Division of Iran: Anglo-Russian Entente: August 31, 1907

Monday, September 2, 2013

Signed on August 31, 1907, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought shaky British-Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified respective control in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet.

This agreement seemingly ended a long-standing struggle for power that had gone on at the expense of less-developed regions throughout Central Asia. Though these imperial powers had experienced relatively few major conflicts between them over the previous hundred years, an underlying rivalry, otherwise known as “the Great Game”, had exacerbated the situation to such an extent that resolution was sought by the early 20th century. These negotiations primarily served to forge a political alliance in fear of the growing strength and influence of Imperial Germany.

As a consequence of the Anglo-Russian agreement, they crushed any chance of Persian autonomy. The idea of a reformed Persian state was not what these powers had in mind; they enjoyed both stability and control in Persia and planned to keep it that way. Overall, the Convention represented a carefully calculated move on each power's part in which they chose to value a powerful alliance over potential sole control over various parts of Central Asia.

In 1905, revolutionary activity spread throughout Tehran, forcing the shah to accept a constitution, allow the formation of a majilis (parliamentary assembly), and hold elections. Major figures in the revolution had secular goals, which then created rifts in the clergy to the advantage of the monarchy. Neither Britain nor Russia approved of this new liberal, unstable, political arrangement—-they preferred a stable, puppet-like government that submitted to foreign concessions and worked well with their imperialist goals.

In order to facilitate the situation in Iran, Britain and Russia discussed splitting Iran “into three zones. The agreement they wanted would allocate the north, including Isfahan, to Russia; the southeast, especially Kerman, Sistan, and Baluchistan to Britain; and demarcate the remaining land between the two powers as a “neutral zone.” This division of Iran reinforced Great Power control over these respective territorial and economic interests in the country as well as allowed for contrived interference in Iran's political system. With foreign influence, revolution was outflanked by a combination of European and monarchist activities. As a result, Iranians learned “that however predatory the two 'neighbors' were, they were even more dangerous when they put aside their rivalries.”

Formally signed by Count Alexander Izvolsky, Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire, and Sir Arthur Nicolson, the British Ambassador to Russia, the British-Russian Convention of 1907 stipulated the following:

1. That Persia would be split into three zones: A Russian zone in the north, a British zone in the southeast, and a neutral “buffer” zone in the remaining land.

2. That Britain may not seek concessions “beyond a line starting from Qasr-e Shirin, passing through Isfahan, Yezd (Yazd), Kakhk, and ending at a point on the Persian frontier at the intersection of the Russian and Afghan frontiers.”

3. That Russia must follow the reverse of guideline number two.

4. That Afghanistan was a British protectorate and for Russia to cease any communication with the Emir.

A separate treaty was drawn up to resolve disputes regarding Tibet. However, these terms eventually proved problematic, as they "drew attention to a whole range of minor issues that remained unsolved".

After the signing of the convention, Russia began to “partake in British military maneuvers and extend reciprocal invitations.” The Convention served as the catalyst for creating a “Triple Entente”, which was the basis of the alliance of countries opposing the Central Powers in 1914 at the onset of World War I.

*Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Hamshahri Online, Rasekhoon