunkovsky no encouragement, and on 
the arrival of the Malleson Mission passed him over to one of the 
Mission officers. Djunkovsky provided information of value regarding 
the situation in Turkistan, but his projects aroused no enthusiasm in the 
mind of the Mission officer who, in any case, was sceptical as to 
Djunkovsky's ability to perform what he declared his willingness to 
undertake. As there seemed to be a possibility, however, that Djun- 
kovsky might be of some service to the new regime in Ashkhabad, he 
was advised to place his services at their disposal. 

This was the extent of the connection with Djunkovsky, who left for 
Ashkhabad a few days later. It seems unlikely that he was able to 
establish contact with his friends in Tashkent, as the Transcaspian 
military force was driven back from Chardzhou a few days after his 
arrival in Ashkhabad, and any link that may have existed through 
Bukhara would have been slow and uncertain. 

Many such projects were submitted to o fficers of Malmiss from time 
to time. In most cases the authors of these schemes represented them- 
selves as leaders or important and influential members of organi- 
zations aiming at the overthrow of Bolshevism in Central Asia. The 
provision of funds, arms and ammunition was invariably put forward 
as a primary requirement. The organizations concerned, whether 
genuine or projected, having no government to support them, and re- 
presenting opposition movements with negative programmes, were 
invariably declared as being willing to dispose of political sovereignty 
over large tracts of Russian territory, and even urged that the British 
government should enter into treaty arrangements with them. In no 
single case were any of these schemes seriously considered, and no 
arrangement was ever made which involved or inferred support to their 
promoters. Of these offers, the only one which promised nothing but 
goodwill and loyalty, and in which no question of funds was raised, was 
the request made on several occasions by Turkman leaders for British 

74 



REACTIONS AT TASHKENT 

support and even British suzerainty. The only agreements entered into 
by Malmiss was that reached with the Ashkhabad government for pro- 
visional support, and a minor one, by arrangement with the Ashkhabad 
government, for the provision of a small quantity of small-arms and 
ammunition to the Emir of Bukhara. No quid pro quo was demanded. 
In this case the arms were delivered, in circumstances which will be 
described later. 

It is part of the Soviet legend regarding events in Russian Central 
Asia during the revolutionary period that British official support was 
given to all and sundry among the various counter-revolutionary 
groups; that 'treaties' involving the disposal of Russian territory or 
transfer of sovereignty were entered into with certain of them and that 
British officers were sent as advisors and instructors to the Khanates of 
Bukhara and Khiva. None was sent to either of these places, and con- 
tact made in Ashkhabad and Bairam Ali with representatives of the 
Bukharan government by members of Malleson's staff was utilized for 
Intelligence purposes only, or to reassure the Turkman leaders that 
their wishes were not being completely ignored. No contact was estab- 
lished with Khiva. 

The fiction of a treaty having been arrived at between the British 
Government, or its representatives, and the White counter-revolu- 
tionary 'Turkistan Military Organization' providing for a fifty-year 
British protectorate over Russian Turkistan, derives from, articles 
published in the Soviet newspaper Pravda in November 1922 and June 
1923, and subsequently repeated, with many embellishments, in other 
Soviet publications. This story has become part of the stock-in-trade of 
Soviet historians of the revolutionary period in Turkistaa, and like 
many similar stories of the civil-war period it will doubtless continue to 
be accepted without question by the Soviet reader until future Soviet 
historians are able to substitute objective statement for the 'party line' 
or fanciful assertion. 2 



75 



9 

The Battle of Dushakh 



PREPARATIONS for an attack on the enemy position at Dushakh 
were now well in hand. The supply line from Meshed to Ashkhabad 
was in operation, but the Malmiss force was still mainly dependent on 
the Transcaspian Committee for provisions, medical arrangements and 
transport. Every possible step was being taken to remedy this state of 
affairs, not only because of the shortage of supplies in Transcaspia 
but also to assure the Committee that the British were performing their 
part of the bargain. So far the Transcaspians had fulfilled their part of 
the bargain, but the behaviour of their troops at the front and the 
poor staff work displayed, as well as the ineptitude shown in their public 
administration, did not inspire confidence in their ability to deal 
adequately with a serious crisis, should one arise. 

In their relations with representatives of the Mission the Committee 
were cordial and co-operative. Many of their difficulties were of their 
own making, particularly in regard to finance and the organization of 
supplies. Committee members and officials of proletarian origin and 
outlook were distrustful towards others with a bourgeois background, 
and their growing dependence on the support of the latter and, above 
all, on re-employed ex-officers, irked them. In their social outlook, as 
well as in their estimation of the world at large, they differed only 
in degree from their former Bolshevik associates. The Socialist- 
Revolutionaries were perhaps less obsessed with Marxist ideology; their 
national patriotism was sincere, if muddled and emotional; and their 
'Right wing* favoured continued collaboration with the Allies in 
prosecuting the war against the Central Powers and, in particular, the 
Turks. 

Among all parties, in fact, in all sections of the population except 
possibly the Turkman, there was a considerable degree of suspicion of 
the British which derived from the historical Anglo-Russian rivalry 

76 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

in Persia and in the Central-Asian area generally. This attitude towards 
the British was more widespread in Russian Turkistan than was anti- 
Russian sentiment among British military and official circles in India, 
where it had largely subsided after the signing of the Anglo-Russian 
Agreement in 1907. Among the Indian population it is doubtful if it 
ever existed at all, or, at least, not since the time of the Afghan war in 
1878, when the 'Russian bear' was a favourite subject for caricaturists 
and political writers, in India as well as in England. Among Russians, 
however, suspicion persisted. Isolated from the main current of affairs, 
and surrounded by a sullen, if not actively hostile, native population, 
Russian officials and settlers in Turkistan continued to suspect the hand 
of 'perfidious Albion' in local disturbances and in the tortuous politics 
of Kabul and Tehran. 

In existing circumstances Malleson's relationship with the govern- 
ment and people of Transcaspia was based on the respective needs of 
both parties. For the British Mission the relationship was provisional 
and 'for the period of hostilities', and as far as was possible Malleson 
tried to avoid enmeshment in the internal affairs of the Ashkhabad 
Committee. For the latter, too, it was equally provisional, but many 
of them suspected British motives while accepting their bounty, and 
some, at least, did not hesitate to malign and seek to place responsi- 
bility for their own actions and shortcomings on the British when the 
tide turned against them. 

These reservations in mutual relations, however, did not obtrude 
themselves in the co-operation between the respective military staffs. 
Former officers of the Russian army now held the key posts on the 
Transcaspian army staff and in the field, and manned the more efficient 
units such as the artillery and machine-gun sections. Between them and 
their British comrades-in-arms relations were good. They did not dis- 
guise their admiration for Indian and British troops, and in their re- 
ports were generous in their appreciation. 

One of the most difficult problems in preparing for the attack was in 
preserving secrecy. It was reasonable to assume that the Tashkent 
military staff would not be unaware that preparations were in progress 
on the Transcaspian side. There were Bolshevik sympathizers in 
Ashkhabad and Merv, and leakage through agents on the Persian 
side of the border, as well as from deserters at the front, had to be 
considered. To counter this, rumours of the impending arrival of 

77 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

large-scale reinforcements, of projected wide encircling movements and 
of the impending arrival of aircraft and heavy guns were spread about 
and infiltrated into the Tashkent camp. 

To the relief of all concerned, no counter-move was made by the 
*Red* Army when the Transcaspian main column moved out across the 
desert on the night of October I2th. One company of the 1/4 Hamp- 
shire Regiment was left in reserve at Kaakha, while the main force of 
infantry and artillery advanced to a position in a ruined village, Nauroz 
Chashmeh, several miles north-east of the enemy line at Dushakh. 
Two squadrons of the 28th Cavalry advanced under cover of the hills 
south of the railway, while the Turkman cavalry was assigned to make 
a wide detour to cut the railway in the rear of the enemy's main position. 

The main column consisted of two companies of the I9th Punjabis, 
about 400 Transcaspian infantry and about the same number of Turk- 
man infantry. The British battery of artillery accompanied the main 
body, being joined later by two Russian guns. 

The troops got into position without mishap, but in the early hours 
of the morning an unfortunate incident aroused the enemy outposts. 
Two patrols of the I9th Punjabis clashed in the dark, and the firing that 
ensued gave the alarm to the enemy, thus enabling them to take up de- 
fensive positions before the main attack was made. Nevertheless, it was 
decided to go ahead according to plan, and in the early morning the 
main Transcaspian force deployed about a mile from the enemy position, 
the Russians on the right, the Punjabis in the centre and the Turkman 
infantry on the left. 

The ground offered little cover, so that casualties were heavy during 
the advance against machine-gun fire from trenches and behind 
irrigation canals on the left of the railway. The Transcaspian Russian 
and Armenian troops hesitated to advance, taking such cover as they 
could find, while the Turkman infantry simply disappeared into the 
desert. With the support of the guns which were shelling the station 
and Bolshevik troop trains, and accompanied by a number of Russian 
officers, the Punjabis attacked with the bayonet and in a few minutes 
drove the enemy out of their line, capturing six guns and sixteen 
machine-guns. The Bolshevik troops fled to the hills, where they were 
met by the 28th Cavalry and decimated. 

While this operation was in progress, the Bolsheviks succeeded in 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

moving one armoured train eastward, but it was blocked by the 
Turkman patrol (which incidentally had failed to cut the railway line), 
and its crew and many fleeing 'Red' soldiers killed. Two other armoured 
trains moved out of the station westwards, but before any action could 
be taken to hold them up, a lucky shell hit an ammunition wagon at 
the station causing an explosion which completely wrecked the station 
and the rolling stock nearby, killing a large number of enemy troops. 

The Transcaspian troops, who had regained their courage by this 
time, together with a number of Turkman soldiers who reappeared as 
suddenly as they had departed, arrived on the scene and proceeded to 
loot what was left of the trains and stores near the station buildings. 
Taking advantage of the confusion, the Bolsheviks rallied, additional 
troops having been brought up from Tedzhen, the two armoured trains 
backing towards the station. Only the Punjabis, who had suffered heavy 
casualties, remained in action, and once more they attacked with the 
bayonet. The 28th Cavalry now appeared on the scene. The enemy, 
badly shaken by the Punjabis and the a8th Cavalry attack, fell back, 
leaving a quantity of war material and all stores that had not been 
destroyed in the explosion. 

Although the cavalry were prepared to follow up the retreat, it was 
decided in view of the demoralized and uncontrollable state of the 
Transcaspian troops to withdraw to Kaakha. All wounded were 
evacuated, and the whole force retreated to its previous position that 
night. Any counter-attack from the direction of Dushakh seemed un- 
likely, but precautions had been taken to remove sections of the rails 
in case an enemy armoured train should attempt it. 

British and Indian casualties were very heavy in this action. The 
1 9th Punjabis lost all their British officers, killed or wounded, and 
forty-seven killed and 139 wounded among other ranks. The 28th 
Cavalry lost six killed and eleven wounded. Transcaspian losses were 
seven killed and thirty wounded. Enemy losses were at least 1,000 
killed and wounded. 

Once again the lack of discipline and fighting quality on the part 
of the Transcaspians, the unreliability of the Turkman troops and their 
propensity for looting, prevented a decisive battle being fought. This 
was readily admitted in the official report published in the Ashkhabad 
Press several days later, in which full credit was given to the Indian 
and British troops, and the pusillanimity of their own soldiers (with 

79 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

some exceptions) was deplored. Amends for this state of affairs were 
promised, but, as will appear later, little was done to improve the 
quality of their own men. 

It was expected that the Bolsheviks would evacuate the Dushakh 
position which had now become untenable for their trains. On the 
night of October lyth they evacuated Dushakh and withdrew to Ted- 
zhen. Evidently fearing a flanking attack from the 28th Cavalry, they 
withdrew farther eastward to Merv on the 23rd and began to remove 
the rest of the war material remaining at Kushkh. A few days later, 
threatened by a flanking movement which was little more than a patrol 
action, they fled precipitately from Merv towards Chardzhou. The 
Transcaspian force advanced to Merv and preparations were made to 
follow up the enemy retreat. 

At this moment instructions were received by General Malleson 
from the Government of India forbidding British troops to advance 
beyond the Merv oasis. The reasons for this order were not vouch- 
safed, but were undoubtedly connected with the threatening situation 
in Afghanistan, disinclination or inability to provide reinforcements 
and perhaps questions of higher policy. 

In response to General Malleson's request, however, he was 
promised a general officer as commander of the British force, and three 
staff officers, to be under General Malleson's command, but to set up 
their headquarters at Ashkhabad or at the front as was thought fit. 

The remaining company of Punjabis and one squadron of cavalry 
were sent to the front, their duties on the northern section of the 
Cordon being taken over by two companies of the 2/9&th Punjabis sent 
from Seistan. Additional supply and transport officers and several 
officer replacements for the casualties sustained at Dushakh were also 
sent from Quetta, 

The defeat inflicted on the Bolsheviks at Dushakh was even more 
severe than was estimated at the time. Thoroughly demoralized, they 
fled towards Chardzhou, and were evidently prepared to abandon that 
position. Had it been possible to follow up their retreat in force, there is 
little doubt that the bridge and town at Chardzhou could have 
captured, with incalculable effects on the campaign. From reports 
received a little later from Tashkent, the government there was in a 
state of alarm and began to clamour for assistance from Moscow. All 
80 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

foreigners of Allied nationality were arrested, and the usual round-up 
of suspects was carried out. The reputation of the Indian troops in- 
fected the whole 'Red' Army, and exaggerated reports of their numbers, 
their allegedly superior equipment and their ferocity were made public 
to justify the set-back the 'Red' Army had suffered. 

Despite the prohibition against British troops participating in any 
advance beyond the Merv area, Oraz Sirdar rather rashly decided to 
follow up the 'Red' retreat, and armoured trains with infantry and 
artillery crept cautiously up the line towards Chardzhou. The Bol- 
sheviks had established an advanced line at their old position at Uch 
Aji, but this did not appear to be strongly held. 

On November I4th the premature burst of a shell set off an ex- 
plosion in an ammunition wagon, causing panic among the train-crew 
which quickly spread to the troops. Enemy shelling, probably stimu- 
lated by the explosion and the smoke and noise, added to the con- 
fusion and the whole force turned tail and retreated to Annenkovo, 100 
miles to the rear. At this point there was shelter for the armoured train, 
and sand-dunes for cover, but no natural advantages for a strong 
defensive position. After a pause to recover from their astonishment, 
the Bolsheviks advanced their own armoured trains to Ravnina, a few 
miles east of Annenkovo, but made no attempt to follow up their gain. 
Evidently fearing a flank attack, and with no stomach to face Indian 
bayonets and machine-gun fire again, they confined themselves to 
occasional artillery fire for some weeks to come. 

By this time winter had set in, and troops on both sides, at the 
front-line positions, took to the shelter of their trains. Snow and 
freezing winds brought operations to a standstill, Deprived of British 
help for a further advance, and deterred by the low morale of his own 
troops, Oraz Sirdar decided to sit it out in the hope that the British 
order might be rescinded and that help would be forthcoming from 
beyond the Caspian where Denikin's troops were advancing towards the 
sea. 

Soviet historians fumble a little in apportioning the blame for the 
near debacle at Dushakh. Superior British and Transcaspian numbers; 
heavier artillery; Aziz Khan's threat to their rear; and faulty command 
and planning all these are alleged. Some accounts even refer to the 
presence of a mythical Scottish battalion. One Soviet writer alleges that 

F 81 



THE BATTLE OF DUSHAKH 

4,000 British troops were engaged in Transcaspia. The only British 
troops (excluding the gallant Indians) in the fight were a few artillery- 
men and the British officers of the I9th Punjabis and 28th Cavalry 
and several staff officers. The total strength of the British-Indian force 
at the front was at that time about 500 officers and men. At no time 
was the British-Indian force in Transcaspia greater in numbers than 
1,000 officers and men. 

But for the poor quality of the Ashkhabad forces and the behaviour 
of the Turkman troops, the "Red* defeat at Dushakh might have proved 
decisive; as it happened, it gave Merv and the oasis area back to the 
Transcaspian government and staved off the economic crisis that was 
beginning to strangle their efforts to stabilize their position. 1 

The improvised nature of the chain of command and liaison 
between the British and Transcaspian forces no longer met the needs 
of the situation. Malleson's troops, although under Oraz Sirdar for 
operational purposes, had no unified command of their own. Malleson 
therefore requested his chiefs in Delhi to hasten the appointment of a 
senior officer to command the two regiments and details at the front. 
Brigadier-General G. Beatty, who had led Indian troops in France 
and Egypt and who was now in Lucknow, was immediately appointed 
to the post and was expected to arrive in Meshed towards the end of 
November. 

In preparation for the changes in command, and for the reorgani- 
zation of the whole defensive situation in the light of the collapse of the 
Turkish threat to Persia and Transcaspia, a staff conference of the 
British detachments and the East Persian Cordon was called to take 
place in Meshed at the end of November. 



82 



10 

Meshed 



MESHED in 1918 was a city of about 100,000 people, nearly a quarter 
of which were Turkmans, Afghans and tribesmen of various kinds. As 
the capital of the province of Khorasan, it had a Governor, a Prince f of 
the Royal Family and a garrison of several thousand Persian troops, 
some of whom belonged to the so-called Persian Cossack Brigade, 
commanded by Russian officers. Unlike other east Persian towns, 
Meshed contained a small European community, mainly Russian. The 
Governor lived in a state of provincial magnificence, and was provided 
with a bodyguard whose uniforms and accoutrements, more for 
show than for use, were a living example of Thorstein Veblen's theory 
of 'Conspicuous waste'. The army, apart from its officers, who were 
attired in a showy uniform of Austrian type, lacked provision; the 
ragged infantry, ill-fed and seldom paid, eked out their dreary existence 
in the dusty barracks facing the Maidan or public square, appearing in 
small parties, accompanied by a brass band (which had only one tune), 
on festive occasions or at public executions. It seemed doubtful that 
their warlike capacities would exceed those of the armies described 
in Morier's Hadji Baba or of FalstafFs ragged crew on the road to 
Shrewsbury, 

The official quarter of Meshed had a vaguely European air; a few 
solid buildings; a spacious Maidan, a park and several handsome 
Consulate houses contrasted with the narrow lanes and walled-in 
houses of the rest of the city. Russian influence was in evidence, 
especially in the bazaar, which still contained Russian goods, many 
booths and shops having Russian as well as Persian signs. 

A small European community, stimulated by the presence of the 
British Mission and lulled into a sense of comparative security, had 
embarked on the round of dinners, receptions and parties with which 
exiled Europeans in an Eastern country endeavour to compensate for 

83 



MESHED 

their sense of isolation. Apart from the British Consular and military 
staffs, the former Russian Consul-General, M. Nikolsky, with his 
military attache Colonel Baratov, General Guschin, a retired Russian 
officer, who had formerly commanded a unit of the Persian Cossack 
Brigade, a Russian doctor, a bank manager and several other Russian 
officers, formed a small but agreeable group of their own. Several 
Belgian officials of the Persian Customs Department (at that time most 
Persian fiscal, Customs and police organizations were directed by 
foreigners) and the Swedish commandant of the Persian Gendarmerie, 
Captain Janson, constituted another 'official' group. 

As there was little industry in the town except carpet-making, and 
that on a small scale, the principal source of income seemed to be 
pilgrims to the Bast, or Holy Shrine, of which more than 100,000 were 
reputed to visit the city every year, coming from as far afield as India, 
Mesopotamia and the Persian-speaking parts of Afghanistan and 
Turkistan. Dating back to the tenth century, when the city was known 
as Sanabad, the original building surrounded the tomb of the great 
Caliph of Bagdad, Haroun al-Rashid, of Arabian Nights fame, who 
died there. A years or so after Haroun al-Rashid's death, Prince, All 
Resa, twelfth in descent from the Prophet, died mysteriously in Sanabad 
and was buried close to the tomb of the Caliph. The tomb of Ali became 
the shrine of Ali, now the sacred Imam Reza of the Shia Muslims. 
Sanabad became Meshed, a 'place of martyrdom*, and one of the most 
revered places in Persia. By the fourteenth century Meshed had become 
a place of importance, the shrine having become known throughout 
the Shia world as the richest and most magnificent of all Persian places 
of pilgrimage. 

The temper of the people of Meshed had become more fanatical 
than is normal with Persians, probably due to the influx of pilgrims and 
the wild ceremonies depicting the murder of the holy figures of Shia 
Islam, Hussein and Hassan, which were a feature of the religious life 
of the city. 

In the year 191 1 Russian troops had invaded the holy precincts, and 
the golden dome of the Bast was damaged by shell fire, an act of 
sacrilege which still burnt in the hearts of the people of Khorasan. 

As a Shia shrine, the Bast possessed no special significance for 
the Sunni Muslim population, whose rejection of the Shia claims on 
behalf of the murdered Imams is as absolute as that of the rejection 

84 



MESHED 

by the early Western church of the heresies of Alexandria and Asia 
Minor. 

At the time of the events described in these pages there was much 
poverty and distress in the city, and when epidemic or famine struck 
the well-to-do betook themselves to more favoured regions, leaving 
their dependents and others to fend for themselves. Suffering from a 
long period of misgovernment and subjected to outside pressures and 
intervention by foreign Powers, Persia had lapsed into a state of 
apathy and official neglect, from which the country and its long- 
suffering people were not to emerge until an energetic leader arose to 
sweep away much dead wood and infuse energy and self-respect into 
the nation. 

During the summer of 1918 the Meshed bazaar was full of rumours 
of Turkish victories, of alleged British atrocities in Mesopotamia and 
of British hostility towards Islam. These stemmed from Turkish pro- 
paganda conducted through the 'Caucasian Committee* which at that 
time was active in the town. The Mission immediately took counter- 
action by the production of a daily news-sheet, and by bringing repre- 
sentative Muslims from Arabia, Mesopotamia and India to testify to 
the true state of affairs. The success of Turkish propaganda, and, at a 
later date, of Bolshevik propaganda, in some parts at least of the 
Muslim world, seemed to be less due to the efficiency of its promoters 
than to the absence of any effective British counter-propaganda organi- 
zation. Defamation of the British, and misrepresentation of Allied aims 
and policies, past and present, had a clear field until missions such as 
Malmiss took counter-steps, largely on their own initiative. Such 
action was local in its effect, but served its purpose at the time. 1 

News reaching the bazaars of east Persia and Afghanistan was 
tainted at the source, and distorted in the telling. Persian newspapers 
printed the bulletins of both sides, but the emphasis was on enemy 
successes and stories of alleged instances of British hostility towards 
Islam. 

The Mission news-sheet was supplemented by distribution of news- 
papers and illustrated magazines, some with Persian captions, contain- 
ing news of events abroad and short articles by Arab, Egyptian and 
Syrian writers. The news bulletin, which started with a single sheet, was 
now increased to four or five sheets, and contained material which was 

85 



MESHED 

daily gathered from wireless news-services throughout the world. If not 
all Malmiss bulletins were believed, effective competition with the 
rather clumsy productions of the Caucasian Committee, and the 
rumours spread by enemy agents, soon began to show results. These 
efforts on the part of the Mission were conducted at first with complete 
disregard for the susceptibilities of the Persians, but as time went on 
consideration was also given to their needs and difficulties. 

Apart from day-to-day information derived from field-wireless 
intercepts and sources in Transcaspia, the Mission's own intelligence 
network, now being extended to outposts in Sarakhs, Kuchan, Shahrud, 
Asterabad and Kahriz (on the road to Herat), and penetrating behind 
the Bolshevik lines to Chardzhou, Samarkand and Tashkent, began to 
bring in a steady flow of news. 

The Persian government, officially neutral, but embarrassed by the 
presence on Persian soil of troops of both sides, took no steps to check 
or counter the propaganda activities of either party. Public sympathies 
varied with the class, status, occupation and location of its members. 
The prestige of the combatants fluctuated with their fortunes, but 
Turkish propaganda, emanating from an Islamic country, albeit 
Sunni, possessed an advantage over that of the Allies. A considerable 
proportion of the population of Persia is of non-Persian race, and in- 
cludes many Afghans, Turkmans, Caucasian Tartars and nomad tribes- 
men who were more susceptible than the Shia Persians to propaganda 
and to ideas disseminated by enemy propagandists. 

