Post-WWII Iran – British and Soviet Occupation and the Revolution – COLD WAR

Post-WWII Iran – British and Soviet Occupation and the Revolution – COLD WAR


The early days of the Cold War, as you can
see from our previous episodes, are rife with the two new, global superpowers attempting
to flex their muscles and impose their own particular worldview at the expense of the
other power. To best imagine what the inevitable confrontations
looked like, picture a game of chicken being played, with the two sides running at each
other, seeing who would flinch first. I’m your host, David, and today we will
be talking about one of the earliest and more overlooked incidents of the early Cold War. I am of course, talking about Iran. This is….The Cold War! The discovery of oil in the early 20th Century
in what was then known as Persia, brought the attention of the worlds powers to the
shores of the Persian Gulf. Under the control of Reza Shah Pahlavi since
1925, Persia, renamed Iran in 1935, walked a fine line of neutrality while the worlds
powers tried to gain influence in the country, and its oil fields. A long history of German Imperial influence
continued in the interwar period, as the Iranians used the Germans as a counterweight to Soviet
and British ambition. The Great Game of the 19th Century was clearly
not an easy one to give up! With the outbreak of war in 1939, the Allied
reliance on Iranian oil became critical and all threats to Iran were considered strategic
threats to the British Empire. When the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa
in the summer of 1941, the Soviet Union found itself a member of the Allies and also quite
dependent on western support via Lend-Lease programs. Given that the Trans-Iranian Railway was the
most convenient way of getting this aid to the Soviet Union, Iranian neutrality became
critical for the Allied war effort. As German forces advanced towards the Caucasus
and both the Baku oil fields and the Iranian oil fields, decisions were made to ensure
this critical region remained in Allied hands. In August and September of 1941, Western Allied
forces invaded and occupied Southern and Central Iran while Soviet forces occupied Northern
Iran, all with little resistance. Both the British and the Soviets used their
time in occupation to build and expand their influence in the country. New political parties were established, including
the pro-British National Will Party and the pro-Soviet Tudeh party. The Soviet Union even went so far as to create
the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan and the Kudish Mahabad Republic. So what were these new Republics and why were
they created? The People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was
proclaimed by the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan in Tabriz in November of 1945, headed by Seyyid
Jafar Pishavari. The Party-created militia had taken control
of all of the region’s government buildings, in a decidedly coup-like maneuver, which was
then followed by Pishavari declaring a course of democratic and economic reforms. Azerbaijani was also made the state language,
replacing Persian. Pishavari also ordered the redistribution
of non-Azerbaijani owned land and the nationalization of large banks. Infrastructure projects were started and steps
taken to improve the welfare of workers. The Soviet-backed Tudeh Party was disbanded,
with its members ordered to join the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. Of course, before you start thinking that
this was sounding somewhat non-Soviet, the Republic’s security services were modeled
after the NKVD, headed by the powerful Mohammed Biriya. The repressive tendencies of the state security
system were widely, although perhaps quietly denounced, even by those closest to Pishavari. Must be something to do with that name…Beria? The Soviets had moved 30,000 troops into the
Republic in order to prevent Tehran from being able to reassert control over the territory. While it is more than fair to say the the
Republic had only been created through the backing of the Soviet Union, the Republic
was quite popular with the local population as a result of the prior treatment of the
area from Tehran. Poor economic conditions, the attempts to
create a homogeneous Persian state and the oppression of national minorities had won
few friends in the region. So does that mean that The Soviet Union had
created the state out of the goodness of its heart, for the benefit of the people? You could make that argument, but it is far
more likely that Stalin intended for the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan to be merged with the
Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. The Republic of Mahabad, predominantly Kurdish,
was declared on January 22, 1946, headed by Qazi Muhammad. A Kurdish People’s Republic was established
with the aim of establishing autonomy for Iranian Kurds, the use of Kurdish as the language
of education and administration, of equality between the poor and the nobility and of fraternity
with the people of Azerbaijan. The Republic of Mahabad, like the People’s
Republic of Azerbaijan, was backed by the Soviet Union although Qazi Muhammad denied
that the Kurdish Democratic Party was in fact a communist party. To this end, there are claims that the Soviet
Union had even encouraged the Kurdish leaders to forego creating an independent state and
instead just join the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, the USSR did support the new
Republic and provided motor transport, supported their local economy by purchasing the new
countries entire tobacco crop and, most importantly, protected it from the Iranian Army. Both of these Republics were…short-lived. Dependant on Soviet protection, they lacked
the ability to resist the Iranian army without the Red Army. By June of 1946, Pishavari knew he was in
a very difficult position and agreed to accept the reabsorption of the People’s Republic
back into Iran. It was agreed that the Parliament would be
transformed into a provincial council, a system that was already recognized as part of the
