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Central Asia in the Edwardian & Jazz Eras (1900-1945)

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#1 deuce

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 08:02 AM

Roerich_Dorje_the_Daring_One_paintings.j
 
There were great steppes, and rocky table-lands
Stretching half-limitless in starlit night,
With alien campfires shedding feeble light
On beasts with tinkling bells, in shaggy bands.
Far to the south the plain sloped low and wide
To a dark zigzag line of wall that lay
Like a huge python of some primal day
Which endless time had chilled and petrified.

 
~ HPL ~
 
My thread on Central Asia in the Victorian Era got several responses relating to early 20th century explorers. So, I thought this companion thread would be helpful and keep things a bit more organized.
 
As I've said elsewhere, I define "Central Asia" (I prefer the more evocative "Inner Asia") as anywhere north of Persia, south of the Arctic, east of the Urals and west of China proper (Chinese Turkestan was a Chinese colony, pure and simple). Any of you are free to disagree; it matters not to me.
 
This region possessed picturesque cities like Samarkand and Tashkent, ruins galore and plenty of ethnic groups hostile to foreigners. It also hid dread citadels of mystery like Leng, Yian-Ho and Yahlgan. Adventure and eldritch horror were to be found for anyone crazy enough to make the arduous journey just to get there.
 
As Queen Victoria lay on her deathbed, Inner Asia was beginning to feel the tread of non-Russian and non-Brit explorers. Scandinavians and Germans were at the forefront of that and the trend would continue into WWII. Of course, von Junzt beat all of them there by half a century.
 
Sven Hedin, while technically a Victorian, was a sort of godfather to those non-Brits thirsting to explore the Roof of the World or feel the sands of the Gobi beneath their feet. A website devoted to Hedin:
 
http://svenhedin.com/
 
Henning Haslund-Christensen was something of a protege of Hedin. He died in Kabul in 1948:
 
https://en.wikipedia...und-Christensen
 
These two men bracket the era, but they are by no means the only Europeans/Westerners to write about Inner Asia during that tumultuous period. I hope to hear about other wanderers in trackless wastes from my fellow Yoggie members. :)
 
1765216._UY475_SS475_.jpg
 
Oskar von Niedermayer, while not much of an explorer in Central Asia, certainly did much to keep things interesting in the region:
 
http://www.quarterly...in-weltpolitik/
 
https://www.amazon.c...n/dp/1780768753
 
cover_kaiser.jpg
 
Roy Chapman Andrews (along with Francis Xavier "El Borak" Gordon) was one of the first Yanks to dare the sands of the Gobi:
 
https://en.wikipedia...Chapman_Andrews
 
https://roychapmanan...hapman-andrews/
 
7b1e4943618d962f2d57ac55efc259a6.jpg


Edited by deuce, 11 October 2016 - 09:33 AM.



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#2 HJ

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:30 AM

And you can obviously throw the Russian Civil War into the mix. And I seem to think that one of the WW1 Turkish leaders went out that way to try and create a pan-Turkish republic.

#3 rylehNC

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 05:11 PM

My thread on Central Asia in the Victorian Era got several responses relating to early 20th century explorers. So, I thought this companion thread would be helpful and keep things a bit more organized.
 
As I've said elsewhere, I define "Central Asia" (I prefer the more evocative "Inner Asia") as anywhere north of Persia, south of the Arctic, east of the Urals and west of China proper (Chinese Turkestan was a Chinese colony, pure and simple). Any of you are free to disagree; it matters not to me.

 

The Gobi is east of Turkestan (which I take to mean Sinkiang/Xinjiang), so if Andrews is fair game Aurel Stein should be (also because it's a great setting at the time - not really controlled at all by China, but rather by warlords).  Owen Lattimore is another good author as well.


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#4 Mysterioso

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 05:50 PM

Again, I suggest anyone interested look at Peter Hopkirk's books.
 
Fitzroy Maclean's Eastern Approaches might have some material of interest too, though his forays into Central Asia took place during the Show Trials of the Soviet Union.

#5 deuce

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 02:17 AM

The Gobi is east of Turkestan (which I take to mean Sinkiang/Xinjiang), so if Andrews is fair game Aurel Stein should be (also because it's a great setting at the time - not really controlled at all by China, but rather by warlords).  Owen Lattimore is another good author as well.

 

I mentioned Aurel Stein on the "Victorian" thread, but he's really more of a 20th century man in most ways.

 

Regarding "Central Asia"...

