Revolution and Reform in Russia and Iran: Modernisation and Politics in Revolutionary States 9780755611140, 9781848855540

The Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 are two examples of dramatic, sudden and extraordinar

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Revolution and Reform in Russia and Iran: Modernisation and Politics in Revolutionary States
 9780755611140, 9781848855540

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For my family


The genesis of this book is in my doctoral thesis, completed in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent at Canterbury. My special thanks go to my supervisor Professor Richard Sakwa. I would also like to thank my mentors for their invaluable support. I am thankful to Dr. Mohammad Javad Faridzadeh, Ambassador Mohammad Taheri and Ambassador Sadegh Kharazi for their indispensable insights. I appreciate the input I received from Dr. Mahmoud Vaezi who contributed to the project with his valuable reflections on the subject matter. I also appreciate the courteous and efficient help I received from Maria Marsh and Joanna Godfrey at I.B.Tauris. Thanks are due to Clare Thomlinson and Susan Forsyth for helping me polish my final draft. I want to thank my family, Mohammad, Sousan, Ghazaleh and Kourosh who supported me in more ways than I can express here. I am grateful to all who read the manuscript and gave me the benefit of their thoughtful criticisms as well as their spirited suggestions. I received encouragement and constant motivation from my friends, Fausto Brito e Abreu, Manuel Guerra, João Costa, Samira Sadeghi, Sofia Noronha, Luisa Lencastre and BN. Although the book has benefited greatly from the help and advice of my family, friends and editors, I myself am, of course, responsible for its shortcomings.


Introduction: The Case for Comparing Russia and Iran The choice of Russia and Iran as comparative case studies and their respective revolutions as the anchorage of this analysis may at first appear a little curious. Clearly, the two countries have far more differences than similarities. However, both experienced modernising movements that directly resulted in widespread social unrest and political upheaval: in Russia in 1917 and in Iran in 1978-9. In the years preceding revolutionary conflict, both countries embarked on ambitious modernisation programmes modelled on western European socio-economic patterns. However, in both cases what we saw was a deep-rooted incapacity or even reluctance to modernise strictly along western lines. The pathology of failed adaptation to western standards lies at the heart of this book. Speaking of imperial Russia, Tim McDaniel observes that it is not dissimilar from other cultural trends in the non-western world in its fundamental opposition to western European society. 1 Anti-European feeling was manifested in the ongoing tension between those wishing to integrate Russia into western culture and those who resisted westernisation in favour of Russia’s national traditions and spiritual values.



Even some die-hard Slavophiles (proponents of Russia’s indigenous institutions and practices) wished to have for Russia the benefits of western democracy but they saw in western culture a tendency towards individualism, which they considered to be anathema to the Russian spirit. This dilemma was exacerbated by Tsar Nicholas II’s ambivalent and lop-sided modernisation campaign, which drove a deeper wedge between the intelligentsia (Slavophiles and westernisers alike) and the modernising tsar. As we shall elaborate below, the stresses and strains of the break-neck pace of industrialisation had a direct bearing on the persistence of Russian conservative ideology in relation to western patterns and models of development and western representations of a ‘modern’ society. In the case of Iran, imperial modernisation had a similar effect on the discourse of development. Conservative, antiwestern (not necessarily anti-modern) rhetoric flourished during Mohammad Reza Shah’s ambivalent westernisation drive during which he tried to ‘copy and paste’ western institutions onto traditional structures. Well-known apologist for the modern national liberation movements, Michel Foucault, asserted that anti-shah activism, Iranian revolutionary practices and the Islamist revival were forms of resistance to the dead weight of western modernity. The antiimperialist, Orientalist discourse of the left was ‘fashionable’ in the 1960s and 1970s, as was the ‘west-toxication’ (Gharbzadegi) discourse, which was a powerful rhetorical tool in the hands of Iranian Muslims who rejected the infiltration of western ideas and practices, and instead advocated a return to authentic Islamic culture. Still, many non-religious and even religious Pahlavi-era intellectuals advanced an Iranian nativist discourse by which they tried to distance themselves from the west and establish the superiority of Iranian or Islamic culture, civilisation and knowledge. What we shall reveal in this book is that the Russian and Iranian revolutions



represented far more than episodes of social unrest: revolution was an expression of the repudiation of western developmental patterns and a quest to delineate an indigenous path to modernity. Social revolutions are extremely difficult to predict. Such was the case with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9. Only two months prior to the February Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, in an address to an audience of youthful Bolshevik supporters in Zurich, asserted that although they might live to see the proletarian revolution, he, at the age of 46, did not expect to do so. Likewise, only a year before the Iranian uprising, American President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that Iran, because of the ‘great leadership of the shah’, was an ‘island of stability’ in one of the more troubled areas of the world. 2 Both statements reveal the unexpectedness of the two revolutions. Few would have guessed that the time-honoured tsarist system, a fundamental structure of Russian tradition, would collapse; or, that the Shahanshah, the self-proclaimed king of kings, with his massive security apparatus and formidable wealth, would be toppled. More than 60 years separated these two revolutions, and the international context of the two nations was entirely different. Russia was in the throes of the twentieth century’s First World War and at a much earlier stage of development than pre-revolutionary Iran. Russia had been impoverished by a bloody military campaign that had brought the country to a grinding halt, and its revolutionaries placated the war-weary masses with promises of peace and material prosperity under the banner of socialism. Iran, in contrast, had not been weakened by war and was financially sound as the result of a steady flow of petrodollars. Moreover, the Iranian revolution had a religious component: it was predominantly steered by Islamic revolutionaries aspiring to a non-secular Shi’a republic, whereas Lenin sought to construct a socialist state based on the Marxist premise that religion was an illusion. 3



Nevertheless, despite differing goals, ideological organisation and long-term outcome, the two revolutions share an important similarity: both occurred after years of purposive state-driven modernisation carried out against the backdrop of a repressive autocracy. Comparison of Tsar Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah’s modernisation movements reveals a set of common features. Based on these shared characteristics, I want to advance a model here that is identified as ‘modernisation from above’, a developmental path that contributed to the widespread social discontent experienced in the years preceding revolution. This concept of modernisation from above provides a fresh perspective to an old question with which social scientists have been grappling for years: why were the Romanov and Pahlavi dynasties swept away by revolution? Modernisation from above was beset with inherent shortcomings. First, the impetus for modernisation stemmed from a desire to rapidly ‘catch up’ with developed western nations, both economically and militarily. In the words of Tsar Nicholas II’s Finance Minister, Sergei Witte: Russia is an independent and strong power. She has the right and the strength not to want to be the eternal handmaiden of states which are more developed economically … she is proud of her great might, by which she jealously guards not only the political but also the economic independence of her empire. She wants to be a metropolis herself. 4 The shah demonstrated similar enthusiasm by vowing to transform Iran into the world’s fifth industrial power by 2000. The urgency of this task necessitated a state-sponsored modernisation campaign implemented ‘autocratically’ and from the top down under a heavily centralised political authority. In both the Russian and Iranian cases, government



bodies primarily played an administrative or advisory role. If they opposed a particular policy, the imperial prerogative was invoked to bypass the government. A useful example here is Witte’s proposal for rouble convertibility – a measure he believed would attract foreign investment. As Witte expressed it, ‘nearly the whole of thinking Russia was opposed to the reform’, 5 but when the State Council expressed misgivings about the devaluation that convertibility entailed, Nicholas II resorted to an imperial decree. Mohammad Reza Shah was also notorious for overruling government ministers. He initially intended to make the drafting of the various developmental programmes an inclusive process. The ‘Budget and Plan Organisation’, a group of ministers, economists and statisticians, was set up to assist the shah in drafting economic reform packages. However, as soon as ministers began cautioning the shah about the effects of over-spending and the limitations of Iran’s absorptive capacity, they were marginalised. 6 In describing the preparation for the Five-year Developmental Plan (1973-8), Robert Graham explains, ‘the decision on what to do was the shah’s: [prime minister] Hoveida was there like an obedient doctor to give the shah the political pulse of the country’. 7 Another shared feature of the Russian and Iranian development drives was the leadership’s belief that modernisation was limited to the expansion of industry, the deployment of infrastructure and military might: the outward expressions of modern states, in other words. These ventures were pursued largely at the neglect of the agricultural sector – a major artery of both the Russian and Iranian economies. With the principal focus on the swift build-up of the country’s economic and military might, the agricultural sector assumed secondary importance. In Russia’s case, the problem was critical because the terms of the Emancipation Act of 1861 had only further



impoverished the serfs it had supposedly ‘liberated’. As we will detail later in the study, the burden of redemption payments, together with the inefficiency of farming and cultivation due to lack of incentives (the result of granting land to the communes instead of to individual farmers, and the periodic land repartitioning carried out by the commune), had aggravated the agrarian crisis. Arthur Mendel expresses the urgency of the need for reform in the countryside at this time: ‘Russia would remain poor and dissatisfied unless the agrarian problem was solved effectively; yet such was the urgent need of economic development in other fields that the peasant was virtually sacrificed for the sake of industrialisation’. 8 Although the agrarian question was finally addressed, an apparently workable solution was implemented only after the 1905 revolution. The Iranian agricultural landscape was in a similar predicament, even though it was at a much later stage of development, compared to Russia. Homa Katouzian explains that the shah, by channelling state funds to the urban sector (heavy industries, construction, services, banking and insurance), ‘let agriculture die a natural death’. The emphasis on the urban sector and neglect of the agricultural sector, he argues, resulted in stagnation, the widening of the rural-urban gulf through peasant migration into towns and cities (leading to unemployment and housing shortages), and a domestic food deficit that the government exacerbated by injecting oil dollars into the urban consumption of domestic products and imports. 9 Also neglected during the Russian and Iranian modernisation campaigns was the outdated political system. Neither autocrat deemed it necessary to complement economic development with political development. Thus, modernisation effectively consisted of the hybridisation of two incongruent tendencies: economic acceleration on the one hand and the increasing ‘archaisation’ of political



institutions on the other. Conceptually, one can conceive of Russian and Iranian modernisation as a double helix, with one strand representing western economic and military aspirations, and the other representing the backward political institutions – the intertwined strands perpetuated a state of contradiction. Collectively, these are the core features of ‘modernisation from above’, the contradictions of which generated an atmosphere of widespread socio-economic and political discontent in both Romanov Russia and Pahlavi Iran. It will be argued here that the inconsistencies of this pattern of development led popular groups to lose confidence in the state leadership. Mounting discontent ignited into a revolution in the presence of ideological channels (Marxism and Islam), with catalysts such as the First World War in the case of Russia and, in the case of Iran, Jimmy Carter’s liberalisation policy and the withdrawal of American backing. In a wider context, Russia and Iran’s experiments with modernisation represented the leadership’s failure to adapt diverse traditional values and institutions to the developmental paradigm adopted from the west. On the one hand, autocratic modernisation represented a reaction to, and repudiation of, backwardness and an effort to remedy the condition through westernisation; on the other, it offered a tribute to backwardness through the retention of traditional structures. Paradoxically, the objective was to adopt those ‘modern’ traits that would fortify the state and thereby reinforce certain ‘non-modern’ institutions. Yet, in spite of this contradictory adaptation to modernity, this study chooses to regard pre-revolutionary development as, nonetheless, an attempt at westernisation because the leadership pursued a developmental path fashioned in the west. ‘Catching up with the west by becoming like west’ was the idea behind modernisation. In imperial Russia and Iran, modernisation was premised on convergence with the west in the



sense that the vision adopted was in principle, though perhaps not in practice, borrowed from the west. This assertion is all the more convincing when prerevolutionary modernisation is juxtaposed with postrevolutionary development strategies: socio-economic development under Joseph Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini was modelled on a distinctly non-western theoretical construct: state socialism in the case of Soviet Russia, and Islamic theocracy in Iran. Both models represented divergence from western norms and standards: ‘catching up with the west by becoming unlike the west’. This is not to suggest that the post-revolutionary development paths were entirely anti-western. In fact, the pursuit of certain ‘modern’ ideals such as economic independence continued steadfast, albeit within an alternative theoretical framework. However, this brand of modernity, unlike its predecessor, did not correspond to the specifically western representation of modernity (the absence of liberal capitalism in Russia and of secularism in Iran). Instead, it resulted in a non-western variety of modernity in which western values and institutions were only selectively adopted. It is noteworthy that even when modernisation was purposively modelled on a liberal capitalist blueprint, as it was during Mikhail Gorbachev’s programme of perestroika and glasnost in the 1980s, a profound sense of ambivalence prevailed. Like imperial modernisation, Gorbachev’s transformation represented a paradox because the reformist General Secretary expected to exploit the dynamism of the market economy within a socialist template, which in turn resulted in a hybrid polity. Thus, whether through convergence, divergence, or a bit of both, Romanov, Pahlavi, Soviet and Islamic societies invariably culminated in models that differed from those existing in the west.



Ambivalence towards Western Modernity: To Be or Not to Be (like the West) There are a number of cultural and civilisational explanations for Russia and Iran’s failure or reluctance to adopt western institutions. In Russia’s case, the inability of the Russian leaders (tsars and Communists alike) to establish the groundwork for a viable modern society can be traced to a ‘cultural trap’ endemic to Russian society. Russian political culture is premised on a unique sense of destiny, which is itself premised on the ‘Russian idea’ or ‘Russian tradition’ – a belief that Russia can forge a superior path to the modern world through emphasising traditional institutions and spiritual values that differentiate it from the west: the peasant commune, the tradition of serfdom, the Orthodox church, a sense of ‘community’ as a result of the extreme isolation of the Russian peasantry, religiosity, equality and the notion of a ‘people’, or narod. The tsars’ attempts to westernise by incorporating elements of the ‘Russian idea’ contradicted crucial imperatives of modernisation and led to social breakdown. Indeed, Russia’s distinctive geographic position (spanning both the Asian and European continents), its historical experiences, including its ‘Asiatic heritage’ resulting from the Mongol yoke and its consequent isolation from Europe, the xenophobia of the tsars, the adoption of Eastern Christian Orthodoxy from Byzantium (as opposed to the western Roman Empire) and the Communist adventure of the twentieth century, raise the perennial question: are these experiences simply historical anomalies or are they features of a uniquely Russian genotype? This question has permeated Russian political culture for centuries and has perpetuated the fundamental dilemma of Russian identity, namely, the leadership’s dual effort, first, to craft a polity felt to be more in tune with the country’s own character by differentiating itself from dominant European models; and, second, to reap those



immediate benefits enjoyed by more developed European societies by dedifferentiating itself from Europe. Iran’s modernisation dilemma can also be attributed to the country’s nationalist tendencies. Challenges to Iran’s cultural fabric, its territorial integrity and its frontiers, combined with an appreciation of the country’s illustrious civilisation and the unifying features of the Iranian nation, have made nationalism a powerful feature of its political culture. It was the belief of many nineteenth century Iranian nationalists, including the prominent Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzadeh and Mirza Agha Khan Kirmani, that Persia’s decline from an earlier period of ‘greatness’ began with the invasion of the ‘barbarous’ Arabs in 740 AD. 10 Addressing Iran, Akhundzadeh inveighed: What a shame for you Iran: Where is your grandeur? Where is that power, that prosperity that you once enjoyed? It has been 1,280 years now that the naked and starving Arabs have descended upon you and made your life miserable. Your land is in ruins, your people ignorant and innocent of civilisation, deprived of prosperity and freedom, and your King is a despot. 11 The conquest and cultural dominance of what many perceived as the inferior ‘other’ drove the leadership to construct a uniquely Iranian identity. Identification with European culture and institutions was a means of reappropriating the reasoning, ethics, prosperity and etiquette lost during the Arab invasion. Westernisation was a shorthand method by which Persia/Iran could dissociate from the Arab past and jump-start its cultural evolution. As such, westernisation had less to do with structural convergence with the west and more to do with, to use Kirmani’s terminology, ‘uprooting of the malicious tree of oppression and the



revitalisation of the power of the milliayat [nation] in the character of the Iranian people’. 12 Shi’a Islam has been Iran’s official state religion since 1501. Millennialism is at the heart of Shi’a belief and tradition: specifically, the notion of the coming of a messiah and the advent of the Last Days, in which a sudden transformation of society would occur. This apocalyptic vision has functioned as a solution to the problem of evil, resolving it by positing an end to the present world of wickedness and a future utopia wherein saints are rewarded and the iniquitous scourged. This mindset is firmly embedded in Iranian political culture creating a sense of spiritual superiority, which has resulted in disdain towards the west’s materialism. In fact, millennialism in Iran has a very long history, and there is a sense in which ancient Persians invented many of its most salient motifs. Zoroastrians believed, after all, in an epochal struggle between the good God Ahura Mazda, and the evil demigod Ahriman. They saw the universe as having a beginning, developing over time, and experiencing a future renewal. Zoroastrians in the period from about 600 BC believed not only in a prophet, Zarathustra, but also in a future saviour who would arise after three millennia. These beliefs about a future saviour, the renewal of the world, the final cosmic battle between good and evil, and the resurrection, did not disappear when Iran was conquered by the Arab Muslims from the seventh century. Rather, they were melded in Iranian folk culture with Islamic beliefs. There is also a vigorous messianic consciousness in Russian orthodoxy and in a notion of the ‘Russian soul’ – as such, there is a sense that Russia fully belongs neither to the east nor to the west. Russia and Iran, then, share a tradition of apocalyptic religion and political millenarianism, which often translates into apocalyptic politics. Russia and Iran both love and hate the west. They believe they are spiritually more advanced than



the west and therefore maintain a healthy ‘distance’ from it. However, whilst they feel powerful – spiritually – they feel they have to catch up in terms of material power: security, comfort and the trappings of the wealthy, advanced west. Simultaneously, then, the west was both a model and a threat. The civilisational argument for Russia and Iran’s historically troubled encounter with western modernity is compelling. The dilemma is complicated even more when one considers the predominantly Eurocentric narratives of modernisation and modernity. As Ulrich Beck puts it, ‘orthodox modernisation means, at first, the disembedding and second, the re-embedding of traditional social forms by industrial social forms’. 13 Indeed, as Beck goes on to point out, much of the conventional literature on these concepts is concerned with the removal of indigenous foundations in order to make room for a more ‘advanced’ replacement, namely, the product of the western intellectual, social and cultural experiences that accompany social evolution. This characteristically homogenising model of modernity reigns supreme throughout the discourse of development. Eurocentrically biased and with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ ideal, western modernisation is understood as the singular route to modernity. Westernisation assures that by ‘disembedding’ traditional structures and by substituting them with those imported from the west, ‘backward’ countries can break away from their past to a future-orientated utopia. This case study of two countries that have historically been reluctant to ‘disembed’ their indigenous social forms is evidence that the western route to modernity is not universally applicable, however. Even when attempts were made to abandon the status quo, be it wholesale or partial, the outcome was some form of significant social disruption: from revolution to national disintegration. Having said this, what then is the fate of countries that historically have demonstrated ambivalence towards western



norms and institutions? Will western-inspired reforms inevitably culminate in social conflict? By reflecting on the presidencies of Vladimir Putin and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, we argue that the two leaders are similar in that both attempted to implement western-inspired practices and institutions within an indigenous framework. Peter Duncan explains that under Putin, the leadership sees itself as sharing democratic values with the west, but ‘at least part of the leadership sees itself as interpreting these values in a rather different way. We have in the regime the ideas of sovereign democracy rather than of democracy as such, and the idea of Russia having a different form of democracy from that of the west’. 14 In fact, during his presidency, Putin called for a development plan based on his ‘new Russian idea’, which focussed heavily on Russian political culture. This culture in his words combines ‘traditional Russian values which have stood the test of time’, with ‘universal humanitarian values’. 15 Underpinning his reform movement were classical Russian and Soviet principles of patriotism and social protection. Contrary to ‘modernisation from above’, his programme had a distinctly Russian identity. Likewise, when Khatami took power in 1997, he won on a reformist platform, promising western-inspired institutions such as ‘civil society’ and ‘popular sovereignty’. Whilst he was a proponent of democratic practices (typically associated with secular societies), he sought to apply them in the form of a ‘religious democracy’. The idea was not to westernise, or to impose modernisation, or even to create an ‘alternative modernity’. Instead both leaders moved away from the stark antinomies of the past – trajectories that proved to be inadequate, unsustainable and prone to generating internal conflict. Both leaders advanced a more integrative approach to modernity: one that accommodated historical, local and national



experience whilst benefiting from the accomplishments of western civilisation. This paradigm is referred to as ‘modernisation from below’. It represents the antithesis of ‘modernisation from above’ by concentrating on the indigenous rather than the imported, by finding the impetus for reform from below (that is, civil society pushing for the rule of law, and market forces lobbying for property rights and genuine constitutionalism – particularly in the case of Russia) rather than from above. Modernisation from below is characterised by a push for change through simultaneous engagement with the future as well as with the past. When Putin came to power he underscored not only the challenges facing Russia but also the character of global transformations taking place at the time. Putin stressed that under communist rule Russia’s development had stalled. The economy was characterised by low investment, labour productivity and wages. Russia was paying the price for the distorted pattern of Soviet development, including the excessive focus on raw materials and defence industries and the neglect of the service sector. Putin argued that the situation had been exacerbated by the drastic reforms of the 1990s under Yeltsin when the country was thrust from Sovietstyle socio-economic development to the other extreme: capitalism. However, Putin insisted that Russia had embarked on a new path, the highway that the whole humanity is travelling, to paraphrase his words. Essentially, Putin was saying that Russia had shifted away from the communist illusion that Russia had to strictly adhere to a ‘special path’ that was distinct from the west. Instead, he advocated adaptation and accommodation to the mainstream of global developments. Putin clearly recognised the achievements of the communist epoch and Russia’s special identity. However, he emphasised the price the country would pay if it continued to lag behind economically advanced countries. What is significant in Putin’s approach is that whilst



he rejected the practice of borrowing or imitating foreign models, he tried to avoid falling into the opposite extreme of missing out on the benefits of international experience. Putin believed that this western-oriented experience, in turn, had to be adapted to Russian conditions. Thus, Putin set the country on a course where the notion of a distinct civilisation, or a special destiny became less dogmatic, making room for western-inspired norms and practices. Iran also reached a similar historical juncture under Khatami where global transformations necessitated reevaluation of the status quo. Iran felt the pressure to upgrade socially, culturally, economically and technologically. Khatami did not deny the importance of pursuing the accomplishments associated with the west. However, Khatami was not a westerniser, but at the same time he did not limit himself ideologically to the notion that Iran had a special destiny, and that therefore it could not find inspiration in western practices and institutions. Also, it is important to emphasise that Khatami did not subscribe to the idea of a homogenous global culture. He believed that Iran had to fashion its own brand of modernity, based on its national identity and its historical, revolutionary experience. Yet, drawing on western experience was important, particularly at the time. The challenge to strike that delicate balance, as well as the tensions associated with charting a more integrative developmental path, is what hampered Khatami during his presidency. What is important to note is that this analysis does not seek to compare Putin with Khatami. Obviously, they were dealing with very different political and ideological systems. The challenges they faced, their personalities and leadership styles were quite distinct. From a comparative-theoretical standpoint, the study puts side by side, Russia under Putin and Iran under Khatami. The argument is that both countries reached a point on their respective historical timelines where



they appeared to have come to terms with the recurring dilemma: what orientation should modernisation take? As we shall explore in depth in later chapters, this dilemma was rooted in the conflict between aspiring for western-style benefits on the one hand (in light of global changes) and the desire to maintain the countries’ distinctive historical character on the other – be it Islamic, Orthodox Christian, autocratic, revolutionary or messianic. Putin and Khatami found themselves in the throes of an historical ‘moment’ where the developmental experiences and conflicts of the past had pushed them to explore a more integrative strategy of action. Only in this capacity can these two leaders be compared. Indeed, having passed through the labyrinth of social contradictions, it appears that both countries reached a point where they began to transcend the logic of development of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What must be stressed is that this new conceptual orientation is beset with tensions and contradictions; as such it continues to represent an ongoing challenge to successive leaders in both Russia and Iran.

Dialectic Development

What is interesting about Russian and Iranian development is that they both reflect a Hegelian dialectical progression, that is, the history of development can be understood as a tripartite process consisting of a ‘thesis’, contrasted to a rival ‘antithesis’, with the two submerged in the resulting ‘synthesis’. The ‘thesis’ involves the process of ‘modernisation from above’, where the goal is rapid, state-guided economic and military transformation. The drive for development derives from above and the Iranian leadership implements transformation according to a set of preconceived ideals. The system, however, owing to its inherent contradictions, leads to social conflict – ‘revolution from below’ – the



‘antithesis’. Here, the chief concern is the uprooting and dismantling of the state’s political, economic and ideological institutions. Contrary to the constructive character of the ‘thesis’, the ‘antithesis’ involves deconstruction of existing structures. The dynamic tension between the thesis and the antithesis results in a ‘synthesis’ – ‘modernisation from below’. Cognisant of the need for social and economic progress and wary of the dangers associated with imported modernisation, state and society concentrate on renewal of existing structures. Unlike ‘modernisation from above’, the impetus for reform originates from below. A shorthand account of this model of Iranian and Russian development is illustrated in figure 1. Thesis Modernisation from above

Antithesis Revolution from below

Synthesis Modernisation from below Figure 1: Dialectical development

The dialectical method, as a conceptual tool, is useful in depicting modernisation as a sociological phenomenon that has matured and evolved as a result of the pushes and pulls of historical forces. From the inadequacies associated with westernisation, to the ideological rejection of Eurocentric norms, to the continuous vacillation between the retention of



traditional institutions and the adoption of ‘modern’ alternatives, Russia and Iran’s road to modernity has been a turbulent one. However, as this dialectical model illustrates, the history of the development of these two cases is one of progression where, ultimately, the mammoth paradox of modernisation is resolved in the form of the ‘synthesis’.

Breakdown of Chapters

This book is divided into four sections. The first task is to unravel the paradox of ‘modernisation from above’, and to trace its path to the 1917 Russian revolution and the Iranian revolution of 1978-9. Thus, the first part of the enquiry is concerned with the structure and make-up of modernisation in the late imperial years. By focussing on the modernisation process and by distilling those features that contributed to instability, the study both accounts for the origins of revolutionary crisis and typologises the brand of modernisation launched in Romanov Russia and Pahlavi Iran. The second strand of this analysis is a survey of postrevolutionary modernisation in order to highlight continuity of the Russian and Iranian modernisation dilemmas. The objective here is to unearth the general hypothesis that both pre- and post-revolutionary modernisation represent a departure from, or a failure to adapt to, western standards. The third strand of this book deals with the pathology of failed adaptation to western standards. What accounts for the failure of the Russian and Iranian modernising movements to model their societies along western lines? This analysis will concentrate on making the case that the source of this ‘failure’ is the Russian and Iranian leaderships’ desire to delineate a distinctive path towards modernity: a trajectory that not only would preserve traditional structures but also deliver the achievements of ‘modern’ states. As we mentioned above, the Romanov tsars believed that they were able to construe their own variety of modernity by virtue of



their country’s distinct institutions; similarly, the Iranian elite were convinced that Persia’s rich heritage and spiritual values had bequeathed them the tools they needed to make the transition from tradition to modernity. At the same time, the prospect of a shortcut to modernity through the appropriation and assimilation of western successes proved to be a tempting alternative for successive tsars and shahs. What we see in Russia and Iran is that the desire to achieve the social and economic progress associated with the west proved to be as significant as the desire to chart a unique path to a domestically cultivated modernity. This paradox is a central tenet of the following analysis, which leads to the fourth task of our study, specifically, the articulation of an alternative developmental paradigm for countries that historically diverged from western theoretical constructs. This developmental model is unveiled here as ‘modernisation from below’, a homespun, indigenous path to a ‘local’ modernity. We make the case that Russia and Iran reached a point in their respective histories of development where they were able to reconcile the traditional and the modern. In other words, both countries transcended the seeming ambivalence between, on the one hand, conforming to native traditions and, on the other hand, encouraging integration into the international community. Revolution Over the years, the Russian and Iranian revolutions have inspired a substantial body of research, reflecting the widest possible diversity of conceptual and methodological approaches, in attempts by scholars to identify the roots of Russia’s Marxist revolution and Iran’s Islamic Revolution. In doing so, there are those who assign more weight to the cause of revolutions, and others who focus on the structure of revolutions; still others concentrate on the teleology of revolutions. There are also, of course, theorists concerned



with the interaction amongst all these perspectives. And there is difference of opinion concerning units of analysis: what is the most significant variable in the study of revolutions – events, actors, ideology, organisation or structure? In view of the diversity of approaches and foci, it is hardly surprising that there is no standard definition of revolution. Nor is it unexpected that these numerous definitions carry the personal presuppositions of the theorist that crafted the characterisation. For example, for Theda Skocpol, revolutions are ‘rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures ... accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below’. 16 This description, however, is problematic because the author weaves a causal proposition into her characterisation, namely, that social revolutions are the product of class conflict and class upheaval. Methodologically, this definition has little use for the scholar who, for instance, assigns importance to the role of the elite in instigating transformation. Trimberger’s study of the ‘military revolutions’ in Egypt and Peru, and the Meiji Restoration in Japan, puts emphasis on the role of the existing bureaucracy in seizing sovereignty from former masters and in reorganising state and social structures. Her case studies show, for instance, in the case of Japan, that the process of restructuring the social relations of production in the shift from a ‘feudal’ or ‘tributary’ society to a capitalist mode of production did not involve the active political participation of the lower classes. 17 Such nuances in the qualification of revolutions must be acknowledged, since any substantive definition of revolution is bound to reflect the theorist’s chosen approach to the study of the subject. Nevertheless, from the dominant descriptions, we define revolution as a rapid and fundamental change in: (1) the state’s personnel, institutions and foundation of legitimacy; and (2) society’s social structures (economic, cultural or ideological). In addition, revolution is



accomplished from outside legal channels and is often accompanied by non-institutionalised forms of protest. Most of these theories reflect two weaknesses, however. First, they tend to be grand theories or models under which multiple revolutions are subsumed. The fact is that revolutions are too complex to fit neatly under the rubric of a single preconceived model. All-inclusive paradigms often overlook the particularities of many revolutionary processes, which can potentially generate further insights. The second shortcoming is that few theories have been successful in single-handedly explaining the totality of the revolutionary process. Most revolutionary theories suffer from limited applicability, applying only to particular ‘phases’ of the revolution studied. As such, they are but facets of a historical totality. In spite of their limitations, a brief overview of the some of the most influential theories of revolution will help contextualise this book’s central argument. There are many theories of revolution that link modernisation patterns with the outbreak of revolution. Samuel Huntington, for instance, argues that societies in which socio-economic expansion outpaces the political institution-building of an incumbent regime are most prone to experience political upheavals. 18 Known as the ‘gap theory’, this explanation is logical – modernisation accelerates the rate of social mobilisation, which in turn increases the demand for political participation by various social groups. To deny political participation and to suppress political expression is to radicalise masses and create a fertile soil for revolutionary unrest. Whilst it is plausible that in certain cases socio-economic modernisation raises expectations for political development, it is not always the case that the presence of a gap singlehandedly sets off revolutionary unrest. There are large gaps between economic development and institution-building in most developing countries, yet revolutions are rare. Moreover,



it is wrong to assume that any state that pursues economic development inevitably faces demands for political plurality. In many East Asian countries, ordinary citizens preferred the rule of traditional leadership (often highly authoritarian), which they deemed sacred, even when economic development was actively pursued. Tim McDaniel makes the same kind of generalisation in his study of the Russian and Iranian revolutions. 19 Premised on Huntington’s gap theory, McDaniel’s study maintains that when an autocratic government initiates a modernisation programme, it fosters the emergence of a ‘revolutionary situation’. The point he misses is that ‘autocratic modernisation’ does not by itself lead to a revolution or a revolutionary situation. A revolutionary situation is created by revolutionaries, or those capable of channelling specific grievances into a wholesale rejection of the political and social order. Even Russian and Iranian history confirms this: autocrats Peter the Great and Reza Shah (the first Pahlavi monarch, who crowned himself in 1925) both launched modernisation programmes that produced opposition but not revolution. Thus, although statesponsored modernisation can contribute to social unrest, it is not a sufficient condition by itself – not even in Nicholas’s Russia or Mohammad Reza’s Iran. Another problem with McDaniel’s stance is that he assigns excessive importance to the role of contingency or situational factors (the First World War; treason in high places in Russia; Iran’s changed relations with the United States; and the shah’s cancer) in providing the spark for a revolutionary situation. He even goes so far as to conclude that had it not been for these influences, the revolutions might never have occurred. This approach is problematic in the sense that it lacks proportionality: in drawing such a conclusion, McDaniel underestimates the role of conscious agency in the revolutionary equation.



Other theories have attempted to tackle the phenomenon of revolutions from a psychological angle. Ted Gurr, for example, explains that political stability is determined by the mind and mood of society; people have ‘an innate disposition’ to lash out at the source of their frustration in direct proportion to the intensity of their frustration. A situation that arouses anger in people when they meet with disappointment is termed ‘relative deprivation’, a mindset that occurs when value expectations commonly perceived as attainable are not realised. ‘Values’ are desired goods, conditions and events for which the masses strive. These are compartmentalised into a three-fold categorisation that includes power values, welfare values and interpersonal values. 20 Most commonly, scholars employ the welfare variable as the chief determinant of political violence. James Davies’s JCurve hypothesis, for example, explains that political violence occurs when a period of economic growth that increases expectation is followed by a period of sharp reversal, thus widening the gap between expectation and gratification, and leading to collective violence. 21 This approach is useful in suggesting that frustration of material expectations can trigger political unrest. Although it is true that aspirations for economic improvement are invariably on the revolutionary agenda, the disruptive impact of relative deprivation alone is not a sufficient condition to warrant the overthrow of a regime. The United States experienced the Great Depression in the 1930s after a prolonged period of economic growth; however, disaffected groups did not prompt an offensive against the state. Instead, industrial workers confronted their employees and achieved certain concessions after negotiation; they did not attempt to overthrow the government. Accordingly, where relative deprivation is experienced, alienated groups may turn upon only the class or group deemed responsible.



In contrast, in tsarist Russia and imperial Iran, the existing political regime became the scapegoat for the different sorts of deprivation experienced by individual social groups; the prevailing belief was that the main grievances could be reversed by overthrowing the tsar and the shah. So why was it that the state authority was identified as the source of conflict and injustice as opposed to market forces? Misagh Parsa provides an answer by focussing on the centralised nature of the state and economy. He explains that when the state expands its intervention in capital allocation and accumulation it undermines market forces and politicises social and economic conflict. With the state machinery constructed around one person, the one who governs becomes the target of attack. 22 According to this supposition, state-sponsored modernisation and its disruptive impact would most definitely lead to an assault on the state. In Russia, when the state took the initiative to modernise the country, it acted as an autonomous agent of development by modernising from above. This process had a negative impact on many segments of society, resulting in resentment against the state leadership. The state apparatus thus became the target of attack because it had single-handedly assumed the task of devising and implementing economic policies. A similar situation developed in Iran. With increased oil revenues and expanded resources, the state predominantly dictated the economic fate of the country. When there was a halt in the economic boom in the 1970s, disaffected groups denounced the shah rather than market forces. Parsa’s structural approach is illuminating. Although it was based on the Iranian experience in 1979, it is equally applicable to the Russian revolution. His theory has particular relevance to this study because it suggests that the centralised aspect of the development effort made the incumbent regime vulnerable to revolutionary challenge. Indeed, economic reform, carried through exclusively by the authority of



autocracy, renders the state vulnerable by making it the target of dissent. However, if the level of state intervention in the economy determines the likelihood of collective action against the state, as Parsa suggests, how is it that adversely affected individuals are able to form a collective force capable of change-orientated political action? After all, as Charles Tilly, the resource-mobilisation theorist explains, the mass of lowerclass participants in revolution cannot turn discontent into effective political action without autonomous collective organisation and resources to sustain their efforts. 23 What is necessary for a revolutionary uprising is an ideology to set the revolutionary struggle in motion. This ideology must be able to unify opposition elements and to organise violence against the established authority. An ideology must also articulate a chiliastic vision and assure some degree of hope and expectation of success. Barrington Moore observes, ‘since the time of Apostles, and perhaps earlier, no social movement has been without its army of preachers and militants to spread the good tidings of escape from the pain and evils of the world’. 24 Nevertheless, mass rebellious action, no matter how well organised, must contend with the state’s instruments of repression in order to dislodge the incumbent regime. This is the point that Theda Skocpol reinforces in her comparative study of the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. She argues that the repressive state organisations of the prerevolutionary regime must be weakened before collective action can succeed or even emerge. Situations of structural crises such as military pressures from abroad, political splits between dominant classes and state or internal financial difficulties are all factors that undermine state repression and open the way for social revolutions from below. In Russia, the military defeats of the First World War led to appalling casualty rates, a lack of resources, military desertions, inadequate transportation systems, hyperinflation and food



shortages. These setbacks, Skocpol maintains, had the effect of intensifying class conflict (the result of greater exactions on the peasantry) and decreasing the ability of the state to repress class-based revolt. 25 On the other hand, the situation preceding the Iranian revolution was quite different. Unlike the tsar’s troops in 1917, the shah had a disciplined army, bristling with modern armaments and a secret police force that was intact on the eve of the revolutionary uprisings. The country had not experienced a military defeat in a foreign war, peasant insurrections or a fiscal crisis. Nevertheless, the state’s security apparatus was rendered ineffective during the revolutionary process, leaving the state vulnerable to collapse. The absence of structural changes as well as underlying classbased tensions in Iran led Skocpol to reconcile the Iranian revolution with her theoretical schema in a subsequent article, in which she attributes the revolution to the vulnerabilities of the ‘rentier’ nature of the Iranian state: a rather misleading idea, as the rentier state came into existence under Reza Shah’s rule from the 1920s to 1941. Nonetheless, the objective here is not to critique Skocpol’s theory but to highlight the observation that revolution occurred in a country that had not experienced structural challenges. Thus, structural dynamics do not determine the political stability of a state. If a state is internally weak, it does not require structural challenges to collapse. What does make a state susceptible to collapse has to do with the degree of legitimacy its leadership carries. A regime that lacks legitimacy typically lacks popular support. That is, its subjects lose confidence in the system because they consider it to be operating in a manner that is ineffective, unjust or obsolete. Jack Goldstone raises the notions of justice and status in an enlightening argument:



States and rulers that are perceived as ineffective may still gain elite support for reform and restructuring if they are perceived as just. States that are considered unjust may be tolerated and suffered as long as they are perceived to be too effective in pursuing economic or nationalist goals, or just too effective to challenge. However, states that appear to be both ineffective and unjust will forfeit the elite and popular support they need to survive. 26 In light of Goldstone’s study, this is the force that incapacitates the state to the extent that it is unable to contain opposition. Iran was unable to contain the revolutionary upheaval not because it had undergone a structural crisis of any sort but because, at a critical moment, its generals and politicians were unwilling to fight for a system they regarded as corrupt. Moreover, let us not forget that the earliest rejection of the tsar occurred amongst the tsar’s most committed supporters. It was the highest-ranking officers who first intimated to Nicholas that he should step down, and it was the army and the police that refused to carry out his command to keep the populace in order. Thus, it was not the loss of the war that caused tsarism to collapse but the loss of allegiance and confidence of those who could have saved it in the face of a revolutionary challenge. However, whilst Goldstone identifies social changes (defeat in war, population growth in excess of economic growth or loss of nationalist credentials) as factors that can undermine the perceived effectiveness and justice of the state, this book argues that it was the contradictions of the modernisation campaigns launched in pre-revolutionary Russia and Iran that gradually eroded the pillars buttressing the Romanov and Pahlavi dynasties.



Modernisation The term ‘modernisation’ is a very loose concept. Where does modernisation begin and where does it end? Is modernisation always synonymous with westernisation, or is modernisation a separate phenomenon from westernisation? In western historiography, modernity and development are synonymous with westernisation. As we shall highlight in this section, however, the singular vision of modernity, anchored in western historical, cultural, intellectual, socio-political and economic experience has proven to be highly problematic in Russia and Iran. Historically, both countries have experienced a profound dilemma in terms of their emulation of the west. As we shall argue in this book, in the case of prerevolutionary Russia and Iran, there is a direct correlation between the characteristically ‘ambivalent’ modernisation movements and widespread social conflict. If we are to refer to the predominantly Eurocentric narratives of modernity as a reference or yardstick, neither Russia nor Iran ever successfully ‘modernised’. In fact, the ‘revolutions from above’ launched by Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini can be interpreted as a reaction intended to move their countries towards western modernity. Both campaigns were an effort to forge an ‘authentic’ national identity, by appropriating socialism in Russia and Islam in Iran, as a vehicle for effectively challenging or perhaps even accommodating modernity. The problem with discourse on development is that it advances a bi-polar world characterised by dichotomies such as North/South, backward/advanced, traditional/ modern, or west/rest. This compels those states that do not measure up to western standards to ‘catch-up’, rather than to evolve on their own terms. These narratives also encourage states to emulate the ‘superior other’ and to impose ‘alien’ structures and values, generating all kinds of social incongruencies. The predominant narratives of modernity perpetuate a bi-polar



world: Samuel Huntington’s 1993 publication, the ‘Clash of Civilisations?’ presented a ‘new phase’ in world politics following the end of the Cold War: It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions amongst humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle of the future. 27 What is troubling is Huntington’s view that the principal challenge for western policy-makers is to make the west more powerful vis-à-vis its historical foe: the Islamic world. This paradigm is a reformulation of Cold War rhetoric, premised on the unsophisticated and rather dated view of the ‘west versus the rest’. In Putin’s Russia and Khatami’s Iran, many interesting paradoxes arose, defying such monolithic classifications. Iran, which is more relevant given its Islamic make-up, cuts across the grain of Huntington’s argument. During his presidency (1997-2005), Khatami promulgated his Dialogue amongst Civilisations thesis or doctrine that suggested less of a ‘clash’ and more of a ‘convergence’ amongst various civilisations. In fact, the United Nations declared 2001 the ‘Year of the Dialogue amongst Civilisations’. 28 Bernard Lewis also exhibits the narrow-mindedness that is characteristic of Huntington’s discourse. Muslim anger against the west, Lewis argues, is rooted in the fact that for many centuries Muslim civilisation was superior to western civilisation. This superiority instilled in Muslims the feeling



that their civilisation was everlasting. Lewis argues that beginning in the sixteenth century, and accelerating through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the west grew in power, wealth and technological accomplishment. The Islamic world failed to ‘catch-up’ and, as a result, became bitter towards western culture and technology. 29 Like Huntington’s, Lewis’s work breeds a hostile world. It denies the possibility of a middle ground and instead places civilisations in competition with one another or on a continuum where civilisations can be ‘ranked’. The methodological weakness of this approach lies in the fact that development cannot be classified or simplified into a model. Just as ancient civilisations emerged independently of external standards or competition with alternative civilisations, development must occur naturally and as a result of the forces of history, rather than on the basis of an ambitious blueprint. Whereas Huntington and Lewis overemphasise the differences amongst civilisations and cultures, Francis Fukuyama downplays those distinctions – an equally problematic approach. Fukuyama explains that the modernisation of non-western countries over the last few centuries has placed the world on a path of global evolution that will make possible the writing of a universal history. Fukuyama explains that as non-western countries modernised using western methods and technology, they paved a trajectory of development whose end point is universalism and homogenisation. He asserts that ‘technology makes possible the limitless accumulation of wealth, and thus the satisfaction of an ever expanding set of human desires. This process guarantees an increasing homogenization of all human societies, regardless of their historical origins or cultural inheritances’. 30 Furthermore, Fukuyama contends that all countries that modernise pass through two developmental stages. The first stage corresponds to the process of nation-building; the



second stage relates to a period of globalisation as the nation deconstructs itself and merges with the global system. He asserts, ‘all countries undergoing … modernization must increasingly resemble one another: they must unify nationally on the basis of a centralised state, urbanize, replace traditional forms of social organization as a tribe, sect, and family with economically rational ones’. Such societies, he explains, will gradually ‘become linked with one another through global markets and the spread of a universal consumer culture’. 31 Further, Fukuyama argues that the logic of modern natural science dictates a universal evolution in the direction of capitalism and democracy. 32 His borderless world renders obsolete clans, tribes, nations, culture and history. His approach is based on the disappearance of samobytnost or ‘uniqueness’ into a global monoculture. It is a horizontal stratagem in that it relies on assimilation and conformism. Such an approach is problematic, however: the study of Russian and Iranian experiences confirms that integration of this kind can be impeded by cultural and civilisational barriers. If states are to integrate socially, economically or culturally, they may do so if their vertical paths to modernity happen to meet. A number of scholars have suggested new approaches to understanding the epistemological underpinnings of modernisation and modernity. Foremost amongst these is Edward Said who in his 1978 work, Orientalism, challenged the Eurocentric narratives of modernity that were prevalent in Middle Eastern studies. Said made the case that modernity and development are built out of accepted elements of western civilisation and are the product of how the west defines itself vis-à-vis the inferior ‘other’, namely the ‘Orient’. The genealogy of this discourse, he contends, is grounded in colonial history, which has been crucial in the self-definition of Europe and in the constitution of modernity. 33 Specifically, Europe defined its own modernity in opposition to the



colonial primitive living in a ‘state of nature’. The colonial ‘others’ are inferior and in need of ‘civilising’ by Europe. Thus, western civilisation represented a yardstick by which ‘Oriental’ cultures and civilisation could be measured. Whilst scholarship did re-evaluate its intellectual traditions, the media and other areas of popular culture continued to portray the ‘Orient’ as the west’s inferior ‘other’. Ali Mirsepassi contends: ‘the regeneration of Orientalist rhetoric in western popular culture foreshadowed the tenacity of Eurocentric structures of knowledge’. 34 These structures of knowledge cast civilisation in monolithic terms, and thereby fail to accommodate social change on a universal level. The notion of ‘superior standards’ and ‘inferior others’ encourages countries to ‘catch-up’ haphazardly. As this study will show, Russia and Iran’s intellectual, socio-political, cultural and historical constitution did not settle with the criteria set by the dominant path to modernity. In fact, it will demonstrate how these established paradigms are being dismantled in Russia and Iran today and how the categories of analysis that we have inherited from classical sociology fail to account for contemporary social and economic change. Marshall Berman fights the tide of historiography by construing modernisation as a world-historical process that allows different peoples to develop their institutions in ways that are consistent with their own cultures. 35 Berman contends that a blueprint of modernity is unnecessary because modernity is a product of everyday life, a life in which ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Everyday life experiences are ‘spread all over the world’ and as such cannot be measured against an essentially western experience. Like Berman, Anthony Giddens rejects a single route to modernity. Giddens explains that modernity is western in origin because of the twin institutions of capitalism and the nation-state. However, globalisation and economic interdependence, he explains,



have made stark dichotomies such as ‘the west and the rest’ redundant: ‘Is modernity peculiarly western from the standpoint of its globalising tendencies? No, it cannot be, since we are speaking here of emergent forms of world interdependence … the ways in which these issues are approached and coped with, however, will inevitably involve conceptions and strategies derived from non-western settings. 36 These approaches to development are refreshing because, as the analysis of the Russian and Iranian revolutions will demonstrate, the models of the past have proven to be inadequate. Furthermore, our discussion will highlight the fact that Russian and Iranian societies have moved through successive stages of development and revolution. Having passed through the labyrinth of social contradictions, both countries have reached a point where they are transcending the logic of development of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This process, identified as ‘modernisation from below’, does not fit readily in current historiography. This is why the works of Berman and Giddens are welcomed because they offer methodologies that can accommodate the evolving essence of development and cultural diversity.


Impetus for Change: Sustaining the Russian Bear and the Iranian Lion Certain geopolitical considerations have shaped the course of development in Russia and Iran. Indeed, Russia’s distinctive geographic character challenged steady economic development because the soil, climate and location proved to be persistent complications. Russia had fertile soils in the Black Earth Belt known as the chernozem. To the north, the frozen tundra was impossible to cultivate; towards the south, the forest zone (the taiga) was dense with great stands of pine and fir trees: it was a region more suitable for hunting and fishing than agricultural development. The Black Earth Belt, south of the Taiga, was subject to drought, eastern winds and soil erosion, and the grassy southern steppe was geared more towards a pastoral than an agricultural economy. Until the eighteenth century, Russia was virtually landlocked, with the remote Archangel on the inhospitable shores of the White Sea as its only port. This outlet was connected to the North Sea by a dangerous sea passage around the North Cape. During the sixteenth century, with the acquisition of Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga, it gained access to the Caspian, an inland sea. Further territorial



expansion brought Russia closer to the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Pacific; again, all were inland seas without access to the major arteries of overseas trade. Muscovy/Russia remained a large continental land mass with little indented coastline. Located on the western end of the great plateau of forest and steppe stretching from Central Europe to China, Russia had few natural geographic barriers and was open to assault from both the east and the west. Hostile neighbours, including the Mongols, Poles, Swedes and Germans, and even the more distant French under Napoleon, exploited Russia’s geographic vulnerability. Another natural handicap was Russia’s ‘continental climate’, characterised by long and harsh winters and short, hot summers. The climate created a short growing season and no farming area could rely on sufficient rainfall. 1 In view of the perpetual threat of invasion, Russia had to mobilise resources to bolster the strength of the state to unite fragmented lands, protect the open borders and preserve indigenous institutions. However, territorial integrity was the very least Russia hoped to achieve through modernisation. Paradoxically, Russia was also driven by great power ambitions, exhibiting a perpetual drive and determination to ‘catch up’ rapidly with the west. This historic goal of ‘catching up’ is attributable to Russia’s inferiority complex – an insecurity that emerged from the disparity between Russia’s material and cultural/spiritual resources, on one hand, and the material and technological clout of political rivals on the other. The European powers were developing rapidly through shipbuilding and navigation, maritime insurance and banking, and colonial trade and industry. Russia, on the other hand, retained a primitive economy, exporting raw materials and importing manufactured goods. 2



Notwithstanding certain vulnerabilities and complexes, Russia had some notable conquests to its credit: in the early seventeenth century, following the Time of Troubles, an exhausting period of dynastic crisis and the Polish-Swedish intervention, Russia began to reconstruct its statehood under the leadership of the Romanovs (established in 1613). By the middle of that century, Alexis, the second Romanov tsar, acquired Siberia in the east and re-established authority over the Ukraine. In the eighteenth century, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great annexed the Baltic provinces and the lion’s share of Poland. In 1709, at Poltava, Russia defeated Sweden, the dominant Baltic power at the time. The exigencies of the war with Sweden left Russia with a powerful standing army of 200,000 soldiers – the largest such force in Europe by the end of Peter I’s reign. Catherine the Great, at the end of the century, conquered the Crimea and established Russia firmly on the northern shore of the Black Sea. By the early nineteenth century, Russia had incorporated the entire Transcaucasian region and during the Napoleonic wars seized Finland and Bessarabia. Vladivostok was annexed in 1860 and the Kazakh lands and Central Asia by 1885. 3 Indeed, Russia was capable of both defending itself and expanding: a map of Russian expansion from the sixteenth century through to the nineteenth century is a clear illustration of territorial aspirations. This realisation planted the imperialist seed in Russian foreign policy and fostered a competitive spirit in the drive for development. Similar to Russia, Iran, throughout its long history, has been frequently invaded by powerful adversaries. In 333 BC, Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered Persia (renamed Iran in the 1930s). After a long period of occupation, a number of Persian dynasties established rule over parts of Persia but it was not until 226 AD that Persian sovereignty was completely restored under the Sassanids. The Persian



empire grew impressively during this time but ended with the Arab invasion in 642 AD. From 1037 to 1220, Persia was occupied by the Seljuks, by the Mongols from 1220 to 1380, and by the Timurids from 1380 to 1500. Following this dark period, the Safavid dynasty ascended to power. They unified the country under a centralised government and established Shi’ism as the state religion. The Safavid dynasty, however, was short-lived: the year 1779 saw the appearance of the Qajar dynasty, which lasted until 1925. Persia’s strategic location between Europe and Asia placed the country in the middle of a tug-of-war between Russia and Britain. Whilst the latter tried to secure its colonial rule in Asia, the former opposed such control close to its borders. In the early eighteenth century, Russia and Persia engaged in open conflict, from 1804 to 1813, and again in 1828. These wars culminated in the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmanchai, respectively, establishing permanent Russian control over the two provinces in the Caucasus. Following 1828, Russia’s policy was to ‘make Persia obedient and useful’. 4 To this end, they were largely successful as they managed to wrest numerous concessions from the Persians. However, Russia had to contend with Britain, a rival that valued Persia both as a buffer zone protecting its sphere of influence in India, which shared a border with Persia, and as a lucrative market for its goods. As a result, Russia and Britain entered into a protracted struggle aimed at rebuffing the other’s entrenchment in Persia. For the rest of the century, Russia and Britain continued to extort a host of concessions from Persia. The most outlandish of these was the British concession granted to Baron Julius de Reuter in 1872, which in the words of Lord Curzon was the ‘the most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a kingdom’. 5 The discovery of oil at Masjed-Suleiman at the beginning of the twentieth century added to Iran’s strategic importance and



put a new spin on Anglo-Russian rivalry. The major deposits were in southern Iran where British influence was strongest. Discovering the availability of commercial quantities of oil, and realising its future importance as an energy source, the British government formed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The British quickly transformed the Iranian oil industry into a leading export sector, from which they reaped huge profits compared to the meagre share earned by Iran from royalties and taxes. Inevitably, British ownership of the oil industry tilted the balance of power in favour of Britain. Russia, beset by challenges – the rising revolutionary tide and the RussoJapanese War in 1904-5 – agreed with Britain to divide Iran into three conceptual zones: a Russian zone in the north, a British one in the south, and a strip in the middle under Qajar rule. This arrangement was not formally jettisoned until the end of the First World War. Meanwhile, the two imperial powers meddled in Iran’s domestic and foreign affairs and manipulated Iranian leaders in order to make them dependent on the two powers. 6 Foreign encroachment triggered a sense of Iranian nationalism that was nurtured through nostalgia for the past. Looking back at the imperial glories of ancient Persia, Iranian leaders found the inspiration to loosen the shackles of foreign domination. Similar to Russians, Iranians believed that they had the capacity to ‘catch up’ with the west and perhaps even outpace it, as they had in the distant past. Ironically, both countries were to adopt models borrowed from the evertroublesome west. The geographic, economic, strategic and political considerations we have highlighted above perpetually stimulated the Russian and Iranian monarchs’ drive to reform. The most notable reformers – Peter the Great and Alexander II in Russia, and Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran – implemented reforms with the objective of modernising their apparently



isolated and ‘backward’ countries. ‘Westernisation’ was shorthand for the way in which their countries would be transformed into ‘great powers’. In the tradition of their forefathers, Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah both perceived westernisation as little more than a programme of reform aimed at enhancing their power and prestige. To these two autocratic reformers modernisation was limited to strengthening the militaryindustrial complex at a rapid pace and ‘from above’. The plight of the peasantry remained unresolved (in spite of Alexander II’s efforts in the case of Russia in the 1860s) and the obsolete political system remained intact in both countries. Peter the Great: Russia’s First Modernising Autocrat Russian autocrat Peter the Great (1672-1725) inaugurated the pattern of ‘catch-up’ modernisation early in the eighteenth century. His campaign was prompted by the Northern War against Sweden (1700-21) with its state-of-the-art army led by military genius, Charles XII. The losses at the beginning of the war at Narva accented the backwardness of the Russian military and highlighted the need for reform. Peter was convinced that he could make his army a match for Sweden’s if the military, government and industry were modernised according to the models he had studied in western European countries. The autocrat, however, firmly believed that a radical transformation of this magnitude, carried out against the urgency of war, would have to be entirely state guided.

