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Fourth International, May 1946


Review of the Month

Stalin and Iran


From Fourth International, May 1946, Vol.7 No.5, pp.132-133.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The abyss that separates the Soviet regime under Lenin and Trotsky from the unbridled rule of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist oligarchy is graphically illustrated in the case of Iran, which provided the immediate pretext for the anti-Soviet campaign of the warmongers in Washington and Wall Street. Stalin’s policies play into the hands of the imperialists, for these policies represent a return to the methods and practices of Czarism.

Czarism trampled underfoot the right of self-determination of nations. It employed its troops and preponderance to extort concessions and privileges. One of the main arenas of Czarist activity was Persia (Iran). By an agreement with England in 1907 this country was divided into two spheres of influence: northern Persia, including Teheran, was the Czarist preserve; a thin strip through the center constituted a kind of buffer, and the remainder of the territory fell to the portion of Great Britain.

One of the first actions of the young Soviet Republic was to demonstrate in public its complete break with Czarist policies. This was done by publishing the secret treaties concluded by Czarist Russia and its imperialist allies, and by voluntarily giving up Czarist booty and prerogatives. The case of Persia (Iran) was singled out by the Bolsheviks because some of the most flagrant depredations of Russian imperialism were committed there.


On January 16, 1918, the government newspaper Izvestia carried the text of a formal note, announcing the abrogation of all Russian claims in Persia that infringed the rights of Persian self-determination. Henceforth the relationship between the two countries, it was proclaimed, would be based “upon a free agreement and mutual respect among nations.”

A year later, in the midst of the Civil War, the Soviets reaffirmed their stand: “Russia once and for all renounces the predatory policy toward Persia adopted by the former imperialistic Governments of Russia.”

At the conclusion of the Civil War, after the defeat of imperialist intervention and internal counter-revolution, it became possible to formalize this stand in a treaty, which was ratified on February 26, 1921. The great prestige of the Soviet Union in the Middle East and among the colonial peoples came in large measure as a result of this Russo-Persian Treaty. It created consternation among the imperialists. Referring to it, years later, an American historian, Professor Dennis, wrote:

It is a remarkable document; half of it is Soviet propaganda and the other half a notable charter of Persian liberties.

The clauses referred to by the professor as “Soviet propaganda” were, as a matter of fact, a forthright declaration of the revolutionary foreign policy of a workers’ state. The gist of it is contained in the first two clauses. After reaffirming its previous declarations (of January 16, 1918 and June 26, 1919), the Soviet Government then included the following clause:

The Government of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republics brands as criminal the policy of the Government of Czarist Russia, which, without the agreement of the peoples of Asia and under the guise of assuring the independence of these peoples, concluded with other states of Europe treaties concerning the East which had as their ultimate object its gradual seizure. The Government of the RSFSR [the official designation of the USSR at the time] unconditionally rejects this criminal policy as not only violating the sovereignty of the States of Asia, but also leading to organized brutal violence of European robbers on the living body of the peoples of the East.

By the terms of the treaty Persia (Iran) came into possession of all the installations in its ports, including the ships, since all Czarist “rights” to these were surrendered. The Soviet Government transferred to Persia not only all the roads and railways but also the telegraph and telephone lines erected and held by Czarism. What caused the greatest grinding of teeth among the monopoly capitalists throughout the world was the outright transfer of the Russian-owned Bank of Persia to the native authorities, and the cancellation of all Czarist loans.

In its turn the Government of Persia bound itself not to cede the concessions and property “returned in fulfillment of the present treaty to any third Power or its citizens, as property, or for disposal or use, but to retain all rights connected therewith for the benefit of the people of Persia.”

This treaty was approved by not only Lenin and Trotsky, but also by Stalin who held the post of Commissar of Nationalities at the time. This treaty subsequently served as the model for agreements with other countries (Turkey, China, etc.).


Thus the very policy that was “unconditionally rejected” and branded as criminal in the days of Lenin has now become the practice under the regime of Stalin.

If the bitterest enemy of the Soviet Union sought to devise an effective way of alienating from it the sympathies of the peoples of the Middle East and the colonies, he could not devise a more effective course than the one pursued by the Kremlin, under Stalin, in the case of Iran.

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