Posts Tagged ‘repression’

A practical, though lethal, gift for the Dalai Lama

A practical, though lethal, gift for the Dalai Lama

“The Chinese authorities seem to guard the Dalai Lama closely,” Baron Gustaf Mannerheim wrote in his diary in July 1908. The Russian colonel, who was on a secret intelligence-gathering mission in China, had just arrived at Wutai Shan, the most sacred of four Buddhist mountains in China. One of its mountaintop temples was, he wrote, “the present abode, not to say prison, of the Buddhists’ pope, the Dalai Lama.”


Demolishing Kashgar, repressing Uyghurs

Demolishing Kashgar, repressing Uyghurs

In an eerie way, Kashgar reminds me of Paris. While researching my book, I visited the Uyghur oasis in China’s western region of Xinjiang and saw it undergoing a massive demolition. The reason: Chinese officials say the town’s old neighbourhoods are unsafe and vulnerable to earthquakes. The solution: raze the ancient quarter and reconstruct a new city.


CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 3

Turkmenistan: Fear and Loathing After a night-sea voyage from Baku, Gustaf Mannerheim arrived in Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashi) on July 16, 1906. It was a sleepy provincial backwater in the hinterlands of Russian Turkestan. However, the small town was an important strategic bridgehead. From here, the Russians built the Trans-Caspian Railway into the heart of Inner [...]


CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 4

Uzbekistan: The Great Game Redux Gustaf Mannerheim travelled via the Trans-Caspian Railway from Ashgabat to Bukhara, Samarkand and, finally, Tashkent, the capital of Russian Turkestan. In Samarkand, Paul Pelliot, the renowned French sinologist, and two other Frenchmen boarded the train. Mannerheim, who was a Russian military officer and intelligence agent, disguised himself as an ethnographic [...]


Russia’s New Nobility lacks ‘noblesse oblige’

Russia's New Nobility lacks 'noblesse oblige'

In 2000 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, Nikolai Patrushev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin as director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), made a rather frightful comment: “Our best colleagues, the honor and pride of the FSB, don’t do their work for the money… It is their sense of service. They are, if you like, our new ‘nobility.’”


CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 7

To Khotan: Oases and Outposts On October 6, 1906, Gustaf Mannerheim left Kashgar for a return expedition to Khotan, about 500 kilometres away on the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert. His mission was to investigate rumours of Japanese and British military officers doing secret reconnaissance in the region. It was a monotonous, grueling trek [...]


CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 8

Tian Shan Range: The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds From Kashgar, Gustaf Mannerheim ventured northward to the foothills of the Tian Shan range. The Chief of the Russian General Staff had instructed him to conduct reconnaissance of the alpine passes and ethnic groups living in the shadow of the Tian Shan range. He left Kashgar [...]


CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 9

Urumqi: The Banquet Gustaf Mannerheim rested for a month in Urumqi in the summer of 1907. He stayed at the Russian consulate in the south of the city, and visited with local mandarins and Duke Lan, the exiled Manchu nobleman who helped to instigate the anti-foreign uprising and attack on the Peking Legations in 1900. [...]


CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 13

Labrang: Stoned In 1906, the Chief of the Russian General Staff instructed Gustaf Mannerheim to “assess general conditions and local attitudes to Chinese policies, the political movements in regions or in local tribes toward self-government, [and] the role of the Dalai Lama in such movements.” So from Lanzhou, he ventured into southern Gansu or what [...]


CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 18

Inner Mongolia: The Soot Road From Datong, Gustaf Mannerheim crossed the Great Wall of China into Inner Mongolia and a grassland steppe that was traditionally dominated by Mongol tribes. However, in 1908, the military governor of Inner Mongolia was being put on trial for a lucrative scheme to colonize these wild pasture lands with Han [...]


CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 17

Wutai Shan: The Wanderer At first, Wutai Shan seems like an odd stopover for Gustaf Mannerheim, a Russian spy tasked with assessing China’s strength and the loyalty of its ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims, Mongols and Tibetans. It is one of four sacred mountains for Chinese Buddhism, and is located in a remote knot of mountains [...]


CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 19

Beijing: Reawakening After two years trekking across the Silk Road, Gustaf Mannerheim arrived in Peking on July 26, 1908. He stayed at a posh hotel kitty-corner to the Russian legation in the capital’s Legation Quarter. He remained in Peking for two months working on his military intelligence report on modernization and reform in the late [...]