The First Airplane Flight over the skies of Tehran

Mankind’s first aerial flight was to take place on December 17, 1903 by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, USA. With this technological leap, the world was to rapidly enter the domain of aviation.

On January 4, 1914, just over ten years after the flight at Kitty Hawk, the citizenry of Tehran witnessed the first flight of the airplane over Tehran. Caught unawares and never having seen an airplane before, many citizens rushed out of their houses and workplaces into the streets as they heard the roar of the aircraft’s engines as it flew at low level over Tehran’s rooftops. Tehran curious citizenry were struck with amazement as they witnessed what probably resembled a metallic bird in flight.

The first aerial photo taken of Tehran by a balloon approximately 90 years ago (Photo: Bartarinha) (for more on this see “First Balloon Flight over Tehran”). The pilot of the Berliot 1 that first took flight over Tehran on January 4, 1914 most likely witnessed a similar panorama as he flew over the city.

The pilot circled the city environs and soon decided to land his airplane.

While the nationality of the pilot is identified as “Russian” (Babaie, Gh. [1385/2006], “History of the Iranian Air Force”, 1383/2004, Tehran: Entesharat Ashian, page 20), he was in fact an ethnic Pole by the name of “Kuzminskii”. Kuzminskii had already made exhibition flights in other countries before arriving in Iran. The airplane itself is often identified by Iranian military historians as the “Blériot” but in practice this was actually a Russian copy of the French designed Blériot XI which was to also see action in World War One.

A Russian copy of the French-designed Blériot XI known as the “Rossiya-B” (Source: Copycats Work). This Blériot XI was produced under license in Czarist Russia where it was Christened as the “Rossiya-B”. It was one of the Russian-manufactured Blériot’s that flew over Tehran.

As Tehran did not yet have an airfield per se, he decided to land his plane in the military grounds of the local barracks of the Meydan Masqh (میدان مشق) of the Persian Cossack Division (this was to subsequently become the location of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as it remains to the present). However, as the plane landed it collided with the barrel of an artillery piece parked in the grounds, damaging the aircraft. The pilot himself was unharmed. By this time, large crowds of excited and curious citizens forced themselves into the barracks, in hopes of getting a glimpse of this strange flying machine.

A color graphic of the Meydan Masqh (میدان مشق) as it would have appeared in the early twentieth century (Source: gt724).

The plane was actually unable to take off for a number of days as crowds from all across Tehran began pouring into the barracks. Equally of interest is arrival of the Blériot into Iran. Kuzminskii had bought this over into Iran in parts from Czarist Russia by way of the Caspian Sea into the northern Iranian port city of Bandar Anzali. From there, the plane was transported in kits (or sections) by automobile from northern Iran to Tehran. Once Kuzminskii arrived in Tehran, he re-assembled the airplane and took off to the city’s skies on January 4, 1914. The flight certainly did not go unnoticed by Iran’s ruling class. The very next day, the Qajar monarch, Ahmad Shah (r. 1909-1925) alongside his retinue, various government officials and high-ranking military personnel arrived at the barracks to inspect the plane and welcome its pilot.

Ahmad Shah (r. 1909-1925) (2nd from left), the last Qajar monarch of Iran, poses in front of the Blériot aircraft and its Polish pilot identified as “Kuzminskii” (at left with white Persian cap) on January 5th, 1914 (Source: Maboubeh Pouryusefi [محبوبه پوریوسفی] in Fararu). Note the attendance of Ahmad Shah’s retinue alongside members of the Persian Cossack Division (Source: Fararu). The photo, according to Maboubeh Pouryusefi of the Fararu outlet, was first published in the French “L’Illustration” newspaper. Just over seven months after the Berliot 1’s flight over Tehran, the world would be plunged into the First World War on July 28, 1914.

