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also, unlike those of Turkey, are frequently appointed to office. But though the training of the princes for the place they may be one day called upon to occupy results in the Persian throne obtaining better occupants than that of Turkey, where the jealousy of the Sultan forces his near relations to a life of sensual idleness, it does not act so favourably on the country. These high-born governors are practically omnipotent. They do as seems good in their own eyes ; and not being a whit less corrupt than their humbler colleagues, a bribe is always sufficient inducement for one of them, if inclined,
to minister to private vengeance, from which there is no appeal. It would be a misuse of terms to say that the country is well governed : it is not. The Shah is an absolute ruler, and the vast number of his subjects are Mohammedan; but the Armenians, Nestorian Christians, Jews, and Guebres, or followers of the ancient sun-worship of the Persians, now chiefly cherished by the Indian Parsees, may in all amount to 75,000. But the Persians are a patient race, and, knowing nothing better, get along reasonably well between extortions and famines. But the Christians have no rights, and the Jews are treated in the Empire of the Shah infinitely worse than they are in probably any other country in the world, Morocco not excepted. It is, however, only just to say that, with the exception of China, no country in Asia are so large a proportion of the people possessed of the elements of education.
The revenue is estimated at something like £9,000,000, and the expenditure at something less, and the Government has no public debt. But in a country like Persia the
revenue which reaches the treasury bears an insignificant ratio to that which is forced out of the people, but never goes any further than the officials by whom it is personally collected. The external trade of the country is valued at £4,000,000 sterling, but the imports far exceed the exports. The trade with Great Britain is increasing, but it is still insig ant, and as Russia is using every effort to divert much of it in her direction, without corresponding efforts being made on the part of the British merchants, the future does not promise brightly. Persia looks with jealousy on our position in the Gulf, and this feeling our rivals know well how to take advantage of. In 1878 Persia sent £173,358 worth of goods to Great Britain, and imported £149,191 worth of British produce. But it is almost needless to say only a trifling proportion of the Persian products-chiefly opium-was sent direct to us.
Some of these have already been described, and, with a few alterations to suit local differences, might fairly stand as the type of the others which have not been noticed. Tabriz, Kasvin, Ispahan, and Shiraz have all at different times had the honour of being the Shah's capital; and at present Teheran, on the broad plain near the south-west base of Mount Damavand, is the seat of government, and the principal place of residence of the Court. Teheran, when first heard of in the twelfth century, was a miserable place. The inhabitants lived in houses underground, and indeed it not until the fifteenth century that they emerged from their subterranean dwellings. But by 1618 Chardin and other European travellers describe it as a large city. At present it does not impress the visitor, and at a distance is decidedly disappointing. Its black mud walls are exactly of the colour of the ground, so that seen at a distance it looks like a fused dust-enshrouded mass," and altogether very unlike the Oriental capital of the Eastern tale. Inside, the appearance of things is not much more inviting. The absence of shady trecs make the ill-paved narrow streets very hot, and the want of any approach to a decent hotel does not mollify the traveller disappointed with his first view of the chief city of Persia. Ispahan is not much more inviting, though, as we have seen (p. 307), the climate is more agreeable. Shiraz (p. 313) is the “city of colleges”-of which there are about ten
-but the education supplied is of a very elementary character. It is now chiefly visited by those who are curious to examine the magnificent ruins of Persepolis—the ancient capital, and at one time “the glory of the East," and the pride of Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes, until it was destroyed by Alexander the Great. Tauris, with its 100,000 people—as many as Teheran ; Meshed, “the Holy," with 60,000; Yezd, with 40,000; and Hamadan, Kermanshah, Kerman, Dizful, Kazvin, Resht, Astrabad, Kashan, Burudjird, and Kum-all with between twenty and thirty thousand people—are other towns of importance. It is needless describing them. Filthy thoroughfares, mud walls, sometimes groves of trees, bad water and little of it, bare walls of houses facing the streets; the windows generally without glass, or the balconies looking into the courtyards; and great caravanserais built by speculators or “pious founders” for the accommodation of travellers, are about the most salient features of urban Persia. But over all is written ruin and desolation. New buildings stand tawdry and out of place beside old ones that only echo the past, while the dirt, the disorder, and the discomfort which seem innate to the East prevail everywhere through the land of Iran (pp. 304, 305, 308, 312, 313).
PROGRESS OF PERSIA.
