Mīrzā Kūchak Khān (میرزا
كوچک خان)(common alternative spellings Kouchek, Koochek,
Kuchak, Kuchek, Kouchak, Koochak)
(1880 - December 2, 1921) was a revolutionary and guerilla
of the early twentieth century in Iran. He was the founder
of a revolutionary movement based in the forests of Gilan in northern
Iran that became known as the Jangal (Forest) movement.
This uprising started in 1914 and remained active against
internal and foreign enemies until 1921 when the movement
Kuchak Khan was born Younes, son
of Mirza "Bozorg" (meaning "big" (big = Sr) in Persian),
and was thus nicknamed Mirza "Kuchak" (meaning "Jr" in Persian)
in the city of Rasht in northern Iran in 1880. He studied theology
(as the only available formal education at the time) to
become a cleric at Jame Rasht in Rasht and later
at Mahmudiyeh schools in Tehran. On the eve of the
Iranian constitutional revolution as all the intelligentsia
and ordinary people became more involved in politics, Mirza
quit his studies to join the movement. Finally in an Imperial
decree the Shah of Iran Muzaffar al-Din Shah agreed to a
constitutional monarchy in August 1906.
However, the ruling feudalistic society
was not ready to give up on its privileges and respect the
newly elected Parliament (Majlis). In June 1908 the
parliament was shut down during a coup d'état ordered by
the new monarch, Mohammad Ali Shah. The Russian Cossack
Brigade under the command of Colonel Liakhov serving the
Shah bombarded the parliament and arrested the pro-democracy
people and their social leaders such as journalists and
members of the Parliament. Uprisings all over the country
followed in particular in Tabriz and Rasht. During the Tabriz
uprising Kuchak Khan tried to join Sattar Khan's forces,
but was unable to actively participate due to an illness.
He was injured in the Constitutionalist war, and had to
travel to Baku and Tbilisi for medical attention.
After going through a period of renewed
and bloody dictatorship nicknamed the Short Dictatorship
(or Lesser Autocracy) finally, in July 1909 the national
revolutionary forces from Gilan and central
Iran (Bakhtiari tribes) were united to attack and conquer
the capital Tehran. Mirza Kuchak Khan
was one of the lower rank commanders of the force that invaded
the capital from North (under the command of Sepahdar
Aazam Mohammad Vali Khan Tonekaboni).
Unfortunately, given the shortcomings of
the advanced social thinkers and activists of the time on
one hand and the stronger establishment of the old autocracy
on the other hand, again the same privileged class and their
political representatives took control of the new regime.
The freedom fighters were not satisfied and in fact were
disarmed, in some cases using force. Meanwhile the direct
and indirect manipulation of the country's internal politics
by Tsarist Russians and the British added to the sufferings
of the people and resulted in social unrest.
It was during such tumultuous period that
Mirza Kuchak Khan, in collaboration with the Society of
Islamic Union, started his uprising in the northern forests
(Southern Caspian). Mirza Kuchak Khan's return to Rasht
was not easy since he had been expelled from Gilan by the
Russian consulate for five years. His cause seems to have
been a mixture of that of the newly emerging national bourgeoisie
and downtrodden peasants and therefore gained momentum soon
after it started. The Jangal forces (locally referred to
as 'Jangalis' i.e., 'forest people' in Persian) defeated
the local governmental and Russian troops which added to
their reputation as potential saviors of the ideas of the
On June 12, 1918 Manjil was the site of
a battle between the Jangali troops and the joint British
and White Russian forces. The latter force (led by General
Dunsterville and Kernel Bicherakhov) although formally just
trying to organize the return of Russian soldiers back home,
in reality was planning to pass through Manjil as the only
passage to the Caspian in order to reach Baku and fight
against the newly formed Baku commune (led by Stepan Shahumian).
