Mulla Nasr od-Din between Iran and the Ottomans


Over the past few years, I have given a number of talks on the Iranian constitutional revolution and the Caucasian Muslim press, particularly Mullah Nasr od-Din (MND), founded in April 1906. This press functioned as the voice of the layer of Russian-educated Caucasian Muslims who were interested in modernizing or westernizing their societies, to a greater or lesser degree. MND was at the head of this charge, with its dismissive attitude towards Muslim tradition and values and its idealization of Western standards.[1]

The journal had a conventionally Western attitude towards Iran and the Ottomans. Iran was seen as a source of reaction and superstition, a never-ending source of rawzekhans and preachers who would inveigh against Western-style education, for example. [2]

[3] The Ottoman Empire was seen as decadent and despotic. This ran counter to the feelings of many Muslims in the Caucasus, particularly with the rise of pan-Islamic sentiment, which saw the Ottoman Sultan as the Caliph as well as pan-Turkic moods.

Against Pan-Turkism

Since I’ve discussed MND’s attitude towards Iran elsewhere, let me say a few words on its attitude towards Turks and pan-Turkism.

One poem in MND gives a bitter and sarcastic riposte to Namik Kamal’s call to Turkish greatness:


Although we are prisoners of the ways of our times, Although we suffer the disasters of our world, Do not suspect that we want for bread in this age, For whatever we were at first, that we still are! We are Turks [Turanli], used to our ancestor’s deeds. We are a disaster to our own people.

Since the age of three or five, we’ve loved oppression. Sedition flows from our land, from our mountains. We loot, we rob our own brothers. These customs have never and will never leave us Since we are the true sons of our ancestors. We are a disaster to our own people.

The day that Malikshah the Great passed away, We followed two cowardly ministers. We beat each other so much that in the end, The enemy came and pillaged our throne.Jalal od-Dawle Malekshah was the successor of Alp Arslan to the Seljuk throne in 1072. The power behind the throne, the powerful vizier Nezam al-Molk, was assassinated in 1092, and Malekshah outlasted him by only a few months. “The greatness and unity of the Turkish empire expired in the person of Malek Shah. His vacant throne was disputed by his brother and his four sons.” Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Harper & Brothers, 1900), vol. 5, p. 523 We are indifferent to our rights. We are the true sons of our ancestors.

Once we supported Chingiz’s army. We wiped out and massacred the people of Khwarizm. The Khwarizm king was forced to flee. The mosques and schools we burned to the ground. It’s fair that being a horseman is a sign of pride to us.Mohammad II Khwarizmshah ruled Khwarizm, centered between what are now Iran and Central Asia, between 1200 and 1220. Following an imprudent policy, he demolished a buffer state between himself and the Mongol hordes, and compounded the error by executing a caravan laden with gifts from Chenghiz Khan and refusing to have the officer responsible for this rash deed handed over for punishment. The infuriated khan swept into Khwarizm and utterly demolished it. It should be added that the Khwarizmshah dynasty was founded by Turkish slaves of the Seljuks, while Chenghiz Khan was not Turkish but Mongolian. We are a disaster for our own religion.

Once when the Crusades were underway And there was fighting with the Franks, yet We did not rest but created yet another disaster.The success of the Crusades could fairly be laid at the feet of the disorder the Turkish dynasties’ disordered condition. We cut off our beards with our own swords. As if we were a sprig of grass growing in the desert. We are a disaster for our own people.

Once we were the Qara Qoyuns and the Aq Qoyuns. We filled Azerbaijan and Anatolia. We beat each other so badly that we grew faint.Or: Qara Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu.These were Turcoman tribes, the Black Sheep and the White Sheep. The attempt by the Qara Qoyunlus to dislodge the Aq Qolunlus from Diyarbakir, in present day Iraqi Kurdistan, let to battles which led to the collapse of its once-mighty tribal federation as a military force in the Middle East by the 1460s. The Aq Qoyunlus followed this up with expansion at the expense of the Ilkhanid dynasty (the successor dynasty to Timur Lang’s conquest of Iran), only to be swallowed up by the Ottoman expansion east. We beat and grew faint and grew faint and beat. We are Turks [Turanli], used to our ancestor’s deeds. We are a disaster to our own people.

Once we divided into two parts. Teymur Shah supported one side. The other supported Khan Ildirim. The blood flowed and Ankara was like the end of the world.Bayazit “Ildirim” (Lightning) was an Ottoman sultan in the fourteenth century who vastly expanded the empire’s control in Europe. His expansion east brought him into contact with Timur Lang and a battle ensued in 1402 in which the Timur crushed the Ottoman forces and took Ildirim captive. This took place in the plains of Galatia, in which Ankara is located, and Ankara fell to the Mongols for a year. Good for us, we’re both the archer and the target! We are a disaster to our own people.

Once we were inspired by Shah Isma’il and Sultan Salim And divided Islam into two pieces. We put two new names on an ancient faith We called one Shia and the other, Sunni.Sultan Selim “the Grim” ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520, while Shah Isma’il ruled Iran. Although the Ottomans defeated the Safavid Iranians at the battle of Chaldiran in 1514, they were not able to hold the territory they took. However, the Safavid troops lost their aura of invincibility and Shia agitation ceased in the Ottoman lands. We remained in this wretched state. We are a disaster to our own religion.

Nader [Shah] took note of these two sickly ones. He wanted to cure them of this dreadful disease. Towards this end we girded ourselves for battle. We killed him and left his corpse on the ground.Nader Shah Afshar ruled Iran between 1736 and 1747. He tried to integrate Shiism into mainstream Islam by declaring it simply a fifth school of Islam, after the four established schools. He was ultimately murdered by a Turkish servant. It should be mentioned again that the Afshars were a Turkish tribe. We are a disaster to our own religion.

