Distortions in Kasravi’s History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution

Ahmad Kasravi’s 1941 Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran has for generations been the defining text of the Iranian constitutional revolution. Its author earned his position by patiently culling the Persian language sources and assembling a work which, if it occasionally falls below the high standards of integrity he aimed at, is still a giant of integrity, particularly when compared to the other histories of the period. His book is not a monument to his father, the way Malekzade’s is, or a monument to himself the way Dawlatabadi’s is, and one can go on.

It is, however, recognized that Kasravi had strong feelings, and it is important to understand how this impacted on his History. To understand this, we investigated the sources which Kasravi drew on, particularly Nazem ol-Eslam’s Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian and the constitutionalist press, such as Anjoman. Moreover, because of its iconic status, it is forgotten that the History went through different versions over the course of decades. We have examined the History and compared it with the earlier versions published in Parcham in the early thirties and the summary which appeared in Arabic in the Lebanese journal, al-‘Irfan in the early twenties.

There are several ways in which Kasravi distorts the facts in the course of his History.

He has a tendency to demonize his enemies. Some examples:

Amin os-Saltane Atabak was the Prime Minister during two of the most tumultuous periods of Iranian nationalism. The litany of crimes attributed to him, rightly or wrongly, is lengthy. During the constitutional period, the constitutionalist press hammered him as the Kha’en os-Saltane, the Traitor of the Monarchy. On the other hand, at least one of Kasravi’s sources, the British Blue Books, clearly indicates that Atabak was, far from the source of disorder in the country, driven to despair by it. Kasravi, like the mainstream of Iranian constitutionalists, celebrated Atabak’s assassination, and theorized that the British, who saw him as a dangerous Russophile, were out to get him. But the British Blue Books indicate that the assassination was seen by British observers as the work of the reactionaries who resented the way Atabak had succeeded in cowing the the Shah by using the Majlis against him. In this view, the assassination was a case of a revolutionary organization being manipulated by the Court to eliminate one of the Court’s enemies. (Sir Cecil Spring-Rice to Sir Edward Grey, Great Britain: Correspondence respecting the Affairs of Persia, Cd. 4581, No. 42, September 13, 1907)

Here, Kasravi was so blinded by his understanding of Atabak’s mission that he could not see that the evidence he had available contradicted his speculations.

Another example of this is his attitude towards Joseph Naus, the Belgian whom the Iranian government hired to be the chief of Iranian Customs. While some historians, such as the ultra-nationalist Iranian historian Fereidun Adamiat, actually praise him, most, including those writing in English, accurately saw him as pretty much integrated into the Russian project of integrating Iran into its sphere of influence. However, Kasravi goes further. He writes:

They went to work and set up a Customs Bureau on the model of the European countries and also changed the tariff system. The Shah decreed that various new forms of exactions, such as road tolls and weighing-house dues and accommodation fees and so on, be raised from Iranian caravans and merchants, while foreign merchants only had to pay the customs duty at the border. ibid., p. 29

Kasravi refers the reader to Safinia’s Esteqlal-e Gomrakhaye Iran. However, on reading this source, it becomes clear that these policies had been set in place under Naser od-Din Shah before Naus’s arrival. Safinia, Esteqlal-e Gomrakhaye Iran, 142-144 Indeed, Safinia says that the lifting of these internal tolls was decreed by the Shah, soon before the Shah appointed Naus. ibid., pp. 148-151 It should be said that Safinia was no friend of Naus. e.g., p. 191 ff.

A more complex case is that of Haji Mohammad Reza. By way of background, one Sheikh Barini had come to Kerman and incited the mainstream Shia Muslims against the Sheikhis. Kasravi then writes, Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 52

In the meantime, one Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza, a cleric of Kerman who had studied in Najaf for years and had become a mojtahed, returned to his city, his heart full of ambition for religious leadership. He, too, seized the opportunity and joined with Sheikh Barini in fanning the flames of chaos.

