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Article

Bringing Democracy into Iran: A Russian Project for the Separation of Azerbaijan

Although the history of Russian-Iranian relations remains seriously understudied, few would refute the oppressive imperialist role played by Imperial Russia in Iran during the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century. However, practically nothing has been written about the conceptual shifts which began to take place in Russia’s Persian policy immediately after the February Revolution of 1917. Little is known about the large-scale projects, through which Russia was to bring “its own democracy” to Iranian Azerbaijan and its other northern provinces, with further proliferation all over Iran. This was meant to facilitate Russia’s political and trade expansion down to the Persian Gulf, which had been the eventual goal for many decades. Drawing on unpublished documents from Russian, British and French archives, this paper studies the relevant correspondence between the Russian, British and French missions in Tehran and their central authorities, including the short-lived governments of Republican Russia, during the decade 1909-1919. In doing so, it analyses the local agency of the Russian diplomats in Iran, such as Vladimir Minorsky (1877-1966), in the emergence of these projects, and investigates the manifestation of symbolic capital and the productive interaction of power/knowledge relations.