The Mushtaid (Mojtahed) Garden in Tbilisi

The Mushtaid Garden in Tbilisi (see more about this garden/park in the Georgia About webpage) was established in the 1830’s by Mir-Fatah-Agha who was originally from Iran. By the 1830s Georgia had been fully incorporated into the Russian empire. This was made possible by forcing Qajar-ruled Iran to relinquish her Caucasian territories to the Czarist Russians.  Iran signed the Treaty of Gulistan (September 24, 1813) after her defeat in the first Russo-Iranian war (1804-1813) and the subsequent Treaty of Turkmenchai (February 21, 1828) after the second Russo-Iranian war (1826-1828). As a result of these defeats,  Qajar-ruled Iran was to permanently lose her territorial links to eastern Europe. For more on the Russian-Iranian wars of the early 19th century consult Kaveh Farrokh’s third text “Iran at War 1500-1988“.

Entrance gateway into the Mushtaid Garden in Tbilisi in the late 19th century (Source: Georgia About).

Mir-Fatah-Agha was a mujtahid (Persian: religious leader) – hence the name Mushtaid for the garden. After Nino (Mir-Fatah-Agha’s Georgian wife), passed away of an illness, Mir-Fatah-Agha buried her close to his house and had roses planted around her resting place. This became the foundation for the future Mushtaid (Mujtahid) park, which became an official public park by 1858.

Public restaurant in the Mushtaid Garden of Tbilisi in the late 19th century (Source: Georgia About).

A key question that arises is how (or why) did the Russians decide to grant this prime real estate in one of Eastern Europe’s most lush regions to an Iranian national? This would seem interesting given that the Russians had fought so hard to wrest the entire Caucasus from the Iranians in the early 19th century. The reason the Russians did this is because Mir-Fatah-Agha had greatly helped the Russian empire’s military campaign against his homeland. Mir-Fatah-Agha had been accused of spying during the Russian-Iranian wars and expelled from Iran in 1828, the same year the Treaty of Turkmenchai was signed between imperial Russia and Qajar-ruled Iran.

A view of the Mushtaid (Mujtahid) Garden as it appears today in Tbilisi. As noted in the Georgia About website: “The famous Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani (Niko Pirosmanashvili) (Georgian: ნიკო ფიროსმანი) saw French dancer/actress Margarita perform in Mushtaid Garden in 1905. He was immediately besotted and it is said that he sold everything he owned to buy thousands of roses that were strewn in front of Margarita’s hotel.”

In appreciation of Mir-Fatah-Agha’s services to their empire, the Russians not only granted him asylum but also rewarded him with five hectares of land in Tbilisi (known as Tiflis in Persian and during the time of the Russian Empire).

Children’s railway in the Mushtaid garden or park of Tbilisi. As noted in the Georgia About website: “The first children’s railway in the world was opened in Mushtaid Garden on 24th July, 1935. Operating on a 1.2 km track, it was a narrow-gauge railway, complete with real wagons and locomotives.”

Nevertheless the case of Mir-Fatah-Agha should be considered in context. While more studies are needed in this topic, it would appear that the Qajar era (1789–1925) witnessed the rise of rampant self-interest among government officials and religious clergy (Mullahs and/or Mujtahids). The primary motivation in almost all of these cases was to acquire more wealth, property, recognition and influence. This was so transparent that British officials soon realized that they could easily buy off (often at a relatively low price) most Iranian government officials and clergy (Mullahs). This has been duly noted by Christopher Andrew in his book “Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community” (London, Penguin Books, 1987):

“The Long drawn-out ‘Great Game’ with Tsarist Russia…reached its peak in the later nineteenth century, gave rise to an equally long drawn-out series of intelligence operations…the Foreign office…particularly in Persia which acquired growing importance in British eyes…The Mullahs, who were the main authority within the country, proved vulnerable…to the ‘Cavalry of St George’. Sir Charles (later Baron) Hardinge, who became British Minster at Tehran in 1900, quickly concluded that there were few Persian clerics ‘whose religious zeal is proof against bribes’. The bribes to both Mullahs and civil officials sometimes took unusual forms: among them hyacinth bulbs, cigars, colored spectacles, silver clocks and – on one occasion – an artificial limb presented to a Persian brigand who had lost an arm in an attack on a caravan. The Marquess of Lansdowne, the foreign secretary … in Persia … acknowledged, he had ‘not hesitated to use secret service money’.” [Andrew, 1987, Pages 5-6]