Local hucksters were quick to seize the aircraft’s presence to sell tickets at exorbitant prices. However, as the plane was damaged it was unable to take off. Assisted by Iranian military personnel, Kuzminskii succeeded in transporting the aircraft to Tehran’s military repair headquarters which often overhauled and rebuilt military hardware such as artillery, etc. The location of this repair depot has been identified as Third Esfand street (خیابان سوم اسفند). Kuzminskki, who had engineering training, was assisted by an Iranian officer identified as Oshtodagh (اشتوداخ) who was the father of Major-General Issa Oshtodagh (تیمسار سرلشکر عیسی اشتوداخ). With the plane repaired, Kuzminskii then transferred this back to Meydan Masqh (میدان مشق). However, he subsequently decided that it was too dangerous to attempt a take-off from Meydan Masqh (میدان مشق). As a result, he decided to relocate the plane by land transport to a locale known as the “Qajar Palace” (قصر قاجار). This area featured a level ground which was suitable for take-off and landings. From this area Kuzminskii made a number of other flights over Tehran.

Maboubeh Pouryusefi [محبوبه پوریوسفی] however notes in the Fararu outlet that the plane crashed and that parts of this soon appeared on a horse-drawn wagon as it ambled down Tehran’s Ala-Dowleh street (خیابان علاءالدوله), which is present-day Firdowsi street (خیابان فردوسی). Pouryusefi notes that the wagon traveled towards Tehran’s Meydan Toopkhaneh (میدان توپخانه) district. This version of events however is not corroborated by Iranian aviation historian Babaie (Babaie, Gh. [1383/2004, Tehran: Entesharat Ashian], “History of the Iranian Air Force”).

It would not be until 1922 when Iran’s first airfields were to be developed. The first airfield was to be built in the south of Tehran. Just two years later in 1924, the foundations of Iran’s civil and military aviation would be established.

Journal Article on Western Persephobia

The Persian Heritage journal has published an article on Persephobia (in two parts) written by Kaveh Farrokh, Sheda Vasseghi and Javier Sánchez-Gracia:

The introductory segments of the article(s) expostulate the following:

Professor Avram Noam Chomsky (political scientist, linguist, social critic and philosopher) noted in an interview on August 25, 2018 that the American “… hatred of Iran is such a deep-seated part of modern American culture. To eradicate it is going to be very hard.” This antipathy is defined as Persophobia (or anti-Iranism) which is prejudice, hostility, and animosity against (1) Iranians (2) the Persian language and wider Iranian culture and (3) the Persian (and wider Iranian) historical and cultural legacy in Islamic, Turkish, Arabian, European, Indian and Asian civilizations. There are plenty of examples of Persophobia or anti-Iranism in Western media outlets. These include Ann Coulter’s reference to Iranians as “ragheads (CNS News, Feb.13, 2006), with a cartoon by the Columbus Dispatch Newspaper (Sept.4, 2007) portraying the country of Iran as a sewer out of which emanate cockroaches (presumably Iranian people). This is surprisingly parallel to the Persophobic propaganda of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein which referred to Iranians and Jews as being equivalent to flies. Several Western government officials have continually expressed profound Persophobic sentiments. What is of significance here is that this discourse makes no distinction between the people of Iran versus the pan-Islamist regime currently ensconced in Tehran. … Western policy makers routinely pathologize Iranians at the DNA level …

A fantasy portrayal of Persian Immortals in the “300” movies – In one of the earlier scenes of the first “300” movie, Spartan King Leonidas holds a dying boy who, in reference to the invading Achaemenid host, states softly that the Persians “ … came from the blackness …” implying that “the Persians” are literally “evil”. It would appear that portraying Iranians as monsters, troglodytes, degenerates, and demons is seen as innocent “artistic entertainment”, however other nationalities are exempt from this “art form” as this would be deemed as “tasteless and politically incorrect” and would be regarded as a “hate crime”. For more see … The “300” Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction

The article(s) further aver:

Persophobia has also permeated into print literature, media and entertainment venues. While a virtual cornucopia of examples can be provided, note Jeffrey Ludwig’s essay in the American Thinker (November 10, 2014): “There is no … tradition of rationality in Iran.  They are a deeply disorganized, primitive people …  crude … devoid of … grace, love, faith, or hope. … Deception, glib talking, and sycophantic posturing … hatefulness, rage, and utterly evil intentions … is the Iranian norm.” Excepting extreme right-wing and white supremacist outlets, would such literature have been printed if this had been directed towards any other (non-Iranian) ethnic and religious groups? It would appear that when it comes to one singular group (Iranians), the machinations of human rights and political correctness in Western print outlets stand in abeyance. 

