Encounters between Iran and Russia over the past two hundred years – diplomatic, political, cultural, social, ideological, economic and artistic – have been both rich and complex. Until recently, however, their character and evolution had received largely conventional attention, such academic work as had appeared largely concentrating on diplomacy, territorial ambitions, wars and peace treaties. The reasons for this neglect are not hard to find. Scholars of Iran in the West, like many Iranians themselves, saw Russia through Cold War tropes and found uncongenial any examination of the Russian impact that looked beyond the image of the menacing monolith. This unsympathetic and even fearful attitude led to a further specific neglect. Russian, unlike french and german, was rarely studied by those wishing to pursue research on Iran, while almost nothing of the work being done by Soviet historians was ever translated into a Western European language.1 Access to Russian archives remained limited in the Soviet period. Thus, a Chinese wall grew up between Russian scholarship on Iran and that developing in the West. Over the past twenty years or so, this has begun to change and work has appeared which has built on new directions in Iranian historiography in Europe and the United States, on greater contact between historians working in the countries of the former Soviet Union and in the West, and on the readier availability of archival material. Work is in progress on a much greater range of topics than in the past, and is being carried out with a new degree of theoretical sophistication. New areas of interest include social history, for example the consequences for both Iran and Russia/the Soviet union of the successive waves of migration which have flowed across their borders in both directions; cultural history, including the Russian impact on Iranian cinema, architecture and literature; and of course political history, but political history conceived more broadly, no longer interested only in statecraft but encompassing subaltern perspectives, interactions and exchanges. Nonetheless, despite the genuine advances of recent years, scholarly understanding has as yet failed to challenge the eurocentric fixation which interprets the Iran-Russia encounter in terms of a one-way street. Although the IranRussia encounter is now certainly much better understood, it is still conceived of as a unilinear process. The impact of Russia on Iran has been charted, measured and assessed while the possibility of any Iranian impact on Russia remains

barely considered. To redress this balance, to begin to understand the influence Iran, as an Asian Muslim “Other” but also a close neighbour, may have exercised on Russia, and to critique the Orientalist tropes through which the Russians saw Iran, are surely among the key challenges of future research.2 The chapters of this book explore the myriad dimensions of the Iran-Russia encounter, taking place over a dramatic period that saw both Iran and Russia subject to revolutionary upheavals and transformed from multinational dynastic empires typical of the nineteenth century to modernizing authoritarian states typical of the twentieth. As well as redirecting attention away from an exclusive focus on the state towards a view that encompasses the wider society, including its subaltern layers, the collection hopes to highlight the complex and contradictory character of the impact on Iran of the Russian presence on its northern border. For example, as the chapters that follow illustrate, although the very expansion of the Tsarist empire during the nineteenth century threatened Iran’s independence, at the same time it brought to Iran’s Caucasian doorstep those ideas, of constitutionalism and social democracy, which were to play a key role in Iran’s struggle for survival and regeneration. Again, in the twentieth century, the Soviet union repeatedly held out the hope of sanctuary to Iranians fleeing repression. Yet the Stalinist purges eliminated almost an entire generation of Iranian leftists while the subservience imposed on the Tudeh Party discredited it both for nationalist opinion and for a younger generation of the “New left” in the 1960s and 1970s. Just as the Russian revolutions of 1917 had fundamentally reshaped the Iran-Russia nexus, ushering in an entirely novel historical period, so was the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991 similarly transformative. No longer possessing a common border, Iran and the Russian Federation found themselves operating within an intricate web of new relationships, both rivals, for influence over the new republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia, but also allies, brought together by a shared suspicion of US hegemony in the region. The collection begins with a wide-ranging survey by Afshin Matin-asgari of Iranian-Russian contacts and exchanges over two centuries, providing a broad interpretative framework for the chapters that follow. These chapters are then divided