• Ешқандай Нәтиже Табылған Жоқ



Academic year: 2023



Толық мәтін


Introduction, translation, and comments by

Jampa Samten and Nikolay Tsyrempilov

Secret correspondence of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to

Agvan Dorzhiev, 1911-1925



First print: 2011


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

ISBN: 978-93-80359-49-6

Published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, H.P. 176215, and printed at Indraprastha Press (CBT), Nehru House, New Delhi-110002


knowledgeable Tsenshap Khenché

Lozang Ngawang (Agvan Dorzhiev)



We gratefully acknowledge the National Museum of Buriatia that kindly permitted us to copy, research, and publish in this book the valuable materials they have preserved. Our special thanks is to former Director of the Museum Tsyrenkhanda Ochirova for it was she who first drew our attention to these letters and made it possible to bring them to light.

We thank Ven. Geshe Ngawang Samten and Prof. Boris Bazarov, great enthusiasts of collaboration between Buriat and Tibetan scholars of which this book is not first result.

We are grateful to all those who helped us in our work on reading and translation of the letters: Ven. Beri Jigmé Wangyel for his valuable consultations and the staff of the Central University of Tibetan Studies Ven. Ngawang Tenpel, Tashi Tsering, Ven. Lhakpa Tsering for assistance in reading and interpretation of the texts.

We express our particular gratitude to Tashi Tsering (Director of Amnye Machen Institute, Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies, Dharamsala) for his valuable assistance in identification of the persons on the Tibetan delegation group photo published in this book. We also express our deep gratitude to Emma Martin (Head of Ethnology and Curator of Asia Collections, National Museums of Liverpool, UK) for granting permission to use two rare photographs from the Sir Charles Bell Collections, most probably for the first time ever.

We specially thank Rick Nance for his valuable assistance in preparing the English text of this book and Dmitry Garmaev for technical assistance.



For rendering the many Tibetan names and terms we use the Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan elaborated by David Germano and Nicolas Tournadre. Still there are a few exclusions we had to make in this book. One is in the name of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama: we’ve preferred to use more habitual

“Thupten Gyatso” instead of “Tupten Gyatso”, as is recommended by THDL. Then, we have chosen to preserve usual spellings for two highest religious hierarchs of Tibet: “Dalai Lama” and “Panchen Lama”. We did not employ the system to modify the names in the bibliographical information or citations. With regard to Chinese romanization, we use pinyin system, as standard in modern Chinese studies. Whenever Russian names and words appear throughout the book, we use the most widely accepted U.S. Library of Congress System of Transliteration of Russian. For rendering of a few Mongolian words, we decided to employ the THL Mongolian- Cyrillic Transliteration created by Christopher Atwood. As concerns Sanskrit words, we follow standard lexicographical usage.



Acknowledgement 5

Note on transcription 6

Introduction 9

Source base for study of Tibetan history between

1911-1925. 19

Description of the letters, problems of attribution and dates. 22 Text peculiarities and translation problems. 28 The Chinese intervention in Kham and the activities of

Amban Lian Yu in Lhasa. 29

Attempts of Tibetan officials to provide recognition of the

independence of their country. 32

The flight of the Panchen Lama. 38

Soviet-Tibetan relations. 48

Tsarong’s letter. 52

Kozlov’s expedition to Tibet and Mongolia. 56 The situation with Buddhism in Soviet Russia and

the status of Agvan Dorzhiev. 61

English Translation 69

Transcription of Tibetan texts 109

Facsimiles 139

References 177

Index 181


Letters, like human beings, can have complicated fates. This is especially true for the letters presented here – letters that were for many years stored on the dusty shelves of the Antireligious Museum of Verkhneudinsk. Today, both the museum and its city bear different names. The museum is now known as the National Museum of Buriatia, the city as Ulan-Ude. One may suppose that after the famous owner of these letters died in a prison hospital in November 1938, the letters, together with the rest of his property, were confiscated by NKVD officers. The officers probably assumed them to be religious writings, and handed them over to the Antireligious Museum. This is only speculation, of course, but the fact remains that the letters were stored for almost seventy years in the reserve funds of the Museum, completely unknown to the scholarly community, until they were introduced to us in 2004. Half of the preserved letters are of a private nature, but another half are of considerable significance for specialists in the history of modern Tibet. For this reason, we have decided to present them to readers’

attention, thus extending a lifespan that began beneath the pen of one of the most important figures in the history of modern Tibet – the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso (1876-1933) – and his well known favorite officials Shölkang Shappé and Tsarong Shappé. From hand to hand, envoys and pilgrims passed these letters on their long journey from Lhasa to South Siberia. Arriving at their destination at last, they were presented to their addressee.

This was Agvan Dorzhiev, a man of outstanding significance in the history of Inner Asia due to the role he played in the unfolding of



the “Great Game” between the British and Russian Empires. Over the last several years, Dorzhiev has been the subject of numerous studies. Despite this attention, however, many details regarding the life and activities of this extraordinary Buddhist savant, politician, diplomat, religious teacher and reformist remain unknown.

Ngawang Lozang1, better known as Agvan Dorzhiev, was born in Central Transbaikalia two centuries after this territory was annexed by the Russian Empire. Dorzhiev was a Buriat-Mongol, one of a large group of Mongol-speaking communities who have long inhabited the area around Lake Baikal, at least since the first Russian Cossack detachments reached Eastern Siberia. From the early 18th century, contemporaneous with Russia’s firm establishment in Transbaikalia, the southern part of the Buriat territories had been flooded by Buddhist missionaries from northeastern Tibet and Mongolia. Subsequently, Buriat Buddhists continued to communicate with the main religious centers of Tibetan-Mongolian Buddhism, notwithstanding the Nerchinsk and Kiakhta treaties that Russia concluded with China, the settlement of the border, and the establishment of the autonomous Buddhist Church headed by the Pandito Khambo Lama. In his youth, Agvan Dorzhiev boldly undertook a difficult and dangerous trip to Tibet in order to pursue a highly prestigious Buddhist education. In 1888, after several years of studying an extended range of Buddhist disciplines, Dorzhiev was honored with the supreme scholarly degree of Tibet – Geshé Lharampa. His rise to the highest reaches of the Tibetan Buddhist

1 Under this name Agvan Dorzhiev appears in Shakabpa, 1984. P. 205. However, as is noted in Dorjiev, 1991, he is referred to as Lozang Ngawang in some Tibetan writings. In the Tibetan language materials published in this book, Agvan Dorjiev too is referred to as Lozang Ngawang. In his own works, he usually refers to himself as Vagindra, Sanskrit translation of Tibetan name Ngawang. See, for example: Byang phyogs bstan pa’i gsal byed rje btsun dam pa paNDi ta dza ya mkhan po bstan pa dar rgyas dpal bzang po’i rtogs brjod mdor bsdus dad pa’i nyin byed ‘dren pa’i skya rengs gsal ba zhes bya ba bzhugs so. F. 132 (68v). Library of Tibetan works and archives (Dharamsala, India), #17310.

