This panel will explore some encounters that took place between Iranians and Russians in the 17th, 19th and early 20th centuries with the emphasis on mutual perceptions. Since the time of Peter the Great (ruled 1689-1725), Russia had pursued expansionist designs against Iran, culminating in the 19th and early 20th centuries with two victorious wars, the annexation of land and aggressive interference into Iran’s internal affairs. Mutual perceptions of Russians and Iranians reflect these changes in the balance of power – from Iranians looking down on the Russians in the early modern period, to the Russians developing a peculiar Russian version of “Orientalist” superiority towards their southern neighbor.
Two papers on the panel will discuss Iranians’ perception of the Russians – in the 17th and the 19th centuries respectively. If in the 17th century the Iranians could afford to treat a Russian mission in a humiliating way, by the 19th century they were reduced to debating Russia’s military superiority in the context of losing territories to them after two wars in the first half of the century.
One paper will examine manifestations of the Russian attitude of superiority that dominated their dealings with Iranians in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As active participants in the Great Game, the Russians were collecting information and searching for favors and concessions from the Iranian rulers. At the same time, various Russian officials contributed to creating a stereotyped image of Iran among the Russian educated audience – while others tried to “civilize” the Iranian rulers and to demonstrate to them Russia’s overwhelming imperial power.
All three papers are based mainly on primary sources, with a heavy use of archival materials.
(Panel convenor Elena Andreeva)