Persia and the Persian Question, volume I
THE NORTH-WEST AND WESTERN PROVINCES
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear.
SHAKESPEARE, Macbeth, act iii. se. 4.
Ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
Saepe monet, fraudesque et operta tumescere bella.
VIRGIL, Georg. 1. 46-5.
IN passing to the North-Western Provinces of Persia, I am approaching a part of my subject which, like the Caspian Provinces — but for different and less purely physical reasons — has special characteristics and a marked individuality of its own. These reasons are in the main political, or allied thereto. Azerbaijan is the province which, excepting only Khorasan, has more often been violated by foreign invasion than any other part of Persia. Not seventy years ago it was the theatre of the last Russo-Persian war. Should that conflict ever again be renewed, it is all but certain to be the scene of the initial operations. Its northern borders march with those of the Russian Trans-Caucasian dominions, and its capital is less than 100 miles from the Russian frontier. On the west it is coterminous with the territories of another Power with whom Persia is on worse terms than with Russia — viz. Turkey — and the borderland with whom is to this day a matter of dispute and an arena of intermittent conflict. Nor is the political problem of Azerbaijan created by actual contact or possible collision with Russia and Turkey alone. The province contains within itself human elements that differentiate it from all other parts of the kingdom. Here, and in the adjacent regions, are located the famous and formidable Kurds, whose name has achieved a world-wide reputation as synonymous with a state of anarchy and deeds of blood. Here, side by side with these desperate tribesmen, are settled a large population belonging to an ancient Christian persuasion, who have attracted to themselves the attention of Europe, and have fired the missionary enterprise alike of America, France, and Great
Britain. Here, too, are to be found the ubiquitous Armenians and their inseparable and irrepressible concomitant, the Armenian Question. Surely in these jarring elements, which would appear to have as much in common as the contents of the several vessels that compose a cruet-stand, there is material enough and to spare for the 'questions' of diplomatists or the crises of politicians. If we add that the vast majority of the inhabitants of this part of the Shah's dominions are not Iranian but Turkish in descent, and that the language of Azerbaijan is not Persian but Turki, we augment rather than diminish the interest already excited; whilst the facts that from this province are drawn the most resolute and warlike elements of the entire population of Persia, that it contains the commercial capital, Tabriz, and that its fertility of resources entitles it to be called the granary of Northern Iran, justify the claim that it should be examined and regarded with no careless or superficial eye.
My readers will long ago have gathered that Persia is a land of mountains and plains, in which the former are rarely out of sight, and the latter play the part of thresholds to the successive ranges. Azerbaijan does not differ from the rest of the country in this respect. But whereas we have hitherto remained in close proximity to the main or lateral branches of a single great system, running from the south-west of the Caspian to the confines of Meshed, we here encounter a separate and detached mountain group, not directly connected with the Elburz. The orographic system of North-Western Persia is part of the lofty highlands of Russian and Turkish Armenia on the north and northwest, and of Kurdistan on the south, which have been called by Ritter the Medic Isthmus, connecting the Iranian with the
Anatolian ranges. The northern part of this region is broken into fertile valleys and rolling plateaux; the ravines sometimes contain extensive, but not lofty, forests; on the hill slopes are pasture-lands which feed the flocks of the nomad tribes; whilst in the hollows of the plains, where water is abundant, villages are buried in the rich foliage of orchards and gardens. A considerable river, the Aras or Araxes, is the boundary of the province on the north, the Kizil Uzun (Red Long River), skirts it on the south, and afterwards, under the name of the Sefid Rud (White River), flows into the Caspian to the east of Resht. Rich in water, with a soil excellently adapted to the growth of cereals, possessing mineral resources, certain though undeveloped, Azerbaijan is indeed a favoured portion of the Shah's dominions. Further south, when we come to the Kurdistan mountains, a name somewhat vaguely applied to the frontier highlands inhabited by the Kurds, the more open valleys and undulations of the north are succeeded by narrow defiles between the several ridges, whose uniform inclination is, with an astonishing regularity, from north-west to south-east, and passage between which is effected by means of deep tengs or transverse gorges, due, like those which I have previously described in North-Eastern Khorasan, not to the erosive action of water, but to primordial fracture in the crust of the earth. These mountains unite on the south with the range known to classical writers as the Zagros.
The great elevation and the more northern latitude of this mountainous region are responsible for extremes of climate more severe than are felt in any other part of Persia. The heat of the Persian Gulf in summer is matched by the cold of Azerbaijan in winter; but whereas the Gulf is never cold in winter, Azerbaijan is apt to be excessively hot in summer as well. The spring and autumn are delightful seasons. In the intervening months the sun's rays are very piercing. The winter begins early, lasts late, and is dreaded for its rigours. Heavy falls of snow block the roads; men are frequently frozen to death in the passes; at Tabriz, a thermometer exposed to the air at night seldom rises above zero (Fahrenheit), and we read of ink freezing in the inkstand and water in the tumblers in a room where a fire is kept burning. Colonel Stewart, in a report, compares the summer climate to India (with the advantage, however, of cool nights) and the winter climate to Canada.
General Chesney gave the area of Azerbaijan as 25,280 square
miles. Colonel Stewart, now Consul-General at Tabriz, returns it as 43,500, General Schindler as 35,000. The total population is estimated at not far short of 2,000,000, of which the Kurds are reckoned at 450,000, and the Christians at 72,900 (Nestorians, 44,000; Armenians, 28,900). Owing in part to the missionary establishments of the foreign churches, in part to the staffs of the various consulates at Tabriz, and in part to the mercantile importance of the latter city, there are now as many as 120 Europeans and Americans in the province. The name Azerbaijan is said to be derived from Azer, fire, and baijan, keeper, and to testify to the ancient predominance of the fire-worshippers in this part of Persia. It is identical with the Atropatia or Atropatene of the classical writers.
In the tables which I publish elsewhere of the Persian Revenue for 1888 to 1889, the contribution of Azerbaijan appears at 786,142 tomans, plus 60,062 kharvars of grain, or a total money value of 966,666 tomans, equivalent to 276,190l. On the other hand, the revenue for 1889 to 1890 appears in the Consular Report as 385,674l. No two tables of Persian accounts were ever found to agree; and there is frequently sufficient ground for divergence in the different bases upon which the conflicting calculations have been framed. In this case the figures in the earlier and smaller estimate are those of revenue from taxes and customs only, and are calculated at the rate of 35 krans to 1l. The figures in the Consular Report contain other items, as the following table shows; and the recent remarkable rise in silver having lowered the rate of exchange to 30 krans to the 1l., they are counted at that rate: —
This total is not in itself by any means too severe a burden for
so wealthy a province to sustain, although some injustice is inflicted by irregular assessments and by the unscientific mode of collection.
Tabriz, the capital city, which occupies much the same position in North-Western as does Meshed in North-Eastern Persia, which is the residence of the Heir Apparent, the station of a British Consul-General, and the largest commercial emporium in Persia, deserves somewhat minute attention. Situated at the extremity of an extensive plain, which extends to the gleaming expanse of the Urumiah Lake, and a little to the south of the Aji Chai (chai is Turki for river), which irrigates the gardens outside the city, it is framed in a landscape of orange and red-coloured hills, while on the south rises the snow-covered cone of Mount Sehend, 11,800 feet above the sea.
Tabriz has enjoyed, or perhaps I should say suffered, an eventful history. Situated at so slight a distance from the frontier, it has fallen the first victim to invading armies, and has been successively held by Arabs, Seljuks, Ottomans, Persians, and Russians. What the rage of conquest or the licence of possession has spared, Nature has interfered to destroy. The city has been desolated by frequent and calamitous earthquakes. Twice we hear of its being levelled to the ground before, in 1392, it was sacked by Timur, whose path was strewn with ruins that vied with the convulsions of Nature. Five times during the last two centuries has it again been laid low. A reliable historian (Krusinski) tells us that 80,000 persons perished in the earthquake of 1721; and we hear from another source that half that number were claimed for the death-roll by its successor in 1780. It is small wonder that a city so relentlessly persecuted has scarcely ventured to raise its head, that its streets are mean and narrow, that it contains few or no public buildings of any distinction, and that the bulk of its dwelling-houses are one-storeyed and low. What is the use of building a lofty structure, only to find it toppling down upon your ears?
A fanciful tradition ascribes the origin of the name to the gratitude of Zobeideh, the famous wife of the Kalif Harun-er Rashid, who, having been cured of a fever by its salubrious climate, is said to have called the spot Tab-riz, or Fever-expelling. This, in common with other far-fetched interpretations that excited the curiosity of the seventeenth-century travellers
from Europe, must be not too respectfully dismissed. Tabriz is an Aryan word, derived from tab or tap, warm, tepid, and rez, riz, resh, a verbal root meaning to flow. It signifies, therefore, 'warmflowing,' and originated from the hot springs in the neighbourhood. This word became the classical Tauris, which at the close of the third century after Christ was the capital of the Armenian King Tiridates Ill. Its predecessor, located by Rawlinson at Takht-i-Suleiman, was Ganzaca, or Gaza, the Kandsag of Armenian history. To Zobeideh we may concede the distinction of having, in 791 A.D., rebuilt and beautified the city, a service which has more than once in history procured for its author a founder's claim and honour. In Marco Polo's time it was a city where 'the merchants make large profits.' The Spaniard Clavijo spent nine days here in 1404 and nineteen days in 1405, on his journey to and from Samarkand; and so speedily had the city recovered from Timur's visitation that even then, though formerly much more populous, it contained 200,000 inhabitants, and 'the finest baths in the whole world.' A few years later it became the capital of the Kurdish dynasty of Kara Koyunlu, or Black Sheep; but they in their turn were expelled in 1468 by Uzun Hasan (Long Hasan), the chief of the Ak Koyunlu, or White Sheep, who made himself sovereign of Persia, and in whose reign the Venetian travellers, whose diaries have fortunately been preserved and given to the world, visited his dominions. Josafa Barbaro, who was at Tabriz in 1474, called him King Assambai (i.e. Hasan Beg), and left a long account of the city. Ambrosio Contarini called the King Ussun Cassan. A little later the anonymous merchant whose travels have also been published in the same collection (1507-20) said the city was without walls but twenty-four miles in circumference. As for the ladies, he seems to have found time in the intervals of business to appreciate their charms, for he leaves record that
The women are as white as snow. Their dress is the same as always has been the Persian costume — wearing it open at the breast, showing their bosoms and even their bodies, the whiteness of which resembles ivory.
On the other hand, less favoured or more exacting was 'the most noble magnifico' Vincentio d'Alessandri, who in 1571 said —
The women are mostly ugly, though of fine features and noble dispositions. They wear robes of silk, veils on their heads, and show their faces openly.
All the writers of this and the succeeding epoch concur in eulogies of the great commercial wealth and importance of Tabriz. Tavernier, in the middle of the next century, said that 'money trolls about in that place more than any other part of Asia.' Chardin, however, in 1671, has left the most glowing account of its extent and features: —
It is really and truly a very large and potent city; as being the second in Persia, both in dignity, in grandeur, in Riches, in Trade, and in number of Inhabitants. It contains 15,000 Houses and 15,000 shops. I did not see many palaces or magnificent houses at Tauris. But there are the fairest Basars that are in any place of Asia. And it is a lovely sight to see their vast extent, their largeness, their beautiful Duomos, and the Arches over 'em; the number of people that are there all the day long, and the vast quantities of merchandise with which they are filled.
The enthusiastic Frenchman went on to say that the city contained 250 mosques, 300 caravanserais, and a population of 550,000, and that
The Piazza of Tauris is the most spacious Piazza that ever I saw in any city of the world, and far surpasses that of Ispahan. The Turks have several times drawn up within it 30,000 men in Battel.
In the present century the most notable experience of Tabriz has been its unresisted occupation by the Russian army under Paskievitch in the campaign of 1827. The Governor was seized and handed over as a prisoner to the Russians, and the latter occupied the Citadel and captured the town without firing a shot. Nevertheless the 'St. Petersburg Gazette,' in chronicling this achievement, stated that the garrison made a most obstinate defence, but that nothing could impede the ardour of the Imperial troops, who carried all before them, took numerous stands of colours, and finally wrested from the Governor the keys of the city. The colours, which had been specially manufactured in the bazaar at Tabriz and then artifically perforated with bullet-holes, were
sent to Moscow and were enshrined in great state in the Kremlin. There were only eight gates to the city, but fifteen colossal keys, also manufactured for the purpose, were despatched to the same destination, and, I doubt not, are treasured as among the proudest trophies of Muscovite prowess. The city was restored to Persia upon the conclusion of peace in February of the following year.