General Dunsterville's private diaries and notes, including
those kept during his command of the Dunsterforce Mission
to North Persia and Baku, are transcribed from the original
by General Dunsterville's great granddaughter, and are co-located
on the Great War Primary Documents Archive. Mirza Koochek
Khan's troops were defeated in this war because of the use
of artillery, armored car and airplanes by the joint forces.
Mirza's field commander was a German officer (Major Von
Pashen) who had joined the Jangal movement after being
released by them from the British prison in Rasht.
The Jangal movement was further boosted
and gained gravity after the victory of the Bolsheviks in
Russia. In May 1920 the Soviet Navy led by Fyodor F. Raskolnikov
and accompanied by Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze entered the Caspian
port of Anzali. This mission was declared to be only in
pursue of the Russian vessels and ammunition taken to Anzali
by the White Russian counter-revolutionary general Denikin,
who had been given asylum by British forces in Anzali.
Historians have tried to analyze the factors
that contributed to the demise of the Jangal Movement.
Some of the main studies including those by Gregor Yeghikian
and Ebrahim Fakhrayi (minister of Culture in Mirza's Cabinet
of the Red Republic) suggest a role for both extremist actions
taken by the Communist (Edalat) Party that provoked opposing
religious sentiment among the public, and Mirza Koochak
Khan's religious and at times somewhat conservative views
on collaboration with the Communist Party as possible factors.
It has been suggested also that the change
of policy on the Soviet side regarding pursuing global revolution
(as advocated by Trotsky) versus establishing and protecting
the Soviet Union was the main reason for them to withdraw
support from the Gilan republic. The second option got more
support and therefore Soviets signed a treaty with British
in London (1921) which necessiated withdrawing from Northern
Iran. Correspondence between Theodore Rothstein the Soviet
ambassador in Tehran and Mirza Koochak Khan clearly supports
this view (Ebrahim Fakhrayi). As part of his peace making
efforts, Rothstein had also sent a message to the Soviet
officers among Ehsanollah Khan's one thousand strong force
that had made its way towards Qazvin, not to obey his orders
and as a result that campaign was defeated.
Kochak Khan (میرزا كوچک خان)
Republic of Gilan
Mirza Koochak Khan agreed to cooperate
with the Soviet revolutionaries on some conditions including
the announcement of the Socialist Republic of Gilan
(also known as The Red Republic of the Jungle)
under his leadership and lack of any direct intervention
by the Soviets in the internal affairs of the republic.
However, soon disagreements arose between Mirza and
his group of advisors on one side and the Soviets and
the Iranian Communist Party (evolved from the Baku based
Edalad Party). Mirza's efforts to resolve the bloody
disputes by sending a petition through a delegate of
two of his men to Lenin did not result in a resolution.
By 1921 and particularly after the agreement achieved
between the Soviet Union and Britain the Soviets decided
not to further support the Socialist Republic of Gilan
and as a result the government forces lead by Reza Khan
crushed the dispersed forces of the Jungle Republic.
Comrade Saadollah Darvish" is appointed
as the Chair of the Revolutionary Council (Commissar)
of the forces missioned to Mazandaran Province. The
letter is signed by Mirza Koochak Khan (his usual signature
"Koochek-e Jangali" i.e., "Koochek of the Jungle") and
other members of the "Revolutionary Council of The Republic
of Iran", 1920. The tone and the terminology used in
the letter shows the revolutionary fervor of the time
and, contrary to the suggestion of conservatism on Mirza's
side by some historians, his devotion to the ideas of
The wall newspaper Roosta (village) in Persian and
Russian reads: "Red Iran, Rasht June 27, 1920,
Long Live Mirza Koochek", in the honor of Mirza
Koochek Khan and celebration of the newly announced
Soviet Republic of Gilan.
Mirza and his companion, a Russian-German revolutionary
adventurer Gauook (Hooshang), left alone in Khalkhal
mountains, died of frost bite. His body was decapitated
by a local landlord and his head was displayed in Rasht
to establish the government’s new hegemony over revolution
and revolutionary ideas.
Kuchek Khan before starting the rebellion (around 1914)