Adam Purinton, 51, who was charged with the first-degree murder of two Indian nationals (Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani) at a restaurant in Olathe, Kansas on February 22, 2017 (Source & above photo: AP). Purinton had in fact mistaken the two victims as Iranians. Interestingly Purinton had specifically stated that he had shot two Iranian people (see BBC News report (February 28, 2017) “Olathe, Kansas, shooting suspect ‘said he killed Iranians'”), however mainstream media outlets such as CNN misrepresented his statement by replacing “Iranian” with the contrived term “Middle Eastern” (a 20th century geopolitical invention by English statesmen). It is unclear as to why CNN’s intent was to misrepresent (or not mention) accurate information. One possibility is that CNN’s intent (an analysis which they would most likely disagree with) was to prevent viewers from seeing Iranians as ordinary people and victims of hate crimes. Purinton is described as having shouted “terrorist” and “get out of my country” just before he shot his victims.

Another observation, especially with respect to the Anglo-European perspective towards the Persian language is as follows:

From the outset of the establishment of their rule in India, the British attitude towards Iran was ambivalent at best, and unfavorable towards the Persian language in particular. The English Education Act of 1835 essentially banned the teaching of Persian in India and its official use in Indian courts. Up to this time, Indians of diverse backgrounds (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc.) were able to rely on Persian as a common Lingua Franca. Eliminating Persian was instrumental for the solidification of British rule over the Indian subcontinent. India’s large and diverse population was now also cut off from a wide swathe of Persian-speakers in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran. To further weaken the bonds between India’s Hindus, Muslim, Sikhs, etc. the British East Company also supported the promotion of extremist Islamist cults seeking to eliminate Persian and Indian cultural influences.

Shattering Eurocentric Stereotypes: Iranian women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest) engaged in target practice in the Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 CE). Western media and Eurocentrist academics have worked hard to block such images from appearing in mainstream Western culture (Picture courtesy of Shahyar Mahabadi). For more on this topic see The Women of Persia

Book Review of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” By Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani

The Persian Heritage journal has published the following Book Review by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2019). Book review of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” By Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani. Persian Heritage, 95, pp.22-23.

Book cover of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“; Orders for this textbook can be taken at: info@mmkhorasani.com

As noted in the book review:

The book presents a thorough and detailed analysis of the introduction and development of historical firearms in Iran. The present book is a result of years of study on historical Persian manuscripts on firearms making, clas sification and usage and as well as an analysis of the Persian firearms kept in the Military Museum of Tehran.

Sample page from the text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

This textbook is organized into four major parts:

Part I: History of Firearms in Iran

1] Introduction

2] Matchlock Muskets: The Introduction of Firearms into Iran

3] Flintlock Muskets: The Introduction of Flintlocks into Iran

4] Persian Percussion Cap Muskets and Wall Guns

5] Pistols in Iran

6] Gun and Pistol Accoutrements

7] Cannons and Rockets

Part II: Persian manuscripts on Firearms

1] A Safavid Manucript on Casting Bronze Cannons

2] A Persian Manuscript on Rockets

3] A Qajar-period Manuscript on Cannons and Rockets

4] Other Persian manuscripts on Ordnance

Part III: Firearms in Miniatures and Paintings

Part IV: Catalog

1] Matchlock Muskets

2] Flintlock Muskets

3] Percussion Cap Lock Muskets

4] Flintlock Pistols

5] Percussion Cap Lock Pistols

6] Gun and Pistol Accoutrements

7] Cannons

The book review published in the Persian Heritage journal provides an in-depth analysis of the contents. It is important to note that this book is the first comprehensive academic study of the domain of the history of Iranian firearms.