Mongγul-buryad qamiγ-a-ača tasuraju yambar orun-a ali čaγ-tu ken qaγan-tai saγuγsan terigün-i tobči quriyaγsan teüke bičig orusiba. P. 5r. Center of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs of the Institute of Mongolian, Tibetan, and Buddhist studies. Mongolian collection. M I, 46.


intellectual elite has sometimes been attributed to his extraordinary talents, which is undoubtedly true. However, from one of the letters addressed to Dorzhiev by the Dalai Lama (OF 18605), we learn that the latter saw the circumstances under which Dorzhiev had received his degree to have been beset by disorder – a disorder that the Dalai Lama held to be endemic to those times. It may thus be reasonable to suggest that Dorzhiev’s considerable achievements – his receipt of a Lharampa degree after only eight years of education and his subsequent appointment as a personal tutor of the Dalai Lama – were due as much to the support of certain influential figures as to the natural scholarly talents he possessed. These figures may have aimed to promote Dorzhiev to a position that would give him an opportunity to communicate directly to the head of the Tibetan state – the Dalai Lama. Among these influential figures were at least four persons: the Purbuchok Rinpoché, personal spiritual master of the Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso; Dzasak Rinpoché, the representative of His Holiness at Wutaishan; and the noblemen Shölkang and Shedra, leaders of the anti-Chinese faction in the Tibetan government.

Tibet had been under protectorate of the Qing Empire since the middle of the 18th century. By the late 19th century, as a result of the gradual degradation of the Qing, there was an upsurge in political discourse in Tibet. The situation was aggravated by an increase in the expansionist tendencies of the British Raj, which by that period had already put under control the adjacent Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. The isolationist policy imposed by the Qing in Tibet created an atmosphere of hostility toward the Western powers – yet the Tibetans themselves knew very little about these powers. At the same time, however, they considered Tibet to be a stronghold of Buddhist Dharma, and thus saw an urgent need to protect their country. The early years of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s rule are sometimes thought to have witnessed a factionalization of his government into three camps: pro-Chinese, pro-British and pro- Russian. The letters presented in this volume, however, suggest that this picture may need to be revised. They suggest that the number of factions should be reduced to two: on the one hand, those who


supported further integration with China; on the other, adherents of Tibetan independence – even if this independence were to require the protection of a third power. Using his opportunity of direct access to the Dalai Lama, Agvan Dorzhiev persistently attempted to convince him of the advantages of an alliance with Russia. The basic arguments presented by the adherents of rapprochement between Tibet and Russia cited the military might of the latter, Russia’s liberal policy toward her Buddhist subjects, and her geographically distant position that virtually excluded the menace of potential annex. As Dorzhiev stated later:

When the Chinese officials took the bribe and reduced the territory of Tibet2, the upper strata of Tibet initiated secret conferences on the necessity for the patronage of some foreign state. At one of these I expressed my opinion giving my preferences in favor of Russia3.

As a result, between 1897 and 1901, under the instructions of the Dalai Lama, Agvan Dorzhiev undertook three journeys to Russia and Europe. During these trips, he entered into official negotiations with Nicolas the Second, high officials of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the General Headquarters (Ministry of Defense). The subject of the discussions and consultations was Russian political and military assistance to Tibet and the possibility of a Russo-French alliance for resolution of the Tibet problem.

Of course, the Russo-Tibetan rapprochement was not a unilateral Tibetan initiative. By the time of Dorzhiev’s arrival in Russia, a pro- Tibet lobby had already taken shape in Saint Petersburg. The Russian political elite of the early 20th century was quite a heterogeneous group; it included those who ardently supported Russian expansion in Asia. Piotr Badmaev, a high official of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an influential political figure in the Russian capital, adhered to the most radical point of view on the

2 Dorzhiev apparently implies the conclusion of the bipartite British-Chinese Treaty at Chefu of 1876, under one of the articles of which China agreed with the British annexation of Sikkim.

3 Kuleshov, 2003. P. 58-59.


subject. Like Dorzhiev, Badmaev was ethnically Buriat-Mongol.

Although converted to Orthodox Christianity by Tsar Alexander III himself, he persisted in the practice of Tibetan medicine and appears to have been a successful physician, earning popularity and influence at the court. Badmaev endorsed a hawkish policy of territorial annexation in the Far East and Inner Asia, and in 1893 submitted to Alexander an adventurous plan for the annexation of China, Korea, Mongolia and Tibet, with the goal of transforming Russia into a huge Eurasian empire. Having gained the support of the influential Minister of Finance Sergey Witte, a revised version of Badmaev’s plan was approved by the Emperor and subsidized two million golden rubles. These funds were invested in Badmaev and Co. – a newly established commercial firm, which was engaged in commercial and intelligence activities throughout Transbaikalia, Mongolia and Northern China. Although Badmaev’s project soon proved to be a failure, and although Badmaev himself lost most of his patronage, his agent managed to set contacts with Dorzhiev. The fact that during his very first visit to Russia, Dorzhiev was permitted to have an audience with the Russian Tsar was an outcome of the efforts and the skills of the Petersburg hawks – Badmaev and his friend and ally Prince Ukhtomsky, a close favorite of Nicolas II.

As noted above, Badmaev and Ukhtomsky were supporters of a Russian expansionist policy in Asia; this, in general, was in line with the official Russian foreign policy in Asia formulated by Sergey Witte in the following way:

For our future plans it is no less important to make China dependent to some extent on us and not to allow England to extend her influence throughout this country. England is dominating in the south of Asia, and we’re not going to trouble her there; however, Central Asia must be ours – not in the sense of material conquest, but to make it serve our needs and interests4.

In general, Dorzhiev’s negotiations with Russian authorities

4 Lamsdorf, 1991. P. 176. See: Andreyev, 2006. P. 74.


could not be regarded as satisfactory for Tibet. As Alexandre Andreyev puts it:

…the Russian ruling elite still had no idea how to use the favorable Tibetan situation. It had no detailed program or policy, and thus acted hesitatingly and often spontaneously, merely reacting to various outward events5.

The most clearly formulated goal of the Russian policy in Tibet was diplomatic opposition to the growth of Britain’s influence in this country, but as the situation in the Far East grew from bad to worse for Russia, and the Japanese menace came to a head, concerns over Russia’s activities regarding Tibet gradually receded.

In 1899, the conservative majority came to power in Great Britain, and British foreign policy changed. To implement these changes, George Curzon, a popular adherent of the policy of active confrontation with Russia, was appointed Viceroy of India.

