1921 Persian coup d'état

Last updated
1921 Persian Coup
Date21 February 1921 [1]

Persian Cossack Brigade victory

Flag of Persia (1907).svg Government of Persia

Persian Cossack Brigade

Supported by:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Persia (1910).svg Fathollah Khan Akbar

Flag of Persia (1910).svg Rezā Khan Mirpanj
Flag of Persia (1910).svg Zia'eddin Tabatabaee
Flag of Persia (1910).svg Ahmad Amir-Ahmadi


Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Edmund Ironside [2]
1,500 Persian Cossacks
Casualties and losses
several policemen killed or injured in Tehran during the coup

1921 Persian coup d'état, known in Iran as 3 Esfand coup d'état (Persian : کودتای ۳ اسفند ۱۲۹۹), refers to several major events in Persia in 1921, which eventually led to the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty as the ruling house of the country in 1925.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Pahlavi dynasty Dynasty that ruled Iran from 1925 until 1979

The Pahlavi dynasty was the last ruling house of the Imperial State of Iran from 1925 until 1979, when the Monarchy of Iran was overthrown and abolished as a result of the Iranian Revolution. The dynasty was founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, a former brigadier-general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, whose reign lasted until 1941 when he was forced to abdicate by the Allies after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

The events began with a coup by the Persian Cossack Brigade headed by Reza Khan, and directed by the British, [1] [ citation needed ] on 21 February 1921. [1] With this coup Zia'eddin Tabatabaee took over power and became Prime Minister. The coup was largely bloodless and faced little resistance. With his expanded forces and the Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan launched successful military actions to eliminate separatist and dissident movements in Tabriz, Mashhad and the Janglis in Gilan. The campaign against Simko and the Kurds was less successful and lasted well into 1922, though eventually concluding with Persian success.

Persian Cossack Brigade elite cavalry unit formed in 1879 in Persia

The Persian Cossack Brigade or Iranian Cossack Brigade was a Cossack-style cavalry unit formed in 1879 in Persia. It was modelled after the Caucasian Cossack regiments of the Imperial Russian Army. Until 1920, it was commanded by Russian officers, while its rank and file were composed of ethnic Caucasians and later on Persians as well. During much of the Brigade's history it was the most functional and effective military unit of the Qajar Dynasty. Acting on occasion as kingmakers, this force played a pivotal role in modern Iranian history during the Revolution of 1905–1911, the rise of Reza Shah, and the foundation of the Pahlavi Dynasty.

Ziaeddin Tabatabaee Prime Minister of Iran

Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee was an Iranian politician and the Prime Minister of Iran (Persia) from February to May 1921 under Ahmad Shah, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty.


In late 1920, the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic in Rasht was preparing to march on Tehran with "a guerrilla force of 1,500 Jangalis, Kurds, Armenians and Azerbaijanis", reinforced by the Bolsheviks' Red Army. This fact, along with various other disorders, mutinies and unrest in the country created "an acute political crisis in the capital." [3]

Rasht City in Gilan, Iran

Rasht is the capital city of Gilan Province, Iran. Also known as the "City of Rain", it had a population of 639,951 as of the 24 October 2011 census.

The Jangal (Jungle) Movement, in Gilan, was a rebellion against the monarchist rule of the Qajar central government of Iran. It lasted from 1915 to 1921.

Armenians ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland

Armenians are an ethnic group native to the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.

By 1921, the ruling Qajar dynasty of Persia had become corrupt and inefficient. [4] The oil-rich nation was somewhat reliant on the nations of Britain and Russia for military and economic support. Civil wars earlier in the decade had threatened the government, and the only regular military force at the time was the Cossack Brigade. [5]

Qajar dynasty Iranian royal dynasty of Turkic origin

The Qajar Empire, also referred to as Qajar Iran, officially the Sublime State of Persia, was the state ruled by the Qajar dynasty, an Iranian royal dynasty of Turkic origin, specifically from the Qajar tribe, from 1789 to 1925. The Qajar family took full control of Iran in 1794, deposing Lotf 'Ali Khan, the last Shah of the Zand dynasty, and re-asserted Iranian sovereignty over large parts of the Caucasus. In 1796, Mohammad Khan Qajar seized Mashhad with ease, putting an end to the Afsharid dynasty, and Mohammad Khan was formally crowned as Shah after his punitive campaign against Iran's Georgian subjects. In the Caucasus, the Qajar dynasty permanently lost many of Iran's integral areas to the Russians over the course of the 19th century, comprising modern-day Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The Qajar shah in 1921 was Ahmad, who had been crowned at the age of eleven. He was considered to be a weak, incompetent ruler, [6] especially after British, Russian and Ottoman occupations of Persia during World War I. In 1911, when the capital city, Tehran, had been seized by the Russians, armed Bakhtiaris tribesmen, rather than Iranian regular troops, expelled the invaders. [6] This further diminished the government's reputation, rendering it almost powerless in time of war.[ citation needed ]

Ahmad Shah Qajar Shah of Iran

Ahmad Shah Qajar, was Shah (King) of Persia from 16 July 1909 to 15 December 1925, and the last ruling member of the Qajar dynasty.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Tehran Capital city of Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.7 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 24th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

Britain, which played a major role in Persia, was dismayed by the Qajar government's inability to rule efficiently. [4] This inefficiency was the background of a power struggle between Britain and Russia, each nation hoping to control Persia.[ citation needed ]

On 14 January 1921, the British General Ironside chose to promote Reza Khan, who had been leading the Tabriz battalion, to lead the entire brigade. [1] About a month later, under British direction, Reza Khan's 3,000-4,000 strong detachment of the Cossack Brigade reached Tehran.[ citation needed ]

