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The origin and development of imperialist contention in Iran; 1884-1921 Print E-mail

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A case study in under development and dependency

By: Younes Parsa Benab

In the process of the struggle for political and economic independence and liberation, the contemporary history of any Third World Country appears shaped by the impact of a dynamic interaction between two logically interrelated phenomena: the imperialists' contention for achieving hegemony over the Third World country [1] and the inevitable national movement which gradually grows out of combating this alien challenge. The history of Iran from 1884 to 1921, when viewed in the context of Anglo-Russian contention in Asia, can provide a case study of this dynamic interaction.

Until the Bolshevik (October) Revolution in Russia, Iran had for over a century been involved in Anglo-Russian rivalry for power in Asia. Subjected to Tsarist territorial expansion and British manipulation, Iran like China, Thailand, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Ethiopia had been gradually transformed from a viable and independent political entity in to a chaotic Asian case of underdevelopment. While observing the territorial "integrity" and national "sovereignty" of Iran, Britain and Russia had designed counterrevolutionary actions against the Iranian Constitutional Revolution by dividing Iran into their spheres of influence in 1907. They had opposed progressive programs of the Constitutionalists by crushing democratic upsurges in Iran, with the object of preventing the further spread of constitutional ideas into their respective colonies in India and Central Asia.

The fall of Tsarist and the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia brought the 1907-1917 "entente" to an end. From there on, Soviet Russia, led by Lenin and his associates, sided with the rise and development of the national Liberation movement in Iran against the imperialist forces [2]. It is against this background that the origins and development of the imperialist contention for hegemony and its social-economic consequences in Iran will be reappraisal.

At the outset of this paper, I will analyse the origins and development of the Great Powers' activities in Iran which provided a favourable ground for the gradual emergence of Iran as an underdeveloped dependency by the end of the nineteenth century. Then I will outline the responses of the Iranian to this foreign challenge during the period under investigation.

Commercial penetration
The emergence of the commercial activities of the European colonial powers in Iran goes back to the Safavid period (1500-1722). During this period however, the Iranians, being able to resist the intended colonial penetration, cultivated commercial relations with the Europeans on an equal footing and exported Iranian manufactured commodities to the European countries [3].

After the fall of the Safavid House, Iran went through a process of tribal and feudal rivalries which set the stage for colonial penetration and contention. In retrospect, the period following the fall of the Safavid ruling class marks the beginning of the regional secessions and general disarray of Iran's social-economic and political institutions due to the revival of feudal wars over control of Iran's human and natural resources. In fact, the history of Iran from 1700 to 1800 can be characterised as an uneventful series of military and political conflicts among the rival khans, which brought about the condition for further colonial penetration of Iran under the Qajar rule in the nineteenth century [4].

The Iranian community fragmented and demoralised under the corrupt Qajar ruling classes, gradually surrendered to the colonial powers. After the Irano-Russia wars of 1813 and 1828, the unequal and imposed treaties of Gulestan and Turkomanchai, the eventful Anglo-Iranian war of 1856, and the unequal Treaty of Paris (1857), Iran lost its independence for all practical purposes and, was gradually drawn into the arena of the Anglo-Russian power struggle [5]. The transformation of Iran from an independent and cohesive Asian state into a "buffer state" was mainly due to the colonial penetration and rivalry between Great Britain and Tsarist Russia in Asia, especially during the last quarter of the 19th century [6].

Colonial rivalry
Anglo-Russian competition in Asia can be traced to Peter the Great and even earlier [7]. This rivalry began in earnest from the 1780's onward with Catherine the Great's "partition fever" in regard to the Ottoman Lands on the one hand and Britain's new commitment to an emerging British India and a "reformed" East India company on the other [8]. The rivalry reached its peak after the aggressive Tsarist expansion into Central Asian and Chinese territories during the second half of the 19th Century [9]. The British, viewing the domination of these Asian Lands as a serious threat to their colonial interests in India and the Persian Gulf [10] made it clear that any further military expansion by the Russian into the Iranian lands would lead to a military confrontation with Britain. Although the top Tsarist strategists strongly advocated military expansion and predicted a successful incorporation of Russia into the Tsarist Empire [11] the Russians finally opted for the less dangerous path of social-economic penetration in order not to risk a military confrontation with Britain [12].

Since neither imperialist power desired a military confrontation in Iran, competition to moved into social-political area of domination of the country without necessarily colonising her. This new Anglo-Russian contention in Iran became what Keddie has aptly called "concession hunting":

In general, concession -hunting in Iran, was a game of speculators and adventurers, out for quick profits, whose wits were matched against those of wily courtiers, and the shah who equally wanted as little trouble as possible [13].
The peculiarity of this situation was due to the rivalry between two imperialist powers in maintaining the collapsing political community in Iran. As a result. Iran was not conquered as a formal colony, but survived as a buffer state between the expanding Russian Colonialism towards the Persian Gulf and the British strategy of defending her own imperialist interests in India and the Persian Gulf [14].

Russian goals
The main strategy of Russia in this period was to expand as far as the Persian Gulf, while establishing colonial footholds for competition with the British in order to achieve commercial and political hegemony in Iran [15]. To accomplish this goal, Russia quickened the pace of her penetration into Iran by using three colonial instruments: [16] (1) commercial monopolies, (2) the Iranian Cossack Brigade, and (3) finance capital.

The Iranian Cossack Brigade was established in 1889 when Naser al-Din Shah decided to employ Russian officers to protect his person and the Qajar court against the growing popular discontent [17]. These officers, it is interesting to note, did not take their orders from any Iranian authority or even from the Shah but communicated "directly with the Ministry of War in St. Petersburg" [18]. The Brigade developed into a strong, relatively modern and reliable force in Iran and was the only military institution which received its full salary without the customary delay. This naturally made the Cossacks, though Iranian, Loyal to the Russian officers, thereby making them an important instrument of Tsarist policies in Iran [19].

The nature of trade relations between Iran and Russia was the other important instrument of Tsarist political domination of Iran. The background for an expansion of commercial relations between the two countries had been set by the trade instrument appended to the Treaty of Turkomanchai (1828), which had deprived Iran of tariff autonomy and enabled Tsars to wrest concessions and colonial privileges of all kinds from Iran's venal and corrupt Kings [20]. One of factors that undoubtedly facilitated the increasing Tsarist monopoly of Iranian trade was the Trans-Caspian Railway. Constructed under the direction of General Annenkoff, this first Asian railway (1888) ran for nearly three hundred miles parallel to and very near the Iranian frontier. Since it was in its interest that no railway should be built in Iran, Tsarist Russia extracted from the King a formal agreement not to allow such construction for ten years (1890-1900), at the expiration of which the ban was extended for another decade [21].

The effect of the expansion of railway was to propel Tsarist policy into an aggressive campaign to obtain extensive commercial and political privileges in Iran. For instance by 1890 Russia exports to Iran were valued at 1,000,000 rubbles [22] and by the turn of the century, trade increased even more between the two countries, [23] albeit with terms of trade favourable to Russia. In order to promote her trade domination still further, Russia closed her frontiers to goods in transit to Iran, and, by establishing The Persian Loan Bank, drew Iran into orbit of Tsarist finance capital and forced the King to revise the tariff in favour of Russian merchants [24].

British designs
Although British trade with Iran in this period did not exceed half of the Russo-Iranian trade, [25] her principal objective was to establish British domination of Iran in order to defend her imperialist interests in India and the Persian Gulf. British attempts for the so-called "strengthening" of Iran were designed to enable her to resist the Russian drive toward the Persian Gulf and at the same time to dominate the Iranian economy. The major economic concessions which were obtained by the British during this period are summarised as follows: [26]
  1. During the 1860's concessions were given to the Indo-European Telegraph Company, acting on behalf of the government of British India, for the construction and operation of a land telegraph line running from Baghdad across Iran to the Persian Gulf where it connected with a submarine cable to India, forming part of a system of telegraph communication between Britain and India.
  2. Immunity from road tolls and internal transit taxes, which were collected from Iranian merchants in the southern provinces of Iran, was granted to the British (1871).
  3. A comprehensive countrywide monopoly of railway construction, mining, and banking was granted to a British subject, Baron Julius de Reuter (1872).
  4. In 1888, the British firm of Lynch Brothers (which was already running a line of steamers on the Tigris) was granted a concession for running a line of steamers on the Karun River up to Ahwaz.
  5. A concession was obtained by the British to organise the Imperial Bank of Persia with a monopoly in issuing currency (1888).
  6. In order to encourage and increase the British investment in Iran, Britain pressed Naser al-Din Shah for a life and property decree [27]. This important commercial instrument, announced in May 1888, was designed to protect British investors and fortunes against the possible upsurge of the people's wrath.
  7. One British national was granted a monopoly on the production, sale, and export of all tobacco in Iran (1890).
  8. Furthermore, there was the Act of 1889, which established "consular jurisdiction" by the British over British nationals in Iran because of "the increasing numbers of British subjects who resided in Persian as a result of the banking activities, the opening of Karun, the operation of the telegraph line, and the mining exploration" [28].
  9. Finally, a historic concession was granted to a British syndicate headed by William Knox d' Arcy to explore for and to produce petroleum anywhere in Iran except in the Russian "sphere of influence" in northern Iran (1901).
Native industrial decay
Russian and British socio-economic penetration of Iran, though productive in terms of British commercial activities in Iran, [29] was disastrous for the independent economic development of Iranian society. This penetration, which was achieved through diplomacy and superior technology destroyed Iran's factories, which were important during the eighteenth century. As a result, European manufactured goods superseded Iranian local products on the one hand, and the export of raw materials replaced that of manufactured materials on the other. The last quarter of the nineteenth century evidenced the decay of industrial activities in the cities of Isfahan, Kashan, Tabriz, Yazd, Kerman, and Mashad [30].