He went and seized the Sheikhi mosque for one of his relatives, and the governor protected it, firing on the mob which was posed to attack it. The Shah was forced to replace this governor with Zafar os-Saltane. Kasravi writes,

… Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza did not desist and the people’s rioting did not subside. After Zafar os-Saltane arrived, … His Eminence’s followers descended upon the Jews’ houses and broke their vats and spilled their wine on the ground. The governor wanted to prevent this rioting and sectarian strife and send the people back to go about their business. He sent someone to negotiate with Haj Mirza Mohammad Reza. But instead of getting the people to disperse and the riot to subside, the ambitious mullah, in order to heighten the people’s frenzy, pretended that it had suddenly occurred to him to go on a pilgrimage and that he wanted to go to Mashhad, and one day suddenly left his house for that destination. But the people poured out and stopped him and returned him to his house. The governor had no choice but to disperse the people, so he sent a detachment of soldiers and tofangchis to Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza’s house. They arrived, shooting. They shot two dead and the rioters abandoned Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza’s house and its vicinity, everyone fleeing and only women remaining. The tofangchis entered the house, seized Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza along with several of his people, and pushed them along in disgrace, playing music. The men all escaped and hid and the women escorted His Eminence the Mojtahed, weeping and wailing.

They brought those arrested to the governor’s office and tied Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza himself and three other mullahs to a pillory and their feet were beaten with sticks. They were then expelled from the city and sent off to Rafsanjan. His Eminence’s followers were only able to crowd into his house and hold a rawzekhani and weep and beat their heads. This they did for several days, during which the prayer-leaders refused to go [54] to the mosque and recite prayers.

Kasravi congratulates the governor for his decisiveness, and notes, however, that the Two Sayyeds, ‘Abdollah Behbehani and Mohammad Tabataba’i, denounced his actions.

Kasravi’s source, Nazem ol-Eslam Kermani’s Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian, depicts the events very differently. Although he share’s Kasravi’s disdain for Sheikh Barini, whom he describes as TBI, I:310

a bizarre creature …, a youth of twenty five, tall, with a huge turban, …, tiny eyes and a narrow beard like a Turkman. …. Sometimes he would denounce the Zoroastrians and the Hindus and called them infidels upon whom one must make war, whose property may be legitimately seized and whose blood may be legitimately shed by the Muslims. Sometimes he would denounce usury and profiteering. Most of the time he would spew pure filth and obscenities from the pulpit, denouncing the Sheikhi sect, calling them deluders and deluded who had made innovations in the Faith and ridiculing their sheikhs. He would even remarry those who had been married by Sheikhi clergymen. Since the common people considered his sermons valuable, they gathered around him, and thousands surrounded him wherever he went. It was clear that trouble was brewing.

But Nazem ol-Eslam exonerates the Haji from anti-Sheikhi incitement, stating that when the people requested a responsorum from him on the matter, he refused to deliver one. He mentions that he had received his license to be a mojtahed from Akhund Khorasani, who would become a leading constitutionalist mojtahed and a hero of Kasravi’s TBI, I:311 and commented that, “His family never earned its bread like mullahs, but by agriculture.” TBI, I:394, footnote Further exonerating Haji Mohammad Reza, Nazem ol-Eslam reports that just before Zafar os-Saltane departed for Kerman, he visited Sayyed Mohammad Tabataba’i, who urged him to make Kerman a model of what Iran should look like according to the values which they shared. He urged him in particular to ally with Haj Mirza Mohammad and said that he would write to the latter and ask him to cooperate with Zafar os-Saltane. On the other hand the old governor said that he, too, wished to see the Sheikhis humiliated and urged Haj Mirza Mohammad Reza to stir up trouble and show that it was not only himself who was incapable of containing sectarian violence. TBI, I:313-14 Haji Mirza Mohammad Reza is depicted as a man of simple tastes. When the people are meeting with him, he is indistinguishable from them.

Even the new governor, Zafar os-Saltane, is depicted as a tragic figure who tries to prevent violence by talking with Haji Mohammad Reza. But just as Romeo was prevented from meeting Juliet because he was quarantined due to an outbreak of plague, the governor was not able to meet the mojtahed he so admired by an outbreak of popular violence, and so things ended in bloodshed, and the governor spent his life wandering Iran gnawed with regrets over the role he was forced to play.