into four parts. The first two parts deal broadly with the long nineteenth century, which began with the two self-confident dynasties, the Qajar and the Romanov, confronting each other’s imperial ambitions in the Caucasus, and ended with the crisis and collapse of both in the years during and after World War I. While the first part deals chronologically with political, military and diplomatic dimensions of the Iran-Russia nexus, the second part concentrates on the twin upheavals of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11, and the interaction between revolutionary and conservative movements and actors in both countries. In 1917, Romanov imperial ambition met its nemesis. At the same time, the Qajar dynasty, although it was to linger till 1925, was also clearly reaching the end of its protracted struggle for survival. By 1921, both Iran, now under the leadership of Riza Khan, and the newly stabilized USSR were ready to embark on a relationship on different terms to that of the previous century. The Pahlavi-uSSR period is the subject of the third part of the

book. The Soviet sponsorship, notorious to Iranian nationalist opinion, of regional radical movements in Iran in times of crisis, the Jangalis and the Soviet Republic of gilan in 1920, and the autonomous governments of Azerbaijan and kurdistan in 1945-6, have been addressed elsewhere.3 This collection revisits the foundational moment of Pahlavi-Soviet diplomacy in a sweeping revision of the international and domestic contexts that produced the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921. The focus then moves away from international diplomacy in an attempt to begin to excavate other types of interaction, examining the Soviet connection to Iranian labour activism, and Soviet influences on Iranian cultural life, specifically film and theatre. In 1979 another revolution reconfigured but did not fundamentally alter the Iran-Russia nexus. It was only in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, that the intimacy forcibly established when the two states first became neighbours in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was replaced by a new and transformative geographical distance. The final part of the book examines the consequences for both states of this new reality and the relationships forged between Iran and Russia in the post-Soviet space. Maziar Behrooz begins the first part of the book with a discussion of what is usually considered to be a key series of events in early Qajar history, the traumatic war of 1804-13, its continuation between 1826 and 1828 and the resulting treaties of first golistan and then Turkomanchay, his account concluding with the massacre in Tehran of the Russian mission led by the poet and dramatist Alexander griboyedov. The consequences of these interlinked episodes were indeed profound, the treaties of golistan and Turkomanchay expressing in concrete provisions the new, unequal relationship between Iran and the Russian empire. The political, military and economic consequences of these provisions were to be felt throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. griboyedov and the fate of his mission have usually been analysed as an episode in Russian history.4 Here Firuza Melville focuses rather on the Iranian perspective in the form of the “redemption” mission headed by Abbas Mirza’s seventh son, Khusraw Mirza, which spent ten months in Russia in an effort to repair relations following the massacre. In the context of a thorough survey of both the Persian and the Russian sources for the mission, Melville pays especial attention to the diary of Mirza Afshar, the only surviving contemporary Persian source. As Melville’s article shows, travel literature, not only of Europeans visiting Iran but also of Iranians visiting Europe, constitutes a key genre for investigating the nineteenth century. The murder of griboyedov and his suite is sometimes seen as the inevitable conclusion of this phase of Iranian-Russian relations, a phase characterized by the aggression and imperial arrogance of Russia, on the one hand, and the disorientation of the Qajar court and its allies among the ulama, on the other. Yet despite the violence of the episode, it was followed by no further military confrontation. In the 1830s, neither Russia, weakened by the Decembrist revolt and war with the Ottoman Empire, nor Iran, sharply conscious of a new military vulnerability and resigned to the treaties of golistan and Turkomanchay, wished to renew hostilities. Subsequent decades were a period of apparent peace, the new

