Delegitimizing the Shah

Ross delivers a scathing critique of the Shah of Persia.

In 1923, the Shah of Persia, Ahmad Shah Qajar, left for Paris after the military coup of Colonel Reza Khan (later Reza Shah) stripped him of his power (but not yet of his title—this would happen in 1925). Ross doesn’t explain the political situation in Persia and only mentions the “military dictator Reza Khan” once, in a later chapter (p. 128). Ross is rather intent on delegitimizing Ahmad Shah, whom he repeatedly refers to as “the current Shah” (der jetztige Shah), as if to reinforce the transient quality of his reign. A painting of Ahmad hangs in the palace and, in Ross’s estimation, “there’s nothing royal about it. It just shows a young man in a hat, who smiles contentedly, happy at the moment to have left his country behind—his country, whose newspapers sent furious, scathing articles after him because he had secretly left with the crown jewels, and whose parliament is openly demanding his return (p. 110)”. Persia is a country in chaos; it is the only country on Ross’s journey where the lack of law and order means that the roads are not safe to travel, and Ross wants his readers to know that the monarch is unfit to face this crisis: “Persia is today a political structure in the process of disintegrating; it needs nothing as much as firm, stable leadership. But the Shah is an effete, fearful weakling, who, at least when he still resided in Persia, wouldn’t shake anyone’s hand for fear of bacteria (p. 113)”.

Kristin Kopp








Colin Ross. In den Palästen des Königs der Könige. In: Der Weg nach Osten: Reise durch Rußland, Ukraine, Transkaukasien, Persien, Buchara und Turkestan. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A Brockhaus; 1923; 108-113.


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