This situation was now suddenly changed by news of the Turkish 
collapse, followed a few days later by the capitulation of Austria and 
Germany. This came as something of an anticlimax to the Mission in 
Meshed. The chief reason for the presence of a British Mission in 
north-east Persia, namely the threat of an enemy advance across the 
Caspian towards India, disappeared with the collapse of Turkey on 
October 30th, British involvement in the affairs of Transcaspia, de- 
rived from this threat, had somewhat changed its character as a result 
of the hostile relations that had developed between the Soviet govern- 
ment and Russia's former allies. The reasons for this hostility and in 
particular for the attitude of the Allied governments towards the 
Bolshevik regime, are many and varied, and likely to remain subjects 
86 



MESHED 

for dispute for many years to come. The decisions reached at Versailles 
early in 1919 to support anti-Bolshevik armies were, however, hased on 
quite different considerations from those which actuated the Govern- 
ment of India and the Array Command at Bagdad to send military 
missions to north Persia in 1918. In the latter case the moves were 
tactical, their original purpose being fulfilled with the collapse of the 
the enemy. Their involvement in Russian revolutionary affairs was acci- 
dental and even reluctant, although this will be disputed by Russian 
historians. But having become involved, the problem of disengagement 
was not an easy one, and was to become even more complicated as 
wider political issues came up for discussion at the Peace Conference 
tables. 

Malleson's planning had envisaged the maintenance of two fronts 
for some time to come; a holding operation against the Tashkent 
Bolsheviks to enable him to keep control of the Central Asian railway 
and the port of Krasnovodsk, and co-operation with other British 
forces in the Caspian area to block Turkish passage across the Caspian 
into Central Asia and into north Persia. 

Suddenly, with little warning, all this planning lost its significance, 
and the stimulus of planned operations was displaced by the uncer- 
tainties of future policy. The ending of the war for those in England, 
and for armies on the main fronts, was a release of tension and the 
removal of the fears and anxieties induced by the prospect of another 
winter of warfare. But for those who were on remote outpost duty in 
completely alien surroundings, and cut off from the mam course of 
events, the real significance of the ending of the war was not at first 
realized. It appeared to make little local impact; people were either 
indifferent or had little understanding of an event so remote from 
themselves. The pro-Turk element had been caught off guard, and made 
an effort to misrepresent the news as false. 

Within a few days of the Turkish capitulation, the advance party of 
a British occupation force from Enzeli under the command of General 
Thompson arrived at Baku where a. new provisional Azerbaijan 
government had assumed power. 

The detachment at Krasnovodsk was also strengthened by a naval 
unit, and several steamers were armed as a precaution against a revival 
of hostilities in the Caspian. 2 

The reoccupation of Baku by British troops in November was 

8? 



MESHED 

strongly protested against by Moscow, the charge being made that 
their presence there was actuated by a desire to secure control of the 
oil industry and extend British influence in Transcaucasia. 

General Thompson's orders were to maintain law and order, en- 
sure the evacuation of the surrendered Turkish army and in due course to 
hand over the civil administration to the legally elected local authority. 

A provincial government, anti-Bolshevik in character and aiming 
at Azerbaijan independence, took control of public affairs, remaining 
in power until replaced by a more stable regime, which continued to 
function during the period of British occupation, after which it was 
eventually replaced by a Bolshevik administration when Soviet 
Russian forces from Astrakhan took possession of the city. 3 



II 

The Move to Ashkhabad 



WITH the relatively stabilized position of the Merv front, the Turko* 
German threat to Transcaspia removed and contact re-established with 
Baku, Malleson decided to move his headquarters temporarily to 
Ashkhabad. Supply arrangements were now beginning to function 
smoothly. The road to Ashkhabad was now in fair working order and 
guarded by levies under the command of Captain Geidt, an Indian 
army officer with a genius for handling raw tribesmen and turning them 
into soldiers. Convoys offourgons and cars made the journey several 
times a week, and with the establishment of transport depots at 
Kuchan and Bajgiran (the latter under joint management with the 
Russians) there were few delays from breakdowns of vehicles. 

In view of the uncertain position regarding the further role of 
British troops in Transcaspia, it was essential that Malleson should 
meet members of the Committee and Army Command, and inspect 
the British-Indian force at the front. 

After the experience of Kaakha and Dushakh the question of the 
chain of command had to be examined on the spot. With the bulk of 
the forces at Malleson's disposal now in Transcaspia or on the way 
there, a local field commander was necessary, but before General 
Beatty took up his post the working of the new arrangement would 
have to be discussed with Oraz Sirdar and the two British regimental 
commanders, Colonel Knollys and Colonel Hawley. The arrival of 
British artillery and infantry units from Dunsterforce, and their 
posting to Krasnovodsk, Ashkhabad and Merv, also necessitated talks 
to resolve questions of command and supply. 

The restriction imposed by Simla on the movement of British 
troops east of the Merv oasis area would, it was realized, inevitably lead 
to difficulties with the Committee. TMs order could not fail to be 
interpreted by them as a clear indication that the British were solely 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

concerned with their own political and strategic interests and were about 
to abandon their Transcaspian allies, notwithstanding the fact that 
the British were in conflict with Bolshevik forces elsewhere. 

With British troops back in Baku, and growing opposition to the 
Bolshevik regime in Russia, it would be urged that a local with- 
drawal would not make sense, particularly at a time when the various 
anti-Bolshevik armies were making progress, Kolchak in Siberia, and 
the volunteer army in south Russia and the north Caucasus. 

At that time the question of Allied intervention, apart from the 
precautionary occupation of Murmansk and tactical military moves 
undertaken in the war against the Central Powers and Turkey, had not 
yet been determined as a matter of agreed policy, but hopes were 
entertained in many quarters that the Bolshevik regime would shortly 
collapse, or that with the end of the European war some kind of 
settlement would be reached that would safeguard the interests of all 
parties. 

The Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders shared this 
illusion, and continued to place their hopes on the calling of an All- 
Russian Constituent Assembly, which they vainly supposed would 
sort out all their political differences and produce a democratic con- 
stitution acceptable to the whole Russian nation. 

That this would be hindered, on the one hand by Bolshevik deter- 
mination to keep power in their own hands, and on the other by 
Russian incapacity for compromise, was yet to be seen. But the in- 
ability of members of the various opposition groups to see any point of 
view but their own, their contentiousness and tendency to faction, even 
when faced with the ruthlessness and single-mindedness of the Bol- 
shevik creed, hardly disposed Allied governments to view them with 
any degree of confidence. If Russia were not to be ruled by a Bolshevik 
dictatorship it seemed certain that it would be faced with a second 
Time of Troubles', as none of the numerous parties in opposition to 
Communist rule seemed able to produce a concrete programme of 
action, or the will to exercise authority. The lack of experience of 
practical politics and administration, the result of the Tsarist centraliza- 
tion of government and exclusion of "intellectuals* and members of the 
educated middle class in general from local government and public 
affairs, rendered the liberal and moderate socialist leaders incapable 
of undertaking the practical tasks of government and administration. 
90 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

Their energies were wasted in factional disputes and in theoretical dis- 
cussion. 

This state of affairs prevailed in Transcaspia and Baku as else- 
where in the territory of the former Tsarist Empire where civil-war 
conditions existed. Party leaders argued interminably and quarrelled 
over obscure points of socialist theory, while the Bolsheviks, as yet 
seriously unhampered by doctrinal dissension, adopted, with Machia- 
vellian subtlety, the principles of power politics, using force whenever 
argument failed to achieve its object. 

In Transcaspia the Committee and its adherents, conscious of their 
weakness, sought to thrust on to the British full responsibility for the 
defence of the region against Tashkent, as well as against potential 
enemies from Astrakhan and Baku. Although willing to provide the 
material support promised to Ashkhabad, General Malleson was 
equally determined to avoid being more deeply embroiled in Trans- 
Caspian domestic affairs than he could help. The instructions sent to 
Malleson from India at the end of November, placing a limit on the 
advance of British troops, clearly indicated that the Government of 
India had no intention of becoming more deeply involved in the 
morass of Turkistan. 1 In India the implications of the revolt of the 
native Muslim population against the Bolshevik regime in Tashkent 
were not yet fully appreciated. It was generally regarded as stemming 
from pan-Islamic agitation, and thus of interest mainly in relation to 
developments in Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier. 

While reassuring the Committee that no immediate withdrawal 
was contemplated, Malleson was compelled to resist firmly but tactfully 
all attempts by the Transcaspians to make Malmiss responsible for 
domestic problems, or for internal security measures. 

A few days before the arrival in Ashkhabad of the Mission from 
Meshed a plot to overthrow the government had been frustrated by 
swift action on the part of Drushkin, the chief of police. A demand for 
an increase of pay by the railwaymen had been followed by a threat to 
strike, and meetings had taken place in Ashkhabad and other centres 
at which anti-government speeches had been made. A number of people 
had been arrested and others placed under surveillance, but the threat 
to bring the railway to a standstill remained unless funds could be 
found to satisfy the demands of the railwaymen and minor officials. 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

In response to an appeal to Malleson, a squadron of the 28th 
Cavalry was sent to Ashkhabad, and General Thompson was re- 
quested to authorize the transfer of a platoon of the Royal Warwick- 
shire Regiment from Krasnovodsk to Ashkhabad. The Warwicks were 
transferred immediately and were installed in the main barracks and 
armoury to forestall any attempt on the part of insurgents to secure 
arms. 

While the situation at the front was temporarily stabilized, the 
position of the Committee had deteriorated. It was now confronted 
by a number of problems with which it was unable to cope unaided. 
The most urgent of these was the financial situation. The Treasury was 
depleted; currency was in a state of confusion and inflation was rife. 
The demand for higher pay on the part of officials and workers, in- 
cluding the all-important railwaymen, could no longer be ignored. 
Efforts to raise revenue through increased taxation had only partially 
succeeded and had given rise to public discontent which was being 
exploited by opposition elements among the workers. 

Reoccupation of the Merv area had eased the supply situation, but 
the cost of commodities had risen by leaps and bounds. Much damage 
had been inflicted on the inhabitants of the oasis, who were showing 
reluctance to dispose of their produce for depreciated currency. The 
bitterness against the Russians, caused by the seizure of Turkman 
supplies by the Bolsheviks when in occupation of Merv and the sur- 
rounding district, precluded steps being taken to requisition surplus 
stocks or to enforce sales. 

Another problem arose from the unsatisfactory state of relations 
with the Turkman population. While the latter were fiercely anti- 
Bolshevik, their relations with the Committee had not been clearly 
defined, in spite of the role played by Oraz Sirdar as commander of the 
Transcaspian forces. Nationalist sentiment was strong among the 
Turkman tribesmen; several of their leaders had not disguised their 
pro-Turk leanings, although this had not interfered with their friendly 
personal relations with British officers. While the Committee needed 
Turkman help, its Russian members were hesitant to accord them 
more representation and voice in public affairs than they then en- 
joyed. 

The question of recruitment for the army was another problem that 
exercised the Committee, or perhaps it would be more correct to say 

92 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

the Army Command. Avoidance of military service was general, 
particularly among workmen, both Russian and Armenian, and it was 
evident that the Committee hoped to overcome the deficiency in this 
respect by persuading General Malleson to make more troops avail- 
able. 

Many difficulties experienced by the government were due to lack 
of experience in administration, and to the proliferation of committees 
which constantly interfered in the carrying out of official and army 
orders. The government, in accordance with Russian tradition, adopted 
repressive police action to deal with public discontent, thus providing 
ammunition for the agitation, largely organized by underground 
Bolshevik agents, directed against its authority. The chief of police, 
Drushkin, had tightened up security arrangements which involved 
a number of arrests, actions which did little to enhance the popularity 
of the Committee or promote confidence in its ability to alleviate public 
discontent. 

One of the causes of financial stringency was the diversity of cur- 
rency. Three types of rouble notes were in circulation: the old Tsarist 
currency, commonly known as 'Nikolaisky'; the Kerensky government 
issue, taking its name from that short-lived government; and an issue 
by the Tashkent Soviet government. Persian notes were also in circu- 
lation, but these, as well as silver coinage of various currencies, in 
accordance with Gresham's Law were hoarded, or used only in private 
transactions. 

A 70,000,000 rouble windfall, found in the Treasury by the Com- 
mittee on taking over from the previous Soviet regime, was now prac- 
tically exhausted, while the value of the notes had dropped to a fraction 
of their original value. Curiously enough, 'Nikolaisky' notes, par- 
ticularly those of high denominations, still had high exchange value. 
This fluctuated with the success or failure of 'White* army operations 
elsewhere in Russia. Many millions of roubles in these handsomely 
printed notes were hoarded by members of the 'bourgeois' class, or 
traders, in the hope that they would some day regain their full value. 

The question of financial assistance by Malmiss had been under 
examination in Meshed for some weeks past, and had been the subject 
of much correspondence between the Mission and General Malleson's 
chiefs at Simla. No definite scheme had as yet been evolved, the main 

93 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

difficulty being that of exchange. The British were now providing their 
own supplies to their troops in the field, apart from some foodstuffs 
which were being paid for by roubles purchased for rupee drafts. This 
was a provisional arrangement which needed to be placed on a firm 
and agreed basis. 

Any issue of notes by the Transcaspian government would need to 
be backed by bullion, or by some form of guarantee, unless a complete 
change in the internal political and military situation took place that 
would enhance the authority and strengthen the stability of the govern- 
ment. It was evident that the problem of exchange would have to be 
overcome, or some method evolved whereby the credit of the Com- 
mittee could be stabilized with the least possible delay so that the 
questions of higher pay and prices could be handled without further 
loss of prestige. 

On questions of administration and police action against subversive 
elements, it was obviously undesirable that the British Mission should 
appear to be giving orders to the Committee, or interfering in its 
domestic affairs. On the other hand, security on the home front was of 
equal importance with security at the front, so that steps taken by the 
Committee to check subversion and counteract Bolshevik propaganda 
was in the interests of both parties. Drushkin, although not a popular 
official partly, no doubt, due to his Jewish origin, regarding which 
there was much prejudice among the Russians of all classes was 
energetic and courageous, and less concerned with doctrinaire matters 
than was the case with most of the Ministers and some of his colleagues. 
It therefore seemed desirable to discourage any attempt to dislodge 
him, the obvious aim of the malcontents as well as those who disliked 
him on personal grounds. 

The Committee's failure to secure the service of more volunteers was 
partly due to its loss of prestige and the deteriorating economic situa- 
tion. Conscription, although nominally in force, could not be enforced, 
at any rate against the Russian workers who, even if they had opposed 
the decrees and methods of Tashkent, had no wish to fight. The old 
resentment against authority; suspicion of the allegedly reactionary 
outlook of the officer class; the effects of pacifist and anti-imperalist 
propaganda; and now suspicion of the aims and motives of the British, 
fostered by Bolshevik propaganda in their midst, were all elements in 

94 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

the reluctance shown by many Russians, whether Menshevik or Socialist- 
Revolutionary, to take up arms against the Soviet. The majority of 
Russians (apart from many officers and officials of the old regime and 
members of the former upper class) seemed to be opposed to any 
reversion to the Tsarist regime, and were thus torn between a desire 
for the re-establishment of law and order and suspicion of any attempt 
to re-establish by force these essentials to normal living, especially 
where outside help (or, as many of them regarded it, foreign inter- 
ference) was involved. 

In this particular case the Transcaspian revolt against Bolshevik 
Tashkent was of their own making. The assistance they sought had 
been granted, it seemed to General Malleson, on reasonable terms. He 
had undertaken to assist them militarily and financially but not to 
relieve them of all responsibility for the defence of their own regime. 
Failure to reassure the Turkman people was one source of weakness; 
another was the suspicion shown towards ex-officers and soldiers of the 
old regime who were fighting at the front; while the size of military 
establishments in the rear as compared with the strength maintained at 
the front suggested inability of the government to enforce its orders. 

On the Turkman issue it seemed desirable that some assurance 
should be given to the tribesmen and their leaders that they were not 
merely fighting for one set of Russians against another set of Russians. 
The Turkmans, like the Kazakhs, Kirghiz and other Turkistan peoples, 
wanted some degree of autonomy, and the right, promised them by the 
Soviet government in the famous declaration of November isth, 1917, 
to manage their own affairs. Never reconciled to Russian rule, which 
they had strenuously resisted during General Skobelev's campaign in 
the seventies and eighties of the past century (Oraz Sirdar was the son 
of the defender of the Turkman fortress at Geok-Tepe), they had 
placed their hopes on the Turks, but now, with the collapse of the 
Turkish army, they were tentatively putting out feelers to the British. 2 

If full Turkman support to the Ashkhabad government were to be 
secured, it was essential, as a first step, to grant them more repre- 
sentation in their government, whatever risks were involved, and give 
them an opportunity to create their own local authorities. Some form 
of economic assistance was also necessary in view of the depredations of 
the Bolsheviks and the break-up of their traditional institutions. 

Obviously, this was not going to be easy, and British suggestions 

95 



THE MOVE TO ASHKHABAD 

would inevitably be regarded with suspicion. No encouragement had 
been given by the British Mission to the Turkman leaders that British 
help would be forthcoming, other than supporting their claim for 
wider representation in local government. The main difficulty, apart 
from Russian suspicion of native aims, lay in the fact that few Turkman 
tribesmen were educated; they had a nomadic and, in the case of the 
Tekke tribe, a village mentality. Freedom was in their blood, but it 
seemed unlikely that they would be capable, in a short time, to work out 
and sustain their own organization of government. However, the 
problem was there to be faced, and the attempt would have to be made 
to encourage the Committee to consider it, as a factor in the recruitment 
situation and in relation to wider questions of security. Turkman 
demands were already being made and would come up for discussion; 
the best that could be done was to put forward suggestions; how they 
should be implemented was a matter for the government to decide, if 
indeed the suggestions were not rejected forthwith. 

The Committee's desire to have more British troops made available 
was, of course, linked with their own recruitment problem. Apart from 
replacement of officer casualties, and the transfer of the rest of the 
Punjabis and 28th Cavalry to Transcaspia, there seemed now to be very 
little likelihood of any additional British or Indian troops being made 
available from Malleson's own limited resources. A few more infantry 
and artillery and some specialist troops might be provided from 
Enzeli by General Thompson, but his relatively small force was already 
fully occupied with maintaining order in Baku and with the difficult 
task of dislodging the scattered groups of Nuri Pasha's Turkish army 
from the Caucasus. 3 

The Turkish commander, evidently convinced that the confused 
situation in the Caucasus still provided opportunities for playing the 
pan-Turanian game, had announced that his army, which had a con- 
siderable number of Azerbaijani volunteers in its ranks, was now in the 
service of the Azerbaijan government. 

The arrest of Nuri Pasha and members of his staff soon put an end 
to this final effort to exploit local religious and political tension, but 
some months were to elapse before all Turkish troops were rounded 
up and disarmed, and placed under guard pending the completion of 
arrangements for their evacuation from Transcaucasia. 

96 



12 

The Executive Committee 



THE Transcaspian government consisted of a Board of Directors, five 
in number. The Board, commonly referred to as the 'Executive Com- 
mittee', consisted of Funtikov (Chairman of the Committee), Zimen 
(Foreign Affairs), Kurilov (Labour and Transport) and Dmitrievsky 
(Finance). The fifth member, General Kruten, was responsible in an 
advisory capacity for the army, while a Turkman, Hadji Murat, in an 
ex-officio capacity, represented Turkman affairs. Dokhov, who had 
been closely associated with Funtikov at the time the government was 
formed, was its liaison officer and representative in Meshed. 

None of these men possessed any outstanding qualities of leader- 
ship. Funtikov was an aggressive man of the 'Labour leader' type of the 
old school, without education, and addicted to intrigue. As he had 
shown in the case of the Twenty-six Commissars, he could be ruthless 
and vindictive, more through fear than because of strong conviction of 
the tightness of the course he was pursuing* A heavy drinker, he was 
alternately jovial and moody, and in the latter state inclined to be sus- 
picious. His authority stemmed from the role he had played in the 
revolt against Tashkent, and was sustained by an attitude of 'tough- 
ness' rather than by a display of moral leadership. 

Lev Alexandrovich Zimen, in appearance and manner, suggested a 
character out of a Chekhov play. Tall and spare, with a short beard and 
untidy hair, he wore a high collar, a frock-coat of clerical cut and pince- 
nez, through which he regarded the world with the eyes of a scholar. 
A schoolmaster, and a well-known Orientalist, he was an authority on 
Turkistan languages and culture, and had held important academic 
posts in Tashkent and Merv. By conviction he was a right-wing 
Socialist-Revolutionary, but like many Russian 'liberals* Ms ideas 
ranged far beyond the political programme of his party and would 
probably have been regarded as unorthodox. A kindly well-meaning 

o 97 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

man, he was out of his element in the company of tough characters like 
Funtikov and Kurilov, Zimen was the best-educated man in the Com- 
mittee, and any authority he possessed stemmed from that fact. He was 
outwardly friendly towards his British 'allies' and personally open and 
sincere in his relations with members of the Malmiss Mission, but, au 
fond, he had all the characteristic Russian suspicion of British motives, 
He had fixed ideas about the iniquity of the British regime in India, 
which he regarded as 'imperialistic' ; but at the same time he somewhat 
illogically regarded Russian control over the Muslim population of 
Turkistan as paternalistic and historically justified, although he would 
agree that the paternalism of General Kuropatkin, the last governor of 
Turkistan, left something to be desired. At a later date, when arrested 
in Baku by the Bolsheviks, he tried to place on British shoulders all 
responsibility for the actions of the Committee, his 'testimony' at his 
trial forming to this day part of the official Soviet charge of British 
'colonialist' ambition in Turkistan. 

Kurilov, a colourless man, was similar in type to Dokhov, but with 
the ruthlessness of Funtikov. Closely linked with the latter, he took 
an active part in the intrigues which ultimately led to the breakdown 
of the Committee and its replacement by a Committee of Public 
Safety, 

General Kruten, who had seen service in the Caucasus and Persia, 
was an attractive old gentleman of liberal views and an almost com- 
plete disregard for doctrinaire politics. What he lacked in energy and 
administrative ability he compensated for in honesty of purpose and 
personal integrity, both somewhat rare qualities in a revolutionary 
atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion, 

Hadji Murat, one of the few well-educated Turkman leaders, like 
his colleague Obez Baev, had the reputation of being a strong Turko- 
phile, and there is little doubt that he, like many Turkman leaders, had 
placed his hopes on Turkish plans to displace the Russians as the 
rulers of Central Asia. Both he and Obez Baev had been in Tsarist 
service, but they had little love for the Russians. In his relations with the 
British Mission he was friendly and courteous, and after the Turkish 
collapse he was among the Turkman leaders who sought British pro- 
tection for his people. 

The most outstanding personality in Ashkhabad was Simion 
Lvovich Drushkin, Director of Public Security. A lawyer of Jewish 

9$ 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

origin, he had escaped from Tashkent at the time of the purge of non- 
Bolsheviks from the Soviet administration earlier in the year. Drushkin 
was not unlike Kerensky in appearance: clean-shaven, with a keen, 
thin face and penetrating eyes. An efficient if ruthless policeman, he was 
not unnaturally far from popular, and was eyed with suspicion by some 
members of the Committee, as well as by the leading figures in the 
various committees that plagued the administration. As will appear 
later, Drushkin was to play an important role in the political crisis 
which developed at the end of December. 

Another personality who played an effective part behind the 
scenes was Count Dorrer, a senior official in Zimen's department, 
Dorrer had been associated with the provisional government regime in 
Tashkent, and had escaped from that city during the disorders which 
followed the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks early in the year. A self- 
effacing man of charming manners, with an attractive wife, he seemed 
out of place in the company of men of the type of Funtikov and 
Kurilov, and as a member of the 'bourgeois* class he was suspect in the 
eyes of the class-conscious Mensheviks and other proletarians who 
sought to overturn the government in power. 