Finally, Kasravi ignores the people’s grievances which led to these disturbances. According to Nazem ol-Eslam, the vice-governor, to whom the nominal governor had literally sold his power, and with whom the Karim Khani Sheikhis were allied, had finally been deposed by the central government after numerous appeals by the people of Kerman because of his gross corruption. TBI, I:312

What accounts for Kasravi’s hostility? First, he could be antipathetic to anyone who dabbled in sectarian conflict, this being one of the things Kasravi blamed for Iran’s troubles. But perhaps more important, Haji Mohammad Reza would later betray the constitutional cause by aligning with the ultra-conservative clergy who demanded that the Shah not reinstitute the constitution, as he had promised after its overthrow. See also Dr. Mehdi Malekzade, Tarikh-e Enqelab-e Mashrutiat-e Iran (pp. 895-896), where the author insists that the mojtahed had been pressured into issuing this statement.

Kasravi suppresses exculpatory material about Mir Hashem published in his main source for Tabriz politics in during the first constitutional period, Anjoman. Mir Hashem was the fallen angel of Tabriz constitutionalism. He was a religious leader of the impoverished Devechi borough of Tabriz and played a key role in shutting down the Tabriz bazaar for the constitutionalists when they took refuge in the British consulate. Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 153, ff. He later turned, either because he had been rejected by the movement which he had considered his and was bribed Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 171, ff. or out of fear and awe over the government’s power, Karim Taherzade Behzad, Qiam-e Azarbayjan dar Enqelab-e Mashrutiat-e Iran, pp. 477-479 Without going into details here, the question of the relationship of the general Anjoman representatives to this conspiracy against the Constitution is less clear in Anjoman Anjoman, I:70 (13 Rabi‘ I, 1325 = April 26, 1907) than in Kasravi; they are made out as being (with Kasravi) unaware of what was behind the rally at Haji Malek ot-Tojjar’s house (where the absolutist clergy began the process of assembling and whipping up their forces). However, they are also reported as having, “after consulting with their comrades, decided that they had to get Aqa Mir Hashem, who was one of the [Anjoman’s] founders, to go along with them, or they would get nowhere. And so they forcibly brought Aqa Mir Hashem to Haji Malek ot-Tojjar’s house. His Eminence [Mir Hashem] was unaware of what was happening.” Anjoman, loc. cit. Omitting this passage both keeps the rank and file Anjoman representative clean of any taint of conscious collaboration in this plot and eliminates a passage which improves Mir Hashem’s image. Again, at this same rally, a speaker who was trying to whip the crowd up into a frenzy against the constitutionalists, according to Anjoman, “pointed to Aqa Mir Hashem and said," Anjoman, loc. cit.

Your Honor, Your Eminence, lead us so that we can drive all these atheists out of town.” His Honor Aqa Mir Hashem pleaded, “May God’s grace be upon your father, don’t drag at my heels. I have no opinion.

In Kasravi’s defense, it should be said that he does allow that Mir Hashem played a positive role in, for example, the unity rallies organized by the liberals to quiet down the conflicts between the boroughs. p. 395 Any ambiguity about Mir Hashem’s role, of course, came to an end with his leading role in founding the Islamic Anjoman. Compare Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 492, with Anjoman III: 14 (24 Ramadan 1326).