Since 1805 Tabriz has been the capital and residence of the Heir Apparent, having been first chosen for that purpose in the case of Abbas Mirza, the selected son of Fath Ali Shah. Kinneir, about 1810, described it as 'one of the most wretched cities in Persia,' and as having only 30,000 inhabitants. Morier, in 1812, gave it 50,000. In the long reign of peace that has succeeded the Russian war, the numbers have gradually swollen, being reported at different intervals as from 100,000 to 140,000, until at the present moment they are said to be between 170,000 and 200,000. In 1886 General Schindler reported the town as containing eight imamzadehs, 318 mosques, 100 public baths, 166 caravanserais, 3,922 shops, twenty-eight guard-houses and five Armenian churches; but a good many of these figures, represent deserted fabrics, while the majority of the so-called mosques are tekiehs or public prayer-places; so that the totals give an exaggerated impression of the existing city.
Imposing and extensive as Tabriz must once have been, there are at this moment positively only two monuments of antiquity worthy of any notice, and both of them are in a state of ruin. The first of these is the Kabud Musjid, or Blue Mosque, so called from the magnificent specimens of enamelled faïence by which it was once encrusted. It was built by Jehan Shah, the last sovereign of the Black Sheep dynasty (1437-1468 A.D.). Earthquakes have shattered its walls; its dome has
fallen in; and but few relies survive of the departed splendour; although these are sufficient to have drawn from a competent observer the remark that the Mosque of the Sunnis, as he calls it, from the tradition that it was raised in the days when the Sunni was the national faith, is the 'chef-d'oeuvre of Persian, and, perhaps, of all Oriental architecture.' The other relic is the Ark or Citadel, in the south-west part of the city, originally built by Ali Shah, and which once contained a magnificent mosque within its walls. It was converted into an arsenal in the first quarter of this century by Abbas Mirza, who employed a large number of English workmen; and here, in July 1850, was shot the Bab, or founder of the Babi heresy. A solid mass of masonry 120 feet high, and with walls twenty-five feet thick at the base, towers above the city, and is a relic of the ancient structure. Faithless wives used to be hurled down from its summit; but this method of execution was abandoned when one of these ladies, sustained by her inflated petticoats as by a parachute, descended unharmed on to terra firma.
The palace of the Vali-Ahd, or Heir Apparent, is the most elegant modern building in the city. The Europeans live in the Armenian quarter. Here are the residences of the Turkish, Russian, and British Consul-Generals, the last named having a charming and spacious house, a great contrast to the quarters in which I left him before his transfer from Meshed. France also maintains a Consul at Tabriz, whose business it is to foster such trade as she may possess, and to supervise the interests of the Catholic Nestorians whom she has taken under her protection. There was once a Belgian Consul; but a sinecure so complete could only end in withdrawal. As I have said, the interior of the town possesses no distinction: the houses are low, the lanes narrow and dirty; and size and business alone demonstrate the existence of a capital. Considering that it is the second city in the kingdom, the residence of the heir to the throne, and the seat of great wealth, and that there are in the neighbourhood abundance of the most beautiful marbles and building materials, it is surprising, in spite of the earthquakes, that more effort has not been made to embellish Tabriz. An inner wall encircles the building of the Ark, and a double outer wall, in no sort of repair, surrounds the city.
I have already, in Chapter XIII., dwelt upon the character and personality both of the Vali-Ahd, the nominal Governor, and of his recent minister, the Amir-i-Nizam, the actual Governor, of Azerbaijan. Under the Persian system, which has never, except in the case of Abbas Mirza, allowed any initiative to a son of the sovereign, the former was a mere puppet. The latter kept the whole power in his own hands, and was indeed as a rule addressed as Governor-General. Being a man of strong character, he reduced turbulence to a minimum, and immensely consolidated the Shah's authority and position in Azerbaijan. Though an old man, he is still full of life and vigour, and under any change of régime might devote to a kingdom the talents that were recently concentrated upon a province. His salary was only 5,000 tomans per annum, or 1,420l.; but the important point in the pay of any Persian Governor is not what he receives from the State, but what he exacts from the people. Among other allowances to Azerbaijan from the Royal Treasury we find a subsidy of 2,000 tomans for post-houses on the postal route; and the same sum for fireworks at festival times, the Persians considering a holiday, religious or secular, that is not so celebrated in much the same light as we should a Christmas without plum-pudding or mince-pies.
Fraser, passing through Azerbaijan in 1834, and observing the calamitous results of the system under which Fath Ali Shah distributed his colossal male progeny in every Government post throughout the kingdom, remarked: —
The most obvious consequence of this state of affairs is a thorough and universal detestation of the Kajar race, which is a prevalent feeling in every heart and the theme of every tongue.
Just, however, as in Khorasan a similar feeling, existing as late as MacGregor's visit in 1875, has disappeared under the firm and not unpopular rule of the reigning Shah, so have the sins of his great-uncles, the sons of the prolific Fath Ali, been forgotten and forgiven in Azerbaijan. The Turkish population of that province, so far from being hostile, are predisposed to be friendly to a dynasty of Turkish extraction. There is far too keen a hatred between Shiahs and Sunnis, between the Turkish subjects of the Shah and the Turkish subjects of the Sultan across the border, to
afford much scope for political discontent among the former; and Azerbaijan is probably at this moment the most loyal of the frontier provinces. Its inhabitants (with the exception of the Kurds, who will be dealt with separately, and of whom it would be unsafe to predicate loyalty to anybody), being of the Turkish stock, are more stubborn and self-reliant than the docile and supple Iranian; and it may be asserted that, were resistance to a foreign invader ventured upon, it would be far more effectively displayed by the Azerbaijanis, in spite of their proximity to Russian territory and Russian arms, than by the lethargic peoples of Khorasan.
Russia has been, not unnaturally, credited with designs upon Azerbaijan second only in seriousness and intensity to her yearning for Khorasan. Just as, after the war of 1857, England, in the opinion of many persons well qualified to judge, acted foolishly in the surrender of certain posts in the south, such as Mohammerah and Bushire, which were then in her possession, so Russia is believed many times to have regretted that she did not retain a little more in the settlement of Turkomanchai. That that settlement was as negatively favourable, or as little unfavourable, to the Persians as it now appears to have been was mainly due to the wise counsel of Sir John McNeill, who persuaded Fath Ali Shah to yield before more was demanded. Sir Justin Sheil, speaking with the authority of a British Minister in Persia, said: —
Had Russia known then as well as she now (circ. 1850) does the value of Azerbaijan, commercial, political and material — its richness in corn, mineral productions, and soldiers — there can be little doubt that that province too would have been absorbed by the Holy Empire.
Trade between Europe and Persia in this quarter has commonly entered or left Azerbaijan by one of two routes — either through Turkish territory from Trebizond in the south-eastern corner of the Black Sea, or through Russian territory from the Caucasus. The former route was inaugurated by Abbas Mirza over sixty years ago, with the double desire of encouraging British trade with Persia, to which he was very friendly, and of injuring the Russian trade route, to which he was naturally hostile. This prince deputed an agent to London and established correspon-
dence with a large commercial house in the City, who opened direct communication by steamer with Trebizond. The first experiment failed; but a second attempt, in which the English goods were brought in transit through Constantinople, succeeded, and this transit trade is said before long to have amounted to 1,000,000l. At the same time cloth manufacture was introduced into Persia by Mr. Armstrong, an Englishman, at the request and cost of Abbas Mirza. Fulling mills were established at Khoi, and spinning, carding, and weaving machines near Tabriz. After the rupture between England and Persia consequent upon Mohammed Shah's expedition against Herat in 1838, this Anglo-Persian trade collapsed abruptly; and in the year 1839 an English traveller wrote: 'Of the British residents in Tabriz only three remain; of the British commerce I am not aware that there are any remains.' The squabbles of diplomatists and the humours of Courts do not, however, permanently interfere with a trade well founded and convenient to both parties; and within a few years' time British imports were again to be seen in the ascendant in the bazaars of Tabriz. There was the less necessity to adopt the long and arduous overland route from Trebizond, because Russia for some time encouraged international trade by allowing free transit through the Caucasus, Poti being the port of debarkation usually resorted to on the Black Sea. Under these conditions the value of imports and exports for the province of Azerbaijan rose in the years 1868, 1869, and 1870 to the following high figures: —
In explanation of these remarkably high figures of imports, it must be remembered that the bulk of trade with Northern Persia, both Russian and English, at that time entered the country by way of Azerbaijan, the Russians not having as yet developed the Baku-Enzeli route, and the English not having approached Teheran on any large scale from the Persian Gulf. The absolute command of the market in cotton fabrics, possessed by Great Britain, is shown by the following proportions of the totals above quoted: —
In 1877, however, Russia embarked upon a policy of strict protection, and adopted almost prohibitive measures against the Caucasian transit trade by demanding the deposit with Russian officials of a sum equal to the entire value of the goods transported through her territory, which was only returned after it had been certified by official report that the goods had crossed the frontier intact. This edict had the effect of driving back the European trade with Persia to the Trebizond route. It was to some extent modified a little later, but reappeared in a yet more savage form in 1883, to which year we may attribute the almost total cessation of the Caucasian route for European goods bound for Persia, which have ever since continued to enter the country from Trebizond. Of this route and the value of the trade that passes along it, I shall say something in a later chapter upon the Commerce of Persia. I am here restricting myself to the figures of Azerbaijan, of which, however, it must be borne in mind that a large proportion only passes through the Custom-house in transit to other parts of the country, and therefore must not be mistaken for local consumption.
Taking the returns for the last three years, or a period twenty years posterior to that previously selected, we find that the totals are as follows:
England still retains a scarcely disputed command of the market in cotton goods (grey and white, coloured, and prints), the value of her imports in these commodities (nearly all from Manchester) having been 393,220l. in 1888 and 501,830l. in 1889. During the same years Russia only imported 170 bales of cotton goods in 1888, and 196 bales, valued at 4,000l., in 1889. The collapse in Russian competition, which raged rather merrily a few years ago, is to some extent due to temporary circumstances, of which the main is the extraordinary rise of fifty per cent. in the value of the Russian paper rouble in the course of the last two years, rendering importation from that country an unremunerative proceeding. Russia, however, assisted by a large direct bounty to her exporters, has handsomely beaten French sugar in the Tabriz market, although the rise in the rouble may detrimentally affect her here
also. Woollen goods to the value of from 30,000l. to 40,000l. come from Bradford; but a rather larger proportion (40,000l. to 50,000l.) hails from Austria and Germany, the bulk of these being woollen cloths of stiff texture and lustrous surface, which are manufactured in the former country. Tea to the value of 107,000l. comes from London and Amsterdam, chiefly the former. Russia sends half the glassware and crockery; Austria and Germany the other half. The two last-named countries share with France the haberdashery, and with France and Italy the velvets and silks. Bavaria supplies the gold lace and thread. Of the total of imports above quoted for 1889, the proportions claimed by Russia and other European countries are respectively as follows: —
Roughly speaking, England may be said to take about 80 per cent. of the import and 10 to 12 per cent. of the export trade. The above figures represent the European import trade from Trebizond, and the Russian import trade by the two routes of Tiflis and Julfa, and, on a rather larger scale, viâ Ardebil, from the little port of Astara, on the Caspian. European goods in small quantities enter Azerbaijan from other quarters, viz. viâ Aleppo and Mosul from Alexandretta, and viâ Suleimanieh from Baghdad, but the returns of this traffic are not forthcoming.