In the wider political sphere it was still too early to form any 
estimate of the effect of the enemy capitulation in the West. That it 
would sooner or later alter the raison d'etre for the presence of British 
troops in Transcaspia seemed evident, although it was unlikely (or so 
it was considered at the time) that British commitments to the Trans- 
caspians would be abandoned lightly. The presence of British troops 
in the country would inevitably come under review in India and in 
London. Meanwhile there were immediate and practical issues to 
be solved. 1 

In these circumstances Malleson decided that talks with the Com- 
mittee should continue on a formal basis, but that for the time being 
they would be confined to the urgent questions of finance and supply. 
Preparatory talks on these matters had already taken place between 
Captain Teague- Jones and Zimen, and the Committee had been re- 
quested to produce memoranda setting forth their requirements. 
Zimen had been pressing for an early decision on the subject of a 
subsidy by the British as had been promised at the time the agreement 
was signed in August During this time various schemes had been 

99 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

under consideration in Meshed, and had been the subject of consulta- 
tion with the Government of India at Simla. Although Malleson's 
financial powers were 'unlimited' according to his orders, he was in fact 
still severely hampered by an acute shortage of cash, and had not 
found the higher powers in India particularly helpful in devising a 
workable plan to provide funds for Ashkhabad. 

A prerequisite to any effective financial scheme was assurance that 
the Committee should put its own financial house in order, in so far as 
it was able to do so. The appointment of a banker, Dmitrievsky, as 
Director of Finances gave some hope that steps in that direction would 
be taken, and that there would be effective control over the working of 
whatever plan would eventually be evolved. 

The situation had now become acute, and the Committee was 
urging that some provisional arrangement be arrived at to tide over the 
immediate crisis. Owing to exchange and other banking difficulties, a 
simple bank credit would not meet the case. Malleson and his advisers 
held strongly to the opinion that whatever method was adopted it 
should be one that would enable the Transcaspian government to build 
up its own credit and give it a more or less stable currency. To provide a 
cash subsidy on any other basis would simply make the British govern- 
ment responsible for the finances of the government and its budget, and 
compel the Mission to assume responsibility for its internal affairs. 

The scheme now under consideration provided for the issue by the 
Mission of promissory notes for a specified period payable on maturity 
in roubles. These notes, issued with the authority of the British govern- 
ment, their repayment guaranteed by the British Mission and the 
Transcaspian government, would circulate as currency during their 
period of validity, during which time the Transcaspian government 
would issue its own currency to an agreed amount. At the same time it 
was proposed that the British Mission would provide a silver bullion 
reserve to sustain the Transcaspian currency, which, however, would be 
based on the value of state property and enterprises. At maturity the 
Transcaspian government would make available roubles of its own 
currency for repayment of the promissory notes. 

In this manner, it was considered, the business community, wage and 
salary earners, and the public as a whole, would have an interest in 
supporting the authority responsible for the rouble issue, which, with 
the development of trade with Persia and, it was now hoped, with the 

100 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

Caucasus, would acquire an exchange value. The large stock of cotton, 
karakul (lamb-skins) and a few other commodities in hand had a sub- 
stantial market value, which, with the exercise of appropriate export 
controls and market development, should enable the government to 
stablise its finances. 

As the British and Indian troops in Transcaspia were maintained by 
the British commissariat, and considerable military supplies were 
being made available to the Transcaspian government without cost to 
them, there was at present no drain on them for foreign exchange. 

This scheme was discussed with Zimen and Dmitrievsky, and while 
it was apparent that the Committee would have preferred a cash sub- 
sidy in a form susceptible to exchange manipulation, they indicated 
their willingness to accept the proposal. When it was explained that 
some slight delay might ensue before authorization was received from 
India and bullion would arrive, they demurred, pointing out that the 
position was daily becoming more critical. 

General Malleson undertook to do everything possible to speed up 
authorization and the provision of silver, and urged that they should 
examine their own resources more closely in the meantime. It was 
known, for instance, that the government held a large stock of paraffin 
and other oil products which had been obtained from Baku and Kras- 
novodsk, and that there was a market for these in the Merv area as well 
as in Persia. This suggestion was received politely, but in private 
members of the Committee made no secret of their view that it was an 
intrusion into their domestic affairs. This attitude in the relationship 
between the Committee and their British allies was characteristic ajid 
gave rise to much mutual misunderstanding. 

In discussing army affairs, in which General Kruten and Army 
Commissioner Herman took part as well as Zimen, it was clear that the 
Committee was anxious to obtain a clear promise of reinforcement of 
British troops, either from India or from Enzeli. After explaining that 
in existing circumstances he was unable to promise more than the 
maintenance of existing strength from his own resources, General 
Malleson informed the Committee delegates that he had hopes of 
obtaining a small body of infantry and artillery from Enzeli, but that the 
question of more substantial reinforcements would probably depend on 
the policy decision of the British government regarding Baku and the 



101 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

Caspian area. This immediately brought up the question of British 
plans for that area. What are the British going to do about Baku? 
Would British forces from Enzeli or from Batum occupy other key 
points, such as Petrovsk? Would they resist a Bolshevik attempt to 
regain possession of these places? What were British relations with 
Denikin? And so on. 

To all these questions Malleson was not prepared to give a definite 
answer, but said that he 'hazarded the guess that while Baku remained 
occupied, and British forces remained in the Caspian area, they would 
continue to exercise naval control'. He added that in the latter con- 
nection he would be raising the question of facilities for naval refit, 
base stores and personnel at Krasnovodsk. Enzeli, for a number of 
reasons, political as well as technical, was unsuitable for the purpose, 
whereas Krasnovodsk had machine shops, a dockyard and skilled 
personnel, and already formed part of the defensive scheme for Trans- 
caspia. 

Malleson was aware that the Committee would welcome any sug- 
gestion for more extensive use of Krasnovodsk, not only because of its 
military significance to themselves but also because it would provide a 
bargaining card for them to play in presenting a list of their own 
requirements. But for the moment Malleson contented himself with 
mentioning the subject as one for subsequent discussion when the 
whole question of British military policy had been decided. 

As was expected, the question of the limitation placed on British 
troop movements beyond Merv was raised by the Transcaspians. They 
strongly urged that an effort be made to persuade the Government of 
India to rescind its order. The argument was presented that the recent 
success at Merv and withdrawal of 'Red' forces towards the Amu- 
Darya line was a clear indication of the weakness of the Tashkent 
army and command, and that a resolute advance with all forces avail- 
able, if undertaken quickly before the winter set in, would be certain of 
success. The Committee had information that the Tashkent Soviet was 
having difficulties elsewhere, and that a rapid advance in force would 
encourage other anti-Bolshevik forces in Turkistan to move against 
Tashkent. 

General Malleson held out no hopes that Simla's order would be 
rescinded. He shared the view of General Kruten that a quick follow- 
up of the 'Red' forces might achieve a substantial success, but he asked 
102 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

what steps the Transcaspian Command had taken to make the best use 
of the manpower and war materials they possessed. Zimen had men- 
tioned that there was a Russian population of nearly a quarter of a 
million in Transcaspia. If that were so, why were so few Russians at the 
front? Why had better use not been made of the Turkmans? Why were 
domestic political matters allowed to interfere with the smooth working 
of the army organization? 

As these questions touched on sore points namely the lack of 
political unity and cohesion, not only within the Committee but among 
the public; failure to enforce mobilization decrees because of resistance 
on the part of the railwaymen and other workers; fear of the Turkmans 
and antagonism towards ex-officers the Committee representatives 
could only reply that steps were being taken to remedy these deficiencies. 

Malleson did not press the point regarding the Turkmans, but 
suggested that it was a matter that should be seriously considered and 
that the Committee might do worse than consult Turkman leaders, 
including Oraz Sirdar. He followed this up with the obvious remark 
that the problem would not settle itself: the Committee should take the 
initiative. He then intimated that he had proposed to visit the front-line 
area, with the agreement of the Committee, but thought it better to 
postpone this for a few weeks. He was expecting the arrival of several 
senior officers from India, whom he would make available to organize 
the command and staff of the British-Indian troops on a sound basis. 
The present arrangement was a compromise, which had grown out of 
the piecemeal posting of troops to Transcaspia, and which did not take 
into account the arrival of other British troops from General Dunster- 
ville's command, with their own supply line. Moreover, he was re- 
luctant to place any extra burden on the staff at the front at a time when 
reorganization was in progress following the recent operations. 

A number of meetings took place at which these and other questions 
were discussed in greater detail. It was clear from the attitude of the 
Transcaspian participants that there was extreme nervousness about the 
internal situation, and that they placed all their hopes on receiving 
financial help as soon as possible. The rise in morale following the 
success at Dushakh had been offset by disappointment over the British 
standstill order which had aroused suspicion that it was a preliminary 
to withdrawal. Unfortunately, Malleson at this stage was unable to 
offer much comfort, as he felt obliged to confine himself to generalities 

103 



THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

until the situation, following the Turkish and German collapse, and the 
future of the British force at Enzeli, had been made clear. 

In the meanwhile, however, he notified his chiefs in India regarding 
the Committee's acceptance in principle of the financial scheme and 
strongly urged that a quick decision be arrived at and that a supply of 
silver coin be made quickly available.* 



104 



13 

Life at Ashkhabad 



IN TIMES of national crisis, particularly of a revolutionary nature, a 
large part of the population of cities seems to be seized with a hectic 
desire to eat, drink and be merry come what may. This behaviour is 
most noticeable among the class of people who stand to lose most by 
disturbance of the social order, and is probably a gesture of defiance 
against Fate. Even in the little Central Asian city of Ashkhabad some- 
thing of this spirit was observable among the Russians whose life and 
prospects had been upset by revolution and civil war. Restaurants and 
cafes were full, and a number of establishments of the cafe chantant 
type did a roaring business. Ashkhabad possessed no theatre, but 
several cinemas continued to show old films, many of them American 
slap-stick comedies and French bedroom farces of the old Max Linder 
type. 

Apart from the large number of officers at staff headquarters, a dis- 
proportionate number seemed to spend long spells of leave from the 
front. A certain number of ex-officers and officials of the old regime, 
together with their families, had taken refuge in Transcaspia before the 
fall of Baku; others had returned from Persia where they had betaken 
themselves during the previous Bolshevik regime. 

The business community, largely Armenian, had money to spend, 
and spent it freely. Many officials, whose low salaries were a cause of 
complaint against the government, spent long hours in cafes engaged in 
interminable discussion over glasses of tea or a bottle of cheap Caucasian 
wine. Vodka was on sale, but was not cheap; good brandy was, how- 
ever, obtainable at a reasonable price and was usually drunk in the 
local fashion with a lump of sugar and a slice of lemon to follow. 

Entertainment was provided by a horde of young ladies who had 
mysteriously descended on Ashkhabad from heaven knows where. 
Many of these were of local vintage, pursuing their vocation in private 

105 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

when times were bad and facilities for public entertainment and display 
were limited. 

Russian hospitality needs no special occasion to express itself, being 
limited solely by means. In Ashkhabad, at this time, there was no end 
to private parties; dinners, teas or simply informal gatherings to drink 
and gossip. Everybody talked endlessly. Any subject that came up for 
discussion was analysed, criticized, praised or condemned in a babble of 
voices, each speaker appearing to derive pleasure from the joy of 
argument rather than from any particular interest in the subject under 
discussion. Their quick intelligent Russian minds seized on any point 
that was raised; questioned it as a matter of course; then, like children 
tiring of a game, abandoned it for something else. 

In their attitude towards events in their own country they often 
displayed a curious blend of resignation with a rather naive sense of 
indignation that such things were allowed to happen. Hatred of the 
Bolsheviks was common, but it seemed often to be based on some per- 
sonal experience of an unpleasant nature. One old gentleman would 
wind up a fierce denunciation of the Tashkent regime with the com- 
plaint: 'Would you believe it; they stole forty poods of sugar from my 
store; forty poods P 

Although Russians are generallyfree from snobbery,some of the ladies 
took pleasure in recounting, with sighs, stories of their former splendid 
estate, their acquaintance with Prince So-and-So and other past glories. 
All this was harmless, and who would have wished to deprive them in 
their present situation of their moments of reminiscence or fantasy? 

That these friendly good-natured people had another side to their 
character was evident from what had been happening all around us. 
That ruthlessness and cruelty were not confined to the 'downtrodden 
workers and peasants* was shown by the behaviour of both 'Reds' and 
'Whites', and the graduations in between. It was true that the workers 
and peasants, relieved of the restraints of the former government, of 
religion and of the mystique of Tsardom, had displayed, and were still 
displaying, a ferocity and callousness towards their former 'betters' that 
put the jacquerie of 1789 in the shade. In their reaction to this, 'White* 
officers and officials were capable of equal brutality, particularly to- 
wards Bolshevik leaders who fell into their hands. An unhappy out- 
come of all this was the disposition, later displayed by both sides, to 
put the blame for this conduct on to the 'interventionists*. 

106 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

At least half the population of Ashkhabad consisted of various 
types of Turkmans, Uzbeks, Persians and Caucasians. A large colony of 
Armenians, mostly traders and workmen, occupied the densely popu- 
lated quarter near the railway station and yards. The Armenians 
provided the bulk of the Transcaspian troops, not through any 
process of selection but because many Russians, being railway workers, 
were 'indispensable', or else were able, through Trades Union 
influence, to put themselves in that class and avoid being sent to the 
front. 

It was difficult to determine what occupation, if any, was followed 
by the Asian community. Most of them seemed to spend their time 
sitting about in the native bazaars on the outskirts of the town or 
wandering about the streets. The Turkman was more often than not a 
visitor from a neighbouring aul or native village; some were market 
gardeners, coachmen or small traders in the bazaars; others belonged to 
the improvised cavalry units that were, nominally at least, part of the 
armed forces. The Russians disliked and feared these, an attitude that 
derived from, appreciation of the fact that the Turkmans disliked 
Russians in general, but also from the stories of Turkman atrocities 
towards prisoners and stragglers. 

Although outwardly there was nothing abnormal about the appear- 
ance and day-to-day life of Ashkhabad, the atmosphere of the town was 
tense. There was little of the feeling of common purpose among the 
people as a whole; various sections of the community eyed one an- 
other with suspicion or dislike; even among people who had most to 
lose by the fall of the government there was criticism of its members 
and of the administration in general. Fear or dislike of Bolshevism had 
been a unifying force, at least among a majority of the people; both 
sentiments still existed, but were overlaid by local faction, by jealousies, 
by fear of the Turkmans, and, among most Russians, by suspicion of 
the British. The Armenians who feared the Turks and Turkman 
tribesmen, and did not share the national pride of the Russians, were 
largely pro-British; the Turkmans were pro-Turk, but were not un- 
friendly towards the British. The Socialist-Revolutionaries distrusted 
the Mensheviks, and both disliked or feared the Bolsheviks. The Russian 
'bourgeois' and most ex-officials and former officers despised all the 
socialist groups, and longed for the good old days. 



107 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

In an atmosphere such as this it could hardly be expected that 
General Malleson, with his 'hard-boiled' temperament, would evince 
any sentimental preferences for one group or another. His attitude was 
determined by the task he had undertaken, and by his training as an 
Indian army officer to get on with his job with very little regard for the 
teeming life going on around him. 

When not engaged in discussion with his officers, or writing des- 
patches, he would take short drives into the hills to the south of 
Ashkhabad, where there was a little shooting to be had. When visitors 
called he would keep the interview short, leaving any details to be 
worked out by members of his staff. He read a good deal, mostly old- 
fashioned novels of the Charles Lever or Wilkie Collins type, which were 
sent to him from Quetta by the diplomatic bag. 

He had considerable knowledge of birds and animals, and could be 
induced to talk freely about different species and their habits. When in 
an expansive mood he would also talk about such matters as the Indian 
Mutiny, or Kitchener's campaign in the Soudan, or the Afghan wars, 
on all of which subjects he was widely read. His views were frequently 
unorthodox and critical of authority, and even cynical. One sensed that 
he felt his own merits had not received due recognition, although he 
never permitted himself a word of criticism of his seniors in talking to 
junior officers. Conscientious, meticulous in small matters and hard- 
working, Malleson was a lonely man who could unbend only when dis- 
cussing something of particular interest to himself. It is doubtful 
whether he found anything of interest or worthy of special sympathy in 
Transcaspia, unless it was the beautiful Tekke carpets, a number of 
which he bought or received as gifts. In the last case he invariably 
returned a suitable gift, usually a sporting gun or a revolver with 
cartridges, of which he had a collection. 

Ashkhabad, although a fairly large town and the capital of the pro- 
vince since Skobelev's time, had little of historical interest. No earlier 
city had occupied its site as was the case with Merv. It had been laid out 
in the spacious Russian style as a military and administrative centre, its 
government structures being solidly built, but seldom higher than two 
floors. This was chiefly because of the prevalent earthquake shocks, 
one of which was to destroy part of the town some years later. 

The cantonment and barracks were far superior in design and 

108 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

structure to similar constructions in India at that time. Quarters for 
both officers and other ranks were excellent: bathrooms and kitchens 
abounded and there was a plentiful supply of hot and cold water. 
Parade-grounds were spacious and surrounded by trees. Any ideas that 
British officers in India may have entertained about the makeshift 
character of Russian military posts were quickly dispelled by sight of 
the very substantial and commodious establishments in Ashkhabad, 
Merv and Bairam AH. 

Throughout Transcaspia the solid and permanent character of 
Russian buildings was evident. The railway, running through difficult 
desert country, often with shifting sands, had been solidly built; its 
stations, goods depots, tanks and rolling stock of excellent design, the 
roomy passenger coaches comfortable and well appointed. There was 
much superficial dilapidation as a result of war-time neglect and recent 
disturbance, but less than might have been expected. 

While it may be true, as is now asserted by Soviet writers, that the 
Tsarist government, and its military governors in Turkistan, did little 
for the native Muslim population, except indirectly, there was every 
sign of careful planning in public works and in such economic develop- 
ment schemes as had been undertaken. Irrigation, especially in con- 
nection with cotton-growing, had made considerable progress, and 
many of the railways and roads, completed later by the Soviet authori- 
ties, were built, or planned and surveyed, by the Imperial government. 1 

Tsarist neglect of the interests of the Kazakh, Kirghiz, Uzbek, 
Tadjik and Turkman population, at that time more than 90 per cent 
of the whole, is still the principal theme of Soviet criticism of its pre- 
decessors. The application of the term 'colonialism' in Soviet pro- 
paganda against British and other Western nations regarding their 
exploitation of Asian and African lands is merely an extension of its 
use as applied in Soviet criticism of Tsarist administration in Central 
Asia. The vital point which is now completely ignored in this Soviet 
criticism of Tsarist exploitation is the mass settlement of Russians in 
Turkistan, carried out extensively by former Russian governments and 
which, more than anything else, was responsible for the hostility, or, 
at best, the sullen passivity, of the native population towards their 
Russian overlords. Settlement of Russians and Ukrainians throughout 
Turkistan has increased enormously under the Soviet regime, the old 

109 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

free-and-easy life of the nomads and settled native villagers having been 
upset in the wider interests of Russian settlers, state industrialization 
and large-scale farming. In the long run this has brought considerable 
material benefits to all concerned, and has raised the productivity of 
the Soviet Union as a whole, but no amount of Soviet propaganda 
regarding their beneficent role in Central Asia can alter the fact that 
what the Soviet government has done, and continues to do, in this 
region can more accurately be described as colonialism than this term 
can be applied to the administrative control and development of large 
areas of Africa and Asia by European Powers. Except in South and 
East Africa, and to a limited extent in Indonesia, European settlement 
in Asia and Africa was on a very small scale. In Turkistan the settlement 
of Russians on Kazakh and Uzbek lands runs into millions, and the 
process continues. 

In Transcaspia, a barren desert country except for the oases of 
Merv and Tedzhen and small fertile patches near the Persian border, 
there had been less economic development in Tsarist times than in the 
Ferghana valley and farther east and north-east. The Turkman nomads 
and villagers had been left pretty much to fend for themselves. Mainly 
nomads, living in their felt-tented auh, they tended their flocks, pro- 
ducing their sheepskins and carpets as they had done for centuries. 
In the oases they were small farmers and horse-dealers, living separ- 
ately from the Russian population. Few of their people had any 
education. Their religious leaders were ignorant, and often fanatical 
with the narrow outlook of isolated people. 

Although possessing many virtues, the Turkman had a long 
tradition of raiding and banditry. Once the terror of the Persian 
Khorasanis and the settled population of the river valleys, his raiding 
habits had been kept in check by the Russians. With the loosening of 
authority during the early days of the revolution, opportunities to 
exercise old habits presented themselves, and there was a certain 
amount of more or less organized raiding from hide-outs in the moun- 
tains or in the vicinity of the Afghan frontier. Old accounts were settled, 
and unpopular Russian officials and others were killed. 

During the Bolshevik regime in Transcaspia the larger Turkman 
landowners and traders were deprived of their property, nominally in 
the interests of the less affluent, but really as an act of revolutionary 
policy, blindly undertaken and clumsily executed. As a result of this 

no 



LIFE AT ASHKHABAD 

action the latent anti-Russian sentiment of the tribesmen took an anti- 
Bolshevik shape, so that they found themselves the reluctant and 
suspicious allies of the Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary government 
of Ashkhabad, and, in due course, its British collaborators. 2 

The depredations of bandits like Aziz Khan, whose services had 
been utilized by Oraz Sirdar during the operations near Merv, thus 
received some sort of official countenance. But as it was impossible to 
direct Aziz Khan's services into controlled channels, his services became 
more of a nuisance than an asset, and it was to be found necessary at a 
later stage to place him under restraint. 

Reference has already been made to the comparative uselessness of 
the Turkman for cavalry reconnaisance and for planned operations. In 
fact, as time went on, the Turkman horsemen became a liability, as their 
habits of stripping and killing prisoners and stragglers, whether friend 
or foe, reflected on the behaviour of the Transcaspian army as a whole. 
Many Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war, who as a result of British 
post-armistice propaganda attempted to cross the desert and thus escape 
Bolshevik conscription, were intercepted by the Turkman cavalry and 
slaughtered. 

It will thus be seen how complicated and diverse were the problems 
with which the Mission was confronted in Transcaspia as a result of the 
undertaking to assist the Transcaspian government. All manner of 
economic, political and social problems called for redress, none of 
which was the concern of the Mission, and which would need many 
years to settle. With the collapse of Turkey, and German withdrawal 
from the Caucasus, British military co-operation with the Ashkhabad 
government would lose its original justification. Meanwhile, all that 
could be done was to endeavour to keep the propped-up edifice intact, 
as far as this was possible, and await official pronouncements as to 
future policy. 

In view of the signing of an armistice on the Western front, high- 
level policy decisions which would affect the role of the Mission were to 
be expected in the near future, The changes that had already taken 
place in the over-all situation were such that fresh instructions would be 
needed in the light of the report on the local situation that was now on 
its way to India and to London. 



Sinews of War 



BEFORE returning to Meshed in mid-December General Malleson took 
advantage of a visit by Oraz Sirdar to Ashkhabad to discuss the -military 
situation with the Transcaspian commander. He had already consulted 
with the commanding officers of his own troops, now installed at 
Merv and Bairam Ali, pending the consolidation of a front-line 
position. 

The Transcaspians were now entrenched at Annenkovo. Kushkh had 
been occupied, unfortunately too late to benefit from the store of war 
equipment which had been removed by the Bolsheviks. Although 
Annenkovo was no less exposed to a flank attack than was Dushakh, 
it was nearer to its supply base at Bairam AH than the former front-line 
position had been to Ashkhabad. From all available information it 
seemed unlikely that there would be a renewal of offensive operations 
on a large scale by the Bolsheviks for some little time to come. 

To avoid the interminable arguments which were a feature of dis- 
cussions with members of the Committee, the meetings with Oraz 
Sirdar took place privately, only Zimen, as Foreign Minister, and 
General Kruten being present on behalf of the government. Captain 
Teague-Jones, who spoke fluent Russian, and had spent some time at 
the front where he had been in action with the Indian troops, was 
fully informed on the military as well as the local political situation, 
and was therefore able to prevent .the meetings being taken up with 
side-issues. 

Oraz Sirdar made no secret of the fact that he was greatly dis- 
heartened by the order from Simla restricting the movement of British 
troops to defensive operations. He seemed to have little confidence in 
the ability of his own forces to make a further advance unaided by 
British and Indian troops, but at the same time he urged the desirability 
of moving forward to the Oxus before the winter set in. He regarded 



SINEWS OF WAR 



the Annenkovo position as untenable in the event of a renewal of the 
offensive by Tashkent, and doubted the ability of his troops, about 
whose fighting capacity and morale he had no illusions, to stand up to a 
resolute attack unless substantially reinforced. 