And now comes the news, watch well. The name of Iran and Ottoman are revived And have started a war over a strip of land. As the battle heated up, we are wiped out one and all. If a few of us lose, all of us lose. We are a disaster to our own people.MND, vol. 2, no. 32, p. 7, August 26, 1907 (Old Style)

Iran and Ottomans I: Iran’s Constitutional Period

The Constitutional Revolution in Iran was in full swing by the time MND was founded. In April 1906, the Shah had agreed to grant a House of Justice through which the people could appeal against over-reaching governors and other government officials and to dismiss the old-fashioned autocratic prime minister `Ein od-Dawle. At the time of the magazine’s founding, this prime minister was pushing back against the people.

MND found the Constitutional Revolution amusing. Its editor’s first venture into satire was an article titled Iranda Hurriat, in which his lead character, an Iranian laborer in the Caucasus, upon hearing that the Iranian government was giving freedom, rushed to the Iranian consulate on order to get his share of it, and was crestfallen when he heard that one had to actually go to Iran to get his freedom. He resolved to have his mother get his share of this freedom and send it to him. The point, returned to again and again, was that Iran was not ready for a constitutional order. Moreover, MND saw the Constitutional Revolution as a revolt of the old social classes. Thus, a cartoon portrayed a mullah and a khan in Tabriz linking arms and beating and kicking laymen, over the caption: “A mullah is not a revolution. A khan is not a revolution. But a mullah and a khan--that is a revolution.” [4]

But MND was still taking Iran’s side in its dispute with the Ottoman Empire, which it saw as a bulwark of anti-Constitutionalist intrigue. [5]

[6] [7] Thus, in a satirical news brief, we read,

Istanbul: Chiefs of the secret police Izzat and Fahim PashasOn Izzet Pasha, On Fehim Pasha, have threatened to fine anyone who mentions the Lofty Government of Iran’s freedom and constitution.MND, vol. 1, no. 18, p. 2, August 4, 1906 (Old Style)

' have threatened to fine anyone who mentions the Lofty Government of Iran’s freedom and constitution.MND, vol. 1, no. 18, p. 2, August 4, 1906 (Old Style)

Another example, on the closing of the Ottomanizing journal Füyuzat, he writes,

Once upon a time, there was an Ottoman government and an Iranian government. There was a constitution in the Iranian government but not in the Ottoman government. The Ottoman government looked and saw that Iran’s constitution was deviating the people a bit from the Way. For example, it was emptying out the Friday Imam’s stores, driving thousand year old khans from their places [?], running the Urmia mojtahed out of town, asking the Shah for an accounting, and not letting the ministers sell the country for their autocracy. After seeing this, the Ottoman Sultan thought to himself and said, “By God, there is nothing for it. I have to keep constitutionalism from arising in Iran and spreading to my country.”

One day, the Ottoman army secretly and silently passed over the Iranian border and attacked Urmia and started massacring the orphaned, starving, naked, weak, and suffering and miserable Iranian subject.Ahmad Kasravi, Tarikh-e Mashruteye Iran, pp. 399-400, 424-425, 440, 477-478

Mirza Jalil then, through the character Akhund Locust, embarks on a digression on the spread of freedom everywhere. Returning to the Ottomans, the akhund tells the Sultan,

“[A]bsolutism will not survive anywhere else in the world since it could not tolerate the blows of Russia’s freedom and so Turkey will be attacked by a roaring flood of freedom and the Sultan will be sucked into a terrifying whirlpool will would drown the ship of absolutism and its captain would suffer a terrible fate.”

This the Sultan understood full well.

Mostly, though, the magazine simply inveighed equally against the struggle of the two most powerful Muslim countries. [8]


MND also accused the Ottoman sultan of allowing his empire to disintegrate. Thus, in a piece by Mirza Jalil, upon being told that the European powers were preparing to turn Crete over to the king of Greece, he reports that the Sultan called a Greek member of his haram and said, “bexali-hinduyət baxşəm Krit o Sham o Bosna ra.”MND, vol. 1, no. 36, p. 3, December 8, 1906 (Old Style) This latter quote is a parody of a line by Hafez: “If that Shirazi Turk would take my heart in his hand, I’d give for her Indian mole Samarqand and Bokhara.” [10]


In a satirical news brief, Mirza Jalil writes,

Sultan Abdulhamid’s special sheik distributes sheik licenses to parasitic mullahs like himself and lines his pockets with their bribes. In the meantime, they don’t notice that for some time, the Bulgarians, the Cretans, and the Bosnians have taken Ottoman land and are grabbing more.MND, vol. 3, no. 40, pp. 2-3, October 6, 1908 (Old Style)

Iran and Ottomans II: The Ottoman Constitutional Period

In praise of the Young Turks

In contrast to the skeptical and supercilious view taken of the Constitutional Revolution, the Ottoman Young Turks were praised by MND for restoring the Ottoman constitution. The newspaper, particularly in its cartoons, supported the Young Turks against their enemies--domestic reactionaries and the Balkan autonomists and meddling European powers. One cartoon depicts them trying to undermine the Young Turks as they discuss the new constitution.MND, vol. 4, no. 4, p. 12, January 25, 1909 (Old Style) [12]

A very formal portrait of the new sultan, Muhammad Rashad V, adorns the front page, [13] MND, vol. 4, no. 17, p. 1, April 26, 1909 (Old Style) while the old sultan is depicted as garbage being taken out by grieving reactionaries. [14] MND, vol. 4, no. 17, p. 1, April 26, 1909 (Old Style); see text referenced in the previous issue, p. 7. Another engraving of Anvar Pasha, “The first Ottoman mojahed to enter the palace and dethrone Sultan Hamid,” appears a few weeks later. [15] MND, vol. 4, no. 20, p. 2, May 17, 1909 (Old Style) The Young Turks are depicted as sweeping out the old.[16] [17] MND, vol. 4, no. 24, p. 11, June 14, 1909 (Old Style)

