View Full Version : Human Terrain Teams and Russian history

06-27-2008, 01:54 AM
Ghosts of Alexander (http://easterncampaign.wordpress.com/) is one of the best Afghanistan-related blogs out there and a recent post discusses (http://easterncampaign.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/russias-human-terrain-system/) some historical efforts at using "human terrain":

In 1867, having served for 13 years in the Caucasian wars (1843-56), Konstantin von Kaufman was appointed Governor-General of the newly acquired territories of Turkestan. His previous tour of duty was under Prince Vorontsev, but controlled by Nicholas I. Influenced by the Enlightenment and promoted by the previous policies of Catherine II, Prince Vorontsov tried to administer Caucasia in a manner informed by ethnographic inquiry and religious tolerance while encouraging Russians to “respect ethnic differences.” But this was ignored by those military leaders commanding von Kaufman, who was an engineer at the time. As he arrived there was underway a full-scale rebellion brought on by

“the Russian authorities’ clumsy, brutal efforts to incorporate the people there into the Russian legal and administrative system, in disregard of Muslim law and local customs.”

Learning from failure, Konstantin von Kaufman made ethnographic knowledge “the core” of his administrative policies in Turkestan.

von Kaufman took a libertarian approach to Islam in general while at the same time weakening certain Islamic institutions such as the Sheykh-ul-Islam, the chief Muslim judge in Tashkent and the religious police (probably not the winners of the local popularity contest). But beyond religious tolerance, von Kaufman’s ethnographic inquiry was being undertaken with the utmost enthusiasm. Geographers, linguists, ethnographers, artists, natural scientists and other social scientists were employed to carry out von Kaufman’s project. In addition, Russian officers with advanced education were specifically targeted for service in Turkestan to counter the generally corrupt and drunk officer-administrators already serving there. As Brower noted, “Ethnicity was to become a servant of his colonial rule.”

06-27-2008, 03:07 PM
Excellent find! I'm going to have to find out more about him...

Mike Innes
06-30-2008, 05:37 AM
As it turns out, Ghosts of Alexander is Christian Bleuer, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University (and another Canadian!). He's also just joined the Complex Terrain Lab (http://www.terraplexic.org) as a weblog contributor, but more on that elsewhere.

FYI, Christian's put together an outstanding online resource for Afghanistan specialists, The Afghanistan Analyst (http://afghanistan-analyst.org/default.aspx) (Mark Safranski noted it some months ago (http://zenpundit.com/?p=2704) in his blog, before it was publicly known that it was Christian's or connected to Ghosts of Alexander). A must-reference for anyone working that side of the Durand Line.

See write up of Christian's self-outing here:


06-30-2008, 03:03 PM
Hi Mike,

I was just glancing at the CTLab blog - quite the collection of contributors :D.


Mike Innes
07-01-2008, 05:33 PM
Yeah, we're getting there, slowly but surely. The Review (http://www.terraplexic.org/review/) blog at CTLab is pretty straightforward: provide a free-form vehicle for a number of COIN & conflict oriented bloggers, coming at it from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds, and see what happens. We're planning on a couple of other online experiments, as well. Anyway, right now, just slogging through the legwork, getting websites (UCL official site + external blog site) set up, fleshing out CTLab + research agenda + people + funding, etc. It'll be good to have the basics set up, and then I can get back to more active participation in forums like SWJ/SWC.