Both Oraz Sirdar and General Kruten continued to urge that 
General Malleson should endeavour to persuade his own chiefs to per- 
mit the British-Indian contingent to participate in an advance to 
Chardzhou. While they had hopes of securing the services of some 
Caucasian cavalry from General Denikin and perhaps a few officers 
and specialist Russian volunteers from Baku, these, they thought, 
were hardly likely to arrive before the end of December. 

Oraz Sirdar raised the question of Bukhara. As members of the 
Committee had already suggested, the Emir of Bukhara had a large, 
if poorly equipped, army at his disposal, and considered himself to be 
threatened by the Bolshevik government at Tashkent. He was less 
likely to enter into an agreement with the Transcaspian government 
than with the British, and while his troops could hardly be expected to 
play any part in operations in Transcaspia, it was in his interests to 
co-operate with an anti-Tashkent force to free Chardzhou, which was 
in his territory. 

General Malleson was unable to hold out any hopes to Oraz 
Sirdar that the Indian government order would be rescinded, but 
reassured him that there was no immediate intention, so far as he was 
aware, of withdrawing forces from Merv. Some reinforcements could 
be expected from Krasnovodsk, and he hoped to provide more guns 
and perhaps aircraft in the near future. As regards Bukhara, Malleson 
urged Oraz Sirdar to ascertain what were the Emir's views on the 
situation, and his intentions towards Tashkent, but added that the 
Emir was not to be led to suppose that British co-operation would 
necessarily be forthcoming. 

During the course of these talks Zimen intimated that he had 
hopes of obtaining assistance from General Bicharakov, now back in 
Baku. Bicharakov was engaged in the setting up of a Central Caucasian 
government together with a group of politicians whose past record 
did not inspire much confidence in their ability to win popular support 
It was no secret to members of the Malleson Mission that amen had 
been in correspondence with members of this group and that he had been 
angling for some form of agreement with them. As it was uncertain what 

H 113 



SINEWS OF WAR 

Bicharakov and his new colleagues were aiming at, Malleson held the 
view that no fresh commitment was desirable, at any rate until the still- 
confused political situation had been resolved in Baku. 1 Moreover, so 
long as British troops were in Transcaspia it was essential that Kras- 
novodsk should remain under their control and continue to function as 
a transit point and base for any naval operations that might have to be 
undertaken in the event of a Russian Soviet naval attack from Astra- 
khan. 

Therefore, while not discouraging Zimen from seeking reinforce- 
ments and supplies from the Caucasus, Malleson reminded him that the 
agreement with the Transcaspian government provided for British 
utilization of the port and installations at Krasnovodsk for the period 
of hostilities. Malleson, therefore, wished to be assured that no political 
agreement which might affect the position at Krasnovodsk would be 
entered into with a third party without the agreement of the British 
Mission. Slightly dashed by this blunt speaking, Zimen hastened to 
assure Malleson that no arrangement had been made or was con- 
templated, but made the quite reasonable point that the limitations 
placed by the Government of India on the movements of Malleson's 
own troops, and the changed situation following the Turkish collapse, 
must of necessity compel the Transcaspian government to seek addi- 
tional help where it could find it. 

Malleson's decision to return to Meshed for a few weeks before 
visiting the front was occasioned by the arrival there of his army com- 
manding officer, Brigadier-General Beatty, with several staff officers. 
General Beatty had been serving with Indian army forces in France and 
Egypt, and until his present appointment had commanded the cavalry 
brigade at Lucknow. Brigadier-General Dickson, Inspector of Com- 
munications of the East Persian Cordon, was also expected in Meshed, 
where a conference was to take place before Beatty left for the front to 
take over his command. 

Another urgent requirement was the arrangement for the issue of the 
promissory notes and the disposal of the silver currency, part of which 
would be brought by Beatty's party. Consultation with a representative 
of the Imperial Bank of Persia was necessary for the implementation of 
the scheme to be adopted. 

Before leaving Ashkhabad, MaHeson had a confidential talk with 

114 



SINEWS OF WAR 

Dorrer at the latter's request. Dorrer, who was in an agitated state, said 
he was gravely disturbed about the internal situation in Transcaspia. 
Bolshevik propaganda, and agitation by the underground Bolshevik 
organization, was not without effect, and he felt doubtful whether the 
Committee as a whole had the support of more than a section of the 
population. Its fear of the Turkman made it hesitant to give the 
tribesmen more arms, and while there was no fear that they would 
exchange their support of the Transcaspian government for allegiance 
to Tashkent, they might try to take control of the country into their own 
hands if and when the British left, 

Dorrer, who was evidently trying to obtain more definite infor- 
mation about British intentions than Malleson had been able to give 
Zimen, went on to say that he expected trouble in Ashkhabad in the 
near future. Railwaymen, town workers and public servants were 
restive and coming under the influence of agitators. It was only because 
of the vigilance of Drushkin's police that matters had not yet come to a 
head. 

Asked whether the opposition elements preferred the Tashkent 
regime to that of the Transcaspian government, Dorrer replied that he 
thought the majority did not; they had supported the revolt against 
Frolov and his gang, but there was a strong feeling against the 'White* 
Russian regimes of Kolchak and Denikin, who were popularly regarded 
as aiming at a return of the old regime. The mass of the workers 
were less pro-Bolshevik than anti-'White*; some of them resented our 
presence as being reputedly supporters of reactionary generals and 
capitalists. 

Dorrer went on to say that members of the Committee were by no 
means united in their political attitudes. There was no longer any idea 
of trying to reach an understanding with Tashkent; that had been con- 
sidered at the outset, but it was now too late. Even if the Tashkent 
Soviet were disposed to talk it would be on their own terms. From his 
knowledge of the leading personalities in Tashkent he thought that 
several of them would agree to discussions, but he had no doubts what 
the outcome would be, and he, for one, would wish to have no part in 
it. 

With this warning in mind, Malleson and his staff returned to 
Meshed on December I9th, Malleson having instructed his representa- 
tive in Ashkhabad to keep a close watch on the situation and report 

115 



SINEWS OF WAR 

any developments that were indicative of a worsening of the position 
as indicated by Dorrer. 

Authority having been received from India to proceed with the 
financial plan, the Committee was informed that financial assistance 
was forthcoming and the suggestion was made that in anticipation of 
this help an increase in the wages of the railwaymen and officials 
should be granted at once. In this way it was hoped that one source 
of grievance would be removed and opposition to the government 
lessened. 

The Committee evidently preferred to wait until the British promis- 
sory notes were in circulation before acting on this advice, although 
promises were made of early wage adjustments. The immediate crisis 
had been averted, and helped by the arrival in Ashkhabad of the a8th 
Cavalry and the Warwicks, the Committee was able to keep the situa- 
tion in Ashkhabad temporarily under control, although it was clear 
from all available information that opposition was deep-seated and 
too widespread to be dispelled by palliative measures. 

The necessary promissory note forms had been printed, and a 
small 'Finance Section* formed to supervise and control the issue. Two 
finance officers were sent to Ashkhabad to undertake these arrangements. 
The Committee had already published a notification in the Ashkhabad 
Press explaining the nature of the note issue and its relation with their 
own currency arrangements. In order to strengthen public confidence 
in Transcaspia, in the issue and in the Committee's own financial 
measures, a plan was devised whereby the silver currency brought 
from India, or obtained through the Imperial Bank of Persia, would be 
unloaded, weighed and counted in the presence of witnesses, In this 
way it was hoped that the new currency issue would obtain popular 
acceptance from the start. 

In reporting to the Government of India on his views of the situa- 
tion in Transcaspia, Malleson was far from optimistic about the 
ability of the Committee to remain long in power without British 
support, and pointed out that troops, as well as members of the Mission 
located in Ashkhabad and elsewhere, were precariously situated. He 
considered that support of the Transcaspian government, financially 
and otherwise, should continue as long as British troops remained in 
the country, and that whatever the ultimate decision might be it should 
be borne in mind that the lives and property of many thousands of 

116 




The Bukharan Envoy and General Beatty 



White Russian reinforcements to Transcaspia from the Caucasus, 1919 





The British Consulate at Meshed in winter 



The garrison church at Ashkhabad 



The road between Meshed and Ashkhabad 




tiw * f six mite tte ^ of FHH5 HIINDEED B0BBLB& 




Fig 2. ^i^ve ; A reproduction of a genuine promissory note as issued 

by the Maileson Mission 

Below: A spurious note, produced in Ashkhabad after the departure 
of the MaHeson Mission. Note errors in spelling 



^6247 



TUB MAFT <3tF THi BRITISH J^UTAKY MSSSQ^. . 



to 



l**r*r that ^M *f FIVE H5JNURED RUBLES. 



-- 1 

IQ '..-'- . ^ -f eg e|ia^--w^^.,M^^^** 

lift,, ', ..;,'"',./ . -'i^^f^ap--Bow^,l|M^' 



,|^..^QplWNnR; 




SINEWS OF WAR 

people would be in jeopardy if there were to be a too-hasty withdrawal 
or if the government were to collapse. 

Brigadier-General Beatty, together with two staff officers, Major 
Thompson and Captain Ibbotson, were already in Meshed. They had 
made the journey from Quetta in less than a week, a speeding up of 
transportation that had been made possible by completion of repair 
work on the road carried out by the sappers and levies under General 
Dickson's command. 2 

Beatty, a large jovial man, exuding energy and good fellowship, 
took the measure of his new chief at once, adjusting him self to Malleson's 
withdrawn personality with evident ease. Although temperamentally 
poles apart, they had a common interest in wild life and in shooting 
which manifested itself in excursions into the neighbouring countryside. 
With little interest in the ideological questions and political problems 
with which the Transcaspian situation was beset, Beatty regarded his 
role clearly and simply as a military one. To take over the command of 
troops which were precluded by orders from advancing, even when the 
enemy retired after an unsuccessful attack, could hardly be regarded 
as an attractive prospect, and one that would need all Beatty's tact 
and ability. As it was still uncertain what new orders would be forth- 
coming, or what the future role of British troops would be in the light 
of events elsewhere, all plans had to be of a provisional nature. With 
uncertain allies, and the possibility of a collapse in the rear, pre- 
cautionary steps for eventual retirement over the Persian border had to 
be taken, without these becoming known to the public or rumours of a 
British withdrawal reaching Tashkent. 

The question of providing some reinforcement for Malleson in 
east Persia had been discussed with Beatty before he left India, but he 
had been given to understand that any decision about the sending of 
additional troops would depend on developments in Afghanistan and 
the North-West Frontier of India and on the outcome of policy talks 
then proceeding between the government of India and the British 
government. In any case, if any temporary reinforcement of Malleson's 
troops in Transcaspia was to be provided, it would in all probability 
come from the British force in Baku or from the Black Sea army in 
occupation of Constantinople and Batum. 

It had been intended that General Beatty and his staif should 

118 



SINEWS OF WAR 

proceed to Bairam All in December, but in view of the exchange of 
telegrams between Simla, London and army staffs regarding moves 
and changes in area commands, General Malleson decided to keep 
them in Meshed until the position became clearer. 

The formation of an All-Russian government at Omsk by Kolchak, 
and the successes achieved by Denikin's forces in south Russia and 
the north Caucasus, suggested that a Bolshevik collapse was within 
the realm of possibility. The future of anti-Bolshevik regimes, such as 
the Transcaspian Committee, thus seemed to depend on the outcome 
of civil-war operations elsewhere, and in particular on the struggle 
then at its height between 'White' and 'Red* in Siberia, the Ukraine and 
in north Russia. With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, and the 
collapse of Turko-German plans in the East, the role of missions and 
detachments of troops in north Persia and Transcaspia could hardly 
remain unchanged for long. A return to peaceful conditions seemed 
unlikely in the foreseeable future ; all the forces unleashed by revolution 
and civil war, and the unreconcilable outlook of 'Reds' and * Whites/ pre- 
cluded any possibility of agreement between the various parties, groups 
and national sections being attained by negotiation. One side or the 
other must win and impose its authority on the rest. In the prevailing 
atmosphere in Europe, still conditioned by the stresses and sharp judge- 
ments of war, the hopes of the majority of people were placed on the 
side of the 'Whites', who, it was generally considered, represented the 
forces of law and order and normality. As time was to show, this was a 
simplification of a complex issue, but the stresses and strains of four 
years of war, and the shock of violent revolution in Russia with its 
new leaders preaching revolt and disorder, had produced an emotional 
state of mind in which judgements could hardly be expected to be based 
on objective and balanced criteria. 

Although public opinion in the West, as a whole, had been sym- 
pathetic towards the Russian revolution, the excesses of Bolshevism 
and the violence of the Communist propaganda attack against the 
former allies of Russia alienated even that section of the community 
that favoured non-interference in Russian affairs. 

Intervention, despite reaction against Communism, was, however, 
generally unpopular, and as the earlier progress of * White* armies turned 
to failure and disaster, their leaders displaying no understanding of 
the revolutionary mood of the Russian people, the demand for the 

119 



SINEWS OF WAR 

withdrawal of Allied missions and troops became general in Western 
Europe and America. 

In remote Meshed little was heard of these developments, but it 
was clear that, with the changed situation, withdrawal from advanced 
and, in certain cases, untenable positions was only a question of time. 



120 



After the Turkish Capitulation 



BRITISH troops from 'Norperforce' at Enzeli, now back in Baku, and 
Captain Norris's naval force, both, under General Thompson's com- 
mand and reinforced by the addition of several more armed ships 
with British officers and Russian crews, were keeping a close watch for 
possible raids by Soviet ships based on Guriev and Astrakhan. General 
Thompson's chief responsibility was to enforce the terms of the armis- 
tice on the Turks, whose troops were still encamped outside Baku and 
along the railway to Elizavetpol. The Turkish commander, Nuri 
Pasha, on the curious pretext that a large part of his mixed force 
were under the command of the Azerbaijan government, showed little 
disposition to withdraw his army. The Turks had looted Baku and were 
in possession of their ill-gotten gains; they also held as prisoners a 
number of prominent non-Muslim citizens whom they had been 
'squeezing' to compel them to disgorge their wealth. 

Much damage had been done to the oil and harbour installations 
during the Turkish occupation. It was considered essential to get these 
repaired, and the oil pipe-line working with the least possible delay. The 
economic life of Baku was at a standstill; food was short and the 
currency situation confused. Many thousands of unfortunate Armenians 
had been slaughtered by the Azerbaijani Tartars'. Unless a firm hand 
was applied the racial conflict would continue, with disastrous results 
for all. 

The new Baku government, mainly Azerbaijani, was a provisional 
one, and therefore unrepresentative of the varied groups of the popula- 
tion. General Thompson, as head of the occupying force, had therefore 
the delicate task of maintaining law and order, rebuilding public 
administration and enforcing the departure of the Turks, while en- 
couraging the creation of as representative a form of government as 
was possible in the circumstances. 1 

121 



AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

Troops from the British Salonika army were shortly expected to 
arrive in Batum from Constantinople, but there was still some un- 
certainty regarding the relationship between those troops and the 
Menshevik government of Georgia. The Germans had departed in 
haste through the Ukraine, but in the North Caucasus and the Kuban 
region the 'White* armies of Generals Krasnov, Denikin and others 
were in conflict with the rapidly growing 'Red' armies. Their relations 
with the 'independent' Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijams were 
strained., as they did not recognize the new status of the Transcaucasian 
states. 

The naval base had been shifted from Enzeli to Krasnovodsk, where 
a small garrison of British troops had taken over responsibility for the 
defence of the port. Although this arrangement had been accepted by 
the Ashkhabad Committee, it had given rise to a certain amount of ill- 
feeling, and was interpreted by many as indicative of British intentions 
to establish themselves more or less permanently in the area. 

To the east of the front line, in Bolshevik-held Turkistan, mobiliza- 
tion of all able-bodied Russians was in progress, and a thorough re- 
organization of the command and equipment of the 'Red' Army was 
taking place. The Turkistan Republican Government in Tashkent was 
faced with famine conditions throughout the steppe area and at the 
same time had to contend with a now widespread revolt of the Muslim 
population as well as with a revival of the counter-revolutionary activity 
of the 'White' so-called Turkistan Military Organization. This movement, 
controlled by an underground organization in Tashkent, was widespread, 
but little was known regarding its ramifications, or of its leadership. 
Its leaders seemed to have based their plans on successes by the various 
'White' armies, particularly that of Admiral Kolchak in Siberia, and may 
have taken into account the possibility of a British advance from Merv 
to the Oxus. British contacts with certain of its agents, entered into for 
Intelligence purposes, have been interpreted and deliberately exag- 
gerated by Soviet historians as attesting British political support for 
these activities, and even direction of 'White* plans. Even the 'Alasli' 
revolt in Kazakh territory, which followed closely upon the Kokand 
incident, and which for a time was associated with Admiral Kolchak's 
forces in western Siberia, is attributed by Soviet historians to foreign, 
and chiefly British, influence. That rebellion, like the Basmachi revolt, 
was triggered off by the repressive measures taken against the Kazakhs 

122 



AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

by a new Russian regime that was as fully determined as its Tsarist 
predecessors to keep power in Russian hands, and to obtain possession 
of Kazakh lands for Russian settlement. This it achieved by force of 
arms. 

With the withdrawal of the Bolsheviks from the Merv area, oppor- 
tunities for obtaining intelligence from Tashkent and other centres 
beyond the Oxus were seriously reduced. Other channels were gradually 
opened, but information now took some time to reach Meshed. Some 
information of doubtful reliability was obtained from prisoners and 
from Austro-Hungarian refugees, who, with great risk to themselves, 
crossed the desert and gave themselves up. The Austro-Hungarian 
war prisoners, who had been enrolled in the 'Red* Army, surrendered to 
the British-Indian troops in large numbers, and were then transported 
to Krasnovodsk for evacuation to the Caucasus and eventual return 
to their homelands. 2 

Malmiss was well informed of the activities of Bolshevik agents in 
north Persia and in Afghanistan. Several weeks previously three Soviet 
emissaries from Tashkent arrived in Persia by way of Sarakhs and 
announced that they had been sent on an official mission from the 
Turkistan government to discuss the cessation of hostilities. The three 
Russians, Babushkin, Afanasiev and Kalashnikov, had no credentials 
and appeared to have no precise instructions as to their mission. They 
were placed under arrest in Meshed pending inquiries regarding their 
antecedents and positions in Tashkent. Kalashnikov, who announced 
that he was an ex-officer and opposed to the regime in Tashkent, whose 
service he had entered in order to escape from the country, had met 
Colonel Bailey in Tashkent and confirmed the latter's presence there. 
The other two appeared to be sincere adherents of the Tashkent 
regime, but were critical of its policies and behaviour towards members 
of other socialist parties. 

In response to a notification to India of the arrival of the three men 
in Meshed, Malleson was instructed to hold them as hostages for the 
safety of Colonel Bailey and the American Consul Tredwell and other 
British and American citizens in Soviet hands. On being informed by a 
member of the Mission of this intention, Kalashnikov asked to be 
permitted to send a radio message to Tashkent with a request that he 
and his colleagues be exchanged for Bailey and other British citizens 

123 



AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

held in Turkistan. A message to this effect was sent, but no reply was 
received, probably because the Cheka in Tashkent was unable to lay 
hands on Bailey, who was in hiding. 

Eventually Babushkin and Afanasiev were sent to India to be held 
as hostages. Kalashnikov, having announced that he wished to place 
his services at the disposal of the Ashkhabad government, was sent to 
Ashkhabad. On his arrival there he was promptly arrested on the orders 
of the Committee, and evidence having been produced at his subsequent 
trial that he had taken an active part in repressive measures against 
non-Bolshevik elements in Tashkent and in propaganda against the 
Transcaspian government, the court sentenced him to death and the 
Transcaspians shot him. Such were the depths to which revolutionary 
and counter-revolutionary leaders had sunk through fear and mutual 
hatred. 

It was no secret that agents from Tashkent were attempting to stir 
up trouble in Afghanistan, and that the ambitious clique of mullahs 
and tribal politicians at Jelalabad, who eventually killed the Emir and 
seized power, were in touch with agitators in Tashkent. The character 
of those who were responsible for the Emir's assassination was shown 
by their subsequent behaviour, and by the conflicting nature of the 
intrigues that were unfolding at Kabul. While seeking Soviet aid, the 
Afghan plotters sought contacts with anti-Soviet Basmachi forces in 
Turkistan; while asking Tashkent for help, they were considering 
giving help to the Emir of Bukhara; and in declaring their friendly 
intentions in relation to the Soviets, they plotted for the retrocession to 
Afghanistan of the Tedzhen oasis area which had been seized by Russia 
in 1885, ar * event which had nearly led to war between Great Britain 
and Russia. 

Such a situation provided Malleson with many opportunities for 
creating confusion in the enemy camps by disclosing through appro- 
priate channels to each side information as to what the other side was 
secretly aiming at. During the Afghan war, which was to break out 
early in the new year after the murder of the Emir Habibullah, full 
scope was given to opportunities for conducting a form of 'political 
warfare' and deception, presented by the duplicity of both parties. 
This was to give rise to many legends regarding the British role in the 
confused situation that had arisen, most of which will undoubtedly 

124 



Russian staff officers and a 
British liaison officei 




The sole reconnaissance aircraft 
used by the Transcaspian officers 





. 

: 1: 3 B 




Soviet stamps issued December ist, 1933, to commemorate the fifteenth 
anniversary of the death of the Twenty-six Commissars: Shaumian 
(upper left), Dzhapadze (upper right), the Commissars lined up for the 
shooting (lower left), and the memorial building near Krasnovodsk. 

The Cheka in the Caucasus in 1919; the banner reads "Extraordinary 

Commission (Cheka), death to the enemies of the proletariat !' 




AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

remain current until unbiased historians have access to original records 
and can separate facts from propaganda. 

The prospect of a British conflict with Afghanistan was disturbing, 
although General Malleson, who had a unique knowledge of the 
Afghans, was firmly of the opinion that any adventure undertaken "by 
politicians in Kabul would not necessarily be followed by similar 
action in Herat and Kandahar. Precautionary steps were taken along 
the East Persian Cordon line, and rumours of the impending arrival 
of a large British-Indian force in east Persia were spread in the bazaars 
of western Afghanistan. The Hazaras, numerous in that area, were 
known to be friendly, several thousand of them being in British service 
as road and transport workers. 

In Khorasan the situation was quiet, the 'Caucasian Committee*, 
stunned by events in the Caucasus and the Turkish collapse, confining 
their efforts to the spreading of rumours about alleged atrocities on the 
part of the British in the Muslim holy places. As there was little sym- 
pathy among Persians for Afghans, no trouble was anticipated from 
that quarter. 

While the food situation throughout Persia was still bad, it had 
eased since the previous winter, when famine had devastated many 
areas of northern and western Persia. The Mission had provided a 
large quantity of food for local distribution, which was undertaken by 
the army to avoid the dishonest diversion of supplies which invariably 
attends relief work in Eastern countries when conducted through local 
agents. 

The complete indifference displayed by some Persian landlords and 
officials and affluent citizens to the distress of the less fortunate was a 
striking contrast with their more attractive qualities. One of the most 
gifted and, in some ways, most civilized of peoples, the Persians seemed 
at that time to lack social conscience. Indifference to the sufferings 
of animals is all too common in Eastern countries and Persia was no 
exception to the rule. Horses were well cared for, but the little beast 
of burden, the patient donkey, was ruthlessly exploited and over- 
worked, While Persian poetry is full of references to nightingales and 
other singing birds, no interest seemed to be taken in bird-life, other 
than shooting those that were edible. The almost universal signs of 
decay and poverty that characterized the country in those days ware 

125 



AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

indicative of the apathy and deterioration of public morale that had 
been brought about by misgoverament, and of the sad condition to 
which a once great civilization had fallen. Foreign occupation was 
undoubtedly partly to blame, but the chief responsibility for the 
existing state of affairs seemed to lie elsewhere. Fortunately, a change 
has come over the country since those days, largely due to the energy 
of one man, Riza Khan, and an able successor, but also to American 
and British help and the financial benefits which Persia has derived 
from the exploitation of the oil resources in the Gulf area. 

