Russian conquests in central Asia were a piecemeal affair, with frequent diversions to more pressing European entanglements. Subduing the Caucasus took a century (1763–1864), and was finally achieved only by forcibly expelling the rebellious Circassians from their mountain strongholds. These campaigns provoked repeated wars with Persia (1804–13, 1826–28). East of the Caspian, Russian difficulties were highlighted by the Khanate of Khiva; a first military expedition sent by Peter the Great in 1717 was massacred. A second expedition in 1801 was aborted when the tsar was assassinated; a third in 1839 was abandoned because of severe weather. Finally, in 1873, by then hedged by Russian territory and fortifications, the khan wisely agreed to Russian ‘protection’. Under Tsar Nicholas I, systematic annexation had begun in the 1840s, but as the Russians moved south, their activities began to attract adverse scrutiny from the British, protective of their Indian Raj.
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