Imatges de pàgina

the population. In any case, the Bábis had no grievance against Násiruddin, and their persecution was of small account when compared with the tender mercies of the Inquisition or the cruel treatment of Jews and Dissenters by Russia. Even the Kukas, in the Punjab, some twenty years ago, were ruthlessly suppressed when, like the Bábis in 1850–52, they began to play with rebellion. Reformers must not complain of martyrdom, and the Bábis have only been sufficiently persecuted in Persia to render them interesting. Many of their communistic and socialistic doctrines have of late years been given less offensive prominence, and their general principles, which inculcate freedom of judgment, the abolition of the wearisome ceremonial of Islam, and the emancipation of women, are quite in sympathy with the spirit of the day, and in time may stir the stagnant waters of Muhammadanism throughout the world. The assassination of the Shah is more likely to be due to some private wrong, or to the inflammatory teaching of men like Jamaluddin, an intriguer well known in London society, whose extradition the Persian Government is now endeavouring to obtain from the Porte, and who, in conjunction with others, has been stirring up hatred and ill-will against the Shah and his Government for several years past.

Not only the Bábis were protected by the Shah, but the Jewish, Armenian and Zoroastrian communities, which at the time of his accession were in a very miserable condition, have been well treated, and their position materially improved. Especially has this been the case with the Parsis, mostly resident in Yezd and Kirmán, descendants of the old Zoroastrian rulers and people of Persia. The state of these was so hopeless that large numbers emigrated to India, where they have become loyal and valuable citizens. But they did not forget their poor co-religionists left behind in Persia, and, in 1854, an association was founded for their relief by Mr. Manakjee Nasserwanjee Petit, father of Sir Dinshaw Petit, Bart., who still presides over it. Warmly seconded by the efforts of the Indian Government, Sir Henry Rawlinson and the British ministers at Teheran, the Parsis obtained from the Shah the abolition of all special tribute and taxes which had before been levied upon them, and they are now in no worse position than the Muhammadan community.

The Shah Nasiruddin showed much discretion in the conduct of his foreign relations with England and Russia. These are, indeed, the only Powers with which he is vitally concerned, although Turkey, which adjoins the whole western frontier of Persia, is often obstructive and never friendly, for Shah and Sultan are rival potentates in the Muhammadan world, representative respectively of the Shía and Sunn forms of that creed. Especially at the mouth of the united Tigris and Euphrates, with the competing ports of Busrah and Muhamrah, do Persian and Turkish interests come into collision, and the question is still one of difficulty and promises future trouble. But at Teheran, the English and Russian Legations are the only ones of consequence. Sometimes the exceptional activity or ability of the Minister of France, or Germany, or Belgium, or the United States may give to one or the other an unusual or factitious importance, but these phenomena are transitory, and Persia thoroughly understands that her foreign policy is little more than the conduct of her relations with Russia and England. This knowledge the Shah utilised both to maintain peace abroad and order at home, and to supply his treasury by playing on the jealousies of each Power by turns, and granting to one concessions which were balanced by subsequent favours to the other. Nor can Nasiruddin be blamed for a line of conduct which was the only one which insured him so long and prosperous a reign. He played the game with skill and success, in strong contrast to Amir Sher Ali Khan of Afghanistan, whose clumsy imitation of the Shah cost him his kingdom and his life. Only once, in 1857, did Násiruddin come into hostile contact with England, when his armed attempt to recover Herat, the ancient Persian capital of Khorassan, brought Sir James Outram with a British army to Bushire and the Karun, when a swift campaign restored to the Shah the power of seeing clearly the conditions under which a Persian monarch must be content to rule. It has been plausibly argued that it was unwise for England to have then retired from the Persian Gulf without any territorial indemnity, and that the annexation and permanent occupation of Bushire and Muhamrah would have given us the undisputed command of the Persian Gulf, and the control of the chief commercial routes from the coast to the interior. But a more far-sighted statesmanship would urge that no policy is so economical as disinterestedness. Our refusal, at that time, to dismember Persia for our own advantage convinced not only the Shah but the Ministers and the people that we were the sincere friends of Persia, and that our ambitions did not include conquest or annexation of the country. The same lesson taught to Afghanistan when we withdrew from the country and refused to annex Kandahar, for which there was both reason and excuse, has transformed a suspicious neighbour into an ally confident in the honesty of our intentions, and our moderation in Afghanistan confirmed the friendly feeling of Persia to England. Object lessons in disinterestedness convince nations who regard mere protestations as the idle wind. It may be questioned whether our position in the Gulf would have been favourably affected by the retention of Persian seaports at the cost of the alienation of Persian sympathy. So long as England holds the command of the sea she will dominate the Gulf and the trade routes from the south. Should she lose that command, the question of her influence in the Persian Gulf will become of infinitesimal importance.