The Young Turks’ steps towards women’s education, something very close to MND’s heart, won it a front page cartoon. Over a picture of a male Young Turk opening a girl’s academy, the caption reads, “Look at what a pass things have come to, Abdulhamid and Kama Pasha! Open your eyes and see how these Young Turks have smitten the world and trampled Islam underfoot.”MND, vol. 9, no. 7, p. 1, February 26, 1914 (Old Style) [18]

On the Young Turks’ failure to win mass support MND staff writer Keyfsiz mourned:

Your efforts are unappreciated, Young Turks! They do not bow down before, Young Turks!


First the tree of oppression was destroyed so. The nation was in chains like slaves. You brought the highest star much closer. Villainy shall never end, Young Turks! They do not bow to you, Young Turks!

Your nations have not evolved enough. Your efforts have not borne fruit. Before long, a new Prime Minister, Kamal [Pasha]Leader of the Liberal Union and closer to the Court than the Committee of Unity and Progress. He was prime minister from August 5, 1908 to February 14, 1909. He was portrayed in the pages of MND as the man behind the scenes in the attempted coup by shariatist soldiers on April 13, 1909. (MND ) was installed. The traitors are inexhaustible in that land, Young Turks! The Ottomans do not bow to you, Young Turks!

The factionalism of Ottoman politics and the disintegration of the European side of the empire are deplored. It closes with,

Let Rum [the European Ottoman provinces] suffer ever so much oppression. Let Turkish girls’ virtue be sullied. Let the garden’s caretaker be seized and thrown in prison. Kamil Pasha’s feasting will not be spoiled, Young Turks! That faction will not cease its mischief, Young Turks! Open your eyes, learn a lesson, and don’t forget it, Young Turks!

It bemoaned how the Ottomans did not appreciate their efforts. They are but a drop in the ocean of the Ottoman lands.MND, vol. 8, no. 4, p. 6, February 3, 1913 (Old Style). The context of the poem is obscure to me. The Young Turks had just shot their way back into power in the coup of January 23, 1913 over the disastrous course of the Balkan wars. In 1911, a by-election saw the Liberal Union’s fortunes soar, and perhaps this is what is being referred to.

Iran and the Young Turks

MND recognized a relationship between the Iranian and Ottoman constitution and its enemies.

The Young Turk revolution was met with an ironic warning in the voice of an “Old Iranian” “warning” the Ottomans not to fall for the idea of freedom like they did:

Ottomans, don’t fall into error, for God’s sake! Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake!

You won’t be happy, oh dear people’s representatives Who are implementing the constitution. Let’s not say constitution [qanun-i asasi], but Iran’s tragedy [İran əzasi], A bloody disaster visited on the Iranians’ heads. Children died and mothers mourn and despaired. Although they say that in the end some good will come of it. Ottomans, don’t fall into error, for God’s sake! Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake!

First they will give you freedom of thought, In other words, to speak your mind and express it, And when you speak, let the representatives know. You will see for certain that there is a hidden danger there. No matter what your craft, they will inevitably throw you out, Since in this assembly your truth shall be denied. You will not find good here, for God’s sake! Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake!

Let’s agree that they offended the representatives. But you somehow imposed your own ideas. Until news reached a few corrupt clerics And Mirza Ali-AkbarProbably the mojtahed in Ardebil. He himself was an early supporter of the constitutional movement, but since Ardebil was divided by sectarian strife, the movement degenerated into a sectarian brawl. spread his hands in prayer And anathematized and cursed the intellectuals. Was there a single liberal on the scene? Don’t think this a vain thought, for God’s sake! Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake!

Amazing, Ottomans, don’t you understand? A constitution was granted, or don’t you believe it? Do you believe you have no Mir Hashems or Fazlullahs? They are not few yet you do not recognize them. One day you shall recognize them, you will doubtless be disgusted. And when you are disgusted with them you will be stained with blood. Don’t consider the bloodless fools, for God’s sake! Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake!

Once we, too, peaceful and content And then they gave us freedom of conscience. We were grateful that savages were allowed among the human. We did not hide our children at home. Haj Mirza HasanThe anti-constitutionalist mojtehad of Tabriz. gave a boy to forty thugs. Should these mullah imposters say that they have faith, No, no, don’t be deceived by them, for God’s sake. Don’t fall asleep like the Iranian, for God’s sake! span class='footnote'>MND, vol. 3, no. 31, p. 2, August 4, 1908 (Old Style)

A wall calendar depicted “the primary founders of the Young Turk revolution Niyazi bey and Anvar bey and the martyred Iranian mojaheds Jahangir and Malek ol-Motakallemin,”Ahmad Niyazi bey and Isma’il Envar bey led a raid on a military depot and set up a base in the mountains in Macedonia, from where they issued a proclamation calling for the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution. Mirza Janagir Khan and Malek ol-Motakallemin were two leading intellectuals of the Iranian constitutional revolution, the former an editor of the newspaper Sur-e Esrafil and the latter a popular orator. Both were executed after the constitutional order collapsed in 1908. drawing a connection between the two constitutional movements.MND, vol. 3, no. 49, p. 8, December 7, 1908 (Old Style)

