chapter  11
11 Pages

The Panjdeh Crisis

New men were now in power in St Petersburg. Tsar Alexander III was nationalistic and oppressive at home where his father had been liberal and reformist. He was also expansionist abroad, but was a cautious man, careful not to take undue risks. Gorchakov, who had been ailing for some time, had died in 1883, while Miliutin, finding his position precarious under the new Tsar, had resigned. His successor, General Vannovsky, who had none of his predecessor’s astuteness, pushed the military case hard. Giers, the new Foreign Secretary, was a man who has been much underestimated. A career diplomat with an unexciting record, he was reckoned, as a Protestant of German descent, to be out of the running for the top post. However, the Tsar chose him as a safe pair of hands who could be relied upon to take direction in important affairs, while dealing competently with the more routine. During the Panjdeh crisis and the subsequent negotiations he was obstructed at every turn by those opposed to a settlement, but he succeeded in retaining the confidence of the Tsar and worked unremittingly for peace. It was due principally to him that a diplomatic solution was eventually achieved.