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Setting the East Ablaze: Lenins Dream of an Empire in Asia Paperback – December 1, 1995

35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amid the sand and rock of Central Asia, Russia and England spent much of the 19th century playing what historians have come to call the Great Game: the struggle for control over transcontinental routes from Europe to the Far East. When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, Lenin continued to press Russian--now Soviet--claims to faraway, fabled places such as Samarkand and Hotan. The intrigues of his agents and their British counterparts, swashbucklers all, could come from a modern spy novel, and they make for fascinating reading in Peter Hopkirk's vivid account.

From Publishers Weekly

A real-life tale of espionage and adventure, Hopkirk's latest concerns Soviet attempts to sponsor communist revolution in Asia and the British secret agent who opposed them.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International; Reprint edition (December 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568361025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568361024
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.8 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,460,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Hopkirk has traveled widely in the regions where his six books are set - Central Asia, the Caucasus, China, India and Pakistan, Iran, and Eastern Turkey. He has worked as an ITN reporter, the New York correspondent of the old Daily Express, and - for twenty years - on The Times. No stranger to misadventure, he has twice been held in secret police cells and has also been hijacked by Arab terrorists. His works have been translated into fourteen languages.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By omarbukka on August 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I liked this book even better than Hopkirk's The Great Game, since it give such an intimate and detailed story of a few individuals. These extraordinary tales are far more exciting than any fiction. Rather than being a unified book, it is more like a collection of account of several different stories. Most of the stories (not quite all) are extremely compelling. The photographs are also revealing.
The book contains unforgettable images and circumstances. A few of my favorites: the plight of WWI POWs stranded in the midst of the Russian civil war, the rescue from the Soviet prison, the murderously insane Russian general, and the hapless Indian revolutionaries whose Soviet-supplied invisible ink turned into very visible ink in the humid climate of India. Particularly striking was the contrast of the Bolshevik purges and executions, and the British response to treasonous Indians (the Bolshevik-trained Indians received extremely light sentences after an extended trial).
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hopkirk is a mater story teller. Anyone who cares about how Afghanistan and the surrounding countries ended up the way they did must read The Great Game--Hopkirk's gripping description of the battle between Russia and England for control of Central Asia--a hint: they both lost.
This volume picks up the story with the Russian Revolution. Again, Hopkirk does an excellent job of out lining the players, the global politics, and how it all impacted on this traditional "crossroads of the world". Here, the focus is on Lenin, and Russia's (successful) attempt to claim/re-claim Central asia as its own.
My criticisim is that the story is not nearly as gripping as a story as was the Great Game. There are superb vignettes, but the overall narrative is simply not as good.
However, if you want to know why Russia was willing to dvote a decade (1980 to 1990) to its war in Afghanistan, which set the stage for the Taliban and Al Queda, then I know of no better book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. Mcfarland on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I have read in years. Possibly better than Hopkirk's original 'The Great Game'. While this is the tale of about espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines in Central Asia, it reads like an adventure novel.
The action centres around immediate aftermath of the Russian revolution, just when the new soviet state was most intent on exporting revolution to the rest of the world. Hopkirk is at his best when he introduces Russia's nemesis in Central Asia - a certain Colonel Frederick Bailey, 'Great Game' hero and butterfly collector. Totally bonkers, in a truly British way. It's so exciting that you can scarcely believe that it's true - apparently it is.
Bailey, a british agent from the Raj, is sent to Central Asia to foil Soviet attempts to expand their empire south. Along the way he evades hit squads, execution chambers and even manages to circulate amongst the enemy by joining their own secret service and working as a double agent. About half way through, Bailey evenually gets back to India and drops out of sight - much to the frustration of the Soviets, but not before one final shoot out at the border post.
Hopkirk then sets off on another romp from Moscow to the Pacific Ocean, detailing the struggle between the Whites, the Reds and their respective supporters in the international community. This time there are multiple players -: the Soviet Comintern, Indian Communists, Turkish Nationalists, White Russians, British agents fighting for the Whites and some very, very cruel members of God's creation. Everything swirls around in a vast game where everyone is out to grab what they can from the dismembered Russian empire.
Almost everyone in here will be new to most readers - with the exception of Mikhael Borodin - but that shouldn't detract from an excellent piece of story telling. This is history the way it should be written. Five Stars is five too few.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paarko Seitaar on July 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an instant classic! But some of you may be wondering: what's so great about an obscure conflict in an obscure land?
For a start there's the psychopathic White Russian general, Ungern-Sternberg, the "Mad Baron", who believes himself to be the reincarnation of Genghis Khan, and who dreams of conquering Russia at the head of a Mongol army. There's Enver Pasha, the former Ottoman Minister of War recruited by the Bolsheviks, but soon betraying them in pursuit of his dream - a new Turkish empire in Central Asia. For Britain the greatest threat comes from the new Russia of Lenin and Trotsky, once more playing hard at the Great Game, eager to undermine Britain by striking at India. There are Chinese Warlords, defeated White Russian armies, Muslim rebels, bandits, an ambitious Afghan king, secret agents, Tibetan bandits, and always the possibility of a British expedition.
At the geographical centre of all this is the Chinese province of Sinkiang - a land surrounded on 3 sides by soaring mountain ranges, at its heart the world's most inhospitable desert, littered with lost cities. Between mountains and desert lies a ring of walled towns where travellers cross with a single step from an arid expanse of sand and gravel into a world of trickling streams and shady groves. Along the ancient Silk Road between the towns trudge trade caravans of camels, donkeys, huge-wheeled carts and the occasional motor car or lorry. In the towns among the narrow streets, crumbling buildings, and bustling markets Indian traders watch, sending reports back to British India...
Well, there it is, and as I have said before, you must get this book! The gripping narrative just makes you unable to put the book down until you have finished, and then it forces you to read it again! Get this book quickly!
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