Not only were the traditional factories destroyed, but the various attempts of the modern middle class to establish themselves failed partially because of the intervention of Russia and Great Britain in favour of their own overall aims. Jamalzadeh reports that thirty major new factories which were opened in the last decade of the nineteenth century were shut down. For example, a modern sugar cane factory, which was installed in 1899 and whose products were of better quality than Russia sugar, finally went bankrupt as a result of Tsarist dumping practices [31].

Another example was the failure of Iranian money dealers and traders to establish an independent national banking system due to the predominance of the two foreign banks, the Imperial (British) Bank of Persia and the (Russian) Banque d' Escompte, over the Iranian money market [32]. The growth of trade, the decline of native manufacturers, and the failure of Iranian businessmen to establish their independent banks gave rise to the emergence of a dependent bourgeoisie in the first quarter of the twentieth century. British and Russian firms opened up their offices or appointed representatives in the major commercial cities of Iran in this period. Curzon reports that six large British firms were active in the British sphere of interest [33]. Although a good deal of trade was done by native merchants, the bulk of mercantile transactions passed through the hands of English firms [33]. As a result, many big businessmen in Iran were converted into agents of Russian and British commercial firms and lost their independence. The domination of Iran's finance by the two foreign banks, the apathy of Iran's rulers toward the national bourgeois elite, and the intervention of the two power in favour of their own interests forced Iranian traders and businessmen to work with either of the foreign firms to survive [34].

The Iranian response to this alien threat was an attempt to launch the policy of "equilibrium". The ruling elites in Iran reasoned that by balancing the Russians and British against each other, Iran could maintain at least a precarious independence [35]. Historically, since the turn of the nineteenth century, the Shahs had thrown their lot first with one power and then with another by making alliances and waging unprepared wars [36]. In contrast, during the early reign of Naser al-Din Shah (1848-1896), the policy of equilibrium in confronting the challenge of Anglo Russian rivalry was introduced and implemented [37]. Despite its unique and innovative aspects, however, this policy which was supposedly formulated to rid Iran of further foreign encroachments, actually worked against that aim. In practice, the central task of the Iranian ruling elites became one of equalising the economic and political privileges granted to the nationals of each of the two great powers [38].

The socio-economic domination of Iran by the imperialist powers and the ineptness of the Iranian ruling classes in coping with this foreign threat to Iran's national independence finally gave rise to a sense of national humiliation. This in turn, led to public outrage and the alienation of the intelligentsia from the ruling oligarchy. Mirza Agha Khan Kermani, Mirza Talebov Tabrizi, and Haji Zein al-Abadin-i Maragehye, outstanding Iranian critics, courageously denounced Nazer al-Din Shah's lust for unnecessary expensive trips abroad and the monarch's lack of any feeling of responsibility toward his people [39]. Years later, Farrukhi, the distinguished poet, recited a poem which denounced the autocracy of the regime at that time and concluded with the line, "Never was (Iran) so trampled upon as then by British and Russian oppression" [40].

Foreign interference, the rise of national consciousness, the constant flow of social-democratic ideas from Russia into Iran, [41] and general public discontent gave rise to a series of uprisings, culminating in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906[42].


HTML clipboard Constitutional Revelation
The Constitutional Revelation of 1905-1911 was a significant turning point in the history of the Iranian people. Although crushed by foreign forces, it initially ended the archaic system of government in which the Shah, as the "shadow of God on Earth", ruled the people without any democratic base. More significantly, the Revolution introduced the constitutional concept of government in which the people were sovereign and their representatives were delegated to enact the laws, to formulate planning, and to set up foreign policy directives [43].

For the Iranian Constitutionalists, the year following the first flush of unexpected victory was a period of indulging in enthusiasm and "victorious democratic ideals". Because of their general optimism, the Constitutionalists failed to take necessary steps for the protection of their easily gained victory against domestics and international threats. Failing to understand that Britain supported the Constitutionalists in order to counteract Russian presence in Iran, a good number of Iranian Constitutionalists placed England in the position of "natural ally" of the Iranian people.

By underrating the tactical strength of the monarchists, they took at face value Mohammed Ali Shah's pledges in respect to the constitution. This unrealistic image of Britain and unreserved faith in the new Shah's loyalty soon vanished with a "suddenness that was shocking" [44]. In 1907, Britain and Russia prepared to divide Iran into "spheres of influence", and Mohammed Ali Shah welcomed this as an opportunity to overthrow the constitutional government and re-establish the absolute monarchy.

The Anglo-Russian collusion can be explained in the light of several important events. First, when Russia suffered a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, she was forced to review her policy in Iran. The problem of conflict with Britain had to be reconsidered in the light of the obvious limitation of Russia's military and economic resources and of her internal instability, so dramatically revealed in the abortive Revolution of 1905. Moreover, Britain and Russia saw in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution a "disruptive force" which threatened to defy their respective imperial interests in India and elsewhere in Asia, which, in the process, could upset Anglo-Russian "détente" vis-a-vis the German thrust into Middle East [45].

Spheres of influence
Due to these factors the British and Russians called for a convention to eliminate the zones of conflict and agreed to institutionalise their respective positions in the Middle East by dividing Iran into "spheres of influence" [46]. The Anglo-Russian convention, which was signed on August 31, 1907, divided Iran into three zones. Russia took the Northern part, bounded on one side by her own border and the Caspian Sea and on the other by an arbitrary line starting from Qasr-i Shirin, passing through Isfahan, Yazd and ending at a point on the Iran-Afghan frontier. The British zone paralleled the Persian Gulf and came into contact with the Indian empire on the east. The neutral zone across the centre of the country, was tacitly recognises as being open to British interests [47].

In Iran, the press and National Assembly were profoundly dismayed by the agreement, while the Shah and his supporters were immeasurably encouraged in the pursuit of their goal of destroying constitutional government [48]. The response of the press was severe. The leading articles against the treaty were written in the daily Habl al-Matin of Tehran. On September 10, 1907, the editorial of Habi al-Matin declared that:

In any event the National Assembly ought to make an investigation, and should ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs whether the report is true that while we are living in our house others are arranging its disposal and making compacts and conventions with one another without even informing us of the matter. A strange rumour this, the like of which no one has seen! It is the duty of the members of the Parliament at once to summon the Ministers to appear before it in public, put a stop to the Committee-mongering and secret conclaves of the last three or four months, and investigate this matter openly, and to inform the Powers officially that any such agreement, concluded without our knowledge, is invalid [49].
The same newspaper ran four long articles (on September 9, 10, 13, and 14, 1907) analysing the Russian and British foreign policy objectives in Iran prior to and after the signing of the Convention. These political essays were informative and well documented. They constituted outstanding reportage on the part of the Iranian press and demonstrated the awareness of the articulate sector of Iranian society.

That this treaty was signed in the period of the first constitutional regime indicates that these two powers saw in the Iranian Constitutional Movement a "disruptive force" which threatened to defy their interests and, in the process, to upset the Anglo-Russian vis-à-vis the German thrust into the Middle East.

Thus, the Anglo-Russian convention in alliance with the ruling classes obstructed the constitutional movement by dividing Iran into "spheres of influence" and finally led to its defeat. For instance, throughout 1907 and the first part of 1908, the Tar virtually encouraged Mohammed Ali Shah to repudiate the constitution. When this failed, the Russian officers ordered the Cossacks to bombard the Majlis Building in Tehran and attack the stronghold of the constitutionlists in Tabriz. Furthermore, once the constitutionalist forces succeeded, after regrouping, in capturing Tehran and deposing the Shah, Britain and Russia decided to intervene militarily in 1911. [50]

After the Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran and brutal suppression of the heroic uprising in Tabriz, [51] Iran fell under the increased control of Britain and Russia [52]. While striving to perpetuate their domination of Iran, the Russians and the British reiterated their pledge of respecting the "integrity" and "independence" of Iran according to the 1907 Convention. After the outbreak of World War I, the Russian troops were in actual control of the northern provinces, and the British South Persia, Rifles, organised and led by Sir Percy Sikes, occupied the southern provinces of Isfahan and Shiraz [53]. In retrospect, it is a fact that Britain and Russia were slowly preparing to substitute annexations for the spheres of influence [54]. The outbreak of war put an end to such imperial intentions, and the Russian and British armies made a battleground of Iran's out-lying regions against Turkish and German forces at one time or another throughout the War years [55].

