Iranian Artillery Units: Early 1900s-1941

Early 1900s-1925

The battered Iranian military had yet to recover from its devastating defeats at Russian and British hands in the first five decades of the 19th century which resulted in the losses of large chunks of territory, notably Herat and the South Caucasus. Another issue was vehement Russian (and latent British – esp. by the early 1900s) opposition to the revival and modernization of the Iranian army.

The Iranian military by the early 1900s was poorly organized with much of its equipment obsolete and inadequately maintained. There were small numbers of modern artillery and machine guns but at wholly insufficient quantities. This meant that Imperial Russian, British and Ottoman armies could enter Iranian territory at will.

Iranian Gendarmes-75 mm guns[Click to Enlarge] The most effective force of the Iranian military prior to and during World war One: the Gendarmerie – above are Iranian Gendarmerie posing with two 75mm (Shneider-Cruesot?) in Tehran prior to World War One (Picture Source: Morgan Shuster, The Strangling of Persia, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1913, pp. 144, 152). Despite being a para-military force, the Iranian Gendarmes fought very well against opponents who enjoyed superiority in numbers and military equipment.  For more on the Iranian Gendarmerie, consult Professor Stephanie Cronin’s article in the Encylopedia Iranica.

By the end of World War One, Iran’s artillery corps was equipped with a chaotic motley left-over Ottoman, Russian and British, along with some numbers of German made MG-08 pieces and the Swedish Bofors 75mm mountain gun.

Iranian Artillery Units: Early 1920s-1941

Iran’s inventory of artillery in 1922 stood at a modest total of just 86 pieces. This was dangerously inadequate for the task of defending the country’s borders, a fact fully understood by the new unified and modernized Iranian military force, which began its debut from the mid-1920s.

2-Bofors-75 mmAn old undated photo of an Iranian Swedish made Bofors 75mm mountain gun. These had seen service with the Iranian army since the early 20th century. Four of these have survived to this day, now on display at the gates of the Gilan barracks in northern Iran (Picture Source: Matofi, A., 1999, Tarikh-e-Chahar Hezar Sal-e Artesh-e Iran: Az Tamadon-e Elam ta 1320 Khorsheedi, Jang-e- Iran va Araqh [The 4000 Year History of the Army of Iran: From the Elamite Civilization to 1941, the Iran-Iraq War]. Tehran:Entesharat-e Iman, p. 1043).

Reza Shah placed a high priority towards the modernization and expansion of Iran’s armed forces, with the artillery corps receiving close attention. By 1941 Iran possessed 874 cannon, with 350 modern pieces (mainly light and medium calibers – some motorized) being ordered from overseas. The artillery force however continued to use antiquated equipment such as the 75mm Bofors mountain guns and the Shneider-Cruesot 75-mm cannon seen during the Constitutional revolution. Nevertheless, in just 19 years (1922-1941) Iran’s inventory of cannon had increased ten-fold. This was a remarkable achievement for a country which just years before, had had no true national army since the 19th century.

Iranian Army-75mm Mountain-Bofors[Click to Enlarge] Iranian artillery unit of 75mm Bofors mountain guns (Picture Source: Network54).

By 1941, an Iranian Army regiment was equipped with 81mm mortars and six 37mm Skoda anti-tank guns. Hence (at least theoretically) this meant that the army’s 45 infantry regiments would have been equipped with minimum of 270 anti-tank guns and another 270 mortars. In practice however, these numbers were most likely less and not as evenly distributed among all the regiments.

Iranian Army-105mm Artillery-Skoda[Click to Enlarge] Iranian artillery unit of 105mm Skoda artillery pieces (Picture Source: Network54).