Curzon was the first head of the British administration of India who turned his close attention to Tibet as a potential zone in which the Russian menace could materialize. Despite the well-organized efforts of a secret network of disguised British agents throughout Tibet, British India had not yet managed to establish direct relations with the Snowy Land. Earlier, the British had tried to establish relations through Peking; soon, however, they came to realize that China was neither eager nor able to exert any visible influence on the Tibetans, who refused to make contact with India. Attempts to establish direct contacts with Lhasa, undertaken by Curzon in 1900 and 1901, yielded no result as well; letters addressed to the Dalai Lama and sent by Curzon through intermediaries were returned unopened. Tibet’s protracted refusal to engage in contact with the British was unfavorably affecting the image of the British Crown in the Himalayan region, and it pushed the British to the idea of forcible coercion. Curzon’s deliberation over plans to dispatch a military expedition to Tibet drastically intensified after sensational news reached him in 1900 via the Journal de Saint Petersbourg, an autumn issue of which reported that the Dalai Lama’s envoy Agvan

5 Andreyev, 2006. P. 105.


Dorzhiev had journeyed to Europe and had met with the Russian monarch.

Thus, even as it ignored messages from Calcutta, Lhasa seemed to be openly challenging the British by negotiating directly with Petersburg. In a message to the British State Secretary for India Lord Hamilton, Curzon inter alia noted:

If Russia were to come down to the big mountains she would at once begin intriguing with Nepal; and we should have a second Afghanistan on the north... Tibet itself and not Nepal must be the buffer state that we must endeavour to create.6.

The final straw prompting the decision to dispatch a military expedition to Tibet was the publication in the China Times of an alleged secret Russo-Chinese treaty7. According to one of its clauses, Russia was to be allowed a measure of control over the government, mines and construction of railway roads in Tibet. The publication was clearly a fake – an act of intentional provocation – but it catalyzed British aggression against Tibet.

Confident that Russia would come to the aid of Tibet in the event of an emergency, the Dalai Lama and the deputies of the Tibetan National Assembly (Tsongdu) opted to disregard British demands.

Interestingly, Agvan Dorzhiev and his old allies – the ministers (Kalöns) Shölkang and Shedra (who had a reputation of being Anglophiles) insisted on immediate dialogue with Britain. The two Kalöns were even suspected of treachery, dismissed, and eventually imprisoned until released and restored to their former positions in 1912. This additionally proves the thesis that the Tibetan political environment was never sharply divided between Russophile and Anglophile factions. Quite often, these supposedly separate groups jointly supported the idea of constructive collaboration with a third power – whether Britain or Russia.

To lead the military mission to Tibet, Curzon appointed an experienced regular officer of the Royal army: Colonel Francis Younghusband. Late in 1903, Younghusband crossed the Tibet- Sikkim boundary. After briefly skirmishing with ill-trained and

6 Ibid. P. 107.

7 China Times. 1902. July 18. See: Shaumian, 2000. P. 34.


ill-armed Tibetan troops, he entered Lhasa in the summer of 1904.

Prompted by reports of the British advance, the Dalai Lama in the company of Dorzhiev had already fled to Mongolia – a region which was at that time firmly established within the sphere of Russian influence. The Dalai Lama would spend the next three years in exile in Mongolia. Despite his many personal appeals to Russian authorities and to the Russian emperor to put pressure on Britain, and despite the tireless diplomatic activities of Dorzhiev and the support of influential Russian politicians, Russia refused to take resolute action in support of the Tibetan cause. Her noncommittal stance saddened and bewildered supporters of the Russian forward policy in Asia, as a 1905 article by Esper Ukhtomsky in the Petersburg press makes clear:

An unfortunate wanderer across Asia, an embodied deity of the northern Buddhist world, exiled from Tibet, which due to our negligence was invaded by the British, vainly knocked on our doors all these months, and vainly tried to keep the relations with Russia which our Foreign Ministry encouraged him to hope for following the missions of A. Dorzhiev, vainly tried to break away from the trap of the vigilant eyes of the Chinese administration.

<…> So painful and sad to see this for the supporters of reasonable Russian gradual advance in distant Asia8.

Russia’s subsequent shattering defeat in the war with Japan, together with a steadily worsening internal political situation, substantially curtailed her ambitions in Asia. Regarding the Dalai Lama, the official position of Russia now was limited to securing the compromise between the Dalai Lama and the Peking court and quickly reinstalling the former in the Potala. Although Dorzhiev and the exiled theocrat aspired to secure a political consolidation of Tibetans and Mongols on a shared Buddhist basis, this idea was categorically rejected by Saint Petersburg, lest it provoke a joint Sino-British reaction against Russia.

Disillusioned with the lack of Russian support, the Dalai Lama had to find a compromise with the Qing, but the rude attempts of the last members of the Manchu imperial family to subjugate the

8 Rassvet. 1905. April 28 / May 11. See: Andreyev, 2006. P. 136.


rebellious vassal and the aggressive Chinese incursions into Eastern Tibet again led to the flight of the Dalai Lama, this time to his former enemies – the British.

The Russo-British rapprochement in Asia soon resulted in the signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 concerning Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. Both powers committed themselves to a policy of non-interference in Tibetan affairs, and pledged to conduct future relations with the country only through the intermediary of Peking. Dorzhiev once again desperately attempted to draw Russian attention to Chinese aggression against Tibet, but Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (S. Sazonov) gave the following reply:

The Imperial Government in view of the remoteness of Tibet does not acknowledge the fact that Russia has any substantial political and economical interests in this country. The existing interests of a purely religious character concern only Russian Buddhist subjects. The British interests in Tibet are primarily political and economical. Out of this reasons the foreign policy of Tibet must be established on the foundation of friendship and peace to England. Tibet may conclude various treaties of political and economic character with Britain. Russia will keep the previous favorable attitude toward Tibet. In the matters religious Tibet would find in Russia an active support9.

The above statement is the most clearly and succinctly formulated Russian position on the question of Tibet – a position that in its basic principles had been operative from the very start of official intercourse between the two countries.

Yet the history of Russo-Tibetan relations was far from over.

The start of the Xinhai Revolution and the collapse of the Qing dynasty opened entirely new perspectives in Asian politics. In 1912, Tibetan resistance forces led by the Dalai Lama from abroad brought the Chinese occupation of Tibet to an end. The head of Tibet triumphantly returned to Lhasa after overall eight years of forced exile, and declared Tibet to be independent from China. Thus, a new page in the modern history of the Snowy Land had been opened.

In August of 1912 in Samding monastery, the last meeting of

9 Ibid. P. 186.


the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and Agvan Dorzhiev took place. At this meeting, according to the testimony of Dorzhiev himself10, the Dalai Lama bestowed funds for the ongoing construction of the Petersburg Buddhist temple (begun in 1910) and some ritual objects for the interior. It was probably at this time that the Dalai Lama authorized Dorzhiev to conclude a treaty of mutual recognition with Mongolia – one that Tibetan government had been in no condition to ratify.