If we turn to the component items of the export table, it is not surprising to find that Russia, by virtue of her neighbourhood and the handy market thereby supplied to local produce, claims a large preponderance — 266,439l., as compared with the 123,017l. of other countries. Of the former total, by far the largest item consists of dried fruits, raisins, apricots, and almonds, which to the united value of nearly 200,000l. in 1890 (and in 1888 of 222,000l.) were exported from the plains of Urumiah and Maragha by Russian Armenians through Ardebil and Astara, for shipment to Baku. Of the latter, or European total, the largest items are carpets, which to the value of 42,260l. were exported, principally to England and America, and tumbaku, or Shiraz tobacco, to the value of 36,290l., which goes to fill the hubble-bubbles in
the coffee-shops of Stambul. A few years ago Russia endeavoured to stimulate the growth of cotton in Azerbaijan for her own supply by distributing cotton-seed gratuitously to the native cultivators; but the climate is less propitious in this province than in other parts of Persia. With reference to the figures of exports given above, and in mitigation of the disparity existing between them and the imports, it should be mentioned that there is a large contraband trade across the border both with the Russian and Turkish provinces, which escapes the Custom-house altogether; and that the total value of exports is probably half as much again.
Although the figures that I have cited seem to indicate a considerable volume of trade, complaints have long been heard in Tabriz of the difficulties and small profits of business. This arises principally from the vicious system of very long credits, which is a time-honoured institution in this market, from the rapid and constant fluctuations in exchange, and from the commercial morality of the Persian traders, which is as low as can well be imagined. A fraudulent bankruptcy, easily achieved by a bribe to the officials, or mullahs, is the favourite means of escaping an irksome debt. No doubt trade would be much improved if either of two roads which have been talked about for years were constructed: (1) from Bayazid on the Turkish frontier (on the Trebizond route), viâ Khoi to Tabriz, and thence to Kazvin, where the main road would be struck to Teheran; (2) viâ Ardebil to Astara on the Caspian. Nothing has hitherto come of either of these projects, although rumour is at this moment busy with their extended execution. It is not safe in Persian politics, however, to look much more than a yard beyond the end of your nose; and therefore I shall say no more about them. The Manchester firm of Ziegler's is the principal European house of business in Tabriz.
As I have said, Azerbaijan is the recruiting ground of the flower of the Persian army, if, indeed, the phrase can be used of a force that ordinarily presents so bedraggled an appearance. I speak here, however, of the material, not of the methods or results. Abbas Mirza collected in this province the entire army which, although ultimately severely beaten, performed so creditably in the opening engagements of the Russian campaign. At the time of the war (1826) the Azerbaijan army consisted of 20,000 cavalry, 6,000 regular infantry, and 10,000 irregular infantry, the second item being to a large extent drilled and in part officered
by Englishmen. The military contribution of the province is nominally now as follows: —
Of the infantry and artillerymen it may be said that they are indisputably the best soldiers that Persia possesses. Both are drilled from time to time, and have uniforms (not an invariable appurtenance of the Persian soldier) and a certain acquaintance with discipline. They are called out perhaps once in three or four years for a period of six months, being the rest of the time at their homes. Certain of the battalions, however, as will have been seen in my chapter upon Khorasan, are embodied for a longer period, two or three years, and are sent to garrison Meshed, Kerman, and other distant parts of Persia, whose local levies are either untrustworthy or are not endowed with military instincts. The cavalry horses are small, but of a strong and wiry stamp; and the men are born riders, and could be made into excellent light cavalry. A portion of the infantry and cavalry are armed with breech-loading Werndl rifles, and some of the batteries of artillery
with breech-loading Uchatius guns; but the majority of the infantry still trail the old smooth-bore percussion musket.
The garrisons of the large towns in the province vary considerbly in strength, according to the season of the year, a much larger number being called out in summer than in winter. For some years a large camp of exercise has been annually formed near Tabriz, 8,000 to 9,000 men being assembled for drill under an Austrian officer, who is reported to have made a great improvement in their efficiency. In 1890, however, the camp consisted of one cavalry regiment, 300 men, three battalions of infantry, two horse-batteries, and a mountain or mule-battery of artillery. The normal garrisons are as follows, entirely supplied by Azerbaijan regiments: —
Tabriz. — Two and a half battalions of infantry, one cavalry regiment (Persian Cossacks), and three batteries of artillery.
Khoi. — One infantry regiment and one battery of artillery, besides some garrison artillery to man the guns of the fort.
Urumiah. — One infantry regiment and a small force of artillery.
Maragha. — One infantry regiment and a small force of artillery.
Suj Bulak. — Half a regiment of infantry and a few artillerymen.
Ardebil. — Half a regiment of infantry and a few artillerymen.
For guarding the high road through the province from near Mianeh to Julfa on the Aras, and for the maintenance of some ten guardhouses, which are mostly empty, the Government pays 12,000 tomans per annum to Prince Nasret-ed-Dowleh. At Maku, a curious place near the Turkish frontier, where there is an inaccessible stronghold formed by some natural caverns, a powerful chief, named Timur Pasha Khan, is paid by the Government to supply 2,000 cavalry. He keeps many more men, some say 10,000, mostly armed with Martini-Henrys and Berdans, the latter being supposed to be a gift from Russia, by whom it is alleged that he is subsidised. Anyhow, he is not of the slightest use to Persia, being perfectly independent, and paying no attention to instructions from Tabriz.
Besides the main line of European telegraph which enters Persia by Julfa on the one side, and passes through Tabriz on its way to Teheran, there are local wires in Persian hands, running from Tabriz to Namin, above Astara, on the Caspian, 136 miles; to Suj Bulak, in the Kurdish country, 125 miles; through Khoi to Bayazid, on the Turkish frontier; and through Khoi to Urumiah, on the other side of the Shahi Lake.
Before I pass on to the western and southern environs of Tabriz, the memories of a great past and the dignity attaching to illustrious names compel me to devote a paragraph to the now semi-ruined, but once renowned and prosperous city, Ardebil. Situated on a plain about equidistant between the Caspian and the remarkable extinct volcano of Savalan, whose snowy crown rises to a height of 15,791 feet above the sea, Ardebil was elevated into the first rank of Persian cities, as the residence and last resting-place, of the famous saint Sheikh Sefi-ed-Din, the direct descendant of the seventh Imam, and contemporary of Timur. In the fifth generation from him came Shah Ismail (1480-1524 A.D.), the founder of the Sefavi dynasty, who first established his power and was finally interred, as sovereign of all Persia, in Ardebil. No wonder that two sepulchres so holy should, throughout the duration of the Sefavi dynasty, have attracted to Ardebil a host of pilgrims, and have conferred upon it the distinction almost of a royal city. In a decayed and crumbling mosque, the tombs may yet be seen, over that of the Shah being suspended a sandal-wood case, beautifully inlaid with ivory, the gift of the grateful exiles of Hindustan, the Emperor Humaiun, to Ismail's son, Shah Tahmasp. In the main hall of the same building, behind silver gratings and a golden-plated gate, is the tomb of the Sheikh, overlaid with costly carpets and shawls. An adjoining hall contains a superb collection of old faïence, principally China vases, the offering of Shah Abbas for the daily service of rice, amounting to 3,600 lbs., that was issued to the pilgrims;
whilst until the Russian war there were kept here under lock and key a library of the richest manuscripts and illuminated Korans, the gift of the same monarch, the bulk of which, in spite of the curses openly invoked upon the spoliator on the title-page of each volume, were mercilessly swept off by General Paskievitch for the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg. In the present century Ardebil has taken the place of Alamut as a State prison; and hither, upon the suppression of the revolts that had attended the accession of Mohammed Shah, were despatched the unsuccessful pretenders, two of whom were uncles of the sovereign.
Not the least remarkable among the natural features of the mountain system of which Azerbaijan constitutes a part is the cluster of great lakes which are here encountered at a very considerable elevation above the sea. In Russian territory is Lake Gotcha, to the east of Erivan; in Turkish territory is Lake Van, to the west of Van. But the largest, to which I now turn, is in Persian territory, and can be seen from the citadel of Tabriz. This lake is commonly called in maps and by Europeans Lake Urumiah, from the well-known city, twelve miles distant from its western shore; but this name does not appear to be known to the Persians, who generally call it Daria-i-Shahi, or Royal Sea. It is the Kapauta of Strabo, his version of the Persian kabuda, or blue. The lake is eighty-four miles long, between twenty and thirty miles broad, has a circumference of nearly 300 miles, and an elevation of 4,100 feet above the sea. Indented with bays and inlets, studded particularly in the southern part with islands, surrounded by wooded shores and hills, with Mount Sehend rising to a height of 11,800 feet from its eastern side, and with the white cone of Ararat piercing the distant clouds on the north, this noble sheet of water presents a fine and delightful prospect. Accounts vary as to its earlier history; for on the one hand it is said to have formerly covered a very much larger area, so much so that the peninsula of Shahi or Shahkuh, which juts forward into it from the eastern bank, is reported (even as late as by Kinneir) to
have been an island twenty-five miles in circumference; on the other hand, local tradition is in favour of expansion, rather than contraction, and there is alleged to have been a causeway for traffic across what is now the bed of the lake to Urumiah. Its most peculiar features are its great shallowness, rendering it for the most part little more than a flooded swamp, and its abnormal saline properties, which in salt (of which it contains 22 per cent.) and iodine excel even those of the Dead Sea. The bottom of the lake has been proved by soundings to consist of a series of terraces or ledges, the maximum depth being forty-five feet, and the average depth being perhaps fifteen or sixteen feet, though the bather can advance for two miles from the edge without getting out of his depth. The sensations of the latter, if I may judge by the analogous case of the Dead Sea, are not to be envied; for it is impossible to dive or even swim, the limbs being thrown up to the surface, and a thick crust of salt being deposited upon the body, the eyelids, and in the hair. When the wind blows on Lake Urumiah, sheets of saline foam are seen scudding along the surface, and the salt is left upon the shore in a solid efflorescence, sometimes several inches thick. No fish or molluscs live in the waters, whose sole living contents are a species of small jelly-fish, which sustain the swans and wild fowl that are occasionally seen. The banks are covered with a thick and treacherous slime, composed partly of salt, partly of decomposed vegetable matter, and emitting a horrible effluvium. Of the sixty islets clustered in a group towards the southern end, three are either cultivated or used as pasture-ground, the largest being five miles in length.
It might be imagined that so extensive a sheet of water, surrounded by such large cities and fertile plains, and said to be singularly free from storms, would have given birth to a busy and profitable navigation, and have been ploughed by the keels of numerous craft. It is not so in Persia. No Persian, not even a Turkish Persian, ever ventured a yard on to the treacherous element if he could possibly help it. The metaphor of 'burning your boats' can have no home in a country where there are no boats to burn.. The instincts of lucre alone account
for the fact that Lake Shahi is navigated at all. In 1838, an uncle of the King, being Governor-General of Azerbaijan, in order to secure a monopoly of the carrying trade, ordered all private boats to be destroyed. The same intelligent policy has been followed by his successors; and at this moment the Governor of Maragha, who enjoys the monopoly, allows only three small decked boats of twenty tons burden, which ply between the opposite shores of the lake, and the working of which he sublets to a contractor who pays him 800l. a year, and makes a substantial profit out of the enterprise. As Colonel Stewart says, what is wanted is a small line of steamers running between the southern and northern extremities, and transporting the grain from the rich cornlands south of the lake where it is plentiful and cheap, to the towns of Khoi and Tabriz where it is comparatively dear. But I suppose we must wait for this, as for all good things in Persia.
Near the eastern shore of the lake, and at about six miles from the village of Dehkharegan, are the pits or springs from which is extracted the famous semi-transparent marble, sometimes called after the neighbouring town of Maragha, sometimes after Tabriz. A number of springs, clustered within an area of half a mile in circumference, are constantly bubbling up and precipitating the limestone which they hold in solution. This is deposited in the form of horizontal layers, which are like a thin crust to start with, and can be cracked or broken, but which gradually solidify into hard blocks, with an average thickness of seven or eight inches, the best of which are believed to have been formed when the springs had a much higher temperature than the present (65° Fahr.). When quarried this petrifaction can be sawn either in the thinnest plates, when it is nearly transparent, and is sometimes used for windows, or in more substantial slabs, in which form it is much used for pavements and mural wainscoting. It is a singularly beautiful substance, being of a pink, or greenish, or milk-white colour, streaked with reddish or copper-coloured veins (from the oxide which it contains); and I have seen beautiful samples of it in the palaces and mosques of the East. I have very little doubt that the wainscoting of the Gur Amir, or Tomb of Timur, at Samarkand, which I have described in my former work, and which has puzzled all travellers, is composed of this marble, which there is nothing more natural than that the great conqueror
should have carried home with him at the close of his Persian campaign. The process of petrifaction bears a marked resemblance to that which was in existence till the great eruption of a few years ago at the Pink and White Terraces in New Zealand; and to that which may still be seen at the Mammoth Hot Springs in the Yellowstone Park, in North America, where the induration may be observed through all its stages from a film like frosted sugar to gleaming blocks of snow-white marble.