By this time members of the Mission had established friendly rela- 
tions with several Persian officials. Although the presence in Meshed 
of British troops was no more welcome than occupation by the Russians 
had been, they were shown much courtesy by Persian officials. Persian 
houses, so uninviting from the outside, were bright and pleasant once 
one had penetrated the forbidding wall that separated them from the 
narrow dusty street. Visitors would be invited to sit on beautiful rugs 
and wine and fruit would be brought. Conversation was usually con- 
ducted in French and ranged over many topics, but seldom touched on 
politics or the motives for the presence of the British in Persia. These 
brief interludes did something to compensate for the monotony of 
daily life in a city that had little to offer outside official duties. 

As a holy city, Meshed was the burial place of many thousands of 
pilgrims, the bodies of the dead being brought from far-distant places 
for interment in the vicinity of the great mosque. Yet an air of neglect 
and indifference enveloped these dusty graveyards, the larger tombs 
falling into the decay that appeared to have overcome most buildings 
in the town, including the smaller mosques a&dmedressehs. 

With the oncoming of winter, Meshed lost any charm that the 
presence of trees and vegetation gave the city. The dusty streets became 
muddy tracks, and the great Maidan an expanse of slush and pools 
of dirty water. The smell of burning camel-dung pervaded the town. 
The wretched beggars stood in the shelter of the mud walls shivering 
in the cold and wailing their appeal to passers-by. 

In the absence of precise instructions from India, Malleson decided 
to return to Ashkhabad and notified GJH.Q. in India accordingly. In 
acknowledging his telegram outlining the tuation, earlier instruc- 
tions concerning the stand-still of Malleson's troops in Transcaspia were 
126 



AFTER THE TURKISH CAPITULATION 

reaffirmed, with the suggestion that they should be stationed for the 
time being near the Persian frontier. It was further intimated that the 
question of Malmiss and the force coming under the command of 
General Milne was under consideration. 

As the suggestion that the troops in Transcaspia should be quartered 
near the Persian frontier was an indication that neither G.H.Q. nor the 
political authorities in India had a clear grasp of the situation in 
Transcaspia or of the physical conditions of the region, Malleson 
decided that his best hopes lay in an early meeting with representatives 
of General Milne's command who were already on their way to Trans- 
caspia from Constantinople. Malleson therefore replied that he pro- 
posed to visit the front with General Beatty to examine the position 
on the spot, and would report his findings and make his recommenda- 
tions in due course. 

It was at this juncture that news was received from Ashkhabad of 
a renewal of the internal crisis. Having surmounted the first serious 
display of opposition to their rule, the Committee had been unable 
to stabilize their position and were once more faced with a situation 
that was beyond their unaided capacity to handle. 



127 



i6 

Crisis in Transcaspia 



THE crisis, which had been brewing for several weeks, was brought to 
a head with the government announcement that the mobilization of all 
men between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five was to be under- 
taken. All the efforts of the Committee to obtain volunteers from the 
workships, railways and factories had failed. The number of Russians 
at the front, apart from ex-officers and a few soldiers from the former 
Tsarist garrison forces and the withdrawn Persian expedition (Saratov's 
army), had been steadily diminishing, the railway workers in par- 
ticular resisting all efforts to persuade them to enlist for active service. 
Thus, the very element in the population that had resisted the decree 
of Tashkent to mobilize manpower now resisted and even actively 
sabotaged the attempt by the Transcaspian Committee to conscript a 
single age group. 

The activities of Bolshevik secret agents, and of members of the 
Bolshevik underground organization, had increased since the re-open- 
ing of communications with Baku. The financial crisis, now on the way 
to being overcome, but still acute, and the rising cost of living were not 
the only factors in popular dissatisfaction. The railway workers who 
held a whip-hand over the government in a roadless country dependent 
on the working of the railway line for its existence as well as for 
supplying the front, kept up a constant pressure on the government, 
their demands for higher wages and other concessions being used by 
their militant leaders, now more often than not secret Bolshevik 
agents, to whip up political agitation and resistance to government 
orders. 

Other factors were fear of counter-revolution and dislike of the 
*WMte J generals, distrust of the Turkmans and a not unnatural dislike 
of the presence of foreign troops on Russian soil. 

Several hundred Daghistani cavalry belonging to Bicharakov's 

128 



CRISIS IN TRANSCASPIA 

cavalry force had been brought to Transcaspia as a result of Zhnen's 
negotiations with the provisional government in Azerbaijan. These 
troops, on arrival in Ashkhabad, proceeded to create disturbances by 
looting the bazaars and by riding around the streets at full speed and 
generally making a nuisance of themselves. Instead of entraining them 
without delay for the front, the Committee injudiciously kept them in 
barracks in Ashkhabad, evidently considering that their presence 
there would add to the security of the government. This action had 
exactly the opposite effect. 

On December 3Oth and 3ist a number of meetings of railway and 
other workers were held in Ashkhabad and other centres. Called for 
the ostensible purpose of discussing the workers' own problems and 
presenting denfands for higher wages, these meetings quickly took on a 
political character, pro-Bolshevik spokesmen demanding negotiations 
with the Bolsheviks, the opening of the front and finally the expulsion 
of the British. 

Immediate action was taken by the Committee to ban meetings and 
a number of arrests were made. The Daghistanis were sent to the front, 
together with a number of other troops who had been undertaking 
guard duties. This threw the responsibility for maintaining order in 
Ashkhabad on the British. 

The Committee then announced that unless a considerable sum of 
money was made available at short notice to satisfy the railway workers' 
demands its members would have no alternative but to resign. These 
tactics were obviously designed to force Malleson's hand. It was clear 
that the British commander could not tolerate chaos at the rear while 
his troops remained at the front. What was not so clear to the Committee 
was that the British authorities in London and India were becoming 
increasingly opposed to deeper involvement in the domestic affairs of 
Transcaspia now that the war was over, and that the resignation of the 
Committee, unless followed by the formation of a new government 
with the same objectives in view, would absolve the Mission from 
providing any further assistance. 1 

After twenty-four hours of negotiation they reaffirmed their inten- 
tion of resigning. The suggestion was made by TeagueJon&s on behalf 
of Malleson that Zimen should attempt to form an alternative govern- 
ment. This he declined to do, but later declared his willingness to serve 
in a reconstituted committee with increased powers, provided further 

i 129 



CRISIS IN TRANSCASPIA 

financial help from the British was forthcoming. The resignation of the 
Committee took place on January ist, but it remained in office until 
the morning of the 3rd, when it was replaced by a new committee 
calling itself the 'Committee of Public Safety*, consisting of Byelov as 
Chairman, Zimen as Foreign Minister, Drushkin as Minister for 
Public Security and Hadji Murat representing the Turkman population. 
General Kruten retained his post as military adviser in an ex officio 
capacity. Although no very clear legal basis existed for this move, it 
seemed to be the only alternative to chaos. The new Committee was 
therefore assured of British support. The former Turkman represen- 
tative, Obez Baev, took command of Turkman cavalry at the front. 

An order was issued by the Committee on January ist and re- 
affirmed on the 4th, forbidding all public meetings until further notice. 
This was followed by the imposition of censorship on all external 
correspondence to control propaganda activity directed from Baku 
and elsewhere in the Caucasus. In issuing these orders the British 
Mission was cited as jointly responsible for enforcing the first, while 
the public was allowed to assume that the censorship order had, at 
least, the blessing of the British. It is perhaps questionable whether this 
implicit association of the name of the British Mission with the change 
of government and the first public acts of the government should have 
been permitted. At that time it was doubtless regarded as unavoidable 
and perhaps as necessary. Its ultimate effect was to saddle the British 
with responsibility for enforcement of law and order, and to create 
the legend that the new Transcaspian government was little more 
than the puppet of the British Command, a viewpoint that has 
received official sanction in all Soviet accounts of the Transcaspian 
episode. 

An immediate issue of a further batch of British promissory notes 
helped to ease the financial strain. Notwithstanding the clear statement 
in the text of these notes, and in the public announcement concerning 
their issue, that payment would be made in roubles after ninety days, 
there was a widespread impression that payment would be made in 
some other currency, even in bullion; some hoarding of the notes kept 
them out of circulation. This was to give rise, at a later date, to entirely 
unjustified charges of chicanery. Some notes even found their way 
abroad, and were being presented to mystified bankers and exchange 
brokers. This was to lead to further recrimination, and even to the 

130 



CRISIS IN TRANSCASPIA 

charge that the whole operation was a financial swindle, a charge that 
no objective inquiry could sustain. 

While these domestic complications were being unravelled, General 
Malleson received notification that direction of the Mission and the 
troops in Transcaspia had been transferred from the Government of 
India to the British War Office and that they would henceforth be locally 
responsible to General Milne. In anticipation of such a move, pre- 
liminary steps to substitute the Krasnovodsk-Baku supply line for the 
Meshed-Birjand-Quetta line had already been taken, an additional 
reason for taking firm steps to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted 
working of the Central Asian railway. 

General Beatty took over the command of the British-Indian troops 
at Merv and Bairain Ali during the first week of January. As news was 
being received of a concentration of Bolshevik troops at Chardzhou 
and Ravnina, he immediately entered into consultation with Oraz 
Sirdar's staff for organization of the line of defence. It was assumed 
that the attack, when it came, would be a heavy one and that an attempt 
would be made to outflank the Transcaspian position. Cavalry patrols 
were sent along the line and north and north-east of the Annenkovo 
station. Captured prisoners confirmed the main plan of attack, which 
included demolition of the railway line in the rear of the Transcaspian 
position. 

The attack started in the early morning of January i6th. It had been 
a bitterly cold night, and a thick mist covered the desert, making obser- 
vation difficult but also providing cover for the movement of troops by 
each side. In spite of precautions taken to protect the railway, enemy 
demolition parties succeeded in blowing up a section of the line in the 
rear of the armoured train at Annenkovo, but by 10 a.m. a repair 
party succeeded in making good the damage, by which time reinforce- 
ments from Bairam Ali were in position, and cavalry screens were well 
out in the desert on either flank. By 1 1 a.m. the main body of the enemy 
was reported advancing behind an armoured train about three miles 
from the Annenkovo front line. The train opened fire with its two guns, 
but the shells went wide or passed well over the front line, the fog pre- 
venting the gunners from estimating the correct range. At the same 
time a large enemy force was reported advancing from the north-east 
covered by artillery fire. Turkman and Caucasian cavalry sent out to 

131 



CRISIS IN TRANSCASPIA 

intercept this advance fell back quickly in the face of heavy fire. In the 
meantime the main body pressed home the attack, while the enemy 
flanking movement had reached the rear of the Transcaspian armoured 
trains. 

At this moment a company of the I9th Punjabis arrived from 
Bairam Ali, and immediately went into action, driving the enemy force 
right back across the original Transcaspian line which had been 
abandoned. The 28th Cavalry and a large force of Turkman horsemen 
then attacked the enveloping Bolshevik line, driving their troops, who 
seemed to have lost contact in the fog, back in confusion. A further 
frontal attack on the Transcaspian armoured train was defeated by a 
determined counter-attack by the whole of the train-crew and the 
Russian and Armenian infantry protecting it. 

The Bolsheviks thereupon began a general retirement. Seven 
machine-guns were captured, but the enemy was able to withdraw all 
his artillery. His losses were more than 500 killed and wounded and 
many prisoners. The losses on the Transcaspian side were less than half 
this number, including twelve killed and thirty-six wounded of the 
1 9th Punjabis and two or three of the 28th Cavalry wounded. 

From prisoners it was discovered that the total enemy force had 
been brought up to nearly 10,000 of which 1,500 were former prisoners 
of war. Twenty trains of troops had been brought up to Ravnina, as 
well as eight field guns and a large number of machine-guns. Rations 
had been issued for a three-day operation, which was to include an 
encircling move from the north and a drive through the Transcaspian 
position to Merv. 2 

Exactly why the Bolsheviks broke off the attack it is difficult to 
judge. Staff plans seemed to have gone awry, and the fog made lateral 
contact difficult. But their preponderance of military strength, their 
heavier artillery and tactical advantage in attack should have enabled 
them to sweep aside the Transcaspian defence. Once again their 
command failed them or their planning was defective. Their troops 
fought bravely, as is attested by their heavy casualties. On the Trans- 
caspian side all units fought well, which disposed of the contention of 
the railwaymen's leaders at Ashkhabad that the troops at the front 
were only waiting an opportunity to lay down their arms. Even the 
Turkman cavalry obeyed orders, and after the earlier retirement rallied 
and drove the flanking force of Bolshevik troops back in panic. After 

132 



CRISIS IN TRANSCASPIA 

this engagement a combined effort could easily have driven the Bol- 
shevik army back to the Oxus. But this was not possible without the co- 
operation of British and Indian troops, and the opportunity was lost. 

No further move was made by either side, the front remaining 
static until after the British had withdrawn at the end of March, when 
the Bolsheviks, heavily reinforced by Soviet troops brought by rail 
from central Russia via Orenburg, which had already been recaptured 
from Dutov, attacked the Transcaspians and drove them back to Merv. 

The legend, which Soviet historians have created, to the effect that 
the 'Red' Army drove a British army, several thousand strong, pell-mell 
out of Turkistan, is thus on a par with Soviet accounts of the Basmachi 
revolt. The Soviet account of these events completely distorts the picture 
of events in Turkistan in 1918-19, and provides a convenient back- 
ground for the current version of the re-establishment of Russian 
authority in Central Asia. By grossly exaggerating the number of 
British troops in Persia and Transcaspia; by falsifying dates; and by 
imputing motives that are entirely fanciful, and charging the British 
with possessing plans for the permanent occupation of Turkistan, 
Soviet historians, following the party line, seek to find justification for 
the actions of the revolutionary leaders of 1918-19, and interpret their 
conduct as necessary measures to deal with foreign-supported counter- 
revolution and British 'imperialism'. 



133 



17 

Winter Stalemate 



WHEN Malleson set up his headquarters in Ashkhabad again during 
the second week of January the town was outwardly quiet, the presence 
of a half-company of the Warwicks from Krasnovodsk and a squadron 
of the 28th Cavalry ensuring that no plot to overturn the government 
or to sabotage supply arrangements had any chance of success. Although 
reluctant to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Committee, Malleson 
had no intention of permitting any flagrant breach of public security 
while troops under his command remained at the front. That this 
would alienate still further that section of the community that was 
opposed to the presence of British troops disturbed him not in the 
least, as held he no brief for any group or party, regarding all with 
equal distaste. At the same time he regarded himself as committed to the 
support of the government, within the terms of the agreement, and so 
long as a British force remained in the country. 

The new Committee's financial measures were now in operation. 
The first supply of silver coin received from India was in the hands of 
the bank, and preparation for the new note issue were well advanced. 
A quantity of roubles had been purchased in Persia and had been made 
available to the government as an advance in anticipation of future 
arrangements, and some payments for supplies and other services had 
been made in Persian krans to relieve the exchange situation. 

There had been some patrol activity at the front and intermittent 
shelling from armoured trains by both sides, but otherwise all was 
quiet. Rumours of large Bolshevik concentrations at Chardzhou were 
current, but all available information suggested that no large-scale 
attack from that quarter was to be expected at an early date. German 
and Hungarian ex-prisoners of war captured during recent operations 
reported that mobilization of all available manpower was in progress, 
but that the war prisoners were no longer displaying willingness to 

134 



WINTER STALEMATE 

fight in the Bolshevik ranks. Several thousand of these had been en- 
rolled, some as volunteers, but the majority with one object in view, 
namely to break through the one obstacle to repatriation, which they 
supposed was the front at Annenkovo. Only distorted news of the end 
of the war in the West was reaching them, the local newspapers re- 
porting highly coloured accounts of revolution in Austria and Germany 
and revolutionary disturbances elsewhere. 

As a British force was now at Batum and was moving along the 
railway towards Tiflis, an early visit by representatives of General 
Milne's 'Black Sea' Command was shortly to be expected. The decision 
to undertake the occupation of Transcaucasia pending a decision as 
to the future of the Transcaucasian state had been reached at the 
forthcoming Peace Conference had been taken by the War Cabinet in 
London in mid-November, although evidently without any clear idea 
as to what was to be done about it. At that time the main objects appear 
to have been to withhold oil supplies from the 'Red' armies and prevent 
the infection of Bolshevism extending into Persia and the Middle East 
The future of areas such as Armenia and Georgia, which had proclaimed 
their independence and were clamouring for Allied recognition, was 
likely to come up for discussion at the forthcoming Peace Conference 
at Versailles and much lobbying by various interested parties in London, 
Washington and Paris had already begun, 1 

The main body of the British-Indian force was at Bairam AH, 
twenty miles east of Merv, and at the front-line position at Annenkovo, 
some fifty miles north-east of the latter place. The British troops at the 
front were regarded as being on outpost duty, and were in fact regularly 
relieved by other sections of their own units at Bairam Ali. At that 
time the whole British force consisted of one company of the i/4th 
Hampshires, ninety strong, three squadrons of the 28th Cavalry, three 
companies of the I9th Punjabis and one battery of the 44th Royal 
Field Artillery. (At Ashkhabad were stationed one squadron of the 28th 
Cavalry, one company of the I9th Punjabis and two companies of the 
Royal Warwicks.) The total strength of this force was therefore well 
under 1,000 men. Transcaspian strength was about twice this number, 
including the Turkman cavalry units, and was shortly afterwards in- 
creased to about 2,500 by Daghistani Cossacks and a few infantry and 
artillerymen from Denikin's forces in the Caucasus,* 

135 



WINTER STALEMATE 

Merv (since renamed Man) was at that time a smaller, but less 
solidly built edition of Ashkhabad. Standing in an irrigation area, its 
immediate surroundings were relatively well cultivated and the streets 
of the town itself were tree-lined, with many gardens and orchards. 
Although comparatively few Transcaspian troops were stationed in the 
town, the streets and cafes were full of Russian officers and their 
wives. As in Ashkhabad, numerous Turkman and other native central 
Asian types were to be seen about the streets, while the bazaar, an 
open one, might have been that of any small town across the border 
in Khorasan. 

The Merv oasis is the larger of the two great irrigated areas in the 
eastern part of Transcaspia. It is watered by the Murgab river, which 
rises in the Parapomisus range in the extreme north-west of Afghanis- 
tan. After flowing through 200 miles of semi-desert country it splits 
up into the numerous channels which irrigate the oasis, and then 
flowing northward peters out in the sandy waste of the Karakum. The 
ancient city of Merv, once a great centre of civilization, lies in the 
extreme eastern part of the oasis, close to the modern Bairam AIL 
Little remains of the old city but battered ruins and numerous mounds. 

To the north, the Karakum, the Black Desert, stretches to the 
swamps at the southern end of the Aral Sea, the area surrounding the 
old walled city of Khiva, and eastward to the Amu-Darya, the 'mighty 
Oxus* of history and legend. The desert is virtually impassible, except 
by the few caravan tracks running north and south, which link up the 
infrequent and brackish wells. 

The whole Tedzhen-Merv area has been the scene of many historical 
events and has seen the passing of the Turki and Mongol hordes which 
devastated Persia and neighbouring countries in the Middle Ages. The 
native Turkman population are a remnant of the Turkish tribes that 
moved westward and formed the great Hchan dynasty on the ruins of 
the Bagdad Caliphate, and later the Ottoman Empire of modern 
Turkey. 

The various tribes of Turki-speaking peoples of Turkistan the 
Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirghiz and Turkman peoples are interrelated, 
although there are Mongol and Persian strains. The Tadjiks are partly 
of Persian origin and still speak a form of the Persian language. The 
Turkman population in and around Merv had suffered from repression 
during the Bolshevik occupation, and were disposed to take their 

136 



WINTER STALEMATE 

revenge on Russians in general 'Red' or * White'. Although many of 
them were serving in Oraz Sirdar's cavalry, it could not be said that 
there was any enthusiasm for the Transcaspian government's cause. 
They were regarded as dangerous and unreliable by all Russians. 

Bairam Ali town was little more than a village surrounding the 
railway station, but at a short distance, a beautifully laid out park and 
plantation encompassed a small palace and a group of official buildings. 
The palace had been built as a shooting-box for the late Tsar, but was 
never used by him, although other members of the Romanov family 
visited it. It was now occupied by the British headquarters staff. 

The whole area, which is well watered and covered with a thick 
growth of grass, shrubbery and various kinds of native and exotic trees, 
was alive with game, including pheasants, partridges and snipe. In the 
adjacent oasis along the Murgab and Tedzhen rivers a species of tiger 
was to be found, as well as other kinds of wild life. 

During staff talks with the Transcaspian Command an oppor- 
tunity was provided for extended talks with Oraz Sirdar and members 
of his staff. The commander of the Transcaspian forces was a short 
thick-set man of about sixty, with a pleasant bearded face, keen eyes 
and the bowed legs of a horseman. He had been educated at the famous 
Corps de Pages in St. Petersburg, probably in chivalrous recognition of 
his father's exploits at Geok Tepe, and had then served in Kornilov's 
'Savage Division', a cavalry corps made up of Caucasians and Turkman 
tribesmen. (Until 1916 the native population of Turkistan were not 
liable for military service, but Turkman horsemen from the Tekke 
tribe served in cavalry units as volunteers, some of their leaders, such 
as Oraz Sirdar and Obez Baev, holding commissioned rank.) 

Oraz Sirdar still aimed at advancing to the Oxus before the Bol- 
shevik forces had had time to regroup their shattered army. He counted 
on Dutov holding the Orenburg line and Kolchak continuing to 
advance from his Siberian base. He also maintained contact with 
Bukhara, and appeared to entertain a higher opinion of the military 
capacity of the Emir's troops than his own Russian chief of staff, who 
considered the Bukharans of little more value than a threat to the 
Tashkent flank and a 'container* of *Red* troops. 

The apparent inability of the Transcaspian Cbmmittee to raise 
more troops was causing Oraz Sirdar deep concern. Neither he nor his 

137 



WINTER STALEMATE 

chief of staff had much confidence in the politicians at Ashkhabad, 
whom they regarded as being both timid and unrealistic, and distrust- 
ful of their own officers as well as the Turkman. Oraz had succeeded in 
increasing the number of Turkman cavalry to 1,500 and by more care- 
ful selection of officers, and training in the use of machine-guns, had 
improved their quality as troops. Given more equipment and a free 
hand to recruit, the Transcaspian commander considered he could 
form a Turkman Division, but the Ashkhabad authorities evidently 
wished to keep the Turkman numbers down to about 50 per cent of the 
total force. 

Oraz Sirdar once more made his plea for British participation in an 
advance to Chardzhou, even hinting in an indirect way that a British 
military government of Transcaspia might not be a bad thing, a 
suggestion that had been put to our chief liaison officer in Transcaspia 
on several occasions by Turkman leaders in Ashkhabad. Once again 
Malleson had to explain that his hands were tied by his orders, and 
that while he had every sympathy with Oraz Sirdar's needs, he could 
do little more than help him to hold the Merv area and provide equip- 
ment and training. He explained the arrangements for General Beatty's 
appointment and asked Oraz for his views on adjustments in command 
organ.i7a.tion. 

It was clear from Oraz Sirdar's reply that he would have been glad 
to hand over the command to General Beatty, but, as that was obviously 
impossible, he merely remarked that he foresaw no difficulties. He and 
Beatty would be able to work together, and he welcomed his appoint- 
ment. In the meanwhile he was strengthening the position at Annen- 
kovo, where he hoped to stage a flanking attack on the advanced line 
of enemy armoured trains in the near future. 



138 



18 

Envoy from Bukhara 



APART from the protection from enemy observation that was afforded 
to the armoured trains by sand-dunes, it was difficult to see what ad- 
vantages Annenkovo offered as a front-line position. The desert on 
both sides of the railway was flat and featureless, except for occasional 
ridges of sand and small clumps of the stunted plant, saxaul, the only 
source of fuel in the desert region. 

The armoured trains were drawn up in line in the shelter of the 
sand-dunes, a loop line having been constructed along the single line 
of track to allow each train to return to Bairam Ali for refuelling and 
to transport reliefs to the front. The Transcaspian troops lived in the 
trains, maintaining outpost positions about half a mile in advance of 
the leading train. Gun-pits had been constructed on slightly elevated 
positions on the flanks, and a line of picket posts and shallow trenches 
extended on each side of the railway for several hundred yards into flie 
desert. These were wired, but the only protection against outflanking 
were similar earthworks a little farther out and towards the rear. These 
were occupied by day, but in the now bitter cold of the night the pickets 
were apt to return to the shelter of the trains. 