 

Of course I count the Gobi and Mongolia within that designation. Without the addition of Xinjiang/East Turkestan/Uyghurstan and Tibet/Xizang to Han China, Mongolia would stretch far beyond the furthest western border of China. I'm not saying to chop Mongolia in half and only count the western portion in Central Asia. In some ways, Mongolia is the poster-child for Central Asia.

 

The same goes for Afghanistan. I'm not saying to chop off the parts which share latitudes with Iran/Persia. It is the southern gateway to Central Asia.

 

If you want a more precise delineation in modern geo-political terms, then Kazakhstan forms the western bulwark and Mongolia the north-eastern corner. Then you have Xinjiang/Uyghurstan, Tibet, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. 

 

No Azerbaijan, no Nepal, no eastern Siberia, no Manchuria, no Pakistan.

 

1911ChinaTRZ1.jpg

 

 

 

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#6 Mysterioso

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 03:22 AM

James Palmer's The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia is an interesting read.

#7 DAR

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 07:26 AM

James Palmer's The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia is an interesting read.

 

Excellent book, well worth picking up.

 

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#8 deuce

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 02:44 PM

James Palmer's The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia is an interesting read.

 

Quite interesting. Ungern-Sternberg would appear to be a villain from a "weird menace" pulp, but he was all too real. The bloody baron was one of the foremost reasons I started this thread. 

 

Probably our primary source on the baron is Ossendowski's Beasts, Men and Gods. Here's the pdf: 

 

http://nanophysics.p...ts_Men_Gods.pdf

 

Here's a quote from it:  

In Asia there will be a great State from the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the shore of the Volga. The wise religion of Buddha shall run to the north and the west. It will be the victory of the spirit. A conqueror and leader will appear stronger and more stalwart than Jenghiz Khan and Ugadai. He will be more clever and more merciful than Sultan Baber and he will keep power in his hands until the happy day when, from his subterranean capital, shall emerge the King of the World.

 
— Baron Ungern von Sternberg, from Beasts, Men and Gods by Ferdynand Ossendowski (1921)
 
 
An article by a man who contemplated writing a book on the baron:
 
 
 
Certain reviewers have criticized the "pulp" feel of The Bloody White Baron, but that is what makes it perfect for Keepers. It is also a thumping good read.
 
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#9 deuce

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 05:29 PM

Aurel Stein, a Hungarian who became a naturalized Brit, was one of the great explorers of Inner Asia -- especially the Taklamakan:

 

https://infogalactic...nfo/Aurel_Stein

 

 

aurel_stein_group.jpg



#10 skaye

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 07:15 PM

Hopkirk's great for introducing a number of figures, in some cases in their own words. Two are:

 



#11 deuce

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Posted 21 October 2016 - 03:13 PM

An advance look at Robert Gerwarth's The Vanquished: Why The First World War Failed To End, 1917-1923...

 

http://frontierparti...led-with-blood/

 

From the sound of it, it's mostly concerned with the convulsions in Europe post-WWI. However, as we know, all of that had knock-on effects across Central Asia (see Von Ungern-Sternberg).

 

I could easily see a Keeper starting a campaign somewhere in tumult-filled eastern Europe (Prague?) and then the investigation leading on to Inner Asia. After all, Investigators have to come from somewhere (not ruling out a scenario involving only native Inner Asians, of course). Obviously, this book would be very useful for a Jazz Age Eurocentric scenario. It also seems quite worthy in its own right.

 

0374282455.jpg?altimages=true&width=260&



#12 deuce

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Posted 26 October 2016 - 12:45 PM

Douglas Carruthers was one of the most important explorers of Inner Asia during the first half of the 20th century. His books, like Unknown Mongolia and Beyond the Caspian, are excellent resources.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia...glas_Carruthers

 

 

001003_1.jpg?v=1466274588



#13 deuce

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 09:27 PM

Bokii and Barchenko: Soviet explorers...and Theosophists.  It's mind-boggling just how much Theosophy infiltrated Western culture (especially the elites) in the first half of the 20th century. Nazi Germany, the USSR and the USA (under the auspices of future VP, Henry Wallace) all sent expeditions with Theosophical connections to Inner Asia.

 

http://www.newdawnma..._Shambhala.html

 

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Gleb_Bokii

 

 

065_781.jpg

 

 

bokii-gleb.jpg?w=474


Edited by deuce, 06 January 2017 - 01:32 AM.


#14 deuce

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Posted 08 April 2017 - 04:09 AM

Theos Casimir Bernard claimed to be "the first white lama." He was certainly one of the first popularizers of Tibetan Buddhism -- and yoga -- in the US.

