Thursday, July 7, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 6: The Crisis of the Qajar Monarchy, the Revolution of 1905-1911, and the Accession of the Pahlavi Dynasty

  • "Persian merchants began to protest the fact that cheap European products, especially textiles, were coming onto Persian markets with low or no tariffs and were undercutting domestic craftsmen, destroying their livelihoods. Predictably, the merchants who made a profit from handling the imports kept quiet." - 186
  • "Another development during the reign of Mohammad Shah was the appearance in Iran of the Babi movement, which eventually gave rise to the Baha'i religion." - 187
  • March 1857: The Peace of Paris "stipulated that Persia must abandon all claim to Afghan territory" -192
  • "The British, feeling their loss of the latest round in the Great Game, decided in 1902/1903 to liaise with some members of the ulema, notably Ayatollah Abdollah Behbehani, to oppose the customs arrangements, including the Belgian administrators and the Russian loans....The following year the harvest was bad. Next, the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war, followed by the 1905 revolution in Russia, interrupted imports from the north and made them more expensive. The significance of the outcome of the war, in which the Japanese inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Russians (with the help of the British-built battleships), was eagerly taken in by Iranian intellectuals, for whom it demonstrated that the dominance of the imperialist Europeans was not unshakeable." - 200-1
  • October 1906: the Majles, or national assembly, ordered by Mozaffar od-Din Shah "convened for the first time...and rapidly set about drafting a constitution, the central structure of which took the form of what were called the Fundamental Laws." - 203
  • "The Majles expected to govern, and to govern on new principles. The constitution (which remained formally in force until 1979, and was based on the Belgian constitution) stated explicitly that the shah's sovereignty derived from the people, as a power given to him in trust, not as a right bestowed directly from God." - 204
  • "The Constitutional Revolution marked the effective end of the Qajar era of government, and promised to usher in a period of government under more regular, legitimate, modern principles. inaugurated a period of conflict and uncertainty." - 204
  • 1907: "Britain and Russia had finally compounded their mutual suspicions and reached a treaty over their interests in Persia. The treaty showed no respect for the new condition of popular sovereignty in the country, .... This new treaty divided Persia into three zones: a zone of Russian influence in the north, including Tabriz, Tehran, Mashdad, and Isfahan -- most of the major cities; a British zone in the southeast, adjacent to the border with British India; and a neutral zone in the middle." - 207
  • July 1909: Russia moves on Tehran to restore Qajar rule, "intolerant as ever of any form of popular movement".... Mohammad Ali Shah fled to the Russian legation, was deposed, and went into exile in Russia. He was replaced by his young son, Ahmad" - 208
  • Morgan Schuster, a young American financial adviser appointed by the government, "assessed, probably correctly, that the deeper Russian motive was to keep the Persian government's affairs in a state of financial bankruptcy, and thus in a position of relative weakness (as supplicant for Russian loans), the better to manipulate them." - 209
  • December 1911: "the Bakhtiaris and conservatives in the cabinet enacted what has been called a coup, and dismissed both Schuster and the Majles" - 209
  • 1912: the British Navy switches from coal to oil - 211
  • "The effect of the Russian Revolution on trade was devastating. Before 1914, sixty-five percent of foreign trade had been with Russia, but this fell to five percent by the end of the First World War." - 214
  • After World War I, "The British foreign secretary at the time, Lord Curzon...proposed [in 1919] -- or, rather, he attempted to force through -- an Anglo-Persian agreement that would have reduced Persia to the status of a protectorate (parallel with the mandate arrangements being set up at the same time for Iraq and Palestine)" - 215
  • February 16, 1921: "Reza Khan marched twenty-five hundred of his Cossacks from their camp near Qazvin toward Tehran." - 218
  • February 21, 1921: Reza Khan takes his Cossacks "into the capital without opposition, and the shah allowed him to set up a new government" - 218
  • 1925: Reza Khan takes "the name Pahlavi, which resonated with nationalists as the name of the Middle Persian language of pre-Islamic times." - 219
  • 1926: Reza crowned shah after "a constituent assembly [of the Majles] agreed to a changeover from the Qajar to the Pahlavi dynasty" - 219

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