In the aftermath of Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election, large crowds in Tehran were recorded chanting “Death to Russia, Death to China.”1 This was the opposition’s response to the trademark Islamic Republic slogan “Death to America, Death to Israel.” But it reflected a broader perception among Iranians of Russia and China as the Islamic Republic’s major international allies, whereas the United States and Israel are widely perceived as the regime’s steadfast enemies. Given the long and eventful history of relations between Iran and Russia/the Soviet Union, the outbreak of popular anti-Russian sentiments in Iran is a surprising novelty. Conversely, it is difficult to find expressions of Iranian popular support for the United States, or “the West” in general. According to a pioneering historical survey, Iranians hold a far less negative view of imperial Russia than of Great Britain. This relatively benign perception of Russia is “odd,” says the author, who points to a long history of Imperial Russia’s aggressions and impositions vis-à-vis Iran:

Beginning with Tsar Peter’s invasion of Talesh and Gilan in 1721, the story of Russia’s treatment of Iran is a long, sad tale of brazen political interference, (mostly) unprovoked military invasion, and territorial annexation, much of it accomplished by a great deal of violence.2