Iranian Constitution. However, by December of 1946, Tehran was reasserting
itself by force and up to 500 supporters of the former Republic had been killed. A similar story unfolded in the Republic of
Mahabad, as Qazi Muhammed lost the support of the tribal leaders after the Red Army withdrew. The government in Tehran executed Qazi Muhammed
and Mahabad was no more. But wait? Why did the Soviet Union end its support for
the two Republics in the first place?? The answer to this lies a complicated web
of international machinations and Iranian oil concessions. Because let’s be honest…some things in
history never really change! The Allied occupation of Iran was agreed to
end 6 months after the end of the war, with the troops from the United States, The Soviet
Union and Great Britain scheduled to leave by March 2, 1946. The British by this time had secured preferential
deals with regards to the extraction of oil, as well as profit sharing by means of the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the Soviets, seeing this, wanted to do something similar. As the deadline for the troop withdrawal came
closer, Moscow began to pressure the Iranian Prime Minister, Ahmad Qawam, to officially
recognize the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. When Tehran stalled in giving an answer, Stalin
responded by refusing to withdraw Red Army troops from their area of occupation. The explanation given by the Kremlin was that
they would not remove troops from Iranian Azerbaijan until order had been restored and
Iran’s “hostile” attitude had ceased. The United States, aware of the Soviet position,
lodged a formal protest in the United Nations Security Council, which resulted in the passage
of United Nations Security Council Resolution Number 2 (just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t
it?!). That was on January 30, 1946. The resolution called on Iran and the Soviet
Union to resolve the issue. The Soviet reply come on March 24 where they
pledged to remove their troops immediately, although in reality this took several more
weeks to accomplish, during which time United Nations Security Council Resolutions Number
3 and Number 5 were also passed, complaining about and acknowledging the Soviet delay in
removing its soldiers. So what was the delay about?? Moscow was using this time to pressure the
Iranian government into signing an agreement which gave the Soviet Union a 51% ownership
share in Iranian oil. Of course, Iranian law dictated that such
an agreement required the ratification of the Iranian Parliament in order to be valid. Stalin, feeling secure with the agreement
and not wanting to provoke an armed conflict with the West, removed Red Army troops from
the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan in May of that year.He told the Republic’s leader,
Pishavari, that he needed to remove himself from Iran in order to guarantee the American
withdrawal from China, where Stalin was eager to increase his support to the Chinese Communists
in their struggle against the Kuomintang. So, are you following this so far? The Soviets think they have a deal for Iranian
oil and abandon their allies in Iranian Azerbaijan in order to ensure easier support for the
communists in China. So what happens next? You guessed it…the Iranian Parliament, with
the support of US allies, refuses to pass the Soviet Oil agreement, no doubt leaving
Stalin absolutely furious. This set Iranian foreign policy on a decidedly
pro-American course for the coming decades and prevented any future Soviet collaboration
with Iran, even when relations between the West and Iran began to break down. So what did post-occupation Iranian politics
look like? “It’s complicated” comes to mind…Iran
had a political system that did allow for some degree of pluralism however, this pluralism
allowed for instability as there was a constant struggle for political control between the
monarchy and the parliament. The Tudeh party, powerful leftists supported
by the Soviet Union, squared off against pro-western forces. There were Monarchists as well as groups who
wanted to weaken foreign interests by means of nationalizing the oil industry. And of course, the oppression of national
minorities, notably the Kurds and Azerbaijanis led to their emergence as political forces
as well. And that one extra element that we haven’t
mentioned yet but will play an ever increasing role in Iranian politics? Religion. Iran was, and continues to be, the centre
of Shia Islam and the clerics continued to hold their historical role as major influencers
over Iranian politics. A difficult economic situation in Iran in
the post-occupation period due to a weakening currency and loss of local manufacturing at
the expense of foreign imports bolstered anti-western sentiment and especially pro-communist sentiment. Foreign control over Iranian oil was an especially
sensitive subject and naturally found itself a magnet issue in the bubbling cauldron of
Iranian politics. A key figure was to emerge on the subject
of Iranian oil, Mohammed Mossadegh, who had been instrumental in passing the law that
required oil negotiations be passed through the Iranian Parliament, the Majles. The other key figure in Iranian politics was
the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. You should write that name down; he is going
to be a recurring figure on this channel. As the head of the army, he had personally
led the restoration of control of northern Iran from the Soviet Union’s occupation. The Shah’s suspicion of political parties
and politicians in general drove him to want to restore absolute control of the country
to the Peacock Throne. As you can see, the tension in Iran was heading
for showdown. We here at the Cold War will continue to discuss
this in our future videos so please make sure you are subscribed to our channel and have
pressed the bell button. We rely on our patrons to create these videos,
so consider supporting us via www.patreon.com/thecoldwar. This is the Cold War Channel and we will catch
you on the next one.

