Foreign Influence and Deeper Chaos

  December 19, 2021   Read time 1 min
Foreign Influence and Deeper Chaos
Muhammad Ali’s defeat brought no respite for the government. The Russians demanded Shuster’s dismissal and sent twelve thousand more troops into northern Iran in November 1911 to back up their ultimatum.

The Majles agreed to some concessions and off ered future negotiations, but the prime minister and his cabinet worried that the legislature’s actions were still too risky. Under orders from the regent, the Bakhtiari tribal forces closed down the Majles. Yephrem Khan and his Caucasian mujahedin force aided the Bakhtiaris because the Armenian leader, who later died while fi ghting the remnants of the ex- shah’s forces, wanted to avert a Russian occupation. Aft er the legislators were expelled, Russian- backed Iranians began to purge, exile, or execute the remaining constitutionalists and activists. In Tabriz, the mujahedin skirmished with Russian detachments, but the threat of a bloody att ack on the city led the revolutionaries to agree to disarmament and the peaceful occupation of the city by Russian units. The Russians then systematically eliminated the proconstitution elements in the city, imprisoning and executing as many as three thousand mujahedin.

The purge of the nationalists increased foreign domination while leaving Iran more divided and weaker than ever. The Russian occupation of the north and blatant interference in the Shuster matt er prompted mass protests and violent confrontations. In 1912, the Russians reacted to the assassination of one of their offi cers in Mashhad by bombarding and looting the revered Imam Reza Shrine.

Meanwhile, the Bakhtiari khans in Tehran had taken over the government ministries and were using them to enrich the tribe. As the year ended, the provinces were being torn apart by tribal convulsions. In the north and west, Turkmans, Shahsavans, Kurds, and Lurs withheld taxes and raided villages. In the south, Qashqais, Arabs, Baluchs, and other tribes formed an alliance to stem the rising power of the Bakhtiari chiefs who had ensconced themselves in Tehran. Many tribes viewed the constitution as cover for Bakhtiari domination, and only tribal rivalries prevented the concerted action that might have brought down the government. In any event, provincial and tribal leaders increasingly ignored the central government and dealt with Russian and British offi cials.

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