I think that Kasravi is unnecessarily dismissive of Malek ol-Motekallemin, whom he regularly describes as a mere agent of Salar od-Dawle, the dim-witted claimant to the throne who tried to back his claims by raising Lurish cavalry against the goverenment. Although Malek had clearly attached himself to Salar od-Dawle, Kasravi reduces him to a tool of this prince, writing how “Haji Mirza Nasrollah Malek ol-Motakallemin Esfahani had come to Tehran in order to further Salar od-Dawle’s aspirations and gave the clergy money to divide amongst themselves.” Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, 66; see also 367, 596

Kasravi is also rather too hard on Nazem ol-Eslam. While he was writing the version of the History serialized in Parcham, he referred to the author of his main source on Tehran politics as shadravan, the name he gives to his heroes. In Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, he launches an unpleasant attack on him for his treatment of Amir-e A‘zam. Indeed, Nazem ol-Eslam praised him effusively for his wisdom and valor, “serving his country from beginning to end’’ and therefore meriting his biography and his picture being placed in Nazem ol-Eslam’s history. TBI, I:212, note 1 In the introduction to his History, Kasravi criticizes Nazem ol-Eslam for including a biography of Amir-e A‘zam. This biography TBI, I:163-168 depicts him as an man educated both in traditional and in Western learning, having learned French, and an aide to his father, Sepahsalar, an Iranian statesman of whom Kasravi had much good to say. Being ordered to drive the liberal clergy out of ‘Abdol ‘Azim, where they were taking refuge, he instead returned them with dignity and then brought them before the Shah. He is credited with getting the Shah to issue his rescript for convoking a House of Justice, the forerunner of the constitutional-parliamentary system. He later served as governor of Astarabad, where he played a role in disarming the tribes.

Now, Nazem ol-Eslam does show this statesman’s other side. For example, regarding his escorting the clergy from Shah ‘Abdol-‘Azim, he shows in his actual description of the event that he was simply used by Prime Minister ‘Ein od-Dawle to convince the clergy to blunt the clergy’s opposition to him TBI, I:359-60 and that his falling out with his uncle the Prime Minister was a misunderstanding on the latter’s part. TBI, I:466

In the description of the refuge that the clergy in Shah ‘Abdol-‘Azim, Kasravi omits from his account, which is based on Nazem ol-Eslam’s, the latter’s assertion that Amir-e A‘zam subsidized the trolley between Tehran and Shah ‘Abdol-‘Azim so that the people could escort the clergy which was taking refuge there in protest of the government’s policies. Compare Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 73 with TBI, I:363, note 3, and 364.

On the other hand, if Kasravi is exaggerating somewhat, it is surprising that such a bit player in the constitutionalist drama is made the subject of such a saccharine biography. The other histories of the period, by the way, are ambiguous on him. In Sharif-Kashani, Vaqe‘at-e Ettefaqiye dar Ruzegar, this figure’s role in the affair of the refuge at Shah ‘Abdol-‘Azim is always depicted in the most sinister tones. See, e.g., p. 50, where he reprints a message to Sayyed ‘Abdollah Behbehani along these lines and the anonymous letter which called him the instrument of bribing succeptable refugee clerics (p. 52). Dr. Mehdi Malekzade, however, is very impressed by him, considering him to have been a sincere constitutionalist. Although they did not trust him, being a nephew of ‘Ein od-Dawle, they were soon won over by him and saw how he was honestly trying to make peace between the quarreling parties. When ‘Ein od-Dawle saw that his position was hopeless, he used this figure to attract his opponents and reach a compromise. Tarikh-e Enqelab-e Mashrutiat-e Iran, pp. 303-304

Kasravi also denounces Nazem ol-Eslam for including a flattering biography of ‘Ala ol-Molk. Although Nazem ol-Eslam Kermani shows that ‘Ala ol-Molk was, as Iran’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, an obedient servant of Amin os-Soltan in getting three Iranian pan-Islamists extradited and sent to their deaths as Iran’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, TBI, I:12, 14 he allows him to exonerate himself as actually having tried to save them by explaining to Amin os-Soltan the virtues of his victims’ ideas. TBI, I:15 This explanation is rendered particularly improbable by a statement by a famous comrade of one of the three pan-Islamists published in Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian in which he says, “It was the Iranian ambassador’s [‘Ala ol-Molk’s] hatred that caused them to be arrested.’’ TBI, I:101 The author credibly gave him high marks to his governorship in his native province of Kerman for having eliminated certain abuses (I:215) and the interest he took in education. He is eulogized for this as for many other things in the biographical sketch of him mentioned. TBI, I:494-95 Among other things, it is claimed there that “during the time of absolutism and constitutionalism, he behaved so as to give the patriots and liberals hope in him,’’ something which is difficult to reconcile with what was written about him elsewhere in the book (see below). According to Nazem ol-Eslam, ‘Ala ol-Molk regretted his collaboration in the execution of the three pan-Islamists; he subsidized the publication of Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani, the most famous of the three and “somewhat made it up to him and gladdened his soul and made it pleased with him.’’ TBI, I:12 It should be said that Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani was Nazem ol-Eslam’s teacher.