The policy of Russia towards Persia has been a record of constant

aggression, the absorption of province after province, district after district, frontier villages and the head waters of the mountain streams along the whole northern border. The treaty of Gulistan in 1813 merely stereotyped the results of continual aggression by Russia from the year 1800, when Georgia was annexed by the Emperor Paul, Mingrelia, Ganja (now Elizabethpol), Talish, Immeritia, Darband, Bákú and Persian Daghistán, Shewan, Sheki, Karábágh and Moghan. Persia surrendered her right to have ships of war on the Caspian sea, and to-day the Shah is not allowed to fly the Persian flag on his own yacht in those waters, a barbarous insult little to the credit of Russian intelligence. In 1825, a three years' war, ending with the treaty of Turkmanchai, gave Russia further concessions; in 1840, she seized the important island of Ashoráda for a naval station, and although Nasiruddin contrived to avoid open war with his powerful neighbour, he had to endure constant encroachment on his northern border, especially on the Atrek river, as a comparison of the map which accompanied Sir Henry Rawlinson's work on England and Russia in the East with the latest published maps of Persia will clearly show. This book may still be recommended to those who desire to study the Persian question, as the best and most authoritative statement of the political situation in Central Asia, and the lapse of time has in no way destroyed its value.

The attitude of England and Russia towards Persia is clear and well defined. England has no desire for territorial aggrandisement at the expense of Persia, and she has proved this by her action in 1857. She is anxious to assist in the regeneration and development of Persia, to encourage its ruler to improve his administration and by his personal example and authority to abolish the system of universal corruption which now prevails, owing to the practice of every office from a governorship to a clerkship being sold to the highest bidder, with the permission to recoup himself from the people, who, though not overtaxed, are tormented by the burden of illegitimate fines, perquisites and requisitions. England would persuade the Shah to start beneficent schemes of irrigation, to restore the reservoirs and water courses which have fallen into decay, to improve the means of communication, especially roads, to develop the industrial resources of the country, which are considerable, both in mineral and vegetable products, to double the revenue from Customs by an honest system of collection, and to reorganise the currency, the disordered condition of which is the cause of constant irritation and discontent, and is the most immediate necessary reform. If England could see Persia strong and prosperous she would be content, and the peace of Asia would secure a new and powerful guarantee. Nor in the industrial schemes which England is ready to assist with her capital does she ask for any exclusive privileges; and the advantages which may accrue from a more extended commerce

she opposes,

and a more secure employment of capital will be open to the whole world in common with herself.

The action of Russia towards Persia has not been less clear than that of England. She has throughout the century missed no opportunity, either in time of peace or war, of increasing her own possessions at the expense of Persia, and the larger part of her Transcaucasian province has been so acquired. She is accustomed, ivy-like, to grow fat on decaying organisms : Persia, Turkey and China furnish but different illustrations of her persistent policy. Her cynical abandonment of the Armenians to destruction because she did not choose to allow other European powers to interfere with her chosen prey is the most shameless scandal of contemporary politics, and Persia will do well to take the lesson to heart. For Persia to become strong and independent would cause Russia infinite annoyance, and her jealousy is directly aroused when she sees any hand approach the fruit which she has determined to gather. All concessions proposed to be granted by the Persian Government to other powers