Short video by Dr. Khorasani regarding his text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

Remnants of a Centuries-old structure Discovered in Northwest Iran

The news report “Remnants of centuries-old structure found in northwest Iran” was originally posted in the Tehran Times on October 2, 2019. the version published below has been slightly edited from the original version posted in Tehran Times.

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Archaeologists have recently unearthed a vast centuries-old structure during excavation in Rab’-e Rashidi, a 14th-century educational complex in East Azarbaijan province, northwest Iran. Senior Iranian archaeologist Bahram Ajorlou said on Wednesday:

Remnants of a vast structure, measuring some 3,600 square meters, have been found in six archaeological trenches in Rab’-e Rashidi, where an excavation and restoration project is underway … The newly discovered structure is estimated to date from the 8th century AH (1299 CE – 1397 CE) to 10th century AH (1495 CE – 1591 CE) and it also bears fragments of tilework, which date back to the 8th century AH”.

The archaeologists have also discovered three stages of wall architecture, evidence of industrial activities. They have acquired some data from archaeobotanical researches, Ajorlou concluded.

A frontal view of the Rab’-e Rashidi site in Iran’s East Azarbaijan province (Source: Tehran Times)

The third round of excavation and restoration work is carried out by a panel of international cultural heritage experts, archaeologists, and restorers from Iran, the German Archaeological Institute, the Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Cultural Heritage and Tourism Research Center in collaboration with Tabriz Islamic Art University completed the first phase of the international project to lay the groundwork for UNESCO recognition.

Archaeological speculations, geophysical surveys, 3D laser scans, and endoscopy of the ancient structure were carried out during the first phase.

Situated in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Rab’-e Rashidi includes several archaeological layers that date from Ilkhanid, Safavid and Qajar eras. It is said that students from Iran, China, Egypt, and Syria studied there under the supervision of physicians, intellectuals, scientists and Islamic scholars.

The ancient complex embraces a paper factory, a library, a hospital (Dar-al-Shafa), a Quranic center (Dar-al-Quran), residential facilities for teachers, students’ quarters and a caravanserai amongst other facilities.

Iran is considering the possible inscription of the site on the UNESCO World Heritage list by 2025.

Journal Article: A Unique Parthian Sword

The HISTORIA I ŚWIAT academic journal has published the following article by Gholamreza Karamian (ORCID iD 0000-0003-4200-2592) and Kaveh Farrokh (ORCID iD 0000-0001-5732-2447):

Karamian, Gh., & Farrokh, K. (2019). A unique Parthian sword. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, 8, pp.211-214.

One of the Parthian swords housed at the Iran Bastan Museum (Source: Iran Bastan Museum, Inventory number: 1603/18028; Gholamreza Karamian, Rakhsareh Esfandiari ). This was originally discovered in Nowruz Mahalleh, in the Deylaman region of northern Iran in 1960. For more see: Farrokh, K., Karamian, Gh., Delfan, M., Astaraki, F. (2016). Preliminary reports of the late Parthian or early Sassanian relief at Panj-e Ali, the Parthian relief at Andika and examinations of late Parthian swords and daggers. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.5, pp. 31-55.

The article provides a detail and in-depth analysis of a unique Parthian sword in one of Tehran’s museums (Inventory number: 44797). For further analyses of Parthian military equipment, readers are referred to:

Close-up of a reconstruction by David Wilcox and the late Angus McBride of an armored Parthian cavalry – For more on  Parthian Militaria consult: Parthian Military History and Armies …

A Parthian dagger discovered in Rasht, Gilan province in northern Iran in 1966 (Iran Bastan Museum, Inventory number: 3628/19196; Gholamreza Karamian, Rakhsareh Esfandiari). For more see: Farrokh, K., Karamian, Gh., Delfan, M., Astaraki, F. (2016). Preliminary reports of the late Parthian or early Sassanian relief at Panj-e Ali, the Parthian relief at Andika and examinations of late Parthian swords and daggers. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.5, pp. 31-55.