The neighbouring town of Maragha, which is now a flourishing place with about 15,000 inhabitants, has, like many of its compeers in Persia, played an eminent though almost forgotten part in history. Here the enlightened Mongol prince, Hulaku Khan, the grandson of Jenghiz Khan and brother of Kublai Khan, returning from his conquest of Baghdad and overthrow of the Abbaside Khalifs, fixed his residence; here he drew around him a distinguished body of philosophers, poets, and men of science; and here in 1265 A.D. he died and was interred, on a hill of the Shahi peninsula. The fame of the city was, however, chiefly due to the labours of his friend and counsellor, Nasr-ed-Din, the greatest astronomer of the age, who erected on a hill to the west of the city, where its foundations may still be traced, the observatory which has preserved his name, and in which he composed his 'Tables of the Ilkhani.' Hulaku is now almost forgotten, and Maragha knows another Nasr-ed-Din; but it is permissible to the student, as he passes by, to add a stone to the fallen cairn of such illustrious names.
On the other or western side of the lake, and at a distance of twelve miles from its shores, stands the city of Urumiah (shortened by the Christians into Urmia or Urmi), in a plain that is deservedly famous for its abounding fertility. Framed in the Kurdistan mountains, from which descend a multiplicity of perpetual streams, and planted, irrigated, or peopled to the full extent, it has been variously reported to contain 400, 300, and 200 villages (round numbers, which I take to be merely indicative of an
unusually extensive population), and has been compared by the fancy or the recollection of different voyagers to the lands at the foot of the Himalayas, to the banks of the Lake of Zurich, and to the wealthy plains of Lombardy. The city, which is situated at an elevation of 4,400 feet above the sea, contains a population of between 30,000 and 40,000, the bulk of whom are Afshar Turks, but which comprises a considerable sprinkling of Nestorian, Jewish, and Armenian families. In ancient history Urumiah is famous as one of the legendary birthplaces of the scarcely less legendary Zoroaster, and also as one of the burial-places of the Three Magi. The city is enclosed within a wall, with seven gates, and an outer ditch. The only interior structure of any importance is the arsenal, a walled building in the centre of the town, the court of which contains a dozen ancient smooth-bore six-pounders and a single brass howitzer. Until recently, and while the Kurdish terror arising out of the rebellion of Sheikh Obeidullah in 1880 prevailed, a garrison of three regiments of regulars, armed with Werndl rifles, was quartered here. To Christian visitors the chief interest of the place will consist in the fact that it is the headquarters of the American, French, and English Missions to the Nestorian populations of the neighbourhood, to which interesting but somewhat intricate subject I now turn.
The Nestorian Christians of the Turco-Persian highlands have been variously estimated at figures between 100,000 and 200,000, the higher being in all probability the more correct calculation. Of these by far the greater number are Turkish subjects, the Nestorian population of Azerbaijan being, according to the latest report (which nearly doubles all previous
estimates), a little over 40,000 persons. The name by which they are popularly known in Europe and by which I have called them, is, however, one which they neither accept nor employ themselves. It has been given to them as the lineal descendants of the famous sect which, when Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was excommunicated and banished by the Third General Council of the Church at Ephesus in A.D. 431 for heretical opinions concerning the incarnation of Christ (he held the doctrine of two natures and two persons), espoused his cause; took refuge in the Persian kingdom, which, at that time hostile to the Roman Empire, extended to them a ready welcome; spread their name and tenets throughout the East; established great religious seminaries at Edessa, Baghdad, and Nisibis; sent missionaries to Bactria, Tartary, India, and China; converted the celebrated but misnamed Prester John; established twenty-five archiepiscopal sees, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Pacific; and alike outnumbered and excelled in influence the Western organisations of Christendom; until, at the end of the fourteenth century after Christ, the universal scourge of Timur, the Great Tartar, fell upon them, and their scattered and decimated fragments retired in poverty and distress to the mountain fastnesses north of Mesopotamia, which they have since occupied, descending, as the peril became less acute, on to the plains of Mosul on the one side, and those which stretch on the other towards the basin of Urumiah. Of Nestorius the modern descendants of these fugitives know nothing. They claim to be the spiritual progeny of St. Thomas and St. Jude, and, while they commonly call themselves Syrians, are styled by the Moslems Naserani or Nazarenes. The genealogy of this interesting community is a matter upon which the learned dispute, but which is incapable of exact solution. Dr. Grant, one of the first missionary labourers amongst them, insisted that they were the relics of the Ten Tribes of Israel — a claim which has also been made by themselves — and found confirmatory evidence in their ceremonial law and ritual. It is not for me to say whether they were Hebrews — though much suspicion, in my judgment, attaches to every Lost Tribe argument that I have ever seen — Syrians, Assyrians, or Chaldaeans, all of which denominations are sometimes given to them. Their language is an ancient Syriac dialect, intermingled with a good many Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, and Persian words.
More interesting, or at least more profitable than these specu-
lations, is the history of their ecclesiastical polity. The remnant saved from the slaughter of Tamerlane appear to have remained united under the headship of a Patriarch, known as Mar Elias, residing at El Kush, north of Mosul, until the middle of the sixteenth century; when the bishop of the Eastern Nestorians, living on the Turco-Persian frontier, declared his independence and founded the patriarchal line of Mar Shimun (Anglice, the Lord Simon), which title has been borne by his successors and has remained in the same family ever since. Early in the succeeding century a section of the Mosul Nestorians went over to Rome; their allegiance was accepted by the Pope, who consecrated their Patriarch under the title of Mar Yusuf (the Lord Joseph), his residence being at Diarbekr and his official diocese being that of Babylon. In 1778 the whole of the Mosul or Western branch of the Nestorians followed suit; and therefore at this period, about a century ago, the church was clearly, though not evenly, divided into two portions — the Eastern or Nestorian proper, under Mar Shimun, and the Western or Chaldaean (as it was more commonly called), in communion with Rome. In 1873, the latter organisation, already much shaken by the celebrated Bull of Papal Infallibility in 1869, suffered further disruption, owing to a Bull from Rome that superseded the old Assyrian Canon touching the election of a Patriarch. Mar Elia Melus, the Mattran or Metropolitan, residing at Mosul, led another schism, which has repudiated Rome, and which, though greatly inferior in numbers to its rivals, includes many of the chief families in the neighbourhood of Mosul. The large village of Telkief, on the Tigris, is a stronghold of this sect; and I saw some of its natives, magnificent specimens of manhood and strongly attached to the English, who are regularly employed as sailors upon Messrs. Lynch's steamers on the Tigris. There are, therefore, at this moment three branches of Syrian Christians: (1) the Old Nestorians, under Mar Shimun; (2) the Old Chaldaeans, under the Patriarch of Babylon; (3) the New Chaldaeans, under Mar Elia Melus of Mosul. The first named is the most numerous of the three, and is supposed to contain nearly 100,000 members, 40,000 in Persia and 60,000 in Turkey.
It is with the Eastern branch, under Mar Shimun, that in a work dealing with Persia I am here alone concerned. Of this church there are eight bishops, two of whom (Mar Goriel and Mar Johnan) are attached to Persian dioceses. The Mar
Shimun has long resided in the mountain village of Kochannis, near Tulamerk, in Turkish territory, above the famous waters of the Zab. Nominally he unites in his own person the spiritual and temporal functions of government over his flock; he appoints the maleks or lay rulers of each district; he is the head of a sacerdotal hierarchy of kashishas and abunas, who are the spiritual heads of the various villages and tribes; and in times past his authority was absolute and unique. The Mar Shimun, or reigning Patriarch, is always chosen from the same family, a number of the male members of which, who have neither eaten meat from their birth nor married, are kept as a school of candidates to the succession. When one of their number is chosen, the rest are permitted to relapse into the enjoyments from which they have hitherto been excluded. The present Patriarch-Designate is the
cousin of Mar Shimun, and is a young man named Mar Auraham. When he succeeds he will take the dynastic title that always accompanies the Patriarchal throne.
In recent times, and ever since these provinces were converted into pashaliks and seriously governed by the Porte, the authority of Mar Shimun has sensibly dwindled. During the savage Kurdish outbreak of Badar Khan Beg against the Nestorians in 1843, the then occupant of the patriarchate fled into Persian territory to Urumiah. Since his return to Kochannis he has received a monthly subsidy of 12l. from the Turkish Government, who have acted astutely in assuming the rôle of paymasters. The maleks or headmen no longer pay him implicit obedience; his authority over the hill tribes is in parts nil; and the reigning Patriarch has still further weakened his position by incapacity, indolence, and it is said by even worse characteristics. He is in a somewhat difficult position; for on the one hand he is salaried by the Porte, on the other he is at once in correspondence and co-operation with the English Church, and is angled for by the American Presbyterians; while his own sympathies have been rumoured to be in favour of the Russians. His name is Reuil, and he signs himself Reuil Shimun. In the clash of conflicting interests above mentioned it is probable that this peculiar and almost isolated relic of theocratic government is doomed, and that the Mar Shimun of the future will play but a small part on the political stage.
Of the tenets of the Syrian Christians it is both difficult and, in this context, unnecessary to give a minute account; the peculiarity of the Church consisting rather in organisation and ritual than in any written standard of doctrinal belief, and the missionaries of the various foreign persuasions being apt to read their own dogmas into the Nestorian Creed. It may be said, however, that it presents many of the features that might be expected in a Church, dating from the fifth century of the Christian era, which, owing to its peculiar situation and surroundings, has altered but little up to the present time. An ambiguous canon of the Holy Scriptures, an uncommon and elastic catalogue of sacraments, a hereditary and celibate episcopate, accompanied by very strict observance of the Sabbath and the Christian fasts, are among its most striking characteristics.
I now come to the missionary efforts that have been made in the last half century either to evangelise, to confirm, or to reconstruct the different branches of this ancient Church, and that have brought its name so prominently under the notice of Europe.
The American Presbyterians were the first in the field. In the year 1829 Messrs. Smith and Dwight came out to report; in 1833 the Rev. J. Perkins was appointed to the Mission, and in 1835 he opened the work, which, supported by active industry and large funds, has been vigorously and successfully pursued (largely by means of British Consular protection from Tabriz) ever since. At first the Americans disclaimed all intentions of proselytism, and announced reform and not reconstruction as their programme. Accordingly they were received with acclamation by the native Church and bishops; an attitude which gave way to sullen hostility and finally to embittered resistance when the new-comers began ostentatiously to make converts and to set about the creation of a new Church. In 1868 the body of Protestant Nestorians thus formed, and numbering at that time 2,400 persons, felt itself strong enough to secede; and a Confession of Faith and rules of discipline were drawn up for the infant Organisation. In 1870 the Mission, which had previously been settled at Urumiah alone, extended its field of operation, and decided to embrace both Mussulmans and Armenians within the range of its propaganda. It established missions at Tabriz, Teheran, and Hamadan, all of which, well appointed and liberally endowed, have worked with great success. The head-quarters of the Mission are still at Urumiah, where they possess a town house and a large building, known as the College, outside the town, containing chapel, schools for ordinary and for technical instruction (carpentering and smithy), a hospital, and a printing press; as well as a country residence for the summer upon Mount Seir, five miles from the city. According to the latest report that I have seen, their establishment consists of six missionaries at Urumiah, one on the plain of Salmas, four at Tabriz, two at Teheran, two at Hamadan, a considerable number of ladies being also resident at the stations, and a medical missionary being attached to each. One of these gentlemen, Dr. Holmes, held for a time the appointment of consulting
physician to the Vali-Ahd, or Heir Apparent, at Tabriz. Another, Dr. Torrence, is well known in Teheran. The income of the Mission, according to the latest published returns, is over 7,000l. a year. In addition to the American ministers and their wives or female helpers, the organisation can boast of seventy ordained or licentiate native priests, of 120 native lay missionaries, of thirty churches and over 2,000 communicants, of 120 schools and 2,800 scholars. It is pushed by all the means that an indefatigable propaganda and large pecuniary resources can promote.
