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Bronisław Grąbczewski, (1855-1926) - Great enemy of Britain


Varsovian 92 | 634
22 Mar 2012  #1
Damn, this fella was good!
Nothing worse than talented Poles conspiring in Central Asia against British run India.
Just read about him in Peter Hopkirk's book: The Great Game. A superb book - highly recommended.
jon357 63 | 14,122
22 Mar 2012  #2
Not that great given the way it turned out!
OP Varsovian 92 | 634
22 Mar 2012  #3
I remember the grim satisfaction felt by many of the cleverer British journalists in 1979 when the Russians invaded - "They've learnt nothing from history."
jon357 63 | 14,122
22 Mar 2012  #4
Pretty well true. Nobody has ever succeeded in subduing Afghanistan.
boletus 30 | 1,366
5 May 2012  #5
Damn, this fella was good!

I came across an enthusiastic reader's review of the book "Podróże po Azji Środkowej: 1885-1890 - Bronisław Grąbczewski Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN , 2010 , 711 stron (Travels across Central Asia: 1885-1890 - Bronisław Grąbczewski, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 2010 , 711 pages), clevera.blox.pl/2010/12/Podroze-po-Azji-Srodkowej-Bronislaw-Grabczewski.html

He wrote several books in 1920s, and others also wrote about him. The very first report in Polish about him seems to be "Podróż Kapitana B. Grąbczewskiego w Środkowej Azji (z kartą), (Wstępne słowo dr F. Chłapowskiego i list kapitana Grąbczewskiego). Rocznik Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk Poznańskiego, t. XVIII, z.1 i 2, s. 201-223, 1891. (Travel of Captain B. Grąbczewski in Central Asia (with a map). (Introduction by dr. F. Chłapowski and a letter of Captain Grąbczewski). Yearbook of Poznan Society of Friends of Science, vol. XVIII, books 1 and 2, pages 210-223, 1891).

Being at the service of Russia Tsar, he also sent reports to various Russian institutions, delivered presentations to various societies and to the Russian court. He was a recipient of several medals, such as a silver medal of Imperial Russian Geographical Society, or a gold medal of Russian Geographical Society. He also received cash prices and donations, as 12000 rubles allocated by a future Emperor Nicholas II with his teacher Gregory Daniłowicz, lifetime salary of 400 rubles a year, a six-month overseas holiday leave pay with additional 3000 rubles for travel expenses, 1000 rubles "for useful work, regarding Kashgaria."

Blogger Białczyński reprints a long article in Polish about him here:
bialczynski.wordpress.com/slowianie-tradycje-kultura-dzieje/zblizenie-polska-rosja/bronislaw-grabczewski-1855-%E2%80%93-1926-%E2%80%93-w-sluzbie-cara-i-nauki
- and enriches it by modern photographs, as well as by photographs taken by Leon Barszczewski, another Polish explorer in service of Russia. The original article, also in Polish, entitled "Bronisław Grąbczewski (1855 - 1926). W służbie cara i nauki" (Bronisław Grąbczewski (1855 - 1926). In service of Tsar and science), written by Maria Magdalena Blombergowa, Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu £ódzkiego, is available here: archiwum.wspolnotapolska.org.pl/?id=od_grab

A quite recent review of the Russian book "Evgeny Sergeev. The Great Game, 1856-1907: Myths and realities of Russian-British relations in Central and Eastern Asia" is available here:

indrus.in/articles/2012/05/04/russian_toe_in_the_indian_ocean_15679.html

Few last paragraphs are devoted to Grąbczewski:

Nor one can find here the story of how the two key figures in the "strife on the Roof of the World", the Pole Bronislav Grombchevsky and the India-born British citizen Francis Younghusband, began corresponding in their later years, in the 1920s. (...)