borders accepted as permanent by Iran, with the Russian pacification of the Caucasus, achieved by the mid-1860s, further stabilizing the regional order. Yet these decades, although lacking the military confrontation of the early 1800s, saw a relentless intrusion of Russian political and economic power into Iran. The newly achieved stability of the Qajar dynasty was itself, paradoxically, partly due to this intrusion. The power, which Russia obtained under the Treaty of golistan, to grant recognition and legitimacy to the heir to the Qajar throne simultaneously represented a crucial undermining of Iranian sovereignty yet also freed the country from the devastating struggles for supremacy that had previously broken out on the death of the ruler and in the absence of any accepted principle of succession. Russia’s economic penetration made itself felt more gradually, but was of equal significance in the long-term. Chapters 4 and 5 look at Russia’s growing economic and commercial power in Iran. The Treaty of Turkomanchay enshrined Russian economic, especially trade and tax, privileges, within a general context of capitulations making European citizens immune from Iranian jurisdiction. This system of capitulations was to endure for a century. In 1928, exactly 100 years after the conclusion of the Russo-Iranian wars, the new Pahlavi dynasty burnished its nationalist credentials by their abolition. Morteza Nouraei and Vanessa Martin examine the littleresearched issue of Russian land ownership in Iran, which accelerated rapidly in the last quarter of the century, when the presence of foreign subjects, the acquisition of foreign protection by Iranians and Iran’s integration into the international economy were all increasing rapidly. Indeed, so extensive did Russian purchase of land in northern Iran become, especially in the first decade of the twentieth century as the control of the Tehran government weakened inexorably, that it began to prefigure an authentically colonial situation. The last quarter of the nineteenth century was also the era of concession mania, and the acquisition of lucrative contracts became an important chess piece in the game between Russia and Britain in Asia. The notorious Reuter concession, offered to a British subject, was frustrated by joint Iranian and Russian opposition, as was the later tobacco concession. Nonetheless, “great game” considerations only exceptionally sabotaged the search for concessions by subjects of either power. The best-known Russian concessionaire was the Russian Armenian Stepan lianozov, who acquired the “caviar concession” for the Caspian fisheries, a concession that remained in Russian and then Soviet hands till 1927. The British were even more successful, taking over key transport and banking monopolies and, finally, the most important concession of them all, that of oil exploration, which the Iranians would only finally wrest from the British grasp after a major international crisis in 1951-3. Although the political and economic power and resources of foreign subjects usually guaranteed for them the choicest concessions, occasionally Iranians too were able to enter the scramble. Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian chronicles the extraordinary chicanery surrounding the entrepreneurial activities of Haj Kazem Malek al-Tojjar: his struggle to build the Astara-Ardabil road, his initial conflicts with the Russians, who believed he had deprived them of a concessionary opportunity to which they

were entitled, his subsequent taking of refuge at the Russian embassy, and the farcical efforts of the new constitutional authorities to resolve the dispute. Soudavar farmanfarmaian’s narrative, revealing the “bazaar mentality” that conditioned early Iranian capitalism, “unrolls like a detective story with all the ingredients of embezzlement and graft, intrigue and espionage, marital betrayal, a cloak-and-dagger escape and a surprise ending.” Her chapter, based partly on material in the Malek Library in Tehran, has the additional advantage of illustrating the potential, hitherto hardly exploited, of family archives in reconstructing relationships between Iranians and Russians of all kinds: economic, social, domestic and familial, as well as political and diplomatic. Several contributors to this collection remark on the shock dealt to early Qajar self-confidence by defeat in the two wars with Russia. Stephanie Cronin’s chapter addresses one of the consequences of the resulting political and psychological crisis, the new and concerted state-building drive as this was expressed in efforts to build a modern army. Perhaps paradoxically, Iran’s military defeats, although intensely humiliating, nonetheless also served to increase Qajar admiration for Iran’s northern neighbour, and especially for the “enlightened despotism” that had apparently so transformed the Russian Empire and tilted the balance of power between the two states. Russia accordingly became a source of both personnel and models for Iranian state-building. Cronin’s chapter, through case studies of the various Russians who served in Iran’s military forces, charts the changing nature of Iranian-Russian relations and their increasingly unequal character. Whereas Abbas Mirza exploited the vulnerabilities of the Russian army to win recruits, in the form of deserters, to his own state-building project, the next wave of Russian personnel to enter Iranian military service, Cossack