Taqizadeh in Imperial Germany

Most Iranian historians agree that Taqizadeh's activities in Germany, the enemy of the enemies of Iran, during World War I, were historically significant. They, however, disagree on the degree of importance one may assign to these activities that have not been described in any detail in the few accounts that have been published so far. The memoirs written by Taqizadeh, and by other Iranian exiles cooperating with him at the time, are undoubtedly of value in shedding some light on the subject, but they too have their own limitations. This article is based mainly on the relevant documents in the archives of the German foreign ministry, most of them unpublished. These documents pertain to the circumstances of Taqizadeh's cooperation with the Germans in this period.

Iranians have expressed different and at times contradictory judgments on Taqizadeh, and particularly his activities during the Great War. Some believe that he had been totally free of any financial dependence on the Imperial German government and consider his cooperation with that government designed to promote Iran's national interest. Others accuse him of having been a willing tool in the hands of German imperialists. Still others have set forth the far-fetched theory that in the period of his cooperation with the Germans, Taqizadeh was in fact trying to promote the interests of the British government.     

As to what extent Taqizadeh was willing and able to promote Iranian national interest, one must bear in mind that he was not an equal partner with the representatives of Imperial Germany. Yet, it is also an incontrovertible fact that at this period German interests in the Middle East were generally compatible with some of the long-cherished objectives of Iranian nationalist who believed that Imperial Germany could play a significant role in helping Iran rid itself of British and Russian overbearing influences. However, the belief in being able to expel Russia and Britain from Iran with the help of victorious Germany and the Ottoman Empire turned out to be illusory.

It is certainly true that Taqizadeh and his Iranian colleagues were financially dependent on the German government and that their activities contributed to the expansion of the theatre of war to Iran. Yet, judging by the nature of his activities in this period, as evidenced in the materials found in the German archives, Taqizadeh had accepted the German offer for wartime collaboration solely for the purpose of serving his country under difficult and fast changing circumstances.

Ilse Itscherenska
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