Iran History – From the Safavids to the Cagiari

By | December 16, 2021

Founder of the Safavid dynasty was Ismail (1483-1524), descendant of the shaikh Safi ad-Din, eponym of the dynasty, who had acquired great religious and moral authority in his city, Ardabil, and in much of Azerbaijan, which soon became political.. In a series of successful campaigns to the east, Ismail managed to conquer a territory roughly coinciding with that over which the Sassanid Empire had extended a thousand years earlier. On all this territory Ismail and his successors, who boasted descent from the Arab Shiite imams as a title of legitimacy, introduced for the first time as the state religion the Muslim heresy of Shiism, which had always had roots in Persia but never until then. it had enjoyed an officially dominant position. Religious rivalry was thus added to, justifying it, to political rivalry with the neighboring power of the West, Sunni Ottoman Turkey. The Safavid dominion over Persia lasted for more than two centuries (1502-1736), which represented for the nation a period of political, economic and cultural prosperity which it had not reached for some time. Under Ismail’s fourth successor, Abbas I (1587-1629), who, having defeated the Ottomans, conquered the whole territory as far as Baghdad, the power and splendor of the Safavids reached their apogee. Inside, Abbas provided for public safety, reorganized the army, profoundly reformed the bureaucracy and favored trade and communications by opening roads, bridges and other public works; made Isfahan, elected capital, a large and populous metropolis and during his reign there was a new, splendid artistic and monumental flowering. Under his successors the borders of the Empire narrowed due to the definitive loss of Mesopotamia, conquered in 1638 by the Turks of Murad IV. Conflicts over the succession were the main weakness of the Safavid monarchy. The political fragility of Abbas’s successors was countered by the growth of power of religious dignitaries, to whom the intention of making Shiism the state religion had attributed a decisive influence.¬†For Iran 2017, please check

The end of the Safavid Empire began when Isfahan, after a long siege, succumbed to Afghan invaders in 1722. While the painful path of anarchy reopened for Persia, the Ottomans were ready to take advantage of the crisis, renewing the threat from the West. To prevent the dissolution of the kingdom intervened a Sunni adventurer from Khorasan, Nadir Shah, who drove the Afghans, supporting the legitimistic claims of the old dynasty, and then imposing his personal power on the disappearance of the last Safavid heir. In the years that his reign lasted (1736-47), Nadir Shah attempted the rapprochement between the Persians and the Ottomans, but substantially failed in the attempt to bring the country back to Sunni orthodoxy, or at least to mitigate Shiite extremism. His killing in a palace conspiracy led, after a phase of inevitable turmoil, to the ephemeral reign of the Zand dynasty, whose first and major representative, Karim Khan, ruled as regent between 1750 and 1779. From the civil war unleashed to the death of Karim Khan, Aqa Muhammad Khan was victorious, chief of the Turkmen tribe of the Cagiari, which expanding from its center in Astarabad ended up taking over the whole country. The conquest, conducted with impressive energy, was officially undertaken by Muhammad Khan in 1786, when in Tehran, declared his capital, he assumed the title of shah, and virtually completed in 1794, with the treacherous capture and killing of the last sovereign. zand. The Cagiara dynasty, which remained in power until 1925, was not fully recognized by the other tribal realities, which still constituted the social pivot of the country, and was therefore characterized as a regime of political oppression ready to extinguish any ambition for revolt in terror, while on the economic level it ceded large parts of the national territory to European control and the exploitation of the country’s most important resources.

In fact, the Russian and English penetration into Persian territory dates back to the beginning of the Cagyar age: following subsequent treaties, Russia annexed the Transcaucasian provinces and a large part of Azerbaijan, while important economic concessions went to Great Britain (the 1901 first oil concession). The long reign of Nasir ad-Din Shah (1848-96) marked a period of decline in the country, but also saw the first hints of national awakening thanks to the work of an elite of intellectuals, religious and laity, that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sought to obtain a constitution and keep the country’s resources intact. The economic unease, the unstable political situation in the face of the Russian advance in Central Asia, the slow spread of Western ideas through the Persians abroad and the contemporary events in the Turkish and Egyptian Near East led to a crisis that the sovereign did not reach. to predict. Nasir ad-Din Shah was assassinated by a pan-Islamist fanatic on May 1, 1896. Under the reign of his son the financial and political crisis became so acute that the demands for a constitutional solution grew stronger from 1905. The final victory over the absolutist resistance of the Shah of Cagliari was frustrated by the outbreak of the First World War, during which the neutrality of the country was violated without any regard by both warring parties. The country lived four years in the most complete anarchy, between the operations of regular belligerent troops and of local irregular troops hired by these, in a situation made even more complicated by the tribal banditry that was taking sides now of this hour of that European power. The conclusion of the peace saved Persia from dismemberments and from the English protectorate, which appeared at first, just as the Russian Revolution freed it from the nightmare of tsarist imperialism. But the decisive turning point came only in February 1921 with the arrival on the political scene of a native Mazandaran officer, Reza Pahlavi, known as Reza Khan, who marched at the head of his Persian Cossack brigade on Tehran and succeeded in establishing a nationalist government there. As Minister of War first and then Prime Minister, Reza Khan committed himself above all to the formation of an army loyal to him and to the restoration of order; his political action culminated in 1925 with the deposition of the last shah cagiaro and the full assumption of sovereignty. On 25 April 1926 the new shah assumed the crown, which an amendment to the Constitution declared hereditary in his family.

Iran History - From the Safavids to the Cagiari