As for his mission to St. Petersburg, Nazem ol-Eslam reported it rather honestly: vol. 1, p. 495

The day after... the [Iranian] parliament was bombarded, [‘Ala ol-Molk] was ordered... to go abroad. The superficial reason was to console the Tsar of Russia on the death of his uncle, but actually it was to learn what other countries were thinking about Iran’s constitution and to see what their attitude was toward Iran.

The biography closes with lavish praise for its subject.

There are, of course, real differences between Kasravi’s and Nazem ol-Eslam’s style. The latter’s writing includes all sorts of fantastic religious embellishments and exaggerations, while by the time his last version of the History was written, Kasravi’s style was pretty austere. Moreover, Nazem ol-Eslam’s heroes were the religious intellectuals. As he wrote, TBI, I:505

The author … has spent these several lines of these pages providing a portrait of [the migrating clerics] so that the reader might know what sort of great individuals founded Iran’s Constitution and how they did not shrink from sacrificing their lives and property to demand justice and the execution of Islam’s commandments. We hope that we shall one day see the results of these selfless people’s efforts with our own eyes, and if it does not come to pass that we reach our goal, may our children and descendents at least reap the fruits of this tree and curse and express their outrage at the traitors in this land who got in the way and know that the great men of the Faith, the leaders of the sacred religious of Islam, refrained from absolutely nothing.

This was Kasravi’s world-view when he began serializing his History in Parcham in the early thirties—he was then at war with “Europeanization” and had blocked with the clergy in this struggle. But he had long ago put that behind him when he revised his work, although traces of these views remain.

Similarly, Kasravi changed his mind about E. G. Browne and his The Persian Revolution. In his introduction to the version of his History serialized in Parcham, I:11 Kasravi expresses strong appreciation of historians like Browne and Rabino (who “brightened the Iranians’ eyes”). He favorably quoted Mirza Hosein Khan Danesh who equated Browne’s ink with Sattar Khan’s sword. In his introduction to the final version of the History, Kasravi gave as one of his main reasons for writing his own History concern that others, such as Browne, would write the history of the constitutional revolution to further their country’s political agendas. p. 5

Then, of course, we get to the famous issue of Sayyed Hasan Taqizade. A serious investigation of this issue, its causes and consequences, rates its own paper. I restrict myself to a few observations. First, Kasravi had absolutely no difficulty with Taqizade in the Arabic version of the History published in the early twenties. It was in relation with his polemic with the Europeanizers that he launched his attack on Taqizade, who was the Iranian who had become the most famous exponent of this policy. Whether Kasravi had become an anti-Europeanizer to embarrass Taqizade or had become anti-Taqizade because of his anti-Europeanizing requires further investigation, but it seems clear to me that Kasravi’s antipathy to Europeanizing and Taqizade were related. His concrete grievances against him were

  1. that he had pointlessly urged the constitutionalists to take up arms against the royalist forces when the final showdown between Mohammad ‘Ali Shah and the Majlis approached its denouement but, when the moment of truth came, fled the battlefield,
  2. the opposite charge, that he urged the Majlis’s defenders to disperse when there was a real chance that they could have taken a stand and defended it,
  3. he took refuge in a foreign embassy,
  4. he tried to isolate Sattar Khan and the mojaheds and reap the rewards of the revolution for which they had sacrificed so much while he was off in Europe

I am not in a position now to go into this in any detail. I should say, though, that Kasravi gives Taqizade his due on many occasions, and seems able to rise above his vendetta with him. He recognizes his central role in assembling an underground body of intellectuals before the Constitutional Revolution, the importance part he played in defending secularlism in the Majlis, indeed, and much more.

