Persian Constitutional Revolution

Persian Constitutional Revolution
Persian Constitutional Revolution
(Iranian Constitutional Revolution)
(1906 Revolution)

The royal proclamation of Muzaffar al-Din Shah that agree the Constitutional monarchy on August 5, 1906.
Participants People of Iran
Location Iran
Date 1905-1911
Result Establishment of Constitutional monarchy
Writing a new Constitutional
Persian Civil War

The Persian Constitutional Revolution or Iranian Constitutional Revolution (Persian:مشروطيت, Transliteration: Mashrutiyyat or Enghelab e Mashruteh) (also known as the Constitutional Revolution of Iran) took place between 1905 and 1907. The revolution led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia (Iran).

The Persian Constitutional Revolution was the first event of its kind in Asia. The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Persia, heralding the modern era. It saw a period of unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press. The revolution created new opportunities and opened up seemingly boundless possibilities for Persia’s future. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old order, which Nasser-al-Din Shah Qajar had struggled for so long to sustain, finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.

The system of constitutional monarchy created by the decree of Mozzafar-al-Din Shah that was established in Persia as a result of the Revolution ultimately came to an end in 1925 with the dissolution of the Qajar dynasty and the ascension of Reza Shah Pahlavi to the throne.

The movement did not end with the Revolution but was followed by the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan.




Persian Constitutional Revolution revolutionary fighters of Tabriz. The two men in the center are Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan

Weakness and extravagance continued during the brief reign of Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar (1896–1907). He often relied on his chancellor to manage his decentralized state. His dire financial situation caused him to sign many concessions to foreign powers, on an expanding list of trade items ranging from weapons to tobacco. The established noble classes, religious authorities, and educated elite began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.[1]

He had also taken out several major loans from Russia and Britain to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and the costs of the central government. In 1900 the Shah financed a royal tour of Europe by borrowing 22 million rubles from Russia. Iranian customs receipts served as collateral.[2]

Members of the First Majlis (October 7, 1906 — June 23, 1908). The central photograph is that of Mortezā Qoli Khan Sani od-Dauleh, the first Chairman of the First Majlis. He had been the Finance Minister for seven months when he was assassinated on 6 February 1911 by two Georgian nationals in Tehran.[1]

First protests

In 1905 protests broke out over the collection of Persia tariffs to pay back the Russian loan for Mozzafar-al-Din Shah's royal tour.[2] In December 1905, two Persian merchants were punished in Tehran for charging exorbitant prices. They were bastinadoed (a humiliating and very painful punishment where the soles of one's feet are caned) in public. An uprising of the merchant class in Tehran ensued, with merchants closing the bazaar. The clergy following suit as a result of the alliance formed in the 1892 Tobacco Rebellion.

Bast at British Embassy, 1906

The two protesting groups sought sanctuary in a mosque in Tehran, but the government violated this sanctuary and entered the mosque and dispersed the group. This violation of the sanctity of the mosque created an even larger movement which sought refuge in a shrine outside Tehran. On January 12, 1906 the Shah capitulated to the demonstrators agreeing to dismiss his prime minister and to surrender power to a new "house of justice," (the forerunner to the parliament). The Basti (protesters who take sanctuary in mosques) returned from the mosque in triumph, riding royal carriages and being hailed by a jubilant crowd.[2]

In a scuffle in early 1906 the Government killed a seyyed (descendant of the prophet Muhhamed). A more deadly skirmish followed a short time later when Cossacks killed 22 protesters and injured 100.[3] Bazaar again closed and the Ulama went on strike, a large number of them taking sanctuary in the holy city Qom. Many merchants went to the British embassy which agreed to offer protection to Basti in the grounds of their legation.[3]

Creation of the constitution

In the summer of 1906 approximately 12,000 men camped out in the gardens of the British Embassy. Many gave speeches, many more listened, in what has been called a `vast open-air school of political science` studying constitutionalism.[3] It is here that the demand for a parliament was born, the goal of which was to limit the power of the Shah. In August 1906, Mozaffareddin Shah agreed to allow a parliament, and in the fall, the first elections were held. In all, 156 members were elected, with an overwhelming majority coming from Tehran and the merchant class.

