Cossack Brigade

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iranian cavalry unit that became the basis for the iranian national army under reza shah.

Naser al-Din Shah established the Iranian Cossack Brigade in 1879. Hoping to emulate the ruthless reputation of Russia's Cossacks, he solicited the czar's assistance in contracting for a few Russian instructors to create a similar six-hundred-man mounted force. Reduced in its early years to two hundred, the so-called brigade (normally a 5,000-troop unit) was almost disbanded. In 1896, it helped maintain order in the streets after the shah's assassination; notoriety came when the shah used the unit to shell and intimidate the majles (parliament) in 1908.

With only Russians in command until 1920, the unit, which was reorganized as a division in 1916, served as a visible manifestation of Russian influence in northern Iran. The departure of all czarist officers in 1920 permitted Reza Khan, who had risen through the ranks, to take command of the division. In February 1921, his Cossacks supported the coup that led to the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty and transformed Reza Khan into Reza Shah Pahlavi by 1925. Under his control, the Cossack division became the nucleus of the forty-thousand-man national army he demanded as his first priority.

see also naser al-din shah; pahlavi, reza; qajar dynasty.


Kazemzadeh, Firuz. "The Origin and Early Development of the Persian Cossack Brigade." American Slavic and East European Review 15 (October 1956): 351363.

Jack Bubon

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Cossack Brigade

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