England and Russia at the beginning of the XXI century. Fight for Persia
Already 7 in October 1905 of the year English Ambassador Charles Garding, at a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, Vladimir Lamsdorf, tried to probe the ground on the possibility of starting negotiations on a union. Lamsdorf, who supported the line on the Franco-Russian alliance and was suspicious of Germany, was very happy about this opportunity and advised him to raise the topic at the upcoming meeting with the Russian emperor.
October 11 Harding when meeting with Nicholas II began to talk about the sincere desire of the British government to achieve friendly relations with Russia. The British ambassador assured the king of the supposedly peaceful intentions of England, which does not plan to expand the borders of the empire, does not create military alliances in Europe, and seeks only peace with all nations. In an effort to resolve contentious issues with Russia, the British government expressed the hope that the Russian-British agreement would not be directed against another country. Having listened to the British, the Russian emperor replied that Russia is not looking for new territories and that if Russia and Great Britain agree on the Persian question, then other issues can be reconciled. Thus, the first step was taken.
It must be said that relations between Russia and the British Empire at the beginning of the 20th century were seriously clouded by rivalry in Asia, especially in Persia. Russia was trying to gain a foothold in Persia under Peter I (How Peter I cut the door to the East), but failed. After being incorporated into the Russian Empire of Turkmenistan, in December 1881, a convention on demarcation between Russian and Persian possessions east of the Caspian Sea was signed in Tehran. The Persians, who were in captivity of the Turkmen, received freedom and the opportunity to return to their homeland. Russia began its expansion in Khorasan. Russian authorities recruited khans and tribal leaders. Ashgabat, the capital of the Transcaspian region, became the center of advancement in Persia. Then Mashhad became such a center, where they established a Russian consulate general. Russia received a concession for the construction of a highway from Ashgabat to Kuchan. Russian trade began to oust the British from Khorasan. Russian goods began to prevail in northern Persia. Russian trade oppressed the British and other areas. Persian power has become an important market for the Russian textile, sugar and petroleum industries. Actively developed Russian fisheries. In the 1908 year, the G. S. Lianozov South-Caspian Fishing Fellowship was the largest industrial enterprise in Persian territory. 800 citizens of Russia and more than 3 thousand local residents worked in this enterprise. The company invested 9 million rubles during the First World War. Persia has become a place of capital investment for Russia.
Map of Persia at the beginning of the 20th century.
In Persia, Russia's interests clashed with the interests of the British Empire. In 1901, the British businessman William Knox D'Arcy received from the shah for 20 thousand pounds sterling and 10% of the shares of the not yet established oil exploration company a concession for oil production. The entrepreneur received a monopoly on the development and exploitation of oil, gas, asphalt and bitumen throughout the territory of Persia during 60 years. The concession did not apply only to 5 of the northern regions and provinces: Iranian Azerbaijan, Gilan, Mazandaran, Astrabad and Khorasan. These lands were excluded from the concession agreement at the request of the Russian envoy. After several years of fruitless exploration, in 1908, the British found a large oil field in the southwestern part of Persia in the area of Mesgede-Soleiman (Mashid and Suleiman oil fields). From the well depth of about 340 meters the fountain was blocked. It was one of the largest oil fields in the world. From this point on, industrial oil production began in the Persian state.
On April 14, 1909, an Anglo-Persian Oil Company (modern British Petroleum) was established in London. Initially, most of the shares (97%) belonged to Burmah Oil. The Anglo-Persian oil company bought up all the shares of British firms operating in Persia and became the monopolist, the sole owner of the concession rights that d'Arcy received. The oil wealth of Persia has become a real bonanza for the British government and the owners of private companies and banks. It is clear that the Persians for many decades were moved away from this cake. As W. Churchill subsequently noted with pleasure, the proceeds from the Persian oil wealth were enough to not only meet the needs of the vast British fleet, but also for the construction of ships in such quantities as to maintain the status of "mistress of the seas", moreover, "without a single penny received from taxpayers." Thus, the wealth of Persia helped England maintain control of the oceans.
It should also be noted that the Persian Gulf has become one of the strategic points for the British, helping them to control world communications (then the Americans will pick up the baton from the British). The British built a large naval base and a strong fortress in Aden, on the shores of the Arabian Peninsula. From that moment on, the British fleet was constantly on duty in the Persian Gulf. The British fleet, relying on Aden, was able at any moment to quickly transfer Anglo-Indian troops from India to South Persia.