and if she cannot cancel them she insists on a still larger concession being given to herself. The development of the industrial resources of Persia she does not desire, further than to divert all foreign commerce to routes where it may pay heavy toll to her own custom houses. Indignation at misgovernment and corruption in Persia she can hardly be expected to feel, for corruption in Russia is probably as high placed and universal ; while, as for moral and intellectual progress, there is to-day in poor, ignorant Persia more real freedom of speech and action, more religious toleration, more practical acknowledgment of the dignity and equality of man than in all the wide dominions of the Czar. There is no doubt that the Persian, who belongs to the purest Aryan type, is far more highly developed than the Russian Slav, who has never shown himself to be possessed of any high intellectual capacity.

There is a very general and excusable ignorance as to the relative influence of England and Russia in Persia. It is assumed that the power of Russia has continually increased at Teheran, while that of England has diminished ; that Russia could, at any moment, overrun and annex Persia without any effective interference from England, and there are writers of repute who argue that it is useless to contend with the inevitable, and that it would be the wisest policy to hasten the disintegration of Persia and come to an arrangement with Russia to divide the kingdom of the Shah. Such a policy would be as foolish as 'it would be immoral. So far from English influence having decreased at Teheran there was no time in the last fifty years in which England was more powerful in Persia than she is to-day. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, Sir Frank Lascelles and Sir Mortimer Durand, a succession of ministers of ripe experience, knowledge of the East, energy and enlightened patriotism, have entirely altered the discreditable position to which England had sunk in Persia, when her policy was conducted by apathetic and timid diplomatists. It is obvious that if Russia were to move her armies into Persia she could occupy Teheran and the northern provinces without serious opposition. The Persian army, as we experienced in 1857, is neither numerous, well armed nor disciplined, and England would certainly not send troops so far from their base. But there are many considerations which make it unlikely that Russia will take such a step. In the first place it would probably entail war with England, who could command the Gulf, the more important trade routes and the southern provinces. So far as Russia is concerned, having full command of the Caspian and an excellent road from Resht to the capital, such an occupation would be of little benefit to her trade and would be more costly than it was worth ; while her road to the open sea would be more effectually blocked than ever. In the second place, the industrial development of Persia which, in spite of many difficulties and opposition from corrupt officials and fanatical priests, has made great progress during the last few years, has raised a moral barrier against Russian ambition. Persia, with an elaborate telegraph system, a rudimentary free press and a veneer of Western civilisation in ber capital, almost as substantial as that of Belgrade or Bucharest ; with all the nations of Europe represented by their Legations, and enjoying the special regard and friendship of England, cannot be attacked and overrun without outraging the conscience of Europe. Russia has done good service in Central Asia in restoring order and subduing the wild, slave-hunting Turkoman tribes, but she has no superior civilisation to offer to an ancient monarchy like Persia, nor is the fate of the Persian peasant so miserable or degraded as that of the Russian. Nor should it be thought that Persia is a country where life and property are insecure. Crime is of rare occurrence, travelling is safe, and it is from pride and not from necessity that Persians carry arms. The streets of Teheran are certainly safer than those of Paris and London, and a stranger may roam at night in perfect security in the darkest quarters of the capital. Lastly, the Russian Empire, which from various considerations, such as its vast area, the homogeneity of its population and their stolid patriotism, is impregnable as a defensive power, is singularly weak for offence. The very qualities which make the Russian soldiery so formidable at home render them inefficient abroad; the inferior quality of the officers and generals, the indescribable corruption which makes the transport and commissariat departments invariably break down, the want of communications and the general absence in staff or men of any intelligent spirit—these and other causes render the Russian armies, so overwhelming on paper, altogether unreliable for offensive warfare. Even Turkey, bankrupt and enfeebled, would have beaten Russia in the late war had not the despised Roumanians come to her assistance.



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