Mirza Kuchik Khan and the Jangalis

  September 26, 2021   Read time 4 min
Mirza Kuchik Khan and the Jangalis
It turned out that the British would not get rid of Moshir-ed-Dowleh until they were ready. The circumstances that brought about his fall in October 1920 were related to the Jangali uprising in Gilan.

The Jangalis of Gilan under Mirza Kuchik Khan, like the Democrats of Azerbaijan, had been a source of great actual or potential trouble for the government of Vossoughed-Dowleh from the beginning. After their numerous defeats by the British, the Jangalis had reached an understanding with the British, which the British later abrogated.

With British assistance (including warplanes and other equipment), the Persian Cossacks defeated and dispersed the forces of Mirza Kuchik Khan in the spring of 1919. “Most of them were captured and sent to the fortress of Kelat-i-Nadiri for imprisonment and their supplies, munitions and transport were confiscated. Only the leader Kuchik Khan and one or two of his followers escaped. His whereabouts at present are unknown and he is variously reported as having gone to Kermanshah and Tabriz. In any case the Jungalee movement is at an end.”

It soon became apparent that the news of the demise of the Jangalis was greatly exaggerated. In January 1920 Caldwell recounts that peace negotiations between the Jangalis and the Vossough Government had been underway for several months: “In the province of Guilan [Gilan] the Government has for a long time been negotiating with the leader of the Jangalees, Kuchik Khan, and it is expected that this army of troublemakers for the Government will soon be disbanded, and the leader and men allowed to resume their positions as ordinary subjects of the Persian Government. Kuchik Khan has displayed marked ability and patriotism, and it would probably be much to the advantage of the Persian Government if it could secure his loyal services.”

Peace between the Jangalis and the Persian government proved elusive. By early 1920, the Vossough government was facing mounting difficulties in Gilan and Mazandaran. From an account by Caldwell dated April 10 it is clear that the Jangali movement was a nationalistic uprising against the British. The alliance of the Jangalis with the Bolsheviks was a tactical one aimed at the British aggressor: Bolshevistic tendencies are constantly increasing in Persia and whereas a few months ago it seemed that the Persians were firmly and unalterably opposed to the Bolsheviki, many adherents are now found for the cause here and one often hears that the Persians will welcome them with open arms if they do succeed in pressing through the Caucasus into Persia, as is now threatened.

It is believed that this growth in Bolshevism in Persia is like the former alleged pro-German sympathies of the Persians, not love for the Bolsheviki or their principles, but rather the fact that the Bolsheviki are vehemently opposed to the British— whom a great number of patriotic Persians firmly believe to be their greatest enemy, and these Persians, having faith in the ultimate independence of their country, which has existed independently throughout so many centuries, feel that the Bolsheviki will push the British out of Persia if they come here. So, although it is hardly possible that Bolshevism could ever secure a firm hold in Persia, there is, nevertheless, great danger of its spread to Persia on account of the occupation of this country by the most steadfast enemies of the Bolsheviki. Constant progress is being made by the Bolshevik agents and propagandists among the Persian people, but this is entirely in the undercurrent and never appears openly. The Persian Government has had some difficulty in keeping Governors in the northern provinces, specially along the Caspian Sea, and this trouble has been mainly due to the presence and fear of Bolshevists, for their propagandists are busy along the whole northern frontier of Persia.

Our Consul in Tabriz has reported the presence of a number of their agents in the province of Azerbaijan, and it is well known that the British are forced to use every means possible against them in the province of Khorassan, for that province borders Afghanistan and is a direct approach to India, and the Bolsheviki have long been in control of Turkestan or Trans-Caspian up to the Persian frontiers. In the province of Guilan the Jangalees seem to be again on the point of causing trouble, although it was considered that they had been finally put down. Doubtless the only thing that keeps them within bounds is the presence of British troops in Resht and Enzeli, for fear of a Bolshevist invasion has caused the British military to send a force of some fifteen hundred soldiers to Enzeli on the Caspian Sea, where they have entrenched themselves and fortified the place. If the Bolsheviki should attack that quarter from the Caspian Sea, it is likely that they would find ready and able assistants on land in the person of the Jangalees.