London, alarmed by the Russian penetration into Persia, from where it was already close to India, began to harry the idea of the official division of the Persian Power between Russia and Britain. In 1892, the book of Lord George Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, was published; this monograph became a kind of “bible” of the English colonialists. Curzon put forward the idea of dividing Persia between the Russian Empire and Britain. Saying that the Russians were about to seize the northern provinces, the Lord proposed to draw a line from Persistan in the east through Persia, through Kerman and Yazd to Isfahan, and further west to Burujir, Hamadan and Kermanshah. He believed that to the south of this line Russian influence is unacceptable. Posing as the defenders of Persia, the British wanted its wealth and partition. In addition, the British encouraged the separatists to weaken Persia. They were supported by the leaders of the southern tribes - Bakhtiar, Kashkashians, Baloch and others. If Russia and Persia trade was mutually beneficial, then the British frankly robbed the Persian people.
Thus, the British strengthened their dominance in the south, and the Russians in the north. And in Russia, they did not forget about South Persia. At the end of the 19th century, the Russian Company of Shipping and Commerce established a regular cargo and passenger line Odessa - the ports of the Persian Gulf, along which Russian steamers traveled. In Tehran, both great powers fought with varying success for influence over the Shah and his circle. If for most of the century the British had a dominant influence in the Iranian capital and were able to provoke the Russian-Persian wars 1804 — 1813 and 1826 — 1828, then at the end of the XIX century the scales began to lean in favor of Russia. Russia was even able to create an elite unit guarding the Shah. In 1879, the Persian Cossack Brigade was created, modeled on the Terek Cossack units. The training was conducted by Russian military instructors; the commander of the formation was a Russian officer who received a salary from the Russian government. The brigade guarded the highest officials of the state, the most important state and military facilities, was used to suppress unrest.
Petersburg tried to subjugate Tehran to its dominant influence, but without violating the external independence of Persia and its internal system. In the summer of 1905, negotiations with Persians took place in Petersburg. Russian diplomats formulated the Persians the conditions for providing financial assistance to their country, which led to one-sided economic dependence on Russia. However, the negotiations ended in vain. After the defeat of the Russian Empire in the war with Japan and the beginning of the first Russian revolution, Tehran decided to abandon the idea of a pro-Russian orientation of the country. As a result, London, having set Japan on Russia, solved one more task - it weakened the Russian influence in Persia.
At the same time, the British headed for the destruction of a strong centralized government in Persia. They needed a weak Persia, torn apart by internal contradictions. For this, they used the then Persian “liberals”, revolutionaries - supporters of the country's constitutional structure and separatists. Among the tribes, the main role was played by the Bakhtiari (Bakhtiari) - a group of tribes of South-Western Iran. In the second half of the XIX century, the British brought the Bakhtiar tribes under their control. The influence of British residents in the south of Persia was so great that the tribal leaders recognized them as the main intermediaries in their relations with the Shah government.
Due to the economic problems caused by the fact that foreign concessions gained control over the country's industry and markets and the anti-Shahs' entry, Mozaferreddin Shah Qajar (1896-1907) began to lose control over Persia. As a result of the pressure of the aristocracy, the clergy and the intelligentsia, the monarch was forced to convene the Mejlis (legislative representative body) and adopt the constitution in October 1906, which limited the power of the Shah. These vicissitudes undermined the health of the Shah, he died after 40 days after the adoption of the constitution from a heart attack. His son Mohammad Ali Shah (1907-1909), being a prince, became the governor of Tabriz, was the ruler of Iranian Azerbaijan.
18 (31) August 1907 in St. Petersburg Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolsky and the British Ambassador Arthur Nicholson signed an agreement that delineated the spheres of influence of Russia and the British Empire in Asia. Petersburg recognized the protectorate of England over Afghanistan and agreed not to enter into direct relations with the Afghan ruler. Russia and England recognized Tibet as part of China and abandoned attempts to establish their control over it. Persia was divided into spheres of influence. The southern boundary of the Russian sphere of influence was the line Kasre - Shirin - Isfahan - Yazd - Zulfegar and further to the point of convergence of the Russian, Persian and Afghan borders. South Persia entered the English sphere of influence. These were the territories to the southeast of the Afghan border - Gezik - Birgend - Kerman - Bandar Abbas line. Neither England nor Russia should have entered and harassed foreign zones of political, economic, commercial, transport and other types of influence and advantages. The territory between these lines in the center of the country was declared temporarily neutral, where the parties could act by prior arrangement.