Zaki, Rami Pasha, and Sheik Abulhuda looking out a prison window.The arrest in August 1908 of Hassan Rami Pasha, former Minister of the Navy, on embezzling charges, Zeki Pasha, former head of the Ordinance Department of the Ottoman army and famous for having amassed vast wealth through illegal means, and Sheik Abul-Huda, "the chief Pan-Islamic advisor to Abdul-Hamid and well known as the chief inciter of the Armenian massacres of 1895 and 1896, are described in Aykut Kansu, The Revolution of 1908 in Turkey (Brill, 1997). Outside, Rahim Khan, `Ein od-Dawle, and Amir Bahadar are standing. Sheik Fazlollah, Mojtahed Haji Mirza Hasan, and Mir Hasham are playing bagpipes. One of the khans has extended his hand to the Ottomans and is saying, “Oh unfortunate people, we too were in prison just like you for a short while, but now all of Iran shakes before us. Fear not, be patient a bit. God is merciful.”MND, vol. 3, no. 34, pp. 7, 8, August 25, 1908 (Old Style). See also ibid., no. 39, p. 2-3, September 29, 1908 (Old Style) [19]

This is also depicted in a cartoon showing an Ottoman crushed between two top-hatted Europeans, Iran crushed between a sheik and the Shah, and a Muslim woman crushed between two men.MND, vol. 3, no. 42, p. 4, October 20, 1908 (Old Style)[20]

and another one showing a sleeping Iran and a sleeping Ottoman Empire being stripped of their clothes.[21] MND, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 4-5, January 18, 1911 (Old Style)

On the other hand, in their more despondent writings, the relationship of the lack of public appreciation of the constitutional projects in the two countries was also recognized. In an editorial poem (a feature of many issues of MND), the author writes:

Neither is there is benefit from the trumpet of JahangirMirza Jahangir Khan, the editor of Sur-e Esrafil [the Trumpet of Esrafil]. nor Malek ol-Motakallemin,The constitutionalist agitator. Nor is there such firmness in some of Iran’s provinces.

Neither is this constitution published in Turkey, Nor is there such courage to do so in the impermanent Young Turks.MND, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 4, January 18, 1909 (Old Style)

The defects of the two constitutional projects regarding women were also expressed. The arrest of Mirza Sayyed Hosein Khan, editor of Sohbat, in Tabriz for writing an article which said that if women were made from a man’s rib, then they should be at his side when he appears in public was protested in a cartoon and a poem in which an Ottoman woman was arrested for appearing in public without the proper veiling. The poem, a translation of which I published elsewhere, reads in part:

In Istanbul a woman Removed the veil from her face. The police saw and were shocked. They said, “Hey you evil wretch! Cover your face with your veil! Unfortunately women Cannot be given freedom…

Both Ottoman and Persian say When it comes to freedom and equality, Rights and powers Women should step aside They are for men And cannot be given to you, alas…MND, vol. 4, no. 48, p. 5, November 29, 1909 (Old Style). See also the cartoon in MND, vol. 4, no. 12, p. 14, March 22, 1909 (Old Style)

Again, the reactionaries were the enemies of both the Iranian and the Ottoman constitutional order. An anonymous writer reports that in the district of Kür, a certain Sheikh Baba

Has lately been arming fedais day and night. It is said that when they get to Tehran, they will throw out the new shah and replace him with the old one and appoint the old officials throughout Iran. Then they will go to Istanbul, seize the new sultan, bind him and foot, and bring him to Salonika and restore Haji Hamid [i.e., the Sultan] to the throne.MND, vol. 4, no. 42, p. 7, October 18, 1909 (Old Style)

Along more positive lines, Sabir, MND’s star poet, wrote,

The Iranian says let there be justice. The Ottoman says, let the nation be free. What does the ascetic say? Let my belly be full! Let the Iranian and Ottoman both get lost.MND, vol. 5, no. 26, p. 3, July 4, 1909 (Old Style)

In more general terms, another one of MND’s stable of poets wrote of the good mullah, taking the voice of the former Shah, Mohammad Ali Mirza,

You bedeviled the officer [batmangalich] before Tehran. You have made me vagrant and wrecked my throne. You have smitten the Qajars’ throne with fire. You have made the barber HamidReferring to the deposed Ottoman Sultan. cry in prison. I …Lacuna in the original. enough, don’t write about me, by God. “La hawl wa la quwwat illa billah.”MND, vol. 6, no. 1, p. 2, July 4, 1909 (Old Style)

But the tables had turned, and instead of Constitutional Iran being faced with the intrigues and aggression of an absolutist Ottoman Empire, the Constitutional order in the Ottoman Empire was now faced with an Iran which was considered to have slipped deeper and deeper under British and Russian influence under the Second Majlis and the 1911 coup. [22]

[23] [24] [25]

Imperialism and Ottoman Disintegration under the Young Turks

The Ottoman Empire’s Disintegration

In general, MND expressed great concern over the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Cartoons particularly depicted the loss of its European provinces in the most painful terms, as we've seen before. [26]

In particular, he ridiculed the policy of the Russian chauvinists in making demands on the Ottomans for freedom of their nationalities while the Russians were crushing their own.[27]

[28] MND, vol. 3, no. 39, p. 5, September 29, 1908 (Old Style), MND, vol. 4, no. 40, p. 11, October 4, 1909 (Old Style) Mirza Jalil’s satire of the European machinations against the Ottoman Empire could be very pointed. For example, MND poet Keyfsiz satirizes European double standard on the brutality of war, in which an Italian massacre of Arab civilians goes unmentioned while any time Ottoman troops trouble Europeans it is considered an atrocity.MND, vol. 8, no. 9, pp. 6, March 15, 1913 (Old Style)

The Balkan Wars

MND’s coverage of the Italian invasion of Libya in September 1911 and the Balkan Wars which followed was definitely hostile to Western designs on the Ottoman provinces, but this sympathy was heavily overlaid with criticism of the Ottoman Empire. On the outbreak of the war, the magazine published a lengthy editorial by Mirza Jalil.MND, vol. 6, no. 34, pp. 2-3, October 1, 1911 (Old Style) It opened by slamming the Ottoman administration of the three provinces coveted by the Italians as “sending lots of slaves to Hamid and the pashas’ harams.”

