King Amanullah crossing the Polish-Soviet border

Border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying Hello Shah of Afghanistan
The border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying “Hello Shah of Afghanistan” when King Amanullah of Afghanistan passed through by train on his way between Warsaw and Moscow on 2 May 1928.

1922 railway map of Poland

1922 railway map of Poland from http://www.lithuanianmaps.com/Maps1922-39.html

Amanullah left Warsaw1 by train on the morning of Wednesday 2 May 1928.

Białystok station was decorated with Polish and Afghan flags. The visit of an exotic guest attracted people to the station, but the police only allowed people with special passes on to the platform. Representatives of administrative and military authorities, social organizations and the press started arriving at the station at noon.

King Amanullah at Białystok

The train arrived on time 12.50, as a military band played the Afghan national anthem. Amanullah appeared at the window in civilian clothes, when General Sosnkowski and Colonel Wieniawa-Długoszewski alighted onto the platform. Local dignatiories boarded, and Deputy Voivode Skrzyński entered the coach and welcomed the king in French; he answered in his own language, expressing thanks for their best wishes and admiration for the Polish army.2

The train then continuted to the Polish border town of Stołpce (now Stowbtsy in Belarus), where Amanullah changed to a Soviet train and was due to enter the Soviet Union at 20.00. The Times reported that the wooden arch spanning the tracks a yard inside the Soviet border had been specially decorated,3 as seen in the photograph.

There were further speeches, guards of honour and anthems at Negoreloye and Minsk.

Amanullah arrived in Moscow on the morning of Thursday 3 May 1928, and went to a villa belonging to the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs where he was to be accomodated. The King then visited Mikhail Kalinin and others, Lenin’s mausoleum and an official reception given by Kalinin.4

  1. Polish illustrated news coverage of Amanullah’s visit to Poland
  2. Król Afganistanu w Białymstoku, Włodzimierz Jarmolik, Kurier Poranny, 20 Febraury 2010
  3. “King Amanullah Leaves For Moscow.” Times, London, England, 3 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.
  4. “Afghan Royal Visit To Russia.” Times, London, England, 4 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.

Map of the country between Sind and Candahar showing the course of the proposed Railway

Third Afghan War 100th anniversary

Follow the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War in real(ish) time on Twitter at @ThirdAfghanWar.

Disclaimers: I’m no expert, so some of the details may be a bit out. In particular, the reported dates of some events, especially on the Afghan side, vary between sources or are simply a bit vague. The sources used are pretty much entirely from the British perspective. Obviously things from the time might not reflect modern attitudes. Basically, don’t take it too seriously!

CIA information on the Torghundi freight terminal

Turkmen Railways locomotive at Towraghondi

In an attempt to pin down more precisely the opening date of the railway from Serhetabat in Turkmenistan to Towraghandi in Afghanistan, I had a look at some CIA documents which are now publicly available.1

Presumably the CIA would have kept a close eye on transport links to the Soviet border.

My suspicion is that the railway was extended from Kushka into Afghanistan circa 1960-1964 as part of the Soviet-backed Kuskha – Herat – Khandahar road improvement project, which was agreed by the USSR and Afghanistan on 28 May 1959.2

A July 1964 US photographic interpretation report describes Soviet military facilities at Kushka (now known as Serhetabat),3 with photos and a map of the “supply depot and rail-to-road transfer point” located “6 km southwest of Kushka at the terminus of the Mary-Kushka branch rail line, approximately 3 km from the Afghanistan border”.

1964 Central Intelligence Agency map of rail facilities at Kushka
(Map: Central Intelligence Agency, 1964)

Although the site is shown in the report as being located on the Soviet side of the Afghan border, comparing the photos, map and the latitude and longitude shows that the rail facility which is being described is almost certainly the same thing as the current Towraghondi (to pick one of many spellings!) freight terminal, which is inside Afghanistan.

1964 Central Intelligence Agency map of rail facilities at Kushka
(Map: Central Intelligence Agency, 1964)

So it looks like the railway did exist by 1964, but we now have a question as to why the 1964 CIA document put the Soviet-Afghan border further south and west of the current Turkmenistan-Afghan border. As far as I know, the border in the area has not moved since being fixed in the late 19th century, and Soviet maps such as this one from 1985 show the current border with the railway extending into Afghanistan:

Soviet map showing the railway from Kushka to Towraghondi

References

  1. Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room, CIA
  2. Central Intelligence Bulletin, 29 January 1969, CIA, USA
  3. KUSHKA MILITARY AREAS KUSHKA, USSR TURKESTAN MD. Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): CIA-RDP78B04560A002400010012-9. NATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERPRETATION CENTER, USA