61 Comments on "Post-WWII Iran – British and Soviet Occupation and the Revolution – COLD WAR"


  1. Hey guys, we are working very hard to bring you 2 videos per week with more animation and superior quality, but we need your help to do that. Please, consider supporting us on patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thecoldwar

    Reply

  2. With this video you can see the start for current Azerbaijan. They claim to be original statr in the lands and Armenia being artificially created, ironically.

    Reply

  3. Great video! I would like to add some things. Iran did not rename the country to Iran, it demanded the west to also use it. Also Reza Shah wanted to unify Iran like Atatürk, he did not hate Azeris or kurds like Atatürk did not hate kurds. The Azerbaijani republic was not that popular, maybe Kurdish but not Azeri. Infact when the Iranian marched in Tabriz the Azeris burned Soviet and Turkic posts. And last thing Iran was forced to join the allies and work and give food to the allies. Many died because of the Soviets.

    Reply

  4. You used wrong footage at the start of the video that is the Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Son of Reza Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became King in 1941 after his father was forced to abdicate and exiled by the British.

    Reply

  5. Why is this so underrated? I honestly think that this channel and their series must be as prominent as WW1 and WW2.

    Reply

  6. You definitely should have mentioned the great famine that was caused by British and Soviet forces in wartime Iran. It was devastating…

    Reply

  7. The APG (Azerbaijan's People Government) was VERY unpopular, as it was considered a secessionist regime, even among ethnic Azeris since many Azeris were pretty much loyal to Iran and had resisted the Pan-Turk propaganda from the Ottoman Empire ever since the begin of WW1. If you go to Tabriz and ask anybody who remembers the APG, he/she will tell you that Pishevari was a traitor not a hero as it is depicted in this video.

    The Imperial State of Iran did NOT mistreat minorities. It's true that Turkish newspapers, etc. were closed by Rezâ Šâh but many Azeris actually voluntarily started to learn Persian and with great pride in doing so. Rezâ Šâh's language policy was very well received by ethnic Azeris since thus they felt more close to their home country Iran.

    4:45 You probably meant a Kurdish* People's Republic

    5:50 Pishevari did not simply "agree peace negotiations" with Iran. His regime was ousted by the Imperial Iranian Army that had liberated Tabriz under the commander of Mohammadrezâ Šâh and Pishevari had to flee to the Soviet Union. There were no peace talks.

    Reply

  8. This channel deserve A LOT more views and subscriber. Been here since the channel was announced in K&G channel. Keep it up! Also, will you covering anything relate to Thailand in the series at all?