There are no schools there but three thousand mosques. Previously, they would not allow women to attend school, but recently, when Baku Muslim newspapers wrote about the necessity for women to know how to read, then in Tripoli, too, the girls achieved such a degree of freedom that when British women stood up against their government and demanded their rights with fists clenched, the first people to raise their heads were the Tripoli girls (thanks to female education among the Islamic peoples).

This is an odd paragraph. First it says that there were no schools, and then that women were kept out of these non-existent schools. Of course, the rest is irony used to poke fun at the Caucasian Muslim press and to contrast the place of women in the Muslim world with their sisters in the West.

The article continues,

Now what does Italy say? It says nothing, except what it said in the first place: “I’m strong!” But this wicked country has lately claimed that Germany agrees with it as does Austria. Oh, you bastard, one day I’ll take you by the hand and send you to Samarqand. There, … I will turn you over to the white beards, gray beards, and black beards. They will sit you down on Ramazan nights and talk to you. Then they will wake you up early in the morning and send you to the bazaar to listen to “Qadji” Ghafar’s talks in Istanbul. Oh unmanly Italy!

After quoting the German press summarizing the war, he returns to his satire:

Well, moreover, the Turks were fighting on two great fronts. On the one hand, the Yerevan Sabzikar Garden’s owners, whose profession was to wave daggers and swords at Muslims. The other belonged to His Highness the Amir of Bukhara. As for the Yerevan gardeners, they were waiting for Mullah Ali Sharayeh and Haji Mullah Baqer, who were beating each other over four shahis and three kopeks, to reconcile, and then they would help. As for His Highness the Amir [of Samarqand], he referred to the clergy to see what they thought best. They ultimately advised him to send the following aid to the Ottomans on behalf of the Bukhara Muslims. The Persian translations are references to Shiite scholastic terminology:

Armored battleship, i.e., تشخیص تمیزی خون فلان از خون فلان Wireless telegraphs, i.e., عدای حروف و مخارج Motorized artillery, i.e., تحقق مسائل جنابت Telephone, i.e., استباء Gramophone, i.e., شکیات Airship, i.e., خروس عرش Wagon, i.e., آبادی بیت ال خلا رفتن Automobile, i.e., عملۀ موتا Electric generator [?], i.e., خر دجال Bicycle, i.e., اتنظار صوم و تشهد Felt factory, etc., i.e., مبتلات سوم و غیره Vodokachka, i.e., در مقداری آب کور Submarine, i.e., قصل ارتماسی

This article is focused much less on European machinations against the Ottoman Empire and much more on using the resulting wars as a teachable moment to preach against the backwardness of the Russo-Muslims.

The historic fall of Tripoli to the Italian forces was turned into another opportunity to satirize Muslim fatalism and backwardness:

There are three reasons the Ottomans were forced into a general retreat and the Italians beat them. Two of them are clear to us, but the third only God knows.

The reasons which are clear to us are that the war between the Ottomans and the Italians took place on land which the Ottomans could not send troops to. Fighting a sea battle and resisting the enemy requires ships, and in this regard, the Ottomans were much weaker than the Italians.

That’s one.

The second reason which is clear to us is that the Turks unfairly dethroned Hamid, completely unfairly, and again, unfairly. About a year ago, when they sent Hamid to Salonika, Mullah Muhammad of Lankaran said, “The Ottoman government will come under the influence of Hamid’s and the people of Shamakhi’s prayers for ill and will suffer a sudden catastrophe.” At the time, these words were considered ridiculous. Now what?

The third one God alone knows… Nothing can happen in the world of which God is ignorant. If the Ottomans win, it’s from God’s side. If the Italians seize Tripoli and shed the blood of innocent Muslims, this too is in God’s interests and it has nothing to do with us.MND, vol. 6, no. 36, pp. 2-3, October 15, 1911 (Old Style)

Oh, sir, for God’s sake, don’t give me a headache. I have enough troubles of my own. You see how my house has been wrecked and my back is broken, I have lost a man like Sayyed Muhammad AqaSee below..

You will say to me, “What do I know, the Italians have made a bloodbath for the Ottomans and the Arabs.”

You will say, “In the cities of Europe, the socialist parties are holding meetings and making speeches denouncing the Italians and petitioning their governments to put a stop to the savage Italians’ inhumanity.” You will say, “Right now in Prague, several thousand Czechs, who are themselves Catholics, have gathered to greet the Ottomans and are sending a thousand imprecations upon the Italians.”

I, too, say get involved with the Caucasian Muslims, you have no idea when one Sayyed Muhammad has born his presence from this temporary abode to the ever-lasting abode how many porters, butchers, barbers, fruit dealers [mısmarçıs], whey venders [qatıqçıs], and coachmen, gathered around His Eminence’s courtyard. A flea-ridden mullah gathered some kids in rags from the gutter and gave each of them a tattered flag. On the one hand, the Muzaffari school was closed and the bald, lice-infected kids came crying and beating their heads. On the other hand, Mullah Khoruzollah and his Iranian immigrants ran from the mosque to Qasem’s room“It had long been the custom to make a portable room in front of a mourning procession. It was believed that His Holiness Qasem in the head of the battle of Karbala, Qasem was married and this was his bridal chamber, and so it is to this day seen in the front of some Tasua processions.” and decorated it and left, preparing barrels of water in the alley. Well, I don’t want to give you a headache. There were two levels of society right next to each other--the impoverished dervishes and Mullah Qarpuz AliWatermelon-Ali on the one side and the rest of the dervishes on the other. In a few places, a crowd had gathered crying with a marsiyekhan,Professional reciter of the tribulations of the House of the Prophet. until Qasem’s room was ready and his blessed corpse was brought in from the courtyard and the mullahs pressed to the front and began to recite from the Koran while from the back, school children were reciting dirges [nawheh] led by the principal while beating their breasts, bringing the corpse to Tekeh Square (while you fools were still talking about the Italians and the Ottomans). The same Tekeh Square in which the Turcoman would bind their horses, mules, camels, and so on. Right where they unbound their horses and donkeys and let them roam, there they lay down the corpse and on that very same sacred place, they recited prayers (upon my life, may your heart not break!)

