Peter Petroff July 1909
Source: “The Persian Revolution and its enemies, (“La Perse nouvelle et ses Ennemis,” La Revue Soveremeny Mir Feb 1909) by Michael Pavlovitch, Justice, 24 July, 1909, p.5;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
In the English bourgeois press recently appeared some curious articles on the Persian question. They contain observations on the last sensational events and some slight remarks on the Anglo-Russian policy in Persia. The Conservative discourse about “the Persian anarchy” and the necessity of sending more Russian Cossacks in order to ... establish there good order and to institute the constitution! The Liberal press from a “humanitarian point of view” reproach the Shah, and his reactionary friends, and express platonic sympathy towards the young Persian constitutional movement.
But the Liberal papers had never explained to their readers clearly and definitely that extremely reactionary role which she government of Great Britain has been playing in Persia ever since its treaty with the Russian Government.
But not only the articles in the newspapers, even voluminous English and French books on the subject do not do not give any clear picture of the character and the causes of the great political and social movement in Persia and in Asia generally. All those bulky volumes about Persia only give us descriptions of the blue mosques and rose mountains of the land of the “King of Kings.”
In this respect great scientific value attaches to a remarkable work recently published from the pen of a Russian journalist, M Pavlovitch.
M Pavlovitch in his work gives us a profound and brilliant analysis of the causes and character of the Persian movement and explains the part played by the British and Russian Governments in the Persian question.
Not so long ago Persia represented a typical Asiatic country, the chief feature of the old Persian regime in its political domain being on one hand the unlimited autocracy of the Shah and the absolute of millions of his subjects which, on the other hand, entirely harmonise with its economical backwardness and its primitive means of production. Up until recently there were neither railways nor convenient highways nor factories nor manufactures of any importance. Even commerce was very little advanced, and this was generally in the hands of the Armenians, as was some time ago the case in Turkey.
The Persian people calmly and submissively suffered the despotism of the Shah, the arbitrary administration and arrogance of his agents and satraps, who commanded in their districts just as it pleased them. And this obedience to the authorities has been kept up not by the fear of the weapons of the government it simply followed from the reverence the mass of the people had for the Shah, who from his lofty throne, in the brilliance of his glory, appeared to the ignorant people not as an earthly being but as one who possessed the omnipotence of a god.
An army has scarcely been in existence in the country, and the same may be said of the police, nevertheless the ten millions of people submitted to the tyranny of the satraps, who were, every one in his own district, a small Czar until he fell into disgrace with the general satrap – the Shah.
At the same time the economic development of Asia Minor, the growth of intercourse with that part of the world, and with India, the increased penetrating of English and Russian influence in Persia stimulated the economical transformation of the country. Russia constructed fair roadways in the northern districts of Iran, where, until that time, there were only steep ways through which it was only possible to go on mules, by which way all the goods from Erzerum, Tabriz, Bender Abbas etc were transported. By the new Russian railways, the Russian goods came into the country, very successfully very successfully displacing the commodities brought by the long caravan ways from Asia Minor and from the shores of the Persian Gulf. At the same time the Russian roadways became the most arteries of the inland trade, which advanced rapidly day by day. On the other side England, to maintain and reinforce her influence, to resist the approaching supremacy of Russia, using another method, established everywhere telegraphic posts those rapid conductors of commercial and political influence – and very soon the whole of Persia was covered with English telegraphic wires joined up with the telegraphic line of the Indian Empire. In the original Persian conditions the English telegraphic offices became not only useful and means of commercial and political influence, but quite unexpectedly turned gradually into inviolable “places of shelter” where, in case of some outrageous treatment by the local satraps the representatives of the native population trickled down to bombard fearlessly from there, under the protection of the British flag, the Shah with loyal telegrams demanding the dismissal of the accused governors.
Under the influence of England and Russia, the old primitive economy gradually disappeared from the country, the large towns, Teheran, Tabriz, Resht, Ispahan, the “cradles of the world,” glorious in the eyes of the population with the traditions of the past, were infused with new life; they became important centres of commerce and revived again on the ruins of the old country of Shah Nameh which seemed before to be asleep for ever. Some towns, for example Tabriz, became noble places whence commodities from the whole of the middle of Asia are sent in great quantities to several towns of Europe. Day by day the circulation of commodities between Persia and the neighbouring countries grow wider. In 1889, according to the calculations of Lord Curzon, the commercial business of Persia with Great Britain amounted to 75 million frs. with Russia 50 million frs. In 1901-2 the Belgian administration of the Persian Custom House calculated the Anglo-Persian Commerce 59 million frs, Anglo-Russian 96 million frs. In 1905-6 in consequence of the advantage to Russia by the treaty with England, the Russo-Persian commerce increased to 170 million frs. In the same year the commerce of Persia with Britain was 70 million frs.: with France 16 million, with Austria 61/2 millions etc.
In consequence of the stimulating of economic relations, there arose the influence and quality of the commercial class, with its growing wealth, became an important factor in Persian life. Many merchants lent money to the Government taking from it several guarantees. Thus the Shah’s Government became dependent upon the most influential representatives of the commercial class of the country. But the enormous growth of expenditure of the Shah and his camarilla compelled him to get money from outside Persia. In 1892 the Shah Nasser-ed-Din’s Government raised a loan in England and gave away as security to Great Britain the revenue of the custom houses of the Persian Gulf. In 1897 the Russian Government lent to Muzafer-ed-Din (when he came to the throne) 2,200,000 frs, and Russia got control of the other custom houses in Persia. In 1901-2, the Shah again obtained from Russia two new loans 3,200,000 frs., thus, Russia, with the help of her bank in Teheran has got into her hands the whole of the financial monopoly in northern Persia. The Shah’s Government also pledged itself to get no loans anywhere except from Russia and not to build railways until 1910.
At the same time the Persian commercial class, getting rich and powerful, began the experiments of building up factories and manufactures, advancing their own industry. But here they found, as an obstacle, England and Russia, who became now the bitterest enemies of the Persian industry.
Russian and England, according to their treaties with the Shah, appropriated a monopoly of exploitation of all the immense wealth of the country, viz.: the iron mines, tin, lead, manganese, petroleum sources, coal mines etc., monopolising all the natural wealth on the country and, not being able to exploit even a small part of them, and not allowing there free competition of the capitalists of other European countries and of the United States of America, thus destroying the efforts of the Persian commercial classes to create their own industry. Russia and England became the most serious obstacle to the further development of the means of production of the country. And gradually the outside Anglo-Russian yoke, side by side with inside oppression despotism of the Shah and the tyranny of his satraps, became in the eyes of the advanced part of the Persian people, the drag-chain to the Europeanisation of Persia, to her reformation into a powerful and free country. The Persian bourgeoisie, fearing that their country will earlier or later be sold to the foreign capitalists or conquered by Russia, began a war against the old regime.
We shall continue the review of this interesting book next week.
1. From Teheran thousands of camels are regularly sent, loaded with tobacco, almonds, dried fruits, cotton and silk stuffs, carpets, arms etc. Already in 1895 from Tabriz goods were exported for about 2,000,000 fr and from that time it has been growing very rapidly.
2. Presumably this is an error for the Russo-Persian trade. Note by transcriber Ted Crawford