The years between the outbreak of the World War and the Bolshevik (October) Revolution were characterised by the formation and development of armed struggle by democratic forces in Iran against foreign domination and the outright imperialist attempts to colonise Iran. Although the nominal government in Tehran declared its neutrality, Tzarist troops occupied Azerbaijan, which borders Turkey, and Iran became a Russo-Turkish battleground. Imperial Germany, a new rising imperialist power, tried to woo Iranian nationalists to her side and she naturally had the propaganda advantage [56]. The liberal nationalist leadership, loosely organised in the Democratic Party in Iran, accepted German support in order to combat the Anglo-Russian occupation. The concerted and nearly successful conspiracies of the German and the Turks in penetrating the national liberation movements of the Iranian against the Anglo-Russian machination, gave these two latter imperialist powers enough of a pretext to join hands and establish a liaison between their respective occupied areas in Iran. Both powers even secretly agreed (March, 1915) that Great Britain, in exchange for the neutral zone in Iran would recognise Tzarist interests in Constantinople and Russia's right to a free hand in northern Iran, and both powers then would control Iran through a puppet government in Tehran [57]. The occupation of Iran and the close collaboration between the two competing powers remained unchanged for the next two years until October, 1917 [58], when the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia radically transformed the situation, on the one hand, in favour of the national liberation movement and, on the other, against British interests in Iran.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Soviet Russia pursued a qualitatively different foreign policy strategy in Iran. Immediately after the seizure of power, the Bolsheviks manifested their policy toward Iran by renouncing all the extraterritorial rights and privileges that Tzarist Russia had forcibly acquired and called upon the people of Iran to unite in order to liberate themselves from "the yoke of British imperialism" and her native allies [59].

The fundamental goal of the Soviets in their anti-imperialist policy toward Iran was to weaken and /or neutralise the British military presence in Iran: a presence which was constantly threatening the security the young Soviet Republic [60].

The British occupation of Iran during the First World War, so long it was aimed at main-tainting the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907 and at preventing Iran from being drawn into "the orbit of German diplomacy," gave rise to no difficulties with Russia [61]. But after the Bolshevik Revolution a dramatic change of relationship between Russia and Britain took place. No longer did the British and the Russia's act in concert and collusion, but, instead, the two diametrically-opposed systems waged a life- and death struggle in Iran. The Bolshevik seizure of power created a far reaching transformation in the character of "power politics." The expansionist policies of Tzarist Russia, which had long been in unison with the British, were now replaced by the anti-imperialist and revolutionary policies of the Bolsheviks, especially in regard to the total Russian troop withdrawals from Iran [62].

The Bolshevik decision to withdraw the Russian troops from Iran in favour of supporting the national liberation forces created a vacuum in Iran which the British attempted to fill. The dynamic impact of the Bolshevik Revolution on the Iranian liberation movement and the discovery and exploitation of huge reservoirs of petroleum in Iran made the British move in the direction of colonising Iran [63].

Throughout the period from 1918 to 1920, the British permitted officers of Denikin and other white Russian generals to use Iran as a base from which to wage their wars against Lenin's Russia [64]. Apart from supplies furnished to the anti-Bolshevik Russians, the British troops, under the leadership of Dunsterville, moved north through Iran and, with the aid of Russian white Guards occupied the valuable oil provinces of the Caucasus. These military aggressions by the British forces could hardly fail to attract attention in Moscow [65].

To Lenin and his associates, the fundamental strategic goal in Iran was to see that the British would fail in their attempt to use Iran as a spring board to attack the Soviet Republic. But, apart from this important security principle, the Bolsheviks attached importance to the increasing strategic role of Iran in relation to the outcome of the national liberation movements in the East. In fact, the theoretical concept of the Bolsheviks in regard to the "semi-colonial" condition of Iran as well as other Asian countries originated much earlier than the time of the Bolshevik take-over in Russia. As early as 1908, Lenin, noting a new significance in the revolutionary movement in Iran, Turkey, and India, pointed out:
There shall be no doubt that the age-old British system of plunder in India, and the present struggle of these "progressive" Europeans against Persian....Democracy, will steel millions of proletarians throughout Asia, for a struggle against oppressors [66].
The impact of the First World War on the Asians and the upsurge of national self-determination movements [67] prompted an earnest revaluation of the strategic guidelines of the Marxist theory and practice of revolution. More then Rosa Luxembourg's and Bukharin's analysis of imperialism, [68] Lenin's work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, [69] left the greatest impact on Marxism and the destiny of the liberation movement in the East. In elaborating his theoretical concept of imperialism, Lenin in July, 1916, expressed the view that:
National wars waged by colonies and semi-colonies in the imperialist era are not only probable but inevitable. About 1,000 million people, or over half of the World's population, live in the colonies and semi-colonies (China, Turkey, Persia). The national liberation movement there are either already strong or are growing and maturing. Every War is the continuation of politics by other means. The continuation of national liberation politics in the colonies will inevitably take the form of national wars against imperialism [70].
Stressing the significance of cutting off and separating the European capitalist powers from the raw materials and markets of the colonial and semi-colonial counties in the underdeveloped countries, Lenin further commented in 1916:
Socialists must not only demand the unconditional and immediate liberation of the colonies without recompensation - and this demand in its political ramification signifies nothing more or less than the recognition of the right to self-determination - but, they must render determined support to the more revolutionary elements in the bourgeois democratic movements for national liberation in these countries and assist them in rebellion, and if need be, in their revolutionary war against the imperialist powers that oppress them [71].
After the Bolshevik seizure of power, the colonial and "semi-colonial" problem achieved a qualitative significance which no serious Bolshevik could ignore. Seeking to apply the Marxist theory of revolution to the contemporary world, the Bolsheviks were confronted with the task of setting up guidelines and strategies not only for the capitalist countries, but also for the technologically backward Eastern countries [72].


On the theoretical level two problems in regard to the revolution in the East had to be solved: (1) the question of nationalism in the "backward" countries where European rule or pervasive influence was the order of the day and nationalist upsurges, of varying strength, which were attempting to abolish European domination; and (2) the question of the social and economic conditions of the Eastern countries where the capitalist phase of development had either not started or was not completed.

In relation to nationalism, Lenin and his Asian associates, such as M.N. Roy of India and A. Sultanzadeh of Iran, developed contrasting analyses of the problem in their respective theses presented in the Second Congress of the Communist International [73]. Lenin recommended to the Asia communist parties a temporary alliance with the national and anti-colonial movements, providing that:
…the elements of the future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to appreciate their special tasks, that is, to fight the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations [74].
Roy, a distinguished Indian Marxist, on the other hand, believed that socialism had to oppose bourgeois nationalism and proposed no compromise with the latter in the underdeveloped counties [75].

Influenced by Lenin but concerned over the particular characteristics of his own country, Sultanzadeh, a noted Iranian communist, contended that:
The passage in the thesis (of Lenin) in which support is pledged for the bourgeois-democratic movement in the backward countries, appears to me to be applicable only to these countries where the movement is still in an embryonic stage, but not in those countries where the movement has already been going on for ten years and more, or in those countries where, as in Persia, the bourgeois democracy is the basis and the prop of the government. In Persia such a support would mean leading the masses to counter-revolution. In such countries, we must create a purely communist movement in opposition to the bourgeois tendencies. Any other attitude might bring deplorable results [76].
Finally, Lenin's guideline, which emerged with a number of modifications, [77] was approved by the Second Congress of the Communist International and henceforth became the basis of Soviet theory and practice on the national and colonial questions.

Concerning the second question, whether or not the capitalist stage could be skipped, the Bolsheviks sought necessary modifications. Stalin for example, maintained that it was possible for a non-capitalist country to by-pass the capitalist phase of its historical development if its national-democratic revolution was led by the communist party of that country. A transition period would be required during which great caution would have to be exercised. The party's tactics, he contended, must be flexible, taking into account all the peculiarities of economic life and even the history, social life, and culture of these nations [78].

At the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, Lenin laid down the theoretical formulation of such a policy by declaring that, with the assistance of the class-conscious "proletariat of the advanced countries," the oppressed peoples of the East could certainly push forward to establish Soviet Republics [79]. He contended that once the first proletarian state had been consolidated in Soviet Russia, the peoples of the colonies and semi-colonies could liberate them selves from imperialist domination, provided they were helped by the advanced proletariat. They could then by pass the capitalist stage of development and move directly from the feudal or semi-feudal stage to socialism [80].

Having outlined the political guidelines and directives for national liberation movement in the East, the Bolsheviks launched campaigns to spread the revolutionary views to the East, especially to the "semi-colonies" of Turkey, Iran and China.

Of the colonies and "semi-colonies" in Asia, Iran was certainly viewed as the most fertile ground for the application of these policies. In fact, after the Bolshevik Revolution, the strategic significance of Iran in the eyes of Lenin and his associates substantially increased. While to the Tzars the territorial conquest of Iran was considered a step toward gaining access to India, to the early Bolsheviks Iran appeared as a favourable land for breeding an anti-imperialist struggle which, with the support of the Bolsheviks, could be utilised as a spark for the socialist revolution in Asia. The Bolsheviks were of the opinion that a successful revolution in Iran would be a significant step toward revolution in India because Iran was a gateway to the Indian sub-continent [81].