' target='_blank'> and decorated it and left, preparing barrels of water in the alley. Well, I don’t want to give you a headache. There were two levels of society right next to each other--the impoverished dervishes and Mullah Qarpuz AliWatermelon-Ali on the one side and the rest of the dervishes on the other. In a few places, a crowd had gathered crying with a marsiyekhan,Professional reciter of the tribulations of the House of the Prophet. until Qasem’s room was ready and his blessed corpse was brought in from the courtyard and the mullahs pressed to the front and began to recite from the Koran while from the back, school children were reciting dirges [nawheh] led by the principal while beating their breasts, bringing the corpse to Tekeh Square (while you fools were still talking about the Italians and the Ottomans). The same Tekeh Square in which the Turcoman would bind their horses, mules, camels, and so on. Right where they unbound their horses and donkeys and let them roam, there they lay down the corpse and on that very same sacred place, they recited prayers (upon my life, may your heart not break!)

In short, I hope I didn’t give you a headache, but I had no time, and went to the grave and had to beg His Eminence’s relatives’ pardon and immediately left for a Muslims’ meeting. They said that we Caucasians also remember the Ottomans and are saddened. But however much they are our brothers in faith, Haji Husein of Danabash swore, “I had gotten bread from an Ottoman while travelling to Mecca from Istanbul to eat it, but it didn’t pass my blessed mouth, lest it be unclean.” Ah, may Aunt Fatimah’s soul be a sacrifice to your mouth, the people of Prague, believers in a different faith, rallied by the thousand to weep over the massacre of Arab children.

You, now, are just an example of “the donkey is the same donkey.”In Persian.

I don’t know perhaps I am a sinner.

Indeed, may my Muslim brothers forgive my sin, but I believe that all over the face of the earth, all the nations, this hour and this minute, are cursing the Italians, but it is fitting for us Muslims that we must consider, alongside the Italians, who consider it proper to shed innocent blood, such unclean elements as Muhammad Ali and Rahim Khan.The dethroned Shah and his general, who had committed atrocities in crushing the Constitutionalists, especially in Tabriz. A man’s hand must be washed.

We writers for MND, too, want to say something here.

It has been six years that we have drawn a picture of our Muslims, calling us ignorant and savage and we have spread our journal throughout the world so that wherever our Muslim brothers read it, they could see themselves and be certain that an issue would find its way among a few Italians and there, upon seeing in each issue pictures of and stories about the Ganja youth, the Baku hoodlums, the Qarabagh thugs, and the Iranian sayyeds, and they would look at their own wives a few times and say, “Look at how savage these inhuman Muslims are!”

Surely the Italians have said such words about us several times.

Well, what should I say. My voice is dumb. The fact is, I tell the Italians, “You European nations are savage bastards. You call yourselves learned and educated Europeans and no fruit comes from the Tree of Evil. You’re bastards, you do not perform sigheh in Khorasan.

And now see what the Italians say to me.

They say, “You are a Caucasian Muslim. You are the most boorish of all the nations because in Nakhichavan in a yard during a wedding, while the music was playing, Muslim believers brought Mullah Olushgamish to the pulpit in a coach and covered his face with a kerchief so that, like the Imams, his ears would be stuffed so that he might not hear the satanic wedding and he might not be affected by what was happening and in this matter they bore him to the village of Danabash.

Well, what is there to say?MND, vol. 6, no. 38, pp. 2-3, October 30, 1911 (Old Style)

Of course, there are many articles and cartoons attacking the anti-Ottoman machinations of the West and their local allies, the Ottoman Christians (above all the Greeks) and the Albanians. But the large number of prominently-placed articles which use major Ottoman reverses to satirize Caucasian Muslim life is striking.

Praise for the Rebellious Ottoman Nationalities

This goes so far that even in the midst of the European powers’ intervention into the Ottoman Empire’s European provinces, Mirza Jalil cannot put all the blame on the European powers’ rapaciousness. In an article written a few months after the Young Turk coup, he writes, “The Austrians are intervening on behalf of its Ottoman clients? But the strong will always attack the weak. And all the Muslims seem capable of doing is sitting home and cursing the Ottomans’ enemies. The Bulgarians have rebelled against the Ottomans?” He continues,

But we don’t consider what is right in front of our eyes. Now that they are released from Ottoman oppression, because they now have a constitution, the Bulgarian government has set itself for progress. It does not occur to us that according to its law, boys from six to twelve have compulsory education. Now, according to the 1908 statistics, in Bulgaria, one hundred and seventy-two thousand boys and forty-two thousand girls in Bulgaria are already studying in elementary school, aside from those in middle and upper schools.

And us? If a Bulgarian or Austrian were to take us by the hand and open a book in front of one of our students in, say, one of our academies and say, “Hey, read!” the student would lower his head and mumble, “Chapter four, on picking up a toilet can….”

Well, what do you want? Beautiful forms are at your disposal. If you want to take one a day in sigheh, fine. Otherwise, what do I know? Let the Bulgarian come and the Austrian go. The hell with the both of them.

