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Conference - Empires and Revolutions: Iranian-Russian Encounters Since 1800

Nasir al Din Shah and Alexander II attending Parade on Tzaritzyn Field. 1873


12-13 June 2009
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London

Conference on Russian-Iranian encounters since the early nineteenth century.

Organised by

Iran Heritage Foundation and London Middle East Institute (SOAS).

Convened by

Dr. Stephanie Cronin


This conference will explore the myriad encounters which have taken place between Iranians and Russians since the early nineteenth century up to the present. It will include some discussion of diplomacy and foreign policy but a central objective of the conference will be to widen the scholarly perspective to incorporate an understanding of other types of encounter, whether political, economic, social, cultural, or intellectual, and both friendly and hostile, especially as these developed beyond the official and elite levels. In particular it will attempt to understand the complexities of the impact on Iran of the Russian presence on its northern borders: the very expansion of Tsarist empire during the nineteenth century threatening Iran's independence yet bringing ideas of social-democracy to its doorstep, the Soviet Union in the twentieth century similarly contradictory in its effect, sustaining a version of radical Iranian politics while advancing its own strategic interests. The conference will conclude with some consideration of the current state and likely future trajectory of Iranian-Russian relationships.


The topics the conference hopes to examine include, but are not limited to, the following:

The impact on Iran of military defeat by Russia in the early nineteenth century, especially the incentive given to modernization and reform;

Iranian military reform and Russia: Abbas Mirza's regiment of Russian deserters; the Cossack Brigade;

The Griboyedev affair;

Shaping the Iranian reform agenda: the role played by diplomatic service in the Russian Empire in the development of officials such as Amir Kabir and Mushir al Dawlah;

Qajar politics: Russian interventions in the concession era, Liazonov and the Caspian Fisheries, opposition to the Reuter concession and the Tobacco Regie;

Conceptualizations of Iran and Iranian society formed by Russian 'Orientalism.' Views of the Russian Empire formulated by Iranians;

The political and social impact on Iran of the massive migration of the Iranian poor to work in the Russian Empire;

The significance of the links formed by Iranian Social-Democrats with parent organizations in the Caucasus;

Cultural exchanges: Iran's adoption of Russian architectural styles, linguistic terminology, styles of dress etc.;

Revolutions in Iran and Russia, 1905-6: The Constitutional Revolution and the 1905 revolution;

The suppression of Iranian constitutionalism by Russia in 1908 and subsequently in 1911 and the Russian occupation of northern Iran;

The impact of the 1917 Russian revolution: the formation of the Iranian Communist Party; the Jangali movement;

The Soviet occupation of northern Iran 1941-1946: the formation of the Tudeh Party; the republics of Azerbaijan and Mahabad;

The Soviet Union and the Islamic Revolution;

The effect on Iran of the collapse of the Soviet Union;

Future relationships: oil, nuclear power and strategic interests.


Prospective participants should send an abstract of 250 words by February 1, 2009 to Dr. Stephanie Cronin at Please submit abstracts in digital form using Microsoft Word.

Publication of proceedings

The papers presented in the conference will be published in a volume of proceedings, edited by Dr. Stephanie Cronin. All papers submitted should therefore be of publishable quality and constitute new work. All speakers must commit to publish their papers as part of the conference proceedings.


Dr Stephanie Cronin,

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