Petrine-style Economic Reform

A major impetus behind the push for accelerated, ‘statesponsored’ modernisation was the principle of mercantilism – a concept Peter found to be a sine qua non of economic development. Established in England and France in the seventeenth century, mercantilism laid emphasis on trade and



commerce as the source of the nation’s wealth. Mercantilism advocated protectionist policies that shielded domestic industries from foreign competition. Hence, industries that produced goods for export were encouraged, whilst imports were restricted. 7 As expected, implementation of such measures presupposed the state’s direct intervention in the economic realm. Determined to promote economic self-sufficiency, Peter encouraged Russia’s entrepreneurs to set up companies with measures such as protective tariffs, tax exemptions and direct subsidies. The state itself founded a string of armaments factories and workshops, and later turned them over to industrialists and members of the nobility. Commercial and technical education was disseminated by sending hundreds of Russians to Europe and by recruiting foreign technical specialists. Between 1700 and 1725, over 200 industrial enterprises were founded in Russia. 8

Tax, Administrative and Church Reforms

A feature of Peter’s economic reform package was the increase in taxation in order to finance industry. Indirect taxes were levied on items such as beards, salt, tobacco, the sale of oak coffins, cucumbers, the keeping of bees and the grinding of knives and axes. The higher direct taxes included the new ‘soul’ tax of 1724 imposed on the non-noble population. It required every male serf to pay a fixed sum every year. Male state peasants and townsmen paid an amount that was higher than that paid by serfs. The soul tax not only burdened the peasants financially, it also increased their dependence on the nobility responsible for collecting their payments. Apart from money duties, peasants were forced to provide horses and cartage for the military, chop wood for shipbuilding, supply hard labour for the construction of fortresses and towns, and work endless hours in factories. For the construction of the new capital, St Petersburg, Peter’s



‘window on the west’, tens of thousands of peasants were hauled out of village life without warning. Many perished as a result of malnutrition, disease or exhausting toil. The cornerstone of Peter’s transformation was the principle of absolutism, a socio-political system that established absolute authority on rational foundations, rather than on medieval theories of kingship or the divine right of kings. Rationalisation of the government entailed a higher degree of systemisation and the centralisation of administrative organs with the goal of making the social structure more serviceable to the state. Peter believed that rationalisation of the old Muscovite administrative system required both the restructuring of the traditional hierarchy within the ruling class and reform of state institutions. At the institutional level, in 1711, Peter replaced the old Boyar Duma, the supreme authority in government, with the nine-man Senate. Members of the Duma were traditionally drawn from the old, established boyar families and were appointed by the prince in Muscovite Russia, and later, by the tsar. In the newly created Senate, members were not limited to the boyars but to those who were capable of supervising administrative, financial and judicial affairs. The Senate, however, was created in response to the conflict with Turkey in 1710; Turkish presence in the Balkans had forced Peter to surrender gains (the fortress at Azov) from their first conflict in 1695-6. Thus, Peter’s most competent colleagues were either engaged in the Turkish campaign or in the ongoing Northern War with Sweden, shrinking the pool of talent available for recruitment. The Senate was staffed by army officers until 1715 when an Inspector-General was appointed, who in turn was replaced in 1722 with a Procurator-General. During Peter’s reign, then, Senate evolved into the executive and the highest court of appeal. 9 In 1717, Peter also replaced the Muscovite chancelleries, or prikazy, with central administrative colleges, or kollegii. These



were modern government departments modelled on systems copied from Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Prussia and Britain. Nine colleges were set up (there were 13 by 1722), replacing the countless chancelleries that had been characterised by disorganisation. Each college dealt with a specific branch of government, including Foreign Affairs, State Revenues, Justice, State Accounting, the Military, the Admiralty, Commerce, State Expenses, and Mines and Manufacturing. 10 The colleges were highly centralised and were run by a board of 10 to 12 officials who made decisions collectively. In contrast to the chancelleries, the colleges operated according to rules and regulations rather than custom and precedence. The centrepiece of Peter’s administrative reforms was the Table of Ranks, which replaced the outmoded Muscovite institution, the mestnichestvo. The mestnichestvo, abolished in 1682, was a ranking system that determined the position an individual occupied in the hierarchy of command based not his abilities, but on the service record of his ancestors and relatives. Peter replaced this institution with the Table of Ranks in 1722, a system that ranked nobles and even those of lowly birth according to services rendered to the state. Official positions in the three branches of government service – military, civil and court – were divided into 14 parallel grades, of which the top 8 earned hereditary nobility. 11 The Table of Ranks defined social status according to service to the state rather than on the basis of birth or seniority. In doing so, it effectively eroded the privileged status traditionally enjoyed by the upper echelons of the nobility (the boyars), by enabling non-nobles and foreigners to reach parity with them. The Russian revolutionary and social philosopher, Georgii Plekhanov, argued that the Table of Ranks was comparable with the social and political developments that originated during the times of Ivan the Terrible. Specifically, he compared the system with the oprichnina, a special corps of



military servicemen organised by Ivan to curb the old noble families. Plekhanov went so far as to liken Peter’s empire to Oriental despotism; speaking of the Table, he contended, ‘it is diametrically opposed to democracy. Under the service system everybody, save one person, is enslaved, whilst in democracy all are free, at least in law’. 12 Peter’s most radical reform concerned the Russian Orthodox Church, which occupied a central place in the traditional culture of Russia. The model for the reform was derived from the position of the Lutheran Church in Scandinavia and in northern Germany. Peter’s first move was to eliminate the influential position of the patriarchate and to replace it with the Holy Synod. The Holy Synod, composed of leading ecclesiastics and a lay chief procurator, all appointed by the tsar, became the governing body of the church. The motive for this measure was the autocrat’s determination to combat the church hierarchy’s opposition to his modernisation programme. With this reform, the government effectively controlled church organisation and church property. 13


Petro and Rubenstein were on the mark when they said that Peter borrowed ideas, technology and personnel from the west ‘on a scale unmatched in Russian history’. 14 Indeed, Peter’s modernisation efforts encompassed every aspect of Russian existence: including fashion and personal grooming. Hair growth, the material, cut and colour of clothing and footwear were all minutely regimented by edicts. A category of men was forbidden to wear beards and clothing of the old style (anything other than Hungarian, French or German dress), whilst another group was prohibited from wearing anything but the ‘old style’. The new dress code was enforced by decrees that threatened violators with punishments as severe as exile and hard labour.



The state, however, did not stop at sartorial matters. In November 1718, it issued a ruling concerning the organisation of gatherings in private homes. This decree determined the time of the gatherings, the order of invitations, and the duties of the host, guests and servants. A plethora of decrees were issued in relation to construction work on private buildings: chimneys had to be wide enough to allow for a man’s passage, ceilings had to be covered with clay and roofs were to be Ukrainian in style, of tiles, sod or shingles, not boards or lathes. Other decrees dealt with shoe manufacture, the use of scythes and rakes instead of the sickle for grain harvesting and the annotation of textbooks. Peter also introduced blueprints for the construction of a new type of riverboat, the kolomenka, which he considered more up to date. Those who built boats that deviated from the standardised model would face property confiscation or banishment. Rowboats on the Neva were banned and passenger travel was by sailing boat only. Since the use of sails was unfamiliar, detailed instructions as to their use were issued and boat owners were ordered to gather every Sunday to practice sailing. The state even intruded on the spiritual life of individuals and made compulsory church attendance, yearly confessions and Holy Communion. Priests were ordered to keep attendance records and to report absentees. Imperial decrees monitored the method of worship; for example, men of all ranks were instructed to stand and listen silently to the singing of Holy Mass, under the threat of fines. Even bishops were ordered to exercise deep meditation during the liturgy. 15


Peter’s determination to catch up with the west produced resentment within society. Historically, Muscovy had been resistant to change and therefore a measure of opposition was expected. However, during Peter’s reign, change became both ‘constant and pervasive’. 16 What fuelled discontent even more



was the ‘forced’ manner in which policies were implemented – a central feature of ‘modernisation from above’. Significant revolts broke out against Peter’s reforms on two occasions: (1) the Astrakhan mutiny in 1705-6, which was suppressed by a military campaign; and (2) the Bulavin Rebellion of 1707, for which Peter had to divert troops from the Northern War. However, whereas these conflicts were outwardly the only significant manifestations of unrest, inwardly the mood was one of widespread hostility. The list of epithets collected by Peter during his rule, including ‘tyrant’, ‘Anti-Christ’, ‘iconoclast’ and ‘Latiniser’, is a testament to his unpopularity. As James Cracraft has noted, ‘Qualitatively, if not quantitatively, it would seem, Peter faced by 1708 a kind of national resistance’. 17 Indeed, Peter’s rapid, state-endorsed modernisation had the effect of generating widespread resentment: a recurrent pattern in Russia’s economic history.

Evaluation of Petrine Reforms

Peter inaugurated ‘modernisation from above’ and created a blueprint of development that would be maintained to the end of the Romanov Dynasty. To his credit, however, by the end of his reign, Peter had transformed Russia into an even greater military and naval power. Still, as Simon Dixon explains, Russia was yet to become a fully ‘modern’ state: ‘nowhere in Europe was popular participation in politics so severely discouraged; nowhere was subsistence agriculture so widely practiced ... behind the façade of its rationally ordered bureaucratic hierarchy, and beneath the level of the cosmopolitan nobility. He adds that ‘the Russian empire remained a peasant society ruled by autocrats who never relinquished their personal grip on the impersonal state authority they were so anxious to develop’. 18 Indeed, under Peter we see a departure from western norms and standards and a case of ‘trapped modernisation’



where, in modernising the state, the tsar only reinforced the country’s most ‘backward’ structures. The paradoxical nature of modernisation is a prevalent theme in the history of Russian development. Like Peter the Great, Nicholas II attempted to merge two disparate orientations – one eastern and one western – only to generate a tide of revolutionary unrest and social conflict. We see a similar pattern under the Pahlavi shahs. The Petrine reforms became the subject of a heated debate regarding Russia’s relationship with the west. Peter Chaadaev initiated it by articulating the extreme ‘westerniser’ position in ‘Apology of a Madman’, in which he inveighed against Russia’s cultural isolation and backwardness. Chaadaev argued that Russia had no past, present or future and had contributed nothing to world culture. According to Chadaev, Russia had been shut out of the mainstream of history by Russian Orthodoxy, which encouraged a retreat from the world. Western culture, on the other hand, had benefited from the spirit underlying western churches, which encouraged involvement in ethical and social issues of the time. Chadaev was critical of Peter’s modernisation, arguing that he had failed to westernise adequately, providing instead only a superficial veneer of westernisation through imitation and importation. The westerniser’s opponents were the Slavophiles, led by writers such as Nikolai Karamzin, Alexei Khomiakov, Konstantin Aksakov and Ivan Kireevsky, who emphasised the distinctiveness of Russian culture and history. They held that Russia had a separate and higher form of modernity in store. Unswervingly committed to Russia’s heritage, the Slavophiles extolled institutions such as the paternalistic state, the commune, the Russian Orthodox Church and ideals such as the all-protecting state, the desire for community, cultural unity and piety. On the other hand, they condemned western Europe’s culture of ‘egotism and individualism’. Moreover,



the Slavophiles believed that in the future Europe would be plagued by social breakdown and that Russia, by virtue of its spiritual superiority and sacred institutions, would be blessed by harmony and continuity. The Slavophiles denounced Peter’s westernisation drive, arguing that the importation of ‘alien’ institutions and ‘decadent and materialistic’ values had thrust traditional Russian society into disarray. 19 In fact, Peter let down both camps. He failed the westernisers in his inability to shed Russian traditions of despotism. This is not to suggest that Peter was a Slavophile by any stretch of the imagination: his decision to retain traditional structures had little to do with safeguarding what Slavophiles believed were sacred, native institutions. Peter retained those institutions because they allowed him to harness power and mobilise resources more effectively. Peter’s reform strategy had less to do with preservation of the ‘Russian idea’ and everything to do with the pursuit of ‘great power’ status. Alexander’s Great Reforms Alexander II’s celebrated ‘Great Reforms’ also bore the central features of autocratic modernisation. The impetus for the reforms came at the close of Nicholas I’s reign, during the Crimean War (1853-6) in which an isolated Russia was opposed by the British, French, Turks and the Piedmontese. The war made Russia’s military inferiority patently clear: European rifles could open fire at four times the distance of Russia’s outdated guns and the allies’ steam-propelled warships rendered the Black Sea Fleet, composed of wooden sailing vessels, obsolete. The defeats in the Crimean War dealt a blow to Russia’s pride. Indeed, the debacle was hard for Russia to accept given earlier conquests such as Peter the Great’s defeat of Sweden and Alexander I’s victory over Napoleon.



It was during this time that the benefits of the Industrial Revolution were coming to the fore. Capitalism was transforming the agrarian societies of the leading European states, revolutionising their industrial bases and increasing urban populations. The Russian economy, on the other hand, was based on a servile system that hindered commodity production and agriculture. The country’s budget deficit had multiplied from 53 million silver roubles in 1853 to 307 million in 1856. The market value of the gold that backed the paper currency dropped by 50 per cent and state revenue from liquor sales increased from one-third in 1845 to 43 per cent between 1853 and 1856. The monetary system and the credit institutions were in disarray, as were bank deposits, decreasing from 150 million to 13 million roubles between June 1857 and June 1859. 20 The debacle of the war and the country’s financial situation were confirmation that Russia could not continue to aspire to the status of a leading power.

The Problem of Serfdom

Part of the difficulty was that Russia lacked the social structure required to set the industrial revolution in motion. ‘Enlightened bureaucrats’ like Nikolai Miliutin viewed serfdom and the outmoded privileges enjoyed by members of the serf-owning dvorianstvo as the major obstacle to Russia’s economic and cultural progress. Instituted in the seventeenth century, serfdom was fundamentally a system that: (1) furthered the state’s control over financial and human resources for military purposes; and (2) served as compensation for the gentry for compulsory state service under Peter I. 21 A powerful symbol of the old order, serfdom was blamed for Russia’s military backwardness as well as the poor form of the army’s rank and file, composed of conscripted serfs. These considerations prompted the leadership to place the subject of emancipation on the reform agenda.



Peasant unrest was another major factor necessitating reform. Wary of the statistics on murder and the incidence of peasant rebellion, provincial nobles and bureaucrats concluded that only an end to serfdom could ensure stability in the countryside. Fear had also gripped Alexander, who was repeatedly issued assassination warnings from dissidents demanding emancipation. 22 The prevalence of liberal ideas amongst the elite was further impetus for emancipation. The works of a series of liberal-minded writers, philosophers, historians and literary critics put the moral case against agrarian bondage. It was, however, the Crimean defeat that underlined the urgency of the need for reform. In a speech to representatives of the nobility, Alexander II declared his conviction that the existing system was untenable: ‘The existing manner of owning serfs cannot remain unchanged. It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to await the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below. I request you, gentlemen, to consider how this may be achieved, and to submit my words to the nobility for their consideration’. 23 On January 1857, Alexander appointed a secret commission in charge of designing reform for the serfs. 24 The commission was dominated by old-regime officials, most of whom opposed reform: moderates comprised only a minority. After months of debating, the commission produced a proposal whereby peasants were to compensate the squire for their homestead, receive no arable land and obtain freedom through a lengthy process. Frustrated by the commission’s lack of consensus on key issues, the government on 20 November 1857 issued a directive known as the ‘Nazimov Rescript’, instructing governors to organise provincial assemblies of the nobility to discuss the terms of emancipation most suitable for their region. The Rescript also set the framework of reform: the landlord retained land and police power with some provisions



for peasant land purchases and self-administration. To the government’s disappointment, most of the nobility either opposed emancipation or demanded that its terms be cast to serve their personal interests. 25

The Emancipation Act

On 19 February 1861, the Imperial Order on the Emancipation of the Peasants from Serfdom was finally decreed. First and foremost, the serfs were granted legal liberty; that is, they were no longer the property of their masters and were free to trade, marry, litigate and acquire property. Second, they were given allotments of land, assigned from their previous owner’s estate. The serfs, however, were expected to pay for the land they received in the form of ‘redemption payments’ to the government over a period of 49 years; the government compensated the landowners, both for the land and for the loss of their labourers. The government also gave the landowners the option of taking for themselves up to two-fifths of their land, before peasant allocation. As a result, the most indispensable portions of the allotments, including woods, meadows, watering places and grazing grounds, were retained by the landowners. Another condition was that the peasants’ land did not go directly into the hands of individual peasants. Rather, it was held on a collective basis by the village commune or mir. The mir was responsible to the tsar’s authorities for the tax and redemption payments. Every ten years, the mir re-divided the peasants’ land. Peasant households that had grown would receive more land at the expense of other households. The mir was also responsible for payments to the government and for the supply of military recruits; accordingly, it was reluctant to permit members to leave the commune. Retention of the mir was largely a strategy to ensure police power over the peasants by shifting authority from the squire to the commune. Bound to the commune,



without individual land tenure and subjected to heavy taxes and periodic redistribution of land, the peasantry remained rebellious and impoverished with a poorly developed conception of private property and freedom.

Post-emancipation Reforms

The abolition of serfdom required reforms to local government, the judicial system and the military, because much of Russian life had been constructed around the institution of serfdom. On 1 January 1864, regulations were published introducing the zemstvos – organs of district and provincial government. The regulation granted all classes of the population in the provinces and districts the right to elect the bodies that would resolve all questions concerning the administration of the local economy. 26 Zemstvos had never been intended to be genuinely democratic institutions: elections to these new bodies were indirect and landowners were over-represented. Nevertheless, for the first time, elected representatives of all classes, including landowners, village communities and townspeople, had a forum in which they worked together. The work of the zemstvos was restricted to local, district and provincial administration, and economic and cultural affairs. Moreover, the funds at the disposal of the zemstvos were insufficient, their taxing power was restricted and their activities were monitored by police and government officials. Another example of the limits placed on the zemstvos was the ‘Law of 13 July 1867’, which restricted the activity of zemstvos in three ways. First, the chairmen of zemstvo assemblies were given the discretionary prerogative to deprive any of the delegates of the right to vote and to shut down assemblies that raised any issue they believed would contest the supreme laws. Secondly, the law prohibited contact amongst provincial zemstvos and, thirdly, it required the submission of all zemstvo publications to the provincial



censor. 27 Despite these limitations the new bodies contributed much to the improvement of communities. The Great Reforms also reshuffled the judiciary. The Judicial Statutes enacted in 1864 laid the basis for the restructuring of the administration of justice. The new legal system featured an independent judiciary, trial by jury and the development of a large class of lawyers. Justices of the peace were now to be elected by the population. Cases between peasants were decided by a system of special courts, thereby preserving the old distinction between free citizens and serfs. The military also saw changes. Under the old system, conscription was limited to men from the serf population only and required them to serve for 25 years. Under the Minister of War, Dmitrii Miluitin, Russia set up a system of conscription modelled on Prussia. In 1874, a military statute was adopted that put into effect a system of conscription that made the entire male population liable for conscription and reduced the maximum term of service to six years. It also established reserve forces drawn from men who had completed service. Other reforms included measures for technological rearmament, administrative reorganisation and the professionalisation of military schools. 28 Reforms also extended to educational institutions. Following the establishment of the zemstvos, numerous elementary schools were built in European Russia. By 1880, there were more than 22,000 schools with more than a million students. A university statute was issued in 1863, granting universities self-administration with greater rights for teaching staff and recognition of certain student rights. The close state supervision of universities was eased, opening the way for the formation of numerous academic circles and associations. Under Alexander II censorship rules were revised. The late 1850s had already witnessed a relaxation of censorship as the regime tolerated public comment on serf emancipation and other reform plans. In 1865, edicts were issued easing



censorship regulations for a significant number of books and periodicals (with the exception of newspapers of mass circulation). Although censorship was not entirely eliminated, the new regulations enhanced the ability of the press to publish quickly and to exercise freedom of expression, within prescribed limits. 29


Following the Great Reforms, the government encountered not only discontent amongst peasants and nobles but also resistance from a budding force in society, collectively known as the ‘intelligentsia’. Although Russia had seen its share of radicals before, they had not constituted a self-conscious social group with a distinctive identity and subculture. The intelligentsia was distinguished primarily by a strong social consciousness – one that had been aroused by a feeling of guilt that their entire life and culture was founded upon the exploitation of others forced to work in conditions of enslavement. In their view, the Great Reforms were a farce and the tsar had betrayed the hopes of the people by not granting former serfs equal rights. It was the radicals of the 1860s that represented the first signs of an organised revolutionary movement. For the most part these early radicals waged the fight with appeals like that of ‘Young Russia’, calling for a federal-republican Russia, based on the commune. The government, alarmed by the growing wave of resistance including student disorders, revolutionary proclamations and random acts of violence – from fires in St Petersburg in 1862 to the failed assassination of Alexander II – responded by intensifying repression. 30 The dissenters of 1860s, nonetheless, were a harbinger of what was to come in the 1870s. The revolutionary movement during the late 1860s and early 1870s called for wholesale transformation of the state and society on principles very different from any that had



been part of the Great Reform debate. No autocracy – not even a remodelled one – had any place in the vision embraced by Russian revolutionaries. They had become so disillusioned with the reforms that they began to declare war on the autocrat and the institutions that supported him. 31 In the early 1870s, encapsulated in the ideology of revolutionary Populism, or Narodnichestvo, the movement emphasised that humankind in its development would reach socialism, and that Russia, by virtue of the commune (the embryonic unit of socialism) would circumvent capitalism and thus avoid the formation of the exploitative class of the bourgeoisie. Influenced by the teachings of Peter Lavrov and Michael Bakunin, in 1874, thousands of populist revolutionaries (Narodniks) initiated a ‘going to the people’ campaign by fusing with the peasants in the countryside in the hope of sparking an insurrection. When this method proved unsuccessful, the revolutionaries resorted to terrorism, including violent attacks on high-ranking officials and the tsar. After several foiled acts of terrorism, a bomb planted by the People’s Will revolutionaries struck down the tsar on 1 March 1881. The nobility also made ‘radical demands’, including a consultative assembly at the national level and a constitution. The tsar was not willing to entertain these demands, but he was aware of the pressing need for more democratic measures. Initiatives to provide some form of political participation in the central government surfaced from inside the regime itself. Peter Valuev, Minister of the Interior between 1861 and 1868, suggested that a consultative Congress of Deputies be established. He also proposed that members of the congress should sit on the State Council. It was in the last year of his life that the tsar seriously took up the idea of political reform. Minister of the Interior Michael Loris-Melikov was given the task of examining the causes of the revolutionary movement. Plans were drawn up



to establish a nationally elected body of representatives who would not be given the power to make laws but were granted a consultative role. This can be interpreted as a potential step towards the establishment of a parliament and a constitutional government. After giving approval to Melikov’s proposal, Alexander II died when an explosive device was thrown into his carriage as he drove through the centre of St Petersburg on 1 March 1881.

Assessment of the Great Reforms

The Great Reforms were ambitious in scope, yet limited in substance. Like Peter the Great’s ‘catch-up’ reforms, these were introduced in response to a military defeat and were aimed at achieving parity with the advanced western nations. Thus, the interests of the state took precedence over those of society. Furthermore, other than attempts to incorporate the gentry into the reform process, political reform was limited as demands for a representative assembly were rejected and the repressive apparatus remained unaltered. Finally, as under Peter and later rulers, Alexander’s lop-sided path to modernity led to widespread dissatisfaction of revolutionary proportions. 32 The Great Reforms proved to be a paradox. On the one hand, we see modernisation of the economy, the education system, the military, the legal system, the establishment of zemstvos, and emancipation; but there were also limits on the zemstvos, restrictions on serfs and preservation of the anachronistic commune. Indeed, in many ways, Alexander’s reforms represented both convergence with, and divergence from, western models. It is this sort of ambivalence that is characteristic of modernisation in late imperial Russia. Clearly, Alexander failed to resolve a recurring dilemma in Russian history: what orientation should Russia follow in its political, socio-economic and cultural development?



Rapid Reconstruction under Reza Shah The question of orientation was equally complicated in the case of Iran. In the aftermath of the country’s defeat at the hands of the Russians in 1828, arguments began circulating amongst the intellectual and political elite as to the precise course of development. In a process of self-questioning, pioneer reformers, such as Mirza Malkolm Khan and Mostashar al-Dauleh, began to express, in poetry and prose, yearnings for effective government, cultural dominance and territorial irredentism. Earlier nationalists, such as Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzadeh and Mirza Agha Khan Kermani, expressed the will to recover lost national glories and to disassociate the Iranian ‘self’ from the ‘alien’ Muslim-Arabs who had adulterated Iran. 33 Amongst secular intellectuals was the consensus that identification with European culture was the modus operandi for traversing the threshold of modernity. Western civilisation was perceived as the culture of reference in the process of identity formation. 34 In his celebrated essay, Yak Kalam, alDauleh applied the 17 principles of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen into Islamic culture, in an effort to identify the notion of sovereign nationhood. Some, like Kermani, actually believed that the French and Iranians were ‘two nations born from the same father and mother’. The French, who moved to the west, progressed whilst the Persians, ravaged by the Arabs in the east, lost their reason, knowledge, ethics and means of prosperity. Similarly, in a royal proclamation, Mohammad Shah Qajar called for the adoption of European-style military uniforms, arguing that they were copies of ancient Persian uniforms illustrated on the walls of Persepolis. 35 Whereas secular modernists were united in their conviction that intellectual, institutional and cultural proximity with the west would clear the way for Iran’s passage to modernity, religious intellectuals demonstrated diverse and often



contradictory views regarding the trajectory for national revitalisation. The sharia intellectuals, for example, including Ayatollah Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri and Mirza Mohammad Hossein Gharavi, opposed all forms of temporal rule. During the 1906 Constitutional Movement they argued that the constitution was a farce, and that sovereignty belonged exclusively to God. 36 The Qur’an, they held, contained all the regulations for administration of the state; therefore, any legislative assembly was superfluous and heretical. 37 Concentrating on the Islamic-Iranian heritage, these intellectuals perceived Iran as part of the greater Islamic community (or ummah) rather than a national entity. On the other hand, within the ulama were intellectuals who believed that modern institutions were compatible with religion. In fact, amongst the most notable nationalists of the 1906 Constitutional Movement was senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Tabatabai, who believed that a constitution would limit the unfettered power of autocrats who had allowed the west to exploit the country. The fiery cleric, Ayatollah Muddaris, who in 1919 vehemently denounced the Anglo-Persian Treaty – an agreement to grant the British control of Persia’s army and finances and, in effect, reduce the country to a protectorate – was also in favour of adopting a constitution. The range of views expressed by Iranian thinkers regarding the impact of western civilisation and the significance of Iran’s (pre-)Islamic heritage, hindered the development of a coherent programme for forging a ‘modern’ Iran. To a large degree, such vacillation and difference in emphases paralleled Reza Shah Pahlavi’s dilemma over the route the country would take in its development. Indeed, both the intellectuals and the monarch failed to answer the key question: ‘was modernity compatible with Iranian culture, and could western institutions be successfully woven into Iran’s national and



historical tapestry?’ Answers to these questions only emerged in the aftermath of Reza Shah’s westernisation programme. Torn between tradition, modernity and nationalism, Reza Khan Mir Panj was the embodiment of a paradox. To the nationalists – both secular and religious – he was an exemplary reformer, a saviour who would implement the national project of rejuvenation. To an extent, this estimation was correct. Occupation during the First World War, the threat of Bolshevism following the Russian Revolution, and agreements like the 1919 Anglo-Persian Treaty, drove Reza Shah to endorse a nationalist agenda based on a process of renewal, or tajaddod. Nevertheless, following his accession to the throne, Reza Shah shifted his attention away from the nation to the traditional monarchy. Increasingly, Reza Shah highlighted the importance of the monarchy, arguing that without the dynasty, the nation would cease to exist. To his critics, Reza was little more than a traditional patrimonial ruler with the additional benefit of modern institutions such as an army and the bureaucracy. In the words of historian Ali Ansari, Reza was viewed as a ‘modern version of the despots of the old, harnessing all the tools and institutions of the modern age to his dynastic ambitions’. 38 It was within these parameters that Reza Shah executed his modernisation programme but, first, a few words on the circumstances of Reza’s rise to power are pertinent here. In the aftermath of the First World War, many within the political establishment grew anxious at the continued impotence of the Iranian state. The ubiquity of the British and the Soviets, the existence of ‘sub-states’ run by local tribes, and a nationalist uprising in the northern province of Gilan Province, where Mirza Kuchek Khan spearheaded the Jangali Movement, led intellectuals, merchants and the ulama to welcome the February 1921 coup led by Reza Khan Mir Panj – one of the commanders of the Cossack Brigade. Around



2,500 troops marched to Tehran, where a compliant Ahmad Shah Qajar granted Reza the post of Commander of the Army and British protégé Seyyed Zia Tabatabaie the prime ministership. Several politicians were arrested and martial law was imposed. Zia Tabatabaie’s unremitting attacks on prominent politicians and court representatives left him with few allies. Three months later, Ahmad Shah forced Zia into exile and appointed Reza Khan as the new prime minister. Soon thereafter, the timid shah left for Europe, for medical treatment, never to return. As prime minister, Reza Khan retained his post as Commander of the Army and successfully brought the gendarmerie forces (previously administered by the Ministry of Interior) and the Cossacks under his command. This gave him control of the executive branch and the armed forces. In November 1925, the Majles chose Reza Khan as caretaker of a provisional government and called for an elective constituent assembly to decide the future government. Out of the 85 deputies, 80 voted for the overthrow of the Qajars and for the transfer of dynastic sovereignty to Reza Shah Pahlavi.


With a fledgling dynasty in his hands, Reza Shah moved to consolidate his rule. This he did by endorsing a programme of modernisation designed to restore the nation’s sovereignty. By drawing on nationalist symbols, Reza Shah sought also to legitimise his claim to power and to advance his reform package. For instance, in a bid to associate himself with the glories of pre-Islamic Iran, Reza adopted the surname ‘Pahlavi’, the name given to middle Persian, the language of Sassanian Persia. 39 Reza Shah also made the claim that the deposed dynasty was ‘Turkish’, whereas the Pahlavis were said to have been descendents of the purest Persian stock. In 1930, Reza took a further step to aggrandise Persia’s Aryan



heritage, by changing the country’s name from Persia to ‘Iran’, derived from the term ‘Arya’. As discussed above, foreign interference in the country’s affairs was a sore spot for Iranians. By playing on nationalist sentiment, Reza Shah succeeded in garnering popular support for socio-economic development and centralisation of the Pahlavi state. He frequently spoke of national unity and the need to build an independent and prosperous Iran. In return, he received encouragement from the middle-class government officials, army officers, professionals, some clerics, students and secularists.

Accelerated Modernisation

Reza Shah’s development programme was the precursor to Mohammad Reza Shah’s ‘modernisation from above’. Modernisation was fast-paced, state-directed and limited to the superficial manifestations of modernity. Bearing the hallmark of ‘catch-up modernisation’, Reza’s reforms concentrated on preparing the foundations of a powerful state, which in turn would be administered by a quintessential autocrat. In line with the programme of ‘modernisation from above’, reform began with the build-up of the army and expansion of the country’s military capabilities. In June 1925, the shah persuaded the National Consultative Assembly, the Majles, to extend the conscription law. The new law provided that every male citizen had to be drafted at the age of 25 for 25 years of service. The result was a growth of the army from 40,000 to a total of 127,000 in 1941. The five-fold increase in the military budget, an annual average of 33.5 per cent of the total revenue from 1921 to 1941, allowed for the development of a small air force and a navy based in the Persian Gulf. 40 To ensure the loyalty of the army, Reza Shah elevated its status in society and provided career officers with relatively high salaries and access to inexpensive land. For members of the



armed forces, the shah built a prestigious social club in Tehran. The shah overhauled the administrative system in order to simplify the country’s cumbersome bureaucracy. Ultimately, ten new ministries were created or reorganised, with a total of 90,000 civil servants; these included ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Finance, Education, Trade, Post and Telegraph, Agriculture, Roads and Industry. Provincial administration involved the country being divided into six provinces, subdivided into counties and then into districts. The six provinces were later reconfigured into ten. The provinces were administered by governor-generals, the counties by officials, the municipalities by mayors and rural districts by official councils appointed by the Ministry of the Interior. Writing about this hierarchy, Ervand Abrahamian explains, ‘for the first time in the modern era, the hand of the state reached out from the capital into the provincial towns, counties, and even some large villages’. 41 Infrastructural projects were also initiated, with roads multiplying throughout Iran for the rapid deployment of armed forces. In 1925, there were about 200 miles of road; by 1938 this figure had multiplied to 14,000 miles. On 16 October 1927, Reza initiated construction of the TransIranian Railway, linking the Caspian port of Bandar Shah with the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Shahpur – a distance of 866 miles. Whereas the project was ostensibly ‘Iranian’ in its design and funding, the engineers were American, German, Italian and Belgian. Work on the extension of the railway was interrupted by the invasion of Iran in 1941, at which time 273 miles of the 460-mile line to Tabriz and 195 miles of the 504mile line to Mashad had been completed. In the opinion of many scholars, the economic utility of the railroad was confined to transporting goods from the royal estates. 42 An east-west railroad linking Iran’s borders would have been more practical than one with both termini on



Iranian soil. Ali Amini, statesman and prime minister, complained that the north-south line was designed to ‘connect the royal estates to the world market, and to consolidate the shah’s grip on power in Iran’. 43 The line brought the produce of the Caspian provinces to the south for export; by 1941, Reza owned at least 3 million acres of land in this region. The shah, however, justified the route as a means of reducing the Soviet ‘stranglehold’ on the northern economy. Two more developments in transport and communication are also significant. Starting in 1926, flights between the main cities were carried out by the German firm of Junkers, whose regular routes covered 1,740 miles. In the late 1930s, the Iranian government took over the service and commenced regular flights to Baghdad. Furthermore, by 1935, telephone lines with a total length of over 6,200 miles connected the main towns. 44 The shah also worked to rid the country of foreign interference. The nineteenth-century ‘capitulatory rights’, which provided extrajudicial privileges for foreigners, were abolished. 45 Arthur Millspaugh, the American treasurergeneral of Iran, was sacked with the statement that ‘there can’t be two Shahs in this country, and I am going to be the Shah’. 46 In 1927, the Customs Administration was removed from Belgian control and returned to Iran, and administration of the telegraph system was assumed from the IndoEuropean Telegraph Company. In 1930, the right to issue paper money was taken away from the British-owned Imperial Bank and granted to the National Bank of Iran (Bank Melli Iran). In addition, Reza barred foreigners, particularly missionaries, from administering schools, owning land or travelling in the provinces without police consent. Despite efforts, the shah failed, however, to reduce the influence of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.



Industrial development coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, which had drastically reduced the price of capital. The state encouraged industrialisation by raising tariff rates, establishing government monopolies (including sugar, tobacco, tea, matches, textiles, glassworks and automobiles), financing modern plants through the Ministry of Industries, extending low-interest loans to entrepreneurs through the National Bank and exempting imports of machinery from customs duties for 20 years. The number of industrial plants grew prodigiously, increasing from 20 in 1925 to 346 in 1941. 47 The growth of industry gave birth to an industrial workforce – the number of wage earners employed in plants increased from 1,000 workers in 1921 to 50,000 in 1941. During the same period, the labour force in the oil industry grew from 20,000 to 31,000. Another 170,000 worked in railways, small factories, fisheries, railways, coal fields, construction and on the docks. Commerce and infrastructural development, nonetheless, was principally centred in cities: over 75 per cent of larger factories were located in Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan, Gilan and Mazandaran. Thus, whilst the urban centres prospered, growth in the provinces was severely delayed. Another accusation levelled against the shah’s industrialisation programme was that a number of state factories were awarded to royal favourites, military officers and relatives of the shah, who were often incompetent administrators. 48 Cognisant of widespread illiteracy and its implications for national prestige, Reza Shah initiated reform of the education system from 1925 to 1930. 49 In 1927, elementary and secondary schools, some of them co-educational, were established. Nevertheless, most schools were built in the metropolitan areas; rural areas, desperately in need of elementary education, were virtually ignored. At the time of



his abdication, 90 per cent of the Iranian population remained illiterate. Of note is that whereas Reza sought to widen the educational base of the country, he also sought to project state control into the schooling system. For example, in 1934, the existing colleges in Tehran were combined to form the University of Tehran, the first European-style academic institution. 50 The university principal was to be appointed by royal decree. A further example is the law passed in 1928 to facilitate overseas higher education for hundreds of students. Worried about the infiltration of potentially radical ideas, Reza asked officials to ‘select the countries which pay proper attention to moral education’. 51 The internal structure of the classes reflected the hierarchical structure of authority: one student from each grade was nominated as ‘leader’ by the school principal. Moreover, once a week, secondary students were expected to parade around the school under the direction of an officer from the army. 52 As part of his campaign to rid the country of obscurantism, at least on a superficial level, Reza raised the status of women. Educational institutions, including Tehran University, opened their doors to both sexes. Cinemas, cafes and hotels were threatened with fines if they discriminated against women. There was a decline in polygamy and an increase in paid work. Nevertheless, women were still denied the right to vote and to stand for public election and men continued to be recognised as the legal head of the family and were entitled to more favourable inheritance rights.

The Agrarian Sector

Reza Shah’s Iran operated under an agricultural economy. Nevertheless, this area was the least affected by the modernisation movement. Agricultural techniques such as ploughing, seed scattering and grain separation were primitive, contributing to famine, malnutrition and shortages



of grain, all of which were exacerbated by the rising population rates: from 10 million in 1925 to 14.6 million in 1940. The agricultural labour force was, for the most part, illiterate, disease was rampant, and health services and housing were inadequate. In 1937, a few agricultural schools were set up and agricultural credit was expanded. Large subsidies were devoted to industrial crops such as tobacco, silk and tea. In 1936, a proposal was drafted for the construction of seven silos in different zones of the country for the regional storage and distribution of grain. The first silo was completed in Tehran in July 1939; the other six, in Tabriz, Isfahan Mashad, Kermanshah, Ahwaz and Shiraz, remained unfinished because the country was invaded two years later. 53 Overall, these measures yielded negligible results. The Iranian land-tenure system was believed to have seriously retarded agricultural and rural development. The land-tenure system in Iran was ‘traditional’ in the sense that land ownership was concentrated in the hands of a few landlords who divided their land into small farms, which they leased to farmers. Most farmers were sharecroppers, paying a share of their crop to the landlords as rent. This form of tenancy, however, was beset with problems. First, high land concentration resulted in a skewed distribution of income in the agricultural sector: 95 to 98 per cent of the agricultural population was reportedly landless. 54 Secondly, landowners transferred most of their agricultural earnings to the cities and invested little in the rural economy. Also, farmers and peasants lacked security of tenancy. The absence of clearly defined property rights meant that tenants could be evicted at will. This reduced peasants’ labour productivity and deprived them of the incentive to invest in land. 55 In the more prosperous provinces in northern Iran, farmers paid fixed rents, which allowed them to accumulate surpluses. A system of renting through an intermediary existed



throughout Iran whereby an intermediary renter would sign a short-term contract with a landlord and then subcontract land to the peasants. Most areas of state and religious endowment (waqf) land were rented along these lines. The system was highly unproductive, encouraging short-term profits and discouraging investment. Land was periodically redistributed, depriving peasants of a permanent stake in a plot. Many peasants were also subject to landlords’ dues and taxes, and to the harsh treatment of kadkhodas, village headmen, responsible for preserving order. As the largest landowner in the country, Reza Shah had a stake in preserving the land-tenure system. 56 He also sought an agrarian policy favourable to landlords as part of his strategy of co-opting the upper classes, whom he hoped would become allies. In the early 1930s, the shah passed legislation that transferred agricultural tax from the landlords to the peasant cultivators. Land taxes, on the other hand, were reduced to a miniscule sum: in 1939, they accounted for a quarter of 1 per cent of the total tax revenue. 57 The shah encouraged regional magnates to register communal property under their own names with the Department of Land Registration. He also decreed that in the future kadkhodas were to be appointed by the landlord instead of being selected by the villagers. Conscription and taxes on sugar and tea added to the plight of the peasants – this was a period before oil revenues constituted a significant source of income; consequently, projects like the Trans-Iranian Railroad were financed by tax revenues. It was the poorer class, Julian Bharier explains, that financed large-scale projects, and the merchants, monopolists, contractors and politicians who reaped the benefits. 58 In his drive to ‘catch-up’, Reza Shah focussed on the development of those areas that would provide ‘the surface gloss of western societies’. Speaking of Reza’s economic policies, Amin Banani explains that the shah revealed ‘an



appetite for industrialisation far beyond the bounds of economic rationale, not for the sake of efficiency and welfare but as a symbol of prestige and status’. 59

Imported Modernisation

In his campaign to adopt the outward expressions of modernisation, Reza outlawed ethnic clothing and imposed European dress codes. Traditionally, social propriety had required male Iranians to wear a headdress, both outdoors and in indoor formal gatherings. These headdresses varied from the religiously inspired turban and the skullcap, to the official aristocratic sheepskin hat that had become fashionable in western countries. Reza Shah viewed the traditional headdresses as evidence of Iranian backwardness. As a result, a new hat was introduced, known as the ‘Pahlavi hat’, which closely resembled the French military cap and every Iranian male was ordered to wear one. In the later years of his rule, the shah decided that the Pahlavi hat was not modern enough so he ordered the use of the French ‘chapeau’. Before long, people grew irritated with the shah’s antics. A preacher by the name of Buhlul began to attract large crowds to his protests against what he believed was absolute tyranny; he was publicly hanged. 60 This debacle did not deter the shah from issuing further sartorial decrees. In 1936, he ordered the unveiling of women, making Iran the first Islamic nation to declare veiling unlawful. Veiled women were harassed by the police and were in many cases forced into exile if they refused to shed the Islamic chador that covered them from head to toe. The irony was that whereas Reza Shah perceived the decree as a liberating force for women, its effect was that women chose to stay indoors. Many women, especially those over 40 years of age, felt exposed without the chador that had draped them since pubescence. To these women, and their husbands, fathers and brothers, the shah had committed the ultimate act



of ignorance by stripping women of what they believed protected their modesty and honour.

Political Stagnation

Equipped with a powerful military and bureaucracy, and an entourage of sycophants, the shah imposed absolute control over the political system. During the previous 20 years, from the First to the Fifth National Assemblies, parliamentary candidates had been free to campaign in the cities and the countryside. Under Reza Shah, between the Sixth and the Thirteenth Assemblies, the shah determined the outcome of each election. With the help of the police chief, the shah drew up a list of favourable candidates, which was passed to the Minister of the Interior, who distributed it to the provincial governor-generals. Finally, the governor-generals handed down the list to the electoral councils who, with the help of Interior officials, supervised the ballots. In effect, the Majles was reduced to a rubber stamp. Moreover, whereas the previous monarchs had formed cabinets after extensive consultations with leading politicians, Reza Shah monopolised the selection process. Once he had independently selected his ministers, he sent them to the Majles to obtain approval, which was usually automatic. Reza Shah perpetuated the autocratic structure of governance by abolishing political parties, closing down independent newspapers and stripping deputies of their parliamentary immunity. The Reformers’ Party (Hizbi Eslah) was outlawed and the Revival Party (Hizbi Tajaddod), which had supported Reza’s rise to power, was replaced first by the New Iran Party (Hizbi Irani) and later by the Progressive Party (Hizbi Taraqqi), which was modelled on Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party and Mustafa Kemal’s Republican Party. The Progressive Party was ultimately outlawed on the suspicion that it harboured harmful republican sentiments. The socialist and communist parties were dissolved, and trade



unions and labour organisers were arrested. Many of the organisers were exiled to towns far from their native provinces, whilst others perished in prison. 61 The shah showed no mercy to tribal chiefs and readily ordered their execution. Testy bureaucrats often suffered the same fate; in fact, a handful of the shah’s close aides were executed during the later years of his reign.

Marginalisation of Opponents

As his power grew, the shah concentrated on undermining opponents. The clergy (the ulama) were his prime target. Opposing the regime’s secularist tendencies, this traditionbound group administered the basic civil law of the country and controlled the courts and education system. Akbar Davar, a Swiss-educated jurist, was assigned the task of reorganising the Ministry of Justice with the goal of curtailing the influence of the clergy. Davar introduced modified versions of the French Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code; Qur’anic (sharia) regulations regarding marriage, divorce and family were codified in a body of secular law. Davar also transferred the ulama’s notary responsibilities – the registering of legal documents and the like – to secular attorneys. Moreover, state judges were given the power to decide whether cases should be handled by religious or secular courts. Other regulations of this nature included the creation of state agencies, depriving the clergy of their control over the administration of civil services; the replacement of religious maktabs with modern schools; a 1939 law decreeing state appropriation of religious lands and foundations; and the prohibition of religious passion plays and pious public self-flagellation. 62 Reza Shah also demonstrated intolerance towards Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and Bahais. In an effort to centralise the state and society, the shah restricted or banned their right to educate their children in specialised schools. Literacy in Persian was increased in the newly established



schools, whilst literacy in non-Persian languages, including Azeri, Arabic and Armenian, diminished as community schools and printing presses were closed down. The shah also took an aggressive stance towards nomads. Having defeated the tribes, Reza sought to ensure their permanent subjection by extending army outposts into their regions, disarming their warriors, conscripting their youth, fomenting internal conflicts, confiscating land and restricting annual migrations. Support for Reza quickly diminished: in 1936, one of the worst confrontations between the religious authorities and the government took place when troops violated the sanctity of the religious shrine of Imam Reza where worshippers were protesting against the autocrat’s policies. Dozens of worshippers were shot dead and hundreds were injured. A tribal revolt in Kurdistan protesting against the banning of ethnic dress was bloodily suppressed. In 1927-8, demonstrations and strikes erupted in protest at Davar’s secular laws and the conscription of urban youth. The government responded by vowing not to conscript urban youth and by appointing members of the clergy to a judicial committee. The committee was disbanded within two years, however, and the promise to limit conscription was broken after six years. In 1935 there were protests against the unveiling of women and the imposition of the Pahlavi hat. In 1935, in the religious city of Mashad, a preacher at the shrine denounced the regime, its high consumer taxes and the prevalence of corruption at the elite level. The following day, a massive crowd from the bazaar and neighbouring villages flocked to the shrine. Local authorities and the shah’s army refused to violate the sanctity of the shrine. After a two-day stand-off, army reinforcements from Azerbaijan moved to clear the shrine. Approximately 200 men, women and children suffered injuries and over 100 lost their lives. The British consul criticised the indiscriminate use of force, and



asserted that the bloodshed served to widen the gulf between the shah and his people. 63 The shah’s inability to wrest control of the oil industry from the British, the increased centralisation of the state, and the absence of political liberties overshadowed achievements such as the establishment of law and order, the extension of schooling and modern industry, and the partial emancipation of women. Younger intellectuals were particularly disillusioned, frequently staging protests and strikes in larger cities including Tehran, Mashad, Isfahan, Rasht and Qazvin. Organisers and participants were either arrested or executed. In the end, according to Arthur Millspaugh, ‘Fear settled upon the people. No one knew whom to trust; and no one dared to protest or criticise’. 64

Reza Shah’s Ambivalence

Although Reza Shah did not articulate a blueprint for modernisation, his reforms had a western ‘veneer’: westernstyle clothing, the elevation of the status of women, the establishment of schools, modern industry, communication networks and banks, all suggested that Iran was on a western path of modernity. On the other hand, the shah revealed the qualities of an ‘Asiatic despot’ bent on consolidating his personal power through expansion of the army, the security apparatus and the bureaucracy. Intolerance, political suppression, cultural homogeneity and corruption were amongst the most ‘backward’ features of a regime that, on the surface, appeared to be converging with the west. Incongruently, the shah cultivated western institutions and practices whilst purposively taking steps to stall political development. This was the blueprint that Reza Shah would bequeath to his heir, Mohammad Reza Shah. Peter the Great, Alexander II and Reza Shah Pahlavi were plagued by the same dilemma: they were too modern to be backward and too backward to be modern. This ambivalence



manifested itself in the enterprise of ‘modernisation from above’ – a paradoxical trajectory towards modernity engendering binary opposites: European-style development and progress, on the one hand, and reaction and despotism on the other. This hybrid, little by little, brought Russia and Iran closer to conflict. In the following chapters, we will see how ‘modernisation from above’ under Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah pushed Russia and Iran towards ‘revolution from below’.


Crisis and the Urgency of Reform Social revolutions are not isolated, independent occurrences but products of social, economic, political and intellectual crises with their roots in history. Accordingly, in order to measure the extent to which ‘modernisation from above’ contributed to ‘revolution from below’, we need to examine the historical backdrop preceding Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah’s modernisation movements. In both Russia and Iran, popular resentment had been brewing for a while and the leadership was feeling pressure to reform. To the tsar and the shah, reform and restriction were essential for combating subversive elements at home and, at the same time, for achieving great power status abroad. In this section we will present the historical backdrop to Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah’s modernisation campaigns. In both cases what becomes evident is a set of ‘prodromal’ symptoms – milder warning signs preceding the actual symptoms of the revolutionary crisis.