The organization of the army’s artillery units are believed to have been as follows at the eve of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran on August 25, 1941 (assuming that each battery was composed of four artillery pieces):

  • 12 batteries of 100mm Skoda M14 (short barrel) howitzers (Total=48 )
  • 18 batteries 100mm Skoda M30 howitzers (long barrel) (Total=72)
  • 39 batteries 75mm Bofors M1934 mountain guns (Total= 156) – mountain guns carried by pack mules
  • 10 1/2 batteries 75mm Schneider M1909 mountain guns (Total=42) – statistics debated – suggested at lesser (6 1/2 batteries) – mountain guns carried by pack mules
  • 4 Batteries  75mm Schneider Model 1919 (Total=16)
  • 2 batteries 75mm Aboukoff (Russian) (Total=8)
  • Possibly 4 batteries of 105mm Skoda M35 towed by Praga tractors for coastal defense along the Caspian (Possible Total=16)
  • 11 1/2 batteries 75mm M1929 anti-aircraft guns towed by Marmon Herrington vehicles – more artillery pieces had been on order but not delivered after 1939 (Total=46) – Note: Six of the anti-aircraft batteries were part of the mechanized brigade with three anti-aircraft batteries a part of the 6th Khuzestan Division (two of these were in storage or reserve however).
  • 1 battery of unknown British guns (possibly 18-Pounders) (Total=4)

Each regiment possessed three mountain batteries and one field battery. Excepting the mountain guns that were carried by pack mules, the artillery of the mechanized brigade was transported by Marmon Herrington vehicles. The rest of the artillery was drawn by horses.  The above statistics and corresponding information are of course subject to revision as more data is uncovered by future research.

Iranian Army-75mm AAA-Bofors[Click to Enlarge] Iranian artillery unit of 75mm Bofors anti-aircraft artillery (Picture Source: Network54). At least another twenty of these which had been on order were never delivered to Iran.

City named “Shahyar” in China

The article below has been forwarded to by Sheda Vasseghi. Kindly note that a number of sentences and paragraphs have also been added/edited by into the Sheda Vasseghi article. Two additional pictures and captions have been added with a caption added for the picture originally forwarded by Sheda Vasseghi.

shedaSheda Vasseghi has a Master of Arts in Ancient History, with honors, emphasis on Ancient Persia, from American Military University (West Virginia) and a Master of Science in Business Administration from Strayer University (Washington, DC). Ms. Vasseghi is an adjunct professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College. She is also a correspondent with Freepressers in relation to Iran’s affairs. Ms. Vasseghi is a spokeswoman for Azadegan Foundation, a non-profit organization in support of a secular, democratic Iran. She joined persepolis3D in 2003 in handling historical consultation on Iran’s history as well as public relations matters. Ms. Vasseghi may be contacted in relation to the following: (1) planning exhibitions for advertising purposes in promoting historical and cultural awareness of ancient and modern Iran (2) educational services such as conducting and providing classes, workshops, and seminars featuring interviews and speeches in the field of Iranian affairs (3) custom writing services in the field of Iranian affairs and (4) writing of articles for professional journals in the field of Iranian affairs. Ms. Vasseghi may be contacted at



Sasanian Persian King Narseh, the last Iranian king post-first Islamic invasion of mid-7th c. crowned in exile, is often with us … as noted before a group of Iranian nobility including Sasanian kings were given refugee in the Chinese court – Tang dynasty; hence, my affections for that Chinese era … many Iranian princes served as military commanders in the Chinese army and Iranians in general settled in the region in trying to make a new life for themselves.

Tocharian-Donors[Click to Enlarge] The “Tocharian donors” as depicted in the 6th-century CE fresco from the Qizil (or Kizil) Buddhist caves in Xinjiang, China. The attire of the Sassanians, notably Prince Pirouz, son of the fallen Yazdegird III-یزدگرد سوم- (r. 632-651 CE), would have been strongly similar to the attire of the nobles depicted above. For more on the topic of the last Sassanians and their arrival into Tang China see “Tang Dynasty Times: Persian prince Pirouz“.

It is notable that a small town near Xinjiang (where many Sassanian nobility had settled) is called “Shahyar” (Persian: companion of the king).

Google Maps-Shahyar-China[Click to Enlarge]As noted in the above Google Maps description: “Shahyar is a place with a very small population in the province of Xinjiang, China which is located in the continent/region of Asia”. Cities, townships and locales close to Shahyar include ShorYar, Xayar, Schahjar and Chahyar. The closest major cities include Aksu, Yining, Shihezi and Urumqi (Urumchi).

