Anglo-Russian Entente

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Accord that divided Iran into spheres of influence.

During the last third of the nineteenth century, Russian imperial advances into Central Asia and the consolidation of British imperial domination in south Asia led to intense rivalry between the two European empires. The conflicting interests centered on Afghanistan, Iran, and Tibet, three states that constituted buffers between Britain's and Russia's colonial possessions in Asia. The emergence of Germany as a world power and the humiliating defeat in 1905 of Russia by a nascent Asian power, Japan, helped to persuade some British and Russian officials of a need to resolve their respective differences in Asia. Consequently, in 1907, Britain and Russia signed an agreement to regulate their economic and political interests. With respect to Iran, the AngloRussian Agreement recognized the country's strict independence and integrity, but then divided it into three separate zones.

The agreement designated all of northern Iran, which bordered Russia's possessions in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, as an exclusive sphere of influence for Russian interests. This northern zone was defined as beginning at Qasr-e Shirin in the west, on the border with the Ottoman Empire, and running through Tehran, Isfahan, and Yazd to the eastern border, where the frontiers of Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia intersected. A smaller zone in southeastern Iran, which bordered Britain India, was recognized as an exclusive sphere for Britain. The British zone extended west as far as Kerman in the north and Bandar Abbas in the south. The area separating these two spheres, including part of central Iran and the entire southwest, was designated a neutral zone where both countries and their respective private citizens could compete for influence and commercial privileges. For Britain and Russia, the agreement was important in establishing a diplomatic alliance that endured until World War I. The government of Iran, however, had not been consulted about the agreement; it was informed after the fact. Although not in a position to prevent Britain and Russia from implementing the AngloRussian Agreement, the Iranian government refused to recognize the accord's legitimacy, since from an Iranian perspective, it threatened the country's integrity and independence. Iranian nationalists, in particular, felt betrayed by Britain, a country they had idealized as a democratic beacon during the Constitutional Revolution (19051907). Thus, an important legacy of the agreement was the growth of anti-British sentiment specifically and anti-Western attitudes more generally as strong components of Iranian nationalism.

The AngloRussian Agreement did not eliminate all competition between the two powers with respect to their policies in Iran, but after 1907 it did foster broad cooperation, often to the detriment of Iranian interests. In particular, Britain and Russia intervened in Iran's domestic politics by supporting the royalists in their contest with the constitutionalists, and increasingly, their intervention assumed military dimensions. The agreement lapsed in 1918 after it was renounced by a new revolutionary government in Russia.

see also constitutional revolution.


Kazemzadeh, Firuz. Russia and Britain in Persia, 18641914: A Study in Imperialism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

Siegel, Jennifer. Endgame: Britain, Russia, and the Final Struggle for Central Asia. London and New York: Tauris, 2002.

White, John Albert. Transition to Global Rivalry: Alliance Diplomacy and the Quadruple Entente, 18951907. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Eric Hooglund

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Anglo-Russian entente, 1907. The convention was concluded on 31 August 1907 to try to resolve the long-running Anglo-Russian rivalries in Persia, Tibet, and Afghanistan. The Foreign Office also looked to the entente to improve the balance of power in Europe and the Near East against Germany. Only Russian weaknesses after defeat by Japan and revolution at home made agreement possible at that time. As Russia recovered from the war so rivalries began to revive in Persia, and some competition continued in Asia even after Britain and Russia found themselves fighting on the same side against Germany from 1914.

C. J. Bartlett

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