In fact, these theoretical policies had found their application in a written appeal ("To All Muslim toilers of Russia and the East"), issued on November 24/December 7, 1917 by the Council of people's Commissars. The Muslims of Russia were assured that their beliefs and traditions, "their national and cultural institutions", were hence forth protected. Those of the East - among whom Iranian were specifically named -were encouraged to overthrow the imperialist "robbers and enslavers" of their countries. Furthermore, the appeal declared that "the treaty for the partition of Persia is null and void. Immediately after the cessation of military operations, the troops will be withdrawn from Iran and the Iranians will be guaranteed the right freely to determine their own destiny" [82].

Of no less political significance was the invitiation dispatched by the Third International to the peoples of the East for them to convene in Baku for solidarity purposes on August 15, 1920. An important and relevant section of the invitation declared:
Peasants and Workers of Persia! The Tehran Qajar Government and its hirelings - the provincial Khans - have plundered and exploited you for centuries. The land was seized by the Lackeys of the Tehran government; they control this land, they are imposing taxes and levies on you at their discretion; and after having drained the country of its vitality and reduced it to poverty and ruin, they sold Persia last year to the English Capitalists for 2,000,000 sterling, so that the latter could form an army in Persia which will oppress you even more than heretofore [83].
By declaring that the Anglo-Russia convention of 1907 over the division of Iran was null and void and by inviting the representation of these nations to Baku, the Bolsheviks were trying to gain popular support for their policies in Iran. The favourable reaction of the Iranian to ward the Bolshevik renunciations was remarkable [82]. For example, Iran, a prominent daily newspaper in Tehran, quickly pointed out that:
The Russian Revolution and the Lenin Manifesto (the appeal by Council of People's Commissar ) took away the dangers of Russia, and now, the only differences that remain are between Persia and England. . . Since receiving the manifesto of Lenin, regarding the nullification of the 1907 convention by the Russian Government, we have hope and expected that England also would notify us that the said treaty is null and void [83].
Kaveh, a noted political magazine, reacted in the same way by praising the sincerity of the Bolsheviks in relation to Iran's independence and progress. It denounced the British for their ambiguous statements concerning the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907 [84].

Appreciating the favourable impact of their renunciation policy upon the press and public opinion in Iran, the Bolsheviks moved forward to achieve their major policy objective in Persia: to prevent Great Britain from using Iran as a base for an attack on Soviet Russia.

For the fulfilment of this basic strategic aim, the Soviet leaders opted to: (1) assist the Communist Party of Iran through the Comintern offices; [85] (2) withdraw Russian troops from Iran and renounce all Tzarist concessions and treaties [86]; and (3) initiate an offensive diplomacy in Tehran, coupled with the full support for the national liberation movements in Ghilan, Azerbaijan, and Khorasan [87].

In struggling to implement their anti-imperialist policies in Iran, the Bolsheviks challenged the British interests and, thus, brought about a conflict with Britain. The nature this conflict was fundamentally different from the traditional rivalry between Tzarist Russia and Great Britain. To the government of Palmerstone and Curzon, Tzarist Russia, either as an open or a secret rival, was an empire with which they were accustomed to colluding and/or colliding, because both empires had similar socio-political and foreign policy outlooks. Furthermore, Tzarist Russia was an imperialist power which could be understood in the context of the international status quo and the law of imperialist contention. Certainly, the Russia of the Tzarists was a rival which the British - either liberal or conservative - could communicate, exchange diplomatic niceties, and even reach an "entente" with to divide Iran into "spheres of influence". But the Bolsheviks were qualitatively different types of "enemies". Their renunciations of all significant concessions obtained throughout the centuries of Tzarist military and political expansion in Iran were completely incomprehensible to the empire-oriented British statesmen. They could not understand the Bolsheviks' support of the national liberation movement in Iran and elsewhere. In addition, the British now could not persuade the Bolsheviks to come to an understanding over Iran and the Middle East.

Therefore, after the Bolshevik Revolution, the conflict between the new Russia and Great Britain became even more antagonistic. Lenin and his associates struggled, on the one hand, to combat the British imperialist presence and on the other, to assist the national liberation movements in Iran.

Facing the rise of the anti-imperialist tide in Iran, the British originated and planned the Anglo-Persian Treaty of 1919. Curzon's plan was to create a chain of pro-British countries stretching from the Mediterranean to the borders of India aimed at perpetuating Great Britain's interest in the strategically-located Iran [88]. "The weakest and most vital link" of the Chain, as viewed by Curzon, was Iran. On these grounds, he regarded a policy of evacuation of Iran by the British as "immoral, feeble and disastrous" [89]. To avoid such a "disaster", (i.e., the victory of the national liberation movement and the expulsion of the British troops from Iran), Great Britain sought to dominate Iran by imposing the infamous Anglo-Persian Treaty of 1919.

The Anglo-Persian Agreement of August 9, 1919 contained a preamble and six Articles. In Article I, Britain reiterated the policies which she had repeatedly pretended to follow in the past regarding the "independence and integrity" of Persia. The remaining Articles provided that Britain would (1) supply, at Iran's expense, advisers for the Iranians administration; (2) equip, at the expense of Iran, the reorganisation of the Iranian army; (3) furnish a substantial loan of 200,000 pounds to Iran to be repaid by the Iranian administration at the rate of seven percent per annum; (4) co-operate with the Iranian government to improve the system of communication; and (5) sponsor the appointment of a committee of experts to study a revision of existing tariff regulations [90].
HTML clipboard Curzon who saw in the agreement the climatic achievement of his career and regarded it as a "diplomatic masterpiece", [91] justified the signature of this treaty to the British Cabinet in the following analysis:
If it be asked why we should undertake the task at all, and why Persia should not be left to herself and allowed to rot into picturesque decay, the answer is that her geographical position, the magnitude of our interests in the country, and the future safety of our Eastern Europe render impossible for us now - just as it would have been impossible for us any time during the last fifty years - to disinherit ourselves from what happens in Persia. Moreover, now that we are about to assume the mandate for Mesopotamia, which will make us coterminous with the western frontiers of Asia, we cannot permit the existence between the frontiers of our Indian Empire and Baluchistan and those of our new protectorate, of a hotbed of misrule, enemy intrigue, financial chaos and political disorder. Further, if Persia were to be alone, there is every reason to fear that she would be overrun by Bolshevik influence from the north. Lastly, we possess in the south-western corner of Persia great assets in the shape of oil fields, which are worked for the British navy and which give us a commanding interest in that part of the world [92].
Presenting the conclusion of the treaty as necessary step to preserve the vital interest of the British in the East, Curzon further elaborated:
If that end (protecting the British interests in the Middle East from Bolshevik encroachment ) was a right and reasonable end, it was necessary and vital that Great Britain and Persia work together in order to secure it. Great Britain and Persia were jointly prepared to defend that Agreement, and they looked forward to the vindication of its real character by its success [93].
In Iran, opposition to this capitulatory treaty with England was both organised militant. The most significant factor in the ever-increasing hostilities toward this treaty was the upsurge of Iranian nationalism in its new and anti-imperialist scope. This new phenomenon reflected the growing antagonism toward Great Britain and the subservience of the Iranian ruling elites who served British interests.

Seeing the ever-growing hostility of the people against this treaty, Britain shifted from the traditional strategy of maintaining her interest in Iran to outright intervention by planning and engineering a military coup d'etat which succeeded in toppling Iran's weak but constitutional, government in February, 1921, and brought about twenty years of terror and military rule under Reza Khan's dictatorship.

In retrospect, the dynamics of the anti-imperialist policies of Bolshevik Russia and the British plan to maintain her economic interest in Iran by quelling the national liberation movement had a series of far-reaching consequences on Iran's social-political institutions and ideological foundation as a Third World country after 1919.

The Bolshevik Revolution and the obvious change in the nature and scope of Anglo-Russian relations polarised the politically active forces in Iran into three major streams: pro-British conservatives, (the traditional ruling elites), pro-Soviet leftist groups, and democratic-constitutionals (nationalist) factions.

The pro-British forces, led by Vusuq al-Dowleh advocated that Iran's "salvation" from territorial disintegration and "national disunity" rely on the active support of the British "containment" policy against the spread of Bolshevism toward the south, in the direction of the Persian Gulf. Frightened by the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of national liberation movements in Gilan and Azerbaijan, the ruling elites saw fit to make an "alliance" with British power by negotiating the infamous Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919. Our investigation of this decision by ruling elites shows definitively that its consequences gave rise to the development of a genuine anti-imperialist struggle throughout Iran. One serious result, as far as her public image was concerned, was that Great Britain became associated with a small group of men generally regarded as traitors to the nation.

Two factors shaped the basis for this judgement. One was the concept of nationalism by articulated Iranians. For them, it embodied, as it does now, loyalty to constitutionalism (i.e. free and honest elections), land distribution, and a tendency toward an active neutralism, or a Third World position, in the international relations of Iran [94]. Vusuq al-Dowleh's regime betrayed the first, opposed the second, and undermined the third,

The second factor which played a decisive role in the widening of the gap between the ruling elite and the masses was the attitude of the Iranians toward major foreign powers, which was directly connected with their support of, or opposition to, the established Iranian regime. The closer the identification of the government with the foreign power, the more hostile and pronounced was the attitude of the Iranians toward that power [95].

