Persian Revolution and Russian Intervention



War/Conflict: Persian Revolution

Years of Conflict: 1906-1911

Primary Participants: Shah Mohammed Ali of Persia vs. Constitutionalist Rebels

Intervening Countries: Russia (aiding the Shah)

Area(s) of Conflict: Tabriz and Tehran, and areas of northern Persia

Reasons for Conflict:

Shah Mohammed Ali, who was the sixth Shah of the ruling Qajar Dynasty, ruled as a tyrant, and defied the constitutionalist laws passed by his father, the late Shah. Those laws established the first parliament, called the Majlis, in Persian history.

Mohammed Ali sought to reassert the power of the Monarchy, and in using artillery to shell the parliament building on June 23, 1908, set off a military conflict that would end his reign. The only government forces the Shah could really rely on were Russian Cossacks "donated" by the Russian government. These troops were commanded by Russian General Liakoff.

Course of the Conflict:

After the Shah's forces attacked the Majlis, the Constitutionalist forces centered around the northeast of the country, in the area of Tabriz to the Caspian coast. Russian forces aiding the Shah captured Tabriz after a long siege on April 29, 1909. The revolutionaries rallied around Yeprem Khan, who seized control of Rasht and then moved on the capital of Tehran. Negotiations between the two sides were encouraged by the Russian and British governments, but the talks broke down and the advance on Tehran continued. As the government Cossacks attempted to block access into Tehran from the west, other rebel forces entered the capital from the south and occupied the Majlis building and parts of northern Tehran. After two days of fighting, the Shah sought refuge in the Russian Legation (Embassy).

The reconstituted Majlis legally deposed the Shah and placed his eleven-year old son, Ahmed Mirza, on the throne as the new Shah, who occupied the throne on July 17. As the young Shah was not old enough to actually rule the nation, a Regent was appointed to run the country in the Shah's name. The Regent was a political liberal named Azad ul-Mulk. The now-former Shah was allowed a pension but ordered to live out his life as an exile. In September 9, 1909, the ex-Shah left the Russian Legation for exile in Europe.

Despite the political resolution in Tehran, violence continued in the countryside, with raids by mountain tribesmen around Tabriz, violence in Yezd and Zimjan, and the fall of Ardebil to tribesmen aligned with Rahim Khan, who favored a return of the old Shah Mohammed Ali. Government forces were sent from Tehran and fought Rahim Khan's forces around Tabriz. The 4,000 pro-government Constitutionalist troops defeated the rebels and took 400 prisoners.

On July 17, 1911, the former Shah, Mohammed Ali, landed with a Russian army at Astarabad on the Caspian coast and marched on Tehran with a Russian Cossack force. Mohammed Ali's brother, Shu'a' al-Soltana, led an army that attacked government positions in Persian Kurdistan, capturing Kermanshah, Hamedan, and other areas on his way to join his brother outside of Tehran. Government forces fought Mohammed Ali's army near Varamin on September 5, 1911, and defeated him. The deposed Shah once more fled to Russia.

Despite the defeat of Mohammed Ali, Russia increased pressure on the Persian government, and in the face of a Russian military advance toward Qazvin, the government gave in to Russia's demands to retain its sphere of influence in northern Persia.


1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications. 1999.

2. Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupey. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present New York, New York: Harper & Row. 1993.

Iranian History -

See also:

Wars of Iran

Wars of the Middle East

Wars of Russia (1815-1918)

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