On the other hand, Kasravi tends to clean up unpleasant facts about those whom he admires. For example, regarding the constitutionalist mojtahed Sayyed ‘Abdollah Behbehani, he ignores the well-known facts about his corruption. These facts were well-documented in Kasravi’s sources, particularly the British Blue Book and Nazem ol-Eslam’s Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran. It was well known that he was a protégé of the Atabak. Thus, he deals delicately with Behbehani’s alliance with Atabak. In this regard, “ ‘Ein od-Dawle paid no attention to these events, since he considered Behbehani a supporter of Atabak and was angry with him.” Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, 34 The operative word here is “considered.”

Regarding Behbehani’s corruption, there are repeated references in the British Blue Books and Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian, Kasravi’s two major sources for national news for his History.

One interesting point is that although he rakes Taqizade over the coals for saving his life by taking refuge in the British consulate after the June 1908 coup against the Constitution, when Behbehani appealed to the British to interceded for them with the Shah during the beginning of the freedom movement, he insists that this had nothing to do with the refuge taken in the British legation, saying, Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 109

It is inconceivable that Behbehani or Tabataba’i would approve of people seeking refuge in the embassy or that such a thing be discussed in their presence. For we have seen with what hardship and terror they had been faced and how, in spite of this, they did not leave the mosque until they finally had no choice and went to Qom. How would this courageous and self-sacrificing behavior of theirs square with approving of the people’s taking refuge in the embassy of a foreign government?!

Indeed, Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian reports that taking refuge in the British legation was Behbehani’s idea, I:509-511 something left out in Kasravi’s report, although this report is based on this source. p. 107

Finally, it should be said that Kasravi does not completely idealize Behbehani. He is plainly critical of his pacifism, for example. p. 200

Another example of this soft touch is how Kasravi treated the role of Hasan Roshdiye in the raid on a school which had been a nest of enemies of Atabak, during his first premiership. He writes p. 26 that Atabak

pursued the activists through Police Chief Aqa Bala Khan. Sardar Afkham. Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian. Since the Roshdiye General school was very suspect and the school’s principal, Mohammad Amin, had given information to Atabak’s agents, he conveyed, through the principal, an invitation to Mirza Hosein, For Hasan, which is Roshdiye’s own name; The Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian has it correct. Roshdiye’s younger brother, to come to Qolhak, supposedly for a tour and a party. He was brought before Atabak and from him they learned what was happening at the general school.

Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian tells a different story:

A certain Khan Baba Khan was able to infiltrate the school as school inspector and got Mirza Hosein, the brother of Mirza Hasan Roshdiye, to join him, and he brought him to Qeitariye. Mirza Hosein accepted three hundred tumans and wrote that he knew that his brother, along with Sheikh Yahya [Kashani], Aqa Sayyed Hasan of Habl ol-Matin, Mirza Mohammad ‘Ali Khan, and Mosmer ol-Molk were all Babis and were the ones behind all this mischief and that they had written all these letters. I:471

Kasravi then continues

The Shah was in Niavaran. It so happened that when Movaqqar os-Saltane put a packet containing a clandestine letter on his table, the Shah, who was standing in front of a mirror, saw what he was doing and realized that it had been Movaqqar os-Saltane who had been taking these letters and leaving them on the Shah’s table. When he was pressed and a stick taken to his feet, he was forced to reveal the names of the society’s members one by one… This is not mentioned in Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian, Kasravi’s apparent source. It would appear that, having covered for the treachery of Roshdiye’s brother, Kasravi (or his unknown source) needed to manufacture an event to explain how the secret society came to be exposed. The balance of this paragraph is an elaboration of Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian, I:471.

