Monday, September 15, 2014

Russia Enters Persia

Featuring W. Morgan Shuster

Previously on The Strangling of Persia. And now W. Morgan Shuster.

Time: 1911
Place: Teheran

Iran's Parliament 1906
I accordingly tendered Major Stokes the post of chief of the future Treasury gendarmerie, his services as military attache having come to an end. After some correspondence with the British Legation, I was informed late in July that the British Foreign Office held that he must resign his commission in the British-Indian army before accepting the post. This Major Stokes did, by cable, on July 31st, and the matter was regarded as settled.

What was my surprise, therefore, to learn, on the evening of August 8th, that the British Minister, following instructions from his Government, had that day presented a note to the Persian Foreign Office, warning the Persian Government that any attempt to employ Major Stokes in the "northern sphere" of Persia (which included Teheran, the capital) would probably be followed by “retaliatory action” (sic) by Russia which England would not be in a position to deprecate. Between individuals, such action would clearly be considered bad faith. Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, shortly thereafter explained that the appointment of Major Stokes would be a violation of what he termed the "spirit" of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Yet just two weeks before, when he consented to Stokes resigning to accept the post, he had never dreamed of such a thing.

The truth is that the semiofficial St. Petersburg press, like the “Novoe Vremya”, had begun to bluster about the affair, egged on by the Russian Foreign Office, and Sir Edward Grey was compelled to “invent some pretext” for his manifest dread of displeasing Britain's "good friend Russia" about anything. Hence the birth of that wondrous and fearsome child, that rubber child which could be stretched to cover any and all things, the "spirit of the convention." It was a wonderful discovery for the gentlemen of the so-called "forward party" of the Russian Government, since they now beheld not only a new means of evading the plain letter of their agreement, but gleefully found a woful lack of spirit in their partner to the convention, Great Britain.

The British Foreign Office pretended to believe that they had checked Russia's march to the Gulf; they knew better then, and they know still better now. There is but one thing on earth that will check that march, and that thing England is apparently not in a geographical or a policial position to furnish in sufficient numbers. The British public now know this, and unfortunately the "forward party" in Russia knows it, and that is why bearded faces at St. Petersburg crack open and emit rumbles of genuine merriment every time Sir Edward Grey stands up in the House of Commons and explains to his countrymen that he has most ample and categorical assurances from Russia that her sole purpose in sending two or three armies into Persia is to show her displeasure with an American finance official.

For that same reason, doubtless, she has recently massacred some hundreds of Persians in Tabriz, Enzeli, and Resht, and has hanged numbers of Islamic priests, provincial officials, and constitutionalists whom she classifies as the "dregs of revolution." That is why the Russian flag was hoisted over the government buildings at Tabriz, the capital of the richest province of the empire, while a Russian military governor dispensed justice at the bayonet-point and with the noose.

But to get back to events. After the crushing defeats of the ex-Shah's two forces and his flight, Russia was still faced by a constitutional regime in Persia - and by a somewhat solidified and more confident government and people at that.

Tools and puppets having dismally failed, enter the real thing. Russia now proceeded to intervene directly and to break up the constitutional government in Persia without risk of failure or hindrance. She did not even intend to await a pretext--she manufactured such things as she went along.

The first instance is the Shu'a'us-Saltana affair. On October 9th, some twelve days after the last defeat inflicted on the ex-Shah's forces, I was ordered by the cabinet to seize and confiscate the properties of Prince Shu'a'us-Saltana, another brother of the ex-Shah, who had returned to Persia with him and was actively commanding some of his troops. The same order was given as to the estates of Prince Salaru'd-Dawla, the other brother in rebellion.

Pursuant to this entirely proper and legal order, the purport of which had been communicated by the Persian Foreign Office to the Russian and British ministers several days previously, no objection having been even hinted, I sent out six small parties, each consisting of a civilian Treasury official and five Treasury gendarmes, to seize the different properties in and about Teheran. As a matter of courtesy, the British and Russian legations had been informed that all rights of foreigners in these properties would be fully safeguarded and respected.

The principal property was the Park of Shu'a'us-Saltana, a magnificent place in Teheran, with a palace filled with valuable furniture. When the Treasury officials and five gendarmes arrived there, they found on guard a number of Persian Cossacks of the Cossack Brigade. On seeing the order of confiscation, these men retired. My men then took possession and began making an official inventory. An hour later, two Russian vice-consuls, in full uniform, arrived with twelve Russian Cossacks from the Russian Consulate guard, and with imprecations, abuse, and threats to kill, drove off my men at the point of their rifles. Later in the day, these same vice-consuls actually arrested other small parties of Treasury gendarmes, took them on mules through the streets of Teheran to the Russian Consulate-General, and after insulting and threatening them with death if they ever returned to the confiscated property, allowed them to go.

Continued on Wednesday, September 17th.

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