A number of Roman Catholic Chaldaeans had been for some time settled upon the Salmas plain, to the north of Urumiah. Alarmed at the prospect of losing these adherents, owing to the vigorous neighbouring crusade of the Americans, the Papal College at Rome, urged by a very remarkable young Frenchman, named Boré, who, having been sent out to Persia on a scientific mission by a French society, became interested in the Persian Christians, and developed a passionate missionary fervour — determined upon an energetic counter-effort, and sent out a band of French Lazarists to take their part in the competition for converts. The French Government has always patronised this establishment, though it was not till the year 1858 that the Primate of the Roman Chaldaeans, with the aid of the French Embassy at Constantinople, obtained a firman from the Porte acknowledging his patriarchal supremacy. At the present time the French missionaries have two stations in Azerbaijan — one at Urumiah, in which place a Monseigneur or French bishop resides; the other at Khosrova, on the plain of Salmas, where the Catholics have for long been in the ascendant. Their establishment consists of seven priests and a nunnery of the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul. In Turkey, but not in Persia, there is a Dominican mission to the Papal Chaldaeans as well.
About the same time a mission to the Nestorians was inaugurated by the Protestant Church of Basle.
It did not long survive, however, and was abandoned, after the departure of the first missionaries, in 1837.
Finally, but not till after repeated overtures, the Anglican Church appeared upon the scene. The first official communications between the leaders of the two Churches appear to have taken place in the year 1843, when the Mar Shimun of that day opened a correspondence with Archbishop Howley. Mr. W. F. Ainsworth had already, in 1840, been sent out on a mission by the joint agency of the Royal Geographical Society and the S.P.C.K., to report upon the condition of the Nestorian peoples, and in 1842 he was followed by Dr. G. P. Badger, the well-known scholar, who was despatched by the S.P.C.K. and S.P.G.; but upon the latter withdrawing from the co-operation in the succeeding year he was compelled to return, not, however, before he had collected the material for a standard work upon the Nestorian ritual. The communications then languished till in 1868 a further and pathetic appeal for assistance was addressed by the Bishops of the Syrian Church to Archbishop Tait. The result was the mission of the Rev. E. L. Cutts, and a third book. The succession, however, of more or less bootless missions and more or less admirable books now came to an end. A minister was definitely authorised and sent out by Dr. Tait in 1881; and since 1884 when, in consequence of troubles both with the Turks and Persians, Mr. Riley was commissioned by Archbishop Benson to report upon the situation, he has been succeeded by a capable missionary staff with a well-elaborated organisation. In 1888, the ministers of the new Mission, whose object is not the making of converts, which is formally disavowed, but the re-edification and gradual purification of the ancient Nestorian Church, arrived in Persia, and met with an enthusiastic
reception at the hands of the Christians, from Mar Shimun downwards. The establishment, whose headquarters are also at Urumiah, under the charge of Canon Maclean, has grown so rapidly that it now consists of a College for Priests and Deacons at Urumiah, which, at the beginning of last year (1891), contained seventy students, a High School for boys, with a membership of fifty, the same for girls with twenty, and an establishment of the Sisters of Bethany. There is also a High School at Superghan, eighteen miles north-east of Urumiah, with forty scholars, another at Ardishai with the same number, and seventy-two village schools in Persia and Turkey combined, with a total scholars' list of nearly fifteen hundred. There are five English clergymen engaged in the work, one of whom, the Rev. W. Browne, under circumstances of great peril and privation, spent the winter of 1887-1888 in Mar Shimun's village of Kochannis, and was thereby instrumental in preventing a massacre of the Christians by the Kurds. In 1889 the income of the Mission was one thousand pounds from subscriptions and nine hundred from donations.
How far the laudable attempt to enable this archaic and interesting Church, which, in spite of persecution, ignominy, and desertion, has resolutely clung to its ancient faith, to stand again upon its own legs, is likely to succeed, or how far regeneration can be kept divorced from organic and doctrinal change, it is as yet too early to determine. There are some who cling to the belief that reunion between the Anglican and Syrian Churches is possible. There are others, and they are perhaps the wiser, who look to education and moral nurture as the true field of missionary enterprise among these peoples, and who either care little for, or have not much hope of, ecclesiastical communion or ecclesiastical reorganisation. One thing is certain, that immense benefit has already resulted to the Christian populations both of Persia and Turkey from the labours of the various missionary bodies, American, French, and English. Persecution is much rarer; disabilities have been removed; education, for which the Nestorians, even in the wild, mountainous districts, clamour with avidity, has rendered them docile, law-abiding, and industrious. They are a warm-hearted people, prone to hospitality, fond of festivity, and neither so precocious nor so crafty as the Armenians. On the other hand, they are very quarrelsome amongst themselves, are avaricious of money, and
incurably addicted to mendicancy; and sixty years of missionary effort have not taught them that there is any virtue in truth, or any call for private honour. Since a decree by the Shah in December 1889, prohibiting the opening of any fresh Christian schools in Persia, the missionaries have found difficulty in extending, their educational programme. The present Prince-Governor of Urumiah, Jehansuz Mirza, a cousin of the Shah, has, however, shown himself friendly and courteous; and it must be avowed to the credit of the Persian Government, that, with rare exceptions, they have acted with liberal-mindedness and fairness towards their Christian subjects in these parts. Between the French and English Missions there exist the most friendly relations; for each has a large and independent field of work, and neither intrudes upon the ground of the other. Between the Americans and the English it is only natural that there should have been some jealousy and friction, not merely because the latter are later arrivals upon an arena over which the former thought that they had established a monopoly, but because their objects are entirely
different and even irreconcilable, the Anglican missionaries having come out to renovate and build up that which it is the avowed desire of a proselytising body to weaken and destroy. The American Missions, including, as they do, Mohammedans within the scope of their activity, are also rendered more likely thereby to conflict with the Persian Government, which resolutely prohibits any such propaganda, and has in consequence sometimes come into collision with the work of the Church of England Missionary Society, of which I shall speak later, at Isfahan.
The latest calculation of the Nestorian population of Azerbaijan is as follows: —
It has been common to estimate these families at four or five persons apiece, and hence the total usually given of 20,000 to 25,000 Persian Nestorians. The missionaries, however, are of opinion that the population has so much increased in the peaceful reign of the present Shah that eight persons to each family is a fairer computation. Adopting this average, we shall get a total of 44,000. It is to the interest of the Persians for political reasons to underrate the number of their Christian subjects. The Nestorians of the plains are robust, broad-shouldered men, with open countenances, fair complexions, and frequently with red beards. The mountain Nestorians are wild and uncouth, and often undistinguishable from the Kurds, with whom, however, they are at constant and deadly enmity. Each attack the camps and rob the flocks of the other, but the Kurds, being the stronger, better armed, and more evilly-disposed, are usually the aggressors.
Owing to the active interest of the missionaries, the protestations of foreign consuls, and the milder disposition of modern Persian Governments, the Persian Nestorians cannot now complain of serious oppression. It is true that there still remain in the Mohammedan code two laws which, if enforced as they were once, with asperity, might become instruments of cruel injustice. These are the law by which, in a court of justice, the evidence of a Christian is not accepted against that of a
Mussulman; and the law, known as that of Jedid-el-Islám, by which any Christian convert to Islam is entitled to claim the entire property of his or her family, including collaterals. Male apostates have always been rare; but Christian girls were sometimes forcibly, or even willingly, abducted by Mohammedan lovers, who then, under a fictitious declaration of conversion, put in a claim for the forfeited property. This practice gave rise to much fraud and imposture; but a careful inquiry is now as a rule instituted into the spontaneity of the alleged conversion, and it rests with the Governor either to carry out the law in its cruel intensity, or more frequently to assign to the convert only a share of the family goods. Class and social prejudices are drawbacks from which a subject Christian population must always expect to suffer in a Mohammedan country, and of which the Nestorians bear their share. They are also liable to be oppressed by the village aghas or landlords, to whom they pay their rent, and who will not infrequently exact more than is their legal due. An official, called the serperast, was appointed many years ago, at the instance of the British Government, to safeguard the interests of the Christian peoples, and as a medium between them and the district governor; but he appears to have utilised his position to inflame rather than allay disputes, with a view to extracting bribes from the rival litigants. Unfortunately, the Nestorians are so incurably litigious themselves, that even the certainty of being worsted in any legal encounter does not in the least act as a deterrent to their zeal. These appear to be the sole surviving hardships from which the Nestorian subjects of Persia now suffer; and their redress may provide material for the energies of missionaries and consuls for a little while yet to come.
All Christians are exempt from military service in Persia; but, in return, they pay a poll tax of five krans per annum to the state. This tax is legally levied only upon males above the age of fifteen; but it is sometimes exacted both from boys and from old men. In certain villages on the Urumiah plain there is a special tax called giur-al-lik (lit. 'see and take'), according to which a house tax of five krans per annum is levied upon
Mussulmans, but of eight krans upon Christians; and an equivalent scale on whatever live stock they possess. Generally speaking, the position of the peasants may be said to depend upon the character of the aqha, or landlord, who is responsible to Government for the taxes up to the fixed assessment, and who either exacts or renounces his pound of flesh as his inclination determines.
The number of Armenians resident in Azerbaijan is inferior to the Nestorians, but is yet considerable. The census is calculated as follows: —
The Armenians being less prolific, less gregarious, and less stay-at-home than the Nestorians, it is recommended to compute their families at an average of six persons, which will give a total of 28,890; or, together with the Nestorians, a grand total of 72,890 for the Christian population of Azerbaijan. The Persian Armenians are a less attractive and an even less reliable people than the mendacious, but peaceable Nestorians. They travel a great deal, and pick up revolutionary ideas, and are disposed to deceit and turbulence. The local head of their church is an archbishop at Tabriz, who throws what obstacles he can in the way of the Christian missions; whilst the Catholicos of the entire Armenian church is located not far from the frontier, in Russian territory, at Echmiadzin. The Armenian question is, however, so much a Turkish and so little a Persian one, that I do not feel called upon to say anything more about it here. I shall have occasion to speak of the people again, when dealing with Julfa.
From the Nestorians and Armenians it is an easy and natural transition to turn to their hereditary foes, the Kurds. It is a strange caprice of fortune that should have located in this quarter of the globe, in immediate neighbourhood, two, nay, three communities of men, alien to each other in character, race, and religion, whose juxtaposition is fraught with endless and irremediable strife, whereas, had they been separated,
each has qualities and merits fitting it for some nobler part than that of combatants in an international brawl. Kurdistan, which is a name in very common use upon the titlepage of travellers' books, is no more than a convenient geographical expression for the entire country, estimated at over 50,000 square miles, that is inhabited by the Kurds. This region has no natural or political boundaries; it includes both Turkish and Persian territory, and it contains many other elements, Turkish, Persian, Chaldaean, and Armenian, in the population as well. It may be said to extend from Turkish Armenia on the north, to the plains of the middle Tigris and the Luristan mountains on the south, and through the greater part of this length to overlap the Persian border.