Alexander III’s Counter-modernisation Campaign

Serious tension between the autocracy and broad sectors of society emerged during Alexander III’s reign (1881-94), following the inauguration of a series of repressive measures



known as the ‘Reaction’. The Reaction is significant to ‘modernisation from above’ and ‘revolution from below’ in 1917 because the strains and stresses associated with Nicholas II’s reign were exacerbated by the tensions carried over from Alexander III’s leadership. Also inherited by Nicholas II were diplomatic and financial realities that also had a significant bearing on his policies: these included realignment in Russian foreign policy and a currency crisis, which made economic modernisation a matter of urgency. Alexander III’s investiture took place following the assassination of his father, Alexander II, by a group of disaffected members of the intelligentsia. As we explained earlier, the irony was that Alexander II was within hours of granting the country its first constitution before two bombs were thrown into his carriage. Alexander III’s response was the prompt execution of five of the assassins and a determined effort to tighten the shackles of repression. It is important to recognise that whereas Alexander II’s reforms were contradictory, they represented a conscious move towards development. In fact, many Russians revered Alexander II as the ‘Tsar-liberator’ who had finally freed the serfs. Alexander III, on the other hand, not only rejected reform but tried to undo many of those acts that had been successfully implemented. Alexander’s Reaction turned out to be even more anathema to society because it reversed the few gains of the Great Reforms. It was Konstantin Pobedonostov, chief minister in the Russian government from 1881 to 1905, and Procurator of the Holy Synod (the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church), who persuaded the tsar that liberal reforms would only produce more revolutionaries like the ones who had assassinated his father. 1 An archconservative, Pobedonostov was averse to any form of liberalism and went so far as to dismiss the Great Reforms as a ‘criminal mistake’. He rejected the principles of freedom, arguing that an unbridled autocracy



was the only feasible political system in Russia. 2 As advisor to Alexander III, Pobedonostov played a major role in shaping the tsar’s reactionary attitude. The shift towards stark conservatism produced many cleavages within the administration. There were clashes between Pobedonostov and reform-oriented ministers such as Minister of War Dmitry Miliutin, Alexander Abaza of the Finance Ministry and Minister of the Interior Michael LorisMelikov. Disagreements surfaced after discussions about the constitutional changes approved by Alexander II on the eve of his murder. The liberal faction of Loris-Melikov lobbied for the creation of an advisory commission to be composed of the deputies of the rural and urban administrations for the purpose of considering all legal projects prior to their submission to the State Council. The proposal was rejected by the radical faction headed by Pobedonostov, who argued that it violated the sacred prerogatives of autocracy. A proponent of an ecclesiastical police state, Pobedonostov and his group contended that enlightenment was harmful to Russia and that the reformers of Alexander II’s days were nothing more than ‘flabby eunuchs and tricksters’. Alexander III, deeply shaken by his father’s assassination, was quick to accept the procurator-general’s ideas. At Pobedonostov’s insistence, within months of his coronation, Alexander III removed all the reformists from the establishment and replaced them with reactionaries. 3 ‘The Manifesto of 28 April 1881’ was promulgated by Alexander III at Pobedonotov’s insistence. This document expressed the government’s commitment to undiluted autocracy. The cornerstone of the document was the 1833 doctrine of ‘official nationality’ formulated by Minister of Education Sergei Uvarov and implemented by Nicholas I. Uvarov’s ideological formula was comprised of three core tenets: ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality’, upon which the Nicholavean method of governance was premised. This



theory required that Russians remain supporters of the Orthodox Church, devoted servants of the autocracy and upholders of the traditions of Russia. 4 The slogan provided ideological justification both for conservatism and for preserving Russia’s sacred institutions in the fight against the influence of the rapidly evolving, recalcitrant west. 5 Though highly anachronistic following an era of vibrant reforms, the doctrine of ‘official nationality’ appealed to Alexander as it justified intensification of repression as a means of safeguarding the autocracy. Another feature of the Reaction was the ‘Statute of State Security’ of 14 August 1881, calling for the establishment of government-controlled courts that operated outside the legal system. The statute effectively provided government administrators with extra-judicial executive powers, permitting them to issue fines, make arrests and to sequester property without recourse to the courts. Judges, magistrates and officials who revealed liberal tendencies were removed from office. The powers of the Okhrana, the tsarist secret police, were also expanded. The statute was originally described as a temporary or ‘emergency’ measure adopted for the restoration of order following the regicide. However, the fact that the legislation was adopted five months after the tsar’s murder, and renewed until the revolution of 1917, suggests that it was more than a provisional measure. The statute became, as Lenin put it, the ‘de facto constitution of Russia’. 6 As John Daly explains, the recourse to arbitrary methods, especially states of emergency in peacetime, is an indication not of the strength of the political system but of its weakness. 7 Alexander’s determination to strengthen the autocracy led him to restore control over many of the functions that had been given to local institutions under his predecessor. A series of counter-reforms were passed that weakened the powers of both the rural and urban councils established by his father in



1864 and later in 1870. To reassert control over non-nobles, Alexander III abolished the post of Justice of Peace (JP) in almost every area of European Russia. The task of the JPs was to liaise between the zemstvos and Dumas on behalf of the peasants and workers. A law passed in 1889 replaced the JPs with Land Captains; accountable to the Ministry of Interior, Land Captains supervised all peasant activities. Judicial and administrative tasks were also combined in the position. Most Land Captains were from the nobility because of the social and educational prerequisites; as a result, the status of the gentry was enhanced at the local level. 8 In 1890, under the direction of the new Minister of the Interior, I. N. Durnovo, a statute was enacted, increasing the quota for gentry representation in the zemstvos and decreasing that of the peasants (who were viewed as potentially radical). The law increased the nobles’ domination of the zemstvos by disenfranchising the Jews and peasant landowners from elections to assemblies; it also brought zemstvo activity under the control of a provincial bureau, headed by a provincial governor and subordinated to the Ministry of Interior. The bureau had authority to veto the appointment of personnel and to intervene in zemstvo decision-making. 9 Peasant freedom was further limited in 1893 by laws that prohibited peasants from withdrawing from the commune without the consent of a two-thirds majority in the commune assembly. The laws also prohibited the mortgaging of communal lands and the sale of such land to anyone outside the commune. A law passed in 1894 stipulated that no peasant could obtain a passport without the consent of the assembly or, if they were under age, the head of the household. 10



Russian Nationalities Policy

Russia was a multinational empire; expansion had extended Romanov rule into the Ukraine, Poland, Bessarabia, the Baltic, Finland, Crimea, the Caucasus, Siberia and Central Asia. The tsar forced assimilation of minorities by making Russian the official language and by interfering in national forms of administration. Particular victims were the Poles (whose rights had been curtailed after the 1863 uprising) and the Finns (whose status under a semi-independent grand duchy was subject to official discrimination). Even the East Slavs, Ukrainians and Belorussians were denied their cultural identity and were officially regarded as Russians, whilst their language and culture were not recognised as distinct from Russian. Unlike previous rulers, who had taken egalitarian measures in the treatment of Jews, Alexander III took steps towards their disenfranchisement. For instance, when Catherine the Great incorporated the eastern provinces of Poland-Lithuania in 1772, she issued a manifesto promising Jews the continued existence of the rights they had enjoyed under the previous regimes. Jews were invited to join guilds of merchants or to become ‘burghers’, a category embracing most of the urban population. In subsequent years, they were permitted to participate in the public life of their municipalities. 11 Alexander II had also assumed a moderate stance vis-à-vis the Jews: conversion policies were toned down in 1861, and religious education, which was obligatory, was left to the discretion of each pupil’s parents. The ‘cantonist’ structure, a recruitment system implemented by Nicholas I, whereby Jewish communities were made responsible for supplying a required number of ‘cantonist’ recruits aged between 12 and 25 for 25 years of military service, was repealed in 1856. There was also liberalisation in the Jewish rights of settlement. 12



In contrast, Alexander III launched a crusade of Russification in an attempt to reshape a multiethnic empire into a homogeneous state. 13 An anti-Semite who blamed the Jews for Russia’s difficulties, the tsar took steps to make the Jewish position in the empire untenable. A year after his coronation, he promulgated the ‘May Laws’ (Temporary Edicts). The laws forbade Jews from living outside the Pale of Settlement (limited to 25 provinces in the territory of Russia and Poland) and prohibited them from selling deeds of sale or mortgages. The edict also banned business or trading on Sundays and Christian holidays. Other restrictions included the 1887 quotas limiting the number of Jewish students in secondary schools and universities (10 per cent in the Pale, 5 per cent outside, and 3 per cent in the two capitals) and measures to exclude Jews from the legal bar in 1889, the zemstvos in 1890 and city councils in 1892. The government imposed the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ in 1886, which applied only to Kiev, and another in Moscow in 1891. All Jews in these towns were forced to leave after selling their goods and businesses at desperately low prices. The justification behind these measures was the ‘harmful impact of the economic activity of Jews on the Christian population, their racial separatism, and their religious fanaticism’. 14

Great Power Aspirations

Alexander III’s reign also produced certain diplomatic developments that entailed heavy financial burdens. Despite a short recovery after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 (which had absorbed over 1,000 million paper roubles), Russia continued to pursue an active foreign policy in the form of new alliances. At the beginning of Alexander III’s rule, in 1881, Russia joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in the League of the Three Emperors. This was an agreement by which each of the powers promised to defend each other



against a fourth enemy. The accord was short lived; it was not renewed after conflict arose between Russia and AustriaHungary over the latter’s support for the anti-Russian movements in Bulgaria. In its place came a secret agreement between Russia and Germany known as the ‘Re-insurance Treaty’ of 1887. Under the treaty’s terms, Germany recognised Russia’s interests in Bulgaria and promised neutrality in the event of a RussoAustrian war. In return, Russia assured neutrality in the event of a Franco-German war; again, this treaty was short lived. The new German emperor, Wilhelm II, who dismissed Bismarck, showed every intention of aligning with Austria in asserting German dominance in the Balkans and the Near East. In addition, he had recently renewed the Triple Alliance, which included Germany, Austria and Italy. Thus, when the Re-insurance Treaty lapsed in 1890, the emperor refused to renew it. Over the years, Russia had been moving closer to France. Relations between the two countries had improved as a result of major loans to Russia by French banks as well as French military assistance in weapons procurement. Negotiations between France and Russia began in 1892 and a military convention was soon concluded, finally receiving Alexander’s signature in 1894. The Franco-Russian convention committed each power to military support of the other. Russia would come to the aid of France if it was attacked by Germany, or by Italy supported by Germany. Similarly, France would come to the aid of Russia if it was attacked by Germany, or by an Austria supported by Germany. Furthermore, mobilisation by one or more members of the opposing Triple Alliance would require immediate mobilisation of both French and Russian forces. The realignment in Russian foreign policy was defensive and relatively non-adventurous but it continued to be a drain on the finances. In the decade that included the Turkish War



from 1875 to 1885, nearly 33 per cent of government expenditure went to the army and navy, and 34 per cent to servicing the government debt. Average annual depreciation of the rouble was approximately 38 per cent and fluctuations in its value hovered within a 30 per cent range. These were symptoms of the recurring contradiction in Russian imperial history: great power aspirations embarked upon by a ‘backward’ state. This paradox became glaringly clear during the Reaction, prompting successive Ministers of Finance to tackle the challenge of financial reform and setting the stage for the economic modernisation that was to follow in the 1890s. 15

Financial Policy

Financial reform had been addressed before Alexander II’s leadership by various ministers who had attempted to stabilise the currency (by achieving its convertibility on the basis of an internationally accepted bullion). Conversion of the fluctuating rouble into an internationally recognised currency required a degree of devaluation, which the State Council opposed. This hurdle was also encountered by the first Minister of Finance of the Reaction, Nikolai Bunge, who also moved to put the rouble on a gold standard. When he became aware of the State Council’s opposition, he shifted his attention to strengthening the economy in both its agricultural and industrial sectors. The crux of his policy was development of the rural economy by lightening the tax load, providing capital through the Peasants’ and Nobles’ Land Banks, and by raising tariffs in order to stimulate agricultural exports. 16 Bunge’s programme, however, failed to produce a balanced budget since tax relief considerably reduced government revenue. The new indirect taxes levied on consumption goods and property transfer, directed towards more affluent customers, failed to replenish state coffers. Protectionism had



reduced imports but growth in agricultural exports was insignificant. Poor harvests, falling grain prices and the depressed value of Russian bonds on the London stock market contributed to the fiscal crisis. The deficit could only be remedied by borrowing from abroad. Nevertheless, what really accounted for the budgetary deficit during the Reaction were military expenditure and the servicing of the debt, which comprised 32 per cent and 30 per cent of the average annual expenditure, respectively. When the paper rouble fell to its lowest in 1887, Bunge resigned. 17 Bunge was replaced by Ivan Vyshnegradsky, who found a solution to Russia’s financial crisis in a rigid policy of austerity. Vyshnegradsky increased government revenues by taxing articles of mass consumption (vodka, kerosene, sugar) and by collecting tax arrears and redemption dues. 18 He augmented the volume of grain available for export by ordering that taxes be collected during the autumn, forcing peasants to sell their grain when it was at its seasonal low. 19 Imports were curtailed and the balance of trade was improved significantly under the protectionist Tariff Act of July 1891. Applying his expertise in speculation and finance, Vyshnegradsky refunded part of the Russian foreign debt at a lower interest rate. Many scholars consider Vyshnegradsky’s term to be the prelude to Russia’s industrial take-off. Indeed, he did succeed in increasing revenues and even in producing a surplus. The problem was that hardly any of the state funds were channelled back into the national economy. Thus, when the crop failure in 1891 brought mass starvation to the provinces, the Minister of Finance was blamed for increasing the peasant’s tax burden and forcing exports that prevented the peasants from maintaining any grain reserves. The effect of the crop failure was disastrous – grain exports halted, tax receipts fell and relief measures alone cost the treasury 150 million roubles. 20 The noble landowners also had cause for



complaint as high tariffs on imported equipment and machinery forced them to buy second-rate domestic products. In addition, Vyshnegradsky had been increasingly frugal in issuing subsidies to those landowners who were strapped for cash because the economic depression had created a shortage of funds in the treasury.

Implications of the Reaction

It was during the Reaction that economic modernisation became a sine qua non. During these years, the groundwork, however uneven, had been laid for financial reform. Reactionary policies, however, coupled with the effects of the beginnings of catch-up modernisation had produced resentment towards the regime. Peasants were the most adversely affected: thousands died during the famine; peasant representation had almost disappeared in the zemstvos; a form of serfdom had been restored with the appointment of the Land Captains; and their debts had increased through heavy taxes imposed on staple consumer articles. The emergent working class, overwhelmingly peasant in background, also began showing signs of resentment. Driven into the towns by overpopulation, these worker-peasants took with them the grievances and mentality of the village. In the towns new grievances were added: labour conditions were appalling and inflation outstripped wage increases. In fact, the number of strikers increased following this period: in 1894, there were 17,000 strikers; by 1899 this number had soared to 97,000. 21 The educated class expressed anger at meetings and conferences. The intelligentsia, professionals, even nobles grew disenchanted with an administration that had dispelled their hopes for liberal reform. Referring to the Reaction, Orlando Figes explains, ‘nothing was more likely to bring about a revolution’. 22 In view of these circumstances, the challenge for the incoming administration was two-fold: the



pursuit of development on the one hand, and the containment of dissent on the other. The strategy that the government would adopt, however, was one that proved unable to reconcile these two objectives.

The Iranian Oil Crisis of 1953

The confrontation for control over the Iranian oil industry in the early 1950s is one of the most consequential episodes in Pahlavi history. After the crisis, Mohammad Reza Shah’s popularity plummeted and, typical of authoritarian regimes, repression was intensified. It was after this critical episode that the shah became dependent on the USA – a power many believed had intervened to prevent a popular leader from nationalising the country’s primary asset. As already discussed above, although Iran had declared neutrality in 1939 in relation to the Second World War, it served as an artery through which allied powers transported supplies to aid the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Upon the refusal of Reza Shah, and after a short ultimatum, on 25 August 1941, British and Soviet forces entered Iranian territory. The Allied occupation of Tehran resulted in the forced abdication of Reza Shah (who was accused of being a Nazi sympathiser) and the coronation of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Upon inheriting the Peacock Throne, Mohammad Reza found internal conditions unfavourable to autocratic rule: the armed forces were in a dismal state and much of the court patronage had dissipated. The real source of power rested in the hands of veteran politicians seated in the Majles. The young shah’s learning period in the 1940s brought in an era of political tolerance, resulting in the birth of numerous political parties representing Marxist, Islamic and nationalist ideologies. The Tudeh Party, backed by the Soviet Union, became the most organised party of the time. Securing considerable support amongst the working class, university



students and intellectuals, the party won eight seats in the Majles in the 1943 elections. The ulama also became politically active. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Abdul Qasem Kashani, a cleric with an extensive record of anti-British activism, the Mojahedin-e-Islam was formed in 1948, winning a handful of seats in the Majles. 23 Kashani was also allegedly one of the spiritual guides of the ‘Fedayeen-e-Islam’, a fundamentalist party formed by Navab Safavi in 1946, which enjoyed popular support amongst the bazaaris (the bazaar merchants). Nevertheless, it was neither the Tudeh Party nor the Islamic groups who posed a threat to the shah. It was instead the charismatic, western-educated Qajar aristocrat, Dr Mohammad Mossadeq, who formed the National Front in October 1949. When it was first established, the National Front was a reformist organisation representing the aspirations of the middle class, with the objective of safeguarding the 1906 Constitution. A coalition of sometimes conflicting groups, including Marxists, pan-Islamists and Mossadeq’s National Front, quickly gained popularity by calling for the nationalisation of the oil industry.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

In the 1950s the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), operated by the British government and British private citizens, controlled Iran’s oil industry. Politically conscious Iranians objected to the fact that the British government derived more revenue from taxing the concessionaire, the AIOC, than the Iranian government derived from royalties. The National Front’s goal was to destroy the ability of the British to trespass on the country’s national independence by dominating its main source of revenue. The British failed to sympathise with the Iranians, believing they were indebted to AIOC for providing employment, houses, schools and hospitals. They firmly believed the Iranians incapable of



running the oil industry without British technical and administrative assistance. 24 The first clash over oil between Britain and Iran occurred in a depression year in 1932 when it was announced that the Iranian government would receive £307,000 in royalties compared with the £1,288,000 return it received the preceding year, paid on the same quantity of oil. Even more frustrating to the Iranians was that in 1931 the British government received in income tax from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company more than twice the amount received by the Iranian government in royalties. 25 These figures drove Reza Shah to annul the AIOC concession on 27 December 1932. The British reaction was surprisingly accommodating: on 28 May 1933 they signed a more profitable contract (valid for 60 years) with Iran, reduced the area controlled by the AIOC and agreed to train and hire more Iranians. In 1944, the British voluntarily granted a substantial increase in the minimum revenue guarantee. 26 These concessions did not appease the Iranians for long, however. The British remained in control of the oil industry and were reluctant to relinquish this control out of an apprehension that yielding to the Iranians would set a precedent for similar revisions elsewhere in the Middle East. 27 Eventually, on 7 July 1949, the AIOC signed a draft agreement known as the Supplementary Agreement, by which Iran’s oil returns were slightly increased. However, the newly elected Majles, with its handful of National Front representatives, refused on 11 January 1949 to ratify the agreement. The Majles oil committee, headed by Mossadeq, recommended a vote against it. The AIOC offered a cash advance and a 50/50 profit-sharing provision, similar to agreements that the British had concluded with Venezuela in 1947 and Saudi Arabia in 1950, but the proposal was rejected. On 19 February 1951, Mossadeq proposed to the oil committee of the Majles that the oil industry be nationalised.



Even though Mossadeq and his allies represented a small percentage of the Majles deputies, nationalist sentiment had gathered sufficient momentum that many deputies, the majority of whom were conservative landowners, supported the call for oil nationalisation. A month later, the Majles voted to nationalise the oil industry. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Hajali Razmara by Khalil Tahmasebi of the Fedayeen-e-Islam in March 1951, and after the fleeting tenure of Prime Minister Hossein Ala, the shah yielded to Majles pressure and demonstrations in the street by naming Mossadeq prime minister. The British resorted to every conceivable means to demoralise Mossadeq. British and American press portrayed Iran’s national hero as a deceitful prime minister determined to hand Iran over to Soviet communists. As soon as Iran assumed control over the oil installations, the British government imposed a worldwide embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil, recalled its technicians and imposed economic sanctions. The British even questioned the legality of the nationalisation of oil and took Iran to the International Court in The Hague and to the United Nations – all to no avail. Finally, in the midst of the chaos and US pressure, the AIOC sweetened its offer to Iran. Nonetheless, the conviction amongst Mossadeq’s advisers that Iran’s maximum demands would ultimately be met led the government to reject all offers. The economy began to deteriorate as a result of the loss of trade and oil revenues. Meanwhile, Mossadeq, with the support of the National Front and other parties in the Majles, was becoming increasingly powerful. In August 1952, the Majles agreed to his demand for broader powers in all governmental affairs for a period of six months. These special powers were subsequently extended for a further six months. Mossadeq also secured approval for a law to reduce, from six years to two, the term of the Senate (established in 1950 as the upper house of the



Majles). In July 1952, the shah rejected Mossadeq’s call for the power to appoint the Minister of War (which implied control of the armed forces). Mossadeq resigned and was replaced by Ahmad Qavam. However, after three days of pro-Mossadeq rioting, the shah was forced to reappoint him to head the government. This victory turned the National Front into a seemingly unstoppable force. However, provocations by the Tudeh Party, splits within the National Front and deteriorating economic conditions eventually weakened Mossadeq’s support base. When Mossadeq’s support in the lower house began to dwindle, the Prime Minister organised a plebiscite for the dissolution of the Majles. After claiming a massive victory, the Majles was adjourned. 28

Operation TPAJAX

Mossadeq’s increased power and persistence over oil policy had created bitterness between the prime minister, the shah, Britain and the Americans. The administration of President Harry Truman had initially been sympathetic to Iran’s nationalist aspirations but under the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower the US came to accept the view of the British government that a compromise with Mossadeq was not attainable. Mossadeq’s inclination to accept Tudeh support, his recognition of the Cold War atmosphere and the influence of US oil companies, led the USA in June 1953, to approve a British proposal for a joint Anglo-American venture, code-named Operation TPAJAX, to overthrow Mossadeq. Kermit Roosevelt of the CIA went to Iran to coordinate plans with the shah and the Iranian military, then led by General Fazlollah Zahedi. 29 In accordance with the plan, on 13 August 1953, the shah appointed General Zahedi to replace Mossadeq. Mossadeq, however, refused to recognise the appointment and by implication took control of the army. Upon hearing the news,



the timid shah fled Iran and Zahedi went into hiding. The plan seemed to have failed but after four days of rioting the tide turned: a flood of pro- and anti-shah protestors poured onto the streets, triggering the second stage of Operation TPAJAX calling for a military coup. On 19 August 1953, in an elaborate CIA sham involving the collaboration of the army, American-bribed civilians, thugs and paid-off Tudeh supporters, the nationalist movement was crushed. The crisis came to a halt, the shah returned to the country and Mossadeq was sentenced to three years imprisonment. 30 Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Fatemi, was placed before a firing squad and hundreds of National Front leaders, Tudeh Party officers and political activists were arrested or sentenced to death. General Zahedi quickly assumed control of the government and was granted a $45 million emergency aid package from the USA, diplomatic relations were restored with Britain in December 1953 and, after exhaustive bargaining with Minister of Finance Ali Amini, oil exports were resumed by a newly formed oil consortium. Military partnerships were also forged. Fearing both Soviet influence and opposition, Iran joined the Baghdad Pact in October 1955, which brought together the ‘northern tier’ countries of Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan in an alliance that included Britain, with the USA serving as a supporter of the pact. 31 In March 1959, Iran signed a bilateral defence agreement with the United States of America.

Aftermath of the Coup

It was after the coup that the shah tightened his grip on society. Mohsen Milani explains: ‘In an ironic way, Mossadeq’s legacy provided the shah with the justification to become an autocrat’. 32 The shah banned the Tudeh, the National Front and other parties; he muzzled the press and screened all publications. Elections to the Majles in 1954 and 1956 were controlled and, in April 1955, the shah replaced



Zahedi with Hossein Ala and, thereafter, appointed a succession of prime ministers who were willing to do his bidding. With support from the CIA and Israel’s MOSSAD, the shah established the secret police, SAVAK (Sazman-e Ettelaat va Amniyat-e Keshvar); 5,000 officials and 60,000 people were recruited. People were arrested for gathering in large groups, for carrying the Qur’an, for passing out leaflets or for complaining about the price of meat. At the same time, the shah created the Second Bureau within the ranks of the armed forces to prevent a coup against the Pahlavis. He also organised the Royal Inspection Organisation to supervise all state activities. All three agencies were accountable directly to the shah. Following the coup, Iran and the USA developed a unique relationship; a report submitted to Eisenhower’s National Security Council in 1953 read: ‘over the long run, the most effective instrument for maintaining Iran’s orientation towards the west is the monarch, which in turn has the army as its only source of real power. US military aid serves to improve army morale, cement army loyalty to the shah, and thus consolidate the present regime and provide some assurance that Iran’s current orientation towards the west will be perpetual’. 33 The shah’s partnership with the Americans became a source of resentment amongst Iranians. Indeed, the prevalent view was that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 had prevented the rise of a nationalist leader in order to gain a free hand in exploiting the country’s resources. Thus, when Ayatollah Khomeini raised his banner 25 years later and accused the shah of being a western puppet it struck a chord with many Iranians. As early as 1900, Iranian society (the clergy, intellectuals and the middle classes) had clamoured for a representative form of government and freedom from foreign interference. The 1906 Constitutional Movement was the political



manifestation of these aspirations: protests drove Mozaffar ad-Din Shah, on 5 August 1906, to sign a decree ordering the drafting of a constitution that provided for limitations on royal power, the creation of an elected parliament, or Majles, with wide powers to represent the people, and a government with a cabinet subject to confirmation by Majles deputies. The Supplementary Fundamental Laws approved in 1907 provided, within limits, for freedom of press, speech and association, and for security of life and property. Muzaffar ad-Din’s successor, Mohammad Ali Shah, was not as forthcoming. After several disputes with the Majles, in June 1908, Mohammad Ali used his Russian-officered Persian Cossacks Brigade to bomb the Majles building. Resistance to the shah coalesced in Tabriz, Esfahan, Rasht and elsewhere. In July 1909, constitutional forces marched from Rasht and Esfahan to Tehran, deposed the shah and reinstated the constitution. The shah went into exile in Russia. This victory, nevertheless, was short-lived as the constitutional forces continued to face challenges from successive shahs. 34 Iranians were no strangers to notions of representative government and national sovereignty – principles embodied in Mosaddeq’s movement. The shah’s decision to remove Mossadeq represented an effort to muffle these aspirations. For this reason, the 1953 debacle, whilst saving Mohammad Reza’s throne, sowed the seeds of popular discontent. To add insult to injury, foreign intervention – historically, a sore point for Iranians – had been a conduit for Mossadeq’s removal. The crisis irrevocably damaged the shah’s image and widened the rift between monarch and subject.

Economic Development

The oil crisis prompted the shah to lay the groundwork for ‘modernisation from above’ by taking the first steps towards economic restructuring. With the resumption of oil production and export, US monetary and technical support,



and international credit, the Second Seven-year Plan was launched (1955-62). 35 The plan involved, in the agricultural sector, the successful completion of three large dams that introduced modern irrigation and hydroelectric power to Iran, as well as other projects that dealt with the use of farm mechanisation, seed and fertiliser development, and the cultivation of sugarcane. On the industrial side, the plan included the construction of large-scale sugar plants, textile and cement factories. Some remarkable results were achieved over the course of the plan: for example, textile production increased from 60 million meters to 480 million meters; cement production rose from 100,000 tons to 1.2 million tons; and sugar production soared from 85,000 tons to 227,000 tons. In areas of transportation, the plan focussed on extension of the railways and highways; however, no initiatives were taken to improve transportation facilities in rural areas. In 1957, the state devalued the rial and increased the money supply. This infusion of money generated 7.1 billion rials, which was immediately loaned to the private sector through the Bank Melli (the national bank) and the new Industrialised Credit Bank. As a result, private sector investment increased, most notably in construction in Tehran, which accounted for a 130 per cent increase in 1959 alone. The state also relaxed fiscal controls, readily issued import permits and encouraged the importation of foreign goods on a wide scale. By 1959, Iran’s imports had increased more than six-fold from their 1954 level. 36 The fiscally engineered expansion soon produced a ‘false boom’, which ended in 1960. The Seven-year Plan, combined with increasing military expenditure, had created a trade imbalance and a huge deficit. Consequently, the state was forced to adopt an Economic Stabilisation Programme prescribed by the International Monetary Fund. This programme called for restrictions on the import of non-



essential and luxury goods, cuts in government expenditure and control of bank credit. The country, nevertheless, was not spared a recession. In 1962, public sector investment dropped by 11.6 per cent and real gross domestic fixed capital formation by the private sector fell by 9.5 per cent. 37 The interest rate in the business sector increased to 30 per cent and the value of urban land dropped by 500 per cent. Key sectors of the traditional economy, including agriculture, construction and domestic trade, were also adversely affected as a result of import and credit restrictions. Manufacturing and mining sectors, however, rose by 13.6 per cent in 1962. 38 Economic reforms were accompanied by what Mohammad Reza perceived as political ‘reforms’. In 1957 he ordered Prime Minister Manuchehr Eqbal to form the ‘Nationalist Party’ (Melliyun), and a former prime minister, Assadollah Alam, to form the ‘People’s Party’ (the Mardom); all other parties were outlawed. These pro-government parties consisted of members of the court, the elite and the Majles. During the rigged Majles elections in August 1960, the two parties quarrelled over charges of fraud, forcing the shah to annul the election. By playing the two parties against each other, the shah only produced a semblance of plurality. The autocrat’s strategy of contriving political parties can be called ‘simulated pluralism’ in the sense that political representation was artificial and devoid of a genuinely oppositional role. The periods discussed here express the urgency of economic revival. In the case of Russia, great power politics and internal economic pressures created a pressing need for the sort of restructuring we saw under Bunge and Vyshnegradsky. In the case of Iran, the shah was pressured to strengthen his dynasty and to expand his support base with the somewhat ambitious and extravagant Second Seven-year Plan. Efforts to upgrade the economy yielded modest results



in both cases but the groundwork for rapid, state-endorsed modernisation was laid. If we are to consider ‘causation’, by linking the various episodes in Russia and Iran’s economic histories with social unrest, it is useful to compare the stages of social revolution to the stages of an earthquake – the earthquake representing the 1917 and 1979 revolutions. Stage One is the pre-rupture phase during which strain builds up along fault lines due to plate movement; all parameters, however, remain in their normal state. During Stage Two, cracks begin to develop and increasing stress results in small shocks, which can be referred to as ‘foreshocks’. Stage Three is the earthquake stage during which the fault ruptures. Stage Four represents the aftershock period; minor shakes and tremors are experienced until the plates settle. The Reaction and the oil nationalisation crisis can be likened to Stage One of an earthquake during which the precursor signals of the earthquake are detected – societal discontent and loss of popular support cause stress build-up, which ushers in the subsequent stages. What becomes evident in our analysis is that by nature these autocratic systems were incapable of achieving sustained economic modernisation without serious social consequences. In an autocracy this meant a revolution. With competent leadership the Russian and Iranian autocracies may have been prolonged, but under Nicholas and Mohammad Reza the systems were doomed because both lacked the aptitude to balance the dangers of modernisation with the autocratic system. Witte’s Industrialisation and Stolypin’s Land Reforms The guiding figure behind Russia’s economic drive was Minister of Finance Sergei Witte, who was a chief protagonist in Russian modernisation from 1892 to 1903. It was Witte’s conviction that unless industrialised rapidly Russia would be unable to maintain its position as one of the great powers of



Europe. Only such a push, he insisted, would develop Russia’s vast untapped resources and release the country’s energies for sustained economic growth. Much of the inspiration behind Witte’s ideas came from the writings of German economist Friedrich List, who stressed the link between economic strength and political influence. According to List, ‘nations have even lost their independence and their political existence because their commercial policy had not aided the development and the consolidation of their nationality’. 39 These views were reiterated by Witte in a memorandum in 1900, in which he cautioned Nicholas II about the political implications of economic backwardness: ‘it is possible that the slow growth of our industries will endanger the fulfilment of the great political tasks of the monarchy. Our economic backwardness may lead to political and cultural backwardness as well’. 40 Witte spoke of Russia’s colonial economy in contrast to that of the western ‘metropoles’:‘[Russia], was, and to a considerable extent still is such a hospitable colony for all industrial developed states, generously providing them with cheap products of her soil and buying dearly the products of their labour’. ‘Russia’, he added, ‘needs perhaps more than any other country a proper economic foundation for her national policy and her culture’, so that it will be ‘a great power not only politically and agriculturally, but also economically’. 41 What is more, Witte argued that the state had to play a major role in promoting industrial development in order to compete with other great powers. ‘Russia is an independent and strong power. She has the right and the strength not to want to be the eternal handmaiden of states which are more developed economically … she is proud of her great might, by which she jealously guards not only the political but also the economic independence of her empire. She wants to be a metropolis herself’. Thus, under Witte, the state became the main instigator of Russia’s industrialisation. Never before in



Russia had state economic intervention been used so widely and effectively. Witte also stressed that Russia, in its quest to become a world industrial power, could not afford to waste time. With reference to Nicholas II’s indifference, he once remarked, ‘was Russian power to increase as it had after 1861, or was it to decline again? He who does not go forward will, for that reason, fall back compared with the countries that move forward’.

The Witte System

The ‘Witte System’ was a well-articulated and impressively ambitious design for turning Russia into an industrial power – an undertaking reminiscent of Peter the Great’s modernisation movement. Based on neo-mercantilist policies, the system aimed to attract foreign investment and loans (especially from France, Britain, Belgium and the USA). Placing the rouble on the gold standard, protectionist tariffs and budgetary stability were core policies. In the 1980s, under Witte, foreign investment in Russian industry increased almost six-fold. 42 An important step in attracting foreign capital was a balanced budget. To this end, Witte’s efforts yielded impressive results: by 1892, the excess in receipts over expenditure was 45.2 million roubles; in 1895, it reached 138.5 million; by 1898, it was 237.9 million, yielding during the subsequent years a surplus of 122 to 228 million roubles. 43 This surplus was achieved through taxation, including direct and indirect taxes, as well as those levied on the sale of vodka, kerosene, matches, sugar, tobacco, spirits and imported goods. 44 The weight of taxation on low-income groups was particularly high. The land tax, for instance, favoured large estates and discriminated against small landholdings. Small peasant holdings were taxed at a higher level than the



property of the gentry: taxes on one acre of peasant land were almost seven times as high as taxes on one acre of the land belonging to estate owners. 45 Peasants were further overwhelmed by post-emancipation redemption payments, forcing the government to reduce payments by a quarter. 46 Indeed, Witte’s failure as Minister of Finance was his action in relation to the agrarian peasant sector of the economy: during his time in office the lot of the peasants slowly declined and unrest increased amongst them. Stabilisation of the widely fluctuating Russian currency was another measure designed to attract foreign capital. The first step towards stabilisation was the need to put an end to foreign and domestic speculation on the rouble. 47 In the autumn of 1894, rumours began circulating about the fatal illness of Alexander III, compelling speculators (from the hub, at the Berlin Stock Exchange) to sell large quantities of roubles at a discount price. Meanwhile, Witte instructed his agents to buy up all the roubles offered. By autumn, there were not enough roubles left in Berlin to fill the contracts that the bankers had made with the Russian government. As Russian banks were not allowed to export roubles without permission, the German speculators were at Witte’s mercy. They had to buy back from him the required roubles at a gain of 25 million roubles to the Russian treasury. From then on, speculation on the rouble dwindled. 48 Having achieved a stable currency, Witte shifted his attention to currency convertibility, another prerequisite for securing credit and attracting foreign investment. Witte had inherited a bullion reserve of 335 million roubles, which had grown to 500 million roubles by the end of 1896. A loan of 100 million roubles had been raised in Paris, at the low rate of 3 per cent. A further 65 million roubles worth of gold had been bought on the open market. Heavy taxation, grain exports and revenue from customs dues had further



augmented the reserves and put the finances of the empire on a sound footing. 49 Witte’s proposal for establishing full convertibility ran into opposition. Some members of the State Council objected to the devaluation that convertibility entailed. Others admitted that the gold standard might be beneficial but that, in the end, the heavy foreign debt, the mounting burden of interest charges and rising taxation would make it unsustainable. The Russian intelligentsia, some academicians, advocates of the silver standard, bimetallists and leaders of the Legal Marxists also expressed misgivings about conversion. As Witte expressed in his memoirs, ‘nearly the whole of thinking Russia was opposed to the reform’. 50 All the same, Witte was convinced that this measure was required, even if it meant bypassing the State Council altogether by issuing an imperial decree or ukaz. In doing so, he was confident that the tsar would back him: ‘I worked against great odds, and if I succeeded in carrying the plan into effect, it is because His Majesty, Emperor Nicholas [II], had full confidence in me and because he offered me his support without stint’. 51 Thus, on 2 January 1897, the Finance Committee presided over by Nicholas II resorted to imperial prerogative to make the rouble convertible by fixing the value of the rouble against other currencies and against gold. The decision to defy the State Council backfired. Referring to the ukaz, the Chairman of the State Council argued, ‘where then is the difference between a monarchical government and a despotic government of an Asiatic type? The difference is that the first observes but the latter destroys at its pleasure the laws of the country’. 52 The strategy for introducing the gold standard is very characteristic of ‘autocratic modernisation’. In Theodore von Laue’s words, the gold standard was achieved ‘in defiance of public opinion and the orderly legislative process of the Empire’. 53 According to von Laue, most measures that fell under Witte’s break-neck industrialisation



programme would have been repudiated by an overwhelming majority if they had ever been submitted to a popular vote. 54 All the same, the establishment of the gold standard was one of Witte’s greatest achievements. It was a pivotal part of his effort to create an environment that would nourish the growth of industrial capitalism. In fact, the gold standard greatly improved Russian credit abroad. In the process of introducing the gold standard, Witte demonstrated his willpower, his ability to overcome opposition and his dependence on the goodwill of the autocrat. Fortunately for Witte, the tsar remained steadfast in his support of authoritarian methods for implementing industrial policies.

Railroad Construction

To Witte, the central theme of industrialisation was the railroad. A vast railway network would improve communications, stimulate industrial expansion and provide mobility for the army. The railway was also a matter of prestige, proving that Russia was equal to the great powers and a partner in international trade. The railroad would also stimulate domestic industrial production as it increased demand for coal, iron and steel. The government planned new lines, bought up some privately owned lines, including the Southern Railroad, encouraged the merger of several privately owned lines and provided financial incentives for the private construction of new lines spurned by investors. All this was done in addition to construction of the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern railroads. In the 1890s, Russia had 11 thousand miles of track, exceeded only by the USA. The railroads provided over 400,000 permanent and seasonal jobs. In 1897, the railroads carried some 71 million passengers, travelling an average of 70 miles. Not to be overlooked was the military importance of the lines: in the event of war, a developed transportation apparatus was an important logistical tool. 55



Russia’s industries grew significantly on the basis of producing supplies for the rail system. Coal output grew from 367.2 million pud (1 pud was equivalent to 36.11 pounds) in 1890 to 995.2 million pud in 1900, and iron and ore production expanded from 106.3 million pud to 367.2 million pud. Other industries unrelated to the railway venture also developed impressively. Between 1890 and 1900, the production of cotton thread and cloth doubled. Petroleum output increased from 241 million pud to 632 million, making Russia the world’s largest oil producer. Capital invested in new joint stock companies also reflected the industrial surge, expanding from 24.2 million roubles in 1887 to 61 million in 1893, reaching a peak of 431 million in 1899. 56 Railway construction was financed by the budget surplus and foreign loans. Foreign investment covered approximately 341 million roubles of construction costs, whilst the bulk of the capital was raised chiefly through taxes and the vodka monopoly. 57 Between 1893 and 1900, the state allocated 278.3 million roubles annually to the railway industry. 58 Witte’s spending, however, pushed the budget into a deficit, forcing him to overtax the internal market and to pressure manufacturers to export as much as they could. The manner in which Witte pursued the railway project throws light on the nature of the decision-making process in imperial Russia. On 21 November 1892, approval was announced by a special conference for the formation of the Committee of the Siberian Railroad. The committee was chaired by an appointee of the tsar, the state comptroller, and the ministers of finance, the interior, state domains and transport. Witte proclaimed himself chairman, made Bunge vice chairman and all ministers and Siberian governors became members. 59 The committee was to be responsible for the construction of the railroad and the auxiliary enterprises that were to help fuel the Siberian economy and financial assessments.



In effect, the committee was a ‘temporary supreme organ’ established by Witte in order to circumvent opposition. 60 In Witte’s words, ‘In order to move along the matter of the Siberian road, I decided that it was necessary to form a special Committee of the Siberian Railroad. This committee would have significant powers, in order to avoid various difficulties in both the Committee of Ministers and the State Council … The committee would be given powers not only in the administration of the road’s construction but also in decisions … of a legislative nature. 61

Social Consequences of Industrialisation

The ‘great spurt’ of modernisation and industrialisation ended in 1899, in part as a result of a series of poor harvests and famine between 1897 and 1901, but also as a result of an international trade recession triggered by the Boer War in South Africa and the Boxer Rebellion in China. The government reduced its orders for industrial products as tax revenues and foreign investment declined and the railway neared completion. Annual rates of industrial growth fell from 8 per cent to 1 per cent. Declining growth brought unemployment and salary cuts, particularly in the metallurgical industries that had grown with the expansion of the railways in the 1890s. 62 Industrial growth gave rise to a small working class as factories expanded and peasants poured into the cities to work in them. According to the 1897 census, there were about 13.3 million town dwellers and an additional 8.8 million peasants living permanently in the city. The two groups accounted for 17.6 per cent of the total population. The industrial working class was smaller: according to Lenin’s estimates, in 1897 there were 5.2 million industrial workers and another 700,000 workers in railways and communications. 63 These two groups accounted for 4.7 per cent of the total population. Although Lenin’s estimates are



slightly inflated, the more widely accepted figure of four million workers, or 3.2 per cent of the total population, represents a 300 per cent increase in the size of the urban class since 1861. 64 Living and working conditions in the city were characterised by long hours, unsanitary housing, severe discipline, high accident rates, fines and irregular payment of wages – all of which intensified during the economic slump. Relations between workers and manufacturers/managers became strained; workers regarded the managers as exploitative and the latter looked upon the workers with suspicion. Speaking of the absence of a paternalistic relationship between manufacturer and employee, Abraham Ascher explains, ‘the social ideals of the tsarist regime were manifestly not being implemented in the industrial sector of the economy’. 65 Workers vented their anger by joining underground unions and workers’ committees and by participating in illegal strikes. The number of strikes increased from 20 to 40 a year in the 1870s, to over 100 in the 1890s and over 200 in 1898. In the 1890s, Marxists, including Lenin and Julius Martov, organised the strikes in the hope that the urban working class would pave the way for a socialist revolution. The government acknowledged that labour strife lent itself to revolutionary agitation and, in 1899, established a network of police surveillance in industrial enterprises, under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior. However, whereas the policemen were instructed to investigate the economic life of the factories, they ended up locating and arresting instigators of strikes. Ascher explains that the one policy that might have defused labour unrest – the legalisation of independent unions and strikes – was denied because the government feared it would undermine the structure of autocratic rule. Conservative Minister of the Interior Dmitri Sipyagin, who was known for his commitment to autocracy, opposed the



idea. Witte, on the other hand, favoured strike legalisation on the premise that strikes were a ‘purely economic phenomenon and not in the least threatening to the general order peace’. 66 Industrialisation also altered the balance of power within the ruling elite. The nobility, the traditional bulwark of the imperial regime, had lost much of its influence following emancipation in 1861. 67 The most patent manifestation of the nobility’s decline was its loss of land. Unable or unwilling to administer their estates on a capitalist basis, many nobles sold their land to peasants or townspeople. Accustomed to receiving state handouts and dues, as well as the services of the serfs, the nobles lacked the psychological disposition required for managing their land and the initiative necessary for success in a market economy. In the period from the Great Reforms until 1905, the nobility surrendered approximately a third of its land. 68 The Gentry Land Bank offered loans at low interest rates; however, this did little to prevent the nobles from selling their land and cutting their links with the countryside. 69 According to David Christian, ‘by 1900 the nobility was no longer a well-defined group with a common culture and common attitudes and problems. Its members could no longer act as the natural leaders of the ruling group’. 70 Economic modernisation also failed to produce an independent entrepreneurial class, comparable to that emerging in France, England, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. In Europe, the bourgeoisie had an independent economic base, as well as business interests that required the rule of law and the protection of personal rights. Hence, the emergence of a merchant class went hand in hand with the appearance of liberal ideals, which in turn limited the power of the state. 71 According to Richard Pipes, Russia’s inability to produce a consequential capitalist class resulted in the underdevelopment of legality and personal freedom, which is



consistent with Barrington Moore’s contention: ‘no bourgeois, no democracy’. 72 This problem can be partly attributed to the scope of industrialisation under Witte. Industrialisation was primarily designed to augment the economic might of the state, rather than focus on stimulating an entrepreneurial middle class. The state was the key producer, consumer (in case of the military and the railways) and manager of industry. Much of development, particularly in oil extraction and mining, was in the hands of foreign investors. The rest was established either by government initiative or was dependent upon government intervention (in the form of credits, regulation and concessions). In Witte’s defence, the merchant class and the landowners lacked the sophistication to initiate industrial ventures. 73 However, the absence of dialogue with citizens, or institution-building strategies, did not help. On the other hand, the bureaucracy and intelligentsia grew in numbers and influence. The number of officials had grown four-fold since 1861. Many had taken over the functions of the zemstvos and the courts – tasks previously reserved for the nobility. Modernisation had also created a demand for specialists in medicine, law and education, resulting in the development of ‘men of mixed ranks’, or the raznochintsy. Underpaid and excluded from the political sphere, the raznochintsy became increasingly disillusioned with the regime. Some felt so alienated that they became radicalised, becoming leftist leaders of the predominant Russian liberal party. 74 These professionals added to the growing pool of the obshchestvennost, which broadly translates as the ‘educated public’ or those of higher education. The obshchestvennost was comprised of former nobles who had been forced to take up intellectual work, nobles engaged in zemstvo work, the intelligentsia, writers, poets, artists and some members of the commercial sector. According to the 1897 census, throughout the empire 100,000 people had received some form of higher



education. 75 The educated classes were aware of the difficulties in the countryside and the working and living conditions in the cities. Their sympathy for the poorer classes, combined with their own unfulfilled ambitions of participating in a civil society, turned this social group into activists of the budding anti-tsar movement.

Agriculture and the Peasantry

When Witte took over the ministry, the worst famine of the century had struck 20 Volga and central provinces. Half of European Russia’s peasant population was unable to feed itself from harvest to harvest. The plight of the peasantry was further compounded by the vestiges of serfdom. As described earlier, under the terms of the Emancipation Act, peasant land holdings lacked essential features such as meadows and woodland, forcing the peasants to lease these types of land from former masters. Moreover, the commune maintained ownership of land, which it periodically redistributed amongst the peasants. Thus, the peasants had little motivation to improve production methods on land held on a provisional basis. The 30 per cent increase in the population between 1887 and 1905 worsened the plight of the peasantry. The population growth was not accompanied by a commensurate increase in peasant-controlled land. During this period the average household allotment declined over 20 per cent. 76 What is more, already burdened with redemption payments, the peasants were hit by indirect taxes designed to pay for industrial expansion. Note that between 1861 and 1905, the expenses of the state treasury grew by 800 per cent, from 414 million roubles to 3,205 million roubles, necessitating heavy taxation. 77 Despite their grievances, the majority of peasants remained devoted to the tsar. The world of the peasant was limited to the Church, school, the commune and the conscript army –



institutions that placed a premium on loyalty to the autocracy. As discussed above, the ‘going to the people’ movement did little to incite revolutionary fervour in the countryside. However, the agrarian disturbances in 1902 in Poltava and Kharkov provinces, and peasant participation in the Revolution of 1905, reflect the peasantry’s frustration with hardship in the countryside. Witte’s modernisation programme had a direct impact on peasant life. Instead of concentrating on both ventricles of the economy, particularly in a country with heavy reliance on the traditional agricultural sector, Witte focussed exclusively on industrial development. In an annual report to Nicholas II in 1902, the state comptroller, General Lobko explained, ‘The strenuous efforts of the government to plant industries has not been accompanied by equally intensive measures for the support and raising of the agricultural base of the welfare of the Russian people’. Lobko added, ‘the chief burden of that system lies undoubtedly upon the agricultural mass, seriously impairing its purchasing power. It has to bear almost the entire burden of direct and indirect taxes’. He also stressed that the domestic market was unable to keep up with the excessive growth of industry: ‘the equilibrium between industry and the domestic market has been destroyed and with it the basis of successful economic development. This, according to my deepest conviction, constitutes the chief cause of present difficulties. 78 Another problem was that peasants lacked the education and training required for agricultural advancement. According to the 1897 census, 76 per cent of the rural working population (aged 20 to 59) were illiterate. In 1890, there were only 43 agricultural schools, with approximately 2,715 students and a budget of less than 700,000 roubles. In all the Russian empire there existed only three agricultural colleges. Not until the first decade of the twentieth century was a significant step taken in agricultural training. 79 Lazar Volin



observes that nowhere was there a closer correlation between elementary education and national prosperity than in agriculture. Volin alludes to an observation made by a witness at the Witte Conference who stated that literate peasants were the first to adopt new agricultural methods such as grass rotation. On the other hand, illiterate peasants insisted that they wanted to live in the old way, as their grandfathers did. 80

Stolypin’s Land Reforms

Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, the son of an affluent landowner, came to power a year after the revolution of 1905, where for the first time the tsarist system faced popular resistance. The details of the revolution need not detain us here, suffice it to say that this episode demonstrated that reforms were essential. It was Stolypin’s conviction that a new class of prosperous peasants would serve as a bulwark of the tsarist system. Under the decrees of 5 October and 9 November 1906, peasants were granted the right to obtain a passport on the same terms as other citizens. The decree permitted each peasant to register his existing holdings as private property without consulting the commune. Another law passed on 14 June 1910 provided that along with the abolition of redemption payments, allotment lands were freed from restrictions imposed by the communal system. The law gave peasants the right of free departure from the commune; it also allowed them to consider their allotment to be personal property. A final component of Stolypin’s reforms was his resettlement programme, which removed restrictions on migration and offered subsidies to settlers. By the time the First World War erupted, between a quarter and a half of all Russian peasant farms had obtained some form of individual tenure. 81 Through the efforts of the Peasant Land Bank, 9 million desyatinas 82 were transferred from the gentry to the peasants between 1906 and 1915. Peasant purchases were subsidised by up to 90 per cent and



repayment was scheduled at just over 55 years. The resettlement programme also proved to be a success, initiating large-scale migration eastwards and bringing relief to densely populated areas. Transformation of the peasant into an independent farmer proceeded rapidly in some provinces and slowly in others. Some of the technicalities of reform can be blamed for the legal setbacks. For example, peasants could only dispose of their land to other peasants or to the Peasant Land Bank. Judith Pallot blames peasant psychology for failing to bring about the promise of individualised farming. She argues that peasants lacked ‘instrumental rationality’: they were unable to sever ties with elements of the traditional communal organisation of landholding and, therefore, were incapable of placing individual interests before collective, community interests. 83 The fact is that agrarian reforms came too late. By the time Stolypin’s reforms were applied, social conflict had become insurmountable: the wartime strains, combined with peasant and worker discontent, and the autocracy’s appalling reaction to the rally of 1905, had irrevocably tarnished the regime’s image. Agrarian reform should have been addressed before monetary and fiscal reform. Had the restrictive features of the commune been abandoned before Witte’s industrialisation initiatives, a private agriculture based on medium-sized holdings may quite possibly have emerged. Had the autocracy encouraged agricultural education and training through the zemstvos, farming techniques might have advanced. In turn, land efficiently cultivated could have supported the rising peasant population. What is significant to this study is the fact that Witte, in his drive to emulate the high growth economies of western Europe, focussed on fiscal policies, the railway and industry, whilst neglecting the agricultural sector. Indeed, in many ways, Witte’s transformation echoes that of his predecessors,



Peter the Great and Alexander II. Modernisation was imposed rapidly, autocratically and selectively, with economic modernisation at one end and political stagnation at the other. As we shall discuss, this was a similar blueprint to that adopted by Iran’s last autocrat in his quest to transform the country into a world power. In Russia, this troubled path to modernity contributed to labour unrest, rural impoverishment, the decline of the nobility and radicalisation of the intelligentsia. The Shah’s Development Plans and the White Revolution Following the 1953 coup d’état, the intellectual mood in Iran became one of great disillusionment. The crackdown on the Tudeh Party and the National Front, and the subsequent outlawing of political parties, led to intellectual desertion and an atmosphere of political inertia. Intellectuals began to resent the shah and the rift between state and society grew wider. The shah attempted to remedy this estrangement by heralding ‘the most brilliant of futures’, promising the creation of modern political institutions. The daily Keyhan published statements made by Prime Minister Manuchehr Eqbal, announcing that pluralism and an open and vibrant civil society would form the basis of the new government. Newspapers would be able to print at liberty and political groups would be permitted to congregate. Such declarations, however, failed to appeal to the intellectuals. The fact was that Mossadeq’s overthrow had irrevocably damaged the shah’s image and it was in this troubled social climate that Mohammad Reza Shah prepared the blueprint for his modernisation programme – an exercise in social engineering designed to fortify the pillars of the dynasty in the face of mounting social discontent. Whilst inspiration for socio-economic modernisation came from the west, the shah displayed ambivalence over the



orientation the country would take in its development. Intellectuals also pondered over this subject, revealing diverse positions on the question of what a ‘modern’ Iran would look like. Progressive intellectuals such as Haj Seyyed Javadi advocated blanket importation not only of science and technology but also of western norms, values and social institutions. 84 Secular nationalists, who had formerly attributed Iran’s backwardness to the Arab legacy, now shifted blame onto the machinations of the west – an approach that gained wider currency in the 1960s with the emergence of ‘Third World’ discourse. At the forefront of Iranian intellectual life were such thinkers as Jalal Al-Ahmad, Ahmad Fardid and Fakhroddin Shadman, who articulated the popular ‘west-toxication’ position. They believed that westernisation had contaminated Iran’s intellectual, social, political and economic landscape. They called for a national ‘awakening’ and active resistance against the hegemony of what they perceived to be an ‘alien’ culture. This culture, they believed, was slowly eroding Iran’s cultural authenticity, political sovereignty and economic stability. 85

Impetus for Modernisation

In the 1950s and1960s, the shah’s immediate concern was the growing influence of the ulama and the threat of Soviet Communism. At first the shah benefited from the role played by the clerics in his struggle against Mossadeq. Anxiety over the growing power of the Tudeh Party – an atheistic Marxist organisation – and its association with Mossadeq, resulted in the ulama’s withdrawal of support for the nationalisation movement. The rupture between the religious community and the National Front delivered a tremendous blow to the movement, depriving it of essential religious legitimacy. Nevertheless, as the years went by the ulama began to demonstrate a renewed interest in reasserting their influence in the state. As we shall see, the clergy’s opposition towards



the social reforms of the White Revolution, and support for the 1963 revolts inspired by Khomeini, symbolised the revival of such aspirations. The state was also threatened with the infiltration of Communist ideas. The rising prestige of the Soviet Union as a superpower had added to the appeal of left-wing ideologies amongst the urban middle classes. As a counter-ideology, the shah turned to the somewhat contradictory ideologies of ‘nationalism’ and ‘modernism’, as his father had done. By playing the nationalism card, the shah hoped to mobilise support for a modernisation programme, casting it as a great national effort. Resurrecting his father’s nationalist rhetoric, the shah spoke about reviving the ‘Great Civilisation’ that Cyrus the Great had established 25 centuries before. In an address to the nation, the shah declared, ‘My ultimate goal is to take Iran to the level of civilisation and progress that the most developed countries have achieved. This we shall do in 20 years’. 86

Methodology and Scope of Modernisation

At the time of this pronouncement, despite rising oil revenues and the increase in economic activity, Iran’s GNP was lower than that of Portugal and Greece. More than 70 per cent of the population was illiterate and the country had only 3,100 miles of paved roads. There were fewer than 4,000 medical doctors for a population of nearly 25 million. 87 This, however, did not discourage Mohammad Reza. He was convinced that by assuming a central role in the formulation and implementation of the country’s development plan, the machinery of the state could transform Iran into a major power. The shah justified the state’s monopoly in the economy by arguing that the Iranian private sector did not possess the financial strength to create, for example, steel or petrochemicals factories, or to compete with western



multinationals. Like Witte, he emphasised that he could not squander time on what he perceived as the tedious process of reaching consensus through debate and discussion. He justified this position by insisting that Iran had to catch up for lost time: Look at all that has been done. We have destroyed the big landowners and the tribal khans who exploited the people, in just over a decade. Would this have been possible without the Shah leading the revolution by putting his position, his prestige and, indeed, his life on the line? Passing a land reform bill through parliament, under ordinary circumstances and without my intervention, could have taken twenty years or more. Does Iran have so much time to waste? 88 The shah regarded himself as the custodian of a number of social and cultural tasks. Often referring to his Swiss education as part of his credentials, Mohammad Reza saw himself as the ‘father of the nation’, responsible for saving the Iranians from what he believed was a slothful life of prayer, fanaticism, petty commerce and cottage industries. The more seasoned politicians expressed misgivings about the shah’s royal ‘revolution’, arguing that in modern societies of the west, socio-economic transformation was directed by the middle classes. The shah rebuked them: ‘Are you against state intervention? Remember that if the state does not build schools in the villages no one will. And if the state does not subsidise higher education only a few people will be able to go to university in this country.’ He added, ‘how can we distribute the nation’s income when, in many areas of the country, we do not have a middle class apart from government employees’. 89 The shah’s view of a modern Iran was limited to factory chimneys, high-rises, steel mills, armament factories and



industrial plants. Like Witte, his was a programme of prestige: one that would transform the country into a first-class industrialised country. Rather than chart a sustainable trajectory to modernity, the shah focussed on a strategy of fast-paced, state-sponsored economic modernisation that was limited to the military-industrial complex, whilst neglecting the traditional agricultural sector. In the tradition of Reza Shah, Peter the Great and Witte, Mohammad Reza’s development campaign was designed to be swift, intense, formulated from above and entirely guided by the state. It was inspired by the material and technological achievements of western European states; however, by design it was ‘Asiatic’ in the sense that it would be imposed ‘autocratically’ – ruthlessly and from above. As we shall elaborate below, the shah’s reform movement turned out to be a curious amalgam of backwardness and modernity.