Xinjiang has, since ancient times, been a multicultural region with contacts made with several Iranian peoples, especially the Soghdians of Central Asia. The following is based on Chinese records regarding the region:

Since ancient times Xinjiang (the Western Regions in China) has been home to as many as 30 ancient ethnic groups such as Persians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Turks, and the like, some intercultural tools developed early on for social interaction and commerce such as varied linguistic developments … among 30 languages spoken in Xinjiang region are Iranian Persian and Sogdian … among 20 written languages are Iranian Persian, Sogdian, and Manichean … from the 5 different scripts adopted in the region, one used for Yutain, Tubo and Phags-pa come from sisters to Iranians, the Indian Brahmi script; and one used for Sogdian and Turkic scripts come from Persian Aramaic alphabet …

Shahyar in China-2A rectangular piece of tapestry coming from the Xingjian Ughur Autonomous Region of China clearly showing Sasanian Persian influences in design and artwork. The physiognomy of the person drawn in the tapestry is Caucasoid as opposed to Asiatic, indicative of the strong Indo-European presence in the region since proto Indo-Europeans (i.e. the Tocharians) first entered the region thousands of years ago (Picture source: Several Western researchers however suggest that the person depicted above is a Greek.

Readers are invited to see the video below discussing the findings in the region. Note that a large amount of Sasanian Persian coins have been discovered, alongside other Iranian-style textile; however the expert discussing these findings refrains any mention of their Iranian connections. Instead he provides a general (non-descriptive) overview that refer to inspirations from “some place” … it would appear that this is consistent with some select academic circles that have a tendency to downplay or avoid mention of possible Iranian origins for cultural artifacts.

Secrets of the Silk Road: Trade (

The Last Iranian Tiger in Georgia

The information cited below was forward to by Kooshan Mehran. It was originally posted in the Georgian National Museum.


The Turan tiger-Male, Panthera (Tigris) Virgata species is now unfortunately extinct. The sample seen below was hunted near Tbilisi, specifically in the village of  Lelobi in 1922 by the Tiklauri brothers. The tiger is believed to have come to Georgia from Iran, before meeting his demise in Lelobi.

Panthera-virgata The Panthera (Tigris) Virgata who originated in Iran and met his end in the village of Lelobi, near Tbilisi in Georgia. This is one of the last known specimens of this species of Tiger, now believed to be extinct (Picture Source: Georgian National Museum).


English translation of the book Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)

An important and seminal history book “Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)”, written by the late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010) was originally published in Persian in 1980, and so far has gone through eight reprints and editions. The book deals in depth with the problems of naming the newly established country of Azerbaijan with a name borrowed from its southern neighbour, the Iranian Province of Azerbaijan in 1918, including the conflicts and problems that this action has created. One of the major issues at present is the official re-writing of history that has been taking place within the Baku establishment as documented in the video below (originally announced in by Dr. Mohammad Ala, recipient of the 2013 Grand Prix Film Italia Award):

The above video (also available in Russian, Turkish, and Persian) documents the process of historical revisionism that has been taking place with the Baku establishment of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Note that the latter was named as “Azerbaijan” in May 1918; prior to that date this south Caucasian region was known as the Caucasian Khanates (i.e. Ganja, Sheki, Shirvan, Darband, Mughan, Kuba, Baku, etc.) and/or Arran. The historical Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan was located (according to cartographic and primary sources) below the Araxes River in Iran. The video has been well-researched and documented.

The book has been translated into English by Dr Ara Ghazarian of the Armenian Cultural Foundation of Arlington Massachusetts. it must be noted however that this project was initiated and finally made possible through the hard work and dedication of Rouben Galichian, an accomplished scholar in his own right.

FrontCover_2014“Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)” Published by Bennett & Bloom, London, 2014, 174pp with 12 colour plates. Price $25 or £20.

The book has so far been translated into Armenian and Russian, but until now there had not been an English translation of this extremely valuable work. This gap had to be filled and Galichian decided to act upon it. In 2008 he spoke to Professor Reza asking his permission to translate the book to English, to which he graciously consented. Galichian began the hard work of the translation but due to other urgent projects and commitments the partially completed work had to be abandoned.