A month later British authorities informed the Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso through their trade agent at Gyantsé Basil Gould that they would henceforth consider contacts with Dorzhiev undesirable. In view of increasing Chinese pressure on Tibet, the concluding of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, and Tibetan interest in British protection, the Dalai Lama found himself forced to promise to reject Dorzhiev’s services as his political advisor—at least outwardly. In Samding, the Dalai Lama and Agvan Dorzhiev hardly supposed that they would never see each other again—yet this proved to be the case.

Any British official, however lofty, who... believed that... [the relationship between Dorzhiev and the Dalai Lama] could be easily terminated was deluding himself. Though they never saw each other again, these two powerful personalities remained in touch until the Dalai Lama died in 193311.

Relations between Dorzhiev and other high officials of the Tibetan government were equally enduring – as newly revealed evidence has shown. Thanks to the availability today of a range of hitherto unknown materials, we know that after the collapse of the monarchy in Russia, the Bolshevist regime made repeated attempts to increase Soviet influence in Tibet via Buriats and Kalmyks, including Dorzhiev himself. Until now, however, no direct correspondence between the Dalai Lama (or other Tibetan politicians) and Dorzhiev has been published. After 1917, Tibet remained in relative information isolation from Russia; ties between Agvan Dorzhiev

10 Dorzhiev, 2003. P. 62-63.

11 Snelling, 1993. P. 149.


and his Tibetan counterparts were kept through Tibetan envoys, as well as through Buriat and Kalmyk pilgrims. This fact turns out to provide researchers today with a fortunate opportunity: through the letters assembled here, we can glimpse covert Tibetan politics at work – politics associated in many respects with Agvan Dorzhiev.

Even though the information these letters provide is often limited and terse (sometimes to the point of being incomprehensible), the letters constitute a very important source, given the lack of verified data about this very important period in the history of the Snowy Land – a time in which it was virtually independent and desperately dashing toward modernization and progress.

Source base for study of Tibetan history between 1911-1925

Unfortunately, our knowledge of this pivotal time in Tibetan history has been hampered by the inability to peruse crucial primary sources, insofar as scholars have largely been forbidden access to Tibetan state archives. Only a few documents relating to the Francis Younghusband expedition have recently been published.12

However, there is a range of Tibetan sources which have been used in historical investigations of the earlier stage of the almost forty-year period of Tibetan independence. In his Tibet: A Political History, Tsipön Shakabpa refers to documents used and generated by the Tibetan delegation to the 1914 Simla talks.

From 1983, a series of reminiscences by Tibetan government officials of various ranks is published, together with data from pre- 1951 Tibet. This multivolume series, entitled “Materials on the Culture and History of Tibet”13, has made public a considerable amount of new information. However, only a portion of this information directly pertains to the events of 1911-1925, among

12 Song Liming, 1994. P. 789-800.

13 Bod kyi rig gnas lo rgyus dpyad gzhi’i rgyu cha bdams bsgrigs. Bod rang skyong ljongs chab gros rig gnas lo rgyus dpyad gzhi’i rgyu cha u yon lhan khang. From 1983.


which the works by Dönkhang14 and Pünrap15 on the Ninth Panchen Lama and the Lhasa government conflict must be mentioned. In addition, portions of the reminiscences of Kelden – once a servant in the house of Tsarong Shappé16– as well as work on the history of the Tibetan army by Tengping17,concern this period. Finally, an autobiography of Shenkhava contains many details regarding events that occurred in 192418.

Large-scale, systematic use of Tibetan language materials was made in the fundamental opus of Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951. The Demise of the Lamaist State, published in 1989. In addition to culling information from many eyewitness interviews, Goldstein makes active use of materials drawn from the above-mentioned multivolume series. The availability of primary sources in Tibetan is effectively limited to this.

Most of the historical information on the subject is known to researchers from the great number of documents, telegrams, letters and notes from the Indian Office Records and Archives, the Public Record Office and, to a lesser extent, the Foreign Office archives.

Invaluable materials drawn from these archives have allowed leading specialists in the modern history of Tibet (Parshotam Mehra, Alistair Lamb, Alex McKay, Melvin C. Goldstein and others) to study questions related to the earlier period of Tibetan independence, the reforms of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and Tsarong Shappé, Lungshar’s mission to London and Europe, the flight of the Panchen Lama IX to China, etc.

Of utmost importance for the study of the history of modern Tibet are Russian archives. Materials concerning Tibetan affairs are concentrated in the Oriental collections and libraries of Saint Petersburg (which comprise the most extensive historical and foreign affairs archives of Russia), as well as the national archives

14 Don khang, sKal bzang bde skyid, 1984. P. 1-32.

15 Phun rab, Rin chen rnam rgyal, 1984. P. 123-132.

16 sKal ldan, 1985. P. 249-293 17 Khreng ping, 1984. P. 180-207.

18 Shankhava, 1990.


of the Republics of Buriatia and Kalmykia. 122 documents from the Archive of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire were published in 2005 in Rossiia i Tibet. Sbornik russkikh arkhivnykh dokumentov 1900-1914. This book presents the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s letters addressed to Nicolas II, as well as miscellaneous notes and petitions of Agvan Dorzhiev to government officials of Russia, chiefly concerning the issue of Tibet’s independence.

A fundamental study of the development of the relations between Tibet and the Russian Empire (then USSR) is Alexandre Andreyev’s Tibet v politike tsarskoi, sovetskoi i postsovetskoi Rossii, published in Saint Petersburg in 2006. Relying on an extensive array of sources, Andreyev illuminates the details of the Russo-Tibetan dialogue during the early years of Soviet Russia. His book, together with his other papers, have illuminated previously unknown facts about Bolshevik expeditions of the 1920s, intermediary activities of Agvan Dorzhiev, etc. Special mention should also be made of the diary of the Tibet-Mongolian expedition under the leadership of Piotr Kuzmich Kozlov19, a work that preserves important information regarding Soviet-Tibetan relations during the same period.

Important monographs by other Russian researchers, primarily Tatiana Shaumian and Nikolay Kuleshov, must be mentioned here as well20.

Nevertheless, our knowledge of Tibetan history of 1911-1925 will remain incomplete until researchers gain access to a broad range of Tibetan governmental materials. This fact makes the letters discovered in Ulan-Ude exceptionally valuable, since they reflect attitudes taken toward important events of Tibetan history by the chief actors in that history: the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Agvan Dorzhiev, Tsarong Shappé, Shölkang Shappé and others. We hope that a detailed comparison of these letters with information drawn from other international archives will make one chapter in the history of Tibet a bit clearer.

