This panel will critically examine some controversial historical narratives about Iran’s borderlands in light of new archival findings as a means of challenging and complementing traditional historical narratives that have focused on Iran’s political center. As such, this panel will address developments and processes that go beyond Iran’s national boundaries and questions narratives based exclusively on the center. Sergey Saluschev will explore the process of cultural exchange across national boundaries. Saluschev’s paper will address the development of a shared tea drinking culture between Russia and Iran by tracing the introduction and diffusion of the Russian Samovar in Iranian culture and society in the first half of the nineteenth century, as well as the Samovar’s role in subverting the coffee drinking culture in Iran. Eric Massie will focus on slave trading patterns and practices in Iran’s south and southeast borders, which differed significantly both in terms of slave demography and the process of abolition from the north. His paper will examine how the slave trade in southern Iran was an integral part of a broader Indian Ocean network of slave trading that persisted in places well into the twentieth century due to the weakness of Iran’s central government and the persistence of other forms of illicit trade such as the arms trade. Lastly, Massie’s paper will also examine Great Britain’s assumed right to unilaterally manumit slaves in the broader context of Britain’s capitulatory agreements with Iran. Elham Malekzadeh’s paper will address the Soviet Union’s role in causing widespread famine in northern Iran as a result of Soviet military incursions and occupation after 1917. In addition to examining Soviet policies that led to the suffering and death of untold numbers in northern Iran, Malekzadeh will address the silence of leftist Iranian historians who have ignored the Soviet Union’s role in these atrocities. Derek Mancini-Lander’s paper focuses on transregional Persianate communities through a study of biographical and historical texts centering on the town of Shustar as a means of exploring how members of the eminent Nuri sayyids reconciled local and transregional senses of belonging and identity as they moved between Khuzestan, the Deccan, and the shrine cities of Iraq.
Русский самовар, or the Russian samovar in English, has long been recognized as a distinctive symbol of authentic Russian identity and an integral part of Russian cultural heritage and tea-drinking tradition. One might be surprised to discover, however, that Russians are not the only nation that celebrates and cherishes samovar as a beloved artifact of national cultural heritage. Iran became another country where the Russian samovar left a prominent cultural mark and significantly influenced the patterns of tea consumption. This paper attempts to illuminate still opaque moments in the journey of the Russian samovar from its native birthplace and into the distant and unfamiliar lands of Qajar Iran in the first half of the XIX century. In addition, the chief premise of this paper is centered on the contention that introduction and virtually immediate popularity of samovars in Iran is correlated with a steep increase in the consumption of tea and parallel decline in the consumption of coffee in the country. The paper concludes that despite samovar’s colonial credentials, the affection for and popularity of the Russian samovar on Iranian markets illustrate the intricacies and diversity of a myriad of cultural and intellectual exchanges that transpired between the two nations.