A company of the Punjabis lived in felt kibitkas close to the trains 
and shared the outpost duties. They were regularly relieved from Bairam 
Ali. Cavalry patrols, also accommodated in kibitkas on the left flank 
of the main position, made daily reconnaissance excursions into the 
desert and in the direction of Ravnina, some six miles distant, where the 
'Red' outpost was situated. These patrols had occasional clashes with 
*Red' calvary, each side avoiding a general engagement, while the *Reds*, 
with their longer-range guns, from time to time sent over a few shells, 
which usually fell wide of the Transcaspian position. 

On December 7th Oraz Sirdar sent a larger force to probe the 
enemy's position. Both sides spent a good deal of ammunition, the 



ENVOY FROM BUKHARA 

Bolsheviks making no attempt to counter-attack, to the quite evident 
relief of the occupants of the armoured trains and troop trains, who 
could only with difficulty be persuaded to leave their stuffy and un- 
healthy quarters. 

As at Kaakha, the most reliable element in the Transcaspian force 
were Russian officers and non-commissioned officers who manned the 
artillery, and the Meshed-trained machine-gun unit. They performed 
their duties without thought for their physical comfort, and were a 
striking contrast to the Armenian and Tekke infantry. A railway repair 
unit and demolition section also consisted of Russians and performed 
excellent work under Russian engineer officers. 

A thin layer of snow covered the desert and icicles hung from the 
roofs of the trains. A keen wind blew continuously, bringing the 
temperature down to zero at night. Apart from the trains, which were 
cold and uncomfortable, the only real shelter was afforded by the round 
felt kibitkas, which could be quickly erected and dismantled. These were 
the normal habitation of the nomad Turkman from time immemorial, 
and are in fact mentioned by Marco Polo, who traversed the region 
nearly 700 years ago. 

Similar conditions prevailed at Ravnina, except that the Bolsheviks 
did not possess the advantage of a base close to their rear. A support 
position was held at Uch-Adzhi, some twenty miles back, but their 
trains had a loo-mile journey to make to refuel at Chardzhou. Their 
great problem was fuel, their locomotives having been adapted to use 
saxaul and even dried fish from the Aral Sea. Their own stocks of oil 
were nearly exhausted, supply from the north being completely blocked 
by Dutov's troops at Orenburg. 

In telegraphing his preliminary report to India, Malleson urged that 
the troops under his command should remain at Bairam Ali and Merv 
pending further orders, and that no attempt be made to take up quarters 
elsewhere. He pointed out the disastrous effect of a withdrawal from the 
advanced position that such a move would have on Transcaspian morale, 
and that furthermore no winter shelter existed away from the Merv area. 

In the meantime Zimen had again been in touch with the provisional 
government at Baku, to whom he had proposed an alliance, and had 
made arrangements for a further detachment of Bicharakov's troops to 
be sent to the Transcaspian front to reinforce the Transcaspian army. 



140 



ENVOY FROM BUKHARA 

During a visit to Bairam Ali by General Malleson and his staff the 
question of Aziz Khan's activities came up for discussion. In existing 
circumstances Malleson was reluctant to criticize any arrangements 
made by Oraz Sirdar to strengthen his own force, but the activities of 
Aziz Khan and his band of desperadoes, set in motion by Oraz Sirdar 
for military purposes, were now seen to serve no practical end. Aziz 
was out for loot, and to enhance his own position as a 'khan'. Instead 
of raiding enemy positions and cutting the railway, he had been 
raiding villages in the oasis area, showing no discrimination in choosing 
his victims. 

Oraz Sirdar listened attentively to Malleson's remarks and ad- 
mitted sadly that Aziz had failed him. He undertook to issue a warning 
to Aziz, and even to take steps to have him arrested and his gang 
dispersed unless he confined his efforts to military objectives. 

Oraz Sirdar once more brought up the question of co-operation with 
Bukhara. He again set forth his argument for reaching an understanding 
with the Emir, urging the strategic advantage of a threat to the Bol- 
shevik railway communications, and the reaction that an attack by the 
Emir's army on the Tashkent army would have on the Uzbek and 
Kirghiz population of Turkistan, already in a state of revolt against 
Tashkent. 

In reply, Malleson urged restraint. Apart from the fact that he was 
insufficiently well informed about the state of the Emir's forces, he 
considered that it was a matter that should first of all be considered by 
the Ashkhabad Committee, and in any case he had no evidence that 
the Emir was, in fact, ready or willing to undertake such action. There- 
upon Oraz Sirdar produced what he evidently considered as his trump 
card. An envoy of the Emir of Bukhara was at this moment in Bairam 
Ali and was anxious to meet General Malleson. 

Malleson could hardly decline to meet the envoy without offending 
Oraz Sirdar, so therefore agreed to meet him that evening. In reaMty, 
Malleson was both interested and pleased to have the opportunity of 
meeting the envoy of a state in which nineteenth-century Indian army 
officers had shown so much interest, with tragic results for those two 
members of his own corps, Colonel Stoddart and Captain Connolly, 
as previously mentioned. In any event, Malleson hoped to be able to 
clarify a situation regarding which the Ashkhabad Committee bad 
always been very reticent It was clear thai the Committee, white 

141 



ENVOY FROM BUKHARA 

welcoming help from any quarter, were reluctant to enter into any firm 
agreement with Bukhara, as they suspected that some form of collusion 
with the Turkmans would be the inevitable outcome. Like Malleson, 
they welcomed the existence of the potential threat to Tashkent but 
hesitated to encourage the Emir to commit himself to hostile action 
against the Bolshevik regime in Turkistan. Malleson's hesitancy was 
based on uncertainty as to the length of the British stay in Transcaspia 
and the existing 'stand-still' order for British-Indian troops; that of the 
Ashkhabad Committee was due to their distrust of the Turkmans, and 
the ingrained Russian intention to remain the top dog. (A similar situa- 
tion existed in Tashkent, where the Soviet government retained the 
traditional Russian attitude towards the native population, an attitude 
that was to be castigated later by Stalin himself in his report on 
'Nationalities and the Colonial Question' at the loth Congress of 
the Communist Party, as an example of 'Russian Great Power 
Chauvinism'.) 1 

The Bukharan envoy, an impressive old gentleman, with a henna- 
stained beard, attired in a magnificent silken robe, was duly produced. 
After an exchange of courtesies, in which Malleson excelled himself to 
the astonishment of his aides, the conversation was continued in the 
privacy of the railway coach that was being used as a travelling head- 
quarters. The Bukharan envoy understood Russian but preferred to 
speak Persian, so that the conference was conducted in three languages. 
This slowed down the proceedings somewhat, and strained the in- 
genuity of the interpreters in finding equivalent terms for the language 
of honorifics used on both sides. 

From this conversation it appeared that the Emir had no proposi- 
tion to make but was seeking information and advice. Did the British 
intend to take Chardzhou or even advance on Tashkent? If so, what 
was their attitude towards Bukhara? The Emir had heard, with admira- 
tion, of the exploits of the Indian soldiers: could instructors be made 
available for his own army? What were General Malleson's views of 
the situation as a whole? 

General Malleson explained as tactfully as he could that the British 
were in Transcaspia to assist the Transcaspian government and not to 
undertake military or political action independently of their agreement 
with the Transcaspians. He was certain that his own government 
entertained the most friendly feelings towards the government and 

142 



ENVOY FROM BUKHARA 

people of Bukhara. The present situation was very confused, but there 
were rays of hope that it would become clearer in the near future. 

In reply to the envoy's remark that the Emir would be glad to have 
any advice that General Malleson cared to offer him, Malleson replied 
that he strongly advised caution. A false step might be dangerous; it 
would be better to wait until the whole internal Russian situation be- 
came clearer. 

The envoy then asked if General Malleson's own government would 
be willing to provide him with modern weapons, of which he was short. 
He would also welcome having instructors in their use. Malleson 
replied that he would give the matter his full consideration, and in the 
meantime he sent his good wishes and friendly greetings to the Emir. 
With this, and a further exchange of courtesies, and an exchange of 
gifts, Malleson took his leave. (The Emir sent Malleson a pair of 
Bukharan carpets and a silken robe; Malleson sent him a pair of 
handsome sporting rifles with cartridges, which he carried with him on 
the off-chance of being faced with a situation of this kind.) 

In response to his report to India on this meeting, General Malleson's 
attitude was approved, and he was granted permission, at his own dis- 
cretion, to make available to the Emir a small quantity of rifles and 
ammunition, if these could be spared. 

Oraz Sirdar made no sign of his disappointment that nothing more 
concrete had emerged from the meeting. He evidently regarded the 
conversation as a first step, and, as an Asian, could appreciate that in 
the Orient negotiations took time and were invariably preceded by a 
sort of diplomatic sparring and discussion on generalities. 

On his return to Ashkhabad on the following day, Malleson pre- 
pared and sent off to India detailed reports of his visit and his impressions. 
He again drew attention to the desirability of avoiding any immediate 
action that would place the Ashkhabad government in an embarrassing 
situation, alienate the Turkman leaders and which, at the same time, 
would upset the financial and other arrangements which were just 
beginning to bear fruit. 

Several days after Malleson's return to Ashkhabad an advance 
party consisting of two senior officers from General Milne's staff 
arrived. One of these, Colonel Carleton, made a quick visit to the front 
accompanied by a member of Malleson's staff, while the other made a 

143 



ENVOY FROM BUKHARA 

survey of the military arrangements in Ashkhabad. Arrangements were 
now complete to effect the transfer of control of British military forces 
in Transcaspia from India to the War Office, so that Malmiss would 
henceforth be responsible to General Milne, now in command of the 
newly formed 'Army of the Black Sea'. 

A series of conferences now took place during which all aspects of 
the local situation were ventilated. Members of the Committee were 
encouraged to express their views and put forward suggestions. Zimen, 
evidently suspicious of the ultimate outcome of these deliberations, 
pressed for more substantial help and a clear statement of policy. As 
matters stood, with a considerable proportion of the Transcaspian 
Russian population neutral if not hostile, the Committee was obliged 
to envisage the gradual inclusion of their territory within the orbit of 
the 'White 5 armies of General Denikin unless the British came forward 
with a clear policy of continued support. Thus the Committee, secretly 
suspicious of both the British and Denikin, was dependent on one or 
the other, a state of affairs which most of them were unable to face 
with equanimity. 

Again they were asked what they were doing to make the best use 
of their own resources, and again they evaded the question by pointing 
out their financial and other economic difficulties, and the complex 
character of their domestic situation. 

On the 2ist of January, General Milne himself, accompanied by 
several members of his staff, arrived in Ashkhabad from the Caucasus. 
After a short visit to the front and discussions with General Beatty and 
unit commanders, Russian and British, they spent a few days at 
Ashkhabad and Krasnovodsk, then returned to Baku. Several days 
later Malleson was informed of the decision to withdraw all British 
and Indian troops from Transcaspia, and was requested to report 
without delay as to the earliest date on which this difficult task could 
be accomplished. 



144 



19 

Decision to Withdraw 



THE decision to place the Mission and the British troops in Transcaspia 
under General Milne's command, although not unexpected, was con- 
sidered unlikely to take place so soon after General Milne's visit The 
change of command was welcomed by all members of the Mission, 
including General Malleson himself, who for some time past had noticed 
an extraordinary lack of interest in the work of the^Mission on the part 
of his chiefs in India. No visit had been made to Meshed or the front by 
any representative of the Political Department or army headquarters in 
India. Supplies had been made available and demands for funds met, 
but only after considerable delays. Very little guidance had been given, 
and that only in a negative sense, rather suggesting that the authorities 
had no clear ideas on the subject or were preoccupied with important 
matters closer at hand 

Far from projecting a 'plan to seize and colonize Turkistan* or 
urging Malleson to act with, that object in view (as Soviet historians 
would have their readers believe) the Government of India provided 
Malleson with the vaguest of instructions, limited the sphere of action 
of the troops under his command and displayed the utmost reluctance 
to be drawn into any commitment that involved expenditure or the 
provision of manpower. Once the Turko-Gennan threat had vanished, 
the interest of the authorities in India, sever profound, faded out 

The task with which the Malmiss force was now faced was the 
difficult one of disengagement It was obvious that this could not be 
undertaken at once ; much dipkraacy and tact wouM be needed, and in 
all fairness to the Trauscaspians they would liave to be given an oppor- 
tunity to secure alternative support and fodp m bridging over Hie 
transition period* 

The first aHmsiiiiicaliOBs from India cm tfc subject; suggested an 
early withdrawal, and completely ignored the difficulties and risks that 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

this would entail. As Malleson felt it would be fruitless to enter into a 
discussion with India on this point, he submitted his recommendations 
to General Milne and the War Office for a delay of four to six weeks, 
urging that existing supply arrangements to the Transcaspians be con- 
tinued for the time being, and that surplus military stores be handed 
over to Oraz Sirdar's command when the evacuation finally took place. 
Apart from other considerations, time was needed to pay off the out- 
standing promissory notes. 

General Milne showed a clear understanding of the problems in- 
volved and gave Malleson authority to make his own arrangements for 
withdrawal by stages or in a single move, as he thought fit, postponing 
the date line until the end of March. British troops were to be evacuated 
via Krasnovodsk, and all Indian troops were to return to north-east 
Persia to be reincorporated into the East Persian Cordon or withdrawn 
to India. 

Armed with these instructions, Malleson decided that the intention 
to withdraw must be kept secret for the time being, informing only 
Beatty and his immediate entourage, the commander of the East Persian 
Cordon troops and General Dickson. In the meantime holders of the 
promissory notes were to be encouraged to accept repayment before 
maturity. Direct payments to the Committee for services and local 
supplies were henceforth to be made in coin or Persian currency. 

Steps were taken to evacuate all sick and wounded on the grounds 
that adequate facilities for their care now existed at Baku, and that 
hospital ships were now calling at Batum. No additional stores for our 
troops, other than essential replacements and day-to-day needs, were 
brought into the country. 

Rumours were spread through behind the enemy line that tihe 
British were preparing a plan to attack the Bolsheviks via Bukhara and 
by a wide detour below Chardzhou, crossing the Oxus at a lower point 
and linking the armed Turkman troops with insurgents operating 
farther east. These rumours, which were 'substantiated* by the planting 
on Bolshevik agents of specialty prepared documents* evidently had the 
desired effect, as Intelligence reports soon indicated that tie Bolsheviks 
were making preparations for a further retreat at tiie first slga of a 
attack. 

(Some of these fabricated rumours have become the *fecfs* of Soviet 
historians, judging by the very coufosed accowife of utiHary ope&atioes 

146 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

given in personal reminiscences of these strenuous days by retired 
officers of the 'Red* Army, published in Central Asian journals and 
newspapers,) 

The timing of the decision to withdraw may well have been influ- 
enced by the steps being taken by the British government to hasten the 
demobilization of national forces and reduce expenditure. Lloyd George 
was at that time engaged in an effort to wind up war-time ventures in 
the Caucasus, the Caspian area and elsewhere, and was urging on his 
colleagues that an effort be made to bring together the leaiders of the 
'Red' and 'White* forces in Russia and the various political groups to 
examine the possibilities of peace by mutual agreement. This fed to the 
abortive Prinkipo proposal for a conference between all parties, which 
was to founder on the refusal of the "White 9 generals to take part in talks 
with the Bolsheviks and distrust by the Allied leaders of the Soviet's 
declared aims. 

These facts wore not known to the Mission at the time, although the 
proposal for a meeting on the Island of Prinkipo in the Sea of Marmora 
was made public towards the end of January. The immediate problem 
was to extricate the British and Indian troops with the least posslbk 
disturbance of the situation in Transcaspia, white retaining such con- 
tacts throughout the area as would enabk the Mission to keep Srak 
and London informed of the developoient which must inevitably follow 
our withdrawal. The threatening situation in Afghanistan, Bolshevik 
machinations in that country and in Persia, and the activities of 
revolutionary agitators operating from Tashkent against the British in 
India, could all be watched more easily from Meshed and other key 
points in Persia than from Ashkhabad. 

At this time two Indian revolutionary agitators, Maheodra Pratap 
ami Bar katullah, were in Tashkent, where they were known to be urark- 
iag in dose association with the local Soviet, Pratap had spent the war 
JGMS in Serin mad Turkey , and after tlie Gennan cafHtiilalion bad goiie 
to Afghanistan via Petrograd, where he had bee in consultation with 
Lenin- IE Kabol he estdeavoured to persuade the Emir Habibuiiaii 10 
abaiKkm bis policy of neutrality and break witii Britain, but witliout 
success. He &ea teoed to the Afghan opf>ositk>D eiemeots wiio were 



MI, 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

with tribal leaders on the North-West Frontier of India and members of 
the so-called Caliphat party in the Punjab to promote disorder in 
northern India. 2 

Mahendra Pratap designated himself head of a 'Provisional Govern- 
ment of India' which he had formed with German support in Berlin, 
and had appointed Barkatullah as his Foreign Minister. When in Kabul, 
Pratap had been closely associated with a Turkish officer, Muhammed 
Kazim Beg, who had been a member of a Turko-Gennan Mission to 
Afghanistan under von Niedermeyer, a German diplomat. Having 
failed in their mission to bring Afghanistan into the war against the 
British in India, they turned to the opposition party, providing its 
leaders with advice and money. 

The activities of the opposition groups in Afghanistan and their 
links with Tashkent, as well as with subversive elements in Peshawar 
and Lahore, were well known to the Government of India. What was 
not clearly known was the connection between these activities and the 
Soviet government in Moscow. Propaganda and intrigue conducted by 
the regime in Tashkent seemed to accord with pronouncements from 
Moscow, but the manner in which these were conducted suggested the 
hand of the enthusiastic amateur, making mischief without any clear 
idea of the ultimate object to be attained. 

The internal situation in Tashkent, according to Intelligence 
reports, was unsettled* A revolt had taken place against the Soviet 
regime, instigated by an ex-officer, Osipov, who had thrown in his lot 
with the Tashkent Bolsheviks and held the important post of War 
Commissar in their service. After an initial success the rising had been 
crushed by 'Red' Guards, and a wholesale and indisciiminate massacre 
of several thousand of the bourgeois population had followed. This up- 
rising, which seems to have been badly organized, may have been linked 
with the activities of the 'White' counter-revolutionary organization in 
Turkistan or may have been a domestic affair. In Soviet accounts it is 
asserted, without any evidence to substantiate the allegation, that the 
revolt was instigated by 'British imperialists', the ubiquitous Colonel 
Bailey being charged with complicity in the affair. As, according to his 
own account of his sojourn in Turkistan, Bailey at that time was in 
hiding in a distant village nursing a broken leg, this seems most un- 
likely; nor is it reasonable to suppose that members of a revolutionary 
regime in conflict with a rebellious native population and threatened on 

148 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

two fronts would risk thek necks by shooting each other at the behest 
of a British agent. 

The revolt failed, and much disorder and bloodshed ensued. Osipov 
and some of his companions escaped, and are alleged to have joined 
'White 5 forces operating in Siberia; according to one account they found 
their way to Bukhara, but nothing further was heard of them. 3 

The revolt in Tashkent, following hard upon the failure at Annen- 
kovo, resulted in a series of impassioned appeals by the Tashkent Soviet 
to the Soviet government in Moscow, all recorded by Malmiss's radio 
service. Shortly afterwards Soviet troops from Tsaritsin (later Stalin- 
grad, now Volgograd) attacked Dutov's force at Orenburg, supported by 
a simultaneous attack from the south by troops from Tashkent, with 
the result that Orenburg was captured on January 24th, thus opening 
up communications with Russia and bringing relief to the beleaguered 
Turkistan Bolsheviks. Trained agitators and Communist officials 
accompanied the 'Red' Army, with instructions to take over the ad- 
ministration from the feeble hands of local party men, and to embark 
on a campaign against British imperialism in Asia. Support was 
also to be given to revolutionary elements in Afghanistan and 
Persia. 4 

In the light of these developments, which presaged an early resump- 
tion of the offensive by the Tashkent Bolsheviks, now reinforced by new 
leaders, troops and equipment from Russia, Malleson decided that 
members of the Committee must be informed in confidence of the 
British decision to withdraw. Only by doing so could he secure their 
co-operation when the time came; moreover, they should be given time 
and opportunity to secure assistance from the Caucasus and take pre- 
cautionary steps to prevent a rising by opposition elements in thek own 
area. 

After consideration of the risks involved it was decided as a first step 
to inform General Kruten in strict confidence and obtain his views. An 
honest man, although not blessed with outstanding military qualities, 
General Kruten was known to have no political affiliations and to be 
able to keep his own counsel. He was thereupon told of the intention to 
withdraw our troops by the end of March. He evinced no surprise, 
taking the news calmly. He informed Malleson that he was already 
engaged on a plan to obtain troops and war material from Denikin, but 

149 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

was hampered by lack of funds and secure means of communication 
with Denikin's representatives in the north Caucasus. 

Kruten was encouraged to go ahead with his plans and if possible 
to visit Baku and Petrovsk personally. He was told that the necessary 
funds would be made available and that he would be given whatever 
facilities he might need in Baku or Petrovsk, or wherever he might find 
it convenient to contact Denikin's representatives. It was agreed with 
Kruten, however, that the Committee should be informed of the 
position, and their authorization for such a move should be sought. This 
was done on the following evening, February 4th. 

As was to be expected, the news caused great consternation. 
Although members of the Committee could not fail to have anticipated 
the possibility of such a move, they had been buoyed up by the hope 
that the change of command on the British side might result in agree- 
ment to co-operate in an advance on Chardzhou. Without indulging in 
reproaches (these were to come later), they asked what the British pro- 
posed to continue doing to assist them in their task, which they had 
always considered to be a common effort. They were told that promised 
supplies that had not yet been delivered would be made available, and 
that a considerable quantity of military stores held by the British force 
in Transcaspia would be placed at their disposal. Malleson said he fore- 
saw the possibility of some further financial arrangement but could not 
commit himself at that moment. Promissory notes would be redeemed, 
and facilities for obtaining oil and other supplies from Baku would be 
extended. 

The proposal for sending General Kruten to the Caucasus was then 
raised, Malleson repeating his offer to provide the necessary funds and 
to facilitate the journey. This was agreed, and arrangements were made 
for Kruten to leave without delay. 

Although nothing was said during the discussions on the subject of 
the Turkman troops whose loyalty to the Transcaspian government had 
been influenced by British regard for their interests, both Hadji Murat 
and Oraz Sirdar (who had been brought to Ashkhabad for the meeting) 
later raised the question of continued support for the Turkmans. In 
private they presented an earnest plea for some kind of declaration of 
British interest in the Turkman tribes. It was explained that for political, 
geographical and military reasons no such proposal could be enter- 
tained, and it was urged that they continue to give their support to the 

150 



DECISION TO WITHDRAW 

Committee as offering the only hope for the achievement of at least some 
part of their aims. 

The Committee allowed no hint of these proceedings to reach the 
public. In keeping their counsel, they were, of course, acting in their 
own interests. The immediate effect of the disclosure to the Committee 
was to increase the authority of Drushkin, the most energetic member 
of the government and the one responsible for public security. 

Zimen took the decision deeply to heart, and at leisure was to find 
time to produce a number of legal arguments suggesting that there was 
no time limit to Malleson's obligations, and that these could not be 
determined unilaterally. While Malleson could sympathize with this 
attitude, the niceties of legal argument had little bearing on the case, 
as the conditions in which the agreement had been reached had changed, 
the chain of command had been altered and in Transcaspia the existing 
government enjoyed nothing like the same measure of public support 
that had been accorded to its predecessor at the outset. 

Although the decision to withdraw was a matter of high policy, and 
inevitable sooner or later, it was not possible for members of the 
Mission to withhold a feeling of self-reproach for the abandonment of 
people for which they had acquired sympathy and understanding. Not 
normally affected by sentimental considerations, Malleson shared this 
feeling, and in his report to India he again drew attention to the plight 
of the Committee and to the sad lot of many who had worked loyally 
with the British Mission and who stood to suffer from its withdrawal. 
He urged that he be authorized to provide help in cases of hardship, 
that food and other supplies belonging to General Beatty's force should 
be handed over to Ashkhabad when withdrawal took place and that 
recognition be given to officers and men in the Transcaspian army who 
had given outstanding service. This was agreed. 

