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The Great Game was a rivalry between Great Britain and the Russian Empire over Central Asia, which spanned from 1813 into the early 20th century. Britain was concerned that an expansionist Russia would invade Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia and in turn threaten the Indian subcontinent, which they considered the most important part of the empire. The Russians were concerned about the British influence on their borders. As the older Muslim states such as the Emirate of Afghanistan and Persia decayed, a power vacuum formed; Britain and Russia consumed the vacuum. Britain feared that Czar Paul I in the late 18th century would be persuaded by Napoleon, at the time a French leader gaining influence, to march his armies down in Afghanistan to threaten Britain’s increasing colonial influence.
For the Russians, their rivalries in Central Asia predated Britain’s by centuries. They constantly fought the Central Asia emirs in what is now Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as a matter of principle and routine due to the threats they posed to the Russian border and religious differences (most of the emirates were Islamic, while Russia was obviously Eastern Orthodox). Fromkin (1980) states that “the wars that they [Russia] waged with such frequency against the empires and khanates of Asia would have taken place even if Britain had never existed.” Britain became further alarmed when Russia controlled more Ottoman and Persian territory due to the fact that India could be split from the rest of the British Empire...
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