عنوان مقاله [English]
The process of neighborliness between Iran and Russia began in the middle of the sixteenth century and was implemented until the end of the same century. In the meantime, the two sides pursued diplomacy backed by common enemies and business incentives. Potentials for tensions emerged during the first half of the seventeenth century with the restoration of Iranian sovereignty over its Caucasian territory from Ottomans and the Russian efforts to break into Georgia and Dagestan. However, the balance of forces prevented the situation from becoming worse. This situation continued until Peter’s reign in the late seventeenth century. This article attempts to examine the evolution of Iranian-Russian relations from the attempt to military cooperation to the direct and indirect conflicts in the 17th century. The method of writing is descriptive-analytical based on the analysis of data extracted from primitive sources and authentic research. This study seeks to answer the question of why in the process of developing bilateral relations, despite potentials for cooperation, potentials for tension led to conflicts between the two sides. The result of this study shows that Russia was not able to face Iran directly in the 17th century, so it benefited from the nurturing activities of its citizens, especially Don Cossacks, along the Iranian Caspian coast, and on Caucasian issues, it was also advancing with the recruitment of local rulers and fortifications in the buffer zones between its territory and Iran. Russia’s key goal was to dominate the strategic segments of the North-South Corridor both at sea and on land.
Iran’s historical relation with Russia dates back to about a thousand years, and in addition to trade, it includes the Varangians’ invasion to Iran via both land and the Caspian Sea during the 9th to 11th centuries. The history of official relations between Iran and Russia goes back to the reign of Ivan III of Russia. Realizing the importance of the Aq Qoyunlu, he sought to establish relations with them. Although Uzun Hasan responded to the embassy initiatives, he did not prioritize relations with distant neighbors. The turning point in Iran-Russia relations was the fall of Kazan in 1552 AD and Astrakhan in 1556 at the hands of Ivan “the fourth” and beginning of neighborliness between Iran and Russia through the Caspian Sea.
The official relations between Iran and Russia were formed in the second half of the sixteenth century on three axes: trade, political-military cooperation, and geographical conflict, consequently, tensions between the two countries were not unexpected in such a situation.
During the period between the two countries’ maritime neighborliness in 1556 and their land contacts in 1591 and 1604, the first capacities of tensions arose in relations between the two countries, indicating further complications. The desire of Tsarist Russia to receive the ownership of west coast of the Caspian Sea from Iran was revealed in the case of the Vasilchikov embassy in 1587. Of course, Iran's firm stance against Russian movements on its borders became apparent in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
In the meantime, the internal engagements of the two sides and their priorities in the face of their enemies led both sides to try to rely on the positive and constructive aspects of relations and contain the capacities of tension. As during the First Russo-Persian War (1651-1653), Tsar Alexei, the father of Peter, and the architect of many of Russia’s foundations of power, quickly sent an ambassador to make peace, or even during Razin’s invasion to Iranian ports of the Caspian Sea from Darband (Derbent) to Astarabad, Russia kept its diplomatic wing very active in its relations with Iran.
If in the late sixteenth century the confrontation with the Ottomans and the Shaybanids was a serious incentive for the parties to cooperate, but with the fall of the Shaybanids at the end of the sixteenth century and the end of the Iran-Ottoman conflict, especially with the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, Trade and neighborhood requirements became the main drawbacks of relations; while the Russian side pursued a dual game in its relations with Iran based on its activities on the coasts of the Caspian Sea and established Caucasian communications.
Iran’s action to destroy Russian castles on the banks of the Sunzha River and expelling the Russian trade delegation with diplomatic cover, followed by the plundering of Iranian shores by Russian Cossacks, were three Pieces of evidences of the severity of relations that did not tend to be obvious. In 1653, following the success of the Sunzha River operation, Khosrow Khan Shervani was ready to march to Tersky, but Shah Abbas II preferred the path of diplomacy. On the issue of the Cossack’s attack, Iran also preferred to respond to Russian diplomacy.
Russia’s proliferation on the Caspian Sea coasts and its infiltration into Dagestan and Georgia were the main roots of tensions in relations between the two sides, which were managed due to Iran’s balance of power and relative superiority.
Although the benefits of trade with Iran for Russia and the interests of Russia from being the route for Iran’s trade with Europe was very important to Moscow, but in a model reminiscent of the conflict between the Golden Horde and the Ilkhans in the Caucasus, the Kremlin sought to dominate both the sea and the land route, pursuing indirect destructive actions in its relations with Iran in the cases of Caspian sea shores and the Caucasus that overshadowed at least its own short-term interests.
The Russian governors of Astrakhan and Tersky had been cooperating with the Cossack bandits at many times, similar to the Khazar Khaganate’s action in 913 AD, which allowed the Varangians to cross their territory and move from Don River to Volga river and to the Caspian Sea to access Iranian shores for plundering the civilians. With so much evidence, these governors' coordination with Moscow cannot be questioned. Therefore, duplicitous behavior and indirect persecution should be considered part of Moscow's policy towards Isfahan.
In the seventeenth century, Russia, in the balance of power with Iran, was gradually trying to change the balance in its favor. The Tsars’ continued efforts to establish relations with the Dagestani and Georgian elites, especially with those who were dissatisfied with Iran. Russia’s failed attempts to make its relations with several Georgian elites to a bargaining tool with Iran and interference in Georgia’s affairs, were examples of Moscow’s soft political approach in its rivalry with Iran during seventeenth century. However, the invasion of Iran by Peter the Great in 1723 marked another aspect of a macro-politics, a policy that continued from the Ivan the “fourth”, Boris Godunov, and the Romanovs in three dynasties.
It can be said that the developments of Iran-Russia Relations during seventeenth century showed that the relations between the two sides should have been considered as an equation in which the key effective factors were geopolitical conflict, commercial and political interests , rivalries , cooperation and competition in foreign policy, which over time, the results were different.