This panel is the second part of a sequence of two panels structured around the notion that secret intrigues and intelligence played at least as significant a role in the modern history of Iran’s relationship with foreign powers -- including Britain, Russia and Germany -- as did public diplomatic encounters. Whereas the history of Iran's relations with these countries has been significantly explored, much about the secret deals and spying remains to be exposed. As the papers make clear, it is often hard to draw a line between what is "open" and secret, myth and reality, in great power diplomacy. Even though the papers bring in a number of new, predominantly archival, sources on Iranian history, there will always remain an element of mystery in the clandestine activities of foreigners in Iran.
This panel’s focus is Russian and Soviet intelligence agents in Iran. The first paper will analyze the enigmatic figure of Seraia Shapshal (1873-1961), a Russian citizen who became highly influential at the highest levels of the Qajar court: although Edward G. Browne branded him as a “Russian spy,” his Russian contemporaries – both diplomats and intelligence officers – treated him with great suspicion. The second paper will argue that the real person behind the well-known Soviet writer Haji-Murat Magometovich Muguev is the Russian Intelligence officer Boris Afanasievich Muguev. He served as a translator in the Expeditionary Cavalry Corps of General N.N.Baratov in Iran during WWI and took part in the famous 1916 cavalry raid by V.D.Gamalei's Cossack detachment into Mesopotamia -- and later reflected these experiences in his literary works. The third paper will trace the paths of two young Iranian women who studied in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 40s and then engaged in clandestine work for the communist cause back in Iran: they lived modest lives, secretly passing information or smuggled documents while working in the open to improve living conditions for the Iranian people. The fourth presentation will compare the controversial story of the legendary Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian (1924-2012) who is credited with foiling the Nazi plot to assassinate Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt during the 1943 Tehran Allies conference – as it is reflected in the notable Soviet-French movie Tehran-43 (1981) and as it emerges from multiple interviews, documentaries and publications.