Third Development Plan

Following the coup, an oil agreement was signed in 1954 between the government of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), on the one hand, and a consortium of British, Dutch, American and French Companies, on the other. Under this agreement, two companies were formed, one for exploration and production of oil and natural gas, and the other for refinement of this oil at the Abadan Refinery, on behalf of the NIOC. The agreement greatly increased the Iranian government’s share of income from each barrel of oil, thus facilitating the financing of development programmes. Revenue from oil swelled from $555 million in 1963-4 to over $958 million in 1968-9, to $1.2 billion in 1970-1 and $20 billion in 1975-6. 90 The surge in revenues allowed the shah to initiate the Third Development Plan (1963-6), his first shot at comprehensive development planning. The Third Plan differed substantively from the first two plans, which were limited to a particular set



of government-executed projects. With clearly defined objectives, target growth rates and sectoral allocations, the Third Plan encompassed the entire Iranian economy. The programme was designed by the Plan and Budget Organisation (PBO), an agency comprised of Americaneducated economists, supported by an international team of foreign advisors, the World Bank, Harvard University and the Ford Foundation. The PBO was established in 1949 as a planning and executing agency outside the regular machinery of government. Although the agency did not possess executive powers, it was criticised for functioning as a ‘government within a government’. The agency had the power to implement plans independently on behalf of the different ministries and entities responsible for plan implementation. 91 Many ministers and deputies found this particularly frustrating, arguing that they should have been included in the planning process as they were the ones accountable to the Majles and the cabinet, and not the managers and technicians of the PBO. 92 In 1957, the Managing Director of the PBO, Abdolhassan Ebtehaj, made a point of distinguishing between the PBO and the ministries. The PBO was responsible for planning, budgeting, reporting and performance control, whilst the ministries were responsible for executing plan objectives. This was something that neither the shah nor his entourage could accept, given the administrative and technical incapacity of the ministries. According to Ebtehaj, his struggle to convince the shah of the need to fight mismanagement, overspending and inefficiency resulted in his losing favour with the monarch, and his subsequent resignation. 93 These were symptoms of the rapid pace at which Mohammad Reza hoped to launch economic modernisation and a reflection of the top-down nature of his development planning. The basic features of the Third Plan comprised an investment programme for the public sector and financial



growth forecasts for the private sector, with a 6 per cent target growth rate per annum. The growth rate was to be achieved through price stability and employment opportunities. A more equitable income distribution was pursued by means of fiscal policies, social services and investment in less developed regions. 94 The projected development expenditure stood at $3.1 billion for the public sector and $2.1 billion for the private sector. Private investment was to be based entirely on private savings, whilst public investment was to be financed by oil profit, domestic financing and foreign loans. Transportation and communications claimed the highest proportion of planned expenditures at 25 per cent, followed by agriculture, power and fuel, industry and mines, education, health and other social services. 95 The Third Plan yielded uneven results. After a sluggish start, industry in total saw an average growth rate of 12.7 per cent per annum. The largest share of industry allocations went to new industries, including joint ventures for the manufacture of petrochemical products. A notable achievement of the Third Plan was the finalisation of the agreement with the Soviet Union over construction of a steel mill. Under this agreement, the Soviet Union advanced a 12year credit to Iran of $286 million, with an annual interest rate of 2.5 per cent, for the development of a steel mill, a gas pipeline and a tool-making factory. The Soviet Union also agreed to assist in the financing of the Iranian Gas Trunk Line, which would supply gas to the Soviet Union for 15 years beginning in 1970. 96 Aggregate gross investment for the period amounted to $5.7 billion, and GNP hovered between 18 and 20 per cent. Of this total gross investment, $2.5 billion came from the public sector and $3.2 billion came from the private sector. Activities in the private sector were bolstered by protective tariffs on competing manufacturing imports, duty free



imports of the raw materials and spare parts needed by domestic industries, the expansion of credit facilities, the establishment of vocational schools and direct technical assistance to private enterprise. Agriculture, on the other hand, did not fare as well. A number of exogenous factors including drought, a bitter winter fatal to livestock and the absence of private investment reduced the rate of growth from a projected 4 per cent per annum to 2.8 per cent. Homa Katouzian contends that the Third Plan was heavily biased against the agricultural sector. He maintains that whereas construction and manufacturing projects enjoyed an increasing share of the allocation of resources, agriculture was starved of funds. Of the funds assigned to the agricultural sector, direct state investment was directed into agro-business companies, with state loans awarded to farm corporations. The peasants, who constituted 65 per cent of the country’s total population in 1963, were left to procure what credit they could through the bureaucratic web of co-operative units or from the local bazaaris. 97 Kamran Mofid criticises the plan for failing to recognise the need for research into agricultural problems. ‘Agriculture’s success’, he explains, ‘does not depend mainly on construction of huge and complicated dams alone, it also depends on the availability of an informed and trained labour force’. 98 In fact, the budget assigned to research and training amounted to 1 per cent of total expenditure for the agricultural sector, notwithstanding that most of this funding was spent on the recruitment and training of new staff for the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Bank. In short, it had no direct bearing on agricultural production itself. 99

Fourth Development Plan

Encouraged by the successes of the Third Plan, the nation was offered an even more ambitious programme under the



Fourth Development Plan (1968-72). The overall objectives of the Fourth Plan were as follows: 1. Expansion of heavy industry, including steel, aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, petrochemical and engineering, through modern techniques; 2. More equitable distribution of income through employment and social services; 3. Decreased dependence on foreign countries and diversification of exports; 4. An improvement in administrative services, and the extension of managerial techniques to all ministries and private organisations. 100 The GNP growth target was set at 9.3 per cent per annum and total investment was set at $10.8 billion per annum. Approximately 55 per cent of this total was public investment and 45 per cent was private. From an initial $6.9 billion in 1967, the GNP was expected to reach $10.9 billion by the end of the plan period, thereby raising GNP per capita to $359, compared with $257 at the end of 1967. The plan also set targets for employment; the number of jobs was projected to rise by 966,000 by the end of the plan period. Iran’s foreign exchange reserves were targeted to reach $600 million. A target annual growth rate of 5.4 per cent was set for agriculture. The Fourth Plan proposed construction of a steel mill with a 1.2 million-ton capacity, a 45,000-ton capacity aluminium plant and three petrochemical plants. In transport and communications, 2,700 miles of new highways would be completed, port capacity would reach 8 million tons, 11 of the country’s airports would be expanded and six additional airports would be built. In water resources development, a



number of small and large dams were to be constructed, and in the field of power, consumption of electricity was to expand from 4.5 billion kilowatt hours in 1967 to 12 billion by 1972. In oil and gas, petroleum production was expected to increase by 80 per cent during the life of the plan. Refining capacity was to expand by 48 per cent and the use of natural gas was to reach 23 billion cubic metres. In agriculture, 1 million acres of new farmland were to be placed under cultivation. The plan extended education to urban and rural children, increased university enrolment allowances by 60 per cent and increased the number of vocational schools. Under the plan, over 250,000 housing units were to be constructed, financed mainly by private investment. 101 The shah’s ambitious campaign was to be financed by oil revenues, which under the Fourth Plan were to rise to a staggering $6.5 billion. What was different about this development strategy, and that of Reza Shah and the Russian tsars, was that development was financed by oil revenues as opposed to taxation. From 1954 to 1975, the total percentage of direct taxes levied on income and real estate increased only slightly from 5 to 10 per cent. 102 The state’s dependence on oil had made Iran a ‘rentier state’, in other words, a state that derives a considerable portion of its revenue from payments by foreign concerns in the form of rent. Whilst oil profits were a blessing in the sense that the poorer classes were spared the burden of taxation, this source of revenue placed a wedge between state and society. According to Skocpol, the autonomy of the Iranian state from a taxation base eroded an important link between the state and civil society. The shah viewed himself as the ‘Great Benefactor’ who did not rule through, or in alliance with, any independent social class. 103 Hisham Sharabi shares this viewpoint by asserting that oil revenue contributed to the development of a ‘neopatriarchal’ society, defined by Sharabi



as ‘an entropic social formation characterised by its transitory nature and by the specific kinds of underdevelopment and non-modernity visible in its economy and class structure as well as its political, social and cultural organization’. 104 He argues that oil revenues precluded the state from becoming an intermediary between the court and the citizenry. The government’s independence from a taxation base also reinforced the ‘top-down’ quality of modernisation. Oil allowed the shah to guide development according to his own vision of modernity. Parsa notes the dangers associated with state-guided modernisation: economically interventionist states, he explains, run the risk of forfeiting their legitimacy if the economy goes downhill. 105 Indeed, as we shall see, society blamed economic discrepancies and social dislocation on the shah, who had monopolised the development process. The rate of growth of industries and mines was approximately 14 per cent and 11 per cent in the first and second years of the Fourth Plan, respectively. The GNP also increased at an average annual rate of 11 per cent, some way over the 9.4 per cent target. Projects included petrochemical complexes in Abadan, Kharg and Bandar Shahpour, the Arya Mehr Steel Mill in Isfahan, machine-making plants in Tabriz and Arak, auxiliary projects in Yazd, Kerman and the Alborz region, an aluminium plant in Arak, and sugar refineries in Kerman. Mining activities led to discoveries of huge copper deposits and iron ore, placing Iran within the ranks of the world’s leading mineral producers. Oil and services achieved the highest growth rates at 15.2 and 14.2 per cent, respectively. Employment targets were also surpassed, with actual employment increasing by 1.2 million. For instance, industrial employment increased by 737,000, whereas the projected target was 41,700. Agricultural employment, however, declined by 202,000, compared with an anticipated increase of 226,000. 106



Under the Fourth Plan, 3,500 miles of unfinished roads remaining from the Third Plan were completed, 1,600 miles of new asphalt roads were built, and another 1,155 miles of existing roads were asphalted. In addition, some 3,400 miles of feeder roads were placed under construction. A total of 510 miles of rail track were installed for the use of the steel mill in Isfahan, and 100 miles were installed to connect Sharafkhaneh and Ghatour to the Turkish and European railway network. Port capacity was expanded and nine airports were completed. Communications and health facilities were expanded and the number of medical personnel was increased; over 250,000 residential units were constructed. From 1963 to 1977, enrolment soared in kindergartens, elementary, secondary and technical schools. During the same years, 12 new university campuses were established, expanding enrolment from 24,885 to 154,215. 107 Industrial expansion, nevertheless, was not complemented with agricultural growth. Growth rates within the agricultural sector at 3.9 per cent per annum were below the target rate of 5.4 per cent. By the end of the plan, agricultural production actually failed to satisfy domestic needs. However, imports of livestock and major plant products increased considerably and a surplus was achieved in the production of cotton and dried fruits. In spite of this growth, a trade deficit persisted over the life of this plan. 108 Progress under the Fourth Plan was accompanied by a number of growth-induced problems. For instance, the academic, as opposed to the vocational, nature of Iranian education revealed the labour force’s inability to take on complicated technical services. The migration of farm workers to urban centres was also cause for concern. Coupled with the rapidly growing population, this resulted in inadequate housing, traffic jams and urban unemployment. The Fourth Plan brought with it inflationary pressures. These pressures were attributable to several factors: the



astronomical production costs in many infant industries owing partly to the high cost of materials; the high wages paid to skilled labour; adverse weather conditions affecting certain agricultural items; a growing consumption culture; institutional and economic bottlenecks accompanying rapid growth; and the extended development period of some infrastructural projects (including roads and dams). Also problematic was the government’s ‘open door’ policy in relation to the import of goods and services. The result was an increase in the demand for imports, which in turn compromised the balance of payments. 109

Fifth Development Plan

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Iran’s economic expansion was fairly steady. In 1973, the energy crisis in the west drastically increased oil revenues, enabling the shah to launch an even more ambitious development programme. This took the form of the Fifth Plan (1972-7), which was compiled and executed by the PBO, the Council of Ministers, the Economic Council, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, and the State Organisation for Administration. The increase in the number of agencies involved as compared with the earlier plans reflects the wider scope of the plan. However, in line with the earlier plans and the shah’s overarching objective of ‘catching up’ with the developed world powers, the Fifth Plan assigned priority to expansion of the industrial base. Accordingly, the largest budgetary allocations were given to industry (20.4 per cent), followed by housing (16.3 per cent), oil (9.3 per cent), communications (7.7 per cent), agriculture (6.2 per cent) and education (5.2 per cent). The plan envisaged a 15 per cent growth rate for industry and mining, 11.8 per cent for oil industries, 11.5 per cent for services and 5.5 per cent for agriculture. Financing was to be derived from oil revenues at 47.2 per cent; direct and indirect taxes at 23.5



per cent; foreign loans at 13 per cent; banks at 11 per cent; and government income from monopolies at 5.3 per cent. Although the Fifth Plan was ambitious, it was abandoned in its opening year for an even more elaborate version – the result of the oil price hike announced by the shah. Whilst the members of Oil and Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) convened in Tehran in December 1973, the shah called for a press conference during which he boldly announced a staggering increase in the price of oil. This translated to a jump in the per barrel price from $1.85 to $7.0 in 1973, and to $10.21 by the end of 1974. 110 The revised plan was drawn up in the context of a 20-year perspective that would link it to the Sixth Plan and beyond. It called for a total fixed capital investment of $70 billion, double the scope of the original version. The funds assigned to the maintenance of the operational status quo, development credits, government buildings and installations, represented 13.3 per cent of the budget. Military defence absorbed the lion’s share of allocations at 31.4 per cent. The annual military budget increased from $293 million in 1963 to $1.8 billion in 1973 and $7.3 billion in 1977. 111 This was followed by education, housing, health services and rural and urban development, which collectively received 21 per cent of total allocations. Industry, transport, communications, agriculture, mining, electricity and water resources, postal services and tourism totalled 34.2 per cent of total allocations. The average annual growth rate for oil output was set at 15 per cent, industry and mining at 18 per cent; services were set at 16.4 per cent and agriculture at 7 per cent. The GNP was expected to triple – from $17 billion in 1973 to $55 billion by the end of the plan. The projected foreign exchange earnings from oil were expected to reach $102.2 billion, or 12 times that of the Fourth Plan. Non-oil exports were estimated to triple, and services to quadruple, compared to the Fourth Plan. The plan also envisaged the annual growth of GNP to



reach 25.9 per cent. 112 The plan promised ‘qualitative’ objectives. It proposed an improved standard of living for all social groups through price stability, higher income levels and employment. In the area of science and technology, the plan encouraged research, initiative and creativity. Environmental preservation was also stressed, as was the need for creating alternative sources of national income in order to replace depleting oil resources. 113 The Fifth Plan brought mixed fortunes. Iran’s GNP grew at an annual rate of 30 per cent in 1973-4. Between 1972 and 1978, GNP increased from $17.3 billion to $54.6 billion: the highest GNP growth rate in the developing world. 114 By 1977, there were 250,000 industrial units, of which 6,000 were categorised as ‘large industries’. Amongst these establishments, 34 employed 7,000 workers or more, and about 95 factories employed 500 workers or more. 115 The automobile industry, in particular, grew impressively from 1965 to 1975. The labour force, including the construction sector, had also risen to 2.5 million by 1975. Despite this growth, by 1977, the total value of non-oil exports constituted only 2 per cent of total exports. 116 Ironically, industrialisation had increased Iran’s dependence on imports such as foodstuffs, industrial products and luxury consumer goods. Perhaps not surprisingly, the boom was accompanied by inflation. From 1973 to 1977, the price of food increased by an average of 13.3 per cent per annum. 117 In 1974, retail and wholesale prices increased by 15.6 and 16.9 per cent, respectively. 118 During the plan, the highest price increases were recorded for construction materials at 22.1 per cent, followed by domestic and consumer goods at 15.7 per cent, and imported goods at 11 per cent. 119 The problem was exacerbated by high migration rates from rural to urban areas. Rural migrants increasingly witnessed a decline in living standards, resulting from food shortages and high rents. Kamran Mofid explains that ‘in their place of origin [rural



dwellers], if they were working on the land, then at least they had access to some sort of food. If they were providing labour or services for the farmers, they might have received part of their wages in kind. Having come to the cities, they became customers for food, rather than its producers’. Furthermore, Mofid points out that ‘with all the oil revenues, all the imports, agro-businesses, the Great Civilisation to be, was not able to feed its own people’. 120 The working class and labourers were also victims of rising costs. As we shall discuss below, the White Revolution had produced a labour force of 10.6 million in 1977, out of which 2.5 million worked in the industrial sector. The growth in numbers, coupled with a 40 per cent inflation rate (reflected in housing, foodstuffs and consumer goods), and only a 15 per cent salary increase, made city life very costly. This was aggravated by the economic recession of 1975, which resulted in the termination of construction projects and unemployment of 1 million workers. Workers began organising strikes, which were sometimes tolerated by the shah but more often suppressed by the secret service. Even the million or so middle-class professionals were hit hard by inflation. 121

Alienating Society

Other misgivings that emerged during the plan were associated with the absence of a strong bourgeoisie, an inflated bureaucracy, the lack of competent administrators or skilled manpower, an inadequate infrastructure and the wasting of resources. The system itself was marred by corruption. The ‘Pahlavi Foundation’ was established in 1958 to manage funds for royal projects and to deliver pension and grants to favoured clients. Valued at over $3 billion in 1976, the foundation had shares in 207 companies. The NIOC purportedly channelled $1 billion in 1976. The royal family, numbering some 63 princes, princesses and other family



members, were said to be worth $10 billion. 122 The attendant effects of structural inefficiencies, corruption and shortsighted fiscal policies need not detain us here. The variables and statistics presented above make the case that economic modernisation was not necessarily designed to improve the welfare of the average citizen. Society was rapidly undergoing change: its composition was changing, its expectations were growing and its needs were not being met. The fact was that the poorly conceived Development Plans were not designed to promote living standards: great power status and imperial prestige were the primary goals of economic development. What is interesting is that the shah, like Witte, demonstrated a penchant for foreign investment and foreign capital. His support for Iranians was limited to the modern bourgeoisie – the wealthy entrepreneurs and former landlords who had sold their lands to the state and purchased stateowned factories following the White Revolution (to be discussed below). Smaller merchants had to secure credit through traditional lending institutions and the bazaar. According to Nikkie Keddie, shop owners and craftspeople who usually did not qualify for normal bank credit rates, had to borrow from bazaar loan sharks at rates between 25 and 100 per cent. 123 These policies contributed to greater income inequality and the concentration of capital in large cities. Other discriminatory measures included the ‘antiprofiteering’ campaign waged against the bazaaris in 1975-6. The bazaaris were traditionally an autonomous economic sector that controlled about 70 per cent of domestic trade and 30 per cent of all imports. The shah regarded this social group as a relic of the past: ‘the bazaaris are a fanatic lot, highly resistant to change because their locations afford a lucrative monopoly’. 124 Determined to curb their influence, the shah launched a campaign against merchants who allegedly charged unreasonable prices. The irony was that the shah was amassing his own personal wealth through the Pahlavi



Foundation yet accusing bazaaris of ‘excessive profiteering’. As a result, the government fixed prices, closed down shops and arrested thousands of merchants. In the first few days of the campaign, 7,750 shopkeepers were arrested. By the end of 1977, approximately a year before the revolution, some 20,000 shopkeepers had been incarcerated, according to the Ministry of Interior. By the end of October 1977, over 109,800 Tehran shopkeepers out of a total of 200,000 had ‘violated’ price controls and had cases pending. Many violators lost their licenses and many shopkeepers went bankrupt because of price controls. All of this can be explained by the fact that the shah interpreted modernisation as a state-sponsored campaign aimed at competing with the world’s major industrial powers. Qualitatively, his modernisation drive was a veneer: it lacked substance, depth and intensity. Modernity in the shah’s eyes was limited to importing western trends through ambitious programmes with targets that had to be met even at the cost of worsening the lot of important sectors of the traditional economy. The shah’s enthusiasm for accumulating a massive military arsenal, far in excess of what Iran needed for defence, is evidence of his mission to show to the world an Iran brimming with sophisticated weapons – the ‘superficial manifestations’ of modern, advanced states. Such a mission had a high price tag: between 1972 and 1976, Iran purchased a staggering $10 billion in arms, including weapons and surveillance. 125 By 1977 Iran had the largest navy in the Persian Gulf, the most modern air force in the Middle East and the fifth largest military force in the world. 126 This was all in line with the shah’s objective of making Iran a regional superpower. In the tradition of ‘autocratic modernisers’, these aspirations were achieved at the expense of the rural, agricultural sector. Whilst agricultural production did increase



during the boom years, it did not keep pace with population growth. As a result, the government had to subsidise food, to the tune of $3 billion by 1978. 127 The lack of coordination between producers and distributors – a result of the centralisation of the economy, the corrupt bureaucracy and a continuing lack of proper roads and warehouses in rural areas – all contributed to rural stagnation.

The White Revolution

As late as the 1960s, Iranian agriculture was based on the outdated share-cropping system. 128 Furthermore, although the state did not rely on an agricultural surplus to feed its people in the 1970s (as a result of oil revenues), agricultural products (notably, carpets, nuts and dried fruit) continued to rank as Iran’s largest exports, preceded only by oil. Seeing that this sector was a significant contributor to the country’s foreign exchange, and considering that the outdated land tenure system went against the vision of a modern state, Mohammad Reza introduced a reform package known as the ‘White Revolution’. However, in substance and style, the White Revolution was a product of ideological rather than socioeconomic considerations. Like Alexander II and Stolypin, Mohammad Reza’s reforms failed to address key grievances in a substantive and consistent manner. In the early 1960s, Iran witnessed a series of political demonstrations in the streets of Tehran. The main participants were students, teachers, intellectuals, and the rapidly expanding professional/bureaucratic middle class. 129 In January 1960, riots culminated in the deaths of three students; 50 others were injured. In May 1961, one teacher was killed and two were injured during demonstrations calling for higher pay. The following year, picketing students demanded free elections and the removal of Premier Ali Amini. Security forces killed one student and injured over 200 protestors. The opposition denounced the shah’s dictatorship,



and demanded an accountable government and an open civil society. 130 In order to keep this newly emerging middle class in check, Mohammad Reza Shah began to devise a policy for bringing the peasants and rural dwellers in closer contact with the court and the ruling elite. The shah, like Stolypin, believed that a homespun ‘revolution’ designed to create a class of landowning peasants would secure the support of the countryside. At the same time, the shah calculated that such a ‘revolution’ would serve as an ideological concession to socially conscious intellectuals and leftist organisations whose members had consistently lobbied on behalf of the lower classes. 131 Although silenced by the secret service for their role in the Mossadeq movement of 1953, Marxist groups continued to pose a threat to the regime. Tudeh Party flyers circulated throughout the 1960s denouncing the shah for ‘selling out to the west’. The shah, in order to counter the possibility of a spontaneous ‘red’ revolution – sponsored by the Soviets – pre-emptively initiated a state-endorsed, ‘white’ revolution. The White Revolution was a multi-tasked venture. The crux of the programme was to limit the influence of the larger landowners who considered the Pahlavi shahs’ efforts to centralise power as a threat to their own economic and political power. 132 ‘The Shah’, Roger Savory argues, ‘on his own initiative, had decided to take action in order finally to break the power of the landowning class, which of course included members of the religious classes as well as lay persons. The magnitude of the task may be judged from the fact that, prior to the 1962 act [land reform under the White Revolution] 56 per cent of the land was in the hands of 1 per cent of the population’. 133 On 26 January 1963, the shah decreed the White Revolution, supported by a national referendum. Twelve points made up this programme: (1) land reform; (2) nationalisation of forests and pastures; (3) the public sale of



state-owned factories for the financing of land reform; (4) profit-sharing in industry; (5) the reform of electoral law; (6) a literacy corps; (7) a health corps; (8) reconstruction and development corps; (9) rural courts of justice; (10) nationalisation of waterways; (11) national reconstruction; and (12) educational and administrative revolution. Although these points were widely publicised, the political elite concentrated on land reform and the objectives of the literacy corps. Land reform was adopted in 1962-3, at an opportune time when the landlord-dominated parliament had been dismissed and a reformist government had been formed, headed by Premier Amini and Minister of Agriculture Hasan Arsanjani. Reform encompassed three stages. During the first stage, legislation stipulated that landlords were limited to possession of one village (not including orchards, tea plantations and woodlands). All excess land was to be sold to the state at its declared tax value and then resold to the sharecropping peasants, the nasaqdar (those without sharecropping privileges, the khoshnishins, were excluded). The state compensated the landlords in 15 annual instalments. The peasants, in turn, had to reimburse the state in 15 instalments – upon condition of joining a cooperative society or buneh. This institution was similar to the Russian commune, though it was limited to decisions concerning crop rotation, the sale of machinery, the marketing of crops and the provision of credit. 134 Relations between landlord and peasant remained on a sharecropping basis but the agreement was improved: the landlord was forced to fulfil his obligations with regard to the provision of free schools, bathhouses and housing, and sharecroppers were granted security of tenure. In addition, there was a flat-rate increase in the peasants’ share of the crop, of 5 per cent on irrigated land and 10 per cent on dryfarming operations. Whereas government statistics are generally unreliable, the estimate is that about 8,000 villages,



or one-seventh of the total number of villages, were affected during the first phase. The second phase of the reform, introduced on 17 January 1963, emphasised tenancy agreements and was applied to landlords owning one village or less. 135 The legislation gave the landlord three options. First, the landlord had the choice of leasing land to the cultivator; second, he could sell the land to the cultivator; or third, he had the option of dividing the land with the peasant in the same proportion as under the existing sharecropping agreements (with the peasant paying two-fifths of the value of the land in ten instalments). Later, two additional options were offered. The first was the option of cultivating land as a joint agricultural unit under the auspices of one landlord representative, one peasant representative and one chosen mutually by both the landlord and the peasant. The second option gave the landlord the ability to purchase the peasants’ rights. The first option was the most preferred, creating a new category of ‘tenant farmers’. During the second phase of the reform, the peasants’ lot improved considerably: without the fear of eviction, peasants built better houses and improved cultivation methods and standards. The third phase of the reforms entailed consolidation of land into economic units. Following Majles and Senate approval in 1967-8, a law was implemented providing for the establishment of joint stock agricultural companies comprising two or more villages. It was expected that the creation of these corporations would permit a greater degree of mechanisation and more efficient exploitation of land. In areas where corporations were established, the peasant became an ‘agricultural labourer’, giving up his land in exchange for shares in the company. The final component of this phase was the abolition of all tenancies, including charitable lands or vaqf. Land deeds were to be transferred to tenants holding leases of charitable lands. This provision was



deemed necessary because the landlords overwhelmingly chose to rent land to the cultivator. The shah hoped to abolish tenancy, which he regarded as a vestige of indentured servitude. In his authoritative assessment of the shah’s land reform, Eric Hooglund contends that although 93 per cent of former sharecroppers became landholders, ‘the overwhelming majority of villagers were in no better economic situation than they had been prior to the implementation of the program’. Hooglund attributes this to the fact that over half of the village families had no formal sharecropping agreement with the landowner, and were thus unaffected by the reforms. 136 In fact, non-sharecroppers – the majority of the rural population – were excluded from the entire programme. Like Stolypin’s reforms that targeted a minority of peasants (the ‘strong and sober’), the shah’s policies concentrated predominantly on the nasaqdars. Overall, the rural majority did not benefit much from the land reform; they did not receive enough land to maintain their families at a basic subsistence level. 137 Incomes per capita were as low as $131 per annum for peasants holding between one and ten hectares of land and $70 for those with less than three hectares. 138 Katouzian found that 38 per cent of the rural population was undernourished in 1972 (6.6. million people) and 4 per cent (700,000) were severely undernourished. Migrant peasants (40 per cent of the peasant population) were forced to seek employment in cities, where they struggled with inflation. 139 Around 96 per cent of villages had no electricity in the 1970s. According to Katouzian, between 1962 and 1972, the annual rate of agricultural growth was 3 per cent. He explains that given the population growth rate of 2.9 per cent during the same period, this implies that the rate of growth per capita was zero or negative. 140 Of the funds allocated to the agricultural sector, direct state investment was primarily channelled into agro-businesses,



whilst most state loans were granted to farm corporations. As mentioned above, peasants were left to obtain credit through cooperatives and merchants. Official documents from the major provinces provide evidence of peasants’ difficulty in obtaining credit for fertilisers and tools. Although they were endowed with land, farmers were deprived of the materials required to cultivate it. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian, Plan Organisation Director in the early 1960s, attributes this problem to the inadequacy of the administrative machinery: ‘It wasn’t just the question of giving anybody who came to the branches of the Agricultural Bank 200 tomans. The real problem was seeing to it that the loan was properly used’. He argued, ‘We didn’t have the apparatus … the whole organisation of the land reform program that followed the reform law, certainly, should have been and could have been far more modern, more efficient, far better suited to the need of Iran’. According to Farmanfarmaian, total agricultural output fell and ‘an important economic sector never reached its potential’. 141 Peasants were well aware of the shortcomings of the land reforms. Hooglund maintains that the majority of peasants felt cheated and that when the government was confronted with upheaval in 1978, few ‘shed any tears’. 142 The reforms also antagonised the landowning class and the ulama. Landowners felt incensed by what they perceived as the shah’s attempt to strip them of their economic and political relevance. Indeed, with the establishment of the ‘Literacy, Health and Development Corps’, as well as cooperatives, credit unions and rural courts, the White Revolution effectively brought the state into the countryside, thereby marginalising the role of the landowner. 143 Many clerics were landowners (and owners of endowment lands). Considering that private property was deemed inviolable under Islamic Law, the clergy perceived the shah’s reforms as a strategy to curtail their influence. They



considered the social reforms of the White Revolution as part of the shah’s deliberate strategy to break the traditional centres of power. They displayed their displeasure towards the shah on the streets of Tehran in 1963 in the form of violent riots. The professional middle class also proved to be critical of the White Revolution. They argued that not one of the 12 points was intended for their benefit and that the shah had ignored their demands for change in the political system, as well as in health, education and justice. The social reforms of the White Revolution were equally disappointing: despite the establishment of rural schools and the Literacy Corps, only 15 per cent of the rural population received an education in 1971: 60 per cent of men and 90 per cent of women remained illiterate in 1975. 144 The right of women to vote, and to be elected to the Majles or the Senate, was farcical seeing that ‘it was rare for anybody to participate in an honest election’. 145 The Health Corps, however, achieved some remarkable results through its programme of vaccination against cholera, smallpox and other diseases. In fact, Iran was the first country in the Middle East to administer vaccinations against measles in rural areas. As a result, the incidence of measles had fallen considerably by 1970. 146 Altogether, the White Revolution failed to be the ‘revolution’ it purported to be. In fact, it cannot even be considered as an ‘evolution’ in the sense that it failed to alter, qualitatively, the welfare of the rural dweller. This can be explained by the fact that the White Revolution was conceived as an ideological construct. As we have illustrated above, the core consideration behind the formulation and development of this project was the creation of a sustainable ideological framework to buttress Mohammad Reza’s autocracy. The myriad economic and political aspects of the White Revolution are inconsequential when one considers the overarching ideological motivation behind the project. Above all, the White Revolution was an



autocratically sponsored project launched ‘from above’ in order to portray the Shah as a genuinely ‘revolutionary leader’ determined to transform Iran into a great civilisation.

The Ramifications of Economic Modernisation

What we have identified in this section are many of the anatomic characteristics of ‘modernisation from above’. In the case of Mohammad Reza Shah, autocratic modernisation took the form of three shah-decreed development plans and an ill-conceived land reform package. Whilst we have yet to discuss the political component of this brand of modernisation, we can safely conclude that under the shah development was solely inspired by great power aspirations, which necessitated an over-ambitious, accelerated industrialisation programme. This venture was made possible with abundant oil revenues, which transformed the country into a rentier state. However, the process was accompanied by discrepancies in wealth, widespread inflation, food shortages, higher imports, discriminatory policies and widespread corruption. Almost every segment of society felt alienated as a result of these pressures. What is remarkable is that although the middle classes and the modern bourgeoisie generally benefitted from the shah’s economic policies, they deeply resented him. The absence of political reform was a major grievance; however, it was not so much the substance but the style with which the shah pursued economic development that created this resentment. The feeling was shared by the landowners, the ulama and the bazaaris, who expressed contempt for the land reforms, the anti-profiteering campaign, the preferential treatment of foreigners and measures to limit their economic and political influence. Lastly, the peasants, factory and migrant workers resented the displacing effects of reform and the higher cost of living.



These are all symptoms of a chronic dilemma in Iran’s development history. Like his father (and similar to the Russian tsars), the shah limited modernisation to a stateguided programme for expansion of industry and the military, to the detriment of the indigenous economy and traditional sectors of society. Although under the shah the commodity of oil was introduced, the effects were the same: oil wealth simply allowed the shah to further monopolise the development process, and to impose upon society his distorted conception of modernity. Conclusion To Nicholas II, Witte and Mohammad Reza, economic modernisation was straightforward: it entailed importing the economic institutions and practices of the advanced and industrialised societies of the west. Both reforming monarchs launched a programme of accelerated, state-sponsored development, under imperial prerogative. Both autocrats failed to understand that such a vast national project of social and economic engineering was impossible to achieve solely by the state: a sustainable modernisation could only be achieved with the participation of technocrats, experts, intellectuals and scientists. Nevertheless, in spite of the paradoxical nature of modernisation, Witte and the shah were unequivocal over the orientation their respective economies would take over the course of development. Economic modernisation was modelled on the west and the policies detailed above are evidence of that orientation. On the political level, however, development, or the absence thereof, was categorically nonwestern. As we will elucidate below, whilst economic transformation represented relative convergence with the west, the absence of political reforms reflected divergence from western standards and norms. Combined, these two disparate orientations resulted in ‘arrested modernisation’ and an



unfavourable shift in popular attitudes towards the incumbent regimes in Russia and Iran.


‘Modernisation from above’, as we have discussed, can be conceptualised as a double helix, representing the synthesis of two disparate orientations: economic modernisation, on the one hand, and political stagnation, on the other. As their predecessors had done, both Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah pursued a lop-sided interpretation of modernity, whereby their countries advanced economically but not politically whilst attempting to achieve standards comparable to those of the west. In fact, in the political sphere, the west represented an anti-model. That Russia and Iran held back from making a complete transition to the western variety of modernity can be largely attributed to a civilisational conflict. As will be expounded below, this ambivalence resulted in a pathogenic trajectory of societal discontent that brought both countries to the precipice of disintegration. The Tsar’s Fundamental Laws versus the October Manifesto With the words, ‘Let everyone know that I … shall safeguard the principles of autocracy as firmly and as unwaveringly as did … my father’, Nicholas II reaffirmed his staunch



advocacy of unbridled autocracy. The principles of autocracy were enshrined in the 1832 Fundamental Laws: ‘The Emperor of all the Russias is an autocratic and unlimited monarch. God himself commands that his supreme power be obeyed, out of conscience as well as fear’. 1 This meant that in imperial Russia there was no constitution to limit the monarch’s power, government was managed by tsarist-appointed officials, and the quality of government depended on the autocrat’s personal conduct. The tsar controlled nominations to the State Council, a consultative body on legislative matters, composed of roughly 60 members drawn from ministers, members of the imperial family and prominent civil servants. On important occasions, the tsar personally presided over Council meetings. The tsar also appointed a smaller Senate, which acted as the highest court of appeal for both civil and criminal cases. No minister or official could resign; he was expected to await dismissal or permission to resign. The tsar exercised control over the armed forces, and through the Procurator of the Holy Synod he oversaw the Orthodox episcopate. Foreign affairs were also a matter of personal prerogative. 2 The entire system was highly anachronistic in a society with a rapidly evolving economy. Alexander Izvolsky, foreign minister between 1906 and 1910, observed that it was a ‘wonder that such a system did not bring about, long before, a complete disorganisation of the vastest empire known to modern times’. 3 Anti-Semitism was fostered and dissidents repressed under Nicholas II: speaking of the bloody revolution in 1905, Nicholas maintained that terror must be met with terror. Whether it was strikes, peasant revolts or peaceful demonstrations, the government responded without mercy. Nicholas was also intolerant towards ethnic and religious minorities. For instance, with the Manifesto of February 1899, he effectively abrogated the Finnish constitution, and transferred the legislation-making process in Finland to the



State Council. Both the Finns and the Russians protested. In the borderlands of the Baltic and the Caucuses, Latvian, Georgian and Armenian demands for cultural autonomy fell on deaf ears. Jews continued to face restrictions: they could enrol in higher level schooling only under quota limits and were excluded from legal practice, the zemstvos and the municipal councils. In 1894, the ‘Stundists’, a Russian variety of the Baptists, were prohibited from holding services. Treadgold and Ellison explain that ‘the fifteen percent of the Empire’s population who in 1897 were dissenters from Russian Orthodoxy had no love for the regime of Nicholas II’. 4 During the modernisation years, neither Nicholas II nor Witte saw the need to supplement economic reforms with the development of political institutions. Witte underscored the importance of a centralised government, with one uniform will prevailing throughout the bureaucracy – and the bureaucracy extending down to the grassroots, unobstructed by any form of local self-government. For Witte, who always had Nicholas II’s blessing, the concept of an independent elective authority was alien to Russia. It was merely a western tradition that had no place in ‘Holy Tsarist Russia’. In Witte’s view, ‘social forces – abundant and many-sided – existed harmoniously with the state. 5 Witte was convinced that by virtue of this ‘natural’ arrangement Russia did not require democratic institutions. In fact, a firm and unwavering autocracy was precisely what Witte needed to implement his programme of accelerated modernisation. In his view, the noble task of transforming Russia into a great industrialised power would only be slowed down through public debate and civic participation. As we pointed out earlier, the convertibility of the rouble, for instance, was introduced by an imperial decree. In a paradoxical way, then, the project of ‘modernisation from above’ actually perpetuated the autocratic system.



During the modernisation campaign, the tsar repressed any demand for political reform. Opposing political parties remained outlawed, trade unions were banned and there were no elected institutions of government other than the zemstvos. Russian subjects had no civil liberties. Repression took several forms including the use of secret police, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial, and harsh punishments such as exile and the death penalty. Working hours were reduced but this reform did not go far enough to address the issues at hand. By 1900 almost all sectors of the population were disaffected. The peasants wanted more land; workers wanted improved living conditions and socialist reform; the middle class wanted a constitution; the aristocracy wanted a greater influence on government, although the demands of the nobility stopped far short of those of the middle class. Although Russia was on a path of economic modernisation, the process of industrialisation was disruptive and threatened the security of the tsarist autocracy. Nicholas II had neither the personal qualities nor the political skills to maintain the autocracy as the pace of social and economic change increased.

Russian Liberalism

At the turn of the century, dissidents became involved in three distinct ideologies: liberalism, socialism and nationalism. The organisations that emerged from these ideologies will be discussed later – of relevance to our present discussion is the liberal movement, which in the mid-nineteenth century was the ideology of the nobles who sought to reduce the influence of the autocracy and the bureaucracy. Since 1864, the zemstvos had provided the institutional base for what was known as ‘Zemstvo Liberalism’. Zemstvo liberals called for a national assembly in 1862 and again in 1895. In 1895, Nicholas II dismissed the idea as a ‘senseless dream’. He viewed any concession to the liberals, even in an advisory



capacity, as a violation of the hallowed tradition of autocracy. God, he believed, had entrusted to him alone the custodianship of Russia’s destiny. The late 1890s saw the emergence of a radical trend within liberalism or ‘New Liberalism’, in contrast with the ‘old’ Zemstvo liberalism. Its first expression was the publication in Stuttgart in 1902 of an illegal paper entitled ‘Liberation’, published by ex-Marxist Peter Struve and historian Paul Miliukov. In January 1904, supporters formed an illegal political party, known as the ‘Union of Liberation’, which demanded a Legislative National Assembly, elected under ‘four-tail’ suffrage (a parliament elected by universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage). Their objective, according to the Programme of the Union of Liberation, was the ‘political liberation of Russia’, the ‘abolition of autocracy’ and ‘the establishment in Russia of a constitutional monarchy’. 6 By 1905 two strands of Russian liberalism had emerged: a moderate wing, dominated by the nobility and organised around the zemstvos; and a radical strand, made up of the intelligentsia, progressive landlords, smaller industrial entrepreneurs and organised around the Union of Liberation. The moderates felt that alone they were unable to shake the government, thus they moved closer to the radicals. In November 1904, the Zemstvo liberals met in a national congress and demanded that the tsar convene a legislative assembly. The result was a series of ‘banquet campaigns’ (similar to those held during the French Revolution of 1848) and professional meetings organised by the Union of Liberation, during which speakers voiced demands for political reform. 7

The Revolutionary Tide

Meanwhile, a revolutionary storm was brewing in Russia. Between 1904 and 1905, the country was embroiled in the Russo-Japanese War, a territorial dispute over Manchuria and



parts of Korea. Russian refusal to evacuate Manchuria, and Russian penetration into North Korea was countered by Japanese attempts to negotiate a division of the area into spheres of influence. Russia, convinced that Japan was militarily inferior, refused to negotiate with the Japanese who responded by attacking the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. A series of quick Japanese victories resulted in the fall of Port Arthur in January 1905. The defeat culminated in the Treaty of Portsmouth in September 1905 under which Russia agreed to withdraw its remaining forces from Manchuria. Speaking to a critic of the war in 1904, Minister of the Interior V. K. Plehve explained, ‘you are not familiar with Russia’s internal situation. We need a little, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution’. 8 Defeat, of course, had the opposite effect. Japanese victories spurred new disturbances, including the aforementioned banquet campaign and a wave of demonstrations that erupted after the loss of Port Arthur. The 1905 revolution dealt another blow to the leadership’s morale. On 22 January, Father Gapon, an Orthodox priest and alleged Okhrana double agent, attempted to lead a peaceful march of workers and their families to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. The marchers’ intention was to present a petition to the tsar, asking him to ease the difficulties caused by unemployment and wartime inflation. Upon arrival in St Petersburg, the marchers were fired upon and charged by cavalry. The massacre of hundreds of unarmed workers, which came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, set off a nationwide outbreak of disorder. Strikes occurred in all the major cities and towns. Terrorism against government officials and landlords, organised by the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), spread to the countryside. The government was blamed for Russia’s military defeat, which led to further outrages including the assassination of Plehve by SR terrorists. The unrest encouraged the national minorities to assert themselves. In



May 1905, the Union of Liberation attempted to spread its influence amongst broader sections of the population, by forming the Moscow-based ‘Union of Unions’, an alliance of 14 trade unions representing intellectual professionals, with Miliukov as its chairman. The liberals hoped that this organisation would unite with all existing associations and groups, the intelligentsia, workers and peasants. Speaking of the liberals, in July 1905, Petrunkevich remarked, ‘Till now … they had hoped for reform from above, but henceforth their only hope was in the people’. 9 In June, a mutiny broke out on the battleship Potemkin in the Black Sea. In September 1905, some printers went on strike, which spread to 50 print shops within a few days. In October, railway workers went on strike in Moscow, and by mid-October, three quarters of a million railway workers had stopped working. Within a few days, Russia faced its first general strike, lasting from September to the end of October. The strike had spread to Moscow, Kharkov, Revel, Smolensk, Lodz, Minsk, St Petersburg, Vilna, Odessa, Kazan, Tiflis and other major centres and moved from the railway to the post offices, telephones, telegrams and to service employees and professional workers. Although strikes were fairly common in Russia in the years leading up to 1905, the ‘Great October Strike’ paralysed the entire country. Alan Wood describes this time as ‘a spontaneous expression of the whole people’s pent up frustration at the obstinacy of an intellectually and An important administratively bankrupt regime’. 10 development during the crisis was the concentration of opposition elements in the St Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies’. At its peak, the St Petersburg soviet gathered 562 deputies from a total of 147 factories, 34 artisan associations and 16 trade unions.



Concession and Repression

By October, the tsar was confronted with the most united opposition in Romanov history. The government was alarmed that moderate non-revolutionaries amongst the Union of Liberation and the Zemstvo liberals were as much participants in the opposition as were the workers and peasants. Even moderate elements felt disenfranchised. Earlier in the autumn of 1904 the Minister of the Interior had expressed the need for political reform by proposing concessions relating to freedom of press and speech, the welfare of factory workers, religious and ethnic tolerance. 11 The following year, his successor, Alexander Bulygin, tabled a piece of legislation on 6 August 1905, which provided for a consultative assembly elected on a limited suffrage (excluding most non-Russians and many less wealthy townsfolk). Neither proposal had much effect in terms of appeasing the country. At this point, Witte felt that political concessions were a question of survival. He recommended that Nicholas placate moderate elements by extending Bulygin’s parliamentary proposals. That is, the new Duma would be afforded full legislative powers, including that of vetoing all legislation of which it disapproved. What is more, its franchise would be extended to include all inhabitants of the empire. Finally, the government would have to provide some guarantee of civil liberties. 12 Witte also proposed the establishment of a Council of Ministers, a cabinet with a formally appointed chairman who would act as prime minister. An organised and disciplined cabinet, Witte insisted, was essential if the government was to successfully coordinate the struggle against the revolutionary movement and to plan for substantive reform. Witte’s proposal raised the ire of top officials who immediately accused Witte of trying to make himself president of a future Russian republic by limiting tsarist prerogatives. A compromise, however, was soon reached: Witte would act as



chairman of the Council with authority over the ministers whose appointment he recommended to the tsar. The Council was made responsible for internal matters, whilst foreign policy remained in the hands of the tsar. In addition, the old State Council would remain in session, passing projects to the Council of Ministers. 13 Although Nicholas was deferential to Witte’s demands for an overhauled Council, he very reluctantly accepted recommendations for a Duma and a constitution. On 17 October 1905, the tsar begrudgingly issued the ‘October Manifesto’, which promised: 1. To grant fundamental civil freedoms, including freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association; 2. To allow for the creation of a State Duma elected by universal male suffrage and capable of sharing in the legislative process; and 3. To make it a firm rule that no law should be made without the Duma’s consent, and that the people’s representatives should be given the opportunity to participate in the supervision of government bodies. The manifesto saved the tsar by splitting the revolutionary coalition. Right-wing liberals immediately accepted the terms. The moderate liberals regrouped under a new party known as the ‘Union of 17 October’, or the ‘Octobrist Party’, from the date the manifesto was first issued. Loyal to the tsar and the autocracy, the Octobrists regarded the manifesto as a major political concession. Left-wing liberals, known as the ‘Constitutional Democrats’, or ‘Kadets’, had already formed a party at a founding congress in October 1905. The Kadets,



led by Miliukov, called for a constitutional monarchy in which the powers of the tsar would be restricted by a democratically elected constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution. As such, they denounced the manifesto, but agreed to end revolutionary activity and to accept the concessions as a starting point for reform. 14 Any hope that the government was headed towards a constitutional monarchy dimmed the moment that Nicholas promulgated the ‘Fundamental Laws’, which reinstated basic autocratic initiatives. Timed to coincide with the opening of the First Duma (April-June 1906), the laws announced, ‘The All-Russian Emperor possesses the supreme autocratic power. Not only fear and conscience, but God himself, commands obedience to his authority’. With this article, the tsar retained his title of ‘autocrat’, although the earlier epithet ‘unlimited’ was struck out. Another important provision was that the Duma would be composed of two chambers: one would be the elected chamber, and the other would be the upper chamber or State Council – the majority of whose members were appointed by the tsar. The measures of the first chamber had to be approved by the State Council, which possessed the right to veto the decisions of the Duma and to dissolve it. Furthermore, it was the tsar, rather than the Duma, who had sole power to initiate legislation. Command of the armed forces (not including expenditure), the conduct of foreign policy and the appointment of ministers also remained outside the Duma’s jurisdiction. This was the closest tsarist Russia came to implementing political reform. The result was a curious hybrid: a constitutional monarchy headed by an autocrat. Some historians are sympathetic to the leadership’s dilemma. Geoffrey Hosking, for instance, maintains, ‘In seeking, through new state institutions, the support and cooperation of educated society, the government was beginning the



transition from autocracy to the more complicated politics of constitutionalism. In such a transition period, uncertainty about the location of authority is inevitable’. 15 Barbara Green asserts, ‘For the first time, political parties had a role in politics, and for the first time, there were constitutional limits on the power of the tsar’. 16 These opinions are valid; indeed, the political concessions granted by the leadership were unprecedented. Nevertheless, there is little to suggest that the hybrid regime was genuinely transforming or modernising, particularly if we consider the events that followed. The First Duma was dissolved 72 days after its convocation, on the tsar’s orders. The elections had produced a duma dominated by Kadets and Labourists who demanded the repeal of the Fundamental Laws, the release of political prisoners, the abolition of capital punishment, trade union rights and substantive land reform. 17 The tsar’s response was uncompromising: ‘A cruel disappointment has befallen our expectations. The representatives of the nation, instead of applying themselves to the work of productive legislation, have strayed into spheres beyond their competence’. 18 The Second Duma (February-June 1907) turned out to be even more hostile to the government. It was comprised of 65 Social Democrats (Mensheviks), 37 delegates from the Socialist Revolutionary Party, 16 Populist Socialists, and 104 Labourists. There were also 100 Kadets, about 90 Progressives (a party of businessmen who favoured moderate reform) and around 50 ‘moderate’ and ‘right’ Octobrists. 19 It came as no surprise, then, that there was considerable disagreement between the delegates and the government, who reacted by dissolving the Second Duma after three months. The Third Duma (November 1907-June 1912), on the other hand, lasted its full five-year term, owing to new electoral laws enacted by Prime Minister Stolypin. Without the duma’s consent, and at the tsar’s insistence, Stolypin



introduced an election law that reduced the number of deputies representing the peasantry and non-peasant minorities. 20 The measure effectively limited votes to the propertied classes. In effect, only one in six of the male population was entitled to vote. The result was that the Third and the Fourth Dumas (November 1912-August 1917) were dominated by loyal right-wing parties – a reversal of the composition of the first two dumas, which were dominated by radical organisations. Nicholas II had become confident that his concessions had produced deep divisions between the liberals and the urban and rural working classes. His calculation was correct: in October, many employers had supported the general strike and some had even paid their workers half their day’s wages. In November, when the workers called for an eight-hour working day, the same employers locked them out. Episodes like this emboldened the tsar who, on 3 December 1905, ordered the arrest of members of the St Petersburg soviet. Between 9 and 20 December, troops suppressed the Bolshevik-led uprising in Moscow at the cost of hundreds of lives. In 1906, there were at least two hundred mutinies and a considerable increase in the frequency of peasant disturbances – both inspired by debates over land in the duma. Martial law was proclaimed and a network of courts martial was used to try oppositionists. From 1906 to 1909, the government executed over 2,500 people on charges of terrorism; they used the hangman’s noose, which came to be known as ‘Stolypin’s necktie’.

