1905-1914 History of Iran Persia 1918-1926

Persia 1914-1918

Administration . The central government in Tehran was inactive, pursued a policy of neutrality, lost control of large parts of the country. In Dec. 1917, PM Husain Quli Khan Mafi, Mirza as-Sultana, in dissent with the Shah, moved to Ghom, where he established a (pro-German) Provisional Government; it later moved on to Kermanshah and functioned until the end of the war.
Khuzestan was in essence run by Sheikh Kaz'al, a British protege; it formally recognized the sovereignty of the Shah. Further east was the port of Bushehr (Bushire), occupied by the British in 1915, famous for its stamp overprints.
In the province of Gilan, within the Russian sphere of influence, the constitutionalist movement which had changed the administration of the country in 1905-1909, continued, headed by Mirza Kuchuk Khan; it would culminate in the proclamation of the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic (Soviet Republic of Gilan) in June 1920.
Tabriz, the most important city in the Russian sphere of influence, saw occupation regimes come and go, Ottomans, Russians, Ottomans, British.

Foreign Policy . The pro-British Bushire administration was of a regional nature and kept up the notion that British-occupied Khuzestan was part of an Iran governed by the central administration in Tehran; the letter pursued a policy of neutrality. The Provisional Government, on the other hand, in Dec. 1917 declared war on the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire.
Wikipedia : "During World War I the country was occupied by British and Russian forces but was essentially neutral."

Battleground Persia : the Azerbaijani Front . Ottoman forces in Dec. 1915 occupied Tabriz, a city located in the Russian sphere of influence in Persia, established by the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907. With the Russian advance into Ottoman Armenia, the front moved away from Iranian territory; in February 1916 a Russian force took Hamadan, moved on in an attempt to help the British army besieged at Kut-al-Amara.
In 1916 Ottoman forces advanced again, drove the Russians out of Ottoman Armenia and in early 1918 again they held a considerable area in Iranian Azerbaijan, as well as Georgia and Russian Azerbaijan, with the important oil wells at Baku. The surrender of the Ottoman Empire (Oct. 30th 1918) did not end the fighting over Tabriz and Baku. Late in 1918, British troops moved into Iranian Azerbaijan, and from there, in November 1918 pushed into Baku.

Battleground Persia : Central and Southern Persia . In 1915 the British had occupied Bushire , in order to secure the oil fields in Khuzestan, exploited by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
German diplomat Wilhelm Wassmuss ("The German Lawrence" / "The Lawrence of Persia") stirred the Tangsir, Qashghai, Bakhtiari and other tribes into taking up a guerilla war against the British. Late in 1918 the British launched a push through these areas toward Tabriz and Baku.

Social History . In 1916 the population of Iran was estimated at c. 9 million.
The genocide to whom Armenian and Assyrian Christians were exposed in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1920 caused the influx of refugees into Persia. Under Ottoman occupation of Iranian Azerbaijan (the majority Azeri speak a language related to Turkish), repressive policy caused the exodus of Armenian, Assyrian and Persian refugees into unoccupied Persia.

The Economy . Persia's first railway, connecting Julfa on the Russian border with Tabriz, was opened in 1915 (NIYB 1916).

History of Iran, from Persian Outpost
Timeline of Iranian History, from Encyclopedia of the Orient
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Iran
Holy War made in Germany : New Light on the Holocaust against Christian Assyrians during World War I, by Gabriele Yonan
Persian and Transcaspian Campaigns 1915-1920, from Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth
Articles Postage Stamps of Bushire under British Occupation, Sheikh Khaz'al, Wilhelm Wassmuss, Mirza Kuchuk Khan, Constitutionalist Movement in Gilan, History of Iran : World Wars, from Wikipedia
World War I at Sea, by Gordon Smith
DOCUMENTS Bushire under British Occupation, from Persiphila
Iranian Statesmen, from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon)
Historical Population Statistics : Iran, from Population Statistics (J. Lahmeyer)
Bushire Stamps, from Sandafayre Stamps Gallery
Report from German Administrator in Erzurum to German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, Dec 4th 1916, posted by Armenocide
REFERENCE Antony Wynn, Persia in the Great Game. Sir Percy Sykes. Explorer, Consul, Soldier, Spy. London : John Murray 2003 [G]
Article : Persia, in : New International Year Book 1916 pp.526-527, 1918 pp.483-484 [G]
Entry : Persia, in : Statesman's Year Book 1918 pp.1156-1167 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 28th 2002, last revised on September 14th 2008

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