officers under Nasir al-din Shah, offered, on the contrary, a vivid illustration of the loss of Iranian sovereignty. Cronin also provides concrete examples of the contradictory impact on Iran of the arrival of Russian imperial power on its northern borders. While Cossack officers, fresh from suppressing the 1905 revolution in Russia, offered Muhammad Ali Shah the means to destroy constitutional government in Tehran, Caucasan revolutionaries, fleeing the same Russian conflict, formed the backbone of constitutional resistance during the civil war. This contradictory dynamic was strikingly personified by the two Russian-Caucasian figures of the notorious Cossack Colonel Vladimir liakhov, and the Armenian constitutionalist icon Yiprim khan davidian. The second part of the book moves forward to focus on the Constitutional Revolution in Iran. The first two chapters examine the Russian and Caucasian contribution to the emergence of revolutionary and reformist movements in Iran, while the third looks at the determination of Russia, severely shaken by revolution in its own territories, to suppress any spread of the contagion to its neighbouring periphery. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the advanced intellectual and cultural environment of Tiflis, the administrative capital of Russian Transcaucasia, had provided a forcing-house for the emergence of forerunners of an Iranian intelligentsia such as Talibov-i Tabrizi and Fath Ali Akhundzadeh.5 At the same time, a massive Iranian subaltern emigration to the

rapidly industrializing Russian Empire, especially its Caucasian territories, was taking place, with correspondingly significant political and ideological implications. Whereas the intellectual ferment of these years found its pre-eminent home in Tiflis, the working-class and socialist movements were primarily based in Baku. In the first two chapters of Part II of the book, Sohrab Yazdani and Iago gocheleishvili discuss different aspects of the development of Iranian constitutionalism and social democracy under the impact of contact with Russia mediated through Transcaucasia. Yazdani critiques the conventional view of the emergence of Iranian social democracy, which attributes the formation in Baku of the earliest such group, the Firqah-i Ijtimaʿiyun ‘Amiyun, directly to the Russian Social-democratic labour Party (RSdlP) and its local Caucasian Himmat offshoot.6 emphasizing the significance of the tiny Ijtimaʿiyun ‘Amiyun throughout the constitutional period, Yazdani argues that the historiography of the party has been distorted by subsequent political developments, principally attempts by Iranian activists who later made their peace with the Pahlavi regime to conceal their past, coupled with the Stalinization of the history of Caucasian leftist movements in the uSSR of the 1930s. Yazdani contests the conventional picture of the Ijtima’iyun ‘Amiyun as a branch of a Bolshevik Russian or Caucasian party, presenting it on the contrary as an entirely indigenous Iranian formation subject to diverse influences, its agrarian programme owing much to the right-wing Russian Kadet party, its inclination to terrorism deriving from Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries (SRs). gocheleishvili also discusses the Trans caucasian contribution to Iranian constitutionalism, using the memoirs of a georgian fighter to construct a general account of the contribution of such Qafqazis to the eventual victory of the constitutionalist forces in the 1908-9 civil war. gocheleishvili depicts a specific pluralist and internationalist moment in Iranian constitutionalism, soon to vanish amid the triumph of a narrow authoritarianism, and argues that, for the Qafqazis, their participation in the Iranian struggle against Muhammad Ali Shah and his Russian backers was not simply an act of solidarity, but the continuation, on a new stage, of their own long battle against Tsarism. While gocheleishvili outlines the assistance rendered by Caucasian revolutionaries to Iranian constitutionalism, James D. Clark examines the direct intervention of Russian political and military forces in Azerbaijan from 1908. Clark shows how the arrival of thousands of Russian troops in Azerbaijan in 1909, ostensibly to lift the siege of Tabriz by royalist forces themselves supplied and supported by Russia, began what was to be a long and bitter occupation of northern Iran. Russian suspicion of Azerbaijan was intense, Tabriz being the home of the radical wing of Iranian constitutionalism and the conduit for the spread of Russian and Trancaucasian social democracy. Between 1909 and 1911 the Russian presence in Tabriz weakened but could not destroy constitutionalist organization, but after the Majlis succumbed to Russian pressure in 1911, the occupying forces in Tabriz embarked on a concerted attempt to liquidate the movement. It was only the disintegration of the Russian army during the renewed revolutionary upheavals of 1917 that allowed constitutionalism in Tabriz to revive.