I have a headache.MND, vol. 3, no. 39, pp. 2-3, September 29, 1908 (Old Style)

In another piece, written before the coup, he compares the Ottoman Empire to an old sack which cannot keep its contents in. He concludes that,

In brief, any nation which lives under Sultan Abdulhamid, this nation must completely abandon its self-respect and humanity. All that would be left in the Ottoman lands would be a few Turks and some Muslims, who would put up with Ottoman administration.MND, vol. 3, no. 21, p. 2, May 26, 1908 (Old Style)

In another article, he wrote,

I say that at this very moment, the Ottoman Christian nationalities, thanks to their magazines, know what they are up against and what is happening…

But out of fifteen million Turks, three or four thousand are ignorant of what is happening in the rest of the world after having graduated from a school of higher education.

This is because the magazines published in Istanbul are incomprehensible and so, for example, out of a thousand Anatolian Turks, not even one knows where Istanbul is.MND, vol. 4, no. 32, p. 5, August 9, 1909 (Old Style)

In the course of another article, he wrote,

I wanted to write that Serbia is a young government. It had been considered an Ottoman province for four hundred years and every year, the Ottoman sultans, pashas, and janissaries would come and smack the Serbs in the head a bit and then gather a few pretty girls and bring some of them to the Sultan’s haram to occupy them a bit. Things finally reached the point that 27 years ago, Serbia set up a government and became a free and constitutional monarchy. Although it has a population of a bit over two million souls, it began to open schools and academies and things eventually reached the point that it could go face to face with a dragon like Austria…MND, vol. 4, no. 8, p. 8, February 22, 1909 (Old Style)

In another article, he reports how Serbian women petitioned to fight side by side with their men, while mullahs call Western women shameless.MND, vol. 4, no. 13, p. 4, March 29, 1909 (Old Style)

Answering Supporters of the Ottoman Caliphate I: True Believers

MND’s writers were at pains to answer both Caucasian and Iranian Muslims who supported the Ottoman Sultan. In concluding a report on allegations of a conspiracy between the Sultan and Bulgarian secessionists to crush the Young Turks, which gave the latter the excuse they needed to strike at the Sultan, a MND author wrote, “The point of my writing this is to inform Sultan Abdulhamid’s friends so they would know what’s going on. Nothing can be done after it’s too late.”MND, vol. 3, no. 44, p. 6, November 3, 1908 (Old Style)

While the Young Turk coup was underway, MND was shocked to see Iranians praying for the Sultan.

I heard something, but I don’t believe it.

The newspapers write that Iranians living in Tiflis have sent a telegram to Istanbul to Sultan Abdulhamid conveying their prayers.

When I heard this, I was astounded, and here’s why:

First, no matter how much I think about it, I cannot imagine what good deed the Sultan has done for him to be worth praying for. I rifled the newspapers one by one, but I did not see anything about a single good deed the Sultan did.

Second, instead of sending prayers, the Iranians should weep, since at this minute, the Sultan’s armies, Kurds, and bands of goons are demolishing a corner of Iran.

Recently, I met an Iranian friend of mine and asked, “Is it true that you have sent prayers to the Sultan?”

“Yes, it’s true.”

“On what excuse are you sending them?”

“Because a constitution has been declared on the Sultan’s behalf.”

I’m afraid that there are some other people like these Tiflis Iranians who are absolutely unaware of what’s going on in the world and will accidently telegram the Sultan prayers from this distance and so I saw myself obliged to inform my readers of the facts of the matter.

He then explained that it was the Young Turks who announced the constitution and not the Sultan.MND, vol. 3, no. 29, pp. 2-3, August 4, 1908 (Old Style)

In another editorial, Mirza Jalil chastises the Calcutta Habl ol-Matin for saying

“Sultan Abdulhamid is not a human, but like an angelic being.”

It wrote that he is “considered in the first rank of the world statesmen.” [In Persian, followed by a translation into Azerbaijani Turkist.]

He continued that Iranian readers would get the impression that the Sultan was above all else a constitutionalist. He continued:

Habl ol-Matin spoke the truth and there is no argument with anything this esteemed newspaper said. But we consider it necessary to reveal something so that the readers might understand better.

From Sultan Abdulhamid’s enthronement to this day, he let the Ottoman Empire disintegrate and be ruined. We have seen this and understood, since the Ottoman Empire is near us, but Habl ol-Matin neither sees nor understands, since it’s a long way from the Ottoman Empire to Calcutta.

But we agree that there is no one on the world of politics like the Sultan. This is because no one has become as beloved among the Muslims as Sultan Abdulhamid while his empire collapses. Even our in our poor Nukha and Shamakhi, everyone must stand up at the mention of his name.

We won’t deny that the Sultan is constitutional. The fact is the sighs of the thousands of constitutionalists rotting in prison upon the Sultan’s command have not been able to reach Calcutta yet. After all, Calcutta is very far away, but we know about this, since the Ottomans are our neighbors.

اصالتا از جانب خود و نیابتا از طرف ملت مشروطهخواه ایران از این بخشش مشروع و عنایت خسروانه بپیشگاه اقدس اعلا حضرت سلطانی عرض و اظهار بشکر مینمایم...

Thus writes Habl ol-Matin, since this poor newspaper believes that it was Sultan Abdolhamid who granted the Ottoman constitution.

We are sorry that the Iranians most respected journal could sully its pages with the above lines.

Flattering important men is the job of people like Mirza Dadi the marsiyekhan.

But it is unworthy of Habl ol-Matin.[29]


In another editorial, Mirza Jalil writes,

Again, the same thing which I have written about several times before. The same old issue.

Who is Sultan Abdulhamid?