 

 https://en.wikipedia...Casimir_Bernard

 

Subsequent research seems to indicate that he fabricated some of his reported experiences. He apparently was killed traveling through Pakistan on his way to Tibet in search of "special manuscripts". His body was never found. Certainly enough uncertainty and lacunae there to play with for a scenario.

 

 

Feature-Review_Courtesy-of-the-Phoebe-A.



#15 Graham

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Posted 08 April 2017 - 06:18 AM

I would also like to throw in Daniel Eastermans novel 'The Ninth Buddha' (1988) which is (a.) set in the post-WWI period and (b.) features Ungern-Sternberg, although he is not the major focus of the plotline.

 

For more details I used it to lead off a thread of Non-Mythos novels that might be useful as inspiration for plots:

 

http://www.yog-sotho...for-a-scenario/

 

I will add that I and forum member Lisa both agree that aside from being very dark, the basic plot is incredibly easy to recast in Lovecraftian terms.


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#16 deuce

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 12:35 AM

I would also like to throw in Daniel Eastermans novel 'The Ninth Buddha' (1988) which is (a.) set in the post-WWI period and (b.) features Ungern-Sternberg, although he is not the major focus of the plotline.

 

For more details I used it to lead off a thread of Non-Mythos novels that might be useful as inspiration for plots:

 

http://www.yog-sotho...for-a-scenario/

 

I will add that I and forum member Lisa both agree that aside from being very dark, the basic plot is incredibly easy to recast in Lovecraftian terms.

 

Hey Graham!  Yes, I remember reading your short summary. I've seen the book mentioned here n' there over the years. Sounds interesting, especially considering the Ungern-Sternberg angle.



#17 HJ

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 12:11 PM

Whilst not Central Asia, it's worth mentioning TE Lawrence's walking holidays through Palestine & Syria during his summer holidays from Oxford uni and when he was working at the Karkemish site on what is now the Turkish \ Syria border, just above where the Berlin to Baghdad railway was being built, in the pre-War years. Plus his spying mission for Kitchener down in Sinai.

 

​He walked from Beirut down to the Sea of Galilee and back to Beirut. And then from Beirut up the (now) Turkish border and back again. He sent a letter of apology to his College that he wouldn't be able to make the start of the winter term because he'd factored in two bouts of malaria and had had three. He'd also been mugged after flashing a bit too much cash about in the north of Syria while "seal hunting".

 

He was on his own and walking through the summer months and all of the experts told him not to go!



#18 deuce

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 01:57 PM

Nicholas Roerich was a Russian artist and mystic who fled his homeland during the Revolution. As I'm sure many here know, HPL loved Roerich's work and name-checked the artist in At the Mountains of Madness.  Roerich made several trips to Inner Asia, one of which was financed by the US Department of Agriculture, thanks to its very Theosophy-friendly head, Henry Wallace. One of Roerich's goals was to locate Shambhala.

 

https://infogalactic...icholas_Roerich

 

http://disinfo.com/2...rprising-turns/

 

Some Roerich paintings.

d2c75fa1d02a9337da80ca7f6ccf7509.jpg

 

 

NIcholas-Roerich-Public-Dom.-via-Wikimed



#19 deuce

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 04:02 PM

Pyotr Kozlov was, arguably, the foremost Russian/Soviet explorer of Inner Asia during the early 20th century. He explored Uyghurstan/Xinjiang, visited the Dalai Lama in Urga and discovered the lost city of Khara-Khoto in the Gobi, bringing back thousands of books to Russia.

 

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Pyotr_Kozlov

 

 

kozlov-pyotr-image.jpg



#20 AdamAstonbury

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 12:21 PM

Worth noting that there is already some 'gaming' interest in Central Asia in this timeline - the 'gaming' in question being wargaming.

 

The 'Back of Beyond' is a rules supplement for 'Contemptible Little Armies' (a ruleset for skirmish level WW1 minatures wargaming) and has proved quite popular - pitching small squads of say, Dinosaur Hunting Treasure Hunters vs Mongolian bandits or Bolshveik revolutionaries vs White Russians etc etc.

 

The crossover potential with Cthulhu or better still, Pulp Cthulhu is obvious (especially if you use minatures in your games, with the Back of Beyond being well supported with quality figures) and I've even played in a Back of Beyond wargame where hostilities were interrupted by the arrival of a Yeti :)

 

https://thelostcityo...back-of-beyond/


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