In actuality, the dependence of the conservative forces on Britain allowed the latter to use Iranian territory as a springboard for assisting anti-Bolshevik Russians to fight against the Soviets. The object of this incursion was to combat Bolshevik expansion in Asia and to protect British interests in India and Central Asia, which both bordered on Iran.

The nationalists, or democratic-constitutional forces, opposed the regime's capitulation and viewed the agreement as a wicked instrument to shackle the Iranians. The nationalist program, in contradistinction to Vusuq's reliance on Britain, advocated an active nationalist and anti-British stand in the Middle East. The nationalist cause was advanced by parliamentary constitutionalists, such as Mostofi al-Mamalek, in Tehran and was enhanced by revolutionary constitutionalists, such as Kuchek Khan and Khiabani, in the provinces [96]. The latter faction took the law into its own hands in the provinces and called on Iranian peasants in Gilan and urban masses in Tabriz to rise against a small group of men - i.e., Vusuq al-Dowleh, Princes Massoud and Firuz, etc., - who had captured the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, had ousted the democrats, and had become the "gate-keepers" of British imperialism in Iran [97]. Within a year after the signing of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919, Gilani peasants, Azari revolutionaries, religious progressives, and democratic constitutionalists were fighting a war of national liberation against the British power and their collaborators in Tehran [98].

The Iranian national liberation movement somewhat shook portions of Iranian society, but consequently failed in achieving its desired end when supporters of an "ultra left" wing within the Iranian communist party (CPP) split with the Kuchek Khan - Haidar Amougli united front and launched anti-religious and anarchist campaign in the Iranian villages of Gilan [99].

Underestimating the strength of Iranian nationalism, this wing lacked any confidence in the ability of the rebels in Gilan, Azerbaijan, and Khorasan to maintain their independent positions against the foreign powers. To be sure, the policy and strategy of this wing within the CPP and the structural weakness of the democratic forces were important factors in causing the gradual decline of Iranian constitutionals and the rise of Reza Khan's dictatorship in Iran.

By 1921, the response of the politically active forces to the epoch-making Bolshevik Revolution and British attempts to perpetuate her interest in Iran intertwined with Iran's historical specificity, brought about several social, economic, political, and ideological changes. This set the stage for the gradual weakening and ultimate fall of Iran's constitutional democracy and the emergence of Reza Khan's military dictatorship. First the Persian political community assumed its established role as a buffer state, and the domestic economy became dependent on Britain. Second, the ruling elements became discredited and proved to be incapable of fulfilling their integrating role in the political community.

Third, the rise of national consciousness, the dispersion of central authority, and the continued interference by Britain gave rise to national liberation movements in Gilan and Azerbaijan. Fourth, the political weaknesses of these liberation forces, chronic factionalism among the democratic forces in the Majlis, as well as the mounting intervention and political manipulation by Britain, and the intrigues of the ruling elements brought about the defeat of the national liberation movement.

Finally, the failure of these major socio-political forces (liberation movements and the Majlis) in consolidating political power and establishing order in Iran resulted in political decay and set the stage for the seizure of political power by army and the rise of Reza Shah to power.

Reza Shah, who reigned and rule Iran for twenty years (1921-1941), became the biggest land-lord-monarch in Iran's modern history. The available sources today indicate that Iran actually lost more then she gained from Reza's Shah regime. To be sure, his rule accomplished a lot of "reforms" in his "modernisation" of Iran [100]. Nevertheless, most of Reza Shah's accomplishments were but a bright veneer. His regime's "modernisation" projects and his concept of development seem to vindicate the belief that economic development was a scheme to get rich quick, and, hence, opulence was considered an indication that was developing economically. Thus his regime used the early funds of Iran's economic resources for development projects, monuments, and large military establishments, rather than plowing them back into enterprises which could introduce and maintain a self-generating economic system. These project termed "show projects", were "bricks and mortar" projects. Reza Shah's mania for building every-thing with brick and mortar was termed by some, the "Iranian Edifice Complex". This flippant parody on Freud's Oedipus Complex sums up accurately his regime's conception that a building program was equivalent to an economic development program and that a sufficient amount of natural real estate, covered with brick and mortar projects, would transform Iran into a "modern" and "advanced" country [101].

The military in Iran was the first bureaucratic machinery to be exposed to the process of such modernisation. To revitalise and expand the traditional power of the institution of absolute monarchy, Reza Shah was determined to reorganise the armed forces and create a large military sector. Thus, the main resources of modernisation were channelled in the direction of strengthening the Iranian military apparatus to protect the absolute monarchy. In fact, the implementation of so-called reforms in the educational, administrative, and economic fields under the leadership of the army was mainly oriented to the establishment of the military power elite. As a result of Reza Shah's efforts, a semi-Westernized army of approximately 90,000 men was organised in two decades [102]. Although the military coup d' etat of 1921 opened up a new era under the supervision of the military power elite, the need for the legitimisation of absolute monarchy compelled Reza Shah to assuming the role of a ruling monarch and undermine the role of the army. Consequently, the whole processes modernisation in this period was marked by the revitalisation of the institution of absolute monarchy and the creation of a modern, but submissive military elite. To guarantee its subordination to the king, the potentially dissident elements with in the army were pampered and totally controlled by the Shah. Thus, the possibility of any military revolt or coup d' etat was effectively minimised. As a result, the military apparatus, which drained a considerable portion of Iran's national resources during the 1921-1940 period, did not resist the Allied invasion of 1941 and totally capitulated.

Despite its pretentions to keep Iran "non-aligned" in the international scene, Reza Shah's military regime protected the interests of the great power in Iran. In fact, the military coup d' etat of 1921 was designed to reassert the "historic" role of Iran as a pro-British bastion against Russia. But British support of the new regime and Reza Shah's well-calculated policies were carried to the point where it did not arouse the suspicion of the Soviet Union. Reza Khan, assured of British aid, paid much attention to gaining the confidence and favour of the Soviet leaders. By organising a committee to aid the famine-stricken areas of Russia, by trying to establish closer relations with the pro-Soviet representatives in the Fourth Majlis, and by admitting two pro-Soviet socialists to his cabinet, Reza Khan succeeded in representing himself as a "bourgeois leader" opposed to feudalism. Therefore the military elite, subordinated to absolute monarchy was consolidated in Iran through the strong backing of Britain without any major opposition by the Soviets. The military regime was further bolstered by the material and ideological support from Nazi Germany in the 1930's.

The impact of imperialist penetration on the historical developments of post-1921 Iran, however, was not confined to the question of British interests in Iran and the establishing of a military regime. The economic and political activities of Great Britain in Iran, as well as her relations with the absolute monarchy and certain socio-political forces, also created far-reaching consequences in the nature and trend of the socio economic development in contemporary Iran [103].

The most important British economic interst was the emerging oil industry. In the post coup period, the Iranian oil emerged as a primary source of energy and naturally attracted Great Britain and the US. to Iran. Consequently, Iranian oil, by becoming the main target of foreign interests in this period, played a decisive role in the development of political events during the post-war era.

The implementation of Reza Shah's "modernisation" also opened up the Iranian economy to the penetration of Britain and other newly-emerging imperialist powers. As a result, these great powers, especially Great Britain, gained certain monopolies in Persian trade as well as major concessions for industrial and economic activities. For instance, the British, aided by the complete collaboration of tribal Khans and large landowners, monopolised the Iranian oil industry in the south and, thus, interfered in Iran's internal affair [104]. Furthermore, Nazi Germany monopolised the militia industries as well as the expanding transportation and communication networks in Iran.

The penetration of the imperialist power in this period also produced a network of connections and relationships between certain influential socio-economic forces and foreign powers. While the Soviets appealed to the emerging forces of industrial workers and Iranian intelligentsia, the British perpetuated their control and connections with their traditional allies: large landowners, high-ranking civilian bureaucrats, big merchants, and tribal chiefs. Finally Nazi Germany, taking full advantage of Reza Shah's anti-communism, appealed to the ruler (the Shah), high-ranking military bureaucrats, and a minority of the German educated elite.

In fact, Nazi Germany provided Reza Shah's military regime with a general model for establishing a full authoritarian monarchy and for launching Iran's "modernisation" program. Although the tradition of autocracy had a historical foundation in Iran, the examples of the rising bureaucratic regimes in Italy and Germany further strengthened and justified the interventionist policies of the Iranian regime in the everyday life of the Iranian people. To be sure, due to its anti-democratic system and its ideology of racist "Aryanism", Nazi Germany was taken more seriously by the Shah and his high-ranking military personnel in Iran. The Nazi philosophy of "Aryanism" and "pure racism" provided a guideline for the rewriting of Iranian history and for justifying the existence of Reza Shah's autocratic monarchy-fascism. The concept of "Iranian superiority", based on this ideology, assisted Reza Shah in glorifying the legitimacy of the absolute monarchy and in fostering an ideological drive for the modernisation of the army, implementation of "edifice" projects, and intervention in the cultural and traditional ethos of the Iranian people.