The origin and ancestry of the Kurds is too large, and, I may add, too uncertain a question to be debated at length here. Whether they are of Iranian or of Turanian origin, whether they are the descendants of Medes, or of Parthians, or whether they are the Gardu or Gurdu, or Gutu, who, in the remote times when Hittites and Accadians were great in the land, held the mountains north of Assyria, and after the fall of Nineveh became Aryanised by the overwhelming Aryan migrations of the period — are questions which no one has hitherto
solved, and which I am content, therefore, to relinquish. One may still vindicate for the Kurds a respectable antiquity, by identifying them, as it is tolerably safe to do, with the Carduchi of Xenophon (probably the Kudraha of the cuneiform inscriptions), who, in this very region, harassed and tormented the retreating Ten Thousand. Alike in country, character, and name (though this last is not universally admitted), the two peoples correspond; and dismissing the more nebulous past, we may, therefore, usher them into history with credentials of identity which they have ever since sustained. Included, but never absorbed in the successive empires that have claimed the sovereignty of Western Asia — Macedonian, Roman, Parthian, Byzantine, Tartar, Persian, and Turkish — they have proved a thorn in the side of every ruling power. The famous Saladin (lit. Salah-ed-Din) of the Crusades, was, according to Abulfeda, a Kurd. So was Edrisi, the historian, who, when Sultan Selim I. wrested these regions in battle from Shah Ismail, the first Sefavi King of Persia, in 1514, was appointed by the conqueror to organise and administer the territory of his unruly countrymen. Over a century later, in 1639 A.D., a treaty between another Sultan and another Shah, Murad IV. of Turkey and Sefi of Persia, established a frontier line between the two empires, substantially identical with that which has ever since prevailed; and from this period, therefore, dates the divided and, as a rule, in both cases illusory allegiance of the Kurdish tribes. On either side of the frontier, the subsequent history of the Kurds is obscure. They are a people without a literature, and almost without a history. The tribal feeling was very strong amongst them, and in the absence of any interference — for the best of reasons, fear — on the part of the central power, individual chieftains acquired a position that was little short of despotic independence. About sixty years ago, in 1834, the Turks, under the capable lead of Reshid Mohammed Pasha, set about destroying this system and replacing it by Ottoman vilayets and valis in Turkish Kurdistan: while in Persian Kurdistan, where, the problem, because smaller, was always less acute, the reigning dynasty, and particularly the present Shah, have pursued the familiar Kajar policy of breaking up the cohesion and ruling families of the dangerous tribes, and reasserting the authority of Teheran. At the present time, therefore, the Kurds, though addicted to outbreaks of lawlessness,
are, in both territories, more subject to discipline than at any previous epoch of their history.
I am here more especially concerned with the Persian Kurds, and I shall, therefore, omit any details that relate to the Turkish Kurds only; though of what I have to say upon the former subject, there is scarcely anything that is not equally applicable to the Turkish side of the border. The Kurds are illiterate, but bigoted Sunnis of the Shafei sect (one of the four subdivisions of orthodox Mussulmans); bigoted, not because they are, as is frequently supposed, fanatical by temperament, but because, in Persia, they are brought into contact with a Shiah people and dynasty whom they cordially detest and despise. The root of the Persian Kurdish question, whenever it becomes acute, is the religious hatred between Sunnis and Shiahs; the root of the Ottoman Kurdish question is the religious hatred between Mohammedans and Christians. Some of the more Persianised Kurds are, however, Shiahs; whilst in some places of the mountains are to be found communities belonging to the peculiar Ali Illahi sect, who combine with a belief in the godhead of Ali, certain strange ceremonies and esoteric doctrines of which not very much is known. The language spoken by the majority of the Kurds is Kurmanju (sometimes called Kirdasi) which is generally accepted as an old Persian patois, intermingled with alien words. In Ardelan, however, and Kermanshah, what is called the Guran dialect is spoken, presenting an even greater affinity to modern Persian.
Of the life and character of the Kurds, it would appear from the apoplectic sputterings of some newspapers that a prejudiced and erroneous impression prevails. They are commonly spoken of, for instance, as though they were all nomads, all robbers, and, for the most part, monsters of iniquity. The impeachment against the evil-doers amongst them is quite sufficiently strong without including the innocent in the attainder. By far the greater part of the Persian Kurds are sedentary and pastoral. A great many of them farm and till the ground on the plains and hill-slopes; an even larger number keep herds of sheep, goats and cattle, from which they make excellent cheese and butter; and the extent of their nomadic habits is in most cases that in the summer months they move into camps on the higher acclivities, above the settled villages which they inhabit in the winter. Nomad Kurds are to be found particularly in Turkish territory, and on the border: and perhaps the wealthiest and most independent of the tribes belong to this class, the cultivators of the soil and shepherds being, as a rule, deplorably ignorant and poor. As regards their character, every variety may be found in their midst, from the typical robber chieftain to the harmless peasant, and from the dashing warrior to the miserable thrall. Those who know them best, deny that they are naturally either cruel or fanatical, and credit them with a rude hospitality and high courage. When excited, however, they are as ugly customers as can be encountered. Their position amid hostile and craven communities, whose religions they abhor, and in territories whose governments they abominate, tempts them to anarchy and turbulence. Ruled by a strong but just hand, there is no reason why they should not become an orderly community, very useful for purpose's of warfare, instead of a bogey to frighten the missionaries and scarify the readers of the 'Daily News.' At the present time they are not at any rate in Turkey, of much avail for military purposes, being addicted to plunder and impatient of restraint. In the Russo-Turkish War they are said to have done more harm than good. From the Persian Kurds, who are more civilised, several regiments are raised for the Persian army; one of which, from the Guran district, was for two years, 1834-6, commanded by Sir Henry Rawlinson, when in the service of Mohammed Shah. Down to the present century, the Kurdish cavalry were in many parts clad in chain armour, in which, together with their long lances and
flaunting scarves, they presented a very martial and formidable appearance. They are an extraordinarily ignorant and an extraordinarily stupid people, with neither education, schools, nor books, and it has been said of the whole race that not one in 10,000 can read. They have the black hair and eyes, the dark complexion, and the sullen swagger (so characteristic, too, of the Afghans), that are usually associated with picturesque ruffianism; and the sympathies or the fears of travellers have variously represented their features as strikingly handsome, or repulsively ugly.
In 1880 occurred a serious, but abortive, Kurdish rebellion in Persia, which afforded at once a measure of the strength and of the weakness of the Kurdish organisation. A chieftain named Sheikh Obeidullah, whose father, Sheikh Tahar, had been a fanatic of local note, hailing from a mountain village south of Van in Turkish Kurdistan, where he was head of the small tribe of Oramar, acquired a great reputation for personal sanctity and administrative ability, and gradually came to be looked upon as the leader of Kurdish nationality. He affected almost royal style, entertained from 500 to 1000 visitors daily in his diwan-khaneh, ruled with a strong hand, and was in fact a sort of petty monarch among the Kurds. There is not a doubt that he dreamed of an independent Kurdistan as a stepping-stone to an attack upon the detested Shiah kingdom of Persia, which, had he been successful in his prior object, he might have thrown into very considerable confusion. There is also no doubt that the Turks, whose subject he was, at first smiled upon his aspirations, not so much because of the arrière pensée with regard to Persia, as because in the erection of an independent Kurdish principality they saw an effective set-off and checkmate to the Armenian agitation. Encouraged by these symptoms, Sheikh Obeidullah struck, and struck, as it first appeared, to some purpose. He crossed the border into Persia at the head of several thousand men, and his son, Abdul Kader, seized the town of Suj Bulak and advanced upon Maragha, from which the Persians fled with characteristic precipitation. A massacre of 3,000 persons was perpetrated by the victorious Kurds at Miandoab. Soon the Kurdish army, joined by most of the local tribes, was heard of on Mount Seir outside the walls of Urumiah, which, while beleaguered for ten days, is said to have been saved chiefly by the negotiations of Dr. Cochrane, one of the American Mission, who was on friendly terms
with the Sheikh. Meanwhile, there were great trepidation and telegraphing at Teheran. An army of 20,000 men, with some batteries of artillery, was marched off to the theatre of war; its commander, the Hishmet-ed-Dowleh having died en route, the old statesman Mohammed Husein Khan, the Sipah Salar, or Commander-in-Chief, was despatched to Tabriz; the Shah appealed to Russia for help, to England for counsel, and to Turkey for amends. At the moment, however, of the most tense and ominous anxiety, the thundercloud dwindled, dissolved, and disappeared. The Sheikh, who might with ease have marched upon Tabriz, and have occupied it probably without resistance, faltered and was lost. The time was long enough to show that his following had no ideas of cohesion, much less of conquest, but were animated only by religious animosity and the desire to plunder. As the prospect of hard fighting increased, their own jealousies broke loose, they fell away from their leader, and the movement which had begun with such sanguine omens in September, ignominously collapsed in November. Strong pressure was brought to bear upon the Porte by the European Governments, in deference to which Obeidullah was at length arrested and conveyed to Constantinople in July 1881. In August 1882, like most prisoners at the Turkish capital, he escaped, but, having surrendered again a few months later, he was deported to Mecca, where he died in October 1883. The movement, although a fiasco, was, from the political point of view, one of great importance, for it demonstrated the utter impracticability, owing to family and clan dissensions, of a united Kurdish organisation, which will probably not again be heard of during our time.
The number of Kurds under Ottoman rule is estimated at from one to one and a half million. The figures of those on Persian territory have been given as follows (exclusive of the Kurdish colonies, of which I have previously spoken, in Khorasan): —
On the other hand, Colonel Stewart, in his latest report (1890) gives the number of Kurds in Azerbaijan as 450,000, which is nearly double the first item in the above calculation. I may here
repeat what I have often said before, that no numerical calculations in Persia agree, or can be accepted with implicit confidence. The above-quoted table is, however, useful as supplying us with a fairly correct classification of the Persian Kurds, about which some more ample information may be opportune.
There can be no doubt that by far the most lawless and rascally of the Kurds are the frontier tribes, who migrate forwards and backwards across the border line, according to the season of the year or the hope of plunder, seeking refuge from an atrocity in the one country by retreat to the other. Twenty-five years ago, Mr. J. G. Taylor, British Consul at Diarbekr, penned the following paragraph, which is as true now as when composed:
This mixed nationality of one family and the still unsettled state of the frontier cause interminable disputes between the governments of Persia and Turkey. The Kurds being equally at home in one country as in the other, cross the border whenever they feel inclined or it suits their purpose, either for business or to evade proper punishment due to crimes committed in one or the other country. All attempts to levy taxes, enforce conscription, and arrest offenders are thwarted by a hasty migration to Persia or Turkey, as the case may be. The military cordon stationed along the line that ought, if efficiently organised, to assist Government in enforcing order and obedience is totally useless for either, while the jealousies and quarrels invariably existing between the civil and military authorities thwart any well-devised action of the former.
Of these border-nomads and Azerbaijani Kurds, the following is the latest computation that I have received: —
Suj Bulak, with a population of 15,000, is the local capital of the Kurds of Azerbaijan. It is ruled by a Kurdish governor (subject to the Governor-General of Tabriz), the present holder of the office, Saif-ed-Din Khan, being a well-educated man, with a knowledge of French.
Between the provinces of Azerbaijan and Kermanshah is situated the small province of Ardelan, or Persian Kurdistan proper, inhabited mainly by sedentary Kurds. The capital, Sinna, is situated in an open, cultivated valley, and the Governor, at present Ferhad Mirza, a cousin of the Shah, occupies a fine palace, also containing the barracks, on an eminence in the centre of the town. Here are commonly stationed two Kurdish regiments of 800 men, and a battery of artillery. It is only within the present reign that this province has been thoroughly subdued to the central authority. For centuries it was ruled by almost independent Guran chieftains, of the house of Beni Ardelan, claiming descent from Saladin, and bearing the title of Wali of Ardelan. When Rich was here, in 1820, he found the Wali absolutely independent of Teheran, and ruling his province like a kingdom. Upon the death, however, of the last male in the direct line, about thirty years ago, the Shah disinherited the remaining male relatives, whose family are now reduced to insignificance, and signalised his recovered sovereignty by appointing his uncle as Governor. I have been supplied with the following list of Kurds in Ardelan, but cannot vouch for its accuracy: —
Lastly are the Kurds of Kermanshah, or the province of which Kermanshahan is the capital. Through this district, and through
its capital city, as has been shown in Chapter II., runs the main caravan route between Teheran and Baghdad; and it is in this somewhat restricted application that travellers thereon have sometimes proclaimed their peregrinations in Kurdistan. The province borders on Turkish territory on the west and on the Persian province of Luristan, which will hereafter be dealt with, on the south. It may be considered the middle or dividing line between Northern and Southern Persia, and the mention of it will appropriately close a discussion confined to the former branch of my subject. These are the Kurdish tribes of Kermanshah: —
In cereals, the province of Kermanshah is one of the richest in Persia, more grain being cultivated than can either be consumed in the district, or, in the miserable state of road transport, be
disposed of elsewhere. When Captain Napier was here in 1875, he found a surplus produce from the preceding harvest of 110,000 tons, which the owners were prepared to sell at five shillings per kharvar (649 lbs.). It is also a famous locality for the breed of horses and of mules. The Kurdish carpets, which figure so largely in the bazaars of Constantinople and other Oriental cities come largely from this neighbourhood, and are woven in the tents or in the open air by the women on a frame of rude stakes fixed in the ground. The tents, which are the sole habitation of the nomad tribes, are made of black goats' hair blankets stretched upon poles, and are often very considerable structures, divided by reed-partitions into several compartments, used as the diwan-khaneh, or reception chamber, the men's and the women's quarters, the kitchen, the stables, and the cowshed. The majority of the sedentary Kurds of Ardelan and Kermanshah, who have long been settled in villages, have completely abandoned both the national instincts and the national dress, and are not at first sight to be mistaken from Persians. It is said that the revenue exacted in Persian Kurdistan is 1l. per house or tent, as against 1l. 6s. in the Ottoman dominions.