19 Kozlov, 2003.

20 Shaumian, 2000. Kuleshov, 1996.


Description of the letters, problems of attribution and dates

In this book we publish 24 letters that contain the most important historical information. Out of the 24 letters, 14 letters are from the Dalai Lama with his private seal and one with his official Seal. All the letters are in a satisfactory state; some are partially restored.

Some letters are written on thin, high quality Tibetan paper of large size (the maximum format is 1057 cm). Other letters are written on smaller sheets, the smallest of which is 6.5 cm long. One letter is written on English postal paper and placed into an envelope. These letters’ sheets bear the hand-drawn symbol of the Tsarong family.

The large-sized letters on Tibetan paper are folded in the traditional way; as a rule, the recto side of the last fold bears the name of the addressee or simply title of the letter.

All the letters bear inventory numbers under which they are stored in the National Museum of Buriatia. Below, detailed technical descriptions of each letter are given.

1. OF 18578. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style yikchung.

Sheet size 69,5x54,5 cm. Text section size 33x31 cm. 13 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5,5 cm. Seal 2.

Dated April 1, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

2. OF 18579. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik.

Sheet size 103,5x57 cm. Text section size 62x39,5 cm. 32 lines.

Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4 cm.

Folds 1-4, 6 are damaged and partially restored. Seal 5. Dated 1913.

Author: Kashak.

3. OF 18575. 3 twofold sheets of thick chequered European paper of white hue with stamped text: “Imperial treasury De la Rue” and stylized monogram. Text is written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik. The letter is placed into an envelope of thick chequered European paper with frayed, damaged edges.

Envelope size 13,5x21. Ff. 1v, 2v, 3v, 4v, 5v are blank. Center of


upper part of ff. 1r, 3r, 5r, 7r contain symbol of Tsarong family with inscription “Nyin mo bde, mtshan mo bde, tsha rong” drawn by hand (Tsarong family symbol). Some of the sheets bear original pagination made by the author’s hand in the upper part. No seal.

Dated August 23, 1924. Author: Tsarong Shappé Dazang Damdül.

4. OF 18588. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk.

Sheet size 13,7x21 cm. Text section size 6x20 cm. 5 lines. Seal 2. Dated December 14, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

5. OF 18589. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk.

Sheet size 21×10 cm. Text section size 20, 2×7,5 cm. 6 lines. Seal 2. Presumed to date from early 1925. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

6. OF 18590. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Lower edge is torn. Date digits are written in blue ink. Lines 4-7 are underlined in red pencil. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 13,7×21 cm. Text section size 7,5×20,2 cm. 7 lines. Seal 2. Dated December 14, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

7. OF 18591. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Lower edge is torn. Date digits are written in blue ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 21×10 cm. Text section size 20,2×7,5 cm. 6 lines. Seal 2. Dated December 14, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

8. OF 18592. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Opening lines’ ink is slightly spread. Lower edge is torn. Date digits are written in blue ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 13,7×21 cm. Text section size 7,5×20 cm. 7 lines. Seal 2. A small sheet paper is glued to the sheet in the spot next to the seal. Presumably, Dated December 14, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

9. OF 18593. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Lower edge is torn. Date digits are written


in blue ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 13,7×21 cm. Text section size 6,5×20,5 cm. 6 lines. Seal 2. A small sheet paper is glued to the sheet in the spot next to the seal. Dated December 14, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

10. OF 18594. A sheet of European ruled paper of white hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk.

Sheet size 25×19,5 cm. Text section size 14,5×18 cm. 16 lines. Seal 3. Dated January 1, 1925. Author: Kashak.

11. OF 18597. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 48×56 cm. Text section size 29×10,5 cm. 4 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5,5 cm. Seal 2. Dated August 18, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

12. OF 18598. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 44,5×49 cm.

Text section size 15×30 cm. 6 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4,5 cm. Seal 2. Dated November 15, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

13. OF 18599. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 54×55,3 cm.

Text section size 21×34,5 cm. 8 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5,5 cm. Seal 2. Dated August 31, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

14. OF 18600. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik.

Sheet size 40×61,3 cm. Text section size 28×40 cm. 15 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4,5 cm. No seal.

Presumed to date from April, 1922. Anonymous.

15. OF 18601. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 62,5×55,3 cm.

Text section size 28×34 cm. 11 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds,


the space between which is 5 cm. Seal 2. Dated October 31, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

16. OF 18602. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 28,5×56,5 cm. Text section size 12,5×33 cm. 6 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4 cm. Seal 2. Presumed to date from August, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

17. OF 18603. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk.

Sheet size 89,5×68,5 cm. Text section size 50×42 cm. 17 lines.

Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4,5 cm.

Seal 3. Dated April 24, 1924. Tibetan Kashak.

18. OF 18604. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 52×54,3 cm.

Text section size 33×18 cm. 7 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5 cm. Seal 2. Dated November 12, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

19. OF 18605. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 66×55 cm.

Text section size 32×33 cm. 12 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 6 cm. Seal 2. Dated August 31, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

20. OF 18606. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik.

Sheet size 83×56 cm. Text section size 65×45 cm. 28 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 4,5 cm. No seal.

Presumed to date from spring 1924. Anonymous.

21. OF 18607. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink. Tibetan calligraphic style yikchung. Sheet size 76,5×57,3 cm. Text section size 36×32 cm. 10 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 6 cm. Seal 4. In the addressee section – Seal 5. Dated April 27, 1924. Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.


22. OF 18609. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Date digits are written in blue ink.

Tibetan calligraphic style tshukmakhyuk. Sheet size 51,2×53,5 cm.

Text section size 34×15,5 cm. 6 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5 cm. Seal 2. Dated November 13, 1924.

Author: The Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso.

23. OF 18616. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik.

Sheet size 48×64 cm. Text section size 30×50 cm. 14 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5 cm. No seal.

Presumed to date from August, 1911. Anonymous.

24. OF 18617. A sheet of Tibetan paper of grey-brownish hue with text written in black ink. Tibetan calligraphic style khyugyik.

Sheet size 48×64 cm. Text section size 30×50 cm. 14 lines. Sheet contains traces of folds, the space between which is 5 cm. No seal.

Presumed to dated from late 1912. Anonymous.

Conclusively determining the authors of these letters is not a simple matter; problems of attribution are bound together with problems of identifying their accompanying seal stamps. When a letter is stamped with a seal, the seal stamp is typically found at the bottom; in some cases, it marks the fold on which the addressee’s name is penned. Four varieties of seal stamps occur on these letters, as well as (occasionally) the symbol of the Tsarong family. Among the seal stamps, only the official Kashak’s seal stamp (Seal 3) is black; the others are red. The identification of these seal stamps has great significance for ascertaining the provenance of the letters. To date, we have been able to identify two Kashak stamps (Seals 1 and 3). The other three stamps are of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama; one (Seal 4) marks official communication; the other (Seal 2) was presumably affixed to private correspondence. A stamp identical to Seal 2 marks a letter by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to Sönam Wangpel Laden-la (1876-1936), a copy of which is given in a recently published book by Nicolas and Deki Rhodes.21 The Dalai Lama’s stamps are found on 17 of the 24 letters published here. In

21 Rhodes, 2006.


addition to the presence of the Dalai Lama’s seal stamp, the content of these letters unambiguously indicates the Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso’s authorship. Among the letters published in this volume, others may also have been authored by Dalai Lama XIII and Kalön Shölkang Shappé; their provenance is difficult to determine conclusively.