In this context Mir-Fatah-Agha, a Mojtahed, was simply acting as many of his Qajar-era contemporaries would have acted: immediate self-interest even if it meant cooperation with a national adversary.

Rare Iranian Manuscript registered in UNESCO Memory of the World

The report below was originally provided by the Tehran Times on October 31, 2017. Kindly note that the article has been edited in Kavehfarrokh.com and that two images and accompanying captions inserted in the article below are not in the original Tehran Times report.

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The book is preserved at the library of Tehran’s Golestan Palace Museum, Farhad Nazari, an official of Iran’s Culture Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization, told the Persian service of ISNA on Tuesday. As noted by Nazari:

Numerous versions of the book are kept at various libraries around the world…”

Nazari added that the book kept at the Golestan Palace Museum is one of the most splendid versions that represents artistic and cultural values.

The Jami’ al-Tawarikh (“World History”), a rare illustrated medieval folio by Rashid al-Din Fadl allah Hamedani (1247-1318) from Iran has been registered on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register list (Source: Tehran Times).

Rashid al-Din was a physician and historian to the court of Ghazan Khan (1271-1304), an Ilkhanid ruler who commissioned him to write the Jami al-Tawarikh. However, it was completed during the reign of Oljaitu who ruled from 1307 to 1316.

The Jami’ al-Tawarikh covers the history of the Mongols, the Chinese, Franks and Indians.

The Jami’ al-Tawarikh is an important historical source on the history of Gheghiz Khan and the Mongol conquests – above is Kaveh Farrokh’s article “armies of the Mongols” published in the July 2017 issue of the Military History journal.

The book is the tenth item that has been inscribed UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register list.

The Kulliyat-i Sadi, Persian poet Sadi’s Bustan (The Orchard) and Gulistan (The Rose Garden), and the Kitab al-Masalik wal-Mamalik (The Book of Itineraries and Kingdoms) by Abu Is’haq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Istakhri both were inscribed on the list in one file in 2015.

A rare copy of the Bustan or Bostan on display by the Bulgarian National Library Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Sofia, Bulgaria at the “Days of Iranian Culture in Bulgaria – 2012/2013” exhibit on 10 January 2013 (Courtesy of Yuri Stoyanov). The event had also been organized with the help of prominent Iranologist Professor Yuri Stoyanov (member of the Department of the Near and Middle East, Faculty of Languages and Cultures in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London).

Earlier in 2013, a collection of selected maps of Iran from the Qajar era (1779-1926), was added to the list.

At-Tafhim” written by Abu Rayhan Biruni (973-1048 CE) and “Khamseh” composed by Nezami Ganjavi (c. 1141-1209 CE) were other Iranian books registered on the list in 2011.

A collection of Iran’s administrative documents dating back to the Safavid era was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register list in 2009.

In addition, the Shahnameh of Baysunqur, one of three ancient copies of Ferdowsi’s epic masterpiece, and the Endowment Deed of Rab-e Rashidi are two other Iranian works that were registered on the list in 2007.

Shireen T. Hunter: The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus

Readers are introduced to the following comprehensive textbook edited by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter pertaining to the Southern Caucasus:

The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus: Prospects for Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution

 

Publisher: Lexington Books

Series: Contemporary Central Asia: Societies, Politics, and Cultures

Hardcover: 304 pages

Release Date: September 22, 2017

ISBN-10: 1498564968

ISBN-13: 978-1498564960

Order textbook through Amazon.com or Lexington Books

The above volume features an impressive array of scholars and experts: Bulent Aras, Richard Giragosian, Mohammad Homayounvash, Shireen T. Hunter (also editor of the textbook), Richard Kauzlarich, Eldar Mamedov, Sergey Markedonov, Mohaiddin Mesbahi, Nona Mikhelidze, Ghia Nodia.