The coup and subsequent events

Reza Khan seizes Tehran

On February 18, 1921, the Cossacks reached Tehran meeting little resistance. [5] On early morning of February 21, they entered the city. [7] Only several policemen, taken by surprise, are said to had been killed or wounded in the center of Tehran. [7] Backed by his troops, Reza Khan forced the government to dissolve and oversaw his own appointment as minister of war. Reza Khan also ensured that Ahmad, still ruling as shah, appointed as prime minister Sayyed Ziaoddin Tabatabaee. [4]

Treaty with the USSR

On February 26, the new government signed a treaty of friendship with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, formerly the Russian Empire. As a result of the treaty, the Soviet Union gave up some of its former Russian facilities in Iran, although the Soviet diplomats ensured that their nation was allowed to intervene with its military in Iran, as long as the intervention was "self-defense". [4] The USSR also gave up any Russian-owned railroads and ports in Iran.[ citation needed ]

Change of prime ministers

Prior to the coup, Ahmad Qavam, governor of Khorasan, had asserted his loyalty to the Qajar regime. When he refused to recognize the government installed by Reza Khan, [4] he was jailed in Tehran. During his imprisonment, Gavam nurtured a hatred of the man who had arrested him, Colonel Mohammad Taghi Pessian, now the gendarmerie chief.[ citation needed ]

Sayyed Ziaoddin Tabatabaee, who had been installed as prime minister, was removed from office on May 25, by Shah Ahmad's decree. Shortly afterward, Qavam was released from prison and given Tabatabaee's former post.[ citation needed ] Colonel Pessian refused to accept this betrayal of the coup's ideals of a democratic Iran and began to gather popular support and many tribes flocked to make up his formidable force.

Quelling local uprisings

Pessian's revolt

After Gavam was made prime minister, one of the coup leaders and now the gendarmerie chief Colonel Mohammad Taghi Pessian opposed the new order and erosion of the democratic principles for which he and many of his fellow Iranians had fought and so departed Tehran. Soon at the head of a rebel army, Pessian went to battle with the armies of several regional governors. However, the rebels were eventually defeated and Reza Khan ordered that Pessian be beheaded and that the head be returned to Tehran and put on display to prove that Pessian, now a national hero, was dead to quell further rebellions. [4] The Kurds of Khorasan also revolted in the same year. [8] [ verification needed ]

Gilan campaign

The campaign on the Republic of Gilan was taken in early July 1921, by the main Cossack force, led by Vsevolod Starosselsky. [7] Following a gendarme operation, led by Habibollah Khan (Shiabani), they cleared up Mazandaran and moved into Gilan. [7] On August 20, ahead of the arrival of the Cossacks, the insurgents pulled out of Rasht, retreating towards Enzeli. [7] The Cossacks entered Rasht on August 24. [7] Though further pursuit after the revolutionaries turned successful at Khomam and Pirbazar, they have become heavily assaulted later on by the Soviet fleet, which bombed them by heavy artillery fire. [7] First, it had been believed that the entire force of 700 men, led by Reza Khan, became annihilated in this event, though later the actual casualty rate was determined to be about 10%, with the rest of them scattering upon the bombardment. [7] As a result, Starosselski ordered evacuation of Rasht. [7]

The Soviet Republic of Gilan officially came to an end in September 1921. Mirza and his German friend Gauook (Hooshang) were left alone in the Khalkhal Mountains, and died of frostbite.[ citation needed ]

Kurdish revolt


Reza Shah Reza shahpahlavi.jpg
Reza Shah

In the aftermath of 1921 events, relations of Persian government with the Sheikhdom of Mohammerah had also become strained. In 1924, Sheikh Khazal rebellion [9] broke out in Khuzestan, being the first modern Arab nationalist uprising led by the Sheikh of Mohammerah Khaz'al al-Ka'bi. The rebellion was quickly and effectively suppressed with minimal casualties.

Rezā Khan was placed on the throne by constitutional assembly in 1925, and many of those involved in the coup were either killed or put in prison. One General, Sepahbod Amir Ahmadi, tried to stand up against the establishment of a new monarchy, but on a visit to his now imprisoned brother-in-law, General Heydargholi Pessian, who had been one of the leaders of the coup that defeated the Qajar dynasty, Amir Ahmadi confessed that his efforts to prevent Reza Khan being made Shah and the monarchy reinstated were being thwarted by the British. Reza Khan was finally declared Shah, taking the surname Pahlavi and thus founding the Pahlavi dynasty. The Pahlavis ruled in Iran until the revolution of 1979, when the government was toppled and replaced with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, headed by Ruhollah Khomeini. [5] The day after the Shah left Iran, the revolutionary leaders declared Colonel Mohammad Taghi Pessian the first Martyr of the Revolution although Pessian was a Secularist.[ citation needed ]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Cyrus Ghani; Sīrūs Ghanī (6 January 2001). Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power. I.B.Tauris. pp. 147–. ISBN   978-1-86064-629-4.
  2. ... as a result of his forcefulness and military achievements, had been chosen by Major General Edmund Ironside, head of Norperforce ... COUP D’ETAT OF 1299/1921
  3. Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton University Press. pp. 116–117. ISBN   0691053421.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 The Iranian History 1921 AD
  5. 1 2 3 History of Iran: Pahlavi Dynasty
  6. 1 2 History of Iran: Qajar Dynasty
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Katouzian, Homa (2006). "The 1921 Coup". State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis. London: Tauris. pp. 242–267. ISBN   1845112725.
  8. Cottam, Richard W. (1979). Nationalism in Iran. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN   0822952998.
  9. Price, M. Iran`s diverse peoples: a reference sourcebook. p.159. "... and finally supporting a rebellion by Shaykh Khazal." CEIQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=sheikh%20khazal%20rebellion&f=false