Also difficult to determine is the date on which many of these letters were composed. Judging by their contents, we conjecture that the earliest letter is OF 18616, which we have tentatively dated August, 1911. Arguments in favor of this dating are given below.

The other letters were likely penned after 1912, the year Dorzhiev left Tibet for the last time (thus requiring all further communication to be conducted via written correspondence). The last letter is dated April 1, 1925. This date coincides with the period during which Dorzhiev was gradually coming to realize the nature of Soviet policies towards Buddhism in Russia and Tibet. As Dorzhiev’s biographer John Snelling points out, in an April 1925 letter to Grigory Chicherin, People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Dorzhiev laments the restrictions on the Soviet Buddhist Community that had recently been implemented by the government.22

From 1913-1921, there is an interruption in correspondence. We do not know whether Dorzhiev maintained contacts with Tibetan officials over this period. The break may be related to Russia’s participation in World War I and, consequently, to the Bolshevist coup of 1917 in Petrograd – developments that removed Russo- Tibetan relations from the agenda. During this time, Dorzhiev was primarily engaged with problems concerning the development of Buddhism within the country. Correspondence between the Tibetan government and Dorzhiev appears to resume in the spring of 1922, perhaps prompted by the first Soviet expedition of Yampilon- Khomutnikov to Tibet in April, 1922.

The peak of the correspondence gathered here falls during the period between April 24, 1924 and April 1, 1925 – a pivotal time in the modern history of Tibet. It was a time during which the most

22 Snelling, 1993. P. 219.


dramatic phase of the Ninth Panchen’s flight to China was unfolding, together with Lev Karakhan’s mission to Peking, preparations for Kozlov’s expedition to Tibet, and the second Bolshevist mission to Lhasa. It was also a time that may have seen a failed coup d’état in Lhasa – an event that led to the dismissal of Tsarong Shappé from the position of Commander-in-chief and to changes in the Dalai Lama’s domestic policies. It is not unreasonable to suppose that all these events directly or indirectly involved Agvan Dorzhiev; thus, it is not surprising that no fewer than 16 of the 24 letters compiled here are dated to this time.

The letters are not evenly distributed throughout the year: two date from April of 1924, five from August, the same number from October-November, six from December-January. This irregularity may be explained by difficulties of delivery. Communication between Lhasa and Transbaikalia could be conducted only through special envoys or pilgrims. The letters mention some of them:

Takring Trülku (OF 18584), Jampa Tokmé of Namgyel Dratsang (OF 18601), Chöndzé Gyurmé (18609), Chöndzé Lozang Sherap (OF 18592). The Dalai Lama himself approves of Lozang Sherap as Dorzhiev’s courier (OF 18590), while Jampa Tokmé has been identified by Alexandre Andreyev as Zhampa Togmat, a figure whom Dorzhiev called “the Dalai Lama’s diplomatic courier”23.

Text peculiarities and translation problems

Owing to their confidential character, these letters present a range of textual peculiarities. All the letters are addressed only to one addressee, and all presume this addressee’s background knowledge.

This is why the content of the letters is often fragmentary, ambiguous and lacking in detail – a situation that generates significant problems for the task of translation. The English translations provided in this book are no more than versions with least distortion of the thought contents and closest rendering of Tibetan text; specialists

23 Andreyev, 2003. P. 207.


are invited to improve upon them on the basis of the accompanying transcriptions and facsimiles.

One of the textual peculiarities is a number of Chinese loan words, as, for instance,


for France, which is a corruption of the Chinese


(OF 18617). There is no lack of European names and terms, in particular English and Russian, e.g., Tibetan



London, or


for Moscow, as well as


for Autonomy, surnames Kozlov –


and Karakhan –


Of course, to deal with sources such as these demands good knowledge of the historical context in which they appeared. A number of brilliant works on this period of Tibetan history have made possible the translation, however unsatisfactory it may be. The authors assume full responsibility for any mistakes and shortcomings which can be found in this book. We put as our chief objective the publication of the accompanying facsimiles that we hope will enable scholars to produce more exacting and deep interpretations.

Below, our own comments to each letter are given. For reason of convenience, we have arranged them thematically and chronologically.

The Chinese intervention in Kham and the activities of Amban Lian Yu in Lhasa

The letter OF 18616 is not dated. As is stated in its beginning, it is based on certain “Report on the recent Chinese activities in Tibet”. Most probably, it was submitted by a high official of Lhasa Government to the Dalai Lama, that time in exile in India. On the basis of its contents, we suggest a provisional date of August- September 1911. An unknown author discusses events of that year, indicating the months in which they occurred. The author mentions a military operation in Nyagrong (Chantun) and the introduction of Chinese administration in that territory, dating these events to the 4th and 5th months (i.e., June and July) respectively. By early-mid 1911, Zhao Erfeng had established Sichuanese control over several


regions traditionally controlled by Lhasa: Markham, the monastery of Sangak Chödzong, Chamdo, and Dragyap. The last region from which Zhao Erfeng together with his assistant Zhong Yin expelled Lhasa officials was Nyagrong; the region was occupied by Sichuanese troops in July of 1911. In August, Zhao Erfeng returned to Chengdu to assume the position of provincial governor. The last event reflected in the letter is the dismissal of Lhasa officials in Nyagrong and establishment of Chinese control over the territory.

However, there is no mention of the activities of Fu Songmu, Zhao Erfeng’s successor as border commissioner in Kham. Nor is any reference made to the murder of Zhao Erfeng by rebel soldiers in Sichuan and the subsequent recall of Fu Songmu. For these reasons, a date of August-September of 1911 seems most likely.

Letter OF 18616 obviously reflects the position taken by a high Lhasa official, perhaps the Thirteenth Dalai Lama himself, to events unfolding in Kham between 1909-1911: Zhao Erfeng’s troop expansion to territories under Lhasa control; the reforms initiated by Amban Lian Yu; the Dalai Lama’s flight to India; and the early stage of a split in relations between the Dalai Lama (and Lhasa government) and the Panchen Lama (and Trashi Lhünpo administration). Unlike other published appeals and letters of Lhasa officials on the subject, this letter contains a detailed presentation of Chinese undertakings in Kham and the reforms initiated by Lian Yu.

