The essay of Sergo Gamdlishvili (1882-1910), a Georgian participant in the Gilan resistance, was published in Tbilisi in February-March 1910. The source focuses on the Gilan resistance and provides insights and interesting details regarding the political attitudes, strategies, and collaboration of the Transcaucasian and Iranian revolutionaries from the end of 1908 through the summer of 1909. The source is also interesting material for studying how the Iranian Constitutional Revolution was seen by its Caucasian participants, what they deemed to be the major peculiarities of the Constitutional Movement in different regions of Iran, and how they saw their role in these events. Vlasa Mgeladze, a Georgian member of the Tabriz constitutional resistance, wrote in 1910 that the Iranian Revolution had brought together people of various nationalities and religions – Iranians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Armenians, and Jews – and united them in a struggle for a common goal: the victory of constitutionalism in Iran.1 One of the striking characteristics of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution was, indeed, the multinational and ideologically diverse composition of its forces. Particularly close was the collaboration between the Iranian resisters and the revolutionaries of neighboring Transcaucasia. An article published in the Iranian newspaper Musavat aimed at demonstrating the profound effect that the Iranian Constitutional Movement had on the people of Tbilisi.2 Describing his encounter with the locals in Tbilisi, the author of the article emphasizes that both men and women he met in Tbilisi were inspired and affected by the slogans of the Tabrizi constitutionalists.3 There were indeed many in Georgia, especially those involved in revolutionary activities, who deeply and sincerely sympathized with the constitutionalists in Iran. Georgia, and especially its capital Tbilisi, had always had close connections to Iran, and the Iranians constituted one of the most significant and influential members of the Muslim community of the city.4 Even after becoming the administrative-political and economic center of the imperial Caucasus, Tbilisi maintained its traditional ties with Iran, especially those in the trade and economic spheres. Even at the height of the First Russo-Persian War, the director of the Russian customs reported that “Persian and other Asian merchants deliver various commodities to Tbilisi, which have a good price there.”5 The transformation of

Tbilisi into a center for administrative, economic, and, in some respects, religious affairs of Imperial Russian Transcaucasia made it an extremely attractive place for numerous businesses and migrants from the Near East and Europe.6 By the beginning of the twentieth century the Iranian community of Tbilisi was continuing to grow. According to the records of the general census, Iranian subjects comprised 52.8 percent of the foreigners in Tbilisi County.7 By the beginning of the twentieth century the number of seasonal workers among the Iranian migrants in Georgia, as well as in Transcaucasia in general, was increasing particularly. Another place of a significant concentration of Iranian immigrants in Trans­ caucasia was Baku, which had turned into an extremely important economic center in the region.8 Large numbers of oil refineries and the rapid development of various industries in Baku attracted Iranian seasonal workers. By 1904, Iranians constituted about 22 percent of all Baku workers.9 The increase in the number of immigrants from Iran, particularly from its northern provinces, was a result of the deteriorating economic and social situation in Iran and the subsequent migration of hundreds of thousands of Iranian subjects to parts of the Russian Empire, including, of course, the neighboring Caucasus.10 From the beginning of the twentieth century the presence of numerous Iranian subjects in Transcaucasia gained an importance related to the development of the Constitutional Movement in Iran, as they became directly involved in promoting political and revolutionary ideas in their motherland and in the development of relations between the Iranian and Transcaucasian revolutionaries. The Iranians working in the Caucasus and traveling between Iran and the Russian Empire became a live and mobile link that connected the Tbilisi, Baku, Tabriz, and Rasht revolutionary groups. Speaking of the Iranians residing and working in the Caucasus, a participant of the Gilan resistance, Gurji Sergo, particularly emphasizes their role in involving the Caucasians in the revolutionary resistance in Iran.11 Another insider of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, Sergo Gagoshidze, also underlines the particularly active role of the Iranians of the Caucasus – namely, Iranian merchants in Tbilisi – in recruiting Caucasian volunteers for participation in the resistance in Iran.12 Numerous Iranian workers in the Caucasus were in close contact with various worker societies and associations in the area, especially those at the Baku oil refineries and mills. They were connected to and influenced by the local revolutionary groups. Interaction between the social democratic groups in the Caucasus and the Iranian immigrants had been established since the early 1900s. In 1905 the Organization of Social Democrats (Firqah-i Ijtimaiyun-i Amiyun), whose members were Iranian subjects residing in Transcaucasia, was created in Baku. It had close links to the Baku and Tbilisi branches of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.13 By this time, many of the Iranian workers were quite actively involved in the protest strikes and demonstrations in various plants and mills. Among the biggest strikes of the Iranian migrant workers in the Caucasus were the ones that occurred in 1905 and 1906 on the Alaverdi (in Armenia)

