The Ideological Origins of Iranian Intellectuals in Berlin

During the years 1915-1930, a number of Iranian intellectuals took up residence in Berlin and in their common and concerted search for solutions to Iran’s formidable social and political problems became involved in publication of various journals including Kaveh, Iranshahr, Name-ye Farangestan, and Elm-o-Honar. In these journals they elaborated on topics and issues that were, and still are, of overriding interest to the Iranians. Most of the contributors to these journals knew one or two European languages and were fairly familiar with Western culture and civilization. They had also kept abreast of the most relevant currents of thoughts in both Turkey and the Arab societies.

According to the author, these writers, while in Iran, had followed the development of social ideas in the Ottoman Empire (later, Turkey), and Egypt with keen interest. While the Arab intellectuals of this period focused their attention on such issues as cultural renaissance and cultural reform, their Turkish counterparts pondered on the nature of political systems, national identity, and the relationship between religion and government. The latter were also by far more attracted to western social and political models than the former.

Elaborating on the salient features of the ideologies prevalent among Arab and Turkish intellectuals in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the article points to the common trends of thought among Iranian, Arab and Turkish social thinkers and critics. In certain areas, in fact, the author suggests, the Iranians were clearly influenced by the ideals of both Arabs and Turks. This influence seems to have been particularly pronounced with respect to the concepts of nationalism, structure of political power, the role of religion in polity and society, and, perhaps most importantly, modernity.

* Abstract prepared by Iran Nameh.

Jamshid Behnam
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