Thus, with regard to Zhao Erfeng’s policy towards newly occupied territories, the author stresses a new regulation according to which taxes are being levied at 10 times the rate of the previous Lhasa regime. Of special significance is the information on the situation in Nyagrong, where, as is stated in the letter, the Chinese were propagandizing the local population in order to convince them to submit voluntarily to a new Chinese administration. The Lhasa officials of the region were told that unless they, too, capitulated to the Chinese, they would be expelled militarily.

The Tibetan administration of Nyagrong repeatedly appealed to Zhao Erfeng to stop the aggression, but its appeals were unsuccessful. By the middle of June, 1911, Zhao Erfeng’s troops


took Nyagrong, expelled the Lhasa officials from power, and established a new administration. The letter notes that 300 officials of the old administration were dismissed from their positions but allowed to stay in Nyagrong.

The author then writes of the situation in Central Tibet, where Tibetan power had been usurped by the Qing Amban Lian Yu. The letter recounts certain measures undertaken by Lian Yu and his assistant General Zhong Yin to introduce proper order, specifically, the establishment of a network of administrative and judicial offices from Pashö to the Tibet-Bhutan and Tibet-Nepal border.

The author accuses Lian Yu of usurping power and increasing military contingents through the establishment of new garrisons.

By his count, each month no fewer than 100 soldiers and 200 loads of armor are arriving in Tibet. The addressee is told that together with rising taxes and corvee labor, this increase in military forces is leading to a deterioration of the economic situation. To support the garrisons, the Chinese authorities are importing provisions from distant territories, and thus impacting prices that may be charged for local products. Thus, the author writes, the price of meat has collapsed twice. A military conflict in Poyül is mentioned as well, prompted by the refusal of the local chieftain Kanam Depa to submit to Chinese authorities. The author informs us that after unsuccessful attempts to take Poyül by force, the Chinese have used Pembar Trülku and Gyeltön Trülku as intermediaries to start negotiations with Kanam Depa.

The next problem the author discusses in his letter concerns a loan secured by the Ninth Panchen Lama from British India.

Probably, the author means the gift, or donation, of 5000 liang, the British authorities offered to the Panchen Lama during his stay in India24. To return the money, the author suggests obliging the Trashi Lhünpo government to supply the British mission in Gyantsé (according to the 1904 agreement between British India and Tibet), and prohibiting the Lhasa government from doing the same. This passage of the letter may reflect the beginnings of the economic conflict between Trashi Lhünpo and Lhasa.

24 About that donation see: Shaumian, 2000. P. 112.


The author raises the problem of what he terms the illegal confiscation of “the acting Kalön Gungthangpa’s25 Lhasa domain”, allotted to him by the Lhasa government. As is known from scholarly works,

“The Dalai Lama’s personal effects, which were still on their way back from China, were confiscated at Nagchuka. His property in Potala and Norbulingka (the summer palace), as well as the vast treasury of the Tibetan government, were removed by the Chinese. The Lhasa armory and magazines were emptied, the mint and ammunition factory seized, and the houses of those ministers who had fled with the Dalai Lama systematically pillaged. The property of the ex-Regent Demo, who had been found guilty of plotting against the Dalai Lama in 1899, was restored to his family”.26

To these confiscations we may now add another: that of the landed property of the acting Kalön Gungtangpa. The author laments that the orders of the Silön, or Prime Minister, whose functions were temporarily entrusted by the Dalai Lama before he fled to India to the abbot of Ganden Tripa Tsemönling Huthokthu Ngawang Lozang, have not been executed because the Amban has usurped all the executive functions. Descriptions of the miserable position of the population in the period of Lian Yu’s rule are contained in other historical documents of the time. In the Dalai Lama’s letter of July 5, 1910 attached to an official of the Russian Embassy in China M. Shchiokin’s report, it is said: “he (Lian Yu) raised the transport corvée rate... several times higher. Because of these measures the population found itself in a desperate situation and began to flee”27.

Attempts of Tibetan officials to provide recognition of the independence of their country

As we suggest, the letter OF 18617 can be an original of the Dalai Lama XIII’s letter to Russian Emperor Nicolas the Second, as

25 The author apparently means Dungthangpa who was in position of Katsap in 1909.

Thubten Puntsok, 1996. P. 918.

26 Shakabpa, 1984. P. 233.

27 Rossiia i Tibet, 2005. P. 152.


indicated in the letter itself on its front page. The letter, of course, does not bear the author’s signature but there are two passages referring to the Dalai Lama in first person28. The Russian translation of this letter was attached to Agvan Dorzhiev’s note to the Chair of the Council of Ministers (V. N. Kokovtsov), dated April 6, 1913.

The text of the Russian translation (or Russian-language version) of this letter has previously been published in the collection of archival documents on Russo-Tibetan relations29. What is the background of this letter?

After having been triumphantly re-established in the capital of Tibet and having declared his country independent from China, the Dalai Lama set himself the task of convincing other powers, primarily Russia and Britain, to acknowledge Tibet’s independent status. The Dalai Lama’s letter to Nicolas II thus constitutes a request to recognize Tibetan independence. Russian researcher Alexandre Andreyev, discussing this period of Russo-Tibetan relations, argues that Agvan Dorzhiev, who had delivered the Dalai Lama’s message to the Russian Emperor, faced “obstruction from the side of MID3031 owing to Russian reluctance to endanger their interests in Outer Mongolia by contacting Lhasa directly. Andreyev mentions two letters from the Dalai Lama: one political, another more religious in character (though carrying a similar political message)32. The variant we publish in this book differs in some important details from the

“political” version presented for the emperor’s consideration.

In 1912, via Dorzhiev, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had sent a letter to Russian Emperor Nicolas the Second, thanking him for his assistance during the period of the Dalai Lama’s exile to Mongolia and India. The text of this letter, known to scholars in the translation and interpretation of Agvan Dorzhiev, reads:

“1. On the establishment of friendly relations between Tibet and England, and on the protection and acknowledgement of Tibetan independence by Russia and England;

28 See: Samten, 2010. P. 357-370.

29 Ibid. P. 194-195.

30 Ministerstvo Inostrannykh Del (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia).

31 Andreyev, 2006. P. 202.

32 Andreyev, 2003. P. 59.


2. On the dispatching of diplomatic representatives of Russia and England to Lhasa, or, if the institution of diplomatic representation in Tibet will be found to be impossible according to the terms set by the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907, then On finding other means for establishing new guarantees of Tibet’s inviolability and neutrality, via negotiations with England or other world powers;

3. On the selling of arms and the command of military instructors, or, if for some reason the acquisition of arms in Russia will be found unacceptable, then On permission to transport them through her territory and on her roads;

4. On the increase of a loan from the Peking Department of the Russo-Asian Bank up to 1 million rubles;

5. On the legalization of the status of our representative, Tsannid Khanchen Agvan Dorzhiev;

On the swift resolution of these urgent issues, on the preservation of eternally unshakeable friendly relations between Russia and Tibet, and on the establishment between them of lively trade and economic ties by means of a special treaty agreement, I rely, remembering the former favor and protection of Your Imperial Majesty.”