Those who felt themselves to be heavily compromised through their 
close association with the British Mission and the British-Indian force 
were given assistance to enable them to transfer themselves and their 
families to places of safety. A number of former officials took advantage 
of this offer and made their way to the Caucasus or to Constantinople 
and Egypt. Few officers availed themselves of this offer, but remained 
with the Transcaspian forces until their defeat by Frunze's 'Red* Army 
some months later. 



20 

Rearguard Action 



THE Ashkhabad 'Committee of Public Safety' was now definitely linked 
with the 'White' counter-revolutionary front. What had started as a 
revolt by Menshevik and Social-Revolutionary workmen against a short- 
sighted and doctrinaire Bolshevik government at Tashkent had now, 
with the turn of events, become an ill-sorted combination of non-party 
Russians and Turkman tribal leaders fighting for their very existence. 
Dependent in the first instance on British help to escape destruction 
at the hands of a revengeful Tashkent army, they were now becoming 
part of the 'White' volunteer army organization in the Caucasus. 
More than half their troops were Turkman; their officers were 'White' 
ex-regulars, and such local support as they now enjoyed was mainly 
that of the middle class and of that section of the workers who, because 
of their association with work of the Committee, could expect only 
short shrift from the Bolsheviks if captured. 

Together with several other active Social-Revolutionary ex-members 
of the former government and administration, Funtikov was arrested 
by Drushkin on a charge of plotting against the new government. The 
exact nature of the charge was not made public, and it seems unlikely, 
in view of the role he played at the time of the Ashkhabad and Kizyl 
Arvat revolts against Taskhent, that he was plotting to establish rela- 
tions with the Bolsheviks. These arrests were probably precautionary 
measures taken by the new Committee in the light of the events in 
Ashkhabad at the end of December. 

The new Committee for all practical purposes was a dictatorship, but 
it is difficult to see how any administration could have functioned 
otherwise in the circumstances. Their only hope lay in maintaining the 
front intact and safeguarding the rear, while linking up with 'White' 
movements elsewhere, which at that time were making headway against 
the Bolsheviks. 

152 



REARGUARD ACTION 

At the front the situation remained quiet. Throughout the month of 
February no action was undertaken by either side. Patrols made their 
regular excursions into the desert, now deep in snow, but the main body 
of the Transcaspian forces and the British and Indian troops kept to the 
shelter of their trains or their winter quarters at Bairam All. As had been 
expected, the Daghistani Cossacks had been difficult to handle, becom- 
ing restless and undisciplined and a nuisance to the townspeople. 

Towards the end of February small bodies of troops began to arrive 
from the Caucasus. These reinforcements came from Denikin's army, 
which was now operating in the north Caucasus and had occupied 
Derbent and Petrovsk. Many ex-officers of the Russian army who had 
been in hiding, or had otherwise managed to survive in Baku, joined 
Denikin; some of these were sent to Transcaspia. By the beginning of 
March several hundred infantry and artillery troops had arrived at 
Bairam Ali from Petrovsk, and more were expected. One of Denikin's 
senior officers, General Lazarev, was sent to Ashkhabad to take over 
the command and bring the staff organization into line with that of the 
volunteer army. 

During the first week of March news of the impending British 
withdrawal was made public. This immediately evoked appeals from 
all classes of the community for delay, the Turkman people especially 
submitting further pleas for British protection. Once it became clear to 
all that the decision to withdraw was irrevocable, many people left 
Transcaspia for Baku or elsewhere in the Caucasus, or made prepara- 
tions to do so. 

Several senior officials of the government resigned, including Dorrer ; 
two Ministers followed a little later. Byelov was the first to go, the post 
of Chairman being taken by Zimen. Byelov was followed by Drushkin, 
who left for the Caucasus in March, when there was a regular exodus of 
prominent anti-Bolshevik personalities who had evidently lost con- 
fidence in the ability of the regime to survive. 

The lively atmosphere that had prevailed in Ashkhabad in the 
autumn months had changed to one of apathy. The snow-covered 
streets were still full of apparently aimless people, soldiers and Turkmans 
predominating. Carriages of the two-horses drozhky type were largely 
replaced by sledges whose tinkling bells enlivened the otherwise silent 
streets. The temperature frequently dropped to zero, but the calm days 

153 



REARGUARD ACTION 

which followed the high winds of December and January, and long 
periods of sunshine, made the cold tolerable. 

The only activity at Annenkovo was the daily patrol, carried out in 
turn by the 28th Cavalry, the Daghistanis and the Turkmans. Contact 
with the enemy took place on March 2nd when a patrol of the 28th 
Cavalry was intercepted by a 'Red' cavalry force of more than twice 
their number. A fierce struggle ensued, in which the men of the 28th, 
using both lance and rifle, drove off the enemy patrol, losing only two 
of their number, who were taken prisoner, (Both of these men subse- 
quently escaped and found their way back to their comrades in Meshed, 
a feat for which they were both decorated.) This was to be the last 
engagement in which the British-Indian troops were to be involved 
before the retirement into Persia took place on April ist. 

Part of the British force was withdrawn early in March when troops 
from Denikin's army began to arrive at the front. Arrangements were 
made for all the Indian troops to leave the front towards the end of the 
month, some via Muhammedabad, but the majority via Ashkhabad and 
Kuchan. Most of the British troops had been withdrawn to Krasno- 
vodsk, where a British naval base was to remain for several months. 
Most of these men were evacuated to Batum via Baku and Tiflis, to be 
transported to England for demobilization. 

The promised rifles and a small quantity of ammunition had been sent 
to Bukhara by camel-train in February. The caravan was accompanied 
by two Indian N.C.O.s, but no official emissary was sent to Bukhara by 
Malleson. In many Soviet accounts reference is made to British officers 
and instructors having been sent to Bukhara by Malleson. No British 
personnel, other than the two Indians, went to Bukhara. Soviet accounts 
of British officers having been sent to Bukhara and Khiva are entirely 
fictitious, and are evidently intended to provide a plausible explanation 
for Muslim hostility towards the Bolshevik regime in 1918 and 1919. 

When sending the rifles Malleson wrote to the Emir in friendly 
terms but once again urged him to refrain from any action that might 
provoke retaliation by Tashkent. Malleson was folly aware of exchanges 
between the Bukharan and the Afghan governments and the efforts of 
the Emir of Bukhara to obtain help from Kabul; also that opposition 
leaders in Kabul were in touch with the Soviet government in Tashkent, 
as well as with Indian agitators there. The revolt in Jelalabad near 
Kabul, which took place on March 2ist during which the Emir 

154 



REARGUARD ACTION 

Habibullah was assassinated, and which was a precursor to the Anglo- 
Afghan war, was a factor in determining the decision to hasten the 
withdrawal of the Indian troops into Persia, where they were needed to 
protect the line of communication and guard the personnel of British 
bases and supply depots in Meshed, Birjand and in Seistan. 1 

Several members of the Mission staff had been withdrawn to India 
in February and March or had been transferred elsewhere. Teague- 
Jones, whose tact and diplomacy in dealing with the Committee had 
been invaluable, and who had been responsible for ensuring the con- 
tinued support of the Turkman leaders to the Ashkhabad government 
at a time when the Turkish advance into Transcaspia seemed imminent, 
returned to his own branch of the service. His close association with the 
Ashkhabad Committee from the beginning of the British link with that 
body has led Soviet historians of the time and place to identify Teague- 
Jones's name with all acts of the Committee,, a convenient assumption 
which is entirely unjustified and unsupported by evidence. This attitude 
on the part of Soviet writers is, however, fully in line with the attempt 
to saddle the British and Americans with responsibility for provoking 
internal opposition to the Bolshevik regime in Turkistan at that time, 
and to explain away embarrassing events arising out of early Bolshevik 
mismanagement and intolerance by attributing to foreign intrigue the 
inevitable outcome of their own actions. 

During March all promissory notes that were presented were paid 
off, but unfortunately forgeries soon appeared; a number of these found 
their way to Baku and elsewhere in the Caucasus, where their holders 
demanded payment in British or some other staple currency. See 
illustration p. 1 17. This gave rise to some correspondence with General 
Thompson's staff in Baku, in consequence of which two members of 
Malleson's staff went to Baku at the end of May to assist in settling this 
and other difficulties that had arisen as a result of the British withdrawal 
into Persia. 

As the final day of the withdrawal drew near, difficulties arose with 
the Committee in regard to the provision of rolling stock to transport 
troops from Merv. This trouble was not due to any ill-will on the part of 
the Committee but to sabotage by members of the Railwaymen's 
Union. As negotiations seemed to be fruitless, recourse was had to the 
time-honoured procedure of the Middle Eastern world: the leaders 

155 



REARGUARD ACTION 

were paid a sum of money to salve their conscience and the trains were 
provided. 

The evacuation of the last detachments, a squadron of the 28th 
Cavalry and a platoon of the Warwicks, took place quietly on April ist 
No demonstrations took place, the train with the Warwicks leaving 
shortly after midnight, and the cavalry filed out of the town along the 
road to Bajgiran early in the morning. 

The attitude of the Committee remained friendly and courteous, 
although some members felt they had been let down and said so. 
Zimen alone showed signs of resentment, but at the last moment even 
he expressed his appreciation of what had been done for them, and 
intimated that he fully understood the inevitability of the British 
withdrawal. The Turkman leaders, who had the most to lose, remained 
friendly. Their relations with the British troops, especially with the 
Indians, had been close and harmonious, and, despite their own un- 
reliability as soldiers and their looting propensities, they were popular 
with the Indian army officers, who regarded them as magnificent 
potential cavalry if properly trained and well led. 

A considerable quantity of military stores was left at the disposal of 
the Committee. A strong military position, with support lines and 
strongpoints on the flanks protected by barbed wire, had been con- 
structed at Annenkovo, largely under General Beatty's direction. 
Relations with Beatty had been good, Oraz Sirdar being disposed dur- 
ing the last phase to leave such matters in the hands of the British 
commander. The small-calibre guns on the armoured trains had been 
replaced by larger guns sent from Enzeli, where a quantity of artillery 
and ammunition had been taken from Baku at the time of the evacuation 
of Baku in September of the previous year. (The excuse of the Centre- 
Caspian government that they had insufficient war material to conduct 
a defence of Baku was shown to be untenable by Dunsterville's staff, 
who found more than fifty guns, some quite new and of Allied manu- 
facture, and a large quantity of ammunition in various stores. Much of 
this was removed by Dunsterville to prevent it falling into Turkish 
hands.) 

Oraz Sirdar and members of his staff received high decorations from 
the British government The Turkman leader was to remain at his post, 
although superseded in the High Command by General Lazarev in 
April. He eventually withdrew to Persia where he lived in retirement 

156 



REARGUARD ACTION 

for a year or two before his death in 1922. Several other Turkman 
leaders made their way to Khiva; others went to Persia or Afghanistan; 
a few remained until the Transcaspian force was overwhelmed by 
Frunze's 'Red' Army in the late summer of 1919. 

The Mission, reverting to control by G.H.Q. in India, and with a 
reduced staff, remained in Meshed for another year. Contact was 
maintained with Ashkhabad until the withdrawal of the Transcaspian 
government to Krasnovodsk in July, but no further supplies or financial 
help was given. The 'Red' onslaught, executed with substantial rein- 
forcements of 'Red' Army troops from Russia, began in May, Merv 
being occupied. A month later Tedzhen fell, followed by Kaakha. The 
Transcaspians retired to Ashkhabad, which was evacuated by the 
government and the army on July I5th. A new front was maintained 
for a time in the vicinity of Kizyl Arvat, but, with the arrival of the 
main body of Frunze's army in the autumn, this position was aban- 
doned, the remnant of the Transcaspian force withdrawing to Krasno- 
vodsk, whence the British naval detachment had already left for Enzeli 
Krasnovodsk was occupied by the Bolshevik forces at the beginning of 
1920, thus completing their reoccupation of the whole of Transcaspia. 



157 



21 

End of a Mission 



SHORTLY after the return of the Mission to Meshed the third Afghan 
war broke out. The assassination of the Emir Habibullah heralded the 
beginning of disturbances on the North- West Frontier of India and in 
the Punjab, where Caliphate agitation had been growing throughout 
1918. Although the machinations of German and Turkish missions in 
Afghanistan had been unsuccessful in persuading the Emir Habibullah 
to throw in his lot with the Central Powers, they had succeeded in 
arousing the sympathies of a group of malcontents, with whom was 
associated the Emir's third son Arnanullah. After the Emir's assassina- 
tion at Jelalabad, in February 1919, Amanullah was proclaimed King 
and immediately declared his pan-Islamic sympathies and at the same 
time turned to Moscow. He addressed a letter to Lenin extolling the 
efforts of the Bolshevik leader in achieving freedom for the Russian 
people. In reply, Lenin congratulated Amanullah on having defended his 
people against foreign oppressors. 

In May Amanullah attacked British posts on the North-West 
Frontier and war began. It was an unequal struggle, and within the 
space of eight weeks the Afghans asked for an armistice. 

The early collapse of the Afghan war in August frustrated any 
schemes the Tashkent Soviet may have had to take advantage of the 
change of regime in Kabul. Suspicion on both sides prevented any 
agreement for mutual collaboration being reached. Some military 
equipment was promised by Tashkent to the Afghans but was not 
delivered, a circumstance which led to much mutual recrimination, 
which was reflected in reports which appeared in the Communist Press 
of Tashkent at that time, but which have since been expunged from the 
Soviet official record. Accusations of betrayal made by the Afghan 
Foreign Minister and the Afghan Consul in Tashkent hardly accorded 
with the fiction, since sedulously fostered, that the Afghan war was a 

158 



END OF A MISSION 

popular revolutionary conflict, waged for 'democratic' ideals, with which, 
the Tashkent Soviet was in sympathy. Although encouragement had been 
given to anti-British elements in Afghanistan, and the efforts of Indian 
agitators in Tashkent were supported, the Tashkent Soviet seemed 
hesitant in making up its mind as to which line to take. Amanullah's 
attack against the Anglo-Indian army on the North-West Frontier was 
welcomed by Moscow, but, despite the exchange of friendly corres- 
pondence between Lenin and the Afghan leader, there was no sign that 
the Soviet government had any illusions regarding the 'popular' and 
democratic nature of the new Afghan regime. 

During the Afghan war the Malleson Mission in Meshed conducted 
'deception 9 operations against both Afghan and Bolshevik, evidently 
with a considerable degree of success, as the uneasy relationship between 
Tashkent and Kabul quickly degenerated into mutual suspicion. Afghan 
aims in Tedzhen were made known in Tashkent, while Bolshevik re- 
pressive activity against Muslim leaders and mullas in Turkistan was 
brought to the attention of the population of Herat and Kandahar, 
already lukewarm in its attitude towards the new regime in Kabul. 

After the capture of Ashkhabad by the Tashkent army considerable 
Bolshevik forces were concentrated in Transcaspia, and for a time it 
seemed likely that they might be used for an invasion of Khorosan. A 
revolt, led by Kurdish and local Turki-speaking elements, against the 
Persian central government in Tehran, spread to Khorosan and was 
supported and encouraged by the Soviet authorities in Transcaspia. 
As a result, some reinforcement of the troops at Malleson's disposal 
took place, mainly along the lines of communication. As the threat 
subsided, most of these were withdrawn to India. This small protective 
force, at no time exceeding some 2,000 men in all, has since been 
magnified in numbers and armament by Soviet historians to an army 
of 8,000 men, poised for a second attempt to 'invade' Turkistan and 
create a new colonial domain in Central Asia. 1 

Thus ended the 'Transcaspian episode'. Begun as an improvisation 
on characteristic British army lines, without clearly defined plan or 
policy, to deal with a situation as it arose, it has passed into military 
history as one of many such episodes, an almost forgotten campaign. 
The last round of the 'Great Game' had been played with the con- 
clusion of the Anglo-Afghan war in 1919. 

159 



END OF A MISSION 

Yet the echoes of these events still reverberate throughout the vast 
region east of the Caspian, and continue to play an important part in 
the story of the revolutionary years as presented in Soviet accounts. 

In Tashkent, Stalinabad and Alma-Ata, 'Academies of Sciences 5 and 
'Institutes of Oriental Studies', controlled by Moscow, produce historical 
studies of the civil-war period which aim at perpetuating a simplified 
version of a very complex story a version which ignores the realities 
of Turkistan Muslim nationalism which glosses over the tragedy of 
Kokand, and seeks to attribute the years of revolt by the Muslim 
population to the machinations of British 'imperialists' and Menshevik 
and Socialist-Revolutionary 'traitors'. The fact that the war with the 
Central Powers was still in progress in 1918, and that the Turks and 
Germans were advancing without serious hindrance on Persia and 
Turkistan, is usually disregarded or minimized, as is the even more 
significant fact that Allied victory in the West lifted the heavy burden 
of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty from the Soviet state, releasing its 
resources of men and material for the struggle against counter-revolu- 
tion and national revolt. 

Allied support of the 'White' reaction against the Bolshevik regime 
which followed the collapse of the Central Powers was brought about 
partly as a response to declared Bolshevik plans and agitation for world 
revolution, although the miscalculations and errors of the Allied repre- 
sentatives at Versailles played their part. Seen retrospectively, inter- 
vention and support of 'White* generals may have been a mistaken 
policy, but the circumstances which gave rise to intervention and 
support of anti-Bolshevik forces are often forgotten or ignored. 

The failure of the counter-revolution was perhaps inevitable and was 
due to a variety of causes, among which were lack of unity among the 
various 'White' organizations, absence of any positive programme or 
appeal for popular support, and Russian suspicion of foreign inter- 
vention. There was little support at first for the Communists outside the 
larger cities, but Tsarism was bankrupt and the clock could not be put 
back. There was much popular apathy and confusion. The strong anti- 
Western and, in particular, anti-British sentiment of a large section of 
the Russian people made them suspicious and resentful of foreign 
interference. 

The Bolsheviks alone were united and single-minded. Their original 

160 



ND OF A MISSION 

rogramme was simple: peace and the land to the toiler. They did not, 
s they have since sought to persuade themselves and the world, make 
tie revolution. They took it over from the weak hands of the Liberals 
nd right-wing Socialist Revolutionaries and 'Cadets', letting loose the 
brces of chaos and disorder. Their achievement has been the recon- 
truction of the state on the ruins of the old order, not on lines of Social 
Democracy but as a centralized autocracy on traditional Russian lines, 
easserting the age-old Russian suspicion of the West, nationalism, and 
i new Orthodoxy, that of Marxism (in a distorted form) replacing the 
)ld Orthodoxy of Byzantium and Moscow. The traditional Tsarist 
instruments of control and coercion have been reimposed: the secret 
police, censorship, control of the printing press, the judiciary and 
education. While denouncing imperialism and colonialism abroad, a 
Soviet Russian colonial regime has been imposed by force on the 
30,000,000 peoples of Central Asia and Caucasia, with sops to national 
sentiment in the form of encouragement of local 'culture' and the arts. 

Persia, an objective of Russian expansion since the eighteenth 
century, is again under pressure from her northern neighbour, whose 
Middle Eastern policies, conducted with different slogans and greater 
subtlety than those of the former Imperial regime, continue to follow 
the traditional Russian pattern. 

The Iraq revolution of 1958 has not yet run its course, the initial 
Communist attempt to seize control having met with a setback, which 
may turn out to be a case of reculer pour mieux sauter. 

Afghanistan has become an object for Soviet economic penetration 
and political blandishment and a somewhat reluctant instrument for 
exercising pressure on a Western-oriented Pakistan. 

The beginnings of this new phase in relations between East and 
West, particularly in the Islamic world of the Middle East and North 
Africa, are to be found in the convulsions and breakdown of traditional 
social and political forms after the First World War, set in train by the 
collapse of the Turkish Empire and the Caliphate and the chaotic con- 
ditions in Russian Central Asia and Caucasia which followed the seizure 
of power in Russia by the Bolsheviks in the grim autumn of 1917 and 
Russian withdrawal from the war. 

After a brief and hectic period of struggle from Russian control, 
with the declared object of attaining national autonomy within the new 



END OF A MISSION 

Russian state, the Muslim tribes of north Caucasia, the Georgians, 
Armenians and Azerbaijanis of Transcaucasia, and the Turko-Mongol- 
Persian peoples of Central Asia, were reconquered by the military 
forces of the Soviet inheritors of the Tsarist Russian Empire, and in- 
corporated in the Soviet Union, nominally as self-governing republics 
within the Union, but in reality under the firm control of the central 
administration of the U.S.S.R. and the Communist party. 

Central Asia has assumed a greater importance for the Soviet Union 
than it had been for the Tsarist Empire. For the latter it was a colony, 
a source of raw materials (chiefly cotton) and an area of expansion to- 
wards the natural frontier zone of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. For 
the Soviets it is a watch-tower for the East, a military base, and a show 
window for the peoples of the Asian and African continents, as well as 
an area for colonization and industrial development. 2 

Because of its political and military significance for the Middle 
East, and indeed for Western Asia as a whole, the region has acquired a 
new importance for statesmen and strategists, transcending the com- 
paratively simple conflicts of Anglo-Russian rivalry which stemmed 
from British responsibility for the defence of India and from Russian 
expansion towards the Afghan and Persian borders and the barrier of 
the Pamirs. These have been replaced by the more complex problems 
which arise from the nationalist awakening and industrialization of 
Asia, and by the impact of the new Russian and Chinese imperialism 
that is masked under the slogans of world Communism, operating as 
instruments of Russian and Chinese great-power policies. 



162 



APPENDIX I 

SOVIET DECLARATION OF RIGHTS TO THE PEOPLES 
OF RUSSIA AND MUSLIM TRIBES OF RUSSIA AND 

THE EAST 

Pronounced at the 3rd Session of the Petrograd Soviet on November isth, 

1917 

Muslims of Russia, Tartars of the Volga and the Crimea, Kirghiz, 
Kazakhs and Sarts of Siberia and Turkistan, Turks and Tartars of 
Transcaucasia, Chechens and Mountaineers of the Caucasus, and all 
those whose Mosques and Oratories have been destroyed, whose beliefs 
and customs have been trampled under foot by the Tsars and oppres- 
sors of Russia. Your beliefs and usages, your national and cultural 
institutions, are henceforth free and inviolate. Organize your life in 
complete freedom. You have the right. Know that your rights, like those 
of all the peoples of Russia, are under the powerful safeguard of the 
revolution and its organs, the Soviet of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants. 
Lend your support to this revolution and its government 

At a fractional Conference of the Bolshevik party held in Petrograd 
in April 1917 Stalin declared: 

"The oppressed people comprised within Russia must be given the 
right to decide for themselves the question whether they want to remain 
within the composition of the State of Russia, or to separate and form 
their own independent States.' (Revolution and the Question of 
Nationalities (Communist Academy, 1930), Vol. Hi, p. 8.) 



163 



APPENDIX II 

BRITISH AND INDIAN TROOPS TAKING PART IN 
OPERATIONS IN TRANSCASPIA, AUGUST 1918 TO 

APRIL 1919 

1. From August 1918 until November 1918 

28th Indian Cavalry, two squadrons 
I9th Punjabi Infantry, two companies 

2. From November 1918 until April 1919 

28th Indian Cavalry, three squadrons 
1 9th Punjabi Infantry, three companies 
i/4th Hampshire Regiment, one company 
Royal Warwick Regiment, two companies 
44th Battery, Royal Field Artillery 

British and Indian details, from East Persian Cordon and 
Dunsterforce about fifty officers and other ranks. 

Total British strength at time of evacuation: 950 officers and men. 



164 



NOTES 

Chapter I 

1 See Appendix I. 

2 The word Basmachi (robbers) was applied by the Bolsheviks in a derogatory 
sense to the Muslim national revolt against Russian domination and 
Bolshevism. There had been earlier revolts, culminating in the great rising 
in 1916 which had been crushed with severity by Tsarist troops. Alienation 
of native lands for the benefit of Russian settlers was the chief cause of 
anti-Russian feeling. Although suppressed by the 'Red' Army in 1924, 
Basmachi bands continued to operate in remote parts of Turkistan, and 
during the Second World War risings against Soviet authority and attacks 
on Russian settlers and state farms took place in Kazakhstan and Kir- 
ghizia, as well as in the Caucasus. 