This is not the way the source Kasravi otherwise follows for this story relates the story. The Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian makes no mention of the Shah’s discovery of Movaqqar os-Saltane. It would appear that, having covered for the treachery of Roshdiye’s brother, Kasravi (or his unknown source) needed to manufacture an event to explain how the secret society came to be exposed. Indeed, the balance of Kasravi’s account follows that of Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian. I:471.

Another figure who receives rather unexpected protection is Mirza Mostafa Ashtiani, a leading figure in the constitutional movement who early on came under strong suspicion as being a bag man for the Court in buying off constitutionalist activists. Compare Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran pp. 103-104 with the parallel passage in Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian p. I:488-490. He is ultimately shown to have allied himself with the Court. p. 499 Even here, Kasravi maintains a note of ambiguity about his betrayal (“it is said,” etc.), but towards the end of his History he finally says, p. 901

As the reader knows, the Ashtiani family was counted among the vanguard of the movement and Mirza Mostafa had demonstrated his fine competence in the course of events. But then they took a step backwards, and, as was said among the people, Haji Sheikh Morteza was leaning towards Mohammad ‘Ali Mirza and trying to advance his works.

But even this is only said as background to his return to the constitutionalist fold. Kasravi’s protecting of Mirza Mostafa Ashtiani is hard to explain.

Of course, the heroes of Kasravi’s History are Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan. It is clear from reading much of the battle reports that there is clearly some exaggeration involved in them. But what most struck us is how Kasravi treats Sattar Khan’s past. In the earlier versions of the History, Sattar Khan’s rather seamy past is treated in a matter of fact manner. In the version of the History serialized in Parcham, he writes, I:219-220

Some will be surprised that I say called Sattar Khan, the lion-hearted hero of liberty, a bandit. But this is something which he himself said. According to the way of the luti, whatever sin which is committed is not to be denied, lies and hypocrisy being the worst of sins.

In the final version of the History, he writes that he had been a luti, a term which is neither good nor bad for Kasravi, and adds that he “defied the government.” Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 490. For more on this aspect of Sattar Khan's past, see, e.g., Karim Taherzadeh Behzad, Sattar Khan va Qiam-e Azarbayjan, pp. 5-13, 25.

Kasravi in the final version of his History omits any mention in the sources that Sattar Khan was less than a perfect fighter. Thus, Balvaye Tabriz reports p. 46 that Sattar Khan’s men fired with his cannon, but their shots went stray. Again, a letter by Shoja‘-e Nezam makes the same observation. p. 61 Kasravi evidently deemed Sattar Khan’s fallible marksmanship unfit for his History.

Kasravi’s treatment is more apologetic towards Baqer Khan. Kasravi’s major source on the beginning of the fighting in Tabriz, Balvaye Tabriz, is quite open on Baqer Khan’s cooperation with the Shah’s cavalry led by Rahim Khan and his agreement to put up the white flags of surrender: p. 30

During these days, Haji Ebrahim Sarraf, His Honor Haji Mohammad the Russian Tajerbashi, and a group of well-known people from Khiaban went before His Honor [Baqer Khan] and convinced him to put up the white flag. He also was compelled by the evil clergy’s scheming … to take the Khiaban mojaheds’ weapons and surrender them to the Tajerbashi. Then Rahim Khan entered the city with pomp and settled in the government’s Northern Orchard.

It is interesting that the version of the History serialized in Peiman follows Balvaye Tabriz on this. I:108 But the final version of the History does not contain Baqer Khan’s name in its discussion of this matter. p. 659. When Sattar Khan’s men rose up and gave heart to Baqer Khan’s men in the borough of Khiaban, Kasravi simply writes in Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, 696 “Sattar Khan sent to Baqer Khan was right on target, and the mojaheds of Khiaban, who were repenting their behavior, once more took up their rifles and prepared for combat and struggle.” That Baqer Khan had led them into this behavior which required penitence goes unmentioned, whereas the earlier version of the History relates, vol. 2, pp. 117-118 “Baqer Khan and the Khiaban mojaheds, who had surrendered themselves in such a way to Rahim Khan… and were vacillating were encouraged by this message of Sattar Khan’s and returned to supporting the Constitution…”

Similar is Kasravi's protection of the reputation of certain institutions arising from the constitutional period. One was the National Bank, which the Majlis came up with as an alternative to the government's demand for a foreign loan. The fact that this bank came to nothing, and, indeed, collapsed as a result of the scandalous corruption of the Majlis goes unmentioned, and it is allowed to disappear in the flow of history.

