Iranian Revolution of 1905–11

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Iranian Revolution of 1905–11


an antifeudal and anti-imperialist bourgeois revolution. The revolution was engendered by the growth of contradictions between, on the one hand, the reactionary ruling feudal clique, headed by the Qajar dynasty, and its imperialist supporters and, on the other, the emerging Iranian national bourgeoisie, peasants, artisans, and workers.

The contradictions were sharpened by the transformation of Iran, by the beginning of the 20th century, into a semicolony of the imperialist powers Great Britain and tsarist Russia. The defeat of tsarism in the war with Japan and, particularly, the Russian revolution beginning in 1905 greatly influenced Iran and hastened the start of the Iranian Revolution.

The Iranian Revolution began in December 1905 with public demonstrations against the tyranny of the shah’s officials in Tehran, Shiraz, and Meshed. Markets, stores, and workshops closed. The demonstrations were led by clergymen. Later, when the police tried to arrest several religious leaders, 5,000 artisans, merchants, students from ecclesiastical schools, and other groups, led by the leading clergymen of Tehran, took bast (sanctuary) in a mosque near Tehran. Under pressure from the popular movement and as a consequence of the refusal by the shah’s army to take action against the participants in the bast and the demonstrators, the shah issued a decree on Aug. 5, 1906, establishing a constitutional regime.

On October 7 the first Iranian Majlis was convened. It drafted the Fundamental Law, the first part of the Iranian constitution, restricting the shah’s powers. After its ratification in December 1906, the first phase of the revolution was completed, as all the forces opposed to the shah’s rule (workers, the urban poor, artisans, small and middle merchants, liberal landowners, the clergy and the big bourgeoisie) joined ranks to introduce the constitution.

The second phase of the revolution began in 1907. Two trends emerged among its supporters—liberal and democratic. The peasants, workers, and the urban petite bourgeoisie became more active and began to put forward their own demands. The antiimperialist struggle intensified, with the boycott of foreign goods and other measures. The peasant movement expanded in the north and then in the central and southern regions. The first workers’ organizations were created. The growth of sociopolitical activities of the masses was manifested in the formation of bourgeois revolutionary organizations, the anjomans; in the emergence of illegal revolutionary democratic organizations, the mujtahids (the first mujtahid societies appeared in 1905); in the organization of volunteer armed detachments, the fidais; and in the rapid development of the press.

Under pressure of the popular movement, the first Majlis enacted laws abolishing the toyul, a feudal fief, and reducing the pensions of the feudal aristocracy. It also adopted supplements to the Fundamental Law, proclaiming bourgeois freedoms in Iran and creating secular cdurts alongside religious courts.

At the beginning of the revolution, Great Britain concealed its imperialist goals under a mask of sympathy for the Iranian constitutional movement. Russian tsarism, deeply hostile to the Iranian Revolution but weakened by the defeat in the war with Japan and the Revolution of 1905–07, did not extend military aid to the shah’s reactionary regime in the first years. The German imperialists conducted demagogic propaganda against Great Britain and Russia and hypocritically presented themselves as supporters of the national liberation movement and of the strengthening of Iranian independence.

A sharpening of imperialist contradictions between Great Britain and Russia on one side and Germany on the other led to the signing (in August) of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, under which Iran was divided into Russian, British, and neutral zones, after which Great Britain and Russia intensified the struggle against the revolutionary movement in Iran.

On June 23, 1908, Muhammad Ali Shah, with the forces of the Persian Cossack Brigade, carried out a counterrevolutionary coup in Tehran and dispersed the Majlis and the anjomans. After the coup, the center of the struggle shifted to Iranian Azerbaijan, where the Tabriz uprising flared in 1908–09. A new period in the Iranian Revolution began when the democratic strata of the population assumed an active and, in some cases, a leading role. The Caucasian revolutionaries greatly assisted the Tabriz revolution with detachments of volunteers and weapons.

In January 1909 the supporters of the constitution, aided by the Bakhtiari khans, striving to bolster their influence, seized power in Isfahan. An uprising erupted in Gilan (in Rasht and other towns). Supporters of the constitution came to power in Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, and several other towns and regions of Iran. A group of Transcaucasian Bolsheviks, headed by G. K. Ordzhonikidze, gave significant aid to the Gilan revolutionaries, remaining in Gilan from the end of the summer of 1909 until the autumn of 1910.

In July 1909, Muhammad Ali Shah was deposed as a result of a campaign of Gilan fidais and Bakhtiari khans against Tehran, and his son Ahmad was proclaimed shah. The constitution was reinstated. The last phase of the revolution began when liberal feudal-landowning circles and the rich comprador merchant bourgeoisie, linked with imperialists and feudal landowners, used the successes of the democratic movement for their own purposes. They seized power and sought to thwart the development of the revolution. Popular disturbances were touched off in Tabriz, Meshed, and other cities by the policies of the government, which sought to overcome financial difficulties by getting foreign loans, inviting a foreign economic mission (the American mission of M. Shuster in 1911), and introducing new taxes.

In late 1909 and early 1910 the antifeudal struggle of peasants resumed in several regions. The government took measures to suppress the revolution and to work out deals with the forces of reaction and imperialist states. In August 1910, by order of the government, the police and Bakhtiari detachments in Tehran disarmed Sattar Khan’s detachments of fidais.

In these circumstances, former Shah Muhammad Ali, with the secret assistance of the tsarist government, arrived in Iran in July 1911. However, the attempt of reactionaries to reinstate the old order was rebuffed by the people. In the fall of 1911, Muhammad Ali’s bands were defeated by the combined forces of government troops and volunteer detachments. The collapse of the counterrevolutionary revolt demonstrated the inability of Iranian reactionaries to crush the revolutionary movement without foreign assistance.

The Iranian Revolution was suppressed- the end of 1911 by the combined forces of imperialist states (in the north by tsarist troops and in the south by the British) and Iranian reactionaries. In December 1911 the Iranian police and Bakhtiari detachments dispersed the Majlis, the anjomans and the fidai detachments. The suppression of the revolution contributed to the further enslavement of Iran by Great Britain and tsarist Russia. At the same time, the Iranian Revolution administered a blow to the feudal structure in Iran and exerted great influence on neighboring countries.


Lenin, V. I. “Sobytiia na Balkanakh i v Persii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “Goriuchii material v mirovoi politike.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Probuzhdenie Azii.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. Ibid., vol. 21, pp. 154–55.
Ivanov, M. S. Iranskaia revoliutsiia 1905–1911 gg. Moscow, 1957. (Contains a review of sources and literature.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Full browser ?