3 Kazemzadeh, Firuz, The Struggle for Transcaucasia. 

Official History of the War, 1914-1918, Vol. IV, Mesopotamia, p. 198. 

Chapter 2 

1 Red Guards under Kolesov had attacked Bukhara in February 1918 but 
had been repulsed by the Emir's forces. 

2 Official History of the War, Vol. IV. 
Kazemzadeh, F., op. cit, p. 136. 

Dunsterville, Major-General L. C, Adventures of Dunsterforce, Ch. XH. 

3 Ullman, R. H., Intervention and the War, Ch. XI. 

Chapter 3 

1 Official History of the War, Vol. IV, 
Kazemzadeh, F., op. cit., Ch. Vffl. 

2 Dunsterville, op. cit. 
Kazemzadeh, op. cit., Ch. VDI. 

3 Goltz, General Freiherr von der, Zwischen Sinai und Kaukasus. 
Avalishvili, Z., Independence of Georgia, p. 57. 

4 Avalishvili, op. cit., pp. 66-7, 115-16. 

5 Kazemzadeh, op. cit., p. 135. 

6 Kadischev, A. B., Interventzia i grazhdanskaya voina v Zakavkaz 9 e. 

Chapter 4 

1 Ullman, R. H., op. cit., Ch. XI, p. 316. 

2 Ullman, R. H., op. cit, Ch. XI, p. 315. 

165 



NOTES 

3 Sbornik dokumentov, Document No. 54. 

Central Asian Review, Vol. VII, No. 2 (i959)> P- U7- 

4 Dickson, Brigadier-General W. E., East Persia. 

5 See Appendix I. 

Chapter 5 

1 Famine was largely due to the cessation of corn deliveries from European 
Russia. Turkistan had been forced to devote most of its irrigated area to 
cotton growing, and was therefore dependent on metropolitan Russia for 
foodstuffs. 

2 Knollys, Lieutenant-Colonel A. E., Journal of the Royal Central Asian 
Society, Vol. XHI, Part 2, 1926. 

Chapter 6 

1 The strength of British forces engaged with the Turks in Baku was approxi- 
mately 1,500. Casualties in killed and wounded were heavy. 

2 Ullman, op. tit., Ch. XI, p. 320. 

3 In various Soviet accounts Teague- Jones is accused of having supervised 
the shooting of the Commissars. He was, in fact, in Ashkhabad, several 
hundred miles away, and had no knowledge of Funtikov's intentions. No 
British officers were present at the execution of the Commissars (Kazem- 
zadeh, op. tit., p. 145). 

4 Central Asian Review, Vols. VI, No. 3, and VII, No. 2. 

5 Kazemzadeh, op. tit, pp. 143-5- 

Chapter 7 

1 Official History of the War, Vol. IV. 

2 Dickson, Brigadier-General, op. tit. 

Chapter 8 

1 Bailey, Lieutenant-Colonel F. M., Mission to Tashkent, Ch. HL 

2 Most Soviet historians of the revolution in Turkistan accept the story un- 
critically, including Babakhodzhaev, Kuliyev and Aleskerov, but present no 
evidence other than press reports and hearsay. 

Chapter g 

I Aleskerov describes the battle of Dushakh as a Bolshevik victory which 
resulted in the withdrawal of British troops from Transcaspia (Aleskerov, 
Interventzia i grazhdanskaya voina v srednei azii, p. 109). 

166 



NOTES 

Chapter 10 

1 Dickson, op. cit. 

2 Norris, Captain D., Caspian Naval Expedition. 

3 Kazemzadeh, op. cit., pp. 164-5. 

Chapter n 

1 Ullman, op. cit., pp. 326-7. 

2 Hayit, Baymirza, Turkistan im XX Jahrhundert. 

3 Official History of the War, Vol. IV. 



Chapter 12 

1 Ullman, op. cit., p. 327. 

Ullman quotes a number of official documents and telegrams having 
bearing on the question of British withdrawal from Transcaspia. 

2 In Soviet accounts, the issue by Malleson of promissory notes is depicted 
as a fraudulent scheme to extract money for the purposes of the Mission. 
After the withdrawal of British troops a number of forged notes appeared 
on the market. 



Chapter 13 

1 Soviet writers seem uncertain how to deal with the Tsarist period in 
Turkistan. At first it was treated critically as a period of Russian colonial- 
ism and exploitation. After various changes in the party line, resulting in 
the disappearance of exponents of earlier viewpoints, Russian occupation 
of Central Asia in the nineteenth century is now considered to have been in 
the interests of the native inhabitants. The almost continual revolts against 
Russian domination and Russian settlement on native lands are minimized 
or explained away as the work of reactionaries and fanatics. 

2 Hayit, Baymirza, op. cit., Ch. n, pp. 56-60. 

Chapter 14 

1 Kazemzadeh, op. cit., pp. 164-6. 

2 Dickson, op. cit., Ch. VI. 



Chapter 15 

1 Kazemzadeh, p. 165. 

2 Brun, A. H., Troublous Times. 

Central Asian Review, Vol. IX, No. 3 (1961). 

I6 7 



NOTES 

Chapter 16 

1 Ullman, op. tit, Ch. XI, p. 327* 

2 Knollys, op. cit. 

Chapter 17 

1 Kazemzadeh, op. cit,, Ch. XI, pp. 253-61 

2 See Appendix n. 

Chapter 18 

i Hayit, op. cit., Chs. n and m. 

Chapter 19 

1 Ullman, op. cit., pp. 326-7. 

2 Bailey, op. cit., pp. 148. 

3 Hayit, op. cit., pp. 93-5- 

4 Safarov, G., Kolonialnaya Revolyiitsia-opit Turkistana, pp. 104-5. 

Chapter 20 

I Frazer-Tytler, Sir W. K., Afghanistan. 

Chapter 21 

1 L. I. Miroshnikov, Angliiskaya Ekspansia v Irane. 

Miroshnikov, in his book published in 1961, reverts to this theme, 
minimizing the Turko-German threat to India and ignores the Soviet 
attempt to bring about a revolution in Persia. He grossly exaggerates the 
number of British troops in Persia between 1918 and 1920. 

2 The present trend of Soviet policy in Central Asia appears to be towards 
unification of the nominally independent republics, with more direct and 
firmer control from Moscow. 



168 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Note: Where no English version exists, a translation of the title is given in 
square brackets. 

Aleskerov, Y, Interventsia i grazhdanskaya voina v srednei azii [Intervention 
and civil war in Central Asia], (Tashkent, 1959). 

An account of British intervention in Central Asia in 1918-1919; 
although historically unreliable on the main issues, Aleskerov's book 
contains interesting material concerning the Turkistan Soviet govern- 
ment's relations with Bukhara and on domestic issues. 

Avalishvili, Z. (Avalov), Nezavisimost Gruzii (Paris, 1924), English translation 
Independence of Georgia (privately published, London, 1935). 

An authoritative account of the establishment of an independent 
regime in Georgia in 1918 and its relations with the German High 
Command and the Armenian and Azerbaijan nationalist governments. 

Babakhodzhaev, A. K., Proved angliiskoi aggressivnoi politiki v srednei azti, 
1917-1918 [Collapse of British aggressive policy in Central Asia, 1917- 
1918], (Tashkent, 1935). 

Although historically inaccurate, contains much interesting material 
relating to the Civil War period. Follows the official 'party line' of the pre- 
Khrushchev period. 

Bailey, Lieutenant-Colonel F, M., Mission to Tashkent (Jonathan Cape, 
London, 1946). 

Bennigsen, A., La Famille musalmane en Union Sovietique (Monde Russe et 
Sovietique, Paris, 1959). 

Brun, A. H., Troublous Times (Constable, London, 1931). 

Deals with the fate of the German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of 
war in Russian Turkestan. 

Caroe, Olaf, Soviet Empire: The Turks of Central Asia and Stalinism 
(Macmillan, London, 1953). 

Central Asian Review, Vol. VET, No. 3 (1960), and Vol. DC, No. 3 (1961), 
(Central Asian Research Centre, London). 

Chaikin, Vadim, K istorii rossiskoi revolyutzi (Moscow, 1922). 

An inaccurate and propagandist account of the shooting of the 
Twenty-Six Baku Commissars written by a member of the Socialist- 
Revolutionary party. 

Chokaev, Mustafa, 'Turkistan in 1918', in the Royal Central Asian Journal, 
Vol. XVm (London, 1931). 

The author played an important part in the nationalist movement of 
the Muslim peoples of Central Asia in 1917-1918. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Churchill, W. S., The World Crisis, Vol. 3, Chaps. LXXXVn and CL (4 vols., 
Hutchinson, London, 1923-9). 

In this volume of his account of the First World War, Sir Winston 
Churchill describes the background to the discussions in London and 
Paris on intervention in Russia in 1918. 

Conquest, Robert, Deportation of Soviet Nationalities (Macmillan, London, 

1960). 
Dickson, Brigadier-General W. E., East Persia (Edward Arnold, London, 

1924). 
Dunsterville, Major-General L. C, Adventures of Dunster force (Edward 

Arnold, London, 1921). 

A first-hand account of the temporary occupation of Baku by a small 

British force in August 1918. 

Etherton, P. T., In the Heart of Asia (Constable, London, 1925). 
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Great Soviet Encyclopaedia (Second Edition, Moscow, 1954). 

Articles on Baku, Transcaspia and the Twenty-six Commissars. 

Greaves, R. L., Persia and the Defence of India, 1884-1892 (Athlone Press, 
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Hayit, Baymirza, Turkestan im XX Jahrhundert (C. W. Leske Verlag, 
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A well-documented and historically authoritative account of the rise 
of nationalism among the Muslim peoples of Turkistan, the attempt to 
set up an autonomous regime, and its suppression by the Turkistan Soviet 
government. 

Hentig, W. von, Ins verschlossene Land (Berlin, 1928). 

Kadishev, A. B., Interventzia i grazhdanskaya voina v Zakavkaz'e [Interven- 
tion and civil war hi the Caucasus], (Moscow, 1960). 

A reasonably objective account of military operations in Trans- 
caucasia in 1918-1919 by an officer of the Soviet Ministry of Defence. 

Kazemzadeh, Finiz, The Struggle for Transcaucasia^ 1917-1921 (G. Ronald, 
Oxford, 1952). 

A valuable study of events in Transcaucasia during the revolutionary 
years, by a trained historian of Persian and Russian origin, written in a 
detached and objective manner; well documented. 

Knollys, Lieutenent-Colonel A. E., 'Military Operations in Transcaspia', 
in the Royal Central Asian Journal (Vol. XDI, Part 2, London, 1926). 

Kuliyev, K., Borba kornrnunisticheskoi partii za uprochenie soviet skoi vlasti i 
osushchestvlenie natzionaTnoi politiki v srednei azii [The struggle of the 
Communist Party for the consolidation of Soviet authority and the 
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170 



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Lenczowski, G., Russia and the West in Iran (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 

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in the Royal Central Asian Journal (Vol. IX, London, 1923). 

Miroshnikov, L. I., Angliiskaya Ekspansia v Irane [British Expansion in 
Persia], (Moscow, 1961). 

Norris, Captain D., 'Caspian Naval Expedition', in the Royal Central Asian 
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Official History of the War, 1914-1918, Vol. IV, Mesopotamia, based on 
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Park, A. G., Bolshevism in Turkistan, 1917-1927 (Russian Institute of 
Columbia University, New York, 1957). 

Pierce, R. A., Russian Central Asia 1867-1917 (University of California Press, 
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Safarov, G., Kolonialnaya Revolyutsia opit Turkistana (Moscow, 1921). 

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tion 1918-1919], (Turkistan State Publishing Office, Ashkhabad, 1957). 

Shteinberg, E., Ocherki istorii turkmenii (Moscow, 1934). 

A frank and interesting account of Soviet colonialism and chauvinism 
in Central Asia by a Soviet historical writer. (Quoted by Hayit, op. cit, 
P. 95.) 

Ullman, R. H., Intervention and the War (Oxford University Press, and 
Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1961). 

Contains hitherto unpublished material relating to British intervention 
in Transcaspia and the Caucasus. 

White Paper, Command Paper No. 1846 (Russia No. i) (His Majesty's 
Stationery Office, London, 1923). 

This White Paper contains correspondence relating to Soviet charges 
of British complicity in the shooting of the Twenty-six Baku Commissars 
in 1918. 
Wilfort, K, Turkestanisches Tagebuch (Vienna, 1930). 

A first-hand account of experiences of an Austrian prisoner of war in 
Turkistan during the revolutionary years. 

Zenkovsky, S. A., Pan-Turkism and Islam in Russia (Harvard University 
Press, 1960). 



171 



INDEX 



AFANASIEV, 123-4 

Afghanistan, 11-12, 17, 18, 23, 25, 
118, 123-5, 136, 147, 148, 154, 
158 

Agreement with Transcaspians, 30, 
43-5, in, 114 

Amanullah, Emir, 158 

American influence, 34, 47 

Amu Darya river (Oxus), 28, 102, 

122, 133, 137 

Annenkovo, 112, 131, 135 
Armenians, 21, 36, 53, 65, 107, 121-2 
Armoured trains, 49, 50, 134, 139 
Artyk, 31, 49 
Ashkhabad, 26, 27, 33, 41, 91, 105- 

10, 159 

Ashkhabad government (See Execu- 
tive Committee) 

Astrakhan, 34, 36-7, 59, 88, 121 
Austro-Hungarian war prisoners, 18, 

51, 66, 72, in, 123 
Avalov, Zurab (Avalishvili), 35 
Azerbaijan, 32, 81, in, 141 
Aziz Khan, 32, 81, in, 141 



BABUSHKIN, 143-4 

Bagdad, 23, 46, 65, 87 

Bailey, Colonel F. M., 72-3, 123, 148 

Bairam Ali, 28, 31, 49, 109, 112, 131 

Bajgiran, 14, 30, 89 

Baku, 12, 17, 20, 21, 33-8, 39, 55. 

57, 87, 91, 121 
Baluchistan, 14, 23, 31 
Baratov, General, 17 
Barkatullah, 147 

Basmachis, 12, 47, 71, 122, 124, 133 
Baton, 18, 21, 122, 135 
Beatty, Brigadier-General, 82, 114, 

156 
Bicharakov, General, 20, 33, 36, 113 



Birjand, 14, 22, 45, 131, 155 
Blacker, Captain L., 72 
Bolsheviks, 17, 21, 35, 37, 77, 123, 

128 

Brest-Litovsk Treaty, 17, 38, 40, 46 
British-Indian troops, 12, 22, 53, 68, 

89, 123, 135, 142, 159, Appen- 

dixn 
Bukhara, n, 18, 28, 45, 73, 113, 

124, 136, 141, 154 
Byelov, 131 



CALIPHAT, 18, 23, 136 

Caspian Sea, 35, 39, 59, 68, 147 
Caspian Shipping, 35 
Caucasus (See Transcaucasia) 
Cavalry, 28th Indian, 30, 68, 78-9, 

96, 116, 132, 134, 156 
Central Asia, n, 12, 13, 31, 39, 74, 

133, 159, 161 
Central Asian railway 18, 23-4, 29, 

39, 58, 67 
Central Caspian Directorate, 33, 35, 

36, 38, 47, 57, 58 
Chaikin, Vadim, 62 
Chardzhou, 28, 50, 80-1, 86, 131, 

138, 146 

Chauvinism (Russian), 19 
Chitral, 71 

Colonialism, 46, 98, 109, 159, 161 
Commissars, The Twenty-six, 37/59, 

60, 62, 64, 97 
Cotton, 31, 35, 37 
Curzon, Lord, 11 



DAGHISTANIS, 128-9, 135, 153 

Dashnaks, 21, 29 

Denikin, General, 81, 102, 122, 135, 
144, 149, 153 

173 



INDEX 

Derbent, 35 Hawley, Colonel, 89 

Dickson, Brigadier-General, 68, 114, Herat, 24, 67 

146 

Djunkovsky, 73 

Dokhov, Vladimir, 27, 32, 41, 58, 61, INDIA, 12, 18, 56, 91 

97 India, Government of, 23, 29, 80, 89, 

Dorrer, Count, 60, 99, 114, 153 JI 4 Il6 > I2 7, 145 

Drushkin, S. L., 91, 94, 98, 115, 130, ^^ troops, 15, 77, 86 

153 

Dunsterforce, 20, 57, 89 
Dunsterville, Major-General, 20, 29, 



~ 

33-5,45,55,57,65 e ' 39 

Dushakh, 31, 76, 78, 80, 89 
Dutov, Ataman, 19, 50, 66, 133, 140, KAAKHA , 31, 49, 5O-2, 55, 68^, 79, 

H9 I57 

Duzdap (ZaMdan), 14 Kabul> 23? 25> I24 ^ I4?j I54 

Kalashnikov, 123 

. ^ - Kandahar, 67, 125 

EAST Persian Cordon, 22, 24, 29, 30, Karakum 136 

6882125,146 Kashgar, '71,72 

S nve f. ***% " , Kazakhs, 71, 95, no, 122, 136 

Enzeli (Pahlevi), 24, 29, 33, 36, 39, Kazim Beg, 148 

55,57,65 Kazvin, 29' 

Etherton, Colonel, 71 Khiva, n A* ^ 1^7 

Executive Committee (Ashkhabad Khorasan', S 2 83" no, I35 
government), 27, 28, 30, 33, 41- Kizyl Arvat, 26 33 
2, 70, 77, 91, 94, 97, 128, 149, 156 Knoliys, Lt.-Colonel, 51, 67, 68, 89 

Kokand, 19, 47, 122, 160 
Kolesov, F., 26, 73 
FINANCE, 44, 93-4, ioo, 101, 104, Kolchak, Admiral, 90, 119, 122, 136 

PmwY,/ 34 Krasnovodsk, 17, 27, 34, 39, 50, 

Frolov, A., 26 6 

Frunze, General, 151, 157 Kress von Kressenstein, General, 35 

Funfakov, F. K, 27, 60, 97, 99 j^^ General> 2?> 55j ' 9?> ^ ^f 

Kuchan, 86 
^^ Kuchik Khan, 21 

GEORGIANS 35, 66, 121 Ru ^ 

German tmutery forces 18, 22, 66 Kuril ^ 

German rmssron to Baku, 37 Kuropatkin, General, 71, 98 

Game', n, 13. 159 ^^ ^ 27 ' 3I 5 ' 8 



LAZAREV, General, 153, 156 

HABIBULLAH, Emir, 23-4, 124, 147 Lerrn^ I47> I5 8, I59 
Hadji Murat, 28, 97, 98, 130, 150 
Hamadan, 29 

Hampshire Regiment, 38, 53, 55, 69, MACARTNEY, Sir George, 71, 73 
7$> 135 Mahendra Pratap, 147, 148 

174 



INDEX 

Malleson, Major-General, 14, 21, 22, Persian Gulf, 12, 126 

24-5, 28, 31, 33, 61, 71, 91, 108, Promissory notes, 117, 155 

131, 141, 142 Propaganda, 46, 85, 115, 119, 130 

Malmiss, 23, 24, 26, 35, 47, 67, 77, Punjabi Regiment (i9th), 30, 45, 5*, 

99, 151, 159 55, 79, 80, 96, 132, 135 

Mari (See Merv) 

Mensheviks, 18, 21, 35, 90, 95, 152 OTJETT* TA 22 2/l 60 TIT 

Merv, 11, 18, 27, 28, 54, 67, 80, 89, <* UETTA > '4, 22, 24, 69, 131 

no, 135, 136 

Meshed, 14, 22, 83, 85, 120, 123, 126, RAILWAY workers, 19, 21, 26, 115 

158 Ravnina, 131, 132, 139 

Mesopotamia, 17 Red Guards, 27, 28, 34, 78 

Milne, General, 127, 131, 135, 145, Russia (Tsarist), n, 14, 71, 91, 122, 

146 162 
Moscow, 19, 34, 37, 80 

Muhammedabad, 29 30, 154 SAMARKAND, n, 45, 86 

Murghab, River, 136 Sarakhg ^ * 

Muslim population, 46, 4 7, 9L 98, Seistan ; i4 24> 45> 6?> I55 

^ , I6 . Shaumian, S., 21, 22, 59 

Mussavatxsts, 21 Stafla, 25, 29, 62, 119 

Skobelev, General, 95 

. . A , - , Socialist-Revolutionaries, 21, 77, 90, 

NAVAL forces m the Caspian, 65, 96 152 

121 Stalin, 142 

Niedermeyer, 148 Stok Colonel 6 

Norperforce, 121 

Norris, Captain, 65, 121 

North Staffordshire Regiment, 35 TABRIZ, 67 

North-West frontier of India, 23, 24, Tashkent, 26, 45, 47, 50, 7*, 87, 9*, 

41, 91, 118, 148, 159 148-9, l6 

Nuri Pasha, General, 66 Teague- Jones, Captain R., 30, 41, 60, 

Nushki, 24 62, 99, 112, 155 

Tedrhen, 32, 55, 67, no, 124, 136, 

157 

OBEZ Baev, 28, 98, 130 Tehran, 29, 159 

Oil, 34, 35, 37, 38, 135 Thompson, General, 92 

Oraz Sirdar, 28, 31, 49, 51, 92, 95, Tiflis, 18, 35, 135 

113, 137, 150 Transcaspia, 12, 13, 18, 19, 25, 43, 

Orenburg (Chkalov), 50, 133, 149 9*, 128, 153 

Osipov, 148 Transcaspian government (See Exe- 

Oxus River (See Amu Darya) cutive Committee) 

Transcaucasia, 14, 17, 18, 37, 60, 135, 

150 

PAHLEVI (See Enzeli) Treaty (Alleged British treaty with 

Pan-Islamism, 23, 66, 91 T.M.O.)> 75 

Pan-Turanism, 18 Tredwell, R. G., 47, 123 

Persia, 11, 23, 77, 89, 119, 123, 125, Turkistan, 18, 19, 31* 37, 133, 145, 

133, 135, 147, 161 159 

175 



INDEX 

T.M.O. (Turkistan Military Organi- Uchaji, 28, 83, 140 

sation), 73, 75, 122, 148 Uzbeks, 45, 136 

Turkistan Soviet (Tashkent govern- 
ment), 18, 19, 26, 28, 46, 71, 91, 

122, 149 WAR Office, 29 

Turkmans, 21, 28, 49,92, 95, no-ii, Warwickshire Regiment, 92, 116, 
115, 136, 138, 150, 155, 156 134 135, 156 

Turko-German military operations, Wassmuss, W., 24 

19, 21, 26, 29, 32, 34, 46, 67, 89 'White' forces, 47, 73, 93, 122, 128, 

Turks, 22, 29, 33, 35, 37, 39, 57, 85, 144, 148, 152, 160 

96 

UNITED Nations, 13 ZIMEN, L. A., 27, 41, 60, 97, 98, 151 



KAZAKH S. S. R. j 



KAZA\KUM DISIKT 

'"'"\ ,,-Darvaza 




'eshed 




An Australian, born in Sydney, 
C. H. Ellis was educated at Melbourne 
and Oxford Universities and served 
with the Middlesex Regiment in 
France, Egypt and India in the First 
World War. In 1917 he was posted to 
N.E. Persia as a member of the 
Malleson Mission to Meshed and 
Transcaspia; took part in the 
operations in Transcaspia in 1918-1919, 
and also in the Afghan War in 1919, 
as well as serving with missions in 
the Caucasus and the Black Sea area. 
After a year's further study at 
Oxford and the Sorbonne, he 
returned to the Middle East to serve on 
the staff of the British High 
Commission in Constantinople, and in 
the Balkans, until 1924. He 
subsequently served at various foreign 
service overseas posts in Europe and 
the Middle East, and as a newspaper 
correspondent, making a study of 
Russian policies and activities in 
these areas. On the outbreak of the 
Second World War, he returned to the 
army, serving as Colonel on the 
staff of missions in the United States 
and the Middle East, and since 
1045 has served in various official 
capacities in S.E. Asia and the Far East. 
In an active retirement he continues 
a close study of the affairs of 
Eastern Europe, Russia and the Near 
East. 



Printed in -GwM B?to& 



14663