What was a Russian Jew from New York doing fighting the king of Iran in 1908?

Mikhail “Misha-Uria” Bogdanov-Mariashkin was one of hundreds of foreign fighters from the Russian Empire who joined the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. (1/46)
Their story is an amazing tale of heroism and solidarity across borders in the Caucasus.

Today, Armenia and Azerbaijan are going to war over issues dating back to that era, but it didn't have to be this way. (2/46)
The South Caucasus has long been the border between the Russian, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish empires. It includes many ethnic groups — Armenians, Azeri Turks, Georgians, Jews, Tats, Talysh, and others. (3/46)
At the turn of the 20th century, it was also a huge economic center. Thousands of Iranian workers migrated to work in the oil fields in Azerbaijan and mines of Armenia in the early 1900s. At least 300,000 crossed the border in 1905, legally and illegally. (4/46)
Iranian immigrants were sometimes used to break strikes, but also participated in labor action themselves. Cossacks had to put down an Iranian strike at Alaverdi in 1906.

A young Georgian named Joseph Stalin praised the Iranian workers' militancy in a 1909 pamphlet. (5/46)
Oil wasn't the only connection. Azeri intellectuals in Iran watched Azeris in Russia participate in movements like Jadidism (Islamic reform), the liberal Kadet Party, and the Bolsheviks. (6/46)
The more radical Azeri thinkers on both sides of the border eagerly read satirical magazines like Molla Nəsrəddin and anti-religion writers like Mirzə Fətəli Axundov (Akhundzadeh). (7/46)
Iranian Azeri thinker Ahmad Kasravi: “A mass of people…went to the Caucasus every year and would return after a few years with anecdotes about what they had heard or seen in Russia or the ways of Russians or other Europeans.” (8/46)
There was also the Persian Cossack Brigade. Iranians had long been fascinated with the Cossack warriors, who sometimes deserted to Iran, and the Tsar gifted Nasr-al-din Shah a brigade of Cossack officers in 1879, who became the elite core of the Iranian Army. (9/46)
In 1905, Japan defeated Russia in a war. Russians rose up against their Tsar. The hardline prime minister Peter Stolypin repressed the revolutionaries, but accepted many reforms. (10/46)
The Caucasus saw both ethnic division and ethnic solidarity.

Armenian and Azeri workers committed great violence against each other, but the Hunchaks (Armenian social democrats) and Hümmət (Azeri social democrats) accused the Tsar of divide-and-conquer tactics. (11/46)
Iranians, many of whom had lived in Russia, saw the success of their comrades to the north and decided to pounce. After all, Iran/Persia was a similar “backwards” absolute monarchy. Japan's success over Russia also stirred up anti-Western nationalist sentiments. (12/46)
We “are tired of their rulers, and taking example of Russia, have come to think that it is possible to have another and better form of government,” one Iranian told the British orientalist Edward Browne. (13/46)
Iranians created anjoman's (“councils”) based on the soviets, and a revolutionary named Ali Monsieur founded the “Secret Center,” with its fearsome Social Democratic Mujahedin, in the Iranian Azeri metropolis of Tabriz. Russian exiles also organized in Iran. (14/46)
Nəriman Nərimanov, a founding member of the Azeri parties Müsavat and Hümmət, created an Organization of Social Democrats in Tabriz. They used a translated version of the Russian Social Democrat (RSDLP) platform scrubbed of all the anti-religion references. (15/46)
Ephrem Khan, born in Russian Armenia, had been exiled to Siberia in 1892 for using Russia as a base to attack the Ottoman Empire. He escaped to Tabriz in 1896 and organized Iranian Armenians against both the Ottomans and the Iranian monarchy. (16/46)
Unrest broke out in Iran by spring 1905, and Mozaffar-al-din Shah agreed to create Iran's first parliament in August 1906. He died soon after, and his son Mohammad Ali conspired with the Colonel Liakhov of the Cossacks to overthrow parliament in December 1907. (17/46)
The Tabriz Soviet threatened to secede and sent mujahedin to Tehran, forcing the new king to back down. A month later, someone tried to kill the king with a bomb. Royalists blamed Heydar Khan Əmioğlu Tariverdiev, an Iranian-born engineer who grew up in Russia. (18/46)
Heydar Khan was engaged with Russian leftist circles, learned bomb-making tactics from Georgian revolutionaries, and had even met Lenin. He helped organized Russian foreign fighters in Iran, and later founded the Communist Party of Persia. (19/46)
Then, in 1908, Mohammad Ali Shah and Colonel Liakhov bombed parliament and suppressed the constitution.

