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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Russo-Persian Wars Tactics and Equipment? Reply to topic
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Shayan G





Joined: 26 Sep 2006

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2007 1:36 pm    Post subject: Russo-Persian Wars Tactics and Equipment?         Reply with quote

Hello ladies and gentlemen of the forum!

I've been reading about the Russo-Persian Wars of the early 19th century, fought between the Russian Empire and the nascent Qajar state. I find bits and pieces of potentially relevant information every now and again in discussions of the wars, but most of the information is on the ramifications of the wars after the fact rather than their actual processes. The closest I've come to finding information on the equipment of the Persians are oblique references to Abbas Mirza's efforts at modernization of the army, which leads me to my question.

I was wondering if anyone could direct me towards resources regarding the tactics and the equipment used by both sides during these two conflicts. Any anecdotal recollection of having read something about it, any citation, or any suggestion of where to start looking would be helpful.

Thank you very much! I'm grateful that such an erudite yet accessible forum exists that encourages these kinds of questions.

Best regards,
Shayan

Edit to note: I know of the eminent book Arms and Armor from Iran by Manouchehr Khorasani, however, as I'm about to study abroad for the semester in a locale where the dollar is not all that it once was, I am currently barely able to afford a paperback fantasy novel, let alone such a comprehensive textbook unfortunately.
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Shayan G





Joined: 26 Sep 2006

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2007 6:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is the most I've been able to find, from the article on Abbas Mirza in the Encyclopedia Iranica:

Quote:
Military reforms. The confrontation with the Russians, whose armies had modern equipment and were organized on modern principles, rendered urgent a reform of the Persian army. Iran found itself in a predicament similar to that which had faced the Ottoman empire since the early 18th century. In 1804 żAbba@s M^rza@ went to war in a coat of Mongolian mail from the royal treasures (Fasa@÷^, p. 252; tr. Busse, p. 108)—no doubt partly for reasons of symbolism. Even then he realized that the Persian army was no match for Russian tactics and weapons, and he began to train his troops along European lines (nezáa@m-e čad^d). From Ottoman sources he gained a knowledge of Western military theory. Practical training was given, at first, by Russian deserters or prisoners of war who entered the crown prince's service. This practice was reinforced when, in the wake of the European wars of liberation, unreliable units which had fought in France were transferred to the Caucasian front. In 1819 Russian deserters made up an entire regiment of 800 men (Ker Porter, II, pp. 582, 588). From 1807, French instructors were also engaged in Tabr^z; but, after the break with France, British officers formed the majority in the training program. Later, after the British presence in Azerbaijan had been severely reduced in deference to Russian interests, Italians (Sicilians), Poles, and others sought employment and reward in the prince's service. Henry Lindsay (Bethune), who had built up the artillery, departed in 1821. Subsequently Fraser and Johnson criticized the poor condition of the artillery, the shortage of ammunition, and the practice of calling up troops for only short periods (Fraser, Khorasan, p. 228; Johnson, pp. 212, 214). For instruction, Ottoman, but also French and Russian (Morier, Journey, p. 283), texts were used. L'Ami directed the first military academy in Iran (Brydges, Mission, pp. 312f.); and arsenals, cannon foundries, and powder mills were set up in Tabr^z (Kotzebue, p. 100). Since żAbba@s M^rza@ was convinced that Persian cavalry were equal to any challenge, he confined his reforms to the artillery and infantry (Kotzebue, p. 99). In 1808-09 there were 6,000 infantry trained on European principles; in 1817, 8,000; in 1831, 12,000, plus 1,200 artillerymen and one cavalry regiment—in all, ten battalions of Persians and two of Russians (Morier, Journey, p. 216; Kotzebue, p. 93; Stocqweeler, p. 164).
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Thu 06 Dec, 2007 10:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about this?

http://home.comcast.net/~markconrad/PERSIA.html
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Shayan G





Joined: 26 Sep 2006

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Fri 07 Dec, 2007 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you so much! Truly, that was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

It confirms what I read a few days ago in the Cambridge History of Iran-- namely, when the Iranian forces used their own equipment and tactics rather than those of the Europeans, they excelled. Agha Mohammed Shah used Iranian tactics and native jezail muskets with great success against all enemies, but when his successors attempted to "modernize" they actually devolved the army!

Here's a blurb on Agha Mohammed Shah's tactics, and his opinion of the Russians, also from the Cambridge Hist. Iran:
Quote:
Agha Muhammad Shah employed the tactics of his own Qajar tribe and their Turkmen neighbours, in which the surprise attack, encirclement from the rear, and maximum mobility all featured. [...] During Count Zubov's invasion in 1211/1797, he told Hajji Ibriahim that while he intended to harry the Russians mercilessly, he would never send his troops into close combat with the Russian infantry, because of their formidable firepower and unyielding ranks; he took this decision long before he entered the field. When caution or retreat were needed, or a strategy required modification, he would quickly appreciate the situation: as Hajji Ibrahim told the British, Agha Muhammad Shah was a brave enough leader in battle, but his "head...never left work for his hand!" His re-uniting of the Iranian plateau under a single rule owed as much to his astuteness as to his military skill.

