Peasant Rebellions of the Caspian Region During the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1909

This article was published in Int. J. Middle East Stud. 23, Cambridge U. Press, 1991.


Despite a growing literature on peasant movements in the early 20th century, the story of the peasant rebellions of the Caspian region at the time of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906–11 has been little studied. A close look at three sets of materials—the newspapers of the Constitutional Revolution, among them Majlis (1906–1908), Anjuman (1906–1909), Habl al-Matīn (1907–1909), and Sūr-i Isrāfīl (1907–8); British diplomatic reports; and several regional studies and memoirs of the period—reveal that, during the First Constitutional Period of 1906–1908, a number of strikes and sit-ins were carried out by the peasants, often with the support of craftsmen and workers, who had initiated trade union activity. Such revolts were considerably more sustained and prominent in the northern areas of Gilan and Azerbayjan, which were directly influenced by the flow of radical ideas from the Russian Caucasus; they also benefited from a long history of social struggle among the craftsmen and small shopkeepers (pīshahvarāns), who maintained their guilds, and a tradition of alliances among the craftsmen, the urban poor, and the poor peasants.

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