copper mines and plant, where about 2,500 Iranian subjects were employed.14 On 17 March 1905 about 700 Iranian employees brought the plant to a halt. They placed groups around the premises to make sure that work would not resume and sent twenty-eight demands to the local administration of the company.15 The administration managed to settle the situation, but in 1906 a massive strike occurred again. Events seem to have turned quite violent. The workers forced the police officials out of the plant’s territory, “throwing stones” at them.16 In response, a squadron of Cossacks armed with cannons was sent to the plant, and thus the strike was completely suppressed.17 The activeness of the Iranian workers in Transcaucasia apparently had become so troublesome for the Russian administration of the region that it started a massive deportation of the Iranian immigrant workers to the Iranian border.18 The need for labor was so great in Transcaucasia that new groups of workers were constantly arriving from Iran to substitute for those who had left or had been deported. These workers were, certainly, an important and active link in the Iranian-Transcaucasian revolutionary connections at the time as they maintained permanent contact with their native towns in Iran and significantly contributed to the spread of revolutionary ideas from the Caucasus into Iran. Many of these Iranians later returned from the Caucasus to their motherland to participate in the constitutional resistance in Tabriz and in other parts of Iran. It would be fair to say that the Iranian community in Transcaucasia made a rather tangible input into the development of progressive ideas among various social strata of Iran’s population (particularly in its northern provinces) as well as in the formation of popular feelings among the Transcaucasians toward the revolutionary developments in Iran. This shaping of popular opinion in the Caucasus regarding Iran and RussoIranian relations was a rather sensitive issue as it was directly connected to the enforcement of Russian influence in the Caucasus and to the political, economic, and cultural integration of the region into the Russian Empire. Naturally, the Russian authorities had launched well-planned and purposeful propaganda to serve Russian imperial interests in the region.19 As the Constitutional Movement progressed in Iran, measures were taken to shape an image of the Iranian revolutionaries that would justify Tsarist policies in Iran. Printed media were one of the important tools in such an undertaking. The press seems to have had a great impact on the society of the time in Trans caucasia. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Georgia, for example, had very well-developed and diverse printed media, which were an integral and important part of the political and social life of the country. There were numerous newspapers with a wide network of special correspondents in various parts of Georgia as well as abroad. The press was very sensitive and responsive to all major events and political tendencies, not only within the empire and the region but in the world as well. Yet the most important achievement of the Georgian media was, perhaps, the fact that a large part of those media managed to be independent of the official Tsarist political propaganda and even from imperial censorship.20 Many of the Georgian newspapers actively promoted political views that opposed the official Tsarist ideology. The press in Tbilisi played an active

role in shaping popular opinion in Georgia regarding the events in Iran and regarding the Iranian constitutional resisters as it introduced to the reader an alternative view of the Iranian Revolution – one that was different from the negative image created by the official Tsarist organs. Newspapers such as Talgha, Isari, Amirani, Ali, Chveni Khma, Imedi, Chveni Azri, Akhali Skhivi, Momavali, Mnatobi, and others provided regular reports on political and military events in Iran. Independent newspapers responded to the Constitutional Movement in Iran with praise, and welcomed its every advance. They offered the reader overviews of the political, economic, and social situation in Iran and analyzed all major domestic and external factors that influenced the emergence of social and political tension and the development of the Constitutional Movement in Iran. The newspapers offered readers information on the negotiations between various groups in the Majlis, and analyses of the processes that preceded the adoption of the constitution. Once the resistance in Tabriz began, they regularly provided reports from the battlefields. The content of these newspapers demonstrates that the Georgian printed media gave the reader rather elaborate and close knowledge of the different aspects of the Iranian Constitutional Movement. Some Tbilisi newspapers even had special correspondents in Iran. The unremitting attention of the Georgian newspapers toward the Iranian Revolution was really a reflection of how important this revolution was deemed by various political groups in Georgia, Transcaucasia, and generally in the Russian Empire. Political organizations in Transcaucasia kept abreast of the movement in Iran from its early stages. Shortly after the revolt in Tabriz began, the Transcaucasian revolutionaries became particularly active and instrumental in keeping the resistance in Iran alive. The Transcaucasian connection has become recognized by modern researchers and by contemporaries of the events as one of the decisive factors in the progress of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran.21 Especially crucial was the help of the Transcaucasians from the time of the revolt in Tabriz. Concerning this issue, C. Chaqueri, for example, concludes that “only the help coming from the Caucasian revolutionary coalition protracted the Tabriz resistance . . . and made the defeat of government forces possible.”22 The activity of the Georgian internationalists was one of the most significant aspects of the Transcaucasian assistance to the Iranian revolution. The revolutionary groups sent by the Tbilisi and Batumi social democratic committees were among the first reinforcement corps that the constitutional resisters in Tabriz and Rasht received from the Caucasus. In fact, not only Tbilisi and Batumi but also political organizations from a number of other cities across Georgia, such as Khashuri and Gori, had responded to the request for assistance coming from Iran and started supporting the resisters in Iranian Azerbaijan and Gilan. Although the organization and delivery of the assistance to the Iranian constitutionalists seems to have been dominated by the social democratic committees, the ideological representation within the Georgian volunteer corps was quite diverse. One of the insiders of the Gilan resistance, Mikheil Bogdanov-Mariashkin, points out that among the members of the corps sent to Iran from Georgia were Menshevik social democrats, Bolsheviks, Esers, and Anarchists.23