While his regime boasted of reviving past heritage and "national independence", Reza Shah's interventionist policies damaged the nation-quality of many Iranian institutions, the characteristics of which the Iranians were once proud. Iranian dress was forced to give way to the European clothes. Attempts were made to westernise art and literature. The consequence was certainly, the pulverisation of Iran's native music and poetry. The government even interfered with Farsi, the official language, setting up bureaucratic academy, the Farhangistan, to invent new irrelevant idioms of its own, incorporating them into the collections of Hafiz and Umar Khayam.

In politics, the Shah imposed a strict form of censorship, which eliminated both freedom of speech and press. Of more importance was his ambitious aim of creating a "rubber stamp" out of that flourishing and promising institution called Majlis. After centuries of despotism in Iran, the Majlis had been established, and since its beginning in 1906, it had come to be regarded by a growing number of Persians with the same respect and love as their holy shrines. But after the rise Reza Shah to power, the Majlis was manipulated and downgraded, finally dwindling to the position of mere stooge in the hands of the dictator. Due to this development, no new leaders of progressive ideas and political courage were permitted to appear on the Iranian scene. And by end of 1930's, since the secret police had eliminated most of the old leaders, Iran was practically in a state of "political bankruptcy".

In retrospect, the impact of the rise of Reza Shah to power and the renewal of imperialist competition on the nature and direction of Iran's internal development had fourfold results. First, the historic role of Iran as a buffer state was reasserted by the military regime. The ideological justification for the re-establishment of the buffer position was formulated under the heading of "nationalism", which was an integral part of Reza Shah's reign of terror (1921-1941). The proponents of this line (i.e., Reza Shah and his lieutenants) argued that since the critical geopolitical position of Iran made her vulnerable to the irresistible pressures of the imperialist powers, then the internal stability of the regime, the survival of the ruling monarchy, the preservation of British interests, and the containment of Bolshevism required a tilt in Iran's relationship with Nazi Germany, obtained through offering her "a share of the pie". Both Nazi Germany and Britain were pleased by Reza Shah's dictatorial control of Iran's internal affairs. Their real objective in Iran was the kind of stability and order that would not upset the international power balance in the Middle East and would not draw Iran into anti-imperialist orbit of the Soviets. In fact, the re-establishment by the British of Iran as a bastion against the Soviets granted Reza Shah an opportunity to move fast against the remaining constitutional forces and establish his military rule at the expense of the democratic institutions.

Second, the revitalisation of the total arbitrary rule of the monarchy and the exclusion of the great majority of people from political participation created obstacles to any break- through toward genuine modernisation and social stability. The political community was maintained by coercive measures, and pseudo-stability was achieved through the military apparatus under the direct and personal rule of the King. True, Reza Shah's rise to power was preceded by periods of political disorders, national humiliation, and economic crises, which spawned problems imposing for the young Iranian democracy to cope with without vigorous leadership. However, once in total control, Reza Shah offered Iran's glory and greatness as a substitute for the satisfaction of the social and material needs of the Iranians. In a word, the policies of Reza Shah's modernisation, the army and his gross intervention in the daily life of the people did not create the cohesive economic and social basis required for any drastic change and breakthrough toward genuine modernisation.

Third, the modernisation of the army with ensuing structural changes and the rise of military bureaucracy brought about a rearrangement in the affiliation of social classes to different ideological centres. While the emerging assertive ruling elements, the dependent bourgeoisie, and the military power elite became British allies, the emerging working class and intelligentsia were attracted to the Soviet Union.

Fourth, the most significant economic consequence of the imperialist competition was the development of the oil industry and the discovery of vast oil reserves in Iran. The emergence of Iran as a major oil-producing country in this period exposed her to the forthcoming Anglo-American rivalry in the post-war era. Iran became a strategic, oil-producing country-highly important for the global strategies of the US.

In a last summation, while Reza Shah's "modernisation" brought about rises in the indices of national productivity, literacy, transportation, and slightly monuments and edifices, his regime's concept of "modernisation" and "nationalism" did not create an integrated social, political, and economic development in Iran. On the contrary, his regime created a "modern" Iran - one that qualitatively lost her charm, gentleness, and intellectual refinement: the historical specificities and traditional ethos which had made her famous for centuries throughout the world [105].


