Dedicated to all Kadjars, Past, Present and Future!
Raftand Kiaan-o deen parastaan,
Daadand jahaan be zeerdastaan.
Aan ghom kiaan-o vin kiaanand,
Barjaaye Kiaan bebin kiaanand!*
Gone are the kings and lovers of religion,
Leaving the world to underlings.
Those were true kings, but who are these?
See who now sits on the throne of Kings!*
These pages are about a dynasty, the Qajars(1) (Kadjars), who ruled Persia(2) (Iran) less than a century ago and had done so for a hundred and thirty years before, from 1796-1925. On the grander scale of things, an hundred and thirty years of rule might not be particularly noteworthy, as there are in history many dynasties and royal houses that have ruled longer than this many times over. On the Persian scene, however, one hundred and thirty years of continuous rule, especially at the crucial time of transition that this period encompasses, is not a negligible amount of time at all.
During the Il-Khanid period (1256-1343), -- the period of rule by various tribal chieftains resulting from the Mongol invasions and starting with the rule of Genghis Khan's grand-son Hulagu Khan (r.1256-1265) -- and for the next one hundred and fifty years, Iran went through a quick succession of many local rulers, some with aspirations beyond the actual boundaries under their control. It was only with the advent of the Safavids at the beginning of the sixteenth century, that Iran saw again a period of stability and continuity of rule that lasted until 1722(3). However, with the demise of the Safavids, Iran fell back into a period of rule by various dynasties who were not able to unite all of Persia under one banner, with one exception: the brief and meteoric rise of Nader Shah Afshar (r. 1736-1747). He founded the short-lived Afshar dynasty (1737-1749), and was able to rule an empire that included not only Persia but also today's Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India -- in the process conquering Delhi and bringing back the famed jewels and throne that were to become the crown jewels and throne of the Qajars (Kadjars)(4). After Nader Shah's demise, Persia again became a realm of many kings. These competing dynasties included prominently remnants of the Safavids, of the Afshars, the Zands and as well the Qajars (Kadjars)(5). It was only the victory of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (Kadjar) over all his rivals in 1795, that reunified Persia as an empire again, and recreated one country under one emperor with sovereignty over all the traditional lands Persia controlled in Safavid times.This was the beginning of the Qajar (Kadjar) dynasty as the sovereign dynasty over all of Persia and its rule through seven shahs that lasted until 1925(6).
The Qajars (Kadjars) ruled Persia at a time when she was going through one of her most trying periods, beset on all sides by powerful empires bent on using her as a means to their own designs in the "Great Game." In the end, the Qajars (Kadjars) were not able to rescue Persia from the dangerous waters they had navigated her into, and they paid for it with their throne. We need to remember, however, that the rivals they were facing were two of the world's strongest powers of the time, Russia and England. No country could have withstood the combined assault on its integrity by these two giants, and no ruling house survived their plans to ruin it. The Qajars (Kadjars) fell because the combined force of Russia and England made them fall. At every turn, attempts by Qajar (Kadjar) kings to modernize and strengthen their country were undermined. Ultimately, this last injury was added to the long list of insults: when Persia finally had a constitutional monarchy under Soltan Ahmad Shah, the last Qajar (Kadjar) ruler, the British could not bear leaving him on the throne because they considered him not pliant enough to their ever growing list of demands. They first violated Persia's neutrality in World War I and imposed heavy economic burdens on her as a result. Then they stealthily tried to turn her into a protectorate; and, when that failed, encouraged unrests and finally a coup against the legitimate constitutional government of Persia. The rest is history, and it is still unfolding today before our very eyes.
Of course, victors always write the epitaphs. So it is also with the Qajars (Kadjars) and their ill-fated rule. As with any dynasty, Persian or otherwise, the period of Qajar (Kadjar) rule had its moments of grandeur as well as its moments of failure. Not all Qajar (Kadjar) rulers were models of justice or fairness or progressiveness or strength. Some were and some were not. Not all their actions were conducive to better government and greater glory for Persia. Some were and some were not. Their rule was not an unequivocal success, but neither was their rule what it was made out to be by those who later chose to interpret facts to suit their own purposes. That the Qajars (Kadjars) were not perfect (which government or ruler ever is?) does not imply that they did not make positive and lasting contributions to Persia, many of which, if they had been allowed to run their course, might well have resulted in a different Iran from the one we are witnessing today. To state this is not to attempt to rewrite history. To state this is to attempt to have it written fairly!(7)
Up until recently, to find an objective account, let alone a positive one, on the Qajars (Kadjars) and their rule, but particularly on the last two Shahs, Mohammad Ali Shah and his son Soltan Ahmad Shah, was all but impossible. Only in the last few years have scholars and writers been willing to reassess the role of the Qajar (Kadjar) dynasty, and look afresh at its individual rulers and their contributions to Persia and to history. Still, much remains to be done. ...