Much has been said about this. There has been a sort of debate between our people from Nukha, Shamakhi, and Daghistan about the Sultan. In other words, we have not been happy with what each of us says.

Talk about the Sultan has spread to his beggars who always want to confirm that Sultan Abdulhamid khan II, our royal lord is some sort of Supporter of the Shariat of Muhammad, the Caliph of Islam, and supporter of learning and wisdom.

But we reply that Sultan Abdulhamid II is the enemy of the Ottoman Empire and all the nationalities of those who live therein, and that from the time he rose to the throne to this day, these thirty-six years, he has been thinking night and day about how to wipe out his empire, i.e., to ruin it.

No one has yet confirmed what I said. Everyone thinks that we have some kind of father and son quarrel with the Sultan, a personal animosity. On the one hand, the Habl ol-Matins and our Caucasian magazines write lengthy Shahnamehs about the Sultan, hoping to attract the people to their side. On the other hand, Ottoman mojaheds who publish indictments of Sultan Abdulhamid in Europe and Egypt in their newspapers are unable to win our people over.

And so, we remain alone in the field.

Well now! See what has happened!

Now, all the newspapers have begun to confirm what an enemy of the country the Sultan is. Since then we hear that the Young Turks’ army wants to dethrone him and throw him out.

Again, they keep chattering about old issues.

But something which is chattered about will not go away. Of course, many of our intellectuals can be found who gather some newspapers from their first to their last issues and bind them into a book and then recall some old matters.

If we were to browse through such a book and read what is written there about the Sultan, we will see who someone had written just yesterday, “Sultan Abdulhamid khan II, our royal lord is some sort of Supporter of the Shariat of Muhammad, the Caliph of Islam, and supporter of learning and wisdom.”

But if we read that same newspaper’s latest issue, it says that the one responsible for the Ottoman Empire’s disintegration, the elimination of learning and wisdom, and even bloodshed in Islambul is named Abdul-Hamid khan II.

I know that whatever one chatters about, one must not chatter about this.MND, vol. 4, no. 15, p. 5, April 12, 1909 (Old Style)


It hasn’t been long, but now it has been four years that Abdul-Hamid is gradually being forgotten by the Caucasian Unityists [CUP supporters]. Whenever this cursed man’s name is mentioned for ill, we used to hear five curses from the sanctimonious Shamakhis, Nukha believers, Daghistan Lezghis, and northern savages.

In those days, we said that Abdul-Hamid was an enemy of Islam. But when we said this, the people said that we ourselves were to be considered enemies of Islam. Now what Abdul-Hamid was hiding has become public for us and his donkey-followers have shut up. On the one hand, Abdul-Hamid has gone to hell, and his servants, for their part, have gone into hiding in their mouse holes.

Now let’s see what we’ve found out: We have recently found in the Sultan’s Yildiz Saray seven hundred and thirty three trunks which were filled with reports to the Sultan.

These papers have now been examined one by one. Some two thousand one hundred reports have been read and selected, and the rest abandoned.

Well, this is the same Abdul-Hamid whose picture we once drew, as a result of which the consul Feyzi bey complained about us to the Russian government. This was the same Sultan who, throughout his reign, had boxes filled with all the reports sent to him where they rotted. It is now known that as rulers, kings, and sultans came and went all over the world, not a single one was such an enemy of his people as Abdul-Hamid.

But do you remember when four or five years ago our Baku dailies, in order to win the respect of the rabble, took our tall-papaq, ignorant Sunni brothers by the hand and praised Abdul-Hamid. And now when I find a few old issues of our newspapers I send them to the Istanbul, to the Young Turk committee, so they can read them and see that there are not a few charlatans here in the Caucasus among our journalists.

Four years have passed. Four years ago, when we denounced Abdul-Hamid, the tall-papaq, blind northern savages considered MND an enemy of Islam. On the other hand, our bastard writers depicted Abdul-Hamid before the people as a just and zealous sultan and twisted the heads of the public so that they’d hold onto their customers.

Where are those writers? Why don’t they don’t mention Abdul-Hamid’s name?

God damn the vile.MND, vol. 6, no. 47, p. 6, December 31, 1911 (Old Style)

Answering Supporters of the Ottoman Caliphate II: Opportunists

MND exposed the Ottoman newspaper Iqdam, which never once said anything critical about the Sultan, nor mentioned anything about Iran’s new constitutional order. Finally, when Mohammad Ali Mirza bombarded the Majlis, it reported this fact--doubtless because it would please the Sultan.MND, vol. 3, no. 31, p. 7, August 4, 1908 (Old Style)

The Struggle for Azerbaijani Turkish

As all observers of the development of nationalities know, language is an intensely political issue.

Turkish (Speaking) Iranians

The antagonism as we know it between Turk and Persian does not appear much in MND. As I’ve said, Iran was generally looked on with condescension by the writers from MND, but there was no distinction made between Persian and Turk in this. The only shadow of this I saw was in an article in which a teacher came to teach in the Baku Saadat School picking up a Turkish textbook and throwing it out, “forbidding the children to speak Turkish, i.e., their mother tongue.”MND, vol. 3, no. 44, p. 6, November 3, 1908 (Old Style) But this was a common enough phenomenon and a frequent target of MND’s barbs, as I’ve shown elsewhere. And there is a record of “a quarrel between Azerbaijani Turks and Persians” over what kind of medal to award Sattar Khan.MND, vol. 3, no. 46, p. 7, November 17, 1908 (Old Style)

The only case I’ve found where the people of Azerbaijan are even described as Turks is in a poem by Sabir.MND, vol. 3, no. 42, p. 6, October 20, 1908 (Old Style)

The Struggle for Azerbaijani Turkish

Paper to be posted soon.

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