The Anglo-Russian Compromise of 1907 and the Downfall of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar
Authors: Nugzar Ter-Oganov
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The present paper attempts to show a correlation between the implementation of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 and its direct impact on the Russia's policy in Iran. This paper examines how the signing of that agreement by the Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Petrovich Izwolsky (1906-1910), a devoted supporter of the alliance with Great Britain, led to changes in Russia's policy in Iran, particularly towards Mohammad Ali Shah's authoritarian regime, with crucial consequences for the latter.
The author argues that Izwolsky sought to settle the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia, particularly in Iran, in return for gaining British support on European issues. In particular, Izwolsky had an obsessive aspiration for Russia to seize the Black Sea Straits in the near future. As the paper will demonstrate, for this objective Izwolsky was ready to make concessions to the British in Iran.
The revolutionary events of the end of 1908 and the first part of 1909 in Iran prove that Izwolsky consciously took several steps to arrive at those concessions. Among them was, first of all, the replacement of the experienced Russian Envoy to Tehran Nicolas Genrikhovich Gartvig (Hartwig), a strong opponent to Izwolsky's "liberal" policy in Iran, by the young and weak-willed Charge d'Affaires Evgueni Vasilievich Sablin, in order to give the British ally the upper hand in that country.
There are several other clear manifestations of Izwolsky's changing policy towards Iran. First of all, Russian troops suddenly raised the siege of the Iranian city of Tabriz in April 1909 at a time when Russophile Mohammad Ali Shah was very close to demolishing the Constitutional movement. Also the Russian Mission abstained from supporting Mohammad Ali Shah in fighting the Constitutionalists. Notably, it refrained from using the Russian military detachment, which had arrived in Qazvin on July 11, 1909, against the Constitutionalist forces that were advancing towards Tehran. In addition, the Persian Cossack Brigade led by the Russian commander Colonel V.P.Liakhov played a remarkable inactive role during the revolutionary events of June-July 1909. And last but not least, the northern gates of Tehran were left unprotected, despite the fact that the Russian Mission had obtained information that the Constitutionalists intended to attack Tehran exactly from the north. The result was the Constitutionalists' "surprise" seizure of the capital that led to the downfall of Mohammad Ali Shah on July 16. Therefore, this paper argues that Izwolsky sacrificed Mohammad Ali Shah to achieve a full diplomatic alliance with the British.