Just like the British, who moved to their Gulhek residence to escape the heat of Tehran, the Russians had their own summer compound in neighbouring Zergendeh. And, like the British, the Russians organized parties to which all Qajar dignitaries and foreigners in the capital were invited. Tinco Lycklama never refused.
It will require research in the Russian state archives to get a better picture of the people and function of the Russian legation to Persia in the 1860s.
Russia and Persia were two empires at peace. Not much love was lost between them, but since the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828 they had settled their definitive border at the Aras river. War was something of the past. Another conflict, the Crimean War, had kept the Europeans busy in the 1850s and revolved around the reach of the (declining) Ottoman empire. One of the outcomes of that war – the Treaty of Paris of 1856 – had left Russia in a weakened position.
Interestingly, Tinco Lycklama was a close friend of the Russian ambassador to France, Andrey Fedorovich Budberg (1817-1881) – alternatively called Baron André de Budberg. In just a single line in the 2,200 pages of his travel account, Tinco tells us that he maintained regular correspondence with his friend Budberg (and such correspondence continued at least until August 1867, when letters from Budberg were awaiting Tinco upon his second visit in Tehran).
Prior to his position in Paris, Budberg had been Russia’s top diplomat to Vienna an Berlin. In the geopolitical situation at that time, these were significant positions. Budberg arrived in Paris in 1862, and held the post of ambassador until 1868. This coincides perfectly with Tinco’s years of study in Paris, and the grand tour though the Orient that followed. Budberg was a very close ally of the Russian Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich Romanov (1827-1892) – a brother of Tsar Alexander II and chairman of the Council of Ministers for sixteen years from 1865 onwards.
Given these connections, it remains surprising that Tinco Lycklama never mentions Nikolay Karlovich Girs (1820-1895) – also named Nicholas de Giers. Later in life, this man would become the Russian foreign minister under Tsar Alexander III. But, at the time of Tinco’s stay in Tehran, Nikolay Girs was the Russian minister plenipotentiary to the Qajar court.
Perhaps Nikolay Girs was absent during the five months that Tinco lived in the Persian capital? Possibly. However, why mention the other Russian diplomats and the top people at the other foreign legations – but not Nikolay Girs? For the moment, this remains a mystery.
In the overview of foreign legations in 1860’s Persia, we gave the names of those who, in 1866, were officially stationed at the Russian legation. One of them was Vasily Sevryugin, the first drogman (translator/interpreter). This man is worth mentioning, if only because he was the father of Antoin Sevruguin (1830-1933) who, in the late 19th century, produced a larged quantity of photography of people and sites throughout Persia – including the first images of women in the Shah’s harem. Born as a Russian in Tehran, Antoin Sevruguin spent virtually all his life at the service of the Qajar court.
The second position of the legation was held by first secretary Ivan Alekseevich Zinoviev (1835-1917). After a spell in Romania, Zinoviev became his country’s minister plenipotentiary in Persia between 1876-83. But, he was already stationed there in the 1860s. Tinco Lycklama met him several times, and it is together with Zinoviev that he was received in private audience by Naser al-Din Shah.
Someone who does not appear on the formal list of the Almanach de Gotha of 1866 (see notes), is Théodore Edmond de Krebel (1841-1926). This is interesting, because Tinco refers to him once, telling us that he had to pay the man a visit to return a favor. He calls Krebel an “attaché” to the legation. Whereas Krebel is officially present in Tehran in the 1870s, he doesn’t appear so in the 1860s. We found a reference calling him a “Russian agent” – which can mean many things. Théodore Edmond de Krebel also turns up later in diplomatic positions in Italy, including as consul-general in Genua – and dies in Rome. It so happens that Krebel had been chamberlain to the Russian tsar – but we currently lack further detail.
As said earlier, we need some serious digging in Russian archives to gain a better understanding of the diplomatic activities (and their operators) in 1860s Persia. Perhaps it will help us to learn a few more things about Tinco himself.
But, today, on September 20th 1866, it’s party time at Zergendeh – once again. The occasion was a celebration to honor the anniversary of tsar Alexander II. This can’t be his birthday, as the Tsar was born in March – nor his reign as that started in March 1855. Probably his coronation of September 7, 1855 was the belated pretext for having a good time.
All the corps diplomatique of Tehran was present, as well as almost all the ministers of the Shah’s government and many high dignitaries. It was a magnificant evening, with formidable banquet, excellent music (directed by the Shah’s chief musician, the Frenchman Rouyon), and with a terrific finale of fireworks that lit the skies of the Chimran hills.
At this occasion, Zinoviev presented Tinco Lycklama to Yaya Khan, the aide de camp of Naser al-Din Shah. This man of confidence voiced the puzzlement of the Shah that, after spending five months in Tehran, Tinco had not yet asked for an audience. In fact, Yaya Khan put it like this: the Shah would be very surprised if Tinco were to leave Tehran without asking for an appointment.
The message was clear. Everyone in Tehran knew that Tinco was about to travel the country – certainly to satisfy his curiosity for the people, its history and its ancient sites. But, Tinco was also about to travel to Baghdad – in Ottoman territory – and intended to spend the winter there. The next summer, Tinco would return to Teheran, and it is evident that his entire travel plans (including a long trip along the Ottoman-Persian border) were very well known.
Tinco was friendly with the French, the British and the Russians. And, he had developed close relationships into the Qajar Shah’s inner circle. Indeed, an audience with the Shah was appropriate, and it would happen on September 23, 1866.
- Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique pour l’année 1867, published November 1866 by Justus Perthes, Gotha. (see link…)
- Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique pour l’année 1868, published November 1867 by Justus Perthes, Gotha. (see link…)