YSU-4-Prof Galichian-2Rouben Galichian at the opening seminars in November 1, 2013, at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department  entitled “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics). Galichian has written numerous books outlining the history and cartography of the Caucasus. He is also the author of a number of cartographic articles published in various magazines and has lectured extensively in Europe, the USA, Iran and Armenia. For his services to Armenian historical cartography, Rouben was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia in November of 2008. In 2009 he was the recipient of “Vazgen I” cultural achievements medal. He is married and shares his time between London and Yerevan. Kaveh Farrokh wrote a review of Galichian’s recent text “The Clash of Histories in the South Caucasus” for the prestigious IranNameh Persian language journal.

Then, in 2011, Galichian heard from his friend and scholar Dr Ara Ghazarians of the Armenian Cultural Foundation of Arlington Mass., that he has started the translation of Dr. Reza’s work. Galichian encouraged him and promised to locate suitable maps for the book. Afterwards, Galichian assisted in getting the financial backing and the publication for the English translation of the book. This has resulted in Dr. Ghazarians’ excellently translated and beautifully produced book, to which he has added important explanatory footnotes and complementary information.

Dr Ara GhazarianDr. Ara Ghazarian, curator of the Armenian Cultural Foundation in Arlington, Massachusetts. Ghazarian holds a PhD in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Editorial assistant and manager of the Armenian Review (1987-91) and Director for Resources and Archives of the Zoryan Institute (1989-90), he has been on the faculty of the Emerson College (1984-1998) and translated and edited nine books, among them Heinrich Vierbücher’s Armenia 1915 (2006) and Murad of Sepastia by Mikayel Varandian (2006), Jakob Künzler’s In the Land of Blood and Tears (2007), The Widening Circle and Other Early Short Stories by prolific Armenian writer and journalist Hakob Karapents (2007), and The Astrologer of Karabagh by the nineteenth century Russian novelist Platon P. Zubov (2013).

Subject of the book

Historic defeats of the late Qajar period resulted in loss of territories for Iran to its north and east. In the early decades of the twentieth century, a group of political leaders in the historic Aran (Caucasian Albania), to the north of the Araxes River, which, during the 17-19th centuries was known as Shirvan, renamed their country Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

2-Ottoman Map-1893Ottoman map [Click to Enlarge] outlining Western Iran and the Caucasus in 1893.  Note that Azarbaijan is clearly shown to be the land below or to the south of Aras (Araxes) river – the territories corresponding to the present Republic of Azarbaijan were not known as “Azarbaijan”, but variously as the Caucasian khantes (i.e. Baku, Sheki, Nakhchevan, etc.) or as “Albania” or “Arran”.

Prominent Iranian scholar and historian, Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010), based on extensive research of historical geography of Iran and the Caucasus, provides a picture of the boundaries and the two territories of Azerbaijan to the south and Aran to the north of the Araxes River, respectively, and the advent of the Turks on the world stage, their movement and penetration into Azerbaijan, the Caucasus and Anatolia. A chapter in this book discusses the cultural character of these lands at the time of the arrival of the Turks, followed by a response to the claims of the Pan-Turkist historians in Turkey and Azerbaijan, who claim that the Turkish racial element had been present in these territories before others. Other topics in the book include a discussion of the arrival and incorporation of the Turkish language in Azerbaijan and the Aryan roots of the people of Azerbaijan upon whom the Turkish language has been imposed.

Post-Soviet Propaganda Map

A post-Soviet era propaganda map produced in Baku. The above map (click on the above map to see the video) promotes the false notion that a “Greater Azerbaijan” was divided in two by Russia and Iran in 1828. Historically false claims such as these were first promoted by the pan-Turkists of the early 20th century which were then propagated by the former Soviet Union and the Communists, notably Joseph Stalin and Mirjaafar Baguirov. Unfortunately the legacy of historical amnesia has continued to persist at the official level in the Caucasian state.

The book consists of the following main chapters.

1. The names of Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania) in ancient times
2. Changes over history in the names for Caucasian Albania
3. Geographical boundaries of Caucasian Albania and Azerbaijan
4. Views of Pan-Turkists concerning the Turks
5. Ethnicity and language of the people of Caucasian Albania
6. Ethnicity and language of the people of Azerbaijan
7. Migration of the Turks and spread of the Turkish language in Azerbaijan
8. How Aran came to be named Azerbaijan