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.

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“.

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.

Documentary Film Production: the UNESCO Sassanian Fortress in Darband

Pejman Akbarzadeh is making a new documentary about the Sassanian fortress Darband in Daghestan, which is the largest known (pre-Islamic) Iranian defensive structure in Caucasus. Despite being registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the latter remains (excepting among specialized scholars) remarkably unknown internationally, even among contemporary Iranians.

A view of a section of Darband in winter season (Source: Public Domain).

The Persian Heritage Foundation, founded in the 1980s by the late Ehsan Yarshater (1920-2018; one of the primary editors of the Encyclopedia Iranica) has agreed to cover 50% of the production costs. Pejman will be traveling to Daghestan in October 2019 in order to film the fortress and to interview Murtazali Gadjiev (The Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Daghestan Scientific Centre of Russian Academy of Sciences).

More support however is needed in order to sustain the remaining costs of this important project. For more information on supporting this project on Crowdfunding, click here …

A view of a section of Darband in the summertime (Source: Public Domain).

Pejman’s previous project, was the successful documentary on the Sassanian archway of Taghe Kasra (Taq Kasra) and its critical situation in Iraq. The film has been screened at various museums, universities and international conventions around the world. This documentary film has been cited as an “impressive film” by the BBC.

Journal Article: Caucasian Albanian warriors in the armies of pre-Islamic Iran

The HISTORIA I ŚWIAT academic journal has published the following article by Kaveh Farrokh, Javier Sánchez-Gracia (HRM Ediciones, Zaragoza, Spain), and Katarzyna Maksymiuk (Siedlce University, Poland):

Farrokh, K., Sánchez-Gracia, J., & Maksymiuk, K. (2019). Caucasian Albanian warriors in the armies of pre-Islamic Iran. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, 8, pp.21-46.

The article discusses the important role of ancient Albania, an ancient country in the Caucasus (in the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan, first labelled with this appellation in May 1918) in the history of Iran. Albanian cavalry was serving with the later Achaemenid armies of Darius III (r. 336–330 BCE) at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).

An Albanian-Scythian cavalry commander from the late Achaemenid era (Source: Pinterest). Cavalry of this type from Albania fought for Darius III against Alexander at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).

Albania was transformed into a Sassanian province by Šāpūr I (c. 253) with the Albanians (notably their cavalry) becoming increasingly integrated into the battle order of the Sassanian Spah (army).

Book cover of “The Siege of Amida” authored by Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia (2018) DC – click here to download in pdf from Academia.edu … The above image is a recreation by Ardashir Radpour of a Sassanian Savaran knight of the Hamharzan who were often supplied with the highest quality weaponry. Elite Albanian knights fighting alongside the Savaran would have resembled their comrade in arms with respect to attire, equipment and battle tactics. The above book was displayed at the 2018 ASMEA (Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa) Conference’s LSS (Library of Social Sciences) display in Washington DC.

All along the Caspian coast the Sassanians built powerful defense works, designed to bar the way to invaders from the north. The most celebrated of these fortifications are those of Darband in Caucasian Albania.

A view of the Darband Wall (known commonly as Derbent; cited as Krevar in local dialects) in Daghestan, Northern Caucasus (Courtesy of Associates of Eduard Enfiajyan).  The origins of the wall of Darband are generally attributed to Kavad I (r. 488-496, 498-530 CE) who after a two-year war (489-490 CE) ejected Khazar invaders rampaging Armenia and Caucasian Albania (modern Republic of Azerbaijan). Construction of the wall was continued by Khosrow I (r. 530-579 CE) and by the late 6th century CE, this had become a system of walls connecting a series of fortresses. Total length of the Darband wall is nearly 70 km, spanning the territory from the Caucasus Mountains to the Caspian Sea. The Wall of Darband or Derbent became a major military fortress shielding Iranian territories in the Caucasus and the historical Azarbaijan below the Araxes River from nomadic attackers along the northern Caucasus, most notably the Khazars.

Albania remained an integral part of the Sasanian army well into the empire’s final days as evidenced by the military exploits of Albanian regal prince Javanshir (Persian: Young Lion) and his cavalry who fought against the Arabo-Islamic invaders at the Battle of Qadissiya (637 CE) and after. Javanshir was a member of the Iranian Mehranid family related to the Parthian clans.

A copy of the 7th century CE statue of the Caucasian Albanian Prince Javanshir (Persian: Young Lion) discovered in Nakhchevan, southern Caucasus (the original statue is housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg – the above copy of the original is in the Republic of Azerbaijan History Museum) (Source: Urek Meniashvili in Public Domain).