Kasravi tries to downplay the role of Shiism in Iranian political life. He does this by deleting references to Shiite expressions in documents, pp. 81, 85 sometimes with ellipses but often without, and by mentioning that, for example, there was no fighting on a certain day because of observances, without mentioning that the occasions were religious festivals or days of mourning. pp. 718, 756 Shiite values, such as the belief that the very suffering of the wronged will turn back on their persecutors and overcome them. Sometimes such statements are simply deleted. See, e.g., the author's translation of Kasravi's History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, p. 98 ff. As an example of the former, Kasravi ridicules Taqizade for declaring, p. 589 “The people have confirmed to the world how long-suffering they are.” As an example of the latter, when Kasravi reports how a mojahed stood up in the absolutist rally at Haji Malek ot-Tojjar’s house and declared, “The people were not afraid of the government’s cannons and guns, and it won its rights,” he deletes the statement "and has confirmed their long-suffering." Compare Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 243 and its source, Anjoman, I:70 (13 Rabi‘ I, 1325 = April 26, 1907).

Another bit of self-censorship is a prudishness which crept into the final version of Kasravi’s History. Whereas the version of the History serialized in Peiman freely indulged in discussions of Mohammad ‘Ali Mirza’s sexual excesses while he was Crown Prince, this was excluded from the final version of the History. Compare I:27 and I:29 of this earlier version with the parallel passage, p. 149, in Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran. Verses which were considered a bit too earthy were deleted from poems he published in this version. A poem attacking Atabak and had the lines, “You have exposed the privates of man and woman in your cruelty./ So be it, I remove from you your covering,” is deleted. Compare Tarikh-e Bidariye Iranian I:470-71 with Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, p. 26. He expressed extreme revulsion over talk about Omm ol-Khaqan having conceived Mohammad ‘Ali Shah in the course of an adulterous relationship. p. 341 He expressed particular outrage when Sayyed Mohammad Reza and Soltan ol-‘Olema, editors of the constitutionalist journals Sur-e Esrafil and Ruh ol-Qodos respectively, made reference to this. p. 572

Along these lines, Kasravi developed an exaggerated criticism of the constitutionalist press, with only a few exceptions. The following quotes are from p. 274. Of Majd ol-Eslam’s Nedaye Vatan he writes, that “for all its external ornateness, was clearly written only so that he could eat.” Indeed, this journal provided much valuable information; for example, it carried much material on the position of the Zoroastrian minority. Of Adib ol-Mamalek, the editor of Majlis, to which Kasravi indeed paid some tribute, he wrote, “His sole talent was as a wordsmith.” In general, he criticized the journalists in the following terms:

An organ which was supposed to exist to awaken the people or teach them what they did not know would be written by each according to whatever old-fashioned ideas he had. This one would talk about philosophy and wanted to illuminate the Constitution through philosophical proofs. That one would adduce proofs from the Sufis and publish verses from the Masnavi.

Another historian of the period, Dr. Mehdi Malekzade, is more generous to these writers. After all, he argued, the modernists had either “to write their ideas in clandestine pamphlets and distribute them or dress new ideas and modern philosophy in the guise of religion and reconcile their ideas with the principles of the Faith or hadiths or Koranic verses and publish them with a thousand worries, tremblings, and concerns.” Tarikh-e Enqelab-e Mashrutiat-e Iran, p. 185 The earlier versions of the History have a similarly positive view of the constitutionalist press. Thus, the version serialized in Peiman says that these journalists were “taking their lives in their hands pure-heartedly.” I:95

Thus, we see that although Kasravi aimed for a high degree of objectivity in his History, his prejudices often got in the way.

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