Grombchevsky had a poor command of English and Younghusband did not speak Polish or Russian, so they exchanged letters in Farsi, a language both the former spies spoke fluently. Perhaps "former" is the wrong word, for when Kipling said "When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before", he meant it.

jon357 63 | 14,122
5 May 2012  #6
Bronislav Grombchevsky (who was very much a Russified Pole, like his comrade Przewalski) was an interesting character who albeit very loyal to his Russian masters nevertheless lost the great game he was playing. Having said that, he was certainly respected by the British: here's a link to the relevant bit of Sir Francis Younghusband's memoirs:

Grombchevsky
boletus 30 | 1,366
5 May 2012  #7
who was very much a Russified Pole

No doubt about it. He decided to become a Russian military career officer. He was called a traitor by many Poles. [Not that this matters very much - Donald Tusk is also a traitor and murderer in Kaczyński's eyes]. I'd like to draw your attention to Positivism movement (opposing Romanticism and defeat of its ideals) in Polish literature, represented by Prus, Sienkiewicz, Orzeszkowa. After loosing two bloody uprisings (Grąbczewski's father participated in the 1863 uprising) the program of Polish positivists found a fertile ground, as they pledged: organic work, work at foundations, assimilation of Jews and other minorities, women emancipation. From their point of view Bronisław Grąbczewski could not be considered a traitor - as long as he was a Pole at heart.

After passing his ensign exam in 1875, he requested transfer to the troops operating in Central Asia. As he had sworn to his father that he would not fight against his countrymen, he preferred not to remain in his home turf. At that time, Central Asia attracted people eager for adventures and contact with wild nature.

In the first three years he participated in various Russian military expeditions and missions. Those trips sparked his interest in ethnography and culture of peoples, with whom he met, therefore, he decided to ask for the release from active duty and to dedicate himself to research.

As he wrote in an article about this period of his life: "I was sitting at the rank of lieutenant - valuing more the freedom of hunting and wandering around this beautiful God's world, than all the ranks and advancement."

So much for his primary motivations.

There is no doubt that he was involved in political activities too. For example, in 1888 he masterminded - with a help of Ischak Khan, a pretender to the Afghan throne - an uprising in northern Afghanistan, directed against Emir Abdurrachman, a British puppet. The inspiration came from tsar Alexander III, who in this way, "wanted to painfully bite the British".

nevertheless lost the great game he was playing

You need to explain this to me because I know too little about the game itself. All I know that both the British and Russian empires played their sinister games in Central Asia for control of minds, trade and resources over there. I also know that both Grąbczewski and Younghusband were part of those games by definition, although sometimes it seems that they both had greater interest in explorations, discoveries and adventures, than in spy or political games.

So what was it that Grąbczewski lost, as an individual? Here is not a place to go to all the details of his expeditions. Suffice to say that his achievement in the exploration and scientific field are very impressive. I'd say he lost nothing there.

Has his career came into a halt for any political reason, such as "loosing a game"? I do not think so.

After Grąbczewski gave up further scientific travel he continued serving in Russian administration, where he attained the rank of Major General, Hetman of the Cossack armies, and governor of Astrakhan. He still travelled but only as a tourist, or to handle important business matters.

In 1896 he left Central Asia and was appointed a borderline commissioner on Amur river, and in the years 1900 -1903 he was a commissioner general of Kuantung area in southern Manchuria, leased at the time to Russia by China. He stayed In Port Arthur until 1903 - the year he resigned.

He traveled through Europe for some time. In 1907 he was appointed head of the Civil Administration of the East China Railway in Harbin. He retired in 1910 and settled in Warsaw. During World War I he was in Petersburg, then in Anapa on the Black Sea, and during the revolution he served under Gen. Anton I. Denikin on a special mission. After the fall of the Kolchak government he returned to Poland by Japan in 1920. He joined the National Institute of Meteorology, and became a member of the Polish Geographical Society and - in the term 1921/1922 - he was its board member. In 1922 he was raised to a rank of Member-Correspondent of the Society. He died on February 27, 1926 in Warsaw.
jon357 63 | 14,122
5 May 2012  #8
So what was it that Grąbczewski lost, as an individual? Here is not a place to go to all the details of his expeditions. Suffice to say that his achievement in the exploration and scientific field are very impressive. I'd say he lost nothing there

In 1907 the Russians had to give it all up - mostly due to fear of German expansionism in the Middle East.