Our contributions to the rectification of this record and a revival of interest in the Qajars (Kadjars) and their times, are the following pages that can be accessed through the Table of Contents on this site.
To start your visit to our pages by going to the Table of Contents,
* We are immensely grateful to our cousin Allah Gholi Khan Amirsoleymani (Kadjar), son of Mehdi Gholi Khan Majd-Dowleh, Nasser-ed-Din Shah's maternal cousin, for the above poem.
1) The dynastic name "Kadjar" is spelled "Qajar" in English. However, the Imperial House has spelled its dynastic name "Kadjar," at least since Nasser-ed-Din Shah, and it was Soltan Ahmad Shah's wish that the name be spelled that way when written in Latin script. However, in the literature, the earlier spelling remains, and thus not to create confusion the older spelling is combined with the newer spelling in parentheses next to it for clarification. Regarding the pronunciation of the dynastic name "Qajar," in Persian (Farsi), the sound that is transliterated in English with the letter "Q"is a guttural sound best reproduced in the English alphabet with a combination of "g" and "h" = "gh". The closest one can come to this sound is the way the French pronounce their "r"s! However, in Farsi the first letter is a soft guttural "gh," and thus the closest one would come to exactly mimicking the Persian sound would be to write the dynastic name thus: Ghaadjaar! For an essay an the meaning of this spelling, click here.
2) The name Persia is used to refer to the country that is called Iran today. Under the Qajars (Kadjars) the official name of the country was "Persia." The official name was changed to "Iran" under Reza Shah Pahlavi. In the national language, the name of the country always was "Iran," as "Pars" or "Fars," from which the name Persia derives, refers in the national language to a province of Iran. However, from the time of the Greeks Iran was known in all the literature as Persia, and still in many cases is referred to as such when it comes to its art or its carpets or its music. Recently the case has been made again for the name "Persia" as the most appropriate name for the country. It will remain to be seen whether that sentiment will prevail.
3) Technically the Safavids ruled until 1773 as they reclaimed their right to rule in 1722 and again after the interregnum by Afghan invaders under Nader Shah Afshar (r.1736-1747), but their rule was not over all of Persia after 1722.
4) For a description of and pictorial essay on the Crown Jewels of the Qajars (Kadjars), see: "Qajar (Kadjar) Crown Jewels" in these pages.
5) The matter of the origins of the Qajars (Kadjars) in Iran is dealt with in the pages of this site under the heading: "Origins of the Qajars (Kadjars)." It is also dealt with among other places in Ann K. Lambton, Qajar Persia, and in Heribert Busse's translation of Farsnaameh-ye Nasseri by Hassan Fasai. The subject is also treated in Prince Abounassr Azod's book, A Review of History, and also briefly treated in Abbas Amanat's essay "Qajar Iran: An Overview" in Layla Diba, ed., Royal Persian Paintings. An extensive and accurate genealogy of Qajar (Kadjar) beginnings has also been researched by our cousin Fathali Ghahremani-Ghajar, for which we are extremely grateful, and on which we have also drawn for the essay on the "Origins of the Qajars (Kadjars)" in these pages.
6) For a list of the ruling dynasties in Persia/Iran from the time of the Mongol Il-Khanids to the Pahlavis, click here.
7) There are a series of questions raised by commentators, both foreign and domestic, on the period of Qajar (Kadjar) rule, as well as about their origins. Many of these questions were too obviously partisan and silly to be paid attention to at all. However, the fact that they went unanswered allowed them to persist and become "truths by assertion." Among the many aims of these pages is that of education about the Qajars (Kadjars) and the histrory of their rulers. For this reason these questions must be answered here, and, as far as possible, the record set straight. We have attempted to do so in the section "Answers to Questions About the Qajars (Kadjars)" of these pages.
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