In the letter published here, we see rather different versions of several of the above requests. In both variants of the letter, the essence of the requests is the same. However, the original version names specific powers (Germany, France, and Japan) which might be persuaded to take active part in the resolution of the Tibet problem, asks Petersburg to persuade the above countries to depute their representatives to Lhasa and extend their support to Tibet, and requests for the recognition of Dorzhiev’s diplomatic status of Tibet’s liaison official in Russia”. The final Russian-language version of the letter may have emerged only after consultation with Dorzhiev. We may reasonably suppose that he would have advocated dropping direct mention of Germany, France and Japan, recognizing clearly that Russia would object to any proposed increase of their influence in Tibet. However, the difference between the two versions of the letter perhaps also testifies to a secret scheme to secure Tibet’s


independence, about which the Tibetan government was then deliberating. The heart of the scheme was the organization of secret Russo-British, Russo-French and Russo-German agreements regarding Tibet—though the idea of an intrigue with Japan also was never entirely rejected. By involving France, Germany and Japan, the Lhasa government aimed to encourage resolute British action in the region—yet the scheme needed to remain secret, since the official positions taken by Britain and Russia did not allow for Tibet to engage in any independent negotiation with other countries.

Another of Dorzhiev’s initiatives—that of providing Tibet with Buriat military instructors—dates back to this time as well. During his final visit to Tibet in 1912, Dorzhiev had been accompanied by three Buriat officers of the Transbaikal Cossack army: Ts. Ganzhurov, B. Budaev and B. Munkuev. In his report to their commander, the Military governor of the Transbaikal district, Dorzhiev wrote that these officers had been requested by the Tibetan government, and that their dispatch should not be publicized. In the Dalai Lama’s letter of 1912, we see his request to send Buriat military instructors to Tibet.

For a few months, Buriat Cossacks worked in Tibet; soon, however, the Lhasa administration, anxious about the British reaction to their presence, opted to refuse any foreign military assistance except that of the British.

The letter OF 18579 is another important historical document from the early period of Tibet’s de facto independence. It contains valuable information regarding the Dalai Lama’s diplomatic attempts to force Russia and Britain to be more active concerning the Tibet problem. The letter is anonymous, but some of its passages may indicate that it was sent by Tibetan Kashak33. It was likely written by a high official of the Lhasa government, but not by the Dalai Lama; a couple of passages refer to the Dalai Lama in the third person. The letter is dated 1913. The month and day are not specified, but the letter’s contents again allow us to suggest the date of its composition. The author reports the receipt of a letter from one of the Dalai Lama’s new favorites, Lungshar Dorjé Tsegyal, in

33 See: Samten, Forthcoming ‘Lungta Issue’, Amnye Machen Institute, Dharamsala.


which he speaks of an impending trip to Britain. Since the Lungshar delegation departed Bombay for Britain in early April 1913, the letter was likely composed between February and April of that year—most likely in March. The letter also relates that Dorzhiev had recently visited Tongkhor monastery in the Kardze area of Kham.

This visit is unmentioned by Dorzhiev’s biographers, and so our source reveals one more heretofore unknown mission undertaken by the Dalai Lama’s envoy to Kham after the Sichuanese troop invasion.

As part of secret diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Tibetan government, Lungshar was dispatched to London. Officially, the purpose of his visit was to escort four young Tibetans to study in a London college, and to present gifts from the Dalai Lama to the British King George V. Lungshar’s stay in London is considered by today’s historians to be one of the most enigmatic episodes in the history of Anglo-Tibetan relations. En route to London, Lungshar traveled to Calcutta, where Sönam Wangpel Laden-la—a British officer of Sikkimese origin—was appointed as his supervisor.

In Calcutta, Lungshar appears to have met with Japanese agents, as Alistair Lamb, an authoritative British researcher of the modern history of Anglo-Tibetan relations, has noted:

In theory no more than the official escort for the boys, in fact Lungshar regarded himself (and may well have been regarded so by the Dalai Lama) as a Tibetan ambassador at large. Before leaving India, he had been detected in intrigues with Japanese agents in Calcutta, who hoped, it seemed, that the boys could be diverted to Japan for their education – a further piece of evidence that Japan was developing very wide Central Asian interests. No sooner in England than Lungshar began to talk about going to Germany, to the United States and to other countries, including, by implication, Russia34.

Upon his arrival in Europe, Lungshar’s activities quickly raised suspicions among the British. Worrying that Lungshar sought to realize goals apart from those of a simple escort or bearer of gifts, the British authorities had him shadowed and worked to have him called back to Tibet. Later, Scotland Yard would be informed that

34 Lamb, P. 326.


on his way back to Tibet, Lungshar had managed to visit several European countries; however, no information was forthcoming regarding the outcome of these visits.

The true goals of Lungshar’s travel to the West are revealed in the letter OF 18579. In fact, it contains a description of the entire scheme. It is clear from this letter that the real goal of Lungshar’s mission to Europe was to reanimate Anglo-Russian dialogue regarding the Tibet problem. The mission was undertaken in close relation with the efforts of Agvan Dorzhiev in Petersburg and was kept secret. The request of the Lhasa government to provide Dorzhiev with the right to travel to other countries cannot but be connected to Lungshar’s secret mission to Europe, and was a part of the overall plan. The plan aimed to secure the replacement of the Anglo-Russian 1907 Convention—the wording of which was extremely disadvantageous for Tibet—with a new agreement between the two powers. As Dorzhiev states in a note to the Russian premier-minister V. Kokovtsov, this new agreement should provide Britain and Russia with equal rights in Tibet and protect Tibetan independence against forthcoming Chinese aggression. However, notwithstanding all efforts made by the Lhasa government, Britain and Russia agreed in their approach to the Tibet problem, choosing to embrace a policy of non-interference in Tibetan internal affairs.

Russia’s real interests at the time were in Mongolia, and she did not interfere with developing affairs between Britain and Tibet. Britain, for its part, had as an objective the promotion of Tibetan autonomy within China.

The only obstacle to complete trust that the two powers faced was the Tibetan-Mongolian agreement of mutual independence recognition. From letter OF 18579 it is apparent that the treaty, having suddenly appeared, aroused in the British serious doubt as to Russia’s putative disinterest in Tibet. When the story broke, British diplomats began to suspect that Russia was involved in new intrigues in Tibet, though Russia swiftly denied accusations that she had played a role in crafting the treaty and rejected its juridical validity. In the light of the new materials presented here, it can be

Ақпарат көздері


The article considers the conditional increase in the level of meta-resources, which allows a person with a high level of psychological security to feel happy to maintain psychological