HTML clipboard Footnote
  1. Rivalry among the big colonial powers has never ceased in modern contemporary history of international relations. In the 17th century, it was mainly a contention for maritime hegemony between Britain and the Netherlands. In the 18th century, there was fierce rivalry between Britain and France for international maritime and European hegemony. In the 19th century, a complicated situation arose on the European continent, with Britain, Russia, France, Germany, and Austria locked in strife for supremacy at different times in different parts of the underdeveloped countries. These rivalries became sharper when world capitalism entered the stage of imperialism. For a detailed account of this historical process, see G.S. Graham, The Politics of Naval Supremacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965; C Day, A History of Commerce. New York: Longman Green, 1938; E.J. Hobsbawn, "The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century", in T. Aston, ed. Crisis Europe 1560-1660 (New York: Doubleday, 1967); J. Rose, "Sea Power and Expansion 1660-1763", in The Cambridge History of the British Empire. New York: Macmillan 1929 Vol. II: and B. Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  2. For further references and a detailed analysis of Bolshevik support of Iran's national liberation movement during the 1917-1921 period, see M. A. Manshur Garakani, Siyasat-i Dowlat-i Shurawi dar Iran ( The Soviet Policy in Iran) Tehran: Chapkhaneh-i Mazaheri, 1327/1948; V.I. Lenin, The National Liberation Movement in the East Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962; E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution: 1917-1923. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1953. volume III, Chapter: XXVI: "Revolution over Asia", pp. 229-270; and Y.P. Benab, "The Soviet Union and Britain in Iran, 1917-1927", unpublished ph.D Dissertation The Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C., 1974, II: "The Bolshevik Revolution and Persia". pp. 48-112.
  3. For a detailed account in reference to the independence of Iran vis-à-vis the European colonial powers, see Ahmad Tajbakhsh, Tarikh-i Ravabet-i Iran va Russeyye dar Nimey-i Avval-i Qarn-i Noozdahum (A History of Russo-Persian Relation During the First Half of the 19th Century). Tabriz: Tchehr Bookstore, 1337/1958; Reza Sardari, Un Chapitre de l' Histoire Diplomatique de L' Iran. Paris: University of Paris, 1941. Chapter II; documents Nos. 3,5,6,7,8,9,13,15, and 17 in J. C. Hurewitz, ed. Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, Documentary Records, 2 Vols. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co. 1956; and B. Parisie, "Jazr O Madd-e Siyasat va Egstesad dar Asr-e Safaviyye", (Fluctuations of Politics and Economy During the Safavid Period) in Yaqhma Nos. 2-3, 1346/1967.
  4. For a reference, see A. Lambton, "Persian Society Under the Qajar" in The Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, vol. 48 (April, 1961), pp. 123-139; for a Persian account, see S. Nafisi, Tarikh-i Ijtemay-i va siyasey-i Iran (A Socio-Political History of Iran). Tehran: Matboat-i Shargh 1335/1956, vol I, p 76.
  5. For the stipulations and colonial nature and character of these treaties, consult Hurswitz, ed. Diplomacy in the Middle East. Vol. I, documents Nos. 33,38, and 70.
  6. See, for example, F. Kazemzadeh, Russia and Britain in Persia 1864-1914. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968; K. Marx, "The Anglo Persian War", in New Youk Daily Tribune, February 14, 185; F. Engels "Persia -China", in Ibid. June 5, 1857; and Ivanov, "Transformation of Iran into a Semi-colony".
  7. For reference see R.H. Major, India In the Fifteenth Century. London: Hakluyt Society, 1857
  8. For details, see P. Nightingale, Trade and Empire in Western India, 1784-1809, South Asian studies, No, 9. London: Cambridge university press, 1970.
  9. For reference see W. Baczkowski, "Russian Colonialism", in R. Strauaz-Hupe and . H.W. Hazard, eds. The Idea of Colonialism. New York: Praeger, 1958 pp. 70 ff.
  10. R.L. Greaves, Persia and Defence of India, 1884-1892. London: The Athlone Press, 1958, p 18.
  11. For a reliable source, see F. Adamiyyat Andishihaya-e Mirza Fatali Akhundzadeh (Thoughts of Mirza Akhundzadeh). Tehran: Kharzmi, 1349/1970, pp. 39-40; also see Sardari, UN Chapitre de L'Histoires Diplomatique de L'Iran, p. 25; and I. Lederer, Ed, Russian Foreign Policy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962, P. 508.
  12. For a detailed account, see H. Kapur, Soviet Russia and Asia 1917-1927. New York; The Humanities Press, 1967, pp. 145-6.
  13. N. Keddie, Religion and Rebellion in Iran. London; Cambridge University Press, 1966, p 7.
  14. British and Russian governments, while pretending "to observe" the "integrity" and "sovereignty" of Iran in their declarations, competed with each other for social-political hegemony of Iran throughout the second half of the 19th century. For repeated British and Russian mutual dealings in relation to the maintenance of "peace" and "order" in Iran, see Great Britain British and Foreign State Papers. London: J. Ridgway, 1915; and G.N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question 2 Vols. London: Longman,Green and Co. 1892, vol. II, pp. 554-85
  15. J. Upton, The History of Modern Iran. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960, p. 7.
  16. For a thorough account of these colonial means see M. Afschar, La Politique European en Perse: Quelques Pages de L' Histoire Diplomatique. Berlin: M. May 1921.
  17. For a commanding survey on the origins and development of the Russian Cossack Brigade, see F. Kazemzadeh, The origin and Early Development of the Persian Cossack Brigade, The American Slavic and East European Review Vol. . XV, No 3 (October, 1956), pp. 351-62.
  18. B. H. Summer, Tsardom and Imperialism in the Far East and the Middle East, 1880-1914. London: M. Milford, 1943, pp. 52-3.
  19. For instance, during the counter-revolutionary coup d' etat of June 1908, against the constitutionlists, Colonel Liakhov, the Russian commander of the Cossacks, ordered the Brigade to bombard the Iranian Majlis (National Assembly), an order which the Persian Cossacks carried out with no hesitation. For an excellent account of this specific Tsarist aggression in favour of absolute monarchy in Iran, see A. Kasravi, Tarikh-i Mashrutey-i Iran (A History of the Constitutional Movement in Iran ). Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1340/1961 pp. 577-89.
  20. For a comprehensive analysis of the nature and unequal terms of trade relations between Iran and Russia, see M. L. Entner, Russo-Persian Commercial Relations, 1828-1914. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1965.
  21. For an account of Tsarist obstructive railway policy during the 1888-1914 period see F. Kazemzadeh, "Russian and Persian Railway", in Harvard Slavic Studies, Vol. IV (1957), pp. 355-73.
  22. R. Ramazani, The foreign Policy of Iran. Charlottesville: University of Virginian Press, 1968, p 74.
  23. V. Conolly, Soviet Economic Policy in East ; Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tana Tura, and Sin Kiang London: Oxford University Press, 1933, pp. 56-57.
  24. For reference see Kasravi, The Constitutional Movement, P. 25.
  25. According to Jamalzadeh, over half of the foreign trade was in the hands of Russian firms; British agencies had only one-quarter of the foreign trade in the early 20th century. For details see M. Jamalzadeh, Gang-i Shayegan ( An Immense Treasure) Tehran: 1335/1957, p. 9.
  26. For reference, see Curzon, Persia and The Persian Question, Vol. II. PP. 528-85; and E. N. Yeganegi, Recent Financial and Monetary History of Persia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1934 chapter II , pp. 15-46.
  27. For a complete text of this decree in English , see "Correspondence Respecting the Issue of Decree by His Majesty the Shah of Persia for the protection of Rights of property in Persia" in Great Britain, House of Lords, Parliamentary Debates. London: HMSO, 1920 vol. CIX 1888, (C. 5434).
  28. Greaves, Persia and the Defence of India 1884-1892, p 175.
  29. For reference see Curzon, Persia and The Persian Question. Vol. II, pp. 572-580.
  30. Bank-i Melli, Tarikhchey-i si saley-i Bank-i Melly-i Iran (A Thirty Year History of the Iranian National Bank). Tehran: 1338/1959; also see E. Flandin, Safar Name-ye Eugene Flandin dar Iran, 1840-1841. Tehran:1324/1945, trans. by Sadeghi, 2nd edition; also, Curzon, Persia and The Persian Question vol.2, pp. 41, 211-12, and 245.
  31. Jamalzadeh, An Immense Treasure, pp 93-95 and 99.
  32. Curzon, Persia and The Persian Question, vol. 2, p 543.
  33. Ibid, P. 573.
  34. Ibid, P. 41.
  35. For a critical account of this case, see K. Khosravi, Bourgeoisie dar Iran Tehran: Tehran University Library, 1344/1965 and R. W. Cottam, Nationalism in Iran Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1964, p 159.
  36. Ramazani, The Foreign Policy of Iran p 65.
  37. This concept owed its origins to the emergence of an unexpected and extraordinarily able politician and administrator, Amir Kabir, on the Iranian political scene. For his contribution to the pace of modernisation in the fields of Iranian state and public administrations and other reforms during the second part of the nineteenth century, see Abbas Eghbal Ashteyani, Mirza Taghi Khan Amir-Kabir. Tehran: Chehr, 1340/1961-1962.
  38. For an excellent treatment of various kinds of trade, economic and political concessions which were granted by Naser al-Din Shah and his successor, Mozaffar Al-Din Shah, to the British and Russian Powers in Iran, see Ebrahim Taymouri, Asr-i Bikhabari Ya Tarikh-i Imtiyazat dar Iran. (The Era of Unawareness, or the History of Concessions in Iran) Tehran: M. H. Equal 1332/1953, pp 130-50; and also see Kaveh. vol. III, No.28 (May 15, 1918), pp 5-6.
  39. For a detailed account of the life and thoughts of these prominent Persians, see N. Kermani, Tarikh-i Beedary-i Iranian (A History of the Iranian Awareness). Tehran: Ibn Sina, 1333/1954) Chapter I; and F. Adamiyyat , Andishehhaye-e Mirza Agha Khan Kermani (Thoughts of Mirza Agha Khan Kermani) Tehran Payam, 1351/1972 pp 235-238.
  40. For Farrukhi's denunciation of Anglo Russian rivalry in Iran, see H. Makki, Divan-i Farrukhi (The collection of Farrukhi). Tehran; M. A. Elmi, n. d.
  41. For a comprehensive Persian account of the penetration of social-democratic ideas into Iran during this period, see F. Adamiyyat, Fikr-i Democracy-e Ejtimai-i dar Nehzat-i Mashrutiyyat-i Iran (The Social-Democratic Idea in the Iranian Constitutional Movement). Tehran: Payam, 1354/1975. Chapter I, pp 3-29; see also, B. Mumini, Iran dar Astaneh-e Ingilab-e Mashrutiyyat (Iran on the Eve of the Constitutional Revolution), Tehran; Shabgir, 1351/1972, pp 1-17.
  42. Aside from the internal factors, certain international developments have been considered instrumental in raising the national consciousness of the Iranian at this crucial point. For example the defeat of Russian Tsarism by Japan, an Asian power, and the concurrent development of the Russian Revolution of 1905 were seen by the Iranian as a series of setbacks to the Persian ruling elites who had been supported by the Tsars. For the epochal impact of the Japanese victory over the Russian Tsar in the 1904-5 war on the political atmosphere in Iran, see Kasravi, A history of the Constitutional Movement, p 48; for a detailed account of the impact of the Russian Revolution of 1905 on the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, see I. Spector, The First Russian Revolution: its Impact on Asia (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1962), pp 38-50.
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  1. On the origins, development and consequences of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, see M. Malekzadeh, Tarikh-i Enghelab-i Mashrutiyyat-i Iran (A history of Iranian Constitutional Revolution), 8 vols. Tehran: Ibn Sina, 1336/1957.
