Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Fish.
St. Petersburg, January 8, 1873. (Received February 7.)
Sir: I am now in a position to inform you more exactly of the details of the negotiations between England and Russia, of which I spoke in my dispatch No. 43.
It appears that Mr. Forsyth was sent here in 1869, by the British government, to endeavor to come to some arrangement with the Russian government with regard to the extent of their conquests in Central Asia and their ultimate limit. After some negotiation it was agreed that so long as Russia respected the boundaries of Afghanistan, or rather the dominion of the Emir of Cabul, Shere Ali Khan, for so long the Indian government would restrain Shere Ali Khan from attacking or interfering with Russia. It was at first proposed that the dominions of Shere Ali Khan should be considered those which he inherited from his father, Dost Mohammed Khan, but an additional condition was made that they should be now in Shere Ali’s actual possession.
This result was come to without much difficulty; but when the question arose, What are the provinces which the Shere Ali received from Dost Mohammed, and of which he has actual possession? there were divergencies of opinion, and especially with reference to Badakhshan and Vakhan. It was finally decided to refer this question to General Kaufmann, the Russian governor-general of Turkestan, who, being near the spot, could have access to more accurate sources of knowledge. General Kaufmann having made no report, and a note addressed by Sir Andrew Buchanan, the British embassador here, to Prince Gortchacow in November, 1871, remaining without a satisfactory answer, Earl Granville, in a dispatch dated October 17, 1872, informed Lord Augustus Loftus, the present British embassador, of this state of facts, and stated further that, having heard nothing more from the Russian cabinet, the British government had used its own methods of investigation, and had come to the conclusion that Badakhshan and Vakhan were part of the dominions of Shere Ali left to Mm by Dost Mohammed, and that the northern boundary of Afghanistan begins at Lake Sari-kul, the source of the river Payja, the main branch of the Amu-Darya or Oxus, runs thence along the river Payja to its confluence with the Koktchas, and thence along the Oxus or Amu-Darya to Khodja-Sala, and thence southwesterly to a point at or near Puli-Hatun, on the well-known Persian boundary, including Meimana and two or three other disputed provinces. Earl Granville further said that the Indian government had communicated this conclusion to the Emir of Cabul, and had informed him that he might consider himself at liberty to defend himself in case the territories south of this line should be invaded by Russia. Lord Augustus Loftus was instructed to communicate this dispatch to the Russian government.
The reply of the Russian government consists of a dispatch from Prince Gortchacow to Count Brunnow, the Russian embassador at London, dated December 7–19, 1872, inclosing a report by General Kaufmann and another by Colonel Struve, who had been delegated by him to study the question.
Prince Gortchacow, after referring to a previous dispatch on the same subject of the preceding year, speaks of a desire of the imperial government to have nothing but the most frank and cordial relations and explanations with the British cabinet, and of the advantage it will be to [Page 769] both powers that their relations in Central Asia be placed on the firm footing of a mutual good understanding. He then excuses General Kaufmann for not reporting sooner, on the ground of the disturbed relations of the countries in Central Asia, and the fact that it is impossible to obtain accurate information except from persons who are on the spot 5 and that lie has not wished to send agents to Badakhshan, even on a scientific mission, for fear that his action might be misinterpreted by the British cabinet as well as by the native government. The Prince then refers to the reports by General Kaufmann and Colonel Struve for such information as they have been able to gather on the facts of the case. As to the provinces on the northwest frontier of Afghanistan, as they are separated from Russia by large desepts and wastes, he will waive any question and will accept the English assertion that they belong to Afghanistan, but he denies that Badakhshan and Vakhan are now in the actual possession of Shere Ali Khan, or were inherited by him from Dost Mohammed Khan.
It is true, the Prince says, that Dost Mohammed on one occasion interfered iii the affairs of Badakhshan in consequence of an intrigue in the family of the reigning Emir, and for a money consideration supported one claimant against the other and maintained him on the throne 5 but the Prince soon refused to pay the money, and Dost Mohammed was unable to enforce its collection. He never occupied Badakhshan by his troops, nor maintained officers there. In the same way, in 1867, Shere Ali was called in by Mahmud Shah, the nephew of Jahandar Shah, the reigning Emir. Jahandar Shah was deposed and Mahmud Shah put in his place, who promised to pay a yearly sum of money to the Afghans. This payment he has now refused to make, and the Afghans, though much stronger in the point of actual force, have been unable to collect, and exercise no authority of any kind in Badakhshan. Jahandar Shah, who had taken refuge in Shagnan, is now intriguing with the Afghans to be reinstated, and promises, in his turn, a tribute in recompense. This information was obtained from a former minister of the Emir of Balkh, an Afghan feudatory. There is nothing to show that Vakhan is a feudatory of Badakhshan, as it neither pays tribute nor supports officials, and it is certainly not an Afghan dependency.
Since this dispatch of Prince Gortchacow, which, with the inclosures was communicated to Earl Granville, there has been no new exchange of notes between the two governments, but Count Schouvaloff, the director of the secret police, has gone to London on a mission connected with this question.
I can only add that the geography and political condition of Badakhshan and Vakhan are inshrouded in the deepest darkness, and hardly two geographers agree on the subject.
As I stated in my previous dispatch, the question of Khiva is officially ignored by the British cabinet. In the mean time the Russians are pushing their preparations for an active campaign, partly in consequence of the disagreeable intelligence that 15,000 Khivans are roving over the steppes between the Caspian and Aral Seas, plundering the friendly Kirghiz and exciting them to rebellion, and threatening the forts on the Emba, and even Orenburg itself, and the post-road to Tashkent. General Kaufmann, who will have chief command of the expedition, is still here, and will not leave before the 20th January. He is waiting to consult with the Grand Duke Michael, who is expected shortly. The expedition will consist in all of about 9,000 men and 40 guns, and will be divided into three columns: one starting from Kramovodsk, on the Caspian, will go direct to Khiva by the nearest route across the steppe; one will [Page 770] go along the old caravan-road from Orenburg, and the third, under General Kaufmann in person, will proceed from fort No. 1, on the Syr Darya through the country east of the Aral Sea. Each will carry its provisions, forage, &c. They will probably start about the middle of March. The Grand Duke Nicholas, son of Constantine, will take part in the expedition.
I have, &c.