Map of southwest Asia, showing British and Russian areas of rule or influence.
|Signed||31 August 1907|
|Location||Saint Petersburg, Russia|
The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 or the Convention between the United Kingdom and Russia relating to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet. Signed on August 31, 1907, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the convention brought shaky British–Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified respective control in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet. It delineated spheres of influence in Persia, stipulated that neither country would interfere in Tibet’s internal affairs, and recognized Britain’s influence over Afghanistan. The agreement led to the formation of the Triple Entente.
During the last third of the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire's advances into Central Asia and the consolidation of the British Empire's domination of South Asia led to intense rivalry between the two European colonial empires. The conflicting interests centered on Afghanistan, Iran, and Tibet, three states that constituted buffers between Britain's and Russia's colonial possessions in Asia. The emergence of the German Empire as a world power and the humiliating defeat in 1905 of Russia by a nascent Asian power, the Empire of Japan, in the Russo-Japanese War, helped to persuade some British and Russian officials of a need to resolve their respective differences in Asia.
Rise of Germany
|Events leading to World War I|
On May 20, 1882, Germany entered into the Triple Alliance with Italy and Austria-Hungary, complementing its industrial and socio-political climb in the world arena. Furthermore, Germany dramatically increased its military output from the early 1900s up to the outbreak of World War I. Under a new “Prussian-German” empire, the German government worked to increase the nation's wealth and reach what was then the zenith of German power. While Britain and Russia were skeptical of Germany's imperialistic motives, members of the Triple Alliance were in turn somewhat threatened by Britain's and Russia's aggressive foreign policy tactics and wealth derived from their colonies.
Thus, military and territorial expansion was Germany's key to making itself a major player in the international arena of power. Germany's Middle East took a secondary position, one subordinate to Germany's primary policy toward Europe and America, throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While of secondary importance, it was a tool that was used to manipulate the Middle Eastern attempt to play off the Western powers against each other. Berlin peacefully penetrated the Ottoman Empire and had few colonial aspirations in the region.
Trouble in Iran
In 1905, revolutionary activity spread throughout Tehran, forcing the shah to accept a constitution, allow the formation of a majles (parliamentary assembly), and hold elections. Major figures in the revolution had secular goals, which then created rifts in the clergy to the advantage of the monarchy. Neither Britain nor Russia approved of the new liberal, unstable, political arrangement, as preferred a stable puppet government that submitted to foreign concessions and worked well with their imperialist goals.
To facilitate the situation in Iran, Britain and Russia discussed splitting Iran “into three zones. The agreement they wanted would allocate the north, including Isfahan, to Russia; the south-east, especially Kerman, Sistan, and Baluchistan to Britain; and demarcate the remaining land between the two powers as a "neutral zone." The division of Iran reinforced Great Power control over these respective territorial and economic interests in the country as well as allowed for contrived interference in Iran's political system. With foreign influence, revolution was outflanked by a combination of European and monarchist activities. As a result, Iranians learned "that however predatory the two 'neighbors' were, they were even more dangerous when they put aside their rivalries."
The Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907
Consequently, in 1907, Britain and Russia signed an agreement to regulate their economic and political interests. With respect to Iran, the Anglo–Russian Agreement recognized the country's strict independence and integrity, but then divided it into three separate zones. The agreement designated all of northern Iran, which bordered Russia's possessions in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, as an exclusive sphere of influence for Russian interests. This northern zone was defined as beginning at Qasr-e Shirin in the west, on the border with the Ottoman Empire, and running through Tehran, Isfahan, and Yazd to the eastern border, where the frontiers of Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia intersected. A smaller zone in southeastern Iran, which bordered Britain India, was recognized as an exclusive sphere for Britain. The British zone extended west as far as Kerman in the north and Bandar Abbas in the south. The area separating these two spheres, including part of central Iran and the entire southwest, was designated a neutral zone where both countries and their respective private citizens could compete for influence and commercial privileges.
For Britain and Russia, the agreement was important in establishing a diplomatic alignment that endured until World War I. The government of Iran, however, had not been consulted about the agreement; it was informed after the fact. Although not in a position to prevent Britain and Russia from implementing the Anglo–Russian Agreement, the Iranian government refused to recognize the accord's legitimacy, since from an Iranian perspective, it threatened the country's integrity and independence. Iranian nationalists, in particular, felt betrayed by Britain, a country they had idealized as a democratic beacon during the Constitutional Revolution. Thus, an important legacy of the agreement was the growth of anti-British sentiment specifically and anti-Western attitudes more generally as strong components of Iranian nationalism.
The Anglo–Russian Agreement did not eliminate all competition between the two powers with respect to their policies in Iran, but after 1907 it did foster broad cooperation, often to the detriment of Iranian interests. In particular, Britain and Russia intervened in Iran's domestic politics by supporting the royalists in their contest with the constitutionalists, and increasingly, their intervention assumed military dimensions. The agreement lapsed in 1918 after it was renounced by a new revolutionary government in Russia.
- British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Volume IV, The Anglo-Russian Rapprochement 1903-7. Edited by G. P. Gooch and H Temperley. Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London 1929. p618-621. Appendix I - Full Text of Convention between the United Kingdom and Russia relating to Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, and Tibet, Signed At St Petersburgh, August 31, 1907 (in French)
- British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Volume IV, The Anglo-Russian Rapprochement 1903-7. Edited by G.P. Gooch and H Temperley. Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London 1929. p618-621. Appendix IV - Revised Draft of Agreement Concerning Persia, Sent to Sir A. Nicholson by Sir Edward Grey on June 6, 1907
- Yale Law School: "Agreement concerning Persia" (in English)
- The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century, Volume 1. Edited by J.A.S. Grenville and B. Wasserstein. Routledge London 2001. p45. Conventions between Russia and the United Kingdom relating to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet, St Petersburgh, August 31, 1907
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