The capital, Kermanshahan, with about 40,000 inhabitants, is a place of central position and consequent importance. Almost equidistant, between 250 and 300 miles, from Tabriz, Teheran, Isfahan, and Baghdad, it commands roads to each of those places, and is, therefore, invested with considerable strategical value. Being on the high road of the great pilgrim route to Kerbela, it is said to be visited yearly by over 160,000 pilgrims. Founded by Varabran IV., son or brother of Shapur III., who was known as Kerman Shah, from having been ruler of Kerman, it has not played the part in history that might have been expected, being overshadowed by its neighbour Hamadan (Ecbatana). It was fortified by Nadir Shah, but the walls, though repaired in this century, are now in ruins, and the ditch is choked with rubbish. In the early part of the century Fath Ali Shah conferred the Governorship of this province and city upon his eldest son, Mohammed Ali Mirza, whose jealousy of Abbas Mirza, the Heir Apparent, plays so large a part in the pages of contemporary writers. He, and his son Imam Kuli Mirza, who succeeded
him in the Governorship, rebuilt and beautified the town with bazaars, villas, and gardens, spending more, however, upon their own gratification and aggrandisement than upon works of public advantage. The post is commonly reserved for a near relative of the sovereign, and was at one time part of the gigantic government enjoyed by the Zil-es-Sultan, eldest son of the reigning Shah. On an elevation in the middle of the town is the arsenal, built by the Imad-ed-Dowleh, the second of the two royal governors above-mentioned, and lately containing 2 Austrian Uchatius 12-pounders, 2 brass smooth-bore 6-pounders, and 500 Werndl rifles, with a garrison of 500 men. Around the town, and particularly on the south, are extensive orchards and gardens, producing a multiplicity of fruits. Of the trade of Kermanshah, both local and transit, which is considerable, and which has an interest for Englishmen, I shall speak in a later chapter upon the Commerce of Persia.
The chief interest of Kermanshah to English travellers, and an unquestionable incentive to a visit, is the fact that it is the residence of Haji Agha Mohammed Hasan, commonly known as the Vekil-ed-Dowleh, who holds the office of British-Agent, and is one of the most remarkable men in Persia. Brought by Sir H. Rawlinson, at an early age, to Teheran from Baghdad, of which place he is a native, he has ever since remained in the British service, and has, largely owing to the protection from official rapacity which he has thereby enjoyed, amassed great wealth, which he dispenses with a liberality and public spirit rare, if not unique, in Persia. He keeps open house in Kermanshah, and maintains a large and well-furnished residence, in addition, for the reception of guests. He owns, or has built, the six chief caravanserais in the town, some of which are structures of great size and splendour. In addition, he is said to be the proprietor of 100 villages in the surrounding district, and has purchased the Dilgusha palace and garden that were constructed by Mohammed Ali Mirza. Upon the occasion of the Queen's Jubilee he illuminated the town and fêted the inhabitants at his own expense — a singular and affecting testimony of loyalty in a distant and alien land. He has been made a C.M.G. by the British Government, of which decoration he is vastly proud. I met the Vekil-ed-Dowleh, who is now advancing in years, in Teheran, where he as nearly as possible died of fever in the hands of the native physicians. Being removed to the British Legation, and placed under the
charge of a European doctor, he lightly skipped off again, as soon as he was sufficiently well to emerge from bed, and with the unconquerable obstinacy of an Oriental resought the advice which had all but landed him in the grave. His son, Haji Abdur Rahim, has been trained by him in the same tastes and interests, and will, it is to be hoped, succeed alike to his position and influence.
More remarkable than Kermanshahan or its Kurdish inhabitants, are the famous sculptured remains of antiquity in the neighbourhood, where, on smoothed surfaces of rock, are chiselled the pictorial or written records of the Achaemenian and Sassanian kings, of Darius son of Hystaspes, and the Shapurs; the former of which sculptures will for ever be associated with the name and discovery of Sir H. Rawlinson. The later of the two monuments is situated at Tak-i-Bostan, the Arch of the Garden, at a distance of four miles from Kermanshah. The road passes, at three miles from the city, the great triple-storeyed, but now decaying palace, of Imadieh, built on the banks of the Kara Su (Black water) by the Imad-ed-Dowleh, before mentioned, and conducts to a spur of the same great rocky mass, rising in rugged grandeur from the plain, that, twenty miles away, presents to the world the imperishable tablets of Darius. Here, at the base of the cliff-wall, a stream gushes out from the rock, and is conducted into two large tanks or reservoirs, planted around with trees, the work of the same prince-governor, who also raised the large building adjoining, lately purchased by the Vekil-ed-Dowleh.
The monuments consist of two deep and lofty arches or grottoes, excavated with great labour and skill in the face of the mountain; within which are several bas-reliefs, executed with remarkable spirit and excellence; while a little beyond, where the mountain recedes, a flight of several hundred steps is cut on the edge of the nearly precipitous cliffs, finishing abruptly with an extensive ledge or platform. On the edge of the river, Sir R. K. Porter noticed the remains of a statue of colossal size, which he thought must have fallen from the heights above; as on the upper ledge was a row of sculptured feet broken off at the ankles. The largest arch measures in height over
thirty feet, in width twenty-four feet, and in depth twenty-two; and the face of the rock has been smoothed for a great distance above the sweep of the arch, and on each side. On the surface to the right and to the left are two upright entablatures, containing exquisitely carved ornamentation adorned with foliage in a classical style. Above the keystone is a crescent, and in the spandrels on either side are winged female figures, resembling the usual type of Victory on Roman coins; the artists who carved them having possibly been Greeks of Constantinople. The inner wall of the excavation is divided into two compartments, the upper one of which contains three figures, viz., Chosroes II. in the centre in robes of state, and wearing the Sassanian diadem; and two supporters engaged in presenting him with chaplets. It has been suggested that this group may commemorate the double gift by the Emperor Mauricius
to the Persian king of his bride, the beautiful Sira or Shirin, and his crown. On this supposition, Chosroes is standing in his robes of inauguration between the imperial pair, the princess on the one side holding a diadem, and the emperor on the other presenting the new king with the crown, to which the arms of the Romans had restored him. At the same time it is doubtful whether either of the supporters is a female figure, or whether the tradition itself is true; and the figures are more probably symbolical representations. The lower space is almost wholly occupied by a colossal equestrian figure of the same monarch, both horse and rider being covered with a coat of mail. The sculpture has been much damaged by the Arabs, and there are no intelligible remains of the inscriptions once engraven upon it.
The sides of the arch are covered with representations of the sports of the field, wild-boar and stag hunts. In the panel representing the former boats appear, indicating a marshy country intersected by lakes; while ponderous elephants, with their riders, plunge through the reeds in order to drive the pigs towards the king in the middle. Two of the boats are filled with harpers, thought by some to be women; in a third are men who appear to be clapping their hands. In the centre of the scene are two boats, in one of which stands the king, of gigantic stature, with bow full-bent, while in the other he appears to be again depicted, with a halo round his head, receiving an arrow from one of his attendants, while a musician sits near him in the same boat, playing on the harp. Above the boar-hunt Mohammed Ali Mirza, son of Fath Ali Shah, and Governor of Kermanshah, had sculped a pompous image of himself in the early part of this century. On the opposite side of the arch is another relief, representing the chase of the deer. On this the same king Chosroes II. appears
nearly at the top of the sculpture, entering the field in state, under the shade of an umbrella, and mounted on a richly caparisoned horse. Below he is again pourtrayed riding at full speed, while at the bottom, the chase over, he canters gaily home. Towards the top of the bas-relief is raised a scaffold, on which rows of musicians are seated, playing on various instruments. In adjoining compartments we see elephants in pursuit of the deer, and camels carrying off the spoil. This bas-relief is finished in only a few places, but what has been completed is executed in a masterly style.
The second arch is smaller in its dimensions than the former, being only 19 feet wide by 11½ in depth and 17 in height. The figures on the back wall were originally rudely and carelessly sculptured, and are now still less visible owing to the wilful mutilation they have sustained. The monument, however, is of value from the inscriptions still remaining on it, which prove that one of the figures is meant for Shapur II. (Zulaktaf), and the other for his son Shapur III.
A little to the right on the face of the cliff, is sculped another Sassanian panel, in which two crowned figures, standing upon the prostrate body of a third, are holding the cydaris or royal circlet; while behind the left-hand king is a fourth figure, whose head is surrounded with a radiated nimbus. This is generally accepted as representing the investiture of Shapur I. with a share of the royal dominion by his father Ardeshir Babekan, in the presence of the god Ormuzd; an act which is also indicated by the double heads that appear on some of Ardeshir's coins. The prostrate figure is conjectured to be that of Artabanus, the last Parthian king.
Twenty-four miles to the east of Kermanshah the splendid ridge of rock, 1,500 feet in height above the plain, of which I have spoken, and whose grandeur of outline is matched by its steepness of face, presents upon a smoothed portion of its
surface, at a height. of 300 feet from the ground, the triumphal engravings of Darius son of Hystaspes, and the cuneiform record of his conquering reign, first copied and deciphered nearly fifty years ago by Sir H. Rawlinson. The name is variously spelt and pronounced as Behistun or Bisitun and was the Mons Bagistanus or Βαγίσταυου ορος of the classical writers. Bisitun might mean either 'twenty pillars' or 'without pillars,' but Baghestan has been supposed by modern scholars to signify 'abode of the gods,' which would agree with the Διος ορος or title given to it by Diodorus Siculus. If his account, cited from Ctesias, be credited, the sculptures of Semiramis, whom he alleges to have visited the place on her march from Babylon to Ecbatana, and to have caused her own image and that of her hundred guards to be graven on the rock, must have been obliterated by successors or have perished in the lapse of time. Before the secret of the cuneiform alphabet had been won, the rock and its aerial bas-reliefs had been made known to Europe by the descriptions of a number of travellers; but how deeply their ignorance allowed them to plunge, and how wild a goose chase they were led by a fine imagination, may be seen from the conjectures of the romantic Ker Porter, that the principal sculpture represented Shalmaneser and the ten captive tribes of Israel; of the Frenchman Gardanne that they were Christ and the twelve disciples; and of Keppel, that the train of prisoners were the attendants of Esther, with the queen at their head, supplicating King Ahasuerus on behalf of her condemned countrymen!
We now know that the bas-reliefs are those of Darius and of the rebels, tied to each other by the neck, whom he overcame, and upon the prostrate body of one of whom his heel is planted. Behind the king stand two warriors armed with bow and spear. The humiliation of the conquered is typified by their diminutive size, but the majesty of the king demands a superhuman stature. That there may be no mistake, tablets with the names of those referred to are placed above the monarch and the prisoners. Over the head of the king himself we read: 'I am Darius the king, the king of kings, the king of Persia, the great king of the provinces, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of Arsames, the Achaemenian. Says Darius the king: My father was Hystaspes; of Hystaspes, the father was Arsames; of Arsames
the father was Ariyaramnes; of Ariyaramnes, the father was Teispes; of Teispes, the father was Achaemenes. Says Darius the king: On that account we are called Achaemenians. From antiquity we have descended; from antiquity those of our race have been kings. Says Darius the king: There are eight of my race who have been kings before me; I am the ninth. For a very long time (or in a double line) we have been kings. Says Darius the king: By the grace of Ormuzd I am king. Ormuzd has granted to me the empire. Says Darius the king: These are the countries which belong to me; by the grace of Ormuzd I have become king of them: Persia, Susiana, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt; those which are of the sea, (i.e., the islands of the Mediterranean), Sparta and Ionia, Media, Armenia, Cappadocia, Parthia, Zarangia, Aria, Chorasmia, Bactria, Sogdiana, Gandara, the Sacae, the Sattagydes, Arachotia, and Mecia; in all, twenty-three countries.'
