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How did British-Russian rivalry manifest in Afghanistan?

The British-Russian rivalry in Afghanistan manifested as the Great Game, a political and diplomatic confrontation during the 19th century.

The Great Game was a term used to describe the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. The term "The Great Game" is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry.

The British were concerned about Russian expansion in Central Asia and the potential threat to India, the 'jewel in the crown' of the British Empire. They feared that the Russians would take advantage of the political instability in Afghanistan to establish a stronghold there. As a result, the British attempted to establish a puppet regime in Afghanistan that would be friendly to their interests. This led to the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1839, which ended in a disastrous defeat for the British.

The rivalry continued with the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), which was sparked by the Afghan ruler Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British diplomatic mission while receiving a Russian one. The British invaded and, after initial setbacks, emerged victorious, establishing Abdur Rahman Khan as the new Amir of Afghanistan. The British retained control over Afghanistan's foreign affairs, effectively making it a protectorate.

The Great Game ended in 1907 with the signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention. Both powers agreed to respect each other's territorial integrity and to consult each other in case of a crisis. This agreement marked the end of the Great Game, but the legacy of this rivalry continues to shape the geopolitics of the region.

In conclusion, the British-Russian rivalry in Afghanistan was a complex and protracted struggle for influence and control, marked by wars, diplomatic manoeuvres, and the establishment of spheres of influence. It was a key aspect of the broader global rivalry between the British and Russian empires, and its effects are still felt in the region today.

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