Book One – Ep.6: Russian Roulette

The lion and the sun podcast - Book one - Episode 6 - Russian Roulette

An old king tries to reclaim his throne, the United States sends help for the country’s finances, and Russia invades Iran. The complicated history of Iran and Russia and how the Russian influence impacted Iran’s democracy and crippled its government throughout the years.

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Episode Summary

On July 13, 1909, Mohammad Ali Shah abdicated the throne and fled to Russia after the Battle of Tehran. He was granted asylum and a monthly salary. In July 1911, he returned to Iran with an army of Turkmen tribesmen, joined by his brother Salar-ed-Dowleh and Kurdish fighters, aiming to retake Tehran. The government’s response, aided by Bakhtiari riders, forced Mohammad Ali Shah to flee back to Russia.

In the late 19th century, Persia increasingly relied on foreign loans and struggled to modernize its military. Nasir al-Din Shah established the Persian Cossack Brigade, reflecting growing Russian influence. During Mohammad Ali Shah’s reign, Russia’s influence over Persia grew significantly, with the Russian Cossack Brigade serving as his private army and many advisors having Russian ties.

After constitutionalists regained control in Tehran, they reopened parliament and sought to resolve financial issues by hiring William Morgan Shuster, an American lawyer, as Treasurer-General. Shuster’s transparency efforts angered Britain and Russia. When Shuster planned to seize the property of Salar-ed-Dowleh, Russia intervened, demanding Shuster’s dismissal and other conditions.

Nationwide protests ensued, led by Shia cleric Mohammad Kazem Khorasani, who died under mysterious circumstances in December 1911. Russia then occupied northern Persia, including Tabriz, through brutal tactics. Under pressure, the Persian government yielded, dissolved parliament on December 24, 1911, and Shuster and his team resigned and left Persia in January 1912.


  • Collateral – Kai Engel
  • From Russia with Love
  • Sombre Descent – Kai Engel
  • January – Kai Engel
  • Highway Chase – Hampus Naeselius

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