This textbook, which is essentially a collection of examinations of the three South Caucasian states’ economic, social and political evolution since their independence in 1991, is remarkable in its depth and breadth of examination of the geopolitical processes in the Southern Caucasus.

Shireen T. Hunter is a research professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. History , Culture and Politics of Iran and the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Culture and Politics of Sh’iism, Islam and Politics, Muslim Communities in Europe and Russia, Theory of International Relations, Foreign Policy Analysis, Religion and International Affairs. For a comprehensive overview of Dr. Hunter’s expertise and publications see her profile at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service …

The textbook assesses the successes and failures of the Southern Caucasian states in their economic, social and political domains, especially their attempts at construction wholly new national identities and value systems in the endeavor at replacing Soviet-era cultural constructs. Readers are also encouraged (as a preamble to reading the book) to read the following report submitted by Dr. Shireen Hunter in a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, held at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service on October 28, 2016:

Shahram Akbarzadeh (Deakin University) provides the following assessment of Dr. Hunter’s text:

Shireen T. Hunter has brought together a truly international team of experts to examine the complex geopolitics of the South Caucasus. The breadth and depth of analysis of key questions such as state-building, democracy, and the US–Russian rivalry present the reader with a rich and textured account of the region. This volume is a tour de force on the interplay of global and regional dynamics that have made the geopolitics of the South Caucasus a continuing source of challenges and opportunities.”

Map of Iran in 1805 before the invasions of Czarist Russia. Note the Caucasus, north of Iran and along the eastern Caspian littoral, which was Iranian territory. Note that the above map is one of many archival and cartographic sources demonstrating that there has been no “Greater Azerbaijan”  allegedly “divided” between Qajar Iran and Tsarist Russia. Russia invaded Iran and forced her to cede the Caucasus.  Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat, which broke away with British support (Source: CAIS).

The textbook clearly expostulates the complex interaction of domestic factors with international pressures and how these have impacted upon the new states. There is an exhaustive examination of regional forces neighboring the Southern Caucasus as well as international geopolitical forces (political, economic, etc.), especially with respect how the (often) divergent aims of these players (regional and international) are affecting the development trajectory of these states. The textbook also provides a comprehensive analysis for how the Southern Caucasian states can engage in resolving conflicts and to engage in constructive cooperation.

Greetings across the Araxes: Iranian Azeris greet the citizens of the ROA or Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) in 1990. Interestingly many Western news reports at the time noted how many of the ROA were demanding re-unification with Iran, an ancient state with strong cultural and historical influences in the southern Caucasus.

Ronald Grigor (Suny, University of Michigan):

Shireen T. Hunter, herself an expert in Caucasian and Central Asian affairs, has gathered an exceptional team of specialists on the local histories, recent experiences, and geopolitics affecting the three South Caucasian republics—Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Geography may be destiny, but surviving and thriving in an area contested for centuries by Iran, Russia, and Turkey requires both diplomatic and political skills as well as good luck. In essays written with deep local knowledge and exceptional clarity, leading specialists guide the reader through the intricacies and complexities of the region. If you want to understand the past, present, and future of the South Caucasian peoples, this is the book with which to begin.”

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) one of the ideological founders of the former Soviet Union. Trotsky who was finally deported from Russia in 1929, was highly critical of Joseph Stalin’s falsification of history to suit political purposes, a process which he characterized as “Stalin’s School of Falsification”. One of the results of “Stalin’s History School” was the rewriting of Iran’s cultural, linguistic and historical legacy in the Caucasus. As noted by Dr. Nazrin Mehdiyova (herself originating from the Republic of Azerbaijan) has noted thatAs a result [of Soviet manipulation of history], the myth [of a Greater Azerbaijan] became deeply ingrained in the population [of the Republic of Azerbaijan] …” (Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280; “Azerbaijan and its foreign policy dilemma”, Asian Affairs, 34, pages 271-285). To be clear: history books were actually falsified and re-written by the Soviet Union in large part to (literally) erase the legacy of Iranian history, culture and the Persian language in the Caucasus. The Soviets also invented terms such as “Persian chauvinism” and “pan-Iranism” and used these against any scholars daring to question the Soviet Union’s manufacturing of history. Unfortunately, despite Trotsky’s warnings, Soviet-era propaganda narratives are being promoted by various Western venues at present.  Trotsky paid a high price for questioning Stalin’s methods: he was finally brutally murdered by Stalin’s Soviet agents in Mexico on August 20, 1940.