October 1906 marked the first meeting of parliament, who immediately gave themselves the right to make a constitution, thereby becoming a Constitutional Assembly. The Shah was getting old and sick, and attending the inauguration of the parliament was one of his last acts as king.[2] Muzaffar ed-Din Shah's son Muhammed Ali, however, was not privy to constitutionalism. Therefore they had to work fast, and by December 31, 1906 the Shah signed the constitution, modeled primarily from the Belgian Constitution. The Shah was from there on "under the rule of law, and the crown became a divine gift given to the Shah by the people." Mozafaredeen Shah died five days later.


Inside of Parliament

Within the decade following the establishment of the new majles a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the majles.

The following January Shah Muhammad Ali, the 6th Qajar shah, came to power. He moved to "exploit the divisions within the ranks of the reformers" and eliminate the Majlis.[2] In August 1907 an Anglo-Russian agreement divided Iran into a Russian zone in the North and a British zone in the South. The British switch their support to Shah, abandoning the Constitutionalists.[2]

In summary (to be expanded):

  • Persia tried to keep free from Russian influence through resistance via the majles to the Shah's policies.
  • Majles brought in Morgan Shuster to reform treasury against initial desires of Russia and the Shah. Russia expelled him.
  • Reza Shah seized power and curtailed the power of the majles. He effectively turned it into a rubber stamp organization.

Notable individuals


  • Mirza Nasrullah Khan - First Elected Prime Minister of Iran.
  • Mirza Jahangir Khan - Founder and Editor of the Sur-e Esrafil newspaper.
  • Malek al-Motakallemin (see Mirza Jahangir Khan)
  • Mirza Sayyed Mohammad Tabatabai
  • Seyed Jamal Vaez
  • Morgan Shuster
  • Sayyid hossein Ardabili - Member of Demokrat party in Tehran and Mashhad.
  • Aref Ghazvini
  • Mirza Ali Shirazi
  • Ali Akbar Dehkhoda
  • Sattar Khan - One of the main leaders of the revolutionary movement.
  • Haj Baba Khan-e- Ardabili - Hero of Iranian Constitutional Revolution in Tehran, Tabriz and Ardabil.
  • Bagher Khan
  • Mirza Kuchak Khan - Founder of a revolutionary movement based in the forests of Gilan.
  • Mirza Malkom Khan
  • Yeprem Khan - Armenian Iranian revolutionary leader. Wounded Sattar Khan in the course of disarming the revolutionaries in Tehran as commander of Tehran's police force during the interim constitutionalist government.
  • Sardar Assad - Bakhtiari tribal leader whose forces captured Tehran in 1909 for the constitutional movement.
  • Bibi Khatoon Astarabadi - Satirist, writer and one of the pioneers in Iranian women's movement.
  • Hassan Pirnia
  • Ahmad Kasravi
  • Haj Seyyed Mohammad Sarraf - merchant and banker from the Alavi family of Tehran. One of the leaders of the Democratic Party. Deputee to the first Majles for the bankers of Tehran and deputee to the fourth Majles for the people of Tehran. His brother was Haj Seyyed Javad Khazaneh, treasurer of Mozaffar ed-Din Shah at the time of the constitutional revolution and his grandson was the famous writer Bozorg Alavi.
  • Mohammad Taghi Bahar
  • Sayyed Hasan Taqizadeh
  • Mirza Abdul'Rahim Talibov Tabrizi - Intellectual and social reformer.
  • Abdolhossein Teymourtash
  • Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma
  • Sepahsalar Tonekaboni - Leader of the constitutionalists revolutionary forces from the northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, was the first to arrive in Tehran and liberate the city from the Royalist forces and became the first leader of the constitutionalist government.
  • Howard Baskerville - American Teacher who fought alongside the Constitutionalists.
  • Mohammed Mosaddeq - Liberal Nationalist and future Prime Minister of Iran.
  • Morteza Gholi Khan Hedayat


  • Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar - Shah of Persia who signed the constitution, thereby creating a constitutional monarchy.
  • Mohammad Ali Shah - Son of Mozaffar al-Din Shah. Attempted to crush the constitution.
  • Prince Sultan Abdol Majid Mirza
  • Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri - a cleric who backed the king and stood against the constitutional revolution. After the victory of the ICM he was hanged.
  • Vladimir Liakhov - a Russian colonel and Commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade during the rule of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar. He shelled and subsequently laid siege to the seat of the Majlis of Iran.
  • Arfa' ed-Dawlah
  • Hossein Qoli Khan Hedayat Mokhber ed-Dowleh II (1848–1916)

Religious figures

See also


  1. ^ a b W. Morgan Shuster, The Strangling of Persia, 3rd printing (T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1913), pp. 48, 119, 179. According to Shuster (p. 48), "Five days later [measured from February 1st] the Persian Minister of Finance, Saniu'd-Dawleh was shot and killed in the streets of Teheran by two Georgians, who also succeeded in wounding four of the Persian police before they were captured. The Russian consular authorities promptly refused to allow these men to be tried by the Persian Government, and took them out of the country under Russian protection, claiming that they would be suitably punished."
    See also: Mohammad-Reza Nazari, The retreat by the Parliament in overseeing the financial matters is a retreat of democracy, in Persian, Mardom-Salari, No. 1734, 20 Bahman 1386 AH (9 February 2008), [1].
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mackey, Sandra The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation, New York : Dutton, c1996. p.150-55
  3. ^ a b c Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, Princeton University Press, 1982, p.84
  • Ahmad Kasravi, Tārikh-e Mashruteh-ye Iran (تاریخ مشروطهٔ ایران) (History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution), in Persian, 951 p. (Negāh Publications, Tehran, 2003), ISBN 964-351-138-3. Note: This book is also available in two volumes, published by Amir Kabir Publications in 1984. Amir Kabir's 1961 edition is in one volume, 934 pages.
  • Ahmad Kasravi, History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Tarikh-e Mashrute-ye Iran, Volume I, translated into English by Evan Siegel, 347 p. (Mazda Publications, Costa Mesa, California, 2006). ISBN 1-56859-197-7
  • Mehdi Malekzādeh, Tārikh-e Enqelāb-e Mashrutyyat-e Iran (تاريخ انقلاب مشروطيت ايران) (The History of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran), in 7 volumes, published in 3 volumes, 1697 p. (Sokhan Publications, Tehran, 2004 — 1383 AH). ISBN 964-372-095-0

Further reading

  • Mangol Bayat, Iran’s First Revolution: Shi’ism and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1909, Studies in Middle Eastern History, 336 p. (Oxford University Press, 1991). ISBN 0-19-506822-X
  • Browne, Edward G., "The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909", Mage Publishers (July 1995). ISBN 0-934211-45-0
  • Afary, Janet, "The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911", Columbia University Press. 1996. ISBN 0-231-10351-4
  • Foran, John. "The Strengths and Weaknesses of Iran’s Populist Alliance: A Class Analysis of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 - 1911", Theory and Society, Vol. 20, No. 6 (Dec 1991), pp. 795–823. JSTOR

External links

  • Reza Jamāli in conversation with Dr Abbās Amānat, Professor of History and International and Area Studies at University of Yale, in Persian, Radio Zamaneh, August 7, 2008, [3]. Audio recording: [4].
  • Shokā Sahrāi, Photographs of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, in Persian, Jadid Online, 2007, [5].
    Slide Show, narrated by Dr Bāqer Āqeli, Jadid Online, 2007: [6] (4 min 30 sec).
  • Constitutional Revolution of Iran

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