Russia’s Civilisational Ambivalence

The introduction of the October Manifesto was more a temporary expedient than an exercise in genuine political development. What accounts for the reluctance to reform the anachronistic political system in an era of social and economic change? In the view of many Russian specialists, this



discrepancy can be attributed to Russia’s political legacy. They argue that the Mongols planted the seeds of absolutism in Russia and in political terms this cut Russia away from the west. Two centuries of Mongol rule, historians like Leo Hartog argue, deprived Russia of the democratic traditions that developed in the west and instead established ‘oriental despotism’ as the imperial political system. 21 Sergei Pushkarev rejects this view citing examples of Russia’s continued quest for popular sovereignty and the right to self-government. The grand princes of Kiev, he explains, saw limits to their authority through institutions such as the ‘Boyar Duma’ and the ‘veche’ (town assemblies). As members of the duma, boyars, especially those who held large hereditary estates, consulted with the prince on important decisions. 22 The veche, which included all free adult male citizens, addressed local matters. In some cases, the veche either made agreements with the princes or expelled them and invited others to take their place. 23 Pushkarev also cites the Zemskii Sobor – an assembly dominated by members of the church and the gentry – as an embryonic democratic institution. In 1598, this body elected Boris Godunov to succeed Fedor Ivanovich, the last tsar of the Rurik dynasty, who died leaving neither heir nor will. In 1613, the sobor agreed to the candidacy of Mikhail Romanov, but then dispatched envoys to the cities to gauge their sentiments about Mikhail’s candidacy. On many occasions, the sobor consulted with the tsar on issues relating to internal administration and foreign policy. Mikhail Speransky’s proposals for a popularly elected duma in 1809 and for civil rights (including freedom to own property and freedom from punishment without trial), Alexander I’s calls for a constitutional draft in 1820, the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, and the establishment of the zemstvos in 1864, are also cited as evidence of liberal, reformist thinking. 24



Both arguments are cogent, yet this book traces the leadership’s reluctance to adopt western-style political reform to a civilisational dilemma that can be identified both earlier and later in the course of Russian (and, as will be elucidated later, Soviet) history. This impediment reflects the conflict between modernisation and Russian ‘samobytnost’ – that is, originality, uniqueness and distinctiveness. The Russian tsars believed that Russia was different from western Europe in size, culture and social development, and that the country had a special destiny by virtue of its sacred institutions: autocracy, orthodoxy and nationality. They considered themselves bearers of civilisation, spreading a way of life and a culture that embodied higher moral and spiritual values and principles than those of the west. However, they believed that if Russia were to retain its uniqueness, empire and distinct institutions, it would have to be brought economically and technologically abreast of the advanced world. Competition with what the tsars saw as the smaller, and culturally inferior, countries of the west, and fear of conflict with neighbours like Sweden, Poland-Lithuania and Livonia, persistently pushed the tsars to overcome their relative backwardness, which typically necessitated ‘borrowing’ from those very countries. Economic and technological ‘borrowing’ was not complemented with political liberalisation. The Russian tsars believed that dilution of autocratic power would undermine the very purpose of modernisation, which was to strengthen the autocracy and empire. Walter Pinter asks: ‘why should we expect a regime with such an autocratic tradition to abandon the basic principle on which it is founded? 25 All the same, the demands of the land-owning nobility, the intelligentsia and the middle classes for integration into the political process compelled the tsar to make concessions, which invariably turned out to be inadequate and half-hearted.



Thus, Russia found herself in the middle of a paradox, which explains why the leadership chose ‘modernisation from above’ as a developmental model. Wayne Allensworth explains this dilemma: ‘To modernize means to disrupt, maybe destroy, societies that have preserved themselves for centuries …. On the other hand, not to modernize may be just as deadly for backwardness potentially leaves the nation’s fate in the hands of the technologically superior Other’. 26 Thus, Russia had no alternative but to follow in the footsteps of the more advanced western nations. Yet, it was by no means ‘a state amongst states following in the stream of western civilisation’, to use Allensworth’s words. 27 On the contrary, the tsars intended to preserve Russia’s unique institutions by modelling development on western industrial and technological standards, and even then, those standards would ‘assume a peculiarly Russian form’. 28 ‘Does modernisation breed revolution?’ Charles Tilly’s question is particularly compelling in both the Russian and Iranian cases. In Russia, modernisation led to incapacitation of the autocracy. Economic discontent, social dislocation, alienation of the nobility, the intelligentsia and the professional middle classes, along with the autocracy’s reluctance to foster democratic practices, produced a fertile soil for a conflict of revolutionary proportions. Wholesale modernisation along western lines would have arguably produced less tension between the autocracy and civil society. The Shah’s Democratic Centralism: Asiatic Despot versus Rastakhiz Like Nicholas II, Mohammad Reza Shah believed in the divine right to rule: ‘I believe in God, in the fact of having been chosen by God to accomplish a mission. My visions were miracles that saved the country. My reign had saved the country and it is saved because God was beside me’. 29 On the other hand, unlike the tsar, whose claim to power was



reinforced by a tradition of conservative thought as well as the nation’s official ideology, the shah faced a crisis of legitimacy. 30 Both Mohammad Reza and his father Reza had come to power through military coups and foreign conspiracy. 31 The memory of Mohammad Reza’s collaboration with British and Americans in deposing the democratic government of Mossadeq gave resonance to Khomeini’s statement, ‘this government represents a regime whose leader and his father were illegal’. 32 Mohammad Reza’s dictatorial style of rule was particularly anathema to the Iranians, who as early as the 1900s had united under the Constitutional Movement (the revolution that led to the establishment of a parliament in 1911) in an effort to end Qajar patrimonialism. In 1906, the clergy and the secular intelligentsia (who were traditionally antagonists) joined forces in an effort to limit the rulers’ arbitrary power and to end political corruption and foreign manipulation. Bowing to popular pressure, on 30 December 1906, Mozzafar-ed-Din Shah Qajar signed the ‘Fundamental Law of Persia’, providing the country with a constitution modelled on the Belgian constitution of 1831. The law called for the establishment of an elected parliament, a Majles, which was first convened in October 1906. 33 Mohammad Reza’s domestic problems resulted from his continued unwillingness to facilitate genuine political development. Democratisation – even incremental – was out of the question. Very much in the tradition of the Russian tsars, the shah argued that Iran was already a democracy but in its own peculiarly Iranian sense. Prime Minister Hoveida’s statement in the late 1970s is particularly telling: ‘the secret of Iran’s economic and social success lay in the fact that it did not follow baseless schools of thought, nor was it inspired by east or west’. Hoveida argued, ‘As the Shah has said, social democracy cannot exist without economic democracy. In my view most of those who talk about democracy are still limited



in their concept to the schools of thought advocated by Plato, Montesquieu and others ... the interesting question is whether such democracy exists in those countries which are preaching to us on democracy’. 34 It is ironic that the prime minister of a modernising Iran would manipulate and lambaste western conceptions and applications of democracy at a time when Iran was in the throes of a westernisation campaign. Ironically, under the ‘westernising’ shah, the Majles was reduced to a rubber stamp institution. Majles deputies had to be screened by the political police and then personally approved by the shah. No true oppositional force could emerge from the Majles – nothing equivalent to the liberal or socialist parties of the duma. Nor were there leaders of the stature and independence of men like Miliukov or Witte. No opposition parties or organisations existed and the state-run trade union served only to extend the state’s control to the workplace. This was very different from Nicholas’ Russia where opposition parties were recognised and where even the revolutionary socialist parties could contest the duma elections and win a few seats. With a power base built around patronage networks, the bureaucracy, the army, foreign powers and the security apparatus, it was little wonder that the shah was so intolerant of public disapproval. The army was of particular importance to Mohammad Reza. His remark to an American interviewer, ‘I am the army’, attests to his complete dependence on the military. 35 The shah took great pains to ensure the army’s loyalty to his person and to prevent any possibility of independent action. Often, highly trusted individuals and family members were put in the top posts. The army was treated as a privileged caste, dissociated from the rest of society and entitled to special favours from the monarch. Nevertheless, the shah did everything to discourage a sense of solidarity within the hierarchy, as a cohesive officer corps posed potential political dangers. The highest-ranking officers were seldom allowed to communicate



amongst themselves directly. In addition, the shah purposively created numerous offices and agencies and played them off against each other. As part of the modernisation drive, the number of ministries and civil servants expanded considerably between 1963 and 1977. Yet, despite its size, the administrative system lacked independence. Lateral communication was weak, as each agency looked only to the centre for direction. As with the army, the shah created overlapping and competing jurisdictions in order to limit the powers of any one institution. Initiative was stifled and elite loyalty rested principally on fear of the arbitrary power of the shah: ‘Fear rather than rationality, fear rather than common sense, fear rather than patriotism, seems the governing force in the life of an Iranian public servant’. 36 The Pahlavi regime used repression to ensure political stability and to subdue opposition. Criticism levelled against the shah’s modernisation campaign was treated as subversion inspired by what the shah characterised as the ‘forces of Black and Red Reactions’. Black symbolised Islamic ‘obscurantism’ and red represented Soviet Communism. As early as in 1957, the National Information and Security Organisation, the ‘SAVAK’, the infamous policing body, was created through the ‘Establishment of Security Organisation Act’, approved by the Majles. This act gave a wide range of powers (intelligence gathering, arrest and investigation) to the MOSSAD-trained secret police. Iran was transformed into a police state with the SAVAK, the police, the armed forces and the gendarmerie as its main organs for countering dissent. 37 The SAVAK penetrated all aspects of Iranian life, infiltrating organisations through its network of 5,300 full-time agents and a large number of paid informants. 38 Over the years, the SAVAK became notorious for the illegal arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution of hundreds of Iranian political dissidents. 39



Concern over widespread human rights violations in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s led the International Commission of Jurists to commission lawyers William J. Butler and Georges Levasseur to visit Iran in 1975 in order to obtain ‘first-hand information about the operation of the military tribunals or the organisation and activities of the SAVAK security police’. 40 Butler and Levasseur’s report covering the period 1963-75 – the years corresponding to the period of rapid modernisation – revealed the following: 1.


3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

The mass detention, summary trials and execution of unknown numbers; the report argued that an estimated 1,000 deaths in Tehran alone took place following the June 1963 riots; The detention of three members of Iran’s Liberation Movement (Nehzat-e Azadi Iran); another eight members were detained on May 1963 and a trial was held in January 1964; The arrest and trial of four members of the Socialist Society of Iran (Jameeh-e Susiyalisthay-e Iran) in September 1965; The arrest and trial of 14 intellectuals charged with conspiring against the state and plotting to kill the head of state (some were given short sentences; two were given life sentences in 1965; The arrest and trial of 55 members of the Islamic Nation’s Party in February-March 1966; The arrest and trial of seven members of the Tudeh Party of Iran in April-May 1966; The arrest and trial of 14 intellectuals and students between December 1968 and January 1969; The arrest and trial of 18 students between December 1970 and January 1971; The arrest and trial of 100 persons between January and March 1972;




The arrest and trial of 12 writers and artists in January 1974.

Representatives from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers were allowed to attend some of the trial proceedings and received complaints from defendants (including women) about torture. Detainees were denied a host of other procedural rights under international human rights norms. The report concluded: Since 1971 of the 424 known individuals who have been imprisoned for charges related to actions against the security of the state, 75 have been executed, 55 have been given life sentences, 33 have been sentenced to between 10 to 15 years of imprisonment and others have been given lesser sentences. Also 50 have been killed in skirmishes with the police, 9 have been killed in prison, presumably trying to escape, and the opposition press has named 16 prisoners all of whom have been killed under torture. 41

Simulated Democracy: Pseudo Parties

It was becoming increasingly clear that the economy was faltering and that whilst growth seemed apparent, at least at a surface level, impressive targets were not being met. The growing pomposity of the shah could not disguise the fragility of a state beginning to show serious cracks. Disillusionment with the shah’s political conservatism had become the banner under which diverse segments of Iranian society united. The shah was becoming increasingly aware of his growing unpopularity. With characteristic arbitrariness, he decided to establish a single governing party, which in his view would encourage and foster democratic participation. However, this shah-made party was to be formed in a carefully controlled environment. He established a single, ‘mass-party’ system



called ‘Rashakhiz’ (Resurgence) in the 1970s, serving notice that political apathy and ambivalence were no longer sufficient; on the contrary, the masses had to show positive loyalty to the shah. This was an experiment in democratic centralism in which diverging views could be aired under the ideological umbrella of the Pahlavi dictatorship. The regime had no interest in building the Rastakhiz party into a political organisation that attracted supporters. Rather, party officials met with directors of firms and agencies and added the names of all their employees to the party roster. Membership would define loyalty to the Pahlavi system and members of the party could expect preferential treatment and patronage. In turn, members would provide the ideological material for the political indoctrination of the masses through rallies, lectures and the party newspaper. However, the shah made it clear that within the organisation or ‘movement’, opinions could be aired as long as they did not contravene the shah’s principles. So in effect, Rastakhiz was designed to become the ultimate tool of ideological dissemination and political control. Following this party formation, the shah made some fatal mistakes: ‘I reached the conclusion’, he declared, ‘... that we should separate the ranks of Iranians clearly ... those who believe in the constitutional law and the monarchy regime will be on one side, and those who do not believe in these on the other side’. With reference to Rashakhiz, he declared, ‘Two alternatives are open to those who do not join this organisation or do not believe in these principles I have already mentioned. Such individuals … belong to an illegal organisation ... these belong in an Iranian jail’. In other statements he proclaimed, ‘from now, from tomorrow, everyone of voting age should establish their national position’, creating the palpable sense that the despotic shah was very much out of touch with social realities. 42 Many intellectuals felt that the shah had descended into insanity,



deluding himself into believing that he was invincible. As for the shah-made party, the shah’s own security service reported in October and December of 1977 that ‘Rastakhiz is seen as dependent on the government, and is not having much influence on the people’ and that ‘most Rastakhiz offices are hardly active’. 43

Iran’s Intellectual Mood

The shah’s failure to mobilise an active, populist social platform during the period of economic development resulted in the gradual erosion of bonds between state and civil society. Virtually every segment of society opposed the shah’s anachronistic method of rule. The burgeoning middle class saw a contradiction between their professional attainments and their social and political emasculation. Other than the bar association, there were no significant professional associations in Iran or independent political parties. 44 Capital accumulation had lent token legitimacy to the state but in no way did it compensate for the absence of political and civil rights. A sense of fear and alienation permeated Iranian society. Prominent Iranian intellectuals characterised the sixties and seventies as a period of ‘strangulation’, ‘loneliness’ and ‘nothingness’. 45 Above all, Iranians sensed that they were falling behind, and that in an age of ‘republicanism, radicalism and nationalism’, the Pahlavis chose ‘monarchism, conservatism and western imperialism’. 46 The shah’s attempt to impose western culture upon Iran without any of its political benefits, his obsession with the superficial benefits of the west and his generally obsequious demeanour towards the western powers led to the emergence of a robust antiestablishment discourse. Many intellectuals in search of indigenisation and authenticity turned to ‘nativism’, calling for resistance against ‘acculturation’ and reinstatement of native or indigenous customs, beliefs and values. 47 The proponents of nativism



were driven by their desire to end their perceived inferiority complex vis-à-vis the west. 48 These intellectuals wanted to ‘dewesternise’ in reaction to the shah’s troubled encounter with western modernity. Some, like Jalal Al-e-Ahmad and Ali Shariati, turned their attention to Shi’a Islamic traditions; others, including Iranian poet Akhavan Sales, advocated a renaissance of pre-Islamic Iranian heritage. Al-Ahmad portrayed the shah’s modernisation project as a disease that had infected Iranian society from the outside and debased Iranian life. What is important to note is that the Gharbzadeghi debate was not an anti-modern philosophy: the romantic Gharbzadegi discourse embodied a unique vision of modernity that could only be achieved in the context of Iranian nationalism. One cannot help but notice the similarity of this discourse with Slavophile narratives of Russian distinctiveness. Like Al-Ahmad, the leftist Paris-educated intellectual, Shariati, sought to use Islam as an ideological base to denounce Mohammad Reza’s dictatorship. He believed that Iran’s cultural heritage, which he identified with Shi’a Islam, had to play a major role in Iran’s challenge to the west. By the 1970s, his views had become extremely popular amongst younger intellectuals. Samad Behrangi, an Azeri elementary teacher and folk writer, attacked Iran’s educational system, which he viewed as a western import. He advised the government to become more attentive to the importance of religion and culture amongst the peasants. Anti-westernisation and nationalist-Islamic romanticism would play a major mobilising role in the Islamic Revolution. What is interesting is that by stifling constructive dialogue the ‘westernising’ shah actually provided Islamists with a platform on which they could articulate their aspirations for a more just and credible political system. In other words, by repressing dissident political discourse, the shah contributed to the political and cultural formation of the Islamic movement. A



practical example is the case of the judiciary. After Mossadeq’s removal, the shah had to deal with a number of unruly judges that were not as deferential as the shah hoped they would be. To retaliate, the shah in significant cases replaced civil courts and military tribunals with jurisdiction over matters that involved the internal or external security of the state. 49 Intellectuals were infuriated and accused these courts of acting on the shah’s behalf as instruments of oppression. When the Islamists proposed the sharia laws of the Qur’an as an alternative to the arbitrary nature of the shah’s legal system, it was quickly embraced by secular and religious intellectuals alike. Another way in which the shah contributed to the politicisation of Islam related to location. In the relatively liberal climate of the pre-coup period, oppositional groups and voices were located in unions, parties and the media. Under the autocratic state of the post-coup era, new political spaces for dissent emerged in mosques, seminary schools and bazaars – places dominated by the religious conservatives. The locational transformation of political activities in the postcoup period contributed to a process of de-secularisation of public life in Iran. A more traditionalist political culture evolved and ultimately dominated the national political scene. 50 The coalescence of secular and religious elements (historically, two polarised entities) was a serious development, given the intensity of the clergy’s opposition to the regime. The clergy resented the fact that reforms were imposed autocratically, without their participation or input. They felt deliberately marginalised: measures such as the censorship of religious publications; the creation of a religious corps in 1971 as part of the White Revolution (whose members were recruited from state institutions rather than seminaries); the expropriation of property belonging to religious endowments by the state’s Endowment



Organisation, all contributed to the erosion of state-clergy relations. 51 The uprising in June 1963 led by Ayatollah Khomeini was a religiously inspired protest against government reforms. The protest movement began on 26 January 1963 as an objection to the national referendum on the White Revolution. However, the June riots were the culmination of a series of confrontations between Khomeini’s supporters and the security forces. 52 Responding to the clergy’s call to action, thousands of bazaaris, street peddlers and seminary students held protests in a number of large cities, including the holy cities of Mashad and Qom. The state’s response was severe, resulting in the massacre of several thousand unarmed civilian protesters on 10 June 1963. Khomeini was subsequently put under house arrest and was later exiled. This episode resembled another ‘dress rehearsal for revolution’, similar to the 1905 Russian revolution. And like the tsar, the shah’s response was ruthless. The clergy were not alone in resenting despotic modernisation. The middle class, the modern bourgeoisie, the traditional petty bourgeoisie (bazaaris) and the intellectuals all resented the modernisation project. Not only did they have to endure the economic dislocations that accompanied industryintensive development, they had to accept the autocratic nature of ‘modernisation from above’. As Shaul Bakhash explains, ‘to create agro-industries, the government forced villagers to sell their farmland and often razed entire villages’. 53 In addition, in order to make space for new streets and infrastructure, the mayor of Tehran sent bulldozers to demolish private houses in working-class districts, which provoked riots in 1978. Increasingly, the shah saw the reform programme as ‘his’ plan, and like the tsarist state during Witte’s industrialisation drive, the Pahlavi state had become the largest wealth holder, industrialist and banker in the country – until its collapse.



Iran’s Civilisational Dilemma

As in Romanov Russia, we see in Pahlavi Iran convergence with the west on the industrial, military and infrastructural level, and divergence from the west in the political realm. The duality of this trajectory culminated in loss of support for the regimes, rendering them internally weak and susceptible to non-institutionalised forms of protest. Why did the shah purposively deviate from western standards on the political front? A partial explanation relates to the shah’s weak power base. Heavily reliant on western powers, and lacking the support of his subjects, the shah identified economic strength and an unyielding repressive apparatus as the pillars that would prop up his regime. This explains why his modernisation campaign focussed on industrial, military and infrastructural expansion as opposed to the development of civil society and pluralism. Nonetheless, a more substantive explanative, this investigation argues, relates to a civilisational dilemma, at the heart of which lies an identity conflict. As in Russia, Iran’s difficulty in adapting to prevailing western norms can be traced to a desire to delineate a separate Persian/Iranian path to the modern world. The shah perceived development in the context of the country’s humiliating Arab-Islamic past and its illustrious Persian heritage. The Arab-Islamic conquest was seen as a ruinous event that had brought about the country’s political and cultural decline. The Persian-Zorastrian past, on the other hand, was seen as a model for a strong and independent Iran. Thus, the shah struggled to detach the country from Arab and Islamic ideologies and to revive the ancient Persian identity through western-inspired reforms such as women’s suffrage and the changing of Iran’s calendar from Arabic to Persian. Westernisation was a shorthand by which Iran could dissociate from the Arab past and jumpstart its material, social and cultural evolution. This, however, did not necessarily



translate into the wholesale emulation of western institutions and values. Modernisation had less to do with structural convergence with the west and more to do with civilisational recovery. In the end, far from preserving Iran’s past glories, the shah had created a ‘monster’: by the 1970s, the Pahlavi state was nothing more than a despotic monarchy coated with a ‘modern’ veneer. Conclusion: One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back In both the Russian and Iranian cases, the consequences of autocratic modernisation produced the opposite of what the leadership hoped to achieve. The curious amalgam of pseudomodernist concessions and reactionary policies resulted in a growing rift between the leadership and civil society, which in turn rendered the state vulnerable to revolutionary unrest. Accordingly, it may be argued that political archaisation – a core feature of ‘modernisation from above’ – was a major catalyst in the structure of revolutionary causation. Most importantly, the paucity of political overtures compromised the legitimacy of the state. Kennan’s observation regarding imperial Russia conveys the mood in both countries: ‘the essence I think, was not a feeling that Russia should be, and was not being modernised but rather rage against the whole social and political system. Resentment grew not so much from a desire for modernisation as from a passion for justice’. 54 Furthermore, the decision to deny society democratic benefits resulted in the masses becoming less tolerant of the dislocations associated with economic development. Goldstone explains the interrelationship of these themes: States and rulers that are perceived as ineffective may still gain elite support for reform and restructuring if they are perceived as just. States that are considered unjust may be tolerated and suffered as long as they



are perceived to be too effective in pursuing economic or nationalist goals, or just too effective to challenge. However, states that appear to be both ineffective and unjust will forfeit the elite and popular support they need to survive. 55 On a broader scale, what we see here is the relationship between failed adaptation and social conflict. Structural dynamics such as the ones suggested by Skocpol, for instance, may have played a role in accelerating the revolutionary process (factors such as defeat in war). However, as the subsequent section will demonstrate, it was the loss of allegiance to, and confidence in, the state (both products of the inconsistencies of ‘modernisation from above’) that produced massive revolutionary opposition.


In the preceding chapters we have looked at Russia and Iran’s transformative processes. We have analysed those features that contributed to socio-economic dislocation and political alienation: the outcome of the autocratic nature of modernisation. This chapter will link elements of the tsar and shah’s modernisation movements with social unrest in order to substantiate the structure of revolutionary causation we discussed earlier. Specifically this chapter will establish the relationship between ‘modernisation from above’ and ‘revolution from below’. 1 In both countries, pre-revolutionary modernisation culminated in ‘trapped’ or ‘arrested’ development. If we are to chronicle the processes leading up to revolution, our starting point must be the imperial decision to initiate a campaign of rapid industrialisation. The result of this was widespread discontent, the subsequent radicalisation of opposition, and finally, non-institutionalised forms of protest against the state. With reference to the earthquake analogy discussed earlier, it was during this stage that serious cracks began to develop, resulting in (political) ‘foreshocks’.



Popular Opposition towards an Unpopular Tsar Russia was ready to implode. A series of long-term grievances and short-term triggers situated within the broader framework of ‘modernisation from above’ meant that the fragile autocracy was on its last legs. The long-term grievances stemmed from the decline of the nobility and their unfulfilled ‘senseless dreams’; peasant land hunger; the labouring classes calling for better working and living conditions (which fell on deaf ears); and the intelligentsia’s broad spectrum of universal social grievances. Short-term catalysts included the horrendous famine of 1891-2, the military defeats during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, the bloody 1905 Revolution, the First World War, and Grigory Rasputin’s involvement in political affairs (we will elaborate below on the role this individual played in undermining the credibility of the autocrat). The disaffection produced by these factors was exacerbated by the social effects of ‘modernisation from above’, including neglect of the rural sector, political stagnation and the autocratic nature of the development. Population growth, urbanisation, the increased numbers of factories and workers, increasing levels of education and the upward social mobility of the middle class all created turbulence in an already shaky state. Most importantly, it was the disparity between the political form and the socio-economic content of modernisation (in the context of various national crises) that sapped the legitimacy of the regime by rendering it ineffective and unjust in the eyes of major social constituencies. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide a detailed account of each of the themes listed above. At this point we are mainly concerned with highlighting the relationship between ‘modernisation from above’ and the social conflict that began with the famine of 1891-2.


The Crop Failure and Famine of 1891-2


The crop failure afflicting the 17 provinces of the central Black Earth and Volga regions of European Russia had a major impact on Russian society and the intelligentsia, particularly within the radical movement. The famine incited a resurgence of activity within the ranks of the radicals in the 1890s (following a dispiriting decade after the crackdown in 1881). In many ways, the famine confirmed to the opposition movement the incompetence of the tsarist government. Peter Struve, for example, was one student for whom the famine was a formative experience. In 1885, at the age of 15, Struve considered himself to be a political liberal. Following the famine, however, he was said to have made an ideological shift to Marxism. The famine also affected the revolutionary career of Iuri Martov. In December 1891, he gave a speech in which he predicted that the famine would result in spontaneous peasant riots, which would end in a march on the towns. The duty of young radicals, he argued, was to organise a revolutionary party, ‘united with workers and soldiers, and in a fitting moment, when the state will be disorganized, to perform a revolution … in order to overthrow autocracy and seize power’. 2 Around 20 years after the famine, Martov acknowledged the role of the famine as a turning point in the influence of the Russian Social Democrats: ‘The famine of 1891-2, which so emphasised the decomposition of the peasant economy and social helplessness of the village, made the broad circle of radical intelligentsia psychologically able to adopt the propaganda of the Marxist’. 3 Indeed, Lenin was also influenced by these events. Norman Naimark argues that Lenin became a committed Marxist as a young lawyer in Samara in 1892-3, a date given by Lenin himself as the start of his revolutionary career. If Lenin was vacillating between his commitment to agrarian Populism and Marxism prior to the famine (as many historians suggest) and then became a



devoted Marxist after the famine, then one can infer that the famine served as a catalyst in altering his revolutionary worldview. By the end of 1892, Lenin was reported to have composed three articles attacking Vasilli Vorontsov, a leading Populist writer. More substantial works followed, and from 1893 to 1900, he became a critic of Populism and an advocate of the Marxist challenge to its view of the economic development of capitalism. 4 Although the famine failed to generate a peasant uprising, it did provoke greater activity on the part of the opposition. There was a proliferation of writings, including books, articles, brochures and studies about the economic life of Russia. In early 1892 Nicholas Mikhailovskii and some of his colleagues revitalised a notorious Populist journal. 5 In this way, the famine contributed to the resurgence of revolutionary Populism and lent credence to the notion that the tsarist system had failed to address the fundamental inequities of backwardness in the countryside.

Weakness of Society

The late imperial Russian state deprived itself of any significant social support base by neglecting three very pressing issues. The first was the constitutional question: how could the anachronistic political structure of the empire guarantee a redistribution of power and civil liberties? The second was the agrarian question: how could the land hunger of the peasants be satisfied? The third related to the labour issue: could the demands of the industrial proletariat for an improvement of its social and economic conditions be fulfilled? The state’s failure to solve these issues resulted in growing discontent. As discussed earlier, the terms of the Emancipation Act had adversely affected the nobility – the traditional prop of the regime. The nobility had lost a tremendous amount of land. In 1861, the gentry had received roughly half of all privately owned arable land; by 1905,



following the revolution, only about a quarter of this land remained in the nobility’s possession (many nobles had panicked, selling their land and fleeing the countryside). As a result, the land owned by this traditionally privileged echelon of society declined from about 68.8 million desyatinas in 1877, to 41.8 million in 1914. Only massive subsidies from the government to zemstvo agricultural enterprises (which in turn went to gentry farmers) helped to some extent to slow this decline after 1906, although it did not halt it. 6 In some areas, there was a shortage of nobles meeting the land requirements to stand for election at local and national levels. Roberta Manning found that ‘a growing number of county zemsvtos were forced to close down for lack of a quorum due to a shortage of members from the overburdened [landowning] curia’. 7 Overall, before 1905, gentry activism had been generally passive; following the events of 1905-6 (the military fiasco with Japan, and the 1905 Revolution), however, gentry opposition became radicalised to some extent. Demands for a legislative assembly and a change in the fundamental structure of the regime were echoed in every corner of Russia. A wave of peasant disturbances (normally a shared concern for the autocracy and the landowners) temporarily dampened gentry opposition. However, over the years, bitterness intensified: Nicholas’ relentless effort to limit the influence of the Duma; the provisions of the Fundamental Laws confirming ‘supreme’ autocratic power; and the formation of a second chamber in the Duma (the majority of whose members would be directly appointed by the tsar), exposed a very fragile yet arrogant tsar who had lost touch with reality. The tsar made it clear that in order to buttress his own position he was willing to abandon even his most loyal supporters. By pushing away this important social constituency, the regime deprived itself of the liberal gentry’s resourcefulness. In August 1914, the Duma had backed the tsar by voting for



its own suspension for the duration of the war. Within a year, however, Russia’s poor showing in the war led to the Duma demanding its own recall. Nicholas gave in to the pressure and allowed the Duma to reassemble in August 1915. The tsar and his ministers, nevertheless, refused to collaborate with the non-governmental organisations such as the ‘Union of Zemstvos’ and the ‘Union of Town Councils’, which at the beginning of the war had been willing to work with the government towards the war effort. When Nicholas denied the Duma’s appeal to replace his incompetent cabinet with a ‘ministry of national confidence’, he made a fatal mistake. In rejecting this proposal, Nicholas destroyed the last opportunity he would have for retaining the support of politically progressive parties. The mood of the liberals was reflected by Alexander Guchkov at the Octobrist Party conference in 1913: ‘The attempt made by the Russian public, as represented by our party to effect a peaceful, painless transition from the old condemned system to a new order had failed’. In a veiled warning to the tsar, Guchkov asserted, ‘let those in power make no mistake about the temper of the people; let them not take outward indications of prosperity as a pretext for lulling themselves into security’. What is interesting is that the shah made the same error in interpreting the state’s military and economic might as a measure of political stability. Ominously, Guchkov argued, ‘never were the Russian people so profoundly revolutionised by the actions of the government, for day by day faith in the government is waning’. 8 In the following year, the Duma expressed its sense of impending catastrophe in a formal resolution: ‘The Ministry of Interior systematically scorns public opinion and ignores the repeated wishes of the new legislature. The Duma considers it pointless to express any new wishes in regard to internal policy. The Ministry’s activities arouse dissatisfaction amongst the broad masses who have hitherto been peaceful.



Such a situation threatens Russia with untold dangers’. 9 Statements like these demonstrate the direct link between the government’s reluctance to allow the Duma to function as a genuinely representative institution and growing liberal disaffection. Supporters of the tsar could only be found on the far right of Russian politics, and amongst anti-Semitic, proto-fascist organisations such as the ‘Union of the Russian People’, formed in 1905. This group blamed all of Russia’s problems on socialists, the intelligentsia and the Jews, calling on the population to resist the ‘enemies of the tsar and Fatherland’. These diehards waged openly chauvinist propaganda in both media and churches, whilst its activists, united in the ‘Black Hundreds’, helped the government disperse strikers and student protestors and to stage pogroms against Jewish communities. 10 The peasantry also represented a lost opportunity for tsardom. The rural disturbances in Poltava and Kharkov provinces in 1902, and the more extensive outbreaks in 1905 and 1906, testify to a persistent malaise in peasant life. The principal cause of this unrest was allocative inconsistency: the tendency to focus on rapid industrialisation whilst neglecting the agricultural sector and the welfare and security of the peasantry. The rapid growth in population between 1887 and 1905 resulted in a decline in the average landholding of peasant households of over 20 per cent, from 13.2 to 10.4 desyatinas. From 1861 to 1905, state treasury expenditure grew by 800 per cent (from 414 million roubles to 3,205 million roubles), necessitating new taxes, many of which were levied on consumer goods. As we detailed earlier, the peasants were burdened with taxes in addition to redemption payments. Many were forced to sell their harvest in the autumn when plentiful supplies drove down prices. In the winter and spring, they had to buy back some of the grain at much higher prices and ask for loans from landlords or kulaks. They were also



forced to endure the heavy hand of the bureaucracy: whereas emancipation had freed the peasants from serfdom, officials continued to imprison them without the benefit of a trial. In spite of these conditions, the peasants remained aloof from revolutionary movements. The fundamental reason was that the rural masses directed their anger towards the landlords, whom they believed were responsible for thwarting the tsar’s efforts to stop injustices in the countryside. The peasants were convinced that the autocracy was committed to providing for its hard-working rural classes. This can be explained by the fact that the peasants were geographically dispersed; cut off from urban centres of intellectual life, they also remained largely (80 per cent) illiterate. However, harsh living conditions and the unfavourable terms of the Emancipation Act bred significant resentment. As Ascher has noted, the fact was that the rural masses were yet another social group that could not be relied upon to side with the autocracy in times of crisis. 11 We have explained how Stolpyin’s reforms attempted to tackle the agrarian problem by making the peasant a hereditary owner of a consolidated parcel of land instead of a temporary holder. At the same time, the reforms were designed to make the peasant a law-abiding citizen. If the peasant was vested with ownership of property, it was expected that he would respect noble estates and, in this way, law and order would be maintained. Stolypin recognised that this was a long-term plan, requiring at least 20 years of peace to yield the anticipated results. A mere three years separated the reform’s final legislative enactment from the outbreak of the First World War, however. Consequently, the reforms proved to be ‘too little, too late’ to secure peasant support. Put simply, John Keep explains that Stolypin’s reforms were not a sincere attempt to make up for decades of governmental neglect and they were launched at a time when rural



producers had to be exploited for the higher purpose of the state. 12 The epicentre of revolutionary unrest was to be found amongst the non-rural working class. Again, their disaffection was very much the product of governmental oversight. Leonard Schapiro summarises this in the following: ‘poor housing and working conditions, as well as the virtual absence of the right to unite for their own protection were probably more effective than propaganda by the socialist parties in alienating the Russian working class from society’. 13 According to Olga Crisp, wages were low compared with western European standards and labour operating costs, as measured in the provision of housing and training, were much higher. 14 The Russian Worker: Life and Labour under the Tsarist Regime provides first-hand accounts of working-class life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It paints a grim picture not only of factory life, but also of artisan and retail occupations. For instance, shop girls were often forced to turn to prostitution in order to make ends meet, whilst over 58 per cent of the tailors in one survey worked more than 14 hours a day. 15 The workers’ lack of opportunities to organise and to express their grievances encouraged radicalisation. The government did authorise the formation of independent labour unions for the first time in March 1906, but almost immediately began to disband them. 16 Those unions permitted to exist, notably amongst printers and other craftsmen, were little more than ‘branches’ or ‘locals’. They were, however, subjected to various forms of official harassment, so their membership fluctuated and their general influence was slight. 17 The leadership’s unwillingness to compromise with the workers had much to do with the government’s significant stake in Russia’s native industry and in the protection of foreign investment (a direct result of state-sponsored modernisation). For this reason, state



authorities were quick to provide troops when strikes over wages and conditions (what Lenin called trade unionism) were likely to turn political. What is more, although the number of factory workers in the work force remained small (about 3 million out of a population of 170 million), they came to be a significant social and political presence in the cities. In St Petersburg, for instance, the number of factory workers increased from 35,000 in 1867, to 200,000 in 1913; between 1890 and 1914, industrial employment in the city nearly tripled, whilst total population doubled. Again, the high concentration of labour and productivity was a consequence of the government’s flawed modernisation programme. 18 In 1912, 2,033 strikes broke out and by the first half of 1914, there were over 3,000 strikes. Many strikers demanded a democratic republic, an eight-hour working day and the expropriation of gentry-held land. These were the slogans espoused by the more radical Marxists such as the followers of Lenin and Trotsky. An incident in 1912 in the Lena Goldfields in Eastern Siberia also exacerbated worker tension. Demands from the miners there for trade union rights, higher wages and improved conditions were rejected by the employers, who appealed to the police to arrest strike leaders as criminals. When the police moved in, the strikers closed ranks and the situation worsened, resulting in troops injuring or killing a large number of miners. The Okhrana appear to have acted as agents provocateurs to identify the instigators of the strike. The revolutionary mood of the country continued to rise unabated up to the outbreak of the First World War. In 1913, and the first half of 1914, the number of striking workers in the manufacturing industry grew to 2 million. 19

The First World War

Wars have often precipitated major changes of direction in Russian history. Did the First World War generate the



domestic crisis that brought about the collapse of the autocracy? Or was the crisis of Russia’s socio-political system already of such a refractory nature as to make revolution inevitable? In the view of this investigation, Russia had reached a revolutionary breaking point just before the outbreak of war because of the social dislocation of industrial change and the regime’s resistance to calls for political liberalisation. The war acted simply as a catalyst by exposing the state’s weakness at a time of national emergency. Russia’s declaration of war on 19 July 1914 resulted in an upsurge of patriotism amongst the educated classes. The reaction of the peasantry was less enthusiastic. In 1915, when Russia’s first major military setbacks occurred, the euphoria started to wane, 20 as it became clear that the imperial government had failed again, as in the Russo-Japanese War. The situation improved considerably in 1916; in spite of losses estimated at over a million, the offensive under General Brusilov was regarded as a military success. However, there had been enormous losses. By the end of the war, over 5 million men were wounded, over 2 million were missing in action, and another 2 million were taken prisoner. From 1914-17, over 1.5 billion roubles were spent on the war effort. The national budget multiplied from 4 million roubles in 1913, to 30 million in 1916. Increased taxation at home and heavy borrowing from abroad were only partially successful in supplying the capital Russia needed. The gold standard was abandoned, which allowed the government to put more notes into circulation. In the short term, this enabled wages to be paid and commerce to continue, but in the longer term, it made money practically worthless as a result of severe inflation. Between 1914 and 1916, average earnings doubled, whilst the price of food and fuel quadrupled. To the problem of food prices were added the difficulties of food supply. Military requirements necessitated the



requisitioning of farm horses and a drastic cut in the supply of chemical fertilisers. Petrograd (the Russian name for St Petersburg, adopted for patriotic reasons soon after the war began) suffered particularly badly because of its remoteness from the food-producing regions and because of the large number of refugees (who swelled its population and increased demand on dwindling resources). In such circumstances, it is not surprising to find that there was widespread desire for peace amongst the troops at the front. The high morale of August 1914 had turned by 1916 into pessimism and despondency. Poorly equipped and underfed, the soldiers began to desert in increasing numbers. The autocracy’s abysmal record in the war effort provoked a storm of opposition. Through the zemstvos and the Dumas, nobility, industrialists, professionals and even workers joined forces to rally the government into more effective action. They denounced the regime for proving incapable of marshalling the country’s resources against the Germans and for forfeiting the nation’s confidence. It should be noted that in the rising popular fury the radical parties played little part, since the Mensheviks continued to support the war, and the Bolsheviks, with their chief figures in exile abroad or in Siberia, could accomplish little.


The growing influence of Grigory Rasputin inspired even more opposition towards the tsar. Rasputin, a Siberian peasant and self-ordained holy man, exerted a hold over the Empress Alexandra through his ability to stem the flow of blood from her haemophilic infant son, Alexei. Since Nicholas was away at military headquarters for long periods after 1915, Alexandra and Rasputin effectively governed Russia. Rasputin’s actions were principally aimed at securing the appointment of those who were friendly towards him, and the removal of any minister who questioned him (such as



Minister of the Interior Alexander Protopopov). Rumours circulated that he and the Empress headed a camarilla of German agents whose aim was to bring about a separate peace with Germany. Whilst Rasputin’s actual influence over the fate of ministers is open to debate, as is the veracity of the rumours, there is little doubt that his presence at court had a fatal impact on the monarchy’s prestige. Miliukov, in a speech to the Duma on 1 November 1916, openly criticised the autocracy: ‘From one end of the country to the other, dark rumors have been spreading about betrayal and treason. These rumors have reached high and spared no one. The name of the empress comes up more and more often along with the names of adventurists that surround her. What is this – stupidity or treason?’ 21

Marxist Ideology

The most popular angle from which the Russian revolution is traditionally investigated is the ideological one, with an emphasis on class conflict and exploitation, worker militancy and the role of Marxist parties in inciting a working-class insurgency. It is certainly valid to say that Marxist revolutionary discourse was critical in transforming social discontent into a revolutionary roar. However, the role of ideology is irrelevant to our discussion here. The point is that tsarist policies adversely affected all social classes, leading to multiple grievances, in the context of multiple conflicts, couched within the framework of the failed exercise of ‘modernisation from above’. Ideology had an important organisational and motivational role (as did Islamic ideology in mobilising segments of the multiple groups that opposed the shah). Marxism, however, is important to our discussion in the sense that it emerged in Russia as an alternative route to modernity. Marxism was an ideology of modernisation as well as an ideology of revolution. Even Lenin, the quintessential



revolutionary, made his name as a Marxist with his study, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, which was an analysis and advocacy of the processes of economic modernisation. In fact, Russian Marxists admired the modern, industrial, urban world and were offended by the backwardness of old rural Russia. The problem was that the tsar was not modernising. As we shall see in the case of revolutionary Iran, Islamic ideology was not only an instrument of political struggle: it represented a conceptual tool for renouncing the shah’s flawed modernisation movement. Islamic ideology was not anti-modern, but anti-shah. Why did Marxist ideology gain currency in Russia? Why did social transformation dominate the intellectual and revolutionary debates in Russia from the early 1860s? In our view, this relates to the various tsars’ failure to formulate a genuine modernisation strategy. Genuine modernisation necessitated constructive debate, proper planning, organisation and timing. Modernisation needed to take root ‘from below’. Instead, it was imposed and forced from above by a politically impotent monarch who continued to embrace the romantic vision that autocratic Russia was indestructible. Nicholas’ troubled path to modernity rendered the autocracy ineffective and unjust. Inadvertently, he had given life to the ‘move’ behind the revolutionary movement that was to topple the centuries-old autocracy. Paradoxical Alliances against a Paradoxical Reformist Shah As in pre-revolutionary Russia, the inherent contradictions of autocratic modernisation antagonised a range of social groups, including the ulama, bazaaris, secular intellectuals, landowners, workers and peasants. A series of extraneous historical variables also added fuel to the unrest. The most striking aspect of the Iranian revolution is the fact that hostility towards the shah resulted in unlikely alliances



between historically antagonistic groups. The shah’s pomposity, his detachment from his people, and his reckless modernisation policies united disparate groups: the shared goal was ousting the shah. Here, we will explore the relationship between the shah’s policies, the composition of the opposition, his waning support base and the rising tide of protest.

The White Revolution and its Discontents

As we discussed earlier, the ‘White Revolution’ was guided by core three objectives. The first two goals were somewhat justifiable: the first was to transform the nasaqdar, the sharecroppers, into a large land-owning stratum; the second was to dismantle the out-dated structure of rural life. The third objective, however, raised the ire of two important social constituencies, namely, the landowners and the clergy. The land reforms stipulated that landowners were allowed to keep only one village and they had to sell any ‘excess land’ to the government. The government in turn would sell the excess land to the peasants at cost price plus 10 per cent in administrative charges. Absentee ownership was also eradicated. Apart from curtailing the economic power of the landed classes, the state expanded its own presence in the countryside. It created dozens of state-led institutions including the ‘Anjoman-e-Deh’ (Village Association), ‘Khaneye Ensaf’ (House of Justice), the ‘Literacy Corps’, the ‘Health Corps’ and the ‘Religious Corps’. Most significantly, state-run banks penetrated rural areas. 22 The reforms also changed state-clergy relations since they reduced the holdings of both mosques and individual clerics. In 1960, the clergy owned more than 40,000 holdings; under the provisions of the reform, holders of charitable lands were instructed to negotiate 99-year tenancy agreements with the nasaqdars. The annual rent paid by the nasaqdars was usually



less than what they had paid under the previous system, thereby reducing the ulama’s income. On 23 February 1960, the popular Ayatollah Boroujerdi sent a letter to one of the Majles deputies, Jafar Behbahani, in which he argued that limitations on land ownership were anti-Islamic. The government, not wishing to antagonise the ayatollah, withdrew the bill. However, following Boroujerdi’s death in 1961, it was put into effect. Khomeini, a prominent cleric from Qom, was particularly incensed by the ‘Local Council Elections Bill’ under the White Revolution. This bill called for women’s suffrage, and replaced the expression ‘Holy Qur’an’ in the mandatory oath of office with ‘Holy Book’. 23 Khomeini’s opposition to the government grew louder in January 1963 when the shah, hoping to gain support for the White Revolution, called for a national referendum. He argued that the referendum had no validity in Islam and asserted that voters needed to have sufficient knowledge to understand what they were voting for. Hence, ‘a large majority do not have the right to vote’. 24 The regime responded by sending paratroopers to the theological school ‘Feyziyeh’, in Qom, where students were beaten and even killed. The shah’s reaction intensified clerical opposition, and on 3 June 1963, Khomeini openly attacked the shah, and appealed to the Iranian army to join the clerics in their holy resistance. A day later, Khomeini was arrested and exiled to Najaf in Iraq. This coincided with the Shi’a mourning month of Muharram and resulted in the politicisation of ceremonies in May and June 1963. 25 News of Khomeini’s arrest precipitated a string of anti-shah protests in Tehran, Qom, Mashad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Kashan. The uprising lasted for three days and culminated in arrests, injuries and the deaths of hundreds. Of those arrested or injured in the uprising, according to official estimates (which claimed that only 580 were arrested or killed), 27.6 per cent were skilled workers, followed by the



clergy at 15 per cent, retailers at 13.4 per cent and students at 11.9 per cent. The average protestor age was 23. The June uprising was as heinous as Bloody Sunday in 1905 in Russia and as decisive in portraying the autocrat as weak, ineffectual and ruthless. Whilst the uprising failed to dislodge the regime, it made a hero of Ayatollah Khomeini. Conscious of his waning support, the shah made every important political and economic decision on his own, relying on the bureaucrats and court sycophants for support. Comparison of the professional background of Majles deputies in 1943-61 and 1975-9 is very telling: in the earlier period, the landowners constituted 40.4 per cent of the deputies. In the latter, their representation declined to 9.8 per cent, and the percentage of clerics in the Majles decreased from 2.8 per cent to 0.3 per cent. Bureaucrats and professionals constituted the two largest blocs in the Majles at 40.8 per cent and 21.3 per cent, respectively.

The Clergy

Historically, the clergy acted as an important intermediary between state and society. However, the shah perceived this group as a relic of the past and a threat to his vision of a ‘modern’ Iran. Petrodollars and US-Israeli support gave Mohammad Reza a false sense of security and the courage to take steps to undermine clerical influence. For instance, the shah set up the ‘Endowment Organisation’ to control charitable lands. During the housing shortages in 1976, the shah ordered the sale of land for housing projects. 26 Stipends for theological students and teachers were eradicated and replaced by funds allocated by the Endowment Organisation. 27 As a result, during the years 1960-75, Tehran lost nine of its 32 seminary schools. 28 The economic situation of the clergy also declined. Their circumstances worsened in 1977 with Prime Minister Amuzegar’s austerity plan, which cut the $35 million that had



been previously set aside for the clergy. 29 In addition, the regime’s efforts to glorify Persian heritage were put into effect at the expense of Islamic symbols (for example, replacing the traditional Islamic calendar with one that dated back more than two millennia). The country’s growing secularisation resulting from the expansion of education and rising economic opportunities led to a drop in mosque attendance and in religious donations. The clergy were by no means inherently militant or revolutionary. A minority, like those who welcomed the shah’s return following the 1953 nationalisation crisis, supported the institution of the monarchy; a larger portion were more cautious – moderates who resorted to ‘quietism’ or quiet diplomacy. Only a small percentage advocated a violent revolution. Even Khomeini started out as a reformist. Despite his opposition to specific issues, such as women’s suffrage or Iran’s recognition of the State of Israel, he offered ‘friendly’ advice to the shah. There was no talk of replacing the monarchy with an Islamic theocracy. Only after his forced exiled in Iraq did Khomeini articulate views of a pan-Islamic struggle. There he became more outspoken, going so far as to declare Islam diametrically opposed to the monarchy. Opposition developed a far more Islamic character in January 1978, when a government-inspired article in Ettelaat cast doubt on Khomeini’s piety, suggesting he was a British agent. The article caused a scandal in the religious community. Senior clerics denounced the article whilst seminary students took to the streets in Qom on 9 January, clashing with the police. More than a dozen demonstrators were killed, hundreds were injured and a few government buildings were set on fire. The Isfahan bazaar closed down in protest. On 18 February, in Tabriz, mosque services and protests were organised in several large cities to pay tribute to those killed in the Qom demonstrations. The demonstrations turned violent, and only after two days was order restored. More riots, arrests



and deaths ensued in the coming months, fuelling public resentment towards the regime.