The Persian peasantry are, as
a rule, contented and even happy. They are oppressed by their local rulers, but ages of tyranny have accustomed them to regard the tax-gatherer's exaction as a something to which all mankind are subject, and knowing nothing better they are not miserable at the thought of what they must bear. They are even sometimes convinced that after all “ Iran” is the favoured of heaven. In illustration of this Sir John Malcolm tells an anecdote of an Arab-Persian woman who had accompanied an English family to Britain, and was being questioned by her relatives in Mekran as to the country and people she had visited. Were they happy? Were they rich? Was the country a good one? The country, the “ayah” replied, was a good one. It was like a garden ; the people, she had heard, were happy; she knew they were wise, and they seemed to be rich. At this her friends looked sad. Their country was not like a garden, the inhabitants were not wise, and they felt that they might be richer without being any less happy, and they were turning away, for the first time in their lives, really discontented with their condition, when the woman remarked that in “Feringhistan ” there was one thing the people wanted. They had no date trees; she had not seen one in the whole country, and for more than a year she had looked for nothing else. Then the Arabs were happy once more, for they were certain that a country without dates must be miserable indeed.
Again, the Persians, when they leave home, either on business or pleasure-pleasure being the rarest of the motives which induce them to leave their own country-take care, when they return, to run down the good points of the kingdoms they have visited, so as to flatter the national vanity, and at the same time preserve their own reputation for truthfulness. They are, moreover, so prejudiced—and this criticism applies to Orientals generally—that they fail to see merit in anything which is different from what they have been accustomed to, and hence generally spend their time abroad in picking out the bad and not the good points of the nations they visit. Finally, the Persians, when they see their country visited by travellers, and foreigners readily residing in it either for purposes of trade or for the sake of official employment, naturally come to the conclusion that if the homes of these people were all they declare them to be, they would scarcely be so anxious to leave them. In Sir John Malcolm's day, few Persians, even of the highest rank, understood any language save their own and Arabic, and though all classes read, the books to which they had access contained little information about any part of the world save Asia. Even then, the knowledge imparted was vague, erroneous, or generally unsatisfactory. Europe they only knew by name, and by confused accounts of its nations and comparative greatness. At a much later date, Jehangir Mirza, a grandson of Fetteh Ali Shah, thought the English, French, and Russian were all under one king, and was astonished to find that Great Britain was governed by a female sovereign. Even yet, it is difficult to make them understand many of the European inventions which have of late years been introduced into their country. In particular the telegraph, of which there are nearly 3,000 miles in operation, is as puzzling to them as it has ever been to the unscientific in Europe. At first they considered that the wires were hollow, and that the messages were blown through them. “Imagine a dog whose tail is here in Teheran, and his muzzle in London; tread on his tail here, and he will bark there.” Even after this explanation by the telegraph officer, the local governor, to whom it was vouchsafed, had some difficulty in understanding the rationale of the
instrument by which the barking was done. . Perhaps, after all, they are not much more obtuse than many people in Europe. A European princess, still living, intelligently inquired, after the famous Ersted had explained to her the working of the electric telegraph—" how parcels were conveyed along it?" In many an English country town or retired neighbourhood there is as much dull, self-satisfied conceit and stupidity as in any quarter of Persia. The inflated notion of their own importance, which so often possess even otherwise “ well educated ” people in these islands, is less excusable than in the case of the Persians, for in Britain no one need remain ignorant who can read, while in Persia books are few, and newspapers and other sources of information practically non-existant. But it
But it may be questioned whether in their ignorance there is not a certain degree of bliss ? In the East the nations, habits, and prejudices of the people compel reform to come from above--not, as in the case of European nations, to rise to the surface from below. In Europe even the most despotic of Governments recognise the principle in a greater or less degree of power proceeding from the governed, and of the rulers acquiescing thus far in the wishes of the ruled. Such an idea is strange to the East; the occupants of the throne and places of trust would consider such assertion in the light of a wild paradox; even their subjects would be puzzled to account for such a theory having in it any element of good. It would only tempt certain headstrong people to rise in rebellion, and rebellion has a happy ending when it does not lead further than the bastinado, or the gallows. Yet Persia, though fallen from the condition it once enjoyed, is really progressing—it may be slowly, awkwardly, and in a fashion which often savours of the passive. The force of European stimulus is pushing it up behind; there is no active resistance if the way be sufficiently smoothed by “backsheesh," but there is no actual aid to it, and most frequently, if the vis e tergo is removed, the machine rolls back to the rut out of which it had been started. The future of Persia it is not easy to forecaste. Should she ever attain anything of her former greatness, her power for evil or good will be great in Central Asia. On the contrary, should she gradually sink into insignificance, the prospect which lies before us is not one pleasant to contemplate. The prey on this side of the ambition of one power, or that of the fears and necessities of another, Iran will be torn by the spoiler, or be the scene of war between nations whose interests it is to remain at peace.
We now leave Mohammedan Persia with its Shiite fanatics, for Mohammedan Turkey with its Sunnee sectarians. The one country is solely confined to Asia, the other has spread itself over important parts of Europe and Asia, and has caused its flag to be recognised in Northern Africa also. With its consideration we can therefore suitably begin the brief sketch in Africa and Europe with which we conclude our survey of the world.
CASSELL, PETTER, GALPIN & Co., BELLE SAUVAGE WORKS, London, E.C.