The areas of Persia, highlighted in blue, were intended for Russia, the southern areas, marked pink, were under the control of Great Britain.
Unrest in the country continued. Shah on assuming the throne promised to abide by the constitution, but did not fulfill his promises. Soon, the first minister, Mirza Ali Asgar-khan, was killed and an attempt was made on the Shah himself. With the support of the Persian Cossack Brigade, the Shah in 1908 dispersed the Mejlis. However, the rebellion expanded. It is very symbolic that the revitalization took place simultaneously with the discovery of a large oil field. The uprising began in Tabriz. Resht rebels occupied Qazvin. The leaders of the Bakhtiar tribes suggested that supporters of the constitution in Gilan and Qazvin join forces. Opponents of the Shah seized power in Bushehr, Bandar Abbas and some other cities and regions of Persia. 13 July 1909 rebel forces entered the capital. After several skirmishes with supporters of the Shah, Tehran was occupied by the rebels. Shah and his entourage took refuge in the summer residence of the Russian diplomatic mission. The rebels gathered an emergency national council and announced the overthrow of Mohammad Ali. The throne was transferred to his 11-year-old son Ahmad. Mohammad Ali was forced to flee to Russia. Sultan Ahmad Shah (1909 - 1925) did not have real power, on his behalf the country was headed by regents and leaders of the Bakhtiyar tribes, who occupied key positions. Accordingly, the British at this time seriously strengthened their position in Persia.
The overthrow of the Shah did not suit Petersburg, but the Russian government refrained from serious military intervention. The commander of the Caucasian Military District, Count Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov, received a directive to send a detachment to Tabriz (Tabriz) due to attacks on the consulate, European institutions and Russian nationals. Russian troops mainly acted against nomads (Kurds and Turkmen), punishing them for robberies and attacks. For the robberies they took fines, the killings were punishable by death sentences handed down by the court martial. The Russian consuls noted that the merchants and the local population were grateful to the Russian troops. Russian troops occupied several cities; in response, the British occupied several cities in South Persia.
There was a lull before 1911. In the autumn of 1911, gangs began attacking a detachment in Tabriz, firing on consular offices and convoys. The nomads again began to attack the trade caravans. The forces of the pro-Turkish minded governors of the western provinces and the revolutionary movements of Transcaucasia took part in these attacks. October 29 (November 11) The Russian ambassador handed the 1911 of the year to the Persian government an ultimatum demanding to restore order in the country and ensure the protection of the economic interests of the Russian Empire. After the expiration of the ultimatum, Russian troops occupied Qazvin, Enzeli and other centers of Northern Persia. The operation was led by the quartermaster general of the headquarters of the Caucasian Military District Nikolai Yudenich. The operation was successful, the Russian troops ensured order in the country. After ensuring stability in Persia, the bulk of the troops were withdrawn. But some Russian units remained in Persia until the beginning of the First World War. During the First World War, England and Russia jointly occupied Persia in order to improve the possibilities for conducting combat operations against the Ottoman Empire.
In December 1911, the Persian government, relying on the Bakhtiar detachments, dispersed the Majlis, the Fedai detachments - the volunteer armed groups of the urban poor, the petty bourgeoisie and the peasants. The democratic movement in the country was crushed. With the support of England and Russia, the feudal lords retained power in Persia, but the monarchy did not so restore the full power.
In 1912, the Persian government officially recognized the 1907 Russian-English agreement on the partition of Persia. However, this agreement did not resolve all contradictions, it only stabilized the situation. In particular, the sore point was the activity of the Anglo-Persian oil company, which was actively developing the neutral zone. Nevertheless, the British held back their expansionist impulses in 1912, they were already preparing for war with Germany, it was impossible to quarrel with Russia because of Persia. They were little concerned about the question of where the Russian troops are standing. London defended its interests, but crossed the line that could cause conflict with Petersburg. England wanted to focus on European affairs and involve Russia in them.
To be continued ...