John Evans (former US ambassador to Armenia):

This study puts today’s volatile South Caucasus in its proper historical and geopolitical context. Readers new to the subject will become conversant with the main issues; old hands will find much to ponder and discuss. Shireen T. Hunter’s own unique perspective is especially valuable.”

Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

Finally readers are also encouraged to read the following selection of recent articles by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter:

Military History Journal article on Mongolian Armies

The British Military History Monthly Journal of July 2017 features an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the armies of the Mongols:

Farrokh, K. (2017). The armies of the Mongols. Military History Monthly, July Issue 82, pp.36-41.

[Right] Cover of the July edition of the British Military History Monthly journal [left] Sample page of the article on Mongolian armies in the British Military History Monthly article. 

As noted in the article: “From the highest khans to the lowliest tribesmen, Mongol warriors would be capable of the most elaborate and coordinated combined-arms operations on the battlefield – partly due to relentless peacetime training, partly to the practice of the hunt, a regular form of military or ‘live fire’ exercise, with bows and other weapons as well as equestrian skills in use against dangerous prey”.

 

A contemporary image of a Mongol or Turkic archer with a recurved composite bow; long-range skirmishing and archery were fundamental to the steppelands way of war (Source: Military History Monthly, July 2017).

The article also provides an overview of the tactics, armaments and key characteristics of the armies of the Mongols. It is further averred in the article that: “…scholars attribute Mongol successes to a combination of exemplary tactics, tight discipline, and exceptional command and control“.

A contemporary image of a Persian horse archer; the warfare of Mongols, Turks and Persians alike was based on horsemanship and archery (Source: Military History Monthly, July 2017).

The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan perfected the stratagem “march divided, attack united”.

Uniform and helmet of a Mongol-Yuan warrior during the failed Mongolian invasion of Japan (Source: Public Domain).

A Stroll Through Isfahan’s Armenian Julfa Quarter

The report “A Stroll Through the Isfahan’s Armenian Julfa Quarter” and the accompanying photos below were originally published in the Real Iran outlet on March 7, 2016.

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New Julfa (literally Jolfa quarter of Isfahan) is the Armenian quarter of Isfahan, Iran, located along the south bank of the river Zayandeh River.

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Established by Armenians from Julfa, Nakhichevan in the early 17th century, it is still one of the oldest and largest Armenian quarters in the world.

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New Julfa was established in 1606 as an Armenian quarter by edict of Shah Abbas I, the influential shah from the Safavid dynasty. Over 150,000 Armenians were moved there from Julfa in Nakhichevan.

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All history accounts agree that, as the residents of Julfa were famous for their silk trade, Shah Abbas treated the population well and hoped that their resettlement in Isfahan would be beneficial to Persia.

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New Julfa is still an Armenian-populated area with an Armenian school and sixteen churches, including Surp Amenaprgitch Vank, which is a Unesco World Heritage site, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.

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Armenians in New Julfa observe Iranian law with regard to clothing, but otherwise retain a distinct Armenian language, identity cuisine, and culture.

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The policy of the Safavids was very tolerant towards the Armenians as compared to other minorities, such as the Iranian Georgians and Circassians.

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According a reference by David Petrosyan of the Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian studies, New Julfa had between 10,000-12,000 Armenian inhabitants in 1998. As of today it is still one of the largest ethnic Armenian quarters in the world.

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Popular with young people in Isfahan, it is experiencing considerable growth compared to other districts.