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History, The Qajar Dynasty

Qajar dynasty, north Caucasus region, Foreign interference, Caucasus Mountains, Indian territories

In 1794 Agha Mohammad Khan defeated numerous rivals and brought all of Iran under his rule, establishing the Qajar dynasty. The Qajars were a Turkic tribe that held ancestral lands in present-day Azerbaijan, which then was part of Iran. Agha Mohammad established his capital at Tehran, a village near the ruins of the ancient city of Ray (now Shahr-e Rey). Agha Mohammadís nephew and successor, Fath Ali Shah, ruled from 1797 to 1834. Under Fath Ali Shah, Iran went to war against Russia, which was expanding from the north into the Caucasus Mountains, an area of historic Iranian interest and influence. Iran suffered major military defeats during the war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, Iran recognized Russia's annexation of Georgia and ceded to Russia most of the north Caucasus region. A second war with Russia in the 1820s ended even more disastrously for Iran, which in 1828 was forced to sign the Treaty of Turkmanchai acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the entire area north of the Aras River (territory comprising present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan).

During the reign of Mohammad Shah, from 1834 to 1848, Russia began expanding its political influence into Iran. Another world power, Britain, also took interest in the region in order to protect its growing empire in India. Because of Iranís strategic location between the southern borders of Russia and the westernmost borders of British India, both Britain and Russia regarded an independent Iran as a convenient buffer area between the two empires. At the same time, both powers preferred Iran to have a weak central government so that they could more easily influence the country's internal affairs.

Foreign interference and territorial encroachment increased under the rule of Nasir al-Din Shah (1848-1896) and his son, Muzaffar al-Din Shah (1896-1906). Both men contracted huge foreign loans to finance expensive personal trips to Europe. Neither ruler was able to prevent Britain and Russia from encroaching into regions of traditional Iranian influence. In 1856 Britain prevented Iran from reasserting control over Herat, which had been part of Iran in Safavid times but had been under non-Iranian rule since the mid-18th century. Britain supported the city's incorporation into Afghanistan, a country Britain helped create in order to extend eastward the buffer between its Indian territories and Russia's expanding empire. Britain also extended its control to other areas of the Persian Gulf during the 19th century. Meanwhile, by 1881 Russia had completed its conquest of present-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, bringing Russiaís frontier to Iran's northeastern borders and severing historic Iranian ties to the cities of Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Samarqand. Several trade concessions by the Iranian government put economic affairs largely under British control. By the late 19th century, many Iranians believed that their rulers were beholden to foreign interests.

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Article key phrases:

Qajar dynasty, north Caucasus region, Foreign interference, Caucasus Mountains, Indian territories, Bukhara, Muzaffar, Iranian government, empires, encroaching, Samarqand, Persian Gulf, world power, economic affairs, Tehran, Herat, ruins, Iranians, political influence, Afghanistan, rulers, buffer, powers, rule, successor, Britain, territory, capital, war, century, village, Uzbekistan, influence, Europe, region, time, areas, terms


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