Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire

Peter Hopkirk, Author Kodansha America $25 (431p) ISBN 978-1-56836-020-1
Expertly assembled from memoirs, diaries and secret intelligence reports of the day, Hopkirk's book recounts the attempt of Germany's Wilhelm II to harness the forces of militant Islam against Britain's imperial interests in central Asia during WW I. His efforts to rally the peoples of the Ottoman Empire, the Caucasus, Persia and Afghanistan--and the counterefforts by the British and Russians--were carried out largely by intelligence agents. If the book has a flaw it is its plethora of riches: there are plots here to supply several spy novels. In the final third of his study, Hopkirk ( The Great Game ) focuses on the unsuccessful defense of Baku by British, Russian and Armenian troops against the German-backed Turkish ``Army of God.'' Among those taken captive when the Azerbaijani capital fell in September 1918 were 26 Bolshevik commissars whose subsequent martyrdom became a staple of Soviet propaganda. Hopkirk's scholarly efforts, which included a visit to the remote massacre site, go a long way toward clearing up the mystery of their final hours. This little-known chapter of great-power rivalry in central Asia demonstrates that the region was no less volatile three-quarters of a century ago. Illustrations. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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