    Reply

  9. The Soviets stole food harvests, so did the British from the population starving thousands. An illegal invasion this was, Classical nazi like imperialism from the British and Soviets. Stealing oil alike, typical thieves.

    Reply

  10. silly question, but what's that ravioli-like dish in the title screen that shows up as the eastern bloc's answer to the double cheeseburger? Pelmeni?

    Reply

  11. so now it's the Soviets' turn to bend over backwards and abandon their allies in hopes of getting something in return that never materialized, how the turn tables… 🤔

    Reply

  12. For a brief moment you could go all the way from Cape Town to Burma without leaving the British Empire

    Reply

  13. The footage at the end is from shah's official visit to Pakistan. Love to Iran from Pakistan. Though i don't know which iran the irani people prefers the pre revolution one or the one after revolution or the one middle state which is neither monarchy nor ultra religious state

    Reply

  14. 6:36 Wouldn't be the last time they abandoned a state they created in the Middle East.🤭

    Reply

  15. This video is very good,
    can you allow me to reprint the video of your channel to the Chinese video website BiliBili?
    Because the Chinese can't watch videos on Youtube.

    Reply

  16. Iran declared itself neutral in world War 2 …but the allies ignored it because Iran had German engineers running some aspects of their infrastructure. ..like the Iranian railway and the bridges that connected it ….the allies became the axis when it came to Iran ….even though Germany was nowhere near the middle east at the time.

    Reply

  17. for those who are interested Tudeh in Persian means masses and this party also had lots of influence in the changes that came later on

    Reply

  18. As an Iranian I’m totally disappointed by this channel. Most facts as well as footages are simply not true

    Reply

  19. I am looking to answer this long standing question.
    Who from the major powers helped Khomeini reach power in Iran ?
    Was it the French ?

    Reply

  20. Not fantastic but not bad, as they note themselves it is just a start. Video is a touch on the weak side but again as they note, they plan to put more into future ones. I am not a fan of the armchair lecture style but as I mostly listen to these while doing other things that is not such a bad thing. The creators do tend to look past the obvious for topics so I have not encountered one of their videos yet that is not worthwhile in some regard. I am voting up, and subscribing.

    Reply

  21. I LUV HOW ALL COMMUNIST COUNTRYS PUT PEOPLE REPUBLIC IN THE NAME OF THEIR NON PEOPLE REPUBLIC COUNTRIES. LOL

    Reply

  22. This is something that the chickenhawks who want to make iran publicly enemy number 1 forget. Had the US and UK not toppled mossadegh in the 50s then it wouldnt have created the domino effect of the Shah and then the ayatollah taking over, resulting in an incredibly anti western nation which otherwise could've possibly been similar to turkey under kemal who was way more friendly and secular

    Reply

  23. Just finished watching all the episodes so far! Very well made, researched and interesting!

    Reply

  24. I'm getting a Indy nidell feeling by the style ur doing the vids….and I like it u just got a new sub

    Reply

  25. Excellent series so far. Will there be videos from a NATO / Warsaw Pact perspective ?? Hope so. Keep up the great work. Thank you.

    Reply

  26. so does this channel have a cooperation with The Great War channel and World War Two channel? because you seem to be copying their format. also links to the materials your are using for the videos would be awesome.

    besides that though i appreciate your videos, great content!

    Reply

  27. Commentators often give the impression that around this time, immediately after WW2, the USSR was given carte blanche by naive and perhaps Communist-infiltrated Western élites. In reality, they moved very quickly to obstruct the Soviets in Iran; perhaps because oil was at stake?

    Reply

  28. As a big fan of history, I'm just taken aback by the fact that PERSIA still existed until 1935! I mean, the Persian Empire started at 550BC!

    Reply

  29. facts. Kurdish army leader was given asylum in USSR with his 300 remaining soldiers. who enjoyed education. training. before returning to iraq and begging the first iraqi kurd war

    Reply

  30. To hell with the British and Soviet bastards who conquered my country, my grandpa suffered greatly from famine and my father was born in famine, created by those bastards.

    Reply

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