The Caucasian Borderland, by W.E.D. Allen

Meeting of the Society, 4 May 1942
The Geographical Journal, Vol. 99, No. 5/6. (May - Jun., 1942), pp. 225-237.

William Edward David Allen (January 6, 1901 - September 18, 1973) was an Ireland-born English scholar, Foreign Service officer, politician and businessman, best known as a historian of South Caucasus.
Born in Waterford, Ireland, he was educated at Eton College. He was a military correspondent during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and the Rif war (1925). WED Allen served as the Unionist MP for West Belfast from 1929 to 1931 when he defected to join Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party. He was a close friend of Mosley and helped him to pursue his Fascist ambitions from behind the scenes, by supporting him financially and by contributing mainly anonymous articles to The Blackshirt, including "The Letters of Lucifer". WED Allen also wrote a book BUF, Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (1934) under the pen name of James Drennan. It has frequently been reported that he was an MI5 informant but this now appears to be false.
In the pre-World War II years, he traveled a lot and conducted extensive research on the history of the peoples of the Caucasus and Anatolia. In 1930, along with Sir Oliver Wardrop, he founded the Georgian Historic Society which published its own journal Georgica dedicated to the Kartvelian studies.
William ED Allen was a Foreign Service officer from 1943 until he stepped down and returned to his native Ulster in 1949. Together with his two younger brothers, he ran David Allens, a major bill-posting company.

Main Works: 

  • The Turks in Europe (1920) 
  • A history of the Georgian people (1932)
  • The Russian Military Campaigns of 1941-1943 (part 1, 1943)
  • The Russian Military Campaigns 1943-1945 (part 2, 1946)
  • Caucasian Battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turko-Caucasian Border 1828-1921 (by W.E.D
    Allen and Paul Muratof, 1953) 
  • David Allens - The History of a Family Firm 1857-1957 (1957) attributed to W.E.D. Allen but ghosted in
    part by his friend Kim Philby, the Communist spy. 
  • Problems of Turkish Power in the Sixteenth Century (1963)
  • Russian Embassies to the Georgian Kings: 1589-1605 (1970) 

The Caucasian Borderland

I feel some diffidence in giving a lecture on an area which has been associated with the names of some of the most distinguished Fellows of the Society. The late Douglas Freshfield is  perhaps one of the best known, his 'Exploration of the Caucasus' is the classic for the Central Range. The late Lord Bryce and the late H. F. B. Lynch, writing fifty years ago, remain standard authorities, for the geography of Ararat and the Armenian highland zone. Lastly, John Baddeley, a Gold Medallist of the Society who died two years ago, had just finished his two volumes on Dagistan and the central Caucasus which have appeared under the title of 'The rugged flanks of Caucasus.' I should like here to pay a tribute to a man who was the perfect combination of the adventurer and the scholar. All his friends will remember his noble and benign aspect, his profound erudition, his generosity, and his wisdom. Baddeley was, I suppose, the last of the Victorians, who laid the foundation of modern geographical knowledge.
Throughout history Caucasia has been a borderland. The main chain of the Caucasus mountains, stretching from the Taman peninsula on the Azov Sea to the Apsheron peninsula on the Caspian Sea, is the natural limit of the mountain zone of the Middle East comprising the Armenian and Iranian highlands, themselves a westerly extension of the Himalayan system. Right across Asia this vast mountain complex forms the watershed of the rivers flowing north to the Arctic and south to the Indian Ocean and divides two worlds opposed in all natural and human phenomena. Where the mountain barrier narrows, along the line of the Kopet Dagh (N.E. Persia) where the Iranian plateau falls to the sandy steppe of Central Asia and in the region of the Caucasus, the two worlds come into close contact and both areas have always been the scene of constant friction and interplay of forces and influences. In the past, from the middle eastern world Iranian and Islamic cultural influences and armies have overflowed into central Asia as far as the Dzungarian Gap and the borderlands of China. Conversely, Northern Asiatic elements: Turkish, Mongol, and, finally, Russian, have burst or filtered over the mountain barriers of the Caucasus and Kopet Dagh to the west and east of the Caspian Sea.

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