Rather than a centralized state, Iran in the nineteenth century was a delicate balance between tribal groups, urban merchant communities, religious elites, and an autocratic monarchy. While Russia gained an increasingly dominant political role in Iran over the course of this century, Russian influence was often challenged by banditry on the roads, riots in the cities, and the seeming arbitrariness of the Shah.
Iran and Russian Imperialism develops a comprehensive picture of Russia’s historical entanglements with one of its most important neighbours in Asia. It recounts how the Russian Empire strived to gain political influence at the Persian court, promote Russian trade, and secure the enormous southern borders of the empire. Using hitherto often neglected documents from archives in Russia and Georgia and reading them against the grain, this book reveals the complex reactions of different groups in Iranian society to Russian imperialism. As it turns out, the Iranians were, in the words of the Russian orientalist Konstantin Smirnov, "ideal anarchists," whose resistance to imperial domination, as well as to centralized state institutions more generally, impacted developments in the region in the century to come.
Iran’s troubled relationship with the wider world continues to be a topic of considerable interest to historians, yet little focus has been given to Russia’s historical connections to Iran. This book thus represents a valuable contribution to Iranian and Russian History, as well as International Relations.