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on April 20, 2017
Peter Hopkirk's books on Central Asia are very good. Begin with The Great Game, go on to On Secret Service East of Constantinople, and follow with Setting the East Ablaze. Hopkirk was apparently inspired by Fitzroy MacLean's Eastern Approaches, to do much research and write his own books set in Central Asia. MacLean, after his diplomatic service in Moscow, with accompanying forays into 'Central Asia,' went to join The Phantom Major (David Stirling) in North Africa, before being sent by Churchill to 'Yugoslavia' to discover which resistance group was the strongest, and the one most likely to help drive the Germans and Italians out of the Balkans -- this group, then, Britain would send supplies to. MacLean and Churchill recognized that they would be choosing to help a Communist resistance group (The Partisans), and that there would be 'problems' related to the choice at the end of the war. [Read Nikolai Tolstoy's books The Minister and the Massacres and The Secret Betrayal: 1944-1947. Also, Nicholas Bethell's The Last Secret.] For fans of John Buchan's novels, Hopkirk says that On Secret Service East of Constantinople is the "true story" which lies behind Buchan's novel Greenmantle. Readers of On Secret Service East of Constantinople may want to read next, The Spy Who Disappeared, by Reginald Teague-Jones...along with Hopkirk's Setting the East Ablaze. These writers give a reader so many "ends of golden strings," that to follow them all, would take many months, and the reading of a good many books! Hopkirk is a good writer, whatever he is writing about.
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on July 24, 2014
With the East truly ablaze these days I am grateful to British historical fiction author Antoine Vanner ("Britannia's Reach," "Britannia's Wolf") for introducing me to the works of Peter Hopkirk. While not written in chronological order, this book could be considered the third of a trilogy of works by Hopkirk that provide a very thorough, historically sound, yet highly readable introduction to the "Great Game" of territorial rivalry between Britain (ever concerned for the future of India, the jewel in the crown of the British empire) and Imperial and later Soviet Russia over influence in central Asia. One cannot hope to understand current events and passions in this region without at least an introduction to this history of Western intervention in the region.
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on September 5, 2009
This is another of Peter Hopkirk's wonderful books about Central Asia, mostly dealing with players in the Great Game. This volume takes up the story after World War One, when the Bolsheviks decided they would attempt to the keep the provinces of Tsarist Russia intact and part of the Soviet Union, all in the name of anti-imperialism. There were also various Chinese, Turkic, and British forces at work in the power void which resulted in Central Asia after the collapse of the Russian Empire.

Like other Hopkirk books, this is not dry history, but a series of compelling portraits of individual players in the intrigues of the time. These include the "Mad Baron", von Ungern-Sternberg, a White Russian who thought he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan, and attempted to recreate the latter's Empire in an orgy of murder and destruction. There is also the British super-spy Bailey, who survived for months behind Bolshevik lines as they actively pursued him. At one point he assumed the disguise of an Albanian (correctly assuming that there would likely be no one in Central Asia to check his linguistic bona fides), became a Soviet agent, and was given as one of his tasks gathering information about the British spy Bailey. Another character was Enver Pasha, the cosmopolitan former Ottoman leader, who tried to create a pan-Turkic state in central Asia, to stretch from Anatolia to Chinese Turkestan.

An excellent book.
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on April 6, 2017
Must read for travelers and adventurers everywhere. The darting, cunning, endurance and treachery of the stories are not to be missed. Highly recommend
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VINE VOICEon December 14, 2006
Peter Hopkirk's third installment of the Great game is as masterful as the first two. Lenin's drive to take over the central Asian territories and hold the oil there inspires a true terror of what the great game had evolved into. From continuing intrigued in Afghanistan to the development of Iran as a major actor in the region come directly from this time period. The great game is one of the most interesting events in history and no one tells it better than Hopkirk. You will not believe that this book is true by the time you are done. It is utterly amazing what people will do for their countries when they are called upon to serve. The adventures of the great game should be read by everyone.
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on July 26, 2006
Hopkirk hooked me with his "Great Game" book, which brimmed with fascinating characters in the competition between England and Russia in Central Asia. This book is equally well-done and its players are, if anything, even more fascinating than the earlier work. You couldn't make people like this up if you were writing a novel. The way they succumbed to avarice or power and swam with or against the tide of history in a most bloody fashion is spellbinding. Hopkirk is that rare author who brings important history to us in a most palatable fashion. A great read.
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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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on October 1, 2014
An Engaging Read - Reading the series of three books by Peter Hopkirk brings to light the extensive history of politics, power plays, and use of religious fervor as means to an end in this region. The interest comes from the stories being told through actions and thoughts of the individual players in the "Great Game." The information is well outside of anything I learned in school - so if you have an interest in the region and politics - I think this understanding of some of the history is very useful.
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on July 4, 2011
Mr. Hopkirk does it again in this great book about Asia in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Well-written, Setting the East Ablaze reads like an adventure novel, discussing the initial efforts of the Bolsheviks to secure the Muslim territories of the Tsar for themselves and then attempting to spread their communist creed to India, Mongolia, Sinkiang and China itself. The story is a fantastic one of secret agents, revolutionaries, gentlemen-explorers, warlords, madmen and opportunities lost and found. Lenin wanted to use Asia to trigger a communist revolution in Europe but in the end the most significant accomplishment the Reds had to show for their efforts was to turn the central Asian territories of the Russian Empire into Soviet Republics of the USSR. Illustrated with maps and photographs.
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on May 26, 2014
I admit to not knowing much about the 20th century history of the area covered by this book, but Hopkirk's work proved a revelation. It covers events set in motion by Lenin's promise to 'Set the East ablaze' in the name of Bolshevik Communism, of the various attempts by Moscow to subvert and conquer China and India, and of the various attempts by Britain in particular to foil Lenin's aim. A warning: some of the scenes described are harrowing in the extreme.

Well worth reading.
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