Tabriz rose up again, beginning a months-long siege. Leftists around the world rallied to the Constitutionalists, including Lenin, Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemberg. (20/46)
Russian authorities attempted to stop the foreign fighters from entering Iran, worried about the anti-monarchist uprising on their southern border. But foreign fighters flowed in, helped by the RSDLP, Hümmət, and the Armenian nationalist Dashnaks. (21/46)
There was a great amount of cross-ethnic and cross-border solidarity. The Dashnak commander Stepan "Rostom" Zorian even convinced Iranians to sign a treaty of friendship protecting Armenians from Ottoman attacks, breaking a major taboo on Muslim-Christian cooperation. (22/46)
Sattar Khan, known as the “Pugachev of Iran,” and his brother Baquer led a force of four thousand fighters, including Iranians, Russians, Georgians, Armenian Hunchaks and Armenian Dashnaks. (23/46)
While the siege of Tabriz raged on, Iranian and Russian social democrats also raised a revolutionary army in the northern province of Gilan. They linked up with Bakhtiari nomads from the south, and defeated both Colonel Liakhov and Mohammad-Ali Shah on July 15, 1909. (24/46)
Between 500 and 800 revolutionaries from the South Caucasus crossed the border to Iran, and 22 died in the fighting, according to historian Janet Afary. Georgians in particular were experienced veterans of the Russo-Japanese War and 1905 revolution. (25/46)
There were also a few famous Americans. The Nebraska schoolteacher Howard Baskerville, martyred in Tabriz on 19 April 1909, was the most famous. But there was also Misha-Uria, who had immigrated from Tblisi to New York before coming to fight in Iran. (26/46)
Foreigners stayed on to help the new revolutionary government. Ephrem Khan, a Dashnak commander, became Tehran police chief, the American lawyer Morgan Shuster became Treasury Secretary. Shuster's book, the Strangling of Persia, (27/46)
is one of our best historical sources on the revolution. Hümmət cofounder Mohammad Rasulzadeh (Rəsulzadə) also stayed and founded the newspaper New Iran. (28/46)
Sadly, there was also some infighting. Ephrem Khan attempted to disarm Sattar Khan's army, wounding the revolutionary hero in a battle in Tehran. (29/46)
Russian authorities were worried. Very worried. The viceroy in Tblisi complained that Russian subjects were taking part in revolutionary activities, and had many foreign fighters executed. (30/46)
One newspaper complained that “Tatar [Azeri] semi-intellectuals in Transcaucasia, forgetting that they are Russian subjects, have displayed warm sympathy for the disturbances in Tabriz and are sending volunteers.” (31/46)
Mohammad Ali Shah also organized his supporters from within the Russian Empire. He smuggled men and weapons into Iran from his headquarters in Odessa, which Shuster notes could only have been done with Russian imperial support. (32/46)
Russia and Britain issued ultimatums to the Iranian revolutionary government in November 1911, forcing it to disband. Russian troops ushered the Royalist army into Tabriz. They were brutal towards everyone, but especially violent towards the foreign fighters. (33/46)
Those who survived were scattered around the world, and ended up on different sides of later conflicts. Rəsulzadə became a pan-Turkic leader and led the first independent Azerbaijan during the Russian Revolution. Nərimənov founded the rival pro-Bolshevik faction. (34/46)
Azerbaijan was eventually conquered by a Soviet army. Its leader Grigorii Ordzhonikidzhe was Georgian. He, too, had traveled to Iran during the revolution and visited Gilan. (35/46)
The Russian Revolution also sparked a similar uprising in Iran — the Jungle Movement of Gilan — led by a Constitutional Revolution veteran named Mirza Kuchak Khan. (36/46)
The Jungle Movement formed a Soviet-backed government but was quickly destroyed after the Soviets pulled their support in 1921. (37/46)
It was an Iranian Cossack who oversaw the defeat of the Jungle Movement: Reza Khan Mirpanj, who used the chaos in Gilan to overthrow the king and take the throne himself as Reza I Pahlavi. (38/46)
The Soviet Union and Britain overthrew Reza Shah in 1943 after he sided with Nazi Germany. Soviet forces established communist republics in northern Iran, but were thrown out in 1946. Reza's son Mohammad Reza took the throne. The rest, as they say, is history. (39/46)
Russia, Iran, and the post-Soviet states have all had tragic political histories since the 1905-1911 revolutions. But the revolutions also show that democracy and ethnic co-existence have deep roots in these places. (40/46)
This thread is adopted from an undergraduate term paper I wrote for Professor Gulnar Kedirbai's class on Asiatic Russia at Columbia University.

If you ever have a chance, definitely take her classes on Eurasian history! (41/46)
Here's my bibliography if you're interested in reading more:

Images are all from Wikimedia Commons and licensed under Creative Commons (or public domain) except for the Baku oilfields and the map. (43/46)
The Baku oilfields photo is from Flickr and also licensed under Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tekniskamuseet/6311999270/ (44/46)
If you've made it this far, this is the story of Nejat Ağırnaslı, a Turkish sociologist who died fighting ISIS in Turkey.

He had taken on the codename Paramaz, after a Hunchak activist who tried to unite Armenians and Azeris in 1905.
Ah oops! https://twitter.com/matthew_petti/status/1313229061091659776
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