Carter’s Human Rights Policy

As in the Russian Revolution, a number of external factors exacerbated existing tensions. In the 1976 American presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter cited Iran as a country that had blatantly violated human rights. Following this statement, the US Congress began to question the legitimacy of selling weapons to a dictatorial monarchy. This became even more contentious when Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and the International League for Human Rights found Iran guilty of consistent violations of human rights. 30 Although the Carter administration did not openly condemn the shah, its position on these issues prompted the shah to introduce a loosely defined ‘liberalisation’ programme. 31 In the judicial arena and in the treatment of political prisoners, the reforms were far-reaching. The Majles passed a bill in November 1977 that required prosecutors to complete preliminary interrogations of the accused within 24 hours of their arrest. It also granted the accused the right to civilian counsel and trial in public rather than by military courts. The bill guaranteed judicial independence. The shah declared that prisoners would not be tortured and ordered the SAVAK to be lenient towards dissenters. Hundreds of political prisoners were granted amnesty, and the Red Cross was given access to prisons. Carter’s liberal stance had a profound psychological impact on the shah and the opposition. 32 It was becoming clear now that Washington was slowly withdrawing moral support for the shah’s dictatorship. This strengthened the spirit of defiance in the country and shattered the myth of the shah’s invincibility. The apparent vulnerability of the shah prompted defunct organisations, such as the ‘National Front and the



Writers’ Association’ in 1977, to publish letters demanding political freedom, lamenting bureaucratic corruption. Other associations sprang up, such as the Iranian Society for the Defence of Human Rights. In October, the Writers’ Association organised ten nights of poetry readings where demands were made for an end to censorship. To the amazement of the opposition, the SAVAK did not disturb this gathering. Most encouraging of all was the clash in Washington between supporters and opponents of the shah during his trip to America in November 1977, which was aired nationally in Iran. This was confirmation to the opposition that Washington was abandoning support for the shah.

The Bazaaris

Mohammad Reza viewed the bazaar as a vestige of a backward Iran. As he had done with the clerics, the shah took steps to limit bazaar influence. At first he introduced programmes that encouraged merchants to invest in industry, and he announced the creation of state-guided guilds and chambers of commerce. Overall, the bazaar appeared to benefit from the shah’s modernisation programme. However, by 1975, certain segments of the bazaar felt under pressure. In particular, small artisans and merchants in the rug sector (the second most important industry following oil) had to deal with rising costs resulting from countrywide inflation. Furthermore, the importing of machine-woven carpets reduced the sale of rugs. Some rug merchants had to move to other sectors. Parsa explains that in 1976 there were 80 rug shops in Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan; a year later, 36 of these shops had closed down. 33 As oil revenues fell, bazaaris were hit with higher taxes. In addition, it became increasingly difficult to secure bank loans. A minimum wage was established for bazaar employees and merchants were forced to contribute to the Social Insurance



Fund. Most damaging of all was the anti-profiteering campaign discussed earlier. In the first few days of the campaign, 7,750 shopkeepers were arrested; by October 1977, approximately 109,800 Tehran shopkeepers had been investigated for price violations. 34 Ministry of Interior estimates reported that by the end of 1977, approximately 10,000 merchants had been incarcerated. Numerous bankruptcies were filed and many merchants lost their licenses following what had effectively become a witch-hunt. 35 What is interesting is that the bazaaris did not respond to Khomeini’s call to support rebellious clerical students in Qom in June 1975. Not until the anti-profiteering campaign did their political position change. In fact, in the 1970s there was very little solidarity in the bazaar due to economic stratification and organisational weaknesses. Disagreements between wealthy merchants and those who were less affluent were common. The price control campaign, however, radicalised the bazaaris, who put ideological differences aside and mobilised against the government. In October 1977, activists re-established a couple of merchants’ guilds – organisations that would play a crucial role in organising bazaar strikes, in printing and distributing Khomeini’s statements and cassette tapes, and in arranging spaces (Sufi houses of worship, coffee houses and mosques) for meetings during the course of the revolutionary struggle. 36 Moreover, these organisations provided monetary support and encouragement for other protestors and for striking workers. Bazaar activism became more pronounced. In March 1977, bazaar merchants joined students to raise money in support of professors who went on strike. In the autumn of that year, bazaaris honoured a day of mourning, closing down the bazaar in commemoration of the death of a student killed in an antigovernment demonstration. And again, on the anniversary of the June uprising in 1978, bazaaris closed down their shops.



All the same, the bazaaris did not support Khomeini’s budding movement for purely ideological reasons. They supported him because he stood at the helm of the opposition movement. Inadvertently, the shah had driven the bazaaris into the religious camp. Eventually, the merchants’ locus of protest shifted to the more sheltered mosque, which was not as accessible to SAVAK agents. This, of course, physically placed them in the religious camp. Numerous shutdowns, protests and strikes ensued in 1978. Government reaction was harsh, yet the bazaaris continued to participate in the religious mourning ceremonies organised by the clergy. Following Khomeini’s expulsion to France from Iraq, in an unprecedented move, shopkeepers in over 100 cities went on strike. The bazaaris also backed other dissenting groups. On 10 October 1978, bazaaris lent moral support (sending flowers and promising assistance) to the journalists of three national papers who walked out in protest against censorship. They continued to support students and professors by closing down shops and joining university rallies. In the final months of the struggle, the bazaaris were subject to extremely repressive measures under martial law, including the looting and burning of their shops by the SAVAK and governmentsponsored hooligans in over 40 cities. Bazaari mobilisation reflected the correlation between the government’s so-called modernisation policies and noninstitutionalised expressions of protest. Specifically, in the case of the bazaari class, political repression, rapid industrialisation and associated inflation, and such arbitrary policies as the anti-profiteering campaign, worked to alienate them. These factors reshaped social relations between the bazaaris and the other constituencies and strengthened the opposition movement. Parsa’s study of the contents of 15 protest statements issued by merchants from January to December 1978 reinforces the case that the bazaari’s main



grievances were political violence and the despotic nature of the state, followed by imperialism, government corruption, poverty, taxes and inflation. 37


Iranian labour lacked a collective consciousness or an organisational ideology. It had a heterogeneous composition, which gave it little sense of identity. 38 Unlike Russian workers, Iranian workers were by no means key actors in the revolutionary struggle. The state was the largest employer in Iran, owning almost 200 factories and workshops by 1976 (not including the state-run carpet factories). Thus, a considerable number of the labouring class was government employed. The state was also the leading investor in dozens of joint ventures with the private sector and multi-national corporations. Overall, the government’s position towards the workers was conciliatory. Benefits like insurance and housing projects were designed to keep Iranian labourers happy. One major programme was the private and public ownership extension plan, requiring the sale of 49 per cent of the shares of all private manufacturing units to the workers. The shah’s economic policies had an uneven effect on the working class: the highly skilled workers fared well, whilst the majority suffered from the effects of inflation. A 1974 study covering 224,000 workers in 2,779 different enterprises reported, ‘whilst more than half of the families have a weekly income per head of less than 100 rials, 34.5 percent of them receive more than 501 rials each’. What is most striking was that 73 per cent of the working population received an income below minimum wage. 39 Like the rest of the population, the working class had few political rights. Industry-wide strikes were outlawed (only government-sponsored unions and those limited to individual industries were permitted to exist), and workers’ organisations



were restricted. In spite of this, by 1978, 1,023 unions had formed. 40 The SAVAK regularly intervened in labour activities, particularly following strikes held by machine tool industries in the 1970s. The ‘April 1974 Law’, for instance, created the Office of Security Affairs for the supervision of the activities of ten large industries, including steel, petrochemicals, gas, aluminium refining and machine tool factories. The law stipulated that agitators would be sentenced to 15 years imprisonment or even execution. As they lacked autonomy, workers had little incentive to join workers’ organisations and those that did had little sense of solidarity. Consequently, from October 1977 to October 1978, workers only held 39 strikes, most of which were unrelated and were based on economic demands. When Jafar Sharif-Emami became prime minister in 1978 some censorship was reduced for radio and television, allowing the broadcasting of strikes. In the climate of fleeting ‘glasnost’, workers, particularly those concentrated in large state enterprises, began to voice political demands. 41 In several instances, strikers pressed for the dismissal of directors of corporations or government offices. Strikers at a steel mill in Isfahan, in oil works, in a mine in the Alborz mountains, a railway in Zahedan and at Iran General Motors Factory in Tehran demanded the expulsion of various department chiefs. On 2 September, labourers in the Tabriz Machine Tools Factory held a strike and called for a host of political reforms including the dissolution of governmentsponsored unions and freedom for all political parties. Still, these protests were so sporadic and so lacking in ideological orientation that in no way could they be considered a viable labour movement. 42 Iranian labour was, on the whole, concerned with economic issues: inflation, living standards, wages, loans and health insurance. Their aspirations had little to do with revolutionary ideals or ideology, the overthrow of a dominant class, or the



establishment of an Islamic state. It is significant that workers were not involved in the bazaar shutdowns or in religious mourning ceremonies (which were, in effect, a cover for protests). All the same, the shah thrust the workers into the arms of the revolutionary movement by heightening repression with the declaration of military law on 6 November 1978. By that time, the revolutionary momentum had been set in motion. Strike committees sprang up, issuing statements denouncing state-sponsored violence; oil workers – aware of their influence as the country’s leading sector – became confrontational. They kept up strikes for two weeks despite the military’s efforts to force them back to work. Soon the strikes spread to the southern oil-rich region, causing oil exports to fall to zero; transportation was disrupted in the major cities. They turned down the state’s offers to negotiate and instead bargained with Khomeini’s representatives.


Student resistance against the shah was a product of resentment towards centralised rule, repression and social injustice. The state’s education reforms had resulted in an increase in the number of students in higher education institutions from approximately 23,000 in 1961-2 to 160,000 in 1978-9. These students came from the upper classes and were therefore more aware of prevailing social inequities. Generally, they were inclined towards secular ideologies such as Marxism and nationalism. Some had been members of the National Front, but eventually broke away after Mossadeq’s overthrow, when the organisation showed signs of a growing conservatism. The repression that followed the 1963 uprising radicalised some students who began to consider militant forms of resistance against the shah. Some supported Khomeini’s politics, but the majority were attracted to the example of



guerrilla movements in Cuba, Vietnam and China. They formed a number of underground groups committed to armed struggle. Most of these groups were broken up by the SAVAK but two survived – ‘Fedayeen’ and the ‘Mojahedin-e Khalq’. Both movements used militant tactics, including attacks on police stations, the bombing of American, British and Israeli commercial or diplomatic offices, and the assassination of Iranian security officers and American military personnel stationed in Iran. In February 1971, the Fedayeen launched a major guerrilla attack on an Imperial Iranian Gendarmerie post at Siahkal, in the Caspian forests of northern Iran. Several similar attacks followed; however, hundreds of members of these guerrilla movements perished between 1971 and 1979 in armed confrontations with security forces or by execution. 43 In spite of these setbacks, the student movement remained in the secular camp, adhering to socialist ideologies. Students, for example, commemorated ‘Shanzdah-e Azar’, the day three students were killed by the government in 1953 during Richard Nixon’s visit, as well as the Siahkal skirmish. Student activism continued in the autumn of 1977 in the climate of glasnost discussed above. In the ten largest cities of the country, students organised 128 demonstrations and 20 rallies, where ‘Death to the Shah’ slogans were shouted on the streets and campuses; 48 boycotts of classes were organised in protest against the regime’s archaic political system. 44 What is significant is that the students did not have deep-seated ideological convictions or a collective consciousness. They joined the struggle out of sheer political deprivation. The ‘move’ behind the movement in Iran represents the coming together of disparate groups, whose interrelations could not be defined along class lines, or a particular ideology or a political party. It is true that the clergy directed the struggle, but as explained here, the groups that rallied with them were not driven by the goal of establishing a theocracy;



the one immediate and overwhelming goal was to remove the shah. 45 Conclusion This chapter has sought to document the disillusionment experienced by almost every segment of pre-revolutionary Russian and Iranian society. Whilst modernisation did not single-handedly ‘cause’ revolution, its inconsistencies produced deep-seated social, economic and political grievances for social groups and classes. Even those who prospered financially had difficulty enjoying those benefits within the anachronistic political structure. Over the years, repression and the blatant neglect of the political arena translated into an all-encompassing withdrawal of support for the leadership, which found expression in the form of agrarian unrest, workers’ strikes, student rebellion, religious ceremonies and bazaar shutdowns. As discussed above, there were many ‘lost opportunities’ for both Nicholas and Mohammad Reza; in other words, these were social groups that could have been won over had the modernisation campaign been more balanced. Instead, the fast pace and lopsidedness of the drive to catch-up with the west left these two societies politically fragmented. This all goes back to the dangerous dilemma that plagued Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah: both autocratreformers were too modern to be backward and too backward to be modern. This ambivalence manifested itself in the project of ‘modernisation from above’, a paradoxical trajectory towards modernity that engendered conflicting extremes: western-style development and progress, alongside classic eastern despotism. In following this path, both the tsar and the shah produced a dangerous hybrid that thrust their countries into irreconcilable conflict.


What is fascinating about a comparative study of Russia and Iran is that both countries continue to lend themselves to comparison in the post-revolutionary period. Unlike the tsar and the shah, socio-economic and political transformation under Joseph Stalin and Khomeini was modelled on nonwestern theoretical constructs. In other words, their development plans purposively diverged from prevailing international standards and norms. Whereas imperial modernisation was at least theoretically based on western social, economic and technological ideals, post-revolutionary development envisioned the creation of institutions and values operating in stark contrast to those of the west. What this chapter will emphasise is that, historically, developmental paradigms – imperial, Soviet or Islamic – resulted in societies that diverged from those of the west. Later, the attempt will be made to understand why Russia and Iran had such an ambivalent approach towards western modernity. The post-revolutionary leadership did pursue certain western-inspired projects and practices such as the development of a state-of-the-art military under Stalin, or the practice of capitalist economics under Khomeini. However, as



Richard Sakwa explains, the west was both a model and an anti-model for the Bolsheviks: ‘Like Peter the Great and other modernizers, the Bolsheviks hoped to take western technology without western values’. 1 Indeed, many of those qualitative changes associated with modern societies were absent in both post-revolutionary Russia and Iran. However, the post-revolutionary leadership did not claim to be converging with the west. Whilst both the tsar and the shah had reiterated their commitment to ‘westernisation’, in the post-revolutionary situation, it was made abundantly clear that the socialist state in Russia and the Islamic theocracy in Iran were based on repudiation of western models and standards. Socialism in Soviet Russia When power passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks, they immediately set about the task of overhauling the economy along socialist lines. They first implemented a series of decrees between October 1917 and February 1918, which quickly won the support of the masses in conditions of economic dislocation and an unpopular war. Amongst these was the ‘Decree on Land’, authorising transfer of the gentry’s land to the peasants; the ‘Decree on Workers’ Control’, sanctioning worker takeover of factories; the ‘Decree on Peace’, calling for a peace settlement ‘without annexations or indemnities’; and the ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia’, guaranteeing equality and the right to selfdetermination to all nationality groups. 2 In the political realm, this transformation was characterised by an intensification of repression and, effectively, the death of politics. In December 1917, Lenin created a supreme political police: the ‘Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-Revolution and Sabotage’, known by its acronym, the ‘Cheka’. It was headed by Polish Bolshevik Felix Dzerzhinsky, and was charged with becoming the ‘sword of the revolution’ against class enemies. The Cheka became a



state within a state, arbitrarily upholding revolutionary ‘justice’. Its repressive measures included property confiscation, the cancelling of food coupons and the exiling of Bolshevik enemies such as the propertied classes, moderate socialists and anarchists. The Cheka soon expanded in size and scope. By 1921, its total strength was over a quarter of a million. It existed until February 1922, when it was replaced by the ‘State Political Executive’ (GPU). Lenin justified these measures by arguing that the dictatorship of the proletariat was not possible without terror. 3 Lenin also upheld Bolshevik authority against the All Russian Constituent Assembly (a democratically elected constitutional body convened in Russia after the October Revolution). In November 1917, in Petrograd, the government permitted elections to the Assembly. The results were catastrophic as the Bolsheviks garnered only a quarter of the votes, whilst the Social Revolutionaries (SRs) won 58 per cent of the votes. Well before the Assembly convened, Lenin made clear his opposition towards a ‘bourgeois parliament’. The result was a single 17-hour sitting on 15 and 16 January. Following the fulminations of the SRs and Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks, Lenin dissolved the Assembly, using armed Red Guards; he outlawed further sessions and stated that the Assembly must accept the existing government. In practice, this led to consolidation of the one-party system. 4 Meanwhile, membership of the Bolshevik Party (renamed the Communist Party in 1918) grew from 23,600 members in January 1917, to 750,000 four years later, giving rise to a ‘party-state’. The party gradually evolved into a hierarchically organised bureaucracy, operating under the principle of democratic centralism. The Central Committee stood at the apex: once it determined a particular path, delegates had to follow, even if their constituency disagreed. Bolshevik organs marginalised key revolutionary institutions, including the soviets, factory committees, trade unions, cooperatives and



professional associations, by merging them into the new bureaucracy or by eradicating them altogether. These measures, combined with the Bolshevik’s ruthless treatment of any shade of opposition made civil war inevitable. Dominic Leiven advances the interesting assertion that Lenin actually wanted civil war in 1918 in order to consolidate monolithic rule. 5 After three years of fierce fighting, the Reds defeated the Whites. This victory was formative in its influence on the Bolsheviks. Historians Robert Tucker, Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest assert that the military characteristics of the early Bolshevik government left it with a readiness to resort to coercion. No leadership placed in the Bolshevik predicament could have survived without resorting to terror and force. Also enhanced as a result of the Civil War experience was the centralised nature of the Bolshevik Party. The exigencies of war required swift decision making, which shifted power from the ‘cumbersome’ Central Committee, into the hands of two more efficient sub-committees known as the ‘Politburo’ and the ‘Orgburo’. Indeed, it was against the backdrop of the Civil War that Lenin introduced ‘War Communism’. This economic programme was designed to prevent economic collapse, ensure the supply of materials necessary for the war effort by increasing state intervention and, more significantly, to transform the Russian economy along Marxist lines. The main features of War Communism included: 1. Uncontrolled inflationary financing, ultimately leading to hyperinflation and a nationwide reversion to barter (the tax system had broken down, so the Bolsheviks turned to the tsar’s press to fund their activities);



2. Near-universal nationalisation of manufacturing; and widespread nationalisation of retailing; 3. Stringent price controls and forced requisitioning of agricultural products to feed the urban workers and the Red Army soldiers; 4. State monopoly on grain purchases; and 5. Forced labour for civilians as well as the military. War Communism had disastrous consequences, resulting in a famine, the depopulation of the cities and a decline in living standards. In fact, when Lenin abandoned War Communism in 1921, he tried to distance himself from its failures by claiming that it was a temporary expedient necessitated by war. He even referred to the system as ‘that peculiar war communism, forced on us by extreme want, ruin and war’. Many historians, nevertheless, reject Lenin’s disclaimer because War Communism was put into effect before serious fighting erupted and was sustained after the Reds had defeated the rival Whites. 6 As Pipes explains, ‘War Communism as a whole was not a temporary measure but an ambitious and as it turned out premature attempt to introduce full-blown communism’. 7 The fact that a few years later Stalin adopted policies that incorporated features of War Communism (such as the forced requisitioning of food surpluses in the countryside) indicated that this was a system that was to prevail in times of both war and peace. Enraged by the confiscation of their crops, the peasants rebelled and even refused to grow food. From peasants, the discontent spread to the armed forces. In March 1921 at the Kronstadt naval base (the largest base of the Baltic fleet), 16,000 sailors launched an armed revolt. The insurgents were crushed by troops loyal to the Bolshevik authorities. The



population’s resistance, the fall in employment and in living standards, and the consequent decline in industrial and agricultural production, compelled the Bolsheviks to reverse War Communism. This reversal took the form of the ‘New Economic Policy’ (NEP), a concession to the free market instincts of the peasant and the petty bourgeois alike. Initiated at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, the NEP abolished state requisitioning of grain and reintroduced the market economy. The surplus-appropriation system was replaced by a tax in kind – once it was fulfilled, peasants could dispose of their surplus as they saw fit. In other sectors of the economy, private enterprise and trade were also revived, allowing peasants to trade for private profit. The state, however, retained control of nearly the whole of large-scale industry, though state industry was instructed to adapt itself to the needs of the market. Overall, the NEP brought rapid economic recovery and a period of diversity within society. 8 The NEP revealed Lenin’s difficulty in restructuring the Russian economy along purely ideological lines, but its adoption did not suggest that Lenin had abandoned his commitment to creating a socialist state. Lenin simply discovered that Russia was not ready for socialism. Marx himself had dictated that the prerequisite for the establishment of a socialist society was a modern industrial economy that employed a class-conscious work force. Russia had not reached that juncture in its economic evolution. 9 Thus, Lenin maintained that the conciliatory policies of the NEP had to be pursued aggressively before the regime could take further steps towards socialism. Chris Ward has observed that the Bolsheviks wanted to transform the world, not merely to replicate it. 10 The system that Lenin aspired to was one that diverged from prevailing western economic and political norms. All future Soviet leaders perpetuated state and society according to the basic



Bolshevik precepts laid down by Lenin; these included the leading role of the Communist Party, the primacy of the class approach, the supremacy of state ownership and the domination of state power over the law. Underpinning these principles were the notions of community, egalitarianism and the collective. 11

Joseph Stalin’s Revolution from Above

Between 1928 and 1953, Joseph Stalin revolutionised Russian society according to a blueprint that culminated in what Noel Parker has called ‘a hostile version of European modernisation’. 12 In many ways, he digressed from the revolutionary goals of Bolshevik socialism, leading some to argue that the system Stalin institutionalised was not socialism but ‘etatism’, or ‘bureaucratic state capitalism’ or a ‘totalitarian state economy’. This is open to debate; what is significant is that Stalin’s system continued to represent a shift away from the western variety of modernity. Similar to the modernising tsars and shahs, Stalin’s economic policy, in the long term, represented ne plus ultra in the attempt to carve for his country a unique position on the world stage. Unlike the autocrats, Stalin’s developmental course counter-posed capitalist forces and was, instead, based on socialist policies. Stalin put the matter in 1931 to industrial executives: ‘Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten? If you don’t want this, you must liquidate our backwardness and develop a real Bolshevik tempo in building our socialist economy. To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind … We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it or we shall go under’. 13 Moreover, like the imperial modernisers, Stalin’s development programme placed emphasis on expansion of the industrial-military complex. To this end, the government needed equipment and technical expertise from abroad, which



it would finance through the export of raw materials and agricultural produce. The grain procurement crisis of 1927-8 jeopardised the financing of foreign materials. At the XV Party Congress (December 1927), Stalin concluded that the kulaks (the prosperous peasants) who provided most of the marketed grain were ‘holding the state ransom’ and were responsible for the grain shortage. The solution, Stalin suggested, was a policy of forced collectivisation of agriculture. Wholesale collectivisation of 20 million peasant families, Stalin believed, would bring the countryside under government control and allow grain to be extorted from the peasant at an artificially low price for export. Again, the state-guided quality of Stalin’s economic policies is comparable to autocratic ‘modernisation from above’, albeit under Stalin the state’s role was far more coercive. Collectivisation was also designed to eliminate capitalist elements in the countryside, that is, small, individual farming. It called for the liquidation of kulaks – peasants whom Stalin believed were threatening to become an exploitative countryside class. 14 ‘Dekulakisation’, as it was called, targeted this group; however, because the category was so vaguely defined, industrious ‘middle peasants’ and even poorer peasants became victims. The property of the kulaks and those who resisted collectivisation was confiscated; they faced arrest, beatings and deportation to Siberia. 15 The peasants fought back, burning houses and killing livestock, but some 12 million people who resisted collectivisation were deported and another million were sent to labour camps. 16 The drive to appropriate all the grain output of collectives, the loss of cattle and poor harvests resulted in a famine that swept the Ukraine and other key grain-producing areas. Robert Conquest estimates that the famine consumed 7 million people in 1932-33. 17



By the end of the 1930s, the government renewed the process of collectivisation. They used methods such as taxes and arrests by the Red Army and the military units of the secret police against those who refused to join collective farms. The regime also pooled agricultural machinery, formerly the property of individual peasants, in state-directed machine-tractor stations. In addition, land and cattle were held in common ownership by the collective. By the end of 1937, 93 per cent of the country’s peasant households were under collective units. 18 As it had done during War Communism, the state tightened control over the urban economy and over distribution and trade. It introduced central economic planning in the form of five-year plans and one-year plans. 19 ‘Gosplan’, the state planning authority, drew up these measures and set targets for output and production in accordance with the regime’s political and economic objectives. ‘Gossnab’ was the state committee for material technical supply. It was charged with primary responsibility for the allocation of producer goods to enterprises, a critical state function in the absence of markets. Both economic organs ensured complete state control over the direction of economic development. The First Five-year Plan, inaugurated in 1928, aimed to expand existing industries, to create new ones and to relocate industrial centres away from vulnerable frontier regions. By the end of 1932, it was officially announced that the objectives of the First Five-year Plan had been achieved a year ahead of schedule. The achievements were impressive: two new industrial centres were established (in the Urals and in southern Siberia) and new branches of industry were developed, including aviation, plastics and synthetic rubber. The plan, however, failed to meet its goal in producing iron, steel, coal or consumer goods. Moreover, although the level



of production went up, the quality of goods was unsatisfactory. The Second Five-year Plan (January 1933 to December 1937) also gave priority to industry. It provided for reconstruction and double tracking of the principal railway lines, starting with the Trans-Siberian Railway, the widening of old canals and the construction of a new one (the MoscowVolga canal). The armed forces were modernised and the size of the Red Army tripled from 562,000 in 1933 to 1.5 million in 1937, exceeding the size of the Imperial Army in 1913. The plans succeeded in boosting industrial output: estimates suggest that output grew at an average annual rate of 10 to 16 per cent. 20 It would be inaccurate, however, to suggest that markets played no role in the system. Whereas Stalin was committed to the ideal of a command economy, certain western capitalist traditions were nonetheless present. For example, consumer goods were partly distributed through retail shops where consumers could purchase products of their choice, at prices set by the state. Similarly, workers found jobs through the labour market, where they chose according to rates of pay and personal preference. 21 There was also a black market and an informally tolerated ‘grey’ market in which enterprises traded outside the plan. 22 Stalin’s revolution can be characterised as ‘neo-archaic’ in the sense that the political sphere remained unaffected whilst the economy underwent major transformations. This is comparable to imperial Russia where, under Nicholas II and Witte, society underwent rapid economic transformations alongside the ‘archaisation’ of the political system. Stalin, however, took political backwardness to another level. Whilst party debates in the party congresses of the 1920s were stormy, and intraparty democracy was still apparent, by the XVI Party Congress in 1929, Stalin had established terror as the political foundation of the state. In 1934, the secret police



apparatus was expanded under the title of the ‘NKVD’ or the ‘People’s Commissar for the Interior’. No longer subject to party control or restricted by law, the NKVD became Stalin’s weapon to be used against the Communist Party and the country to insure his omnipotent dictatorship. In 1936-8, Stalin initiated a series of purges or chistki against central and provincial party officials and military officers. At first, large numbers of people were expelled from the Party but, by 1937, arrests, torture and even executions had become commonplace. Central and provincial Party officials, military officers and intellectuals became targets. All the individuals mentioned by Lenin as possible successors were targeted. Around 70 per cent of Central Committee members perished during the purges, as did many high-ranking military officers. Charges of treason were often trumped up and victims were coerced into confession under psychological pressure. Western estimates, corroborated by Soviet officials, indicate that as many as 20 million Soviet citizens died under Stalin. 23 In 1936, a new Soviet constitution was introduced as a ‘constitution of victorious socialism’. This referred to soviets of people’s deputies as the political foundation of the country, and public ownership as the country’s economic base. Official propaganda declared that a socialist society had been established and that the first stage of communism was complete. Whilst this assertion is debatable, given that neither the working class nor the Soviet people had sovereignty in the Soviet system, the fact remains that Stalin constructed a system that supplanted the ‘western’ capitalist mode of production with a model based on state-managed economic development, using the state’s coercive powers to that end. 24 The Soviet system was far from a pure embodiment of Marxist socialism: power and decision-making resided in the party-state bureaucracy, and workers lacked any meaningful control over the economic and political destiny of the system. Nevertheless, despite these non-socialist features, the system



bequeathed by the first two Soviet leaders was a radical alternative to western liberal capitalism. It may not have been purely socialist but it had a strong socialist core that stood in stark contrast to the political and economic systems of the west. These basic features included state and cooperative ownership of the entire means of production; the absence of a class of property owners; economic planning and production for use rather than profit; and social benefits and full employment. What is interesting is that under Lenin and Stalin we see resistance to the pressures of western-style socio-political and economic development patterns, in contrast to the leadership of imperial Russia. Whilst the tsars failed to produce societies that were genuinely ‘modern’, they nonetheless alternated between emulation and resistance. However, ultimately, both the tsarist and Soviet elite pursued development designs that produced societies that differed from the west. Theocracy in Islamic Iran

Irano-Islamic Nativism

As we discussed earlier, both Pahlavi shahs adopted a brand of westernisation that lacked the critical spirit that distinguishes western modernity, and a distinctive pattern emerged of ‘modernisation without modernity’. The failure to effectively modernise led the Iranian populace into an emotional backlash against the imposition of what they perceived as western-orientated culture. Increasingly, the masses blamed their economic and political grievances on the ambivalent westernisation programme, which they felt had failed to deliver either prosperity or social justice to the country. These ideas spawned a cultural movement that romanticised Iranian and Islamic traditions and resisted western-centred projects. What transpired was the birth of nativism – a return to, and glorification of, native culture,



particularly amongst intellectuals who criticised the shah for being imperialistic and despotic in an age of republicanism, nationalism and radicalism. 25 Intellectuals like Seyyed Fakhreddin Shadman Valavi lamented that Persia/Iran, after 2,500 years of history, was facing its most overwhelming enemy, namely, western civilisation. This, he believed, was a force seeking to dehumanise Iranians, to deny them their identity and religion and to enslave them. Valavi insisted that Iranians had to protect and enrich Iran’s pre-Islamic and Islamic historical and cultural heritage. 26 This anti-western discourse found a diverse following. According to Mirsepassi, ‘it was traditional but reformist, religious but blessed by secular intellectuals and the modern middle class’. 27 It was in this political and cultural milieu that Khomeini’s anti-western, anti-shah platform gained popularity, and the Iranian revolution and the system that followed can be interpreted as a revolt in defence of culture and tradition. 28 Reza Davari-Ardakani describes the Iranian revolution as a reaction to ‘west-toxication’, portending the end of western domination and the beginning of a new era in which religion would dampen the ‘holocaust of west-toxication’. 29 Through the practices and rhetoric of Shi’a revolutionary activism, Khomeini succeeded in creating a non-western, local or indigenous variety of modernity.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolution from Above

In 1979, Khomeini and his supporters successfully overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah. The main tenets of the Islamic revolution were opposition to secularism, the promotion of a populist social-theocratic system, and opposition to America and its closest allies. This backlash was very much a response to the shah’s westernisation and secularisation campaign, which led to alienation of the non-westernised, more traditional segments of society. The shah’s US-backed, costly enterprise had intensified the Manichaean view of a world



polarised into divine good and satanic evil – a worldview that helped Iranian revolutionaries to cast the shah and America as devious forces and to stir up action against them. 30 The popular ‘revolution from below’ against the shah was quickly followed by a ‘revolution from above’: a state-sponsored project of transformation based on a return to an idealised Islamic past, and a rejection of the western reading of modernity. The most notable feature of this system was that, unlike western societies, religion dictated the nature and structure of government and society in post-revolutionary Iran. 31 This transformation, however, had a loud, eschatological resonance. The 1979 revolution was a critique of the present and a break from the past towards a futureorientated utopia to be gained through a unique prescription for social organisation. The Islamic Republic of Iran was believed to be a springboard to a Shi’a utopia by virtue of its theological structures, institutions, laws and practices aimed at creating the conditions for the return of the Mahdi. Iran’s Shi’a Muslims (about 89 per cent of the population) believed that Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law, was the rightful successor to the Prophet, followed by 11 other Imams. Twelver Shi’a, the branch of Islam that has been Iran’s official religion since 1501, holds that the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, who disappeared in 873 AD and is thought to be not dead but in hiding, will one day return to bring justice to the world. 32 Khomeini’s theory of Islamic government was based on the idea that instead of waiting for the return of the ‘hidden’ Imam, the leading Shi’a clerics should assume both clerical and judicial authority. The November 1979 Iranian constitution laid the foundation for the velayat-e faqih (the rule of the Islamic Jurist), dating back to the Shi’a idea of waiting for the reappearance of the prophesied ‘hidden Imam’. According to Khomeini, those in charge after Prophet Mohammad – the Imams – had been entrusted with interpreting Islamic codes and laws, and with disseminating



them amongst Muslims. In the absence of the Imams, the valie faqih was required to carry out these tasks. Although the power of the vali-e faqih was vaguely defined, in practice, the constitution invested the Supreme Leader with final authority over all aspects of state affairs. Other constitutional articles created new theocratic institutions, making Iran the modern world’s only theocracy. Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious and political leader and the posts of president and prime minister became the second and third highest offices. Upon Khomeini’s death in 1989, the constitution was amended. The post of prime minister was abolished and some executive powers were transferred to the presidency, creating a somewhat challenging partnership between the elected president and the supreme leader. Since 1989, the president has appointed the government, although all ministers must be approved by the 270-member Majles (the Islamic Consultative Assembly) before taking office. In addition to the Majles, however, the Iranian regime was made up of other powerful assemblies, which have no parallel elsewhere in the Islamic world. Amongst these unique organisations – which are still functioning – are Majles-e Khobregan (the Assembly of Experts), Shura-ye Negahban (the Guardian Council) and Majma-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam (the Expediency Council). The Assembly of Experts is responsible for selecting both the country’s spiritual source of emulation and the supreme leader. It is made up of 86 clerics who are popularly elected, though vetted by the Guardian Council. Its primary task is that of selecting the supreme leader and the members of the Guardian Council. The Assembly can theoretically dismiss the supreme leader if he fails to meet specific criteria or becomes unable to execute his duties satisfactorily. The Guardian Council, consisting of six theologians appointed by the supreme leader, and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by the Majles, is responsible for approving all bills



passed by the Majles, and for making sure they conform to the constitution and Islamic law. The Guardian Council also has the power to veto candidates in elections to the Majles, local councils and the presidency. The Expediency Council was set up in 1988 by Khomeini. Comprised of 31 members appointed by the supreme leader, its role is to mediate disputes between the Guardian Council and the parliament. Since 1989, however, it has also advised the supreme leader on matters of national policy, if more traditional methods have resulted in a deadlock. In such cases, the Expediency Council is empowered to override both the constitution and sharia law in order to protect the interests of the state. Having laid out the institutional basis of Iran’s theocracy, Khomeini proceeded to secure the foundations of administrative authority through a network of revolutionary forces and organisations. In 1979, he created the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a political army defending the achievements of the revolution, which would act as a counterweight to the regular army still dominated by the monarchists. The most powerful paramilitary organisation in Iran after the IRGC is the Basij, a militia assigned to safeguard the gains of the Iranian revolution. 33 The Basij was established by Khomeini’s 1979 decree ordering the creation of the ‘Army of 20 million’ to protect the Islamic Republic against both American and domestic enemies. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Basij sent volunteers to the front. 34 In 1982, Hizbullah (‘the party of God’) took power into their own hands by confronting demonstrators, the media offices critical of the regime and the premises of opposition organisations. In August 1982, the Supreme Judicial Council declared null all un-Islamic laws adopted since 1917. The Council also instructed judges to make decisions based on Islamic codes and on the fatwas (edicts) issued by reputable clerics. Secular



judges who presided over the courts in pre-revolutionary Iran were replaced by the ulama. All the major seminaries – as opposed to universities – became centres for legal training for the ulama. Islamic revolutionary courts were introduced into civilian and military sectors that dealt with counterrevolutionary activity and, later, with moral offences. 35 Islamicisation also extended to the education system. Khomeini established the Council of the Cultural Revolution (comprised of seven members who were mostly from the Islamic Republican Party, which was created in 1978 and then disbanded in 1987) to supervise the activities of educational institutions. 36 In the summer ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1980, Khomeini urged his followers to rid the universities of communists and atheists and new teaching codes were introduced. Textbooks were revised to portray the clergy as defenders of justice; new courses in Arabic, the 1979 revolution and the history of Islam were introduced; and to be successful, applicants to schools and universities had to have strong ideological convictions. Khomeini also sought to ‘remoralise’ society by ridding it of popular western influences, which he believed undermined morality and proper social conduct. Alcohol was banned, as were bars and discos. Only traditional music was aired on state-controlled television and radio. Western films and music were outlawed. Veiling of all women was made compulsory. Women were barred from participating in international competitions that did not accommodate Islamic dress. Society was segregated along gender lines: co-education was banned, except in universities, where rooms were segregated according to gender. 37 Post-revolutionary Iran appeared to mirror an idealised seventh-century Medinan polity, all the way from political structure to cultural consumption, and to everyday public social behaviour. The landscape of the Islamic Republic of Iran represented the antithesis of western social and cultural norms.



Principles of Islamic economics were also introduced. Immediately after the revolution there was a wave of nationalisation of industry and banks; interest banking was abolished as a violation of strict Islamic principles. A large part of the economy and industrial capital stock was allotted to religious foundations known as bonyad. Later, with the onset of war with Iraq, the economy was again run according to market principles. According to Saeed Rahnema and Sohrab Behdad, ‘the Islamic government, after much toing and froing, ended up following pre-revolutionary strategies and policies, and went even further than the shah’s regime in introducing an open-door policy. From full indiscriminate protection of all industries, the Islamic Republic moved to the other extreme of exposing them all to market mechanisms’. 38 The prevailing idea behind pre-revolutionary modernisation was ‘catching up with the west by becoming like the west’. Modernisation was premised on convergence with the west in the sense that the worldview adopted in principle, though not in practice, was borrowed from western societies. On the other hand, transformation under Khomeini was modelled on a distinctly non-western theoretical construct. The development design represented divergence from the prevailing western norms and standards: ‘catching up with the west by becoming unlike the west’. 39 The argument here is that both imperial and post-revolutionary Iran resulted in ‘alternative modernities’ – whether by accident or by design.


Introduction In the preceding chapter we described how the postrevolutionary Russian and Iranian leaderships constructed ‘alternative modernities’ that were ideologically opposed to western socio-political and economic constructs. During Vladimir Putin’s leadership in Russia and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami’s presidency in Iran, many interesting paradoxes took shape, defying monolithic classifications inherited from sociology. Both presidents responded to western-inspired demands for reform within an indigenous framework. Neither Putin nor Khatami tried to ‘import’ modernity from the west or to ‘catch-up’ with the west. Nor did they attempt to ‘westernise’, ‘modernise from above’, or to create ‘alternative modernities’. Instead, they shifted away from the stark antinomies of the past: trajectories that proved to be obsolete. Both leaders employed a more integrative approach to modernity – one that accommodated historical, national, revolutionary and local experience whilst benefiting from the accomplishments of western civilisation. As highlighted in the introduction, this trend has been unveiled here as ‘modernisation from below’. It is a developmental paradigm that represents the antithesis of ‘modernisation from above’



by concentrating on the indigenous rather than the imported, by finding the impetus for reform from below (civil society and market forces) rather than from above, and by pushing for change through the simultaneous engagement of the future as well as the past. Having passed through the labyrinth of social contradictions, both countries reached a point where they transcended the logic of development of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. ‘Modernisation from below’ is a vertical course to modernity, a construct that pivots on the concept of ‘futurism’, to use Arthur Toynbee’s terminology. In other words, it is based on a projection into the future, with adequate observance of the past. In order to grasp the nature of Putin’s reforms in the present, it is useful to have an overview of the transformation launched by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. In many ways, the two are contrasting states of government: Gorbachev’s development plan was based on grafting and transplanting features of western capitalist democracies onto largely unaltered Soviet underpinnings. Putin, on the other hand, sought to cultivate economic and political progress by creating a compromise between western-inspired reform and traditional Russian/Soviet principles. Gorbachev’s transformation was over-ambitious and inherently contradictory, whilst Putin’s reforms were cautious and constrained by historical realities. Most importantly, Gorbachev’s reforms unleashed social forces that undermined national unity and the very foundations of Soviet leadership, whereas Putin managed to bring a measure of stability to Russia. Our objective here is not to compare the two leaders but to highlight yet another example of Russia’s historical failure to adapt to western standards – another episode of ambivalent westernisation in Russian history: Gorbachev’s perestroika. From there we will demonstrate how Putin reached the conclusive stage in the development dialectic by



moving away from the exhausted developmental models of the past. Gorbachev’s Ambivalent Modernisation Gregory Freeze asserts that the years between Konstantin Chernenko’s death and Putin’s presidency appear to have been a kind of flashback to the ‘Time of Troubles’ in the early seventeenth century’. 1 What began as systemic transformation turned into systemic collapse – dissolution of the Soviet Union, disastrous economic regression, profound social upheavals and loss of superpower status. Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the reforms, aiming to reinvigorate and ultimately transform the Soviet system. His ‘perestroika’, however, unleashed forces and expectations even as it failed to satisfy minimal requirements. Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the initiative of Boris Yeltsin, marked the end of communism and heralded a new attempt to reconstruct Russia in line with a western model of democracy and free markets. That transition proved far more difficult and disruptive than anyone imagined; the result was a systemic breakdown of the economy, polity and social system. By the late 1990s, Russia had been degraded from a superpower to a ‘failed state’ with an ‘undeveloping’ economy. During the final two decades of the Soviet Union’s existence, its economy began to lose its vitality. Leonid Brezhnev’s years from the 1970s have been characterised in Soviet scholarship as a period of zastoi (stagnation). There is a vast amount of literature on the many aspects of this stagnation and little agreement over its principle cause. Amongst the many causal factors cited are the difficulty in central planning; faltering labour discipline; bottlenecks in key sectors of the economy (especially rail transportation and oil production); unfavourable demographic trends; the indirect effects of the post-1973 slowdown in the west; and the huge Soviet military burden. The details of stagnation need not



detain us here, but it must be emphasised that every incoming General Secretary sought to instil new life into a system that was clearly in need of reform. Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, hoped to accomplish this task when Brezhnev died in November 1982. Upon assuming the post of General Secretary, Andropov called for a campaign to weed out corruption and increase discipline. He also encouraged debate about the economic problems of the system and possible solutions. However, he died after only 15 months in office. His replacement, Chernenko, was confirmed by the Central Committee in February 1984. He was hailed by extreme conservatives as a return to the cherished certainties of Brezhnev-style rule. Physically frail, Chernenko did little more than stand as figurehead until his death in March 1985. In the same month, Gorbachev took over Chernenko’s post. By any standard, Gorbachev had had an extraordinary career. A product of the Party’s recruitment system, Gorbachev had spent much of his career as first secretary of the provincial Party in an agricultural region in southern Russia (Stavropol). In 1978, he was brought to Moscow to serve as Central Committee secretary for agriculture; two years later, he became a full member of the Politburo. During his first year in power, Gorbachev tried to define a course that would rejuvenate the economy and the political system. His reformist orientation was apparent in a speech given on 20 February 1985 in which he blamed the Soviet economic slowdown on the failure of economic planners to undertake necessary changes. On many occasions, he expressed the need to grant greater decision-making powers to factory, state-farm and collective managers, which would free central planners and ministerial officials to concentrate on investment priorities, regional development, living standards and foreign economic policy. 2 A year later, at the XXVII Party Congress



of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in February and March 1986, Gorbachev declared: ‘now the situation is such that it is impossible to simply limit our measures to partial improvements – what is needed is radical reform’. 3 Gorbachev was initially vague about the direction reform would take. Three months before his investiture on 10 December 1984, at a Central Committee conference, he delivered a speech in which he used catchwords like ‘revolutionary decisions’, ‘acceleration of social-economic progress’, ‘deep transformations in the economy and whole system of social relations’, ‘restructuring of economic management’, ‘democratisation’ and ‘glasnost’ (liberalisation). These themes, however, did not rouse the Soviet bureaucracy: both Brezhnev and Andropov had considered overhauling the economy. Thus, the administration could not have guessed that transformation would encompass ideological revision. Gorbachev’s point of departure was the need for a strong economy. He was highly critical of the traditional Soviet model, arguing that it was not immune to stagnant tendencies and crises. He stressed two flaws: the first concerned the means of coordination of the various parts of the economic system, namely, the ‘rigid centralism’ of the system and its command from the centre; the second was the absence of worker motivation and labour discipline. 4 Gorbachev became more explicit in expressing the direction he hoped reform would take in his writings in 1987. For example, he asserted that the goal of reform should be ‘the transition from an excessively centralised management system relying on orders, to a democratic one’. He also referred to self-management and worker participation as the solution to the issues of labour discipline. All of this was possible, Gorbachev argued, following the broad application of democracy. ‘Democratic’, Gorbachev argued, ‘and only democratic forms are capable of giving us mighty acceleration’. 5 He also touched on the need



for a competitive market mechanism to raise the productivity of enterprises. Labour discipline, Gorbachev believed, would also benefit from profit incentives, competition and a system of pay based on performance. On the other hand, Gorbachev reiterated that his goal was to reform Soviet socialism, not to replace it with capitalism. Here we see another manifestation of a Russian/Soviet commonplace: ambivalence about the orientation the country would take in its development. ‘We are conducting all of our reforms’, Gorbachev explained, ‘in accordance with the socialist choice … socialism can achieve much more than capitalism’. Moreover, he added, ‘socialism and public ownership, on which it is based, hold out virtually unlimited possibilities for progressive economic processes’. 6 This paradoxical approach was fateful: as will be explained, the General Secretary’s aim to coat socialism with a capitalist veneer unleashed forces that dismantled the command economy and ushered in an attempt to replace it with fullblown western capitalism. Gorbachev did not have enough reform-orientated allies within the bureaucracy to support his reforms. Therefore, he first had to overcome the opposition of the conservative elite who were suspicious of anything that would threaten their interests. He successfully reshuffled the composition of this ruling body: 47 of the 121 regional party secretaries and more than half of the Central Committee were removed or replaced. The number of newly appointed ministers increased to 42 compared to only 12 under Andropov and Chernenko. Changes occurred at the city and local levels with younger, more highly educated personnel assuming party posts. Many ministers had training in engineering, agronomy or technical specialties, like Gorbachev in law, for instance. The average age of the new ministers was 56, whilst the ministers who were dismissed averaged 69 years of age.



Six weeks after his election, a plenum of the Central Committee confirmed the Politburo places of two of Gorbachev’s closest allies, Nikolai Ryzhkov and Yegor Ligachev (who retained his post as Central Committee Secretary for Organisational Party Work, the department that ran the nomenklatura system that had access to key jobs in the country). 7 A few weeks after the XXVII Congress, Gorbachev removed rival Victor Grishin, head of the Moscow party apparatus, from the Politburo. In July 1986, he removed his principal adversary in the Politburo, Georgii Romanov, the former chief of the Leningrad party organisation. Gorbachev’s reform programme was a combination of policies implemented during the period from the XXVII Party Congress in 1986 until the end of 1989. Transformation was made up of three parts: the first was glasnost – the removal of ideological control and the opening up of cultural life to open discussion; the second was perestroika – or economic restructuring and the effort to rejuvenate the socialist economy; and the third was the democratisation of political institutions. The first series of reforms took place in the ambit of political culture and freedom of thought because Gorbachev believed that reform was impossible if the population remained passive. With glasnost, Gorbachev granted society greater individual and collective freedoms. In February 1986, political prisoner Anatoly Shcharansky was released; in December 1986, renowned dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov, a key developer of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, was freed from exile in Gorky. In March 1986, the media was invited to criticise the Communist bureaucracy, and the state-owned television networks began to allow a range of views in news reporting. The result of these initiatives was the emergence of an embryonic civil society.



