Originally published online in 2009
INTRODUCTION: The history of producing a cultural publication in Iran dates back to 1918 when Ahmad Shah, the seventh and the last ruler of Qajar dynasty, was in power. The name of the publication was FACULTY (in Persian: Daneshkadeh) and it was a monthly magazine of a newly founded Literary Society of Faculty (in Persian: Anjoman-e-Adabi-e-Daneshkadeh). The organizers of that Society were poet Mohammad Taghi Bahaar, writer and poet Saeed Nafissi, poet Rashid Yassemi, and historian Abbas Eghbal Ashtiaani (AEA). The second monthly cultural magazine, SPRING (in Persian: Bahaar), published by Etesamolmolk in 1920 to which poetess Parvin Etessami, the daughter of the publisher, contributed regularly. SPRING was actually a main vehicle for the promotion of Parvin’s literary talent in a male dominant society. Those two magazines could not survive long and they were closed after a short time. Both FACULTY and SPRING as other publications called [magazines] contained articles on popular topics of interest to the general public and were written at the reading level of most of the population. A gap in the market of an academic periodical featuring scholarly articles on literature, history, geography (written in a more sophisticated register) was filled when in 1946 AEA published the Journal of SOUVENIR, in Persian: Majaleh-e-Yadegaar (MEY), which was in fact the first Iranian Journal of Culture.
HIS LIFE: AEA was born in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, in 1896. His father, Mahammad Ali was originally from Ashtiaan, an ancient city located in the northeast of Central Province of Iran. Mohammad Ali assigned his young son, AEA, to work as a carpenter assistant in a store next to a Traditional Learning Center (in Persian: Maktab Khaaneh) of Tehran. That center or school named, in Persian, as Madresseh-e-Ashaikh Haadi, and it was famous for its well-educated instructors. AEA used to watch many boys of his own age who were able to go to the school everyday. He could realize that those boys were getting an education and they would be soon seeking a better lifestyle. That possibly irritated him and he therefore asked his boss, the carpenter, to allow him to go to the school for one hour per day and be not paid for his absence. Upon his boss approval, AEA started his school years while he was also working. At 14, AEA was among one of promising students who could enroll at the House of Sciences and Techniques (in Persian: Darolfonoon), which was the only systematic school of Iran at the time. At Darolfonoon, he demonstrated to be one of the best and a very talented student while he enjoyed the supervision and guidance of the late scholar Mohammad Ali Foroughi (MAF) as his teacher and mentor. (MAF belonged to a family of learning and politics during the reigns of Ahmad Shah Qajar, 1909-1925, and Reza Shah Pahlavi, 1925-1941).
In 1921 and at 25, as a graduate of Darolofonoon he was appointed as a teacher in the same institution, and he authored various textbooks for the courses taught there. In 1925, AEA got a governmental scholarship to go to University of Paris, France. This university is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne, and it remains one of the most famous and prestigious of the universities in Europe, having produced Nobel Prize winners from its faculty and student body, as well as a number of the great intellectuals, political theorists, scientists, physicians, engineers, and others. He got his BA in Literature from La Sorbonne in 1930 and he then returned to Tehran to work as a professor in Literature in Teachers College (in Persian: Darolmo-Alemin-e-Aali). In 1933, he went back to Sorbonne and carried out a research project on the History of Persian Literature. That work led him to obtain his doctorate degree from the newly founded University of Tehran (UT). In 1938, AEA was appointed as a history professor in UT and a member of the Academy of Persian Language & Culture (in Persian: Farhanggestan-e-Iran), and he held these positions until 1950. In 1946, he founded MEY, the first Iranian Journal of Culture, with the collaboration of a group of Iranian scholars. The Journal survived until 1951. AEA was then appointed as the Cultural Attaché at the Iranian Embassies in Turkey and Italy, and he was resided in Rome, Italy, where he died at 59 on February 11, 1955 (in Persian Calendar: Bahman 22, 1334). In his lifelong efforts of promoting the cultural and historical information of Iran, AEA authored, translated, reconstructed, end-noted, and footnoted many literary, historical, and geographical books. The discussion of those books, however, falls outside the purview of this article. The purpose of this article is to focus on his masterpiece, Yadegar aka Majaleh-e-Yