Relations between the Russian Empire and the Persian Empire (pre-1935 Iran), officially commenced in 1592, with the Safavids in power. Past and present contact between Russia and Iran has long been complicatedly multi-faceted; often wavering between collaboration and rivalry. The two nations have a long history of geographic, economic, and socio-political interaction. Since then, mutual relations have been turbulent often, and dormant at others.
History of Iran-Russia relations
Contacts between Russians and Persians have a long history. As early as in the 1660s the famous Russian Cossack ataman Stenka Razin raided, and occasionally wintered at, Persia's north coast, creating diplomatic problems for the Russian Czar in his dealings with the Persian Shah. The Russian song telling the tragic semi-legendary story of Razin's relationship with a Persian princess remains popular to this day.
Irano-Russian relations particularly picked up as a weakened Safavid empire gave way to the Qajarid dynasty in the mid-18th century. The first Persian Ambassador to Russia was Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi. The Qajarid government was quickly absorbed with managing domestic turmoil, while rival colonial powers rapidly sought a stable foothold in the region. While the Portuguese, British, and Dutch competed for the south and southeast of Persia in the Persian Gulf, the Russian Empire largely was left unchallenged in the north as it plunged southward to establish dominance in Persia's northern territories more.
Plagued with internal politics, the Qajarid government found itself incapable of rising to the challenge of facing its northern threat from Russia.
A weakened and bankrupted royal court, under Fath Ali Shah, was forced to sign the notorious Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, followed by the Treaty of Turkmenchay after efforts by Abbas Mirza failed to secure Persia's northern front.
With the Russian Empire continuously advancing south in the course of two wars against Persia, and the treaties of Turkmanchai and Golestan in the western frontiers, plus the unexpected death of Abbas Mirza in 1823, and the murder of Persia's Grand Vizier (Mirza AbolQasem Qa'im Maqām), Persia lost its traditional foothold in Central Asia to the Russian Tsarist armies.  The Russian armies occupied the Aral coast in 1849, Tashkent in 1864, Bukhara in 1867, Samarkand in 1868, and Khiva and Amudarya in 1873. The Treaty of Akhal, in which the Qajarid's were forced to cede Khwarazm, topped off Persian losses to the global emerging power of Imperial Russia.
By the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire's dominance became so pronounced that Tabriz, Qazvin, and a host of other cities were occupied by Russia, and the central government in Tehran was left with no power to even select its own ministers without the approval of the Anglo-Russian consulates. Morgan Shuster, for example, had to resign under tremendous British and Russian pressure on the royal court. Shuster's book "The Strangling of Persia" is a recount of the details of these events, a harsh criticism of Britain and Imperial Russia.
These, and a series of climaxing events such as the Russian shelling of Mashad's Goharshad Mosque in 1911, and the shelling of the Persian National Assembly by the Russian Colonel V. Liakhov, led to a surge in widespread anti-Russian sentiments across the nation.
One result of the public outcry against the ubiquitous presence of Imperial Russia in Persia was the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan. The rebellion, headed by Mirza Kuchak Khan led to an eventual confrontation between the Iranian rebels and the Russian army, but was disrupted with the October Revolution in 1917.
Russian involvement however continued on with the establishment of the short-lived Persian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1920, followed by the Republic of Mahabad, the last effort by Soviet Russia to establish a communist republic in Iran.
- "Begin preparatory work to form a national autonomous Azerbaijan district with broad powers within the Iranian state and simultaneously develop separatist movements in the provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, Gorgan, and Khorasan".
The end of World War Two brought the start of American dominance in Iran's political arena, and with an anti-Soviet Cold War brewing, the United States quickly moved to convert Iran into an anti-communist block, thus ending Russia's influence on Iran for years to come.
The Soviet Union was the first state to recognize the Islamic republic in February 1979. During the Iran–Iraq War, it supplied Saddam Hussein with large amounts of conventional arms. Ayatollah Khomeini deemed Islam principally incompatible with the communist ideals of the Soviet Union, leaving the secular Saddam as an ally of Moscow.
After the war, especially with the fall of the USSR, Tehran-Moscow relations witnessed a sudden increase in diplomatic and commercial relations, and Iran soon even began purchasing weapons from Russia.
As confrontation between the United States and Iran escalates, the country is finding itself further pushed into an alliance with China and Russia. And Iran, like Russia, "views Turkey's regional ambitions and the possible spread of some form of pan-Turkic ideology with suspicion".