So what was it that Grąbczewski lost, as an individual? Here is not a place to go to all the details of his expeditions.

Unavoidable given the debacle with the last Qing rulers. A few years before that, the 1888 fiasco you mention led to the Russians conceding huge territories. I wouldn't call it masterminding anything except the slaughter in cold blood of 600 Afghans by the Russian army. It's also stretching things somewhat to call Abdur Rahman Khan a 'British puppet'.

An interesting man, though no match for Sir Francis Younghusband and Lord Dufferin.
Ironside 48 | 9,704
5 May 2012  #9
Not that this matters very much - Donald Tusk

first of all it matters and second why do you bring that squid into discussion ?

An interesting man, though no match for Sir Francis Younghusband and Lord Dufferin.

What is your assessment based on?lol
jon357 63 | 14,122
5 May 2012  #10
What is your assessment based on?

History.
Ironside 48 | 9,704
5 May 2012  #11
a bold assessment then ....
jon357 63 | 14,122
5 May 2012  #12
Undoubtably bold. But then again, he'd have to have been superhuman to be a natch for Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood.
boletus 30 | 1,366
6 May 2012  #13
In 1907 the Russians had to give it all up - mostly due to fear of German expansionism in the Middle East.

So did British, and for the same reason.

It's also stretching things somewhat to call Abdur Rahman Khan a 'British puppet'.

Considering that Abdur Rahman Khan was politically and militarily astute the word puppet I used is probably too strong. But on the other hand:

At the durbar on July 22, 1880, Abdur Rahman was officially recognized as Amir, granted assistance in arms and money, and promised, in case of unprovoked foreign aggression, such further aid as might be necessary to repel it, provided that he aligns his foreign policy with the British.

(Wikipedia)
Isn't a classical definition of string-pulling?

Do not get me wrong: I have no pleasure in Russian colonization of Central Asia, Caucasus, Poland, etc. I was talking about achievements of a single man, not about Russian politics.
jon357 63 | 14,122
6 May 2012  #14
sn't a classical definition of string-pulling?

I'd say that he was in pretty much the same situation as most of the rulers of the flag states - without as far as I know becoming one.

I was talking about achievements of a single man, not about Russian politics.

Certainly a remarkable man, as was Przewalski whose expeditions naturally had a military as well as scientific role.

Do not get me wrong: I have no pleasure in Russian colonization of Central Asia, Caucasus, Poland

Same here. The British administration in India was far from perfect however a Russian one doesn't bear thinking about.

So did British, and for the same reason.

Basically military technology (and the Germans' need for oil to fuel it) changed everything.

The Great Game is going on again today in many ways - with the Americans this time. Poland is caught up in it this time - just as Britain is, but mostly just to provide cannon fodder.
RachelB.
30 Jun 2013  #15
Gromchevsky also lost in a personal way. During his meeting with Younghusband in the mountains of Huna, he asked permission for him and his men to spend the winter in Kashmir, which was in British-controlled India and is known for its pleasant climate. Younghusband responded that it would be impossible to give him, a uniformed Russian office and a party of 7 armed Cossacks to enter Ladakh/Kashmir. While Grombchevsky waiting in Chinese Shahidulla for permission from the British Resident, he decided to explore the region of Ladakh that connected to Tibet. By this time, winter had set in and the severe weather almost proved catastrophic. His party lost all their ponies and baggage, while the Cossacks, stricken by frostbite and hunger, were too weak even to carry their own rifles. They were lucky to get back to Shahidulla alive, and months later Grombchevsky was said still to be on crutches. Although Grombchevsky blamed the British for his misfortunes by denying him permission to enter Ladakh, the truth is that Younghusband himself was responsible for this near-tragedy. It was Younghusband himself who encouraged Grombchevsky to take this perilous journey, to 'cause extreme hardship and loss to the party.' Thus, Grombchevsky almost became a fatality of the Great Game.


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