That was a relatively short time before the first official Qajar-Russian war. Perhaps if the Persians hadn't "modernized" things would have gone better for them?

Thank you again Mr. Curtis, that web site is wonderful! I came across it years ago but for some reason completely forgot it, even though its invaluable to the era I'm studying. It also highlights the fact that I'll have to learn Russian if I want to study 18th and 19th century Iran...

Best regards!
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Gene Green





Joined: 13 Mar 2007

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Sat 08 Dec, 2007 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
That was a relatively short time before the first official Qajar-Russian war. Perhaps if the Persians hadn't "modernized" things would have gone better for them?


It might have gone better, but not a whole lot. The Russian Empire was well used to the fighting style of Eastern armies - for centuries before that time, they were fighting and subduing a variety of Nomadic people employing similar tactics (Tatars, Kazakhs, Kalmyks etc.) as well as slowly but surely dismantling the Ottomans. They had a large number of these people serving in the Russian army, both in regular European-styled units and in the "Wild" cavalry units in which they could use their own tactics and equipment. The Cossacs were also extremely experienced in both administering and defending from the cavalry hit-and-run tactics. But their biggest advantage was the shear size of the empire and their relative proximity to the region. They could've lost a battle or two but they would always be back. They probably would've had Constantinople if not for the threat of an all-out assault by the British and the French (this would be some 50-70 years later).
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Shayan G





Joined: 26 Sep 2006

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Sat 08 Dec, 2007 11:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd have to disagree, for a variety of reasons. In 1796 Agha Khan's army was at its peak in efficiency and size. Had Fath Ali Shah maintained both the army and his Uncle's strategic genius, The Russians would have had a very hard time of it. Especially considering Agha Khan's planned strategy, before he was assassinated, was to wage a guerrilla war of small-unit hit and run tactics and a scorched-earth policy. Russian officers wrote of the Persian forces with great praise and admiration until the modernization efforts began. The Russians were indeed familiar with Eastern cavalry, but the Persian forces at that time were some of the best the East had to offer (which was not the case obviously 3 decades later), decisively defeating Ottomans, Afghans, and Uzbeks alike. For perspective, consider that just decades before Agha Khan, Nader Shah had forged one of the largest empires since Alexander (incidentally defeating the Russians decisively as well).

Here's an extract from the wonderful website Mr. Curtis posted, which is an English translation of a Russian book.

Quote:
For comparison, we offer an extract from Murav’ev’s diary. In May of 1817 he was present at a "ristalishche" of 1000 irregular Kruta horsemen (this was one of the nomadic tribes subject to Persia): "The horsemen were amazing in the agility of both themselves and their horses. They were armed with lances with cane shafts. When they attack, holding the lance in the middle over the shoulder, they swing it so that it moves so fast that the eye can hardly follow it, so that the a Kruta thrust is impossible to deflect with a sword. And when the Krutas run away, they fire their pistols, of which they carry three. These pistols are tied by the butt and kept in the waistband; as soon as one is fired, it is tossed back over the shoulder and another is drawn out in a trice." In this way the Europeanized equipment of the regular cavalrymen was only a poor parody of the skillful oriental arrangement. The only deficiency, alas, seen by Murav’ev was what he termed the lack of quickness in the horsemen’s loading of their weapons.


Such units were ideal for the war of attrition Agha Khan intended before his death.

I'm going to revisit a book I have that details Caucasian resistance to Russia's invasions. It states explicitly that the mountainous regions of the Caucuses negated much of the advantage of the Russian artillery and presented the resistance groups with the ideal terrain to maintain an effective insurgency. When we compare the irregular Caucasian forces of the 1790s and later with Agha Khan's troops, it highlights even further just how effective his tactics could have been. The highly-regarded Persian cavalry and an infantry armed with the powerful Jezail musket were optimal for such mountainous terrain and guerrilla tactics.

It's neither here nor there, though. The "modernization" of the Persian army did indeed devolve it, and the rest is history. That said, the first Perso-Russian war was not going all that badly for the Persian side--it was English diplomatic pressure and not-so-subtle hints that prompted Fath Ali Shah to sign a truce, and his minister Qaim Maqam was entirely too conciliatory and received great criticism for the terms of the treaty. And THAT said, the Second Perso-Russian war went terribly, and they took whatever treaty they could get.

One thing I should point out is that these wars didn't receive nearly the same level of attention by Iranians back then as now. Cambridge History says it better than I ever can:
Quote:
It is with the diplomatic wrangling of British, French and Russian envoys at the court of the Shah, and Iran's two disastrous armed conflicts with Russia, that the reign of Fath Ali Shah is most frequently associated; or, to put it another way, in so far as the reign is regarded as being of significance, it is because it marks the first phase of Iran's painful encounter with the West. This perception of the reign, however, is largely conditioned by the wisdom of hindsight and a Eurocentric vision of world history.


Regards!
Shayan

edit to add this fun relief, which has good details of some of the weapons of the era in question:


I'll try to find some battlefield pictures as well.
Regards again!
Shayan
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