Russia and Iran also share a common interest in limiting the political influence of the United States in Central Asia. This common interest has led the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to extend to Iran observer status in 2005, and offer full membership in 2006. Iran's relations with the organization, which is dominated by Russia and China, represents the most extensive diplomatic ties Iran has shared since the 1979 revolution. Iran and Russia have co-founded the Gas Exporting Countries Forum along with Qatar.
The solidity of Tehran-Moscow ties remains to be seen and tested however. Russia is increasingly becoming dependent on its economic relations with the West, and is thus gradually becoming vulnerable to western pressures in trying to curb its ties with Tehran. Iran has also expressed its unhappiness with the repeated delays by Russia in finishing the Bushehr Reactor project, as well as Russia's stance in the Caspian Sea dispute.
Unlike previous years in which Iran's air fleet were entirely western made, Iran's Air Force and civilian air fleet are increasingly becoming domestically and Russian built as the US and Europe continues to maintain sanctions on Iran. In 2010, Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment led the UN to pass a new resolution, number 1929 to vote for new sanctions against Iran which bans the sale of all types of heavy weaponry (including missiles) to Iran. This resulted in the cancellation of the delivery of the S-300 system to Iran: In September 2010 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning the delivery of S-300 missile systems, armored vehicles, warplanes, helicopters and ships to Iran. This may cause the loss of $13 billion in arms sales to Iran and force Iran to depend on China for arms in the future according to Igor Korotchenko. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also criticised Russia for kowtowing to the United States. As a result of the cancellation, Iran brought suit against Russia in Swiss court and in response to the lawsuit Russia threatened to withdraw diplomatic support for Iran in the nuclear dispute.
In addition to their trade and cooperation in hydrocarbons, Iran and Russia have also expanded trade ties in many non-energy sectors of the economy, including a large agriculture agreement in January 2009 and a telecommunications contract in December 2008. In July 2010, Iran and Russia signed an agreement to increase their cooperation in developing their energy sectors. Features of the agreement include the establishment of a joint oil exchange, which with a combined production of up to 15 million barrels of oil per day has the potential to become a leading market globally. Gazprom and Lukoil have become increasingly involved in the development of Iranian oil and gas projects.
In 2005, Russia was the seventh largest trading partner of Iran, with 5.33% of all exports to Iran originating from Russia. Trade relations between the two increased from USD$1 billion in 2005 to $3.7 billion in 2008. Motor vehicles, fruits, vegetables, glass, textiles, plastics, chemicals, hand-woven carpet, stone and plaster products were among the main Iranian non-oil goods exported to Russia.
According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 10% of Russians view Iran's influence positively, with 40% expressing a negative view. Gallup poll from the end of 2013 showed Iran ranked as sixth greatest threat to peace in the World according Russian view (3%), after United States (54%), China (6%), Iraq (5%), Syria (5%) and their own Russia (3%).
- Foreign relations of Iran
- Sino-Persian relations
- Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828
- Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 in which Persia was proposed to be partitioned
- Gas Exporting Countries Forum
- O'Rourke, Shane (2000). Warriors and peasants: the Don Cossacks in late Imperial Russia Edition: illustrated. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-22774-4.
- Nasser Takmil Homayoun. Kharazm: What do I know about Iran?. 2004. ISBN 964-379-023-1 p.78
- Morgan Shuster, The Strangling of Persia: Story of the European Diplomacy and Oriental Intrigue That Resulted in the Denationalization of Twelve Million Mohammedans. ISBN 0-934211-06-X
- Decree of the CC CPSU Politburo to Mir Bagirov, CC Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, on "measures to Organize a Separatist Movement in Southern Azerbaijan and Other Provinces of Northern Iran". Translation provided by The Cold War International History Project at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Goodarzi, Jubin M. (January 2013). "Syria and Iran: Alliance Cooperation in a Changing Regional Environment". Middle East Studies 4 (2): 31–59. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
- Herzig Edmund, Iran and the former Soviet South, Royal Institute for International Affairs, 1995, ISBN 1-899658-04-1, p.9
- Medvedev bans sale of S-300 missiles, other weapons to Iran, RIA Novosti, 22/09/2010
- Russia may lose $13 bln to ban on arms exports to Iran - analyst
- Strokan, Sergey. "Russia and Iran: Heading toward a political earthquake?" RT, 15 August 2012.
- The Cost of Economic Sanctions on Major Exporters to Iran by Nader Habibi
- Trade with Russia up, IranMania.com, 2003-12-25
- 2013 World Service Poll BBC
- Gallup International: End of Year 2013- Russia
- Kazemzadeh, Firuz, Russia and Britain in Persia, A study in Imperialism, 2821, Yale University Press.
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