One of the figures before the king is the Pseudo-Bardes, or Gomates, the Magian, whom Darius dispossessed and slew, and the history of whose usurpation is here related. The fifth figure is another pretender of the royal house, the legend over him reading: 'I am king of Sagartia, of the race of Cyaxares.' Above the ninth, which, says Rawlinson, was added to the panel at a later period, runs the inscription: 'This is Sakuka the Scythian.' The entire cuneiform inscriptions below the sculptures, which together occupy a surface about 150 feet in length by 100 feet in height, amount to nearly 1,000 lines, engraved in the three characters, Persian, Susian, and Assyrian, and were executed by order of Darius on his return from the destruction of Babylon, which had revolted under Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabunit (= Labynetus and Nabonid). Their translation was given to the world in 1847 by Rawlinson.
A second tablet, nearly destroyed, at the base of the rock, contains some mutilated equestrian figures, and an inscription, declaring them to be the work of Gotarzes, the Parthian King, about
46-51 A.D. In a later arch way excavated in the centre of the original sculpture, an Arabic inscription, said to be engraved like a palimpsest over an earlier epigraph, relates the terms upon which the neighbouring caravanserai was bequeathed to the people. Some of the superior sculptures and inscriptions are now illegible or undistinguishable, but the main cuneiform inscription is still almost intact. The great king must certainly have intended to leave his proclamation for all time in selecting a spot so difficult of access, where the sculptures can only have been executed by the aid of scaffoldings. But how laboriously and how conscientiously these ancient craftsmen worked! First the surface of the rock was smoothed, then every crevice or unsound place was either stopped with lead or filled with inlaid stone so nicely fitted that the joining escapes the eye. Then the characters were chiselled with an accuracy and a regularity quite marvellous. Finally, over all was spread a coating of siliceous varnish as a protection from the ravages of the climate; its broken or denuded flakes being even now infinitely harder than the rock itself.
Further to the east, in a mountain gorge of Mount Elvend, near Hamadan, are two other tablets with trilingual inscriptions, known as Ganjnameh (History of a Treasure), relating the names and titles of Darius son of Hystaspes and of his son Xerxes and an invocation to Ormuzd, which first afforded a clue to the interpretation of the cuneiform alphabet.
Finally, I turn to Hamadan, in the province of Irak-Ajemi, but more naturally falling for purposes of description under the western provinces — a city which, both from its historical interest and its present state, cannot be omitted in any account of the Persian dominions. Planted at the foot of Mount Elvend (the Orontes of the ancients) from which it derives an abundant water supply, and in a plain thickly besprinkled with vineyards, orchards, and gardens, but whose elevation is 6,000 feet above the sea, it enjoys one of the finest situations in Persia. Its streets are narrow and filthy, and its inhabitants are not more than 20,000, but its bazaars
are well built and populous with trade, its local manufactures of copper ware, of leather (largely used for trunks and saddlery), and of red and white wine, are widely known and patronised; and its astute artificers, besides working in silver and gold, are said to be adepts at the manufacture of spurious coins. It contains a large resident colony of 1,500 to 2,000 Jews, with whom Hamadan has ever been a peculiarly sacred spot, owing to the alleged tombs of Esther and Mordecai, which are shown in a building adjoining the Musjid-i-Jama, in the heart of the town. A conspicuously modern cupola rises above the chamber in which, in wooden sarcophagi carved all over with Hebrew characters, are said to repose the bodies of the queen and her uncle. From early times this shrine has been a favourite resort of Hebrew pilgrims; nor is it regarded with any other feeling by the Mohammedans, many of whose saints are drawn from the Old Testament calendar. To them these tombs would appeal far more than the grave of the once famous philosopher and physician, Abu Ali-ibn-Sena of Bokhara, A.D. 980-1036 (Europeanised, by those strange processes of which Europeans alone are capable, into Avicenna), to which Layard could not anywhere find a guide.
Of far greater interest is the historical and archaeological problem of the identity of Hamadan with the celebrated Ecbatana of the ancient world. The identity of the names (Hamadan, the old Persian Hagmatana of the inscriptions, which is the Agbatana or Ecbatana, signifying treasure-house, of the Greek writers) leaves no doubt that the modern city occupies the site of one or an Ecbatana of ancient times. But there were no less than seven such Ecbatanas, of which four were on Persian or Median soil, suggesting that the name was a descriptive designation of a capital or royal city. It is now generally admitted that Hamadan is the Ecbatana of the Achaemenian kings, from Darius son of Hystaspes down to the Macedonian conquest, where their court was held in summer, where their treasures were accumulated, where Alexander collected such vast piles of plunder, where he halted and sacrificed on his return from the East, and where Hephaestion died. But was it also the Ecbatana of Herodotus, the capital of the
earlier Median kingdom, where Deioces erected the citadel with seven concentric and coloured walls, painted like those of the terraced temples of Babylon to represent the celestial spheres? Upon this point authorities differ, and are likely to continue to differ, until the discovery of some relic or inscription throws light upon one of the dark places of history. Outside the modern town is an elevation, known as the Musallah, which has always been occupied by a citadel (until levelled by Agha Mohammed Shah); but it is doubtful whether this eminence can be made to correspond with the Herodotean description. Sir H. Rawlinson has boldly sought a solution of the difficulty, by locating the Median Ecbatana at a spot called Takht-i-Suleiman (Throne of Solomon), about half-way between Hamadan and Tabriz, where, upon a conical hill, are to be found extensive ruins and the remains of a great fire-temple. It is certainly strange, if Hamadan be the site of a city, said by the early Greeks to have been scarcely inferior to Babylon, that barely a remnant worthy of the name should have been discovered. A rudely carved stone lion, or rather the battered semblance thereof, lies not far from the city, and is locally regarded as a talisman or palladium against famine and cold. But the great beast tells no tale, and until a really scientific attempt with pick and shovel be made at Hamadan we can but imitate its silence.
Before I quit the subject of the western provinces of Persia, let me revert once more to the boundary with Turkey, in order to say that, ill-defined or dubiously recognised as I have described the frontier of Persia as being on the east, any uncertainty existing in that quarter is as nothing compared with the lack of exact delimitation that prevails here. Nearly half a century ago, in order to prevent an impending collision between Persia and Turkey on the Kurdish border, Great Britain and Russia secured the appointment of a Turco-Persian
Commission, to which were attached British and Russian representatives, and which met at Erzerum in 1843, in order to discuss and settle the frontier question. The English Commissioners were Sir F. Williams (of Kars), Major Farrant, and a relative of my own — Mr. Robert Curzon, author of 'Monasteries of the Levant,' and afterwards Lord Zouche. As a consequence of their deliberations and surveys, the treaty of Erzerum was signed in June 1847. Soon after, in 1849, the Commissioners reassembled at Baghdad in order to commence the actual delimitation. In the course of their labours, the Turks anticipated any future decision by wrongfully seizing the fort of Kotur, from which they expelled the Persian garrison, and where they built barracks and remained in spite of frequent protests for over thirty years. Meanwhile, the Commissioners continued their survey from Mohammerah on the Shat-el-Arab to Mount Ararat, a distance of 700 miles, until the Crimean war broke out, when their labours were of course suspended. As a result of their examination, a map was drawn up, and presented in 1865, which did not however attempt to demarcate a boundary, but indicated a border-strip from twenty to forty miles in width, somewhere inside which the frontier line was understood to lie, the two governments being left to settle the question by agreement or force as they pleased. This somewhat uncourageous solution was confirmed in 1869 by a convention between Turkey and Persia, in which each side undertook to respect the status quo until a settlement was arrived at. On many occasions, in 1870 1873, and 1874, disputes arose, and armed collision was narrowly avoided. Finally, when in 1878 the European Congress met at Berlin to rearrange the map of Europe, and generally to carve up Ottoman territory, the question of the Turco-Persian border was again raised. Article 60 of that treaty ordered the evacuation of Kotur by the Turks, and its cession to Persia, and an Anglo-Russian Commission, of which Generals Hamley and Zelenoi were the leading members, was appointed in 1879 to carry out the provisions agreed upon. In July 1880 they signed a protocol confirming that agreement, and from the point of view of international law the question was definitely decided. The Turks, however, still declined to move, and it was not till some time later that they finally surrendered Kotur, which is now occu-
pied by a small body of Persian troops. Another point of disagreement was Zohab, a partition of which district between the two powers was ordered by the Treaty of Erzerum, but was for long ignored, whilst quite recently a third dispute has arisen about certain districts round Bagsai and Ghoreibeh, west of the Pusht-Kuh mountains of Luristan, and near the Tigris, over which the Persians claim disputed rights of cultivation. These cases are typical of others that might at any moment arise upon a stretch of frontier so long and so completely lacking either in precision or in finality. Were not Turkey and Persia each so desperately afraid of war, and so apprehensive of unloosing the turbulent elements that, at the best of times, preserve but an ambiguous quietude in the border mountains, a state of affairs so abnormal could not fail to lead to international conflict.
ROUTES IN THE NORTH-WEST PROVINCES.
TABRIZ TO ARDEBIL. — A. Jaubert (1805), Voyage en Arménie, &c., cap. xviii.; W. R. Holmes (1843), Sketches on the Caspian Shores, caps. i.-iv.; M. von Thielmann (1872), Journey in the Caucasus, &c., vol. ii. cap. v.
TABRIZ TO SULEIMANIEH (1. viâ Van). — (Sir) J. Sheil (1836), Journal of the R.G.S., vol. viii. p. 54. (2. viâ Urumiah, Ushnu, and Suj Bulak). — Sir R. K. Porter(1818), Travels, vol. ii. pp. 448-98; Capt. R. Mignan (1830), Winter's Journey, &c., vol. i. caps. ix-xii.; J B. Fraser (1835), Travels in Koordistan, vol. i. letters iv., v.; M. Wagner (1843), Travels in Persia, vol. iii. caps. vi., vii.
TABRIZ TO SUJ BULAK (viâ Ajebshir). — A. H. Schindler (1881-2), Zeit. d. Gesell. f. Erdk. z. Berlin, 1883, pp, 320-41.
SULEIMANIEH TO SINNA. — C. J. Rich (1820), Narrative of Residence, vol. i. caps. vi., vii.
TABRIZ TO TAKHT-I-SULEIMAN. — Sir R. K. Porter (1819), Travels, vol. ii. pp. 527-59; (Sir) H. Rawlinson (1838), Journal of the R.G.S., vol. x. 1.
TAKHT-I-SULEIMAN TO ZINJAN. — (Sir) H. Rawlinson (1838), ibid.; A. H Schindler (1880), ibid.
ARDEBIL TO SULTANIEH (viâ Khalkal and Zinjan). — A. Jaubert (1805), Voyage en Arménie, &c., cap. xxii.
KAZVIN TO HAMADAN (viâ Farsian, Ruak, Aliabad, Kulanjin, Ainabad, Harian, and Faminin). — J. D. Rees (1885), Notes of a Journey (Madras).
SULTANIEH TO HAMADAN. — Ch. Texier (1839), Description de l'Arménie, &c., vol. ii.
HAMADAN TO ISFAHAN (viâ, Gulpaigan and Khonsar). — J. S. Buckingham (1816), Travels in Assyria, vol. i. caps. x. xi.; Sir R. K. Porter (1818), Travels, vol. ii. pp. 59-91; Ch. Texier (1839), ibid., vol. ii.
HAMADAN TO URUMIAH (viâ Suj Bulak). — Mrs. Bishop (1890), Journeys in Persia, vol. ii. letters xxv.-xxvii.
URUMIAH TO KOCHANNIS. — Mrs. Bishop (1890), ibid., vol. ii. letter xxviii,