  2. For example, on the first anniversary of the constitutional victory, the influential newspaper Habl al-Matin, reflecting the people's mood declared: "Today is the day that the Iranian nation was liberated from the yoke of 6,000 years of despotism". see Habl al-Matin, July 23, 1907 and Cottam, Nationalism in Iran, p 17.
  3. For an excellent Persian account of these important factors, see M, Bahar, Tarikh-i Mokhtasar-i Ahzab-i Siyasi dar Iran (A Brief History of the Political Parties in Iran). Tehran: Sherkat-i Sahami, 1327/1948 pp 15-16
  4. Kaveh, vol. III, No. 28, May 15, 1918, p 5.
  5. For full text of this agreement in English, see Hurewitz, ed. Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East vol. II pp 265-67.
  6. E. G. Browne, The Persian Revelation of 1905-1909. London: Cambridge University Press 1914, pp 173-95.
  7. Habl al-Matin, September 10, 1907.
  8. For reference see Browne, The Persian Revolution, pp 196-291.
  9. Great Britain, State Papers 1912, Persia No. 3. London: H.M.S.O. ,1913, pp. 105, 120 and 129.
  10. The suppression of the nationalist uprising by Russians was followed by a wholesale massacre of the constitutionalists in Tabriz. Sigat al-Islam, one of the most respected religious pontiffs in Iran, was arrested and ordered to sign a declamatory document that Russian suppression of the constitutionalists was for "stability" and "normalisation" purposes. The pontiff refused to obey and was therefore flogged and finally hanged in the public market square on the most respected and observed religious day in the Iranian calendar, Ashura. This specific Russian savagery aroused anger all over the world among Muslims against the Tzars. For reference, see Iran September 7, 1917 Chehrenoma March 4, 1912; and E.G. Browne, The Reign Of Terror at Tabriz. London: Taylor, Garnett, Evans and Co. 1912, pp.1-15.
  11. Yahya. Dowlatabadi, Tarikh-i Moaser, Ya Hayat-i Yahya (A contemporary History, or the Life of Yahya), 4 Vols.Teheran: Ibn Sina, 1326-1332/ 1947-1953. Vol. IV, p.26.
  12. Ibid, pp.26 ff.
  13. Chehrenoma, March 27, 1917; Hable al-Matin August 17, 1914; and Bahar, A Brief History p. 120.
  14. Habl al-Matin, December 28, 1914, January 4, February 1, 1915; also, Iran, September 7, 1917; and Chehrenoma, February 14, 1915.
  15. For reference, see Habl al Matin, June 4, July 19, 1914, and February 15, 1915; also consult, Kaveh Vol. III, No. 28 (May 15,1918) p. 5.
  16. See Iran, January 2, 7, 31, 1919; for the text of this secret agreement, see Hurewitzed. , Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, Vol. II, p. 251.
  17. J. Balfour, Recent Happenings in Persia. London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1922, p. 107; and N. S. Fatemi, Diplomatic History of Persia; 1917-1923. New York: Russell F. Moore Company, 1952, p. 26.
  18. For the Bolshevik documents outlining their policies toward Iran During the period under study, see J. Degras, Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1951, Vol. I, pp. 28 ff.; J. R. Childs Perso-Russian Treaties and Notes of 1828-1931 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1936), pp. 64 ff.; X. Eudin and R. C. North, Soviet Russia and the East; 1917-1927. Standford: Standford University Press, 1957, pp. 92-93; and J. Bunyan and H. H. Fischer, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918 Documents and Materials. Standford University Press, 1934, pp. 467-69.
  19. For reference, see Kapur, Soviet Russia and Asia, pp. 152-153.
  20. For a Persian account, see M. Sepahr, Iran dar Jang-i Bozorg (Iran in the Great War) Tehran: Chapkhaneh-i Bank-i Melli, 1336/1957, pp. 70-88.
  21. For example. see Carr, The Bolshevik revolution, Vol. III, P. 240-241.
  22. See W. G. Rosenberg, A. I. Denikin and the Anti- Bolshevik Movement in South Russia. Amherst Amherst College Press, 1961.
  23. L. C. Dunsterville, Military Mission to Northwest Persia, 1918, in Journal of Royal Central Asia Society, Vol., VIII, No. 2 (1922), pp. 80-85. and for a complete examination of this important question, consult G. Lenczowsky, Russia and the West in Iran, 1918-1941. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1949, p. 10.
  24. VI Lenin, Inflammable Material in World Politics, in The National Liberation Movement, p 15.
  25. For reference, see H. Kohn, A History of Nationalism in the East. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1929, pp128 ff.
  26. R Luxembourg, The Accumulation of Capital: and N. Bukharin, Imperialism and the World Economy. New York: Howard Fertig, 1966.
  27. In a nutshell, his theory runs as follows: capitalism, in order not to confront the inevitable communist revolution because of the development of internal contradictions, had found an escape valve by colonising the world in its search of cheap raw materials, a market for commodities and extra capital, and cheap labour to exploit. Through the stage of capitalism (imperialism) super profits were made from the colonies which enable the capitalists to bribe a part of the worker (labour aristocracy), thereby avoiding the coming revolutions in the West. Exploitation of the colonies and semi-colonies should be viewed on an international level. For even while certain sections of workers in the imperialist states were somewhat sharing the super profits reaped by the capitalist system, the colonised peoples and oppressed nations were being exploited in the same way as were the majority of the workers in the industrialised and capitalist world. Therefore, exploitation had also been internationalised, and imperialism was creating a favourable ground for the colonised and oppressed peoples and nations to rise against in the same way as capitalism had provided a condition under which the workers the capitalist world to rise against the bourgeoisie. As a result of this historical development, the peoples of Asia, as well as other continents, would inevitably wage national liberation wars against the capitalist states. For details, see VI Lenin, Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism.
  28. VI Lenin, "The Junius pamphlet", in The national Liberation Movement, p167.
  29. V I Lenin, "Three Types of Countries in Relation to self-determination of Nations", in Selected Works. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1936-1939 Vol. V, p. 276.
  1. For further details, see Sephr Zabih, The Communist Movement in Iran. Berkeley; University of California, 1966, pp. 2-4.
  2. For a detailed account of these divergent views on national and colonial questions presented in the Second Congress of the Communist International, see The Second Congress of the Communist International, Proceedings of the Petrograd session of 17 July and Moscow Sessions of 19 July to 7 August 1920 (America: 1921): Also see The Second Congress of the Communist International as Reported and Interpreted by the Official newspapers of Soviet Russia, Petrograd-Moscow 19 July-17 August 1920. Washington DC : Government printing office, 1920.
  3. VI Lenin, "Preliminary Draft of Thesis on the national and Colonial Questions", in On Politics and Revolution, ed. James E. Conner. New York: Western Publishing Co. 1968, p. 319.
  4. M. N. Roy, "Disagreement with Lenin over the Colonial Question", Radical Humanist. Calcutta: January 22, 1954, p. 43. For a better understanding of Roy's views on nationalism and colonial questions, see Robert C. North and Xenia Eudin, "M. N. Roy and the Theory of Decolonisation", Radical Humanist (July 12, 1959): also, see Robert C. North, "Revolution in Asia", in L. Labedz, ed., Revisionism, Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas. New York: Praeger, 1962.
  5. For a complete text of Sultanzadeh's speech in Persia, see Assnad-i Tarikhi (Historical Documents; Working Class, Social Democratic, and communist Movements in Iran), Berlin: Mazdak 1970 pp. 70-71
  6. The most important of these amendments was the replacing of the phrase "bourgeois-democratic" by "national-revolutionary". For details see Walter Z. Laqueur, The Soviet Union and the Middle East. New York: Praeger, 1959, p. 18.
  7. Joseph Stalin, "Marxism and the National Questio", In The Essential Stalin, ed. by B. Franklin. Garden City, N Y: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,1972, pp. 65-72.
  8. V I Lenin, "Report of the commission on the national and Colonial Questions" Selected Works. Moscow: Cospoliterzdat, 1964 ,Vol. 3, p 500.
  9. Ibid. ,PP. 500-1.
  10. Lenczowski, Russia and the Western Iran, P. 10.
  11. For the text of this appeal, see and Fischer, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918; Documents and Materials, pp. 467-69.
  12. For the text of this invitation in English, see I. Spector, The Soviet Union and the Muslim World. Seattle: University of Washington, 1959, pp. 21-23.
  13. Ramazani, The Foreign Policy of Iran, P. 140.
  14. Iran December 30, 1917.
  15. Kaveh, Vol, III, No. 24 (February 15, 1918), pp. 1 and 4.
  16. For reference, see J. Degras, The Communist International, 1919-1943. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1956, Vol. L p. 106.
  17. See Kapur, Soviet Russia and the Asia, P. 153; and Eudin and North, Soviet Russia and the East pp 92-93.
  18. Sepahr, Iran in The Great War, pp 447-48 and North, Soviet Russia and the East, pp 92-93.
  19. Curzon's effort to keep Persia under British and free of any trace of Bolshevik revolutionary ideas and influence, see Leshem, Soviet in the Middle East, Middle East Affairs Vol. IV, No. 1 (January, 1953), p 2.
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    1. Nicolson, Curzon: The last Phase, 1919-1925. London: Constable and Co 1934.
    2. For the full text of this Agreement in English, see Hurewitz, ed. Diplomacy in the Middle East, Vol. II, pp 64-66.
    3. See Nicolson, Curzon, The last Phase, pp 128-38.
    4. L. P. Elwell-Sutton, "Nationalism and Neutralism in Iran", In Middle East Journal, Vol. XII, No. 1 (1958).
    5. L. Binder, Iran: Political Development in Changing Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962, p. 328.
    6. For example, see Setareh, October 6, 1919: Aftab, November 6, 1916, Kaveh, Vol. IV. No. 38 (January 22, 1920), PP. 9-12, and Iran, August 15, 1919.
    7. See Tajaddad, official organ of the Democratic party of Azerbaijan, Published during the 1917-1920 period in Tabriz, and Janqal, irregular organ of the Committee of Islam and the Jangali guerrillas, published during the 1917-1920 period in Rasht.
    8. For reference, see M. N, Ivanova, "The National Liberation Movement in Gilan Province of Persia in 1920-1921", English summary in The Central Asian Review, Vol. IV. No. 3 (1956).
    9. For a detailed account of the split within the United Front see Anonymous, "Jonbesh-i Komonist-ye Iran" (Communist Movement in Iran) Tudeh, The theoretical organ of the revolutionary organisation of the Tudeh party outside of Iran, Vol. II, No. 15 (September, 1969).
    10. A. Millspaugh, The Americans in Persia. Washington, D C: The Brookings Institution, 1946, P. 30. H. Farmanfarmaian, "Fall of the Qajar Dynasty", unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Georgetown University, 1954.
    11. N. Jacobs, The Sociology of development; Iran as an Asia Case Study. New York: Praeger special studies in International Economics and Developments, 1966, pp 12- 44
    12. P. Avery, Modern Iran. London: Earnest Benn Limited, 1965, pp 259, 272 and 305.
    13. For example, see E. R. Lingerman, Report on the Finance and commerce of Persia, 1925-1927. London: H. M. S. O. ,1928).
    14. For an analytical examination of these interactions, see G. McGhee, "Economic Development and the Near East" in R. Frye, ed. The Near East and the Great Powers. Port Washington, N.Y: Kennicot press, 1969.
    15. On Persian Characteristics and traditional specificity's, see H. masses, Persia Beliefs and Customs. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1954.
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