Ottoman - Russian Competition in Iranian Trade at the Beginning of 20th Century
Keywords: Ottoman, Black Sea trade, Tranist way, Caucasia, Iran, Tabriz
In the beginning of nineteenth century, industrialized capitalist countries had a competition with each other within the Western Europe, to export their products to the east and also to import raw materials to the west. In order to actualize this goal, they laid emphasis on the commercial routes and transit ways that reached Iran through east ports of the Black Sea and competed with each other to become the dominant power. The expansion of trade in the Black Sea from the beginning of nineteenth century on one hand and the opening of Suez Canal in 1869 on the other hand caused the trade that was performed from east of the Black Sea with Iran to become strategically important among the governments both commercially and politically. When we look at history of the Black Sea, we realize that the importance of Trabzon Port is not rooted in its historic past but in its role in the activation of Erzrum - Tabriz trade route. In the 19th century, there were two competing ways to transit trade with Iran through the east coast of the Black sea, and also the two governments that had commerce via these ways became each others rivals; for Ottomans, Trabzon, Erzurum and Tabriz roads, and for the Russians, Georgia coast via Sukhumi -Poti or Batumi port to Tbilisi and Tabriz. These roads belonged to Ottomans and the Russians respectively. In order to strengthen its half colonization position in the region and also make Caucasus region commercial and to extend it to the whole Asian market places, tsar government tried to make Caucasian commercial and transit way attractive. It aimed at giving tax exemption to their merchants who paid tax formerly and offered financial and customs support to its businessmen so that they could compete with English commodity that came to Iran via Ottoman ways. On the other hand, Russians created all kinds of opportunity for their commercial superiority on the Caucasus way. They made railway between Tabriz and Julfa and placed the soldiers along all the way and also made clean, comfortable caravanserais and residences for the security of merchants and traveller on these ways. In the middle of 1820, English merchandise first came to Iran via the Persian golf. But later on they came from north through Sokhumi to Caucasia and from there to east of Anatoly and then reached north of Iran. This was a success of English against the Russian's market. The Russians who had political relationship with this part could not maintain a strong economic relation in this region and it was dying away daily. With the weakening of the Russian presence, the selling of English merchandise was increasing in Iran; and to gain more profit, the English were trying to access new and short marine ways, and one of the shortest of these ways was the Black Sea. In this article, the endeavour is to present a new perspective regarding Iranian commercial and transit issue, apart from specific patterns (political and economic role of India) and despite negative influence of foreign presence, to survey their existence in Iranian economy in nineteenth century and the beginning of twentieth century, which resulted in the blooming of trade. On the other hand, we have tried to answer this question why and how the roads caused political and economical competition between the Russian and the Ottoman governments and also to specify the Britain's role in seizing the road belonging to the Ottomans. At the same time, we had to focus on this issue not only in 19th and 20th century but also current issues which exist in various ways.