Gorbachev hoped that glasnost would mobilise social energy and produce a broader base of political support for his policies. The immediate beneficiaries of glasnost were the intelligentsia, writers, scientists and artists. Some supported perestroika, democracy and even capitalism, whilst others criticised the Communist Party, the Soviet social and economic system. The media was vital in transmitting these views. By early 1987, lines formed at news kiosks early in the morning as eager citizens competed to buy the limited copies of the provocative publications. Gorbachev also encouraged the creation of neformaly (informals) or non-political groups (although only to an extent; they could not conduct organised political action or act as rival parties to the CPSU). These included environmental organisations, lobby groups and leisure groups. By the end of 1987, there were 30,000 neformaly across the Soviet Union. These groups were intended to strengthen the reformist movement rather than challenge the CPSU. In fact, the neformaly began to articulate views that went against the Party line; many of the radical and nationalist movements and parties that would call for independence in the early 1990s actually had their beginnings in the neformaly. 8 In March 1988, it appeared that this honeymoon would end with the publication of neo-Stalinist Nina Andreyeva’s letter in Sovetskaya Rossiya in which the media were attacked for their excesses. 9 The public feared that this signalled the official line but the Politburo, after much intra-elite wrangling, prepared an editorial condemning Andreyeva, and reaffirming support for freedom of expression. A few months later, this episode was followed by the first attack on Lenin. Writing in the liberal magazine Novy mir, economic journalist Vasily Selyunin disputed the Soviet leadership’s view that socialism had been distorted by Stalin and that Lenin’s blueprints were to blame. The intelligentsia responded to the article by concluding that Lenin and his revolution had been a disaster for Russia from



the start. They expressed a desire to return to the prerevolutionary system, which they believed was naturally heading towards western liberal capitalism. The climate rapidly became radicalised as more anti-establishment views were expressed in the media. Some economists who knew first-hand the problems of central planning also demonstrated an interest in free-market economics. The growing shift in ideology was an important factor in the eventual demise of socialism and the victory of the pro-capitalist coalition that emerged from the party-state bureaucracy. The economic sphere also shifted towards decentralisation. At first, Gorbachev’s economic policies were relatively orthodox. The Five-year Plan for 1986-90 was based on uskorenie (acceleration), an idea conceived by economic advisor Abel Aganbegyan. Its aim was to double the annual GNP growth rate from 2 to 4 per cent by the end of the plan. ‘Gospriempka’, a campaign for quality control, was put into effect. Sub-standard goods were rejected by inspectors and the supply to the consumer actually fell during this period as 20 per cent of output was rejected. With the plan targets set so high, factories lacked the time or materials to make up for the shortage. One component of the plan was an anti-alcohol campaign as poor worker discipline was in part attributed to drinking. People began turning to the black market and samogen (homebrewed liquor), and drinking habits proved hard to change. The campaign was a disaster: poisoning increased as drinkers resorted to anything from perfume to anti-freeze, putting a burden on health services. 10 Moreover, the state also lost 20 billion roubles in what could have been tax receipts from alcohol sales. 11 Under the plan, 23 new scientific-technical research complexes were established between 1986 and 1987. The rate of growth in the production of new machines and other capital goods doubled as a result. Nevertheless, the impact of



this growth was not felt across society as a whole. GNP growth achieved the target in 1986 (the result of an improvement in agricultural output) but over the following two years it fell to the pre-acceleration average of 1.7 per cent. The poor results of ‘acceleration’ led Gorbachev to increase the role of market relations by creating financial incentives for enterprises. The 1987 ‘Law on State Enterprises’ gave farm and factory managers and workers greater autonomy and encouraged workers to elect their managers. 12 The design, however, was flawed. Where firms had a monopoly in a particular type of production under the command system, they found that they could meet their profit targets by raising their prices and cutting output, thus making life easier for themselves. Furthermore, the law was not workable in a ‘partially marketised’ economy where many restrictions stood in the way of the operations of supply and demand. Without private banks from which to acquire investment capital, or a free market in raw materials and labour, and without the threat of closure, managers had little incentive to change their ways. Other market-inspired legislation included the 1986 ‘Law on Individual Labour Activity’, which was a de facto sanction of private enterprise. It legalised self-employment in 29 broad branches, including handicrafts and social services. Several branches that were believed to generate greater income were forbidden. These included chemical products, jewellery and perfumes. The state also placed limitations on work premises, the size of the enterprise and pricing (which had to equal that of state retail trading). The 1988 ‘Law on Cooperatives’ was by far the most market-orientated. The law stipulated that a cooperative was owned by working members who were self-managing and self-financing. The member was a full owner of its property and its property rights were guaranteed by the state, though the member could not own the land. Furthermore, members



would enjoy the same rights as state employees. The stipulations on membership were also flexible: a threemember minimum and no ceiling. This law revealed how much easier it was for the Communists to accept the market over private ownership, a contention that was supported by the 1988 ‘Law on Leaseholds’. Individuals were given the right to lease land for 50 years and to sell most of their produce on the open market. The state, however, retained ownership of the land: the conservatives would not sanction outright privatisation and Gorbachev himself was not prepared to go that far. Overall, economic reform produced disappointing results during the late 1980s. Change sent the country into decline, with inflation, an alarming budget deficit of $35 billion (due to a fall in taxes and over-investment in scientific-technical industries), plummeting output, widespread shortages and rationing, the threat of mass unemployment and an expanding black market. 13 The basic problem lay in Gorbachev’s ideological ambivalence. Gorbachev was plagued with hesitation about how far to proceed along the path of reform. Evidence of this is the fact that many elements of the command system were left intact, including the state subsidy of many enterprises, controlled prices and a centralised supply system. In contrast, when Yeltsin took up the presidency, he showed no hesitation, as indicated by his ‘shock therapy’ – in making a complete move towards the market. Thus, in January 1992, prices were freed, government subsidies to industry were cut back and full autonomy was extended to most enterprises. The repercussions of Yeltsin’s policies are not pertinent here; what is significant is that unlike the ambivalent Gorbachev, Yeltsin had a clearer sense of direction. Denis Shaw attributes the economic downfall to the attempt to change an economy whose purpose it was to serve the interests of the state (including its quest for military



security) into one that served the market. Thus, enterprises that had always operated in a non-competitive environment, assured of both their suppliers and their customers, and only obligated to fulfil their state-dictated targets, now found themselves expected to meet their own expenses and to find their own suppliers and customers. Mark Galeotti explains that the problem had to do with the reformists’ inadequate understanding of free-market mechanisms: He [Gorbachev] had tried to allow greater individual enterprise through the cooperative movement and increased autonomy for local management, but without taking away the pressure for instant results, which meant that no one had any breathing space in which to introduce new ideas or technology. He cut back on the central bureaucracy, which had previously coordinated the economy, but without creating the sort of national market to take its place. 14 With the economy spiralling into recession, the stage was set for a crackdown. Having largely backed perestroika at first, the bureaucracy split. On one hand, there were those who believed that the only way out was to accelerate market reform and to promote greater glasnost (this group included Gorbachev, reform advisor Alexander Yakovlev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze). On the other, there were those in favour of a return to centralised state control (Prime Minister Ryzhkov, for example). Gorbachev retorted that reforms had failed because conservative party officials were unwilling to give up command-administrative methods. His solution was ‘shock therapy’ in the form of full-blown democratisation. Initially, Gorbachev expressed reform in terms of ‘renovation’ but gradually came to embrace a far more radical vision. His rhetoric reflected this shift: in 1987 the traditional ‘democratic centralism’ (a Leninist phrase



denoting single-party dictatorship) gave way to ‘pluralism’, appearing first as ‘socialist pluralism’ (implying plurality of opinion) but later as ‘competitive pluralism’ (denoting a multiparty political system). Gorbachev was convinced that popular will would energise his reforms and openness would serve as the motor of change. He also anticipated that the opposition would gradually fall under the sway of popular opinion (which Gorbachev was sure would be positive), and would accept the course of change. The conservatives felt that democratisation was a blatant betrayal of the Party and the original ideals of Marxism-Leninism. Democratisation was reminiscent of glasnost as newspapers and magazines bloomed. Increasingly, however, attacks on the Soviet system – its origins, the command system, the treatment of dissidents, even perestroika – became more overt. Democratisation was a hazardous choice given that the economic situation had rapidly deteriorated. In fact, democratisation served to erode Gorbachev’s authority. The free press, especially with its shocking revelations about the travesties of earlier regimes, undermined not only the regime’s legitimacy but Gorbachev’s own stature. Gorbachev had hoped to ride the wave of democratic forces, but discovered that he could not satisfy rising expectations, either material or political, and that failure inevitably took a toll on his approval ratings. However, all along, Gorbachev believed that the failure of perestroika was attributable to conservatism in the Party. Thus, he realised that he needed to dismantle the vast bureaucratic structures. This translated into a decision made at the XIX Party Conference in July 1988: the introduction of contested elections for a new legislature. The powerless parliament was replaced by a two-chamber Supreme Soviet with 450 deputies (later rising to 542). These members, in turn, would be elected from a larger body – the 2,000-strong Congress of People’s Deputies (later rising to 2,250



members). The Congress would function as the country’s highest legislative body; it would meet once a year and limit itself to electing members of the Supreme Soviet. 15 Paradoxically, Gorbachev did not intend to undermine the supremacy of the Communist Party. He reiterated that rival parties to the CPSU were against the interests of perestroika. This was reinforced by retention of Article 6 of the constitution, which guaranteed the Communist Party the right to direct Soviet society. In fact, despite the introduction of new electoral laws, very few Party secretaries were chosen in competitive, secret ballot elections. The daily Pravda confirmed this in July 1989, stating that no more than 1 per cent of provincial party secretaries had been elected openly. 16 Party members used everything from tricks, to pressure and propaganda to swing the vote. Two-thirds of Congress deputies were to be elected by the public whilst one-third of representatives were elected by public organisations including the CPSU. Hence, another contradiction was created: a partially democratised government headed by an unreformed Communist Party. The March 1989 elections dealt a major blow to the regime. Although Communists gained a parliamentary majority, many representatives were rejected at the ballot box, damaging the Party’s prestige. The election also gave rise to new forms of collective action, including mass rallies and miners’ strikes – a clear indication of the growing radicalisation of the popular mood. The newly elected Congress saw, for the first time in Soviet history, the creation of a parliamentary opposition in the form of the Inter-regional Group of Deputies (IGD), composed of radical liberals including Yeltsin and Andrei Sakharov. Democratisation and the election outcome resulted in the CPSU losing its place as the undisputed political authority. In the face of public criticism and the demands of the liberals who rallied around Yeltsin, the Central Committee voted that



the CPSU should no longer be identified in the constitution as the leading institution in the political system, by changing the wording of Article 6 of the constitution. This clause, ‘the leading and guiding force of society and a core of the political system’, was eliminated. 17 The political struggle took a new turn with the elections to the Supreme Soviets, both locally and at the union level. The elections in the republics brought a resounding victory to radicals of both democratic and nationalist persuasions. Yeltsin became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet in Russia in May 1990, after which he asserted Russia’s sovereignty. In this, he was supported by many liberals and democrats who were frustrated by Gorbachev’s hesitation, and by various Russian nationalists and Communists who resented what they perceived as the undermining of Russian and Soviet power by Gorbachev and his allies. The process culminated in Yeltsin’s election to the presidency on 12 June 1991; he secured 57 per cent of the vote with four rival Communists winning only 30 per cent of the votes between them. Meanwhile, Gorbachev and Yeltsin sought to emasculate each other’s positions: Yeltsin spoke for the rights of the republics and Gorbachev sought to complicate Russia’s relations with the republics and territories. Negotiations amongst the centre, the republics and other autonomous regions continued with a view to finding a new basis for a union. Eventually, Gorbachev’s position was made untenable by the attempted Communist coup in Moscow in August 1991. Gorbachev failed to place the blame for the coup attempt directly on the Communists; most of the republics, anxious about further coups, declared their independence. The independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was recognised by the government of the USSR in September. The final act came in December, when Yeltsin and the leaders of other republics agreed to establish the Commonwealth of Independent States, rendering extinct the Soviet Union and



the power of the Communist Party. Henceforward, the Russian Federation, as it was now called, was left to make its own way in the world. Ideological disintegration brought with it national disintegration. By removing the three foundational bricks in the structure he was trying to rebuild, namely the central bureaucratic apparatus, the official Marxist-Leninist ideology and the Party’s supremacy, the Soviet Union was fatally damaged. 18 The cohesion of the country was called into question as republics and regions asserted their right to resolve problems locally, as Gorbachev had left them with an economic and political impasse. There are many details in relation to Yeltsin’s rise to power, the pro-capitalist coalition and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. What is relevant here is that Gorbachev’s ambivalent attempt to renovate the socialist structure by grafting on selected western practices and norms gave rise to an opposition that was in search of direction. The argument is that if Gorbachev was hoping to ‘westernise’ then his reforms should have gone all the way, because partial ‘marketisation’ and ‘democratisation’ created contradictions and failed to yield positive results. This was the argument advanced by both the radicals and the liberals. On the other hand, there were the hard-line Communists who regarded indicators such as the weakening of the economy as evidence that Gorbachev’s blueprint was flawed. They wanted a return to what they believed was a reliable, stable system. Moreover, whereas ethnic and nationalist strife emerged because of past injustices, these were exacerbated by Gorbachev’s political and economic choices. Gorbachev’s ideological dilemma lies at the heart of all of this as his advocacy of some specimen of a hybrid socialist/capitalist society led the system to collapse like a house of cards. He had created a contradiction that reflected his dilemma: a fundamentally unchanged political structure, a



partially democratised society and a mixed economy. Like the tsars, Gorbachev was mistaken to think that such inconsistencies would not generate serious social conflict. Indeed, in both cases, a disoriented modernisation programme resulted in some form of breakdown: revolution in imperial Russia and national disintegration in the Soviet Union. Putin’s Adaptive Modernisation


We have argued that even when modernisation was purposively modelled on a liberal capitalist blueprint, as it was under Gorbachev’s programme of perestroika and glasnost in the 1980s, a profound sense of ambivalence remained. The failure to westernise genuinely and adequately catapulted the country into an economic abyss. Thus, whether through convergence or divergence, or a bit of both, the Romanov, Pahlavi, Soviet and Iranian (Islamic) societies culminated in models that differed from those in the west. Whilst Gorbachev’s approach to reform was based on fundamental reconstruction, Putin’s strategy was based on modest renovation. Putin’s programme entailed steady reform of existing political and economic structures, rather than their removal. He had a clear vision of transforming state and society according to a future-orientated utopia; however, this vision was not based on rejection of the past. Rather, reforms were applied within a framework that acknowledged historical and civilisational realities. Unlike Gorbachev, Putin focussed on the indigenous rather than on the imported, he found the impetus for reform ‘from below’ rather than ‘from above’, and he pressed for change through the simultaneous engagement with the future as well as the past. Here, then, we will look at some of the measures and policies adopted by Putin in order to support the claim that,



unlike his predecessors, he reached a juncture in the dialectic of development where modernisation was no longer equated with ‘grafting and transplanting’ from the west. This is important, because the analytical models of the past cannot account for the spirit and substance of Putin’s modernisation movement. Ideologically, the president-reformer employed a more integrative approach to modernity by weaving the benefits of western civilisation (market economy, democratic practices) into the country’s historical, nationalistic, revolutionary and cultural tapestry. In practical terms, this meant that Putin had to guide the country through the process of transition to a western-inspired market economy and a democratised society. However, the result would be ‘Russian’ in nature and this he would achieve by reviving a combination of Russian, Slavic, imperial and Soviet norms and practices. We make the case that under Putin a compromise was reached: as the leader of a country that has historically demonstrated a dilemma or ambivalence towards western models of development, he paved a home-grown path to modernity. We call this methodological novelty ‘modernisation from below’.

Slavophile and Westerniser

The question of whether Russia is part of the western world, as we have seen, has plagued Russian intellectuals and western observers alike for the past two centuries. In post-Soviet Russia, the question matters even more because where Russia belongs is part of a larger debate about how one differentiates between ‘the west’ and ‘the rest’, given changes in the western family of nations, and because of larger questions of geopolitical alignment. The Slavophile versus westerniser paradigm, suggesting that throughout Russia there are two opposing camps engaged in a struggle to determine the course of the country, is too simple to reflect the true complexity of



post-Soviet Russia. Under Putin’s leadership an equilibrium seemed to have been reached; it did not seem to matter whether Russia was part of the western world or not – what mattered was how Russia could achieve stability and prosperity using its historical, political, social and cultural resources. This meant that Russia would have to draw on both Slavophile and westerniser ideals and principles. After all, Russia’s past was a combination of both orientations. Before his investiture, in an article entitled ‘Russia on the Cusp of the Millennium’, Putin called for the merging of universal human values with Russian traditions, patriotism, collectivism, statism and social justice. 19 During his presidency, Putin firmly supported this declaration. However, this did not suggest that the Russian president sought to reverse the changes implemented by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Methodologically, what Putin tried to do was demonstrate that the system he inherited could be revitalised through reinforcement of traditional Russian, imperial and Soviet values. Putin is certainly a conservative but he is also a selfdescribed moderniser. An ardent nationalist, determined to make Russia succeed in a world of competing powers, he emphasised Russia’s past achievements and historical identity, but with an eye to the future. As such, he might be compared to Stolypin, another conservative reformer prime minister who famously asked for 20 years of peace and quiet from liberals and revolutionaries to transform Russia. Stolypin never had his chance, however: a revolutionary assassinated him in 1911. The concept of a patrimonial state has been part of Russian political culture since time immemorial. Putin believed that the centralised state, which emerged as an extension of this philosophy, succeeded in the imperial and Soviet years in bestowing upon Russia world-class status. The Putin majority of 75 per cent also supported preservation of a paternalistic state. The president’s idea of a strong state translated into a



policy of recentralisation of the political centre. In a speech Putin stressed, ‘for Russians, a strong state is not an anomaly that should be got rid of. Quite the contrary, they see it as a source and guarantor of order and the initiator and main driving force of any change’. 20 With the economy in a shambles, Putin believed that at this historical juncture, a centralised state was the only way to bring Russia out of the economic abyss. Thus, from the outset of his presidency, to the ire of liberals, Putin pledged commitment to rebuilding the Russian state.

Democracy Controlled from the Centre

Putin’s understanding of democracy was strictly ‘Russian’. In other words, it differed from a western idea of liberty based on individual autonomy in an open society with minimum state intervention. According to Dale Herspring and Jacob Kipp, Putin, and indeed many Russians, saw liberty as an invitation to chaos and disorder because the concept was not grounded in Russian/Soviet historical experience. 21 Speaking of democracy, Putin stated, ‘It will not happen soon, if it ever happens at all, that Russia will become the second edition, of say, the United States or Britain in which liberal values have deep historic traditions’. 22 Studies suggest that whilst the majority of Russians supported the abstract ideal of democracy (52 per cent), they rejected an imitation of the west. Rather they advocated that Russia follow a separate national path to democracy. 23 When asked what Russia needed in the last polls before the balloting for president, 71 per cent of the populace responded ‘a strong leader’; 59 per cent replied ‘a ‘strong state’; and only 13 per cent replied ‘democratic institutions’. 24 Thus, in seeking to recentralise Russia, Putin was not necessarily reverting to Soviet-style authoritarianism, and nor was he modernising ‘from above’ because, unlike the tsars and the communists,



the impetus for reform came from above as much as it did from below.

Militarisation of Bureaucracy

Putin’s recruitment practices are significant. His inclination to appoint government personnel who had a background in the military or in security services, the siloviki, was based on his mission to build a strong state. Putin believed that he needed to appoint state functionaries who saw enforcement of state policy as a moral duty (and not a path to furthering their own pecuniary interests). As Stephen Hanson explains, none of the social groupings (oligarchs, regional governors or the younger generation) from which Putin might appoint agents were likely to produce loyal cadres. 25 The idea of a ‘military-security president’, as Olga Kryshtanovskaya and Stephen White call it, was generally well accepted by the Russian public. After years of economic instability and corruption, the Russians looked favourably upon the armed forces and state security, which they regarded as professional and honest. In a 1999 poll, 37 per cent of the population declared that they believed that the organs of state did not have sufficient influence. 26 Under Yeltsin, the elite were recruited from a wide range of social groups, particularly academics who lacked political or management experience. At the same time, Putin included in his entourage liberals and, particularly, technocrats from St Petersburg. German Gref, Leonid Reiman, Ilya Klebanov and Alexei Kudrin made up the economic staff and were formerly part of Anatoly Chubais’ group (Chubais was an eminent liberal and permanent member of Yeltsin’s team). Moreover, Putin’s government included people from the old Yeltsin group such as Alexander Voloshin, head of the presidential staff. What this suggests is that Putin was not attempting to militarise by recruiting siloviki, as evidenced by the complexion and diversity of the administration and the government. Instead,



the president’s decision to take on the siloviki appears to have been an effort to cleanse Yeltsin’s corrupt ruling class by recruiting what Putin and the public perceived as more reliable military personnel.

Streamlining of Governors

In the 1990s, Yeltsin encouraged the 89 leaders of Russia’s regions to seize power from the centre. As a result, when Putin came to office he found that many governors had enacted unconstitutional laws, usurping power that belonged to the central government. Alexander Rutskoi in the Kursk Oblast and Yevgeny Nazdratenko in Primorsky Krai challenged Putin on a number of occasions. Putin felt that in order to strengthen the unitary character of the Russian state, he had to enhance leverage over regional elites. To achieve this, he chose to undermine some of the autonomy of the governors and the Federation Council (the parliament’s upper house), which was made up of governors and the heads of local legislatures. Putin proposed that the Federation Council be selected from the executive and legislative branches of each region. Delegates would have to live in Moscow and only have longdistance contact with respective governors. In addition, the president would have the authority to impeach governors who violated federal law. He would also have the power to dissolve regional legislatures that passed laws in violation of the constitution or federal law. On 19 May 2000, the Duma accepted Putin’s proposal by a vote of 362 to 34, with eight abstentions. The Federation Council rejected the bill the first time around but on 26 July 2000, they voted 119 to 18 in favour of the plan. They assumed that eventually the Putincontrolled Duma would pass the bill. 27 Another move to rein in the governors was the decree of 13 May 2000 that established seven federal super-districts or okrugs. The okrugs were intended to reconstitute the centre’s



control over the activities of the regional leaders and new regional elites. Representatives of the president were appointed as heads of each of these districts. Most of the heads were retired military or KGB officers who provided the president with details on developments at the local level. 28 Whilst criticised by the governors for attempting to bolster the power of the Kremlin, Putin believed that greater federal presence would help him gain control over the country’s administrative chaos. Herspring and Kipp explain, ‘like a consolidating monarch dealing with rebellious barons, Putin combines the stick and carrot, bringing the regional magnates closer to his seat of power and distancing them from theirs’. 29 All the same, whereas Putin’s measures reveal his determination to exert greater control, Moscow only had limited power in the regions.

Streamlining of Political Parties

Putin believed that the excessive number of political parties clogged up the political process and that fewer parties would allow him to facilitate the operation of a more efficient democratic system. Thus, on 25 December 2000, he introduced a proposal designed to streamline political parties by eliminating many of the smaller groups. Putin’s legislation would require parties to have 10,000 members nationwide and a hundred or more in half of the country’s 89 regions. The parties would have to field candidates for a variety of offices or risk elimination. Moreover, they would have to secure at least 3 per cent of the parliamentary vote to qualify for funding. The Duma approved a slightly revised version of the proposal on 24 May 2001, with the most important change being the increase of the threshold from 3 to 5 per cent. However, as Harley Balzer argues, the law failed to reduce the number of parties competing in Russian elections. He explains that in June 2003, the number of officially registered parties was 51, with 40 having fulfilled the requirement of



registration. In 2007, the Duma increased the threshold to 7 per cent and introduced financing provisions that made it difficult to establish new parties.

The Oligarchy and the Media

The term ‘oligarch’ refers to the 15 or 20 very wealthy entrepreneurs who took advantage of Yeltsin’s privatisation campaign in relation to several hundred state-owned companies. Whereas Yeltsin’s objective was to eliminate the institutions of the planned economy, he created a small class of oligarchs who had been quick to purchase factories and companies, strip the enterprises of their capital, dump goods on the world market and then move about $5 billion offshore. The Russian economy took a nosedive. When Putin assumed power his overriding objective was to stop the flight of capital to the west and bring a degree of rationality to the system. The oligarchs opposed Putin’s goal of centralisation as they assumed this would entail increased state presence in the economy, which would compromise their interests. Putin did not want to increase state influence in economic activity but he did wish to curb the influence of the oligarchs. His solution was straightforward: in June 2000, Vladimir Gusinsky, owner of Russia’s largest television network (NTV), the ‘Ekho Moskvy’ radio station and the Segodnia newspaper, was arrested for misappropriating $10 million. His media outlets had been critical of Putin, so Gusinsky’s arrest appeared to be an effort to muzzle the press, as other television stations were state owned. In October 2000, Boris Berezovsky was forced to surrender control of the major Russian First television channel. In Berezovsky’s case, Putin claimed that he had no knowledge of the arrest, though his familiarity with the legal technicalities of the case suggested otherwise. 30 On 29 January 2001, at a meeting with NTV journalists, Putin refused to cancel the prosecutor’s effort to investigate



the station, thereby demonstrating his determination to curb what he referred to as media excesses. Subsequently, the government, through the energy giant Gazprom (36 per cent of which was owned by the state), dismantled NTV as well as Media Most, the largest private Russian holding company, controlling NTV and Gusinsky’s other media outlets. The official explanations for these incidents were economic; however, it would be naive to think that this was not an attack on the independent media. 31 As early as October 2000, Putin expressed his advocacy of limited press by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s statement that where there is freedom of the press, there is no freedom for anyone. Presidential assistant Sergey Yastrzhembskiy explained Putin’s perception of the media at the Urals Federal District Conference on state-media relations in 2002: Two years ago, the state and the media weren’t getting along at all. At the time, what we had was a freedom of speech bacchanalia. The state was weak; and the media, owned by well-known oligarchs, addressed the state in the language of blackmail. After the last presidential election, the situation began to change for the better: the state started to show some political will. Has this harmed the media? I don’t think it has. There is no censorship; media criticism of the state has not decreased, it has only become less hysterical. He added, ‘Of course, there are some problems in relations between the state and media, but such problems are encountered worldwide; the media ought to be in constructive opposition to the state’. 32 What we can discern from this statement is that Putin believed, at that point in Russia’s historical juncture, that some control over the media was required in order to restore stability. On the other hand, the fact that he did not censor



the press suggests that his objective was not to compromise civil rights. On the whole, Putin has been lambasted for placing limits on the media. Nikolai Petrov from the Carnegie Moscow Centre and Henry Hale from the George Washington University contend that the political system that emerged in Russia under Putin is best characterised by the political model of ‘overmanaged democracy’, a hybrid of democracy and authoritarianism. They argue that in Russia the authoritarian elements of ‘overmanaged democracy’ dominate democratic ones. 33

Commitment to a Market Economy

Although the economy was in a shambles, the new president did not show any inclination to change the fundamental economic structures established by his predecessors. Putin’s recruitment of liberals Gref, Illarionov and Kudrin as his economic staff, suggested that he aimed to continue prodding Russia in the direction of a market economy. Shevtsova notes, ‘the presence of these liberals … suggested that he would not permit antimarket overreactions’. 34 The economy Putin inherited was only halfway to a market system; several outstanding issues had to be addressed before a transition could be achieved. For instance, Russia needed a convertible rouble and a restructured banking system. Most importantly, corruption had to be addressed. In his first term, the economy increased by a third, incomes rose, the budget became stable, and pensions and wages were being paid again. However, the country continued to suffer from inflation and unemployment. 35 Despite these setbacks, Putin was committed to developing a balanced Europeanstyle economic model by accelerating growth, removing red tape, achieving wealth distribution across the population and by attracting foreign investment. The president vowed that his immediate priorities were to streamline the bureaucracy,



deregulate the economy, overhaul the banking sector and make the country more competitive. What is significant here is that Putin was not seeking major transformations; instead, he was cautiously reforming the existing economic structure. Even though the economic structure had been in transition for a while, moving from central planning to market organisation of economic activities, Putin managed this transition as smoothly as possible. He did this by moving both forwards and backwards at the same time (ideologically speaking), and in doing so allowing the country to emerge as an actor on the international stage. This differs from the methods of his predecessors, whose ambitious economic programmes, imposed rapidly and from above, created deep tensions that brought the country to a standstill.

Restoring Russia’s Heritage

An important aspect of Putin’s modernisation programme was the emphasis on a revival of Russia’s might and glory. Putin made no secret of the fact that he hoped to see Russia restored to its status as a world power, which explains his advocacy of a strong centralised state inspired by the past. He went so far as to suggest that a powerful state was part of Russia’s genetic code. Under Putin’s leadership, films and television programmes continually drove home the message that Russia was a great nation with a unique destiny. What is interesting is that some of Putin’s ideological advisers believed that Russians spent far too much time being ashamed of their past. For example, a new manual for history teachers in Russian high schools was revised to portray Stalin as ‘the most successful Soviet leader ever’. As for the purges, which killed millions, they were dismissed as a necessary evil. Putin himself said they were not as bad as atrocities perpetrated by other nations: this was all highly controversial – but the fact was that Putin did not negate the country’s past. His vision



was not based on imitation of the west or its rejection: it was based on adaptation combined with a conscious appreciation of the country’s uniqueness, its historical past and future potential. This was very different from the strategies of the past. As we have already discussed to some extent, in his discussions regarding democracy, Putin explained that Russia, given its insufficient experience of democracy, only had a capacity for ‘managed democracy’ at that moment in its developmental history. Gorbachev, on the other hand, believed in the feasibility of full-blown democracy when he introduced glasnost. Putin believed that ‘measured’ administration of democratic liberties would preserve the state’s power and prevent the sort of chaos characteristic of Gorbachev’s years both in office and afterwards. Another example of Putin’s assumption of his country’s uniqueness was his effort to foster a nationally conscious community with his choice of national symbols. In an attempt to evoke a touch of nostalgia, Putin proposed the tsarist double-headed eagle as the symbol on the country’s new seal and Soviet anthem. He also proposed the use of the tri-colour flag (introduced in tsarist Russia and used by the Whites in the Civil War of 1918-20 and in the Second World War), raised by Yeltsin as the Russian flag, and the red victory flag of the Second World War as the official banner of the armed forces. Shevtsova argues, ‘with this combination of symbols representing all the stages of Russian history, Putin proposed to show the ties of time and to give tangible form to Russia’s glorious heritage’. 36 This suggestion was bound to offend many, particularly those who associated the past with the suffering they had endured. However, it also appealed to the portion of society that yearned for a revival of past glories. In the end, the president reached a compromise with the communists, liberals and conservatives. The communists wanted the Soviet



anthem restored and the tri-colour and two-headed eagle scrapped. Liberals and conservatives wanted to keep the prerevolutionary symbols but opposed going back to the national anthem adopted by Stalin. Putin persuaded the parliament to accept the red victory flag of the Second World War for the armed forces, and the Soviet anthem but with new words. As a gesture to the liberals and conservatives, he convinced parliament to adopt the coat of arms of tsarist Russia and the tri-colour tsarist flag. 37 Putin’s appreciation of Russia’s past and its potential was reflected in his approach to international politics. In the words of Herspring and Kipp, ‘Putin takes a balance-ofpower approach to foreign relations, steering between Russian imperialism and Yeltsin’s pro-western tilt’. 38 His foreign policy was both ambitious and pragmatic. His strategy was to give Russia an active global presence within a framework of cooperation and integration with the international community. Russian foreign policy, then, was independent, assertive and at times controversial. However, Putin’s objective was not to revive the imperialist ambitions of the past but to restore Russia’s active and independent role on the world stage.


Under Putin’s two terms, a resurgent Russia acquired a booming economy, a newly assertive foreign policy and a strong sense of state. At the same time Putin was heavily criticised for using authoritarian methods to achieve these results. He has been accused of placing excessive emphasis on patrimonialism in order to legitimise his ‘autocratic’ policies; many Russian liberals complained about ‘Tsar Putin’. Russia’s most controversial novelist, Vladimir Sorokin, stated that ‘Russia is like a block of ice floating back into the sixteenth century ... Again we are living under a centralised government like in the time of Ivan the Terrible. This power vertical, which



Putin keeps talking about, is a completely medieval model for Russia. There is no accountability, no transparency’. 39 Debates such as these are extensive but they are not relevant to the present discussion. The point we want to emphasise here is that Putin’s approach to developing stability and growth in Russia represented a departure from the methods employed by his predecessors. Unlike the tsars and unlike Gorbachev, Putin did not ‘import’ from the west; and unlike Lenin and Stalin, he did not dismantle institutions or replace them with an anti-western model. 40 All of this suggests that under Putin, Russia moved away from the developmental models of the past, to a more cautious and genuine modernisation. Khatami’s Reform Movement


During Seyyed Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, between 1997 and 2005, Iran saw evolutionary social changes that unfolded at a measured pace; however, this process neither imitated the west nor followed a rigid interpretation of the Islamic past. 41 The distinctiveness of Khatami’s path to reform lay in his advocacy of gradual institutional reform within the existing template of a Shi’a republic. As we saw under Putin’s leadership, change under Khatami was characterised by simultaneous engagement with the future as well as the past, and by concentration on the indigenous rather than the imported. Change was to come about not as the product of a classical modernisation or revolution from above, but was rather to be derived from below, specifically, from a popular mandate, civil society, market forces and society’s response to globalisation. Thus ‘Khatami’s way’ was to transcend the sharp turns and revolutionary breaks that have characterised so much of Iranian history.



It was with the legacy of ‘modernisation from above’ and ‘theocratisation’ that Khatami was forced to come to terms. In the mid-1990s, the Islamic Republic of Iran was in a state of flux; during the process of assuming its final shape, it went through a period when it needed meaningful public input to guide its course. The country’s population, across the board, was rapidly undergoing change, largely in response to the pressures of urbanisation, migration, economic integration, globalisation, cultural exchange and diffusion, and the technological revolution that was sweeping the world. When Khatami suddenly appeared on the scene in 1997, with his surprise landslide victory with over 70 per cent of the vote, it symbolised the desire for gradual change, evolution and development of the existing system in line with changing dynamics, rather than a radical shake-up of the system, or an uprooting revolution. In this manner, Khatami’s political project represented a departure from earlier trends in Iran, regardless of whether or not it resulted in profound change. The task Khatami had set for himself was not an easy one. Indeed, before Khatami, no one in the Islamic Republic of Iran had attempted to introduce sweeping reform. Although the reform programme never bore full fruit, it energised Iran’s debates, its administration, economy and international relations. As such, we will focus here on Khatami’s vision rather than on his specific policies or programme. Khatami had a distinct vision as far as goal definition and policy orientation were concerned; however, he fell short of producing a structured programme for change based on a well-defined policy strategy and course of action. All the same, it is crucial to explore this vision because it represents a conceptual and methodological shift in the history of development in Iran: a shift of a kind we also witnessed under during the presidency of his Russian counterpart, Putin.



Islamic-Iranian Modernity

Khatami, one of the most enigmatic of modern leaders, was an important figure representing a powerful social movement in Iran. Khatami’s reform movement represented a pragmatic and cautious break from the past in favour of a futureorientated utopia. His reforms symbolised an effort to usher in an era of socio-political transformation predicated on a political platform that focussed on consolidating the rule of law, encouraging political and intellectual discourse, stimulating civic activism and enhancing social liberties. Integral to this new path was Khatami’s advocacy of an inclusive global discourse through his Dialogue Amongst Civilisations thesis, a kind of antidote to Samuel Huntington’s more confrontational ‘clash of civilisations’ hypothesis. Khatami’s thesis, which advocated tolerance, peace and understanding, set the tone for Iran’s rapprochement with the international community and the internationalisation of the economy. At the same time, Khatami’s blueprint for change was guided by the overarching goal of preserving IranianIslamic culture and the gains of the 1979 revolution. Throughout his campaign, Khatami underscored that reforms would not clash with Islamic principles, frequently referring to a broader interpretation of Islamic texts in order to adapt Islamic principles to the exigencies of the day. In Khatami’s Iran, modernity did not have a western core. Whilst transformation entailed the development of norms and practices typical of western societies, it was not an attempt to westernise. Under Khatami, the task of development involved the enhancement and enrichment of existing democratic practices and procedures. Iran’s political structure is an increasingly complex web of theocratic and democratic structures. Khatami attempted to sort out this tangled web by enhancing the pillars of civil society and the rule of law, whilst leaving the theocratic structure of the organisation intact.



Khatami emphasised the importance of these factors in an interview, by explicitly claiming that modernity had a different starting point in Iran, and thus suggesting it would have also a different outcome from that of the west. He questioned the genealogy of modernity and argued against the assumption that it was necessary to pinpoint the origins of this social process. Modernity’s trajectories are multiple, he held, with different social and moral effects. He emphasised that modernity is a social construct that produces its own reality. 42 In many ways, Khatami decentred the unilinear path of modernity by proposing a more historically sophisticated trajectory of social development. The important aspect here was that Khatami and the reformist camp did not wish to do away with the Islamic Republic, but to make it more progressive and in tune with the needs of the people. As we mentioned, Khatami was a staunch supporter of the principles of the revolution, which he regarded as ‘a great historical transformation’. 43 In Khatami’s view, the challenge facing Iran was to overcome the crisis that accompanies the birth of a ‘new civilisation’. 44 He perceived civilisation to be ‘an answer to the curiosity of humans who never stop questioning their world’. 45 Indeed, he saw it as emerging to address these perpetually evolving questions and needs: ‘civilisations change and there is no such thing as an ultimate and eternal civilisation … with each question that is answered and each need that is fulfilled, humans are confronted with new questions and needs’. 46 In fact, Khatami was unrestrained in his criticism of western politics, which, he argued, aimed ‘to govern all corners of the world and to dominate the theory and practice of international relations’. 47 However, he made a distinction between the west’s politics and western civilisation as a whole. He argued that whilst western civilisation had important weaknesses, it also had important strengths. According to Khatami, the west advocated the ideals of liberty and



freedom, which were ‘the most cherished values for humanity in all ages’. 48 He emphasised that the west had castigated the notion of authoritarian rule and ‘freed humans from the shackles of many oppressive traditions’. 49 In his book, Mardom Salari (‘Popular Government’), Khatami underscored the importance of political pluralism, insisting that the destiny of the Muslim people of Iran should lie in their own hands. He advanced the notion of a ‘religious democracy’, explaining that Islamic concepts such as consultation, consensus, equality and allegiance reinforced the notion of political participation and the rule of law. In his book, Khatami gives priority to freedom, civil society and the rule of law. 50 Whereas he did not describe freedom as antireligious, he nevertheless emphasised that institutions that failed to appreciate the importance of freedom were doomed. However, Khatami was critical of Iranians who identified themselves as ‘secular intellectuals’, asserting that their movement was ‘superficial and cut off from the people’ who actually wanted a place for religion in their lives. 51 On the other hand, he was also critical of the ‘parochialism and repressive visions of dogmatic believers’. 52 Moreover, he contended that most religious laws should be open to evaluation in accordance with the needs of the particular civilisation. 53 Khatami defended his criticism of those who would impose censorship as a solution to divergent viewpoints and interpretations by citing Khomeini: In Islamic government there should always be room for revision. Our revolutionary system demands that various, even opposing viewpoints be allowed to surface. No one has the right to this. It is crucial that Islamic government can make policies that benefit Muslims. Unity in method and practice is essential. It is here that traditional leadership prevalent in our seminaries will not suffice. 54



It is important to realise that Khatami was cut from the same cloth as the ruling Islamic establishment. Khatami’s family ties, his Islamic background and training, his ideological inclinations, his government service, and his involvement in the 1979 revolution were all credentials and commitments that led many to believe he was no different from the more hard-line, conservative elements of society. Khatami was in fact a solid clerical establishment figure, evidenced by the simple fact that he was approved by the ultra-conservative Guardian Council and sworn in by the supreme leader. His presidential ambition was not to bring an end to the Islamic regime but to save it by cultivating its democratic aspects. However, Khatami diverged from the traditional establishment by espousing more progressive views; namely, the need for a civilisational upgrade in line with domestic demands and the external pressures of globalisation, economic internationalisation and the information age. Nevertheless, the fact that he was approved by the highest echelons of the ruling establishment is encouraging because it suggests that even the most conservative elements of the Iranian polity recognised the need for change. Whether they were wholly prepared for, or could even imagine, the full impact of those changes is another matter entirely. The plain fact is that at a crucial juncture in Iran’s history the ruling establishment accepted that it was time for reform and development of existing insititutions, practices and norms.

Return to Normalcy

From state-sponsored westernisation to the creation of a nonwestern modernity in the form of an Islamic theocracy, Iran’s experiments with socio-economic transformation reveal a perplexing and often contradictory encounter with modernity. As we have seen, during these projects, society and state were thrust into a purposive, ideological, state-driven



transformation. Under the ancien régime, the rapid and forced implementation of a peculiar brand of ‘modernisation without modernity’ was witnessed. Following the Iranian revolution, the first Islamic republic was established, founded on a new and unique code of law. In retrospect, these modernisation projects were extraordinary experiments, without historical precedent. Khatami tried to move Iranian politics beyond these tumultuous times towards a regular politics. His reform movement represented the explicit project of a ‘return to normalcy’. 55 In the context of Khatami’s reform campaign, the politics of normalcy reflected the state of a country that had endured years of turbulent social and revolutionary change. The attempt to link up with the past, to restore the torn fabric of society, to draw on intellectual traditions and the cultural and religious values of the past, all reflected this posttraumatic pursuit of a usable past as the grounding for contemporary Iran. Khatami’s pragmatic approach was rooted in an attempt to base Iran’s politics in the repudiation of revolutionary politics. However, Khatami embraced the contributions of these extraordinary times, and he pushed for change through simultaneous engagement with the future as well as the past. As such, his movement placed great importance on the defining features of modernising societies (specifically, democratic practices and procedures) – features that were overlooked by both Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah during their westernisation campaigns. 56 At the same time, Khatami was committed to reform and modernisation; however, he did not wish to alter the fundamental theocratic structure of the Islamic republic, and his allegiance to the revolutionary ideals established by the leader of the 1979 revolution, Khomeini, was indisputable. Khatami made this position clear after becoming president. Addressing a gathering at Khomeini’s grave, he made the following statement: ‘We declare to the world that we will



continue to tread along Imam Khomeini’s path … We will persevere to do so’. 57 On the eve of the May 1997 presidential elections, Khatami declared, ‘Imam Khomeini’s notion of velayat-e faqih is the main pillar of the Islamic Republic. All citizens of the Islamic Republic have a practical commitment to velayat-e faqih. This means that all those who live under this system must abide by this principle and regulate their conduct within the framework of the constitution’. 58 As such, any reform initiative was to take place strictly within the framework of the post-1979 Islamic theocracy.

Institutional Barriers

Khatami’s small yet significant successes during his eight-year presidency were largely overshadowed by an institutional gridlock that impeded many of his efforts to implement change. Between 1997 and 2005, reform efforts were stifled amidst intra-elite wrangling between conservative hardliners, who dominated the traditional economic and cultural sources of power, and the reform-orientated elements of society. Khatami failed to alter, or to manoeuvre around, the political structure or to reconcile the political rifts that impeded his programme for change. This is one way of assessing his political record; the other is less critical: a political lightweight, Khatami espoused a vision that was far too ambitious or unrealistic, considering the constraints of the political office he held. All the same, burdened by a popular mandate demanding reform and with raised expectations, Khatami was accused of failing to live up to his campaign pledges. His second term continued to be marred by confrontation between the two camps, leading many of his supporters to become disillusioned. It is essential to keep in mind that the Khatami experiment, taken as a phenomenon, an institution or a movement, should not be measured against the standards of fully burgeoned western, secular democracies. Rather, both Khatami’s



accomplishments and shortcomings must be judged according to the standards of the Islamic Republic of Iran – that is, in the context of a post-revolutionary and post-war society. Iran is a country whose geopolitical assets have been both a curse and a blessing. A country without strategic partners, Iran since the revolution has had to deal with the aftermath of a long and bloody Iraqi-imposed war (1981-9), diplomatic isolation and threats of containment and destabilisation. All of these factors served to harden the country’s worldview by instilling in it a sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Furthermore, the Iranian revolution had produced a unique political system – a democratic theocracy. With no precedent in modern history, the Iranian political system was, and is, perpetually evolving. During this process of evolution, adaptation and change, the country has had to grapple with a host of day-to-day domestic socio-political issues, including economic challenges and demographic changes, as well as the need to function and integrate on a global level. It is important to recognise that Khatami attempted to implement his reform agenda in this particular context. Thus any objective analysis of the Khatami era needs to factor in the peculiarities of the country, as well as its historical setting, in order to provide a balanced picture of both the strengths and weaknesses of the reform project. Conclusion Very much like Putin, Khatami’s vision for reform hinged on the belief that the developmental imagery and convictions of the past had been exhausted. This reformer-president did not seek to westernise, ‘modernise from above’ or attempt to construct an ‘alternative modernity’. Rather, he departed from earlier models by advocating a path that is characterised here as ‘modernisation from below’. This blueprint for change represented a break from the trajectories of the past and a shift towards a homespun variety of modernity cultivated



‘from below’. Modernisation from below offered Iran a fresh path to a novel conception of modernity – what may be considered a ‘third way’ to a post-modernity. Khatami’s proposed project for change represented an emergent paradigm that neither aspired to assimilate, nor distinguish itself from, the institutional designs of the west. In other words, the system was not hostile to western conventions, but it did not slavishly imitate them either. Here the roots of a more indigenous, popular adaptation to modernity can be identified. This chapter has made the case that both Putin and Khatami are amongst a generation of non-western leaders who marked a shift from top-down modernisation to one that was attentive to the realm ‘below’. Neither leader was truly ‘transformational’ to use Archie Brown’s characterisation of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. It is perhaps more accurate to describe them as ‘modernisers from below’.


Reflections on the Russian and Iranian Modernisation Experiments

Modernisation From Above

The conceptual and theoretical orientations that Russia and Iran would follow in their socio-economic and political development has bedevilled the leaderships of both countries. In the imperial days, as far back as Peter the Great and Reza Shah, we identified the beginnings of ‘catch-up’ modernisation, where both autocrats struggled to achieve military and industrial parity with advanced western nations. Inspired by European cultural, social, administrative and military progress, Peter the Great transformed Russia from an almost medieval backwater into one of the world’s great military and naval powers by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Politically, however, Peter’s orientation represented a departure from western standards. Popular participation was actively discouraged and repression remained a permanent fixture of the regime. Like his Russian counterpart, Reza Shah’s modernisation drive was based on European-style development of industry, infrastructure, the military and administration. Reza Shah established a pattern of forced modernisation that ruptured evolutionary patterns of development in the country. Iran was



thrown back into authoritarianism, stunting the growth and development of inclusive government and popular representation. The shah’s ambivalent modernisation lacked the spirit that characterises western progressive institutions and discourse, a spirit that derives from political openness and participation. The features of Peter the Great and Reza Shah’s modernising movements persisted under Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza. Modernisation was fast paced, state directed and increasingly limited in terms of projecting the outward manifestations of modernity. The impetus for modernisation derived from great power aspirations, and for this task, the advanced western nations represented a source of emulation. An important feature of this brand of modernisation was political archaisation. In the context of rapid industrialisation initiated by Sergei Witte, Tsar Nicholas II continued to claim absolute power and to support the preservation of the autocracy. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mohammad Reza Shah embarked on a similar programme of state-sponsored westernisation, based on the conviction that industrial and cultural proximity with the west would clear the way for Iran’s passage to modernity. However, Mohammad Reza was reluctant to foster civil society or to promote pluralism. His leadership was characterised by authoritarianism, repression and increasing intolerance of dissent. Both the Romanov tsars and the Pahlavi shahs adopted a brand of westernisation that led to the emergence of the pattern of ‘modernisation without modernity’. Whilst both countries aspired to converge with the west by meeting its material and technological achievements, they ended up diverging by retaining the autocratic foundations of the ancien régimes. The contradictions of this mode of development resulted in socio-political discontent and political unrest, which in the presence of ideological channels and fateful



‘sparks’ culminated in revolution. The dilemma over orientation ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Romanov and Pahlavi dynasties. The post-revolutionary leadership, on the other hand, showed no ambivalence in determining the future course of development. The Bolsheviks patently rejected the western capitalist model and instead introduced what appeared to be its antithesis: state socialism. Similarly, in post-revolutionary Iran, Khomeini inaugurated a political system that that represented a blend of divine rule, theocracy and democracy, modelled on a theoretical construct that the west had never seen before. This socio-political form represented the antithesis of the shah’s developmental model. Over the years, the forces of globalisation, economic integration and the information age required that these ‘alternative modernities’ contemplate change. In the case of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev attempted to renovate the socialist structure through partial marketisation and partial democratisation. The result was a fundamentally unchanged political system, a partially democratised society and a hybrid socialist/capitalist economy. Like the tsars, Gorbachev’s transformation entailed both convergence and divergence with the west. And like the tsars, Gorbachev was mistaken to believe that such an inconsistency would not generate serious social conflict. In the case of Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, ambivalent modernisation contributed to national disintegration.

Civilisational Dilemmas

In a wider context, each of these experiments with modernisation represent the leadership’s failure to adapt diverse, traditional values and institutions to the developmental paradigm adopted from the west. On one hand, autocratic modernisation represented a reaction to, and repudiation of, backwardness and an effort to remedy the



condition through westernisation; on the other, it was a tribute to backwardness through the retention of traditional structures. Paradoxically, the objective was to adopt those modern traits that would fortify the state and thereby reinforce certain non-modern institutions. Similarly, in the immediate post-revolutionary scenario, the inclination was towards constructing a characteristically non-western modernity. We have argued that there are a number of cultural and civilisational explanations for Russia and Iran’s failure or reluctance to adopt western institutions. In Russia’s case, the inability of Russian leaders to establish the groundwork for a viable modern society can be traced to a ‘cultural trap’. As we discussed earlier, Russian political culture is premised on a unique sense of destiny, itself premised on the ‘Russian idea’ – the notion that Russia can forge a superior path to the modern world through an emphasis on the traditional institutions and spiritual values that differentiate it from the west. The question of political culture has perpetuated the fundamental dilemma of Russian identity, that is, the leadership’s twin efforts, first, to shape a polity felt to be more in tune with the country’s own character by differentiating itself from dominant western models; and, second, to reap those immediate benefits enjoyed by more developed European societies by dedifferentiating from Europe. Iran’s modernisation dilemma can be attributed to the country’s nationalist tendencies. Challenges to Iran’s cultural fabric and its territorial integrity, combined with an appreciation of the country’s glorious past and the unifying features of the Iranian nation, have made nationalism a powerful aspect of its political culture. Proponents of European culture believed that westernisation was a shorthand method by which Persia/Iran could dissociate from its Arab past and jump-start its cultural evolution. Thus, westernisation had less to do with structural or cultural



convergence with the west and more to do with recovery of Persian culture, identity, history and a sense of nationhood. Another important civilisational explanation for Iran’s reluctance to merge with the west culturally and socially has religious roots. Twelver Shi’a, the branch of Islam that has been Iran’s official religion since 1501, holds that the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, who disappeared in 873 AD and is thought to be not really deceased but in hiding, will one day return to bring justice to the world. 1 The coming of a messiah and the advent of the Last Days, in which a sudden transformation of society would occur, have been an important set of themes in early modern and modern Shi’a Islam, and these have been remarkably intertwined with Iranian rebellions, revolutions and state formation. The history of Shi’ism has been rife with millennialist movements, many of which had a major impact on society and state. 2 This apocalyptic/messianic consciousness is also a major feature of Russian orthodoxy and an element of the ‘Russian soul’. Russia and Iran share this tradition of an apocalyptic religion and political messianism and, thus, both have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the west. They consider themselves spiritually more advanced than the west and therefore maintain ‘distance’ from the west. However, whilst they feel spiritually more advanced, they feel competitive in terms of material power, namely, security, comfort, education and technology. Thus the west represents both an anti-model (a threat) and a model. Modernisation From Above to Modernisation from Below We have made the case here that there has been a discernible evolution in Russia and Iran’s developmental histories. Under Putin and Khatami we witnessed the emergence of ‘modernisation from below’, a developmental path that is diametrically opposed to ‘modernisation from above’. When he came into office, Putin faced the considerable task of



creating an economically and politically viable Russia. He was dealing with a society in transition, shifting towards democratisation and marketisation – core features of modern, western societies. He managed to create a stable polity, however, using Russian/Soviet methods and standards as a reference point. Amongst his more ‘traditional’ objectives were restoration of a strong centralised state, a more controlled media, revival of past symbols and imagery, and appreciation of historical (even Soviet) achievements. Unlike the tsars and Gorbachev, he did not ‘graft and transplant’ from the west, rather he reformed existing political and economic structures according to Russia’s ‘genetic code’. Putin introduced a very different conceptualisation of social change, alongside the various types of social and economic revolutions and anti-revolutions. His reforms cannot be characterised as anti-western, but more integrative: adapting historical, national and cultural experience to western-oriented institutions and norms (market economy and democracy). Russian specialists have grappled with all this in an attempt to typologise Putin’s regime. The question is: what sort of system emerged in Russia under Putin, and what can this framework be called? Many ‘transitologists’ use adjectives like ‘illiberal’ or ‘managed’ to characterise Russian democracy. Here, we advance the idea of ‘modernisation from below’ as an analytical model to explain the nature of Putin’s regime, his leadership and his vision of a modern Russia. Of course, this model is best understood in the context of successive modernisation movements along a broad historical continuum. In Iran’s case, it was Khatami who became the vanguard of Iran’s experiment of ‘modernisation from below’ – a path that aimed to respond to calls for western-inspired reform within the structure of the Islamic republic. The rationale was not to import a wholesale vision of western modernity. Instead, it involved a gradual, paced response to calls for reform from



below. During Khatami’s presidency an emergent paradigm can be identified that neither aspired to assimilate, nor distinguish itself from, the institutional designs of the west. It is interesting to note that whilst Marx maintained that revolution was the only method of basic social transformation, Khatami believed that substantive change could be achieved by peaceful social action from below. Indeed, the movement for Islamic reform found its roots in the forces ‘from below’, that is, in the demands of the public as expressed in the ballot box, through the media, in activism in NGOs and in grass-roots organisations. Khatami, then, inaugurated a new and exciting conceptual path to an Islamic modernity.

Dialectic Development

As we have emphasised throughout, Putin and Khatami did not westernise, ‘modernise from above’, or attempt to construct alternative modernities. Instead, they departed from these earlier models by advocating a path characterised here as ‘modernisation from below’. This blueprint for change represents a break from the trajectories of the past and a shift towards a homespun variety of modernity cultivated ‘from below’. In the dialectic of development, Putin and Khatami finally reached the ‘synthesis’ terminus where the paradox of modernisation was resolved – at least theoretically and conceptually – in the form of ‘modernisation from below’. Russian and Iranian developmental history reflects a Hegelian dialectical progression. Going back to the tripartite model we introduced in the first chapter, the ‘thesis’ involves the process of ‘modernisation from above’ with the goal of rapid, state-sponsored economic development, as exemplified by Nicholas II and Mohammad Reza Shah’s modernisation movements. This developmental experiment, owing to its inherent contradictions, resulted in widespread social conflict or its ‘antithesis’, ‘revolution from below’ – specifically the



1917 Russian Revolution and the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The tension between the thesis and the antithesis resulted in a ‘synthesis’, or ‘modernisation from below’, a trend we identified as occurring under Putin and Khatami. Cognisant of the need for social and economic progress and wary of the dangers associated with imported modernisation, state and society concentrated on renewal of existing structures. Unlike ‘modernisation from above’, the impetus for reform derived from below (civil society and market forces). Russian and Iranian modernisation as a sociological phenomenon has matured and evolved as a result of the pushes and pulls of historical forces. From the inadequacies associated with westernisation, to the ideological rejection of Eurocentric norms, to the continuous vacillation between the retention of traditional institutions and the adoption of ‘modern’ alternatives, Russia and Iran’s road to modernity has been agonising. However, by standing back and looking at successive Russian and Iranian movements as part of a historical totality, it appears that the mammoth paradox of modernisation is finally resolved in the form of the synthesis discussed here: ‘modernisation from below’.


Iran and Russia are two neighbouring countries with similar ‘rise and fall’ histories. Both countries, whilst ideologically different, have pursued similar political challenges on their respective developmental paths. Many thought-provoking and stimulating themes and subjects emerge in the study of these two countries. Comparatively speaking, both countries share an important similarity: their relationship with the east and the west. Their domestic experiences are highly comparative considering their unique political ideologies, their encounter with western civilisation, and the fact that both countries experienced uprooting social revolutions. Both countries attempted to chart a non-western path to modern society – a path neither ‘European’ nor ‘Asian’. In doing so, both countries managed to reach a point where they challenged the west economically, culturally and politically; and despite many ups and downs, both countries remained globally competitive for decades. Three important experiences shaped the political character of both countries and are essential to consider in this comparative study: 1. The Russian Communist Revolution in 1917; 2. The Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979; and,



3. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. These three ‘moments’ in world history altered the geopolitical landscape and recast international political narratives. Likewise, we must take into account a number of variables: imperial history, autocracy/despotism and the struggle to modernise by striking a balance between tradition and modernity. We must also take into account periods of economic and social crisis in the post-revolutionary settings: in particular, the challenge of constructing post-revolutionary state and society through institutional reform. The Russian and Iranian experiences over the past two centuries have elaborated a highly comparative framework for analysis. Numerous theories and viewpoints have been advanced by experts, laymen, domestic observers and foreign analysts. Although the perspectives vary widely, they address a fundamental question: what was unique about the nature of political transformation in Russia and Iran? By concentrating on a single variable or even multiple factors, the general conclusion is that both countries were motivated by specific political goals, including modernisation and development, the steady nurturing of democracy and justice, and the cultivation of independence from foreign encroachment. These goals tempered the nature of the political landscape in both countries over the past two centuries. From an historical point of view, Russia experienced extensive transformation from the inception of the Russian state in the sixteenth century under Ivan the Terrible, up to the 1917 revolution. Ivan oversaw numerous changes in the transition from a medieval nation-state to an empire and emerging regional power, and became the first tsar of a new and powerful nation. Territorial expansion sharpened Russia’s awareness of its separation from much of the rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial stages of



expansion had occurred. Successive regimes of the nineteenth century responded to such pressures with a combination of half-hearted reform and repression. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but its abolition was achieved on terms unfavourable to the peasants and served to increase revolutionary pressures. Between the abolition of serfdom and the beginning of World War I in 1914, the Stolypin reforms, the constitution of 1906 and the State Duma introduced notable changes to the economy and politics of Russia. However, the tsars remained unwilling to relinquish autocratic rule or to share their power. The Russian Revolution in 1917 was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war weariness and discontent with the autocratic system of government. It first brought a coalition of liberals and moderate socialists to power, but their flawed policies led to seizure of power by the Communist Bolsheviks. Later in history, in the 1980s, the Soviet Union was subject to vast transformation and reform under Mikhail Gorbachev who initiated restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system. However, the process arguably exacerbated already existing social and economic tensions within the Soviet Union, and no doubt helped to further nationalism and social fragmentation amongst the constituent republics. Russian and Soviet history is thus replete with struggle, conflict, change and transformation. There have been episodes of progress and development that have occurred in fits and spurts, but in the long run, traditions of tsarist autocracy and patrimonialism have dominated Russia’s political culture for centuries. Likewise, by the end of the nineteenth century and in the beginning of the twentieth century, Persia/Iran experienced repeated episodes of change and transformation. The Persian Constitutional Revolution that took place between 1905 and 1911 opened the way for cataclysmic change, heralding the



modern era. The victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was seen as a natural continuation of the Constitutional Revolution. The revolution had wide-reaching national and regional consequences. From a domestic perspective, the cultural, social, economic and political backdrop witnessed great change. From an international angle, the country adopted the ‘neither east nor west’ ideology. The country was separated from the western camp, and instead joined the Non-Aligned Movement. Post-revolutionary Iran saw the emergence of a new foreign policy orientation that clashed with the United States. The geopolitical landscape of the region quickly changed as did international political debates and discourse. The present book is an effort to glean insights from the history of reform and socio-political change in Russia and Iran over the past century. It presents an erudite comparative history of the nature of transformation and modernisation in both countries. The author attempts to assess the multifaceted challenge of ‘modernity’ in Russia and Iran by providing an account of the way in which various political personalities negotiated with the challenge of modernisation. In general, a pattern emerges in the various encounters with modernity and modernisation in both Russia and Iran. At different intervals in their respective histories, the objective of reform was either to become more like the west or to become less like the west in social, economic and political composition. What is clear is that there were political forces that either favoured or repudiated the western model of economic and political development. From the author’s point of view, the western-oriented campaigns of development, launched ‘from above’ generated widespread social dislocation and economic discontent. Ultimately, as a result, the author argues, both countries experienced revolutionary unrest. Likewise, she asserts that the post-revolutionary settings in Russia and Iran



are also comparable: both countries were restructured according to political ideologies that differed from the west. It is important to note that whereas both countries charted their distinct paths towards modernity, they developed at a speed comparable to western nations. This can be attributed to geopolitical presence, energy resources, vital raw materials and wide-reaching political influence. However, consciously or unconsciously, both countries were affected by western material, cultural and political trends. Russia and Iran are both rich in culture and possess strong indigenous roots. In Russia, in the ninth and tenth centuries, government took shape alongside a set of firmly rooted local customs and traditions. In the fifteenth century, Russia succeeded Rome and Byzantium Rome as the ultimate centre of true Christianity and of the Roman Empire. The idea that Moscow was the legitimate centre of Christianity bestowed a scared authority on the tsar and fostered the view that Russia had a messianic mission. Russian religious and political philosopher Nikolai Berdaev advanced the idea that Russia’s special messianic mission formed the core of its political fate, and separated it from the west. Other likeminded Slavophiles were convinced that Russia’s destiny was superior by virtue of its unique religious tradition. Slavophiles condemned imported ideas and institutions as alien to the Russian people and called for the revival of Russia’s old ways of social and state life. Westernisers, on the other hand, saw western orientation as the key to Russian development. In Iran, monotheism, messianism, justice and tolerance were principles that emerged from Islam and ancient Persian heritage. Throughout Iran’s history, religious tradition stood firmly alongside the institution of monarchy. However, new political, social, material and cultural traditions were emerging and both religious and monarchic institutions had to deal with the emergence of democracy, civil society, the rule of law and humanitarianism, as well as economic development, material



comfort and military power. Nevertheless, both Russia and Iran needed to reap the benefits of rival cultures, whilst adhering to indigenous norms, practices and traditions. A balance was required in order to sustain local traditions and values. Clearly, the history of Russian and Iranian development is replete with similarities: both countries had to deal with the challenge of modernisation, reform and revolution, whilst maintaining their distinctiveness. This authoritative comparative analysis can help scholars understand the complexity of political transformation in Russia and Iran. Thus, Ghoncheh Tazmini’s scholarly effort in this field is worthy of much praise and recognition. This masterly survey gives scholars, policy-makers and decision-makers in both countries the opportunity to gain a more nuanced view of the troubled path to modernity. This book can be a great asset for scholars, experts and general readers who have an interest in Russian and Iranian political history. Dr. Mahmoud Vaezi Deputy of Foreign Policy and International Relations Centre for Strategic Research, Tehran


All URLs are correct at the time of writing Chapter I 1

Tim McDaniel, The Agony of the Russian Idea (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1996). 2 J. Carter, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1977 (Washington, GPO, 1978), pp. 2221–2. 3 Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East (London, I.B.Tauris, 1996), p. 56. 4 Theodore von Laue, ‘A Secret Memorandum of Sergei Witte on the Industrialisation of Imperial Russia’, Journal of Modern History 26/1, 1954, p. 66. 5 Abraham Yarmolinsky (ed. & trans.), The Memoirs of Count Witte (NY, Doubleday Page, 1921), p. 59. 6 The expenditures in the Five-year Development Plan ran to over $100 billion more than the recommended estimates. 7 Robert Graham, The Illusion of Power (London, Croom Helm, 1978), p. 78. 8 Arthur E. Adams (ed.), Imperial Russia After 1861 (Boston, Heath and Company, 1965), p. x. 9 Homa Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudomodernism, 1926–1979 (NY, New York University Press, 1981), p. 247. 10 Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, ‘The Evolving Polemic of Iranian Nationalism’, in Nikkie Keddie & Rudi Matthee (eds), Iran and the Surrounding World: Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics (University of Washington Press, 2002), pp. 163– 4. 11 Hamid Algar, Mirza Malkum Khan: A Study in the History of Iranian Modernism (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973), p. 92.



12 Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (NY, Palgrave, 2001), p. 102. 13 Ulrich Beck et al., Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994), p. 2. 14 15 Alexander Chubarov, Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity (NY, Continuum, 2001), p. 257. 16 Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions (NY, Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 4. 17 Ellen Kay Trimberger, Revolution from Above: Military Bureaucrats and Development in Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Peru (New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Inc., 1978). 18 Samuel Huntington, ‘The Political Modernization of Traditional Monarchies’, Daedalus 59 (Summer 1966), pp. 763–88. Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1968). 19 Tim McDaniel, Autocracy, Modernization and Revolution in Russia and Iran (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1991). 20 Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 24–5. 21 James Davies, ‘The J-Curve of Rising and Declining Expectations: A Case of Some Great Revolutions and a Contained Rebellion’, in Hugh Davies Graham & Ted Robert Gurr (eds), Violence in America (NY, Signet Books, 1969), pp. 671–709. 22 Misagh Parsa, States, Ideologies and Social Revolutions (NY, Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 12. 23 Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, Addison, 1979). 24 Barrington Moore, Jr., Injustice: The Social Basis of Obedience and Revolt (NY, M. E. Sharpe, 1978), pp. 472–3. 25 Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979). 26 Jack A. Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991), p. 111. 27 Samuel Huntington, ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer 1993), p. 22. 28 Ghoncheh Tazmini, Khatami’s Iran (London, I.B.Tauris, 2009), pp. 81–84, 152, 159. 29 Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong: Western Import and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002). 30 Francis Fukuyama, ‘On Writing a Universal History’, in Arthur Melzer et al. (eds), History and the Idea of Progress (NY, Ithaca, 1995), p. 16. 31 Ibid., pp. 16–17. 32 Ibid., p. 17. 33 Edward Said, Orientalism (NY, Vintage Books, 1978), p. 2.



34 Ali Mirsepassi, Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernity (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 17. 35 Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (NY, Penguin, 1988), p. 15. 36 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 174–5.

Chapter II 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime (London, Penguin, 1974), pp. 2–4. W. E. Mosse, An Economic History of Russia, 1856–1914 (London, I.B.Tauris, 1996) pp. 4–6. Alexander Chubarov, The Fragile Empire (NY, Continuum, 1999), p. 3. Firuz Kazemzadeh, Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864–1914: A Study in Imperialism (New Haven, New Haven Press, 1968), p. 32. George Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question (London, Longman, 1892), p. 480. Amin Saikal, The Rise and Fall of the Shah (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 15. Christopher Pass et al., Dictionary of Economics (NY, Harper Collins, 1991), pp. 330, 434. Evgenii V. Anisimov, The Reforms of Peter the Great (London, M. E. Sharpe, 1993), pp. 71–5. Lindsey Hughes, Peter the Great: A Biography (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2002), p. 93. Ibid., p. 119. Basil Dmytryshyn (ed. & trans.), Imperial Russia: A Source Book, 1700–1917 (Houston, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1990), pp. 19–21. Mikhail Bogosloovskii, ‘Peter’s Program of Political Reform’, in Marc Raeff (ed.), Peter the Great Changes Russia (Lexington, Heath and Company, 1972), pp. 53–6. Leo Weiner (ed.), Anthology of Russian Literature (NY, G. J. Putnam’s Sons, 1902/3), pp. 212–4. N. Petro & A. Rubenstein, Russian Foreign Policy (NY, Longman, 1996), p. 3. Constantin de Grunwald, La Russie de Pierre le Grand (Paris, Hachette, 1953), pp. 197–9. James Cracraft, ‘Peter I’, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, vol. 27, 1982, p. 231. Ibid., p. 263. Simon Dixon, The Modernisation of Russia, 1676–1825 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 256. Tim McDaniel, The Agony of the Russian Idea, pp. 10–11. Larisa Zakharova, ‘From Reform to Revolution’, in Theodore Taranovski


21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39 40 41 42


(ed.), Reform in Modern Russian History (NY, Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, 1995), p. 100. Olga Crisp, Studies in the Russian Economy Before 1914 (London, Macmillan Press, 1976), p. 10. C. V. Mironenko, Samoderzhavie i reformi: politicheskaya borba v Rossii v nachale XIX (Moscow, Nauka, 1989), pp. 93–5. Jerome Blum, Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1961), p. 578. Victor L. Tapié, La Russie de 1855 à 1894 (Paris, Tournier & Constans, 1948), p. 12. Gregory Freeze (ed.), ‘Reform and Counter Reform, 1855–1890’, Russia: A History (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 173–4. Tapié, La Russie de 1855 à 1894, p. 21. Fedor A. Petrov, ‘Crowning the Edifice’ in Ben Eklov et al. (eds), Russia’s Great Reforms, 1855–1881 (Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 200–1. Freeze (ed.), Russia: A History, p. 179. Ibid., p. 180. Ibid., pp. 191–2. W. Bruce Lincoln, The Great Reforms: Autocracy, Bureaucracy and the Politics of Change (Illinois, Northern Illinois Press, 1990), p. 172. Peter Waldron, The End of Imperial Russia, 1855–1917 (London, Macmillan Press, 1997), pp. 15–17. Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography, p. 100. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism (NY, Syracuse University Press, 1996), p. 177. Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography, p. 103. In the early twentieth century, western-inspired intellectuals, merchants and members of the clergy began to articulate demands for constitutional reforms in an attempt to subject the power of the monarchy to the rule of law and to encourage mass participation in politics. Abdul-Hadi Hairi, ‘Shaykh Fazl Allah Nuri’s Refutation of the Idea of Constitutionalism’, Middle East Studies 13/3 (1977), pp. 333–4. Ali M. Ansari, Modern Iran Since 1921: The Pahlavis and After (London, Pearson Education, 2003), p. 74. Ansari, Modern Iran Since 1921: The Pahlavis and After, p. 36. A. Banani, The Modernization of Iran, 1921–1941(Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1961), p. 57. Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions (NJ, Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 137. Banani, The Modernization of Iran, 1921–1941, p. 135.



43 M. Reza Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century (London, Adamantine Press, 1989), p. 102. 44 Charles Issawi (ed.), The Economic Development of Iran, 1800–1914 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 376. 45 Ansari, Modern Iran Since 1921: The Pahlavis and After, pp. 45–6. 46 Arthur Millspaugh, Americans in Persia: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century (Washington, Brookings, 1946), p. 26. 47 Nikkie Keddie, The Roots of Revolution (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1981), p. 9–-6. 48 Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, p. 101. 49 George Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1967), p. 10. 50 A. Arasteh, Education and Social Awakening in Iran, 1850–1968 (NY, Lieden, 1969), p. 89. 51 Ansari, Modern Iran, p. 63. Cites A. Wilbur, Reza Shah Pahlavi (NY, Longman, 1975), p. 135. 52 Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, p. 105. 53 Peter Avery, Modern Iran (NY, A. Praeger, 1965), pp. 243–4. 54 Keddie, The Roots of Revolution, p. 103. 55 Mohammad Javad Amid, Agriculture, Poverty and Reform in Iran (London, Routledge, 1990), p. 9–10. 56 Charles Issawi, The Economic History of Iran, 1800–1914 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 378. 57 Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, p. 111. 58 Mohsen M. Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic (Boulder, Westview, 1996), p. 34. 59 Banani, The Modernization of Iran, 1921–1941, p. 147. 60 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-modernism, pp. 125–6. 61 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, pp. 138–9. 62 Shahroukh Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran (NY, Albany, 1980), pp. 32–59. 63 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, pp. 152–3. 64 Millspaugh, Americans in Persia: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century, p. 34.

Chapter III 1 2 3 4

Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy (London, Pimlico, 1996), pp. 41–2. Sergei Pushkarev, Self-government and Freedom in Russia (Boulder, Westview, 1988), p. 34. John Gooding, Rulers and Subjects: Government and People in Russia, 1801–1991 (NY, Arnold, 1996), p. 78. Ibid., p. 51.


5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29


J. N. Westwood, Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History, 1812–1980 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 42. Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime, p. 305. John W. Daly, ‘On the Significance of Emergency Legislation in Late Imperial Russia’, Slavic Review 54/3 (Fall 1995), p. 602. David Moon, The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, 1762–1907 (London, Pearson Education, 2001), p. 118. Figes, A People’s Tragedy, pp. 52–4. Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime, p. 164. Salo W. Baron, The Russian Jew Under the Tsars and Soviets (London, Macmillan, 1964), pp. 17–8. Ibid., p. 47. Freeze (ed.), Russia: A History, p. 198. Baron, The Russian Jew Under the Tsars and Soviets, p. 55. Mosse, An Economic History, 1856–1914, pp. 85–7. Ibid., p. 89. William L. Blackwell, The Industrialization of Russia: An Historical Perspective (Illinois, Harlan Davidson, 1982), p. 32. M. E. Falkus, The Industrialisation of Russia, 1700–1914 (London, Macmillan, 1972), p. 64. Theodore von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia (NY, Atheneum, 1969), p. 26. Alexander Gerschenkron, ‘The Rate of Industrial Growth in Russia Since 1885’, Journal of Economic History (1947), p. 150. Gooding, Rulers and Subjects: Government and People in Russia, 1801–1991, pp. 81– 2. Figes, A People’s Tragedy, p. 42. In 1919, he had opposed the British mandate in Iraq and in 1942 he was arrested by the British and exiled because of his alleged support for Germany. Mary Ann Heiss, ‘Stolen Oil? The International Boycott of Iranian Petroleum and the Government of Mohammad Mossadeq’, The Iranian Journal of International Affairs 12/2 (Summer 2000), p. 275. Yaghoob Azand et al. (eds), Naft dar Doreh Reza Shah: Gharardadeh 1933 (Tehran, Vezarateh Farhang va Ershadeh Islami, 1999), p. 354. George Lenczowski, Russia and the West in Iran: A Study in Big Power Rivalry (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1949), pp. 79–80. Richard Cottam, Nationalism in Iran (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979), p. 204. Mohsen Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution (Boulder, Westview, 1994), pp. 40–1. Gholamreza Nejati, Jonbesh-e Melli Shodan-e Sanat-e Naft (Tehran, Said Now Publications, 1968), pp. 326–7.



30 Mossadeq was subsequently allowed to remain under house arrest in Tehran until his death in 1967. 31 The pact was renamed the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) after Iraq’s withdrawal in 1958. 32 Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, p. 42. 33 Yonah Alexander & Allan Nanes (eds), The United States and Iran: A Documentary History (Frederick, Aletheia Books, 1980), p. 268. 34 Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, pp. 27–9. 35 The First Seven-year Development Plan approved by the parliament in 1949 was deficient in both basic planning methodology and in objectives. Due to the 1951–53 crisis, implementation of the Plan had to be abandoned. 36 Thomas Walton, ‘Economic Development and Revolutionary Upheavals in Iran’, Cambridge Journal of Economics 4 (Sept 1980), p. 276. 37 Ibid., p. 277. 38 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-modernism, 1926–1979, p. 229. 39 Von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia, pp. 60–1. 40 Ibid., p. 56. 41 Von Laue, ‘A Secret Memorandum of Sergei Witte on the Industrialisation of Imperial Russia’, p. 66. 42 Gerschenkron, ‘The Rate of Industrial Growth in Russia Since 1885’, p. 149. 43 Peter I. Lyashchenko, History of the National Economy of Russia (NY, Macmillan, 1949), pp. 554–5. 44 Crisp, Studies in the Russian Economy Before 1914, p. 27. 45 Gershenkron, ‘The Rate of Industrial Growth in Russia Since 1885’, p. 149. 46 Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime, p. 166. 47 Speculation wreaked havoc on the Russian treasury, almost bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy. Speculators would take bonds and stocks to Russia and use them as collateral for loans of paper roubles. After exchanging their roubles for marks in Berlin, speculators would purchase additional securities in Russian banks at reduced prices. Consequently, after several transactions, large sums of roubles would accumulate in Berlin and their price would drop, whereupon the speculators redeemed their securities in Russian banks at a reduced price. 48 Von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia, p. 113. 49 Mosse, An Economic History of Russia, 1856–1914, p. 104. 50 Yarmolinsky, The Memoirs of Count Witte, p. 59. 51 Ibid. 52 Von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialisation of Russia, p. 143. 53 Ibid., p. 144. 54 Von Laue, ‘The State and the Economy’ in William L.Blackwell (ed.), Russian Economic Development from Peter the Great to Stalin (NY, New Viewpoints, 1974), pp. 211–12.



55 Sidney Harcave, Count Sergei Witte and the Twilight of Imperial Russia (NY, M. E. Sharpe, 2004), pp. 67–71. 56 Mosse, An Economic History of Russia, 1856–1914, pp. 106–7. 57 Lyashchenko, History of the National Economy of Russia, p. 534. 58 Crisp, Studies in the Russian Economy Before 1914, p. 26. 59 Von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialisation of Russia, p. 86. 60 Heide W. Whelan, Alexander III and the State Council: Bureaucracy and Counterreform in Late Imperial Russia (NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1982), pp. 40–1. 61 Stephen Marks, Road to Power (NY, Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 131. 62 V. I. Gurko et al., Features and Figures of the Past: Government and Opinion in the Reign of Nicholas II (London, Humphrey Milford, 1939), p. 56. 63 V. I. Lenin, The Development of Capitalism in Russia (Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1956), p. 506. 64 David Christian, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1997), pp. 128–9. 65 Abraham Ascher, The Revolution of 1905 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1988), p. 23. 66 Ibid., p. 24. 67 Until that time, the nobility exercised authority over roughly 45 per cent of the peasants, manned the judicial posts in their districts, supervised the collection of the soul tax and oversaw the recruitment of men for military services. 68 Ascher, The Revolution of 1905, p. 29. 69 Westwood, Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History, 1812–1980, p. 175. 70 Christian, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity p. 132. 71 For example, in France, the bourgeoisie sided with the monarchy to limit the power of the landed aristocracy; it then led the struggle against the crown, which resulted in the latter’s collapse. 72 Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime, p. 191. 73 Pipes explains that Russia had missed an earlier opportunity to create a bourgeoisie on the basis of manufacture and private capitalism when the Muscovite princes seized control of all branches of trade and manufacturing as they centralised their political power. The significance of this is that even later in its history, the state failed to create adequate opportunities for this class. 74 Christian, Imperial Russia and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity, p. 133. 75 Mosse, An Economic History of Russia, 1856–1914, p. 139. 76 Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1962), p. 42. 77 Ascher, The Revolution of 1905, p. 27. 78 A. P. Mendel, Dilemmas of Progress in Tsarist Russia: Legal Marxism and Legal Populism (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1961), p. 55.



79 Ibid., pp. 66–7. 80 Lazar Volin, ‘The Agrarian Situation was Improving’, in Arthur E. Adams (ed.), Imperial Russia After 1861: Peaceful Modernization or Revolution (Boston, Heath & Co, 1965), p. 73. 81 Judith Pallot, Land Reform in Russia (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 8. 82 One desyatina is the equivalent to 2.7 acres. 83 Ibid., pp. 7, 248–9. 84 Cyrus Vakili-Zad, ‘Collision of Consciousness: Modernization and Development in Iran’, Middle Eastern Studies 32/3 (July 1996), p. 141. 85 Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism, pp. 68–9. 86 Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Answer to History (NY, Stein & Day, 1980), p. 84 87 Amir Taheri, The Unknown Life of the Shah (London, Hutchinson, 1991), pp. 174–5. 88 Ibid., p. 176. 89 Ibid. 90 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p. 427. 91 Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran, pp. 28–30. 92 Habib Ladjevardi, 10 November 1982, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Transcript 3, Iranian Oil History Project, Harvard University. 93 Habib Ladjevardi, 1 December 1981, Cannes, France, Tape No. 2, Iranian Oral History Project, Harvard University. 94 Robert Looney, Iran at the Turn of the Century (Massachusetts, DC Heath & Co., 1977), p. 48. 95 Jahangir Amuzegar, Iran: An Economic Profile (Washington, The Middle East Institute, 1977), p. 163. 96 Jahangir Amuzegar & M. Ali Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions (Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1971), p. 49. 97 M. A. Katouzian, ‘The Agrarian Question in Iran’, in Ajit Ghose (ed.), Agrarian Reform in Contemporary Developing Countries (London, Croom Helm, 1983), p. 350. 98 Kamran Mofid, Development Planning in Iran (NJ, Kingston, 1987), p. 57. 99 Jane Carey & Andrew Carey, ‘Iranian Agriculture and its Development, 1952– 1973’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 7 (1976), p. 379. 100 Looney, Iran at the Turn of the Century, p. 52. 101 Amuzegar & Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions, p. 52. 102 Afsaneh Najmabadi, ‘Depoliticisation of a Rentier State: The Case of Pahlavi Iran’, in Hazem Beblawi & Giancomo Luciani (eds), The Rentier State: The Political Economy of Public Finances in the Arab Countries (London, Croom Helm, 1987), p. 215. 103 Theda Skocpol, ‘Rentier State and Shi’a Islam in the Iranian Revolution’, Theory and Society 11/3 (1982), p. 269.



104 Hisham Sharabi, Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society (NY, Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 4. 105 Misagh Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1989), p. 63. 106 Mofid, Development Planning in Iran, pp. 67–8. 107 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p. 431. 108 Mofid, Development Planning in Iran, p. 66. 109 Amuzegar & Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions, pp. 102–4. 110 Mofid, Development Planning in Iran, p. 99. 111 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p. 435. 112 Amuzegar & Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions, pp. 174–6. 113 Robert Looney, A Development Strategy for Iran Through the 1980s (NY, Praeger, 1977), p. 26. 114 Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution, p. 64. 115 M. A. Fekrat, ‘Economic Growth and Development in Iran’, in J. Jacqz (ed.), Iran: Past, Present and Future (NY, Aspen Institute for Human Studies, 1976), p. 77. 116 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-modernism, 1926–1979, p. 297. 117 Mofid, Development Planning in Iran, pp. 129–30. 118 Robert Graham, The Illusion of Power (London, Croom Helm, 1978), p. 87. 119 Firoz Vakil, Iran’s Basic Macro-economic Problems: A Twenty-year Horizon (Tehran, PBO, 1975), p. 10. 120 Mofid, Development Planning in Iran, p. 129. 121 Mohammad Amjad, Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy (London, Greenwood Press, 1989), pp. 107–112. 122 John Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (Oxford, Westview, 1993), p. 313. 123 Keddie, The Roots of Revolution, p. 171. 124 Pahlavi, Answer to History, p. 156. 125 Amjad, Iran; From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, p. 201. 126 Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution, p. 313. 127 Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, p. 200. 128 Katouzian, ‘The Agrarian Question in Iran’, p. 316. 129 Between 1956 and 1966, this class increased in size by over 50 per cent. 130 James A. Bill, ‘Modernization and Reform from Above: The Case of Iran’, Journal of Politics 32 (1970), p. 29. 131 James A. Bill, The Politics of Iran: Groups, Classes and Modernization (Ohio, Charles E. Merrill, 1972), pp. 140–1. 132 Under Reza Shah, this class had opposed land registration, land tax and the


133 134 135 136 137 138 139

140 141 142 143 144 145 146


state monopoly of trade in certain agricultural products. After the 1953 coup, landlords succeeded in reversing the 1947 law, which obliged them to pay 10 per cent of their annual share of the village output to the peasants, and an additional 10 per cent into a rural development fund. Roger M. Savory, ‘Social Development in Iran During the Pahlavi Era’, in George Lenczowski (ed.), Iran Under the Pahlavis (Stanford, Hoover Press, 1978), p. 105. Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution, p. 319. Ann Lambton, The Persian Land Reform (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 347. Eric Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960–80 (Austin, University Press of Texas, 1982), pp. 70–4. Ibid., p. 92. Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution, p. 322. Hasan Tavanayan Fard explains that this was a deliberate strategy on the part to the Shah to force the peasant into the city in order to increase the pool of factory workers for the industrial revolution. Totehayah Ekhtesadiyeh Imperialism dar Iran (Tehran, Chapkhooneh Ahmadi, 1985), p. 31. Katouzian, ‘The Agrarian Question in Iran’, p. 321. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian, in an interview recorded by Habib Ladjevardi, 10 November 1982, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Transcript 3, Iranian Oil History Project, Harvard University. Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960–1980, p. 94. Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution, p. 322. Vakil, Iran’s Basic Macro-economic Problems: A Twenty-year Horizon, p. 10. Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, p. 193. Savory, ‘Social Development in Iran During the Pahlavi Era’, p. 113.

Chapter IV 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Donald W. Treadgold & Herbert E. Ellison (eds), Twentieth Century Russia (Boulder, Westview, 2000), p. 45. Mosse, An Economic History of Russia, 1856–1914, p. 137. Kochan, Russia in Revolution, p. 48. Treadgold & Ellison (eds), Twentieth Century Russia, p. 47. Kochan, Russia in Revolution, p. 52. Christian, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity, p. 135. Treadgold & Ellison (eds), Twentieth Century Russia, p. 50.


8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Christian, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity, p. 141. Kochan, Russia in Revolution, p. 99. Alan Wood, The Origins of the Russian Revolution, 1861–1917, 3rd edn (London, Routledge, 2003), p. 33. Theodore von Laue, ‘Count Witte and the Russian Revolution of 1905’, American Slavic Review 17 (1958), p. 29. Geoffrey A. Hosking, The Russian Constitutional Experiment: Government and Duma, 1907–1914 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 6. Ibid., p. 7. Christian, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity, p. 146. Hosking, The Russian Constitutional Experiment: Government and Duma, p. 12. Barbara Green, The Dynamics of Russian Politics: A Short History (Westport, Greenwood Press, 1994), p. 13. Pushkarev, Self-government and Freedom in Russia, p. 73. James Harvey Robinson & Charles Beard (eds), Readings in Modern European History (Boston, Ginn & Co., 1908), pp. 377–8. Pushkarev, Self-government and Freedom in Russia, p. 74. The move was regarded as a coup by the government. Leo Hartog, Russia and the Mongol Yoke (London, British Academic Press, 1996), p. 164. The boyars were the upper nobility in Russia from the tenth through to the seventeenth century. They obtained influence and government posts through their military support of the princes. Their power and prestige, however, soon came to depend on land ownership. When power shifted to Moscow, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the influence of the boyars was gradually eroded, particularly under Ivan III and Ivan IV. Pusharev, Self-government and Freedom in Russia, p. 2. Ibid., pp. 27–8. Walter M. Pinter, ‘Reform and Counter-reform, 1855–1894’, in Robert O. Crummey (ed.), Reform in Russia: Past and Prospect (Chicago, University of Illinois, 1989), p. 97. Wayne Allensworth, The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernisation, and Postcommunism (Oxford, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 1998), p. 329. Ibid., p. 329–30. Von Laue, ‘Count Witte and the Russian Revolution of 1905’, p. 34. Witte speaks of representative government assuming a peculiarly Russian character. Oriana Fallaci, Interview with History (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p. 268. I am not proposing that the Shah’s claim to power was ‘illegitimate’ in the sense that it was ‘illegal’. Rather, I am using Max Weber’s definition of political ‘legitimacy’ to mean authority that is generally accepted and obeyed without frequent resort to force or coercion.



31 Fred Halliday & Hamza Alavi (eds), State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan (Basingstoke, Macmillan Education, 1988), p. 42. 32 33 Ministers were responsible to the legislature, and religious authorities were empowered to judge the admissibility of new legislation according to its compatibility with Islamic law and custom. 34 Ali Ansari, Modern Iran (London, Longman, 2007), p. 226. 35 E. A. Bayne, Persian Kingship in Transition: Conversations with a Monarch Whose Office is Traditional and Whose Goal is Modernization (NY, American Universities Field Staff, 1968), p. 186. 36 Parviz Radji, In the Service of the Peacock Throne (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1983), p. 51. 37 Hamid R. Kusha, The Sacred Law of Islam (Burlington, Ashgate, 2002), p. 141. What is interesting is that even with all its power, the SAVAK was subject to the same set of controls and instruments of surveillance of which it was a part. It was offset against the military security organisation and was monitored by a still more secret independent organisation, the ‘Imperial Inspectorate’, whose last chief had known the Shah since the latter had been a student in Switzerland. 38 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p. 436. 39 Kusha, The Sacred Law of Islam, p. 152. 40 William J. Butler & Georges Levasseur, Human Rights and the Legal System in Iran (Geneva, International Commission of Jurist, 1976), preface. 41 Ibid., p. 13. 42 Ansari, Modern Iran, pp. 232–5. 43 Muhammad Rahim Uyuzi, Tabaqat-e Ejtema’i va Rezhim-e Shah (Tehran, Iranian National Archives, 2001), p. 292–3. SAVAK memos of 4 October and 31 December 1977. 44 McDaniel, Autocracy, Modernization and Revolution in Russia and Iran, p. 138. 45 Bill, The Politics of Iran, p. 74. 46 Ervand Abrahamian, Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin (London, I.B.Tauris, 1989), p. 17. 47 Patrick Williams & Laura Chrisman (eds), ‘An Introduction’, Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: A Reader (NY, Harper and Row, 1994), p. 14. 48 Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism, pp. 14–15. 49 Kusha, The Sacred Law of Islam, p. 140. 50 Mirsepassi, Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernity, p. 71. 51 McDaniel, Autocracy, Modernization and Revolution in Russia and Iran, pp. 210–11. 52 Nabavi, Intellectuals and the State in Iran: Politics, Discourse and the Dilemma of Authenticity, p. 67. 53 Shaul Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs (NY, Basic Books, 1984), p. 11.



54 Kennan, ‘The Breakdown of the Tsarist Autocracy’, in Richard Pipes (ed.), Revolutionary Russia (Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1968). 55 Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, p. 111.

Chapter V 1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

The concept of ‘revolution from below’ commonly refers to a massive peasant-based revolt, or a citywide labour movement. In the context of this study, it denotes the resistance expressed (in the form of non-institutionalised forms of protest, or in the radicalisation of intellectual thought) by all sectors of society against the leadership. James Y. Simms, ‘The Famine and the Radicals’, in Edward H. Judge & James Y. Simms (eds), Modernization and Revolution (NY, Columbia University Press, 1992), pp. 16–17. Ibid., p. 28. Norman Naimark, Terrorists and Social Democrats (Mass, Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 187. James H. Billington, Mikhailovsky and Russian Populism (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 157. Roberta Manning, The Crisis of the Old Order: Gentry and Government (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1982), pp. 362, 373. Ibid., 366–7. Ibid., p. 54. Ibid. Chubarov, The Fragile Empire, p. 157. Ascher, The Revolution of 1905, p. 27. J. L. H. Keep, The Russian Revolution: A Study in Mass Mobilization (London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1976), p. 14. Leonard Schapiro, 1917: The Russian Revolutions (London, Penguin, 1984), p. 14. Olga Crisp, ‘Labour and Industrialisation in Russia’, Cambridge Economic History of Europe 7 (1978), p. 404. Victoria Bonnell (ed.), The Russian Worker: Life and Labour under the Tsarist Regime (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1983), pp. 162, 194. J. L. H. Keep, The Russian Revolution: A Study in Mass Mobilization, p. 20. Victoria Bonnell, The Roots of Rebellion: Workers’ Politics and Organisations in St Petersburg and Moscow, 1900–1914 (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1983), pp. 372, 450. James Bater, St Petersburg: Industrialisation and Change (Montreal, Queen’s University Press, 1976), pp. 213, 385. Schapiro, 1917: The Russian Revolutions, p. 36. Richard Pipes, Three ‘Whys’ of the Russian Revolution (NY, Vintage Books, 1995), p. 26.

NOTES 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

43 44 45


Eduard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar (NY, Doubleday, 1992), p. 156. Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, pp. 46–7. Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs, p. 24. Seyyed Hamid Rauhani, Barresi va Tahlili az Nehzat-e-Imam Khomeini (Tehran, Entesharat-e-Islami, 1979), p. 230. H. E. Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990), p. 178. M. Fischer, From Religious Dispute to Revolution (Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1980), p. 115. Ibid., p. 140. Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p. 129. Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (Maryland, Adler & Adler, 1986), p. 214. Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East, p. 66. Barry Rubin, ‘Carter, Human Rights, and U. S. Allies’, in B. Rubin & Elizabeth Spiro (eds), Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (Colorado, Westview, 1979), pp. 109–32. Parsa, States, Ideologies and Social Revolutions, p. 206. Ibid., p. 206. The bazaaris felt that they had been deliberately targeted because no serious price controls were placed on the factories that produced the commodities, or the on the large importers. Majid Tehranian, ‘Communication and Revolution in Iran: The Passing of a Paradigm’, Iranian Studies 13/1–4 (1980), p. 19. Parsa, States, Ideologies and Social Revolutions, pp. 212–3. There were differences between skilled and unskilled workers, between the literate and illiterate, and those working in traditional industries and receiving lower wages, and those in the modern plants who received higher salaries. Fred Halliday, Iran: Dictatorship and Development in Iran (NY, Harmondsworth, 1979), p. 190. At the time, the rial was worth approximately 1.4 cents. Ibid., p. 203. A. Bayat, Workers and Revolution in Iran (London, Zed Books, 1987), pp. 86–7. A small group of the workers were socialists, like the leadership of the workers’ council in the Organisation of Development and Renewal of Iranian Industries, employing 40,000 workers. About 40 per cent of the oil workers were Marxists. Parsa, States, Ideologies and Social Revolutions, p. 101. Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East, p. 56.



Chapter VI 1 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25

Richard Sakwa, Soviet Politics: An Introduction (London, Routledge, 1989), p. 33. Chubarov, Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity, p. 83. In 1917, the Bolsheviks used the slogan of self-determination to undercut the Provisional Government. After taking power, Lenin reversed this policy. The Bolsheviks took the position that the decision to set up an independent state belonged to a nation’s working class, not to the population as a whole. Schapiro, 1917: The Russian Revolutions, pp. 185–6. Ibid., p. 147. Dominic Leiven, Nicholas II Emperor of All the Russias (London, Pimlico, 1993), p. 249. Figes, A People’s Tragedy, p. 614. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (NY, Vintage, 1991), pp. 671–2. Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 108. Ibid., p. 27. Chris Ward, Stalin’s Russia (London, Arnold Publishers, 1999), p. 67. Dmitri Volkogonov, The Seven Leaders Who Built the Soviet Regime (NY, Free Press, 1998), p. xviii. Noel Parker, Revolutions and History (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999), p. 93. J. V. Stalin, Works, vol. 13 (Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955), p. 41. R. W. Davies, Soviet Economic Development from Lenin to Khrushchev (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 72. Merle Fainsod, ‘Collectivisation: The Method’, in Robert V. Daniels (ed.), The Stalin Revolution (Toronto, Heath & Co., 1972), pp. 95, 101. Gordon B. Smith, Soviet Politics (NY, St Martin’s Press, 1992), p. 38. Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror Famine (NY, Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 303. Neil M. Heyman, Russian History (NY, McGraw-Hill, 1993), p. 336. David Kotz & Fred Weir, Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet Union (London, Routledge, 1997), p. 22. Chubarov, Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity, pp. 103–5. Non-market distribution also played an important role, including the rationing of goods; the distribution of goods at special prices to workers, enterprise management and officials through their workplace; and the distribution of choice goods to higher officials at special outlets. Kotz & Weir, Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet Union, p. 23. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror (London, Macmillan, 1969), p. 533. Robert, V. Daniels, Is Russia Reformable? (London, Westview, 1988), p. 14. Abrahamian, Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin, p. 17.



26 Milani, The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, p. 79. 27 Mirsepassi, Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernity, p. 78. 28 Richard Sakwa, ‘The Anti-revolutions of 1989–91’, in Moira Donald (ed.), Reinterpreting Revolution in Twentieth-century Europe (London, Macmillan, 2001), p. 174. 29 Reza Davari-Ardankani, Falsafih Chist? [What is Philosophy?] (Tehran, Anjoman-i Islami-i Hikmat va Falsafih-i Iran, 1980), pp. xxii–xxiii. 30 Keddie, The Roots of Revolution, pp. 2–3, 255–6. 31 Mehdi Moslem, Factional Politics in Post-Khomeini Iran (Syracuse University Press, 2002), p. 21. 32 Hugh Barnes and Alex Bigham, Understanding Iran: People Politics and Power (London, Foreign Policy Centre, 2006), pp. 2–3. 33 Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown (Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 165. 34 Nadir Entessar, ‘The Military and Politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran’, in Houshang Amirahmadi and Manoucher Parvin (eds), Post-revolutionary Iran (London, Westview, 1988), pp. 64–5. 35 Ibid., p. 197. 36 Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown, pp. 142–3. 37 Dilip Hiro, Islamic Fundamentalism (London, Palladin, 1988), p. 197. 38 Saeed Rahnema, ‘Continuity and Change in Industrial Policy’, in Saeed Rahnema and Sohrab Behdad (eds), Iran After the Revolution (London, I.B.Tauris, 1995), p. 146. 39 Ghoncheh Tazmini, Development and Revolution in Russia and Iran: Modernisation from Above, Revolutions from Below (PhD thesis, University of Kent at Canterbury, 2004), p. 7.

Chapter VII 1

Gregory Freeze, ‘A Modern Time of Troubles’ in Gregory Freeze (ed.), Russia: A History (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009). 2 Gordon B. Smith, Soviet Politics: Struggling with Change (NY, St Martin’s, 1992), p. 60. 3 Kotz & Weir, Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet Union, p. 55. 4 Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika (NY, Harper & Row, 1988), p. 39. 5 Ibid., pp. 20, 41. 6 Ibid., pp. 69, 72. 7 Mark Galeotti, Gorbachev and His Revolution (London, Macmillan, 1997), p. 53. 8 Ibid., p. 74. 9 Thomas Remington, ‘A Socialist Pluralism of Opinion’, in Alexander Dallin & Gail W. Lapidus (eds), The Soviet System in Crisis (Oxford, Westview, 1991), p. 100. 10 Ibid., pp. 58–9.



11 Kotz & Weir, Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet Union, p. 78. 12 Archie Brown & Lilia Shevtsova (eds), Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2001), p. 15. 13 Gertrude Schroeder, ‘The Soviet Economy on a Treadmill of Perestroika: Gorbachev’s First Five Years’, in Dallin & Lapidus (eds), The Soviet System, p. 376–7. 14 Galeotti, Gorbachev and his Revolution, p. 85. 15 Archie Brown, The Gorbachev Factor (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 180. 16 Kotz & Weir, Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet Union, p. 98. 17 Mary Mcauley, Soviet Politics, 1917–1991 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 102. 18 M. Ellman & V. Kontorovich, ‘Overview’, in M. Ellman & V. Kontorovich (eds), The Disintegration of the Soviet Economic System (London, Routledge, 1992), pp. 1–39. 19 20 Dale R. Herspring & Jacob Kipp, ‘Understanding the Elusive Mr. Putin’, Problems of Post-communism 48/5 (Sept–Oct 2001), p. 6. 21 Ibid. 22 23 Timothy J. Colton & Michael McFaul, ‘Putin and Democratization’, in Dale R. Herspring (ed.), Putin’s Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), pp. 21–2. 24 Lilia Shevtsova, Putin’s Russia (Washington, Carnegie Endowment for National Peace, 2003), p. 73. 25 Stephen E. Hanson, ‘Viewpoints: Can Russia Rebuild the Russian State?’ Security Dialogue 32/2 (2001), pp. 265–7. 26 Olga Kryshtanovskaya & Stephen White, ‘Putin’s Militocracy’, Post-Soviet Affairs 19/4 (2003), p. 291. 27 Thomas E. Graham, ‘Fragmentation of Russia’, Andrew C. Kutchins (ed.), Russia After the Fall (Washington, Carnegie Endowment for National Peace, 2002), p. 55. 28 Richard Sakwa, Putin: Russia’s Choice (London, Routledge, 2004), p. 152–3. 29 Herspring & Kipp, ‘Understanding the Elusive Mr. Putin’, p. 9. 30 David E. Hoffman, The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (NY, New York Public Affairs Press, 2002), pp. 488–9. 31 Sakwa, Putin: Russia’s Choice, p. 104. 32 Balzer, Harley, ‘Managed Pluralism’, Post-Soviet Affairs 19/3 (2003), p. 204. 33 34 Shevtsova, Putin’s Russia, p. 82. 35

NOTES 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58


Shevtsova, Putin’s Russia, p. 144. Herspring & Kipp, ‘Understanding the Elusive Mr. Putin’, p. 13. Ibid. When I say that Putin did not ‘import’ from the west, I am not suggesting that he necessarily rejected western institutions (otherwise he would not have supported transition). I am arguing that his reforms placed more emphasis on Russian values and practices. For a detailed analysis of Khatami’s eight-year presidency, see Ghoncheh Tazmini, Khatami’s Iran: The Islamic Republic and the Turbulent Path to Reform (London, I.B.Tauris, 2009). Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, interview with author, Majorca, 28 November 2005. Mohammad Khatami, Islam, Liberty and Development (NY, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, 1998), p. 40. Ibid., p. 52. Ibid., p. 30. Ibid. Ibid., p. 61. Ibid., p. 65. Ibid. Mohammad Khatami, Mardom Salari (Tehran, Entesharateh Tarheh Now, 1998), pp. 12–22. Khatami, Islam, Liberty and Development, pp. 72–5. Ibid., p. 75, Ibid., pp. 75–6, 105–8. Ibid., pp. 106–7. This expression is adapted from Richard Sakwa, who discusses the concept with reference to Vladimir Putin, in Putin: Russia’s Choice (London, Routledge, 2004). Khatami, Mardom Salari, p. 7. State television, 19 January 1998. State television, 18 November 1997.

Chapter VIII 1

Hugh Barnes and Alex Bigham, Understanding Iran: People Politics and Power (London, Foreign Policy Centre, 2006), pp. 2–3. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is believed to be a springboard to a Shi’a utopia by virtue of its theological structures, institutions, laws and practices aimed at creating the conditions for the return of the Mahdi. Iran’s Shi’a Muslims (89 per cent of the population) believed that Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law, was the rightful successor to the Prophet, followed by 11 other Imams.




Juan Cole, ‘Millennialism in Modern Iranian History’, in Abbas Amanat and Magnus Bernhardsson (eds), Imagining the End: Visions of the Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Modern America (London, I.B.Tauris, 2002), pp. 282–311.


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Internet Websites


Ala, Hossein, 92 Alexander II: assassination, 76-7; diplomacy, 81; and Jews, 80; modernisation, 111, 129; reforms, 39-40, 48-56, 111; tsar-liberator, 76 Alexander III: financial policy, 835; foreign policy, 82-3; illness, 99; nationalities policy, 80-1; ‘Reaction’, 76-9, 85; reforms, 7585 Alexander the Great, 37 Andropov, Yuri, 216-18 Anglo-Persian Treaty (AngloIranian Oil Company), 39, 58-9, 87-8 bazaar, 87; Isfahan, 184; prerevolutionary discontent, 186-9; shutdowns, 191-3 Berezovsky, Boris, 236 Bolsheviks, 178, 196-200, 255 Bolshevism, 59 bonyad, 212 Brezhnev, Leonid, 215-17 Budget and Plan Organisation, 5 Bunge, Nikolai, 83-4 Carter, Jimmy, 3, 185-6

Catherine the Great, 37, 80 Chernenko, Konstantin, 215-16, 218 civilisational dilemmas, 9-12, 31, 139, 150-2, 164-5, 255-7 Curzon, George, Lord, 38 Durnovo, I. N., 79 Emancipation Act, 51-4 Eqbal, Manuchehr, 95, 111 First World War, 59, 109 Gazprom, 237 Gharbzadegi, 2 Glasnost, 190-2, 217, 219-20, 2245, 229, 240 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 8, 214-15, 263; ideological dilemma, 228-9, 251; modernisation, 215-29; Gosplan, 203 Gossnab, 203 Great Reforms, 48-56, 105 Gulistan Treaty, 38 Huntington, Samuel, 21, 29, 244 Intelligentsia (Russian), 54-6



Iran: Arab invasion, 9-11, 57, 256; civilisational dilemma, 164-5; millennialism, 11-12; modernisation, 4-6, 61-5, 113-15, 259-60; nationalism, 59-61; oil crisis, 86-93; pre-revolutionary GNP, 113; revolution, 3; student unrest, 191-3; theocratic structure, 207-12; workers, 18991 Islam, 7, 11, 16, 28, 161-2, 182, 184, 208, 211, 257 Jews, 70, 79-81, 141, 173 kadkhodas, 67 Khatami, Mohammad: civil society, 13; ‘Dialogue amongst Civilisations’, 29, 244; ideology, 15; institutional barriers, 249-50; ‘Khatami’s way’, 242; popular sovereignty, 13; presidency, 213; reform movement, 16, 242-9; third way, 250-1; vision, 243 Khomeini, Ayatollah: arrest, 182; developmental model, 8, 28, 207, 195-5, 255; exile, 184, 188; modernisation style, 195-6, 20712; pre-revolutionary opposition, 182, 187; revolt (1963), 113, 154, 163, 183-4, 188; revolution from above, 207-12 Lenin, Vladimir, 3, 103-4, 169-70, 176, 179, 196-201, 205-6, 220, 242 Loris-Melikov, Michael, 55 Miluitin, Dmitrii, 53 Mirza Kuchek Khan, 59 modernisation: Eurocentric narratives, 12, 17; failure to adapt

to, 18-19; Hegelian dialectic, 1618, 214, 229, 259-60; imperial, 12, 7-8, 56, 83, 127, 137, 141, 167, 195-6, 201, 206, 212; IslamicIranian, 243-7; orientation, 16; theories, 28-33 modernisation from above, 4, 7, 13-14, 16-18, 35, 46, 61, 75-6, 93, 136, 139, 141, 153, 163, 165-8, 179, 193, 202, 213, 242, 253, 257, 259-60 modernisation from below, 14, 1719, 33, 214, 230, 250, 257-60 modernity, 2-3, 7-19, 28, 31-3, 47, 56-9, 72-3, 111, 115, 121, 128, 137-9,161, 179-80, 193-5, 201, 206-7, 213-4, 230, 243-7, 250-1, 254-60 Mohammad Ali Shah, 93 Mohammad Reza Shah, 2, 40, 59; ambivalence, 111-12, 248; coronation, 86; economic development, 93-6; political repression, 86, 115, 254; White Revolution, 126-7, 129-30, 134-5, 181 Mohammad Shah Qajar, 57 Mossadeq, Mohammad, 87-93, 111-12, 130, 154, 162, 191 Mozaffar ad-Din Shah, 93 narod, 9 Narodnichestvo, 55 Narodniks, 55 National Front, 112, 185, 191, 8791 New Economic Policy, 200 Nicholas II, 2, 4, 40, 47, 76, 97, 100, 108, 139-42, 150, 153, 193, 254, 259 obshchestvennost, 106

INDEX Okhrana, 78 Operation TPAJAX, 90-3 Pahlavi Dynasty, 4 Pahlavi Foundation, 126-7 People’s Will Revolutionaries, 55 Perestroika, 215, 219-20, 224-9 Persia: agricultural economy, 5-7, 65-8; occupation, 9-11, 38-9 Persian Constitutional Movement, 58, 92-3 Peter the Great, 22, 37, 40-9, 56, 72, 98, 111, 115, 196, 253-4 Pobedonostov, Konstantin, 76-7 Putin, Vladimir: democracy, 238, 240, 258; governors, 234-5; media, 236-8; modernisation style, 13-15, 213-14, 229-30, 23942, 257, 259-60; political parties, 235-6; oligarchy, 236; siloviki, 233-4; vision, 257-8 Qur’an, 58 Rashakhiz Party, 159-60 raznochintsy, 106 revolution, 3, 7, 12, 19-22, 25-6, 177; intellectuals, 160-3; Iranian (1979), 3, 180, 207-8, 211-12, 247, 250, 259-60; Russian (1905), 1089, 140, 144, 162, 263; Russian (1917), 3, 18, 78, 96, 179, 220, 229, 260; White, 114, 126-7, 12930, 134-5, 181 revolution from below, 16-18, 73, 75-6, 168, 208, 259 Reza Shah Pahlavi, 39, 57, 86; ascension to power, 59-60; modernisation style, 68-73, 248, 253-4 Romanov Dynasty, 4 Russia: agricultural economy, 107-


11; civilisational ambivalence, 150-3; development, 35-7, 103-7; millennialism, 11-12; modernisation, 4-8, 56-7, 260; nationalities policy, 80-1; nobility, 105; peasantry, 106-11; Russian idea, 9, 13, 47-8, 256-7 samobytnost, 152 Sassanids, 37 SAVAK, 92, 157, 185-6 serfdom, 5, 49-54 Shevardnadze, Eduard, 224 shock therapy, 224 Sipyagin, Dmitri, 104-5 Slavophiles, 2, 48 Stalin, Joseph, 8, 28; collectivisation, 202-3; dekulakisation, 202; industrialisation, 195, 199-206 Stolypin, Peter, 109-11, 129-30, 133, 149-50, 174, 231, 263 tajaddod, 59 theocracy, 8, 184, 192, 196, 206-12, 249-50, 255 Tsar Nicholas II, 2, 4, 8, 40, 47, 73, 75-6, 97-8, 100, 108, 137, 139-42, 150, 153, 193, 204, 254, 259 Tudeh Party, 86-7, 91, 111-12, 130, 157 Turkmanchai Treaty, 38 uskorenie, 221-2 Vyshnegradsky, Ivan, 84-5 waqf, 67 Westernisation, 14, 17, 28; Iranian, 2, 7 10-12, 28, 40, 59, 112, 155, 164-5, 196, 206-7, 214, 247-8, 254, 256, 260; Russian, 1, 7, 44,



47-48 West-toxication, 2, 112, 207 Witte, Sergei, 4-5; industrialisation, 93-109, 114; railroad construction, 101-3 Yakovlev, Alexander, 224 Yeltsin, Boris, 14, 215, 223, 226-8,

231-4, 236, 240-1, 251 Zahedi, Fazlollah, 90-1 Zastoi, 215 Zemskii Sobor, 151 Zemstvos, 52-3, 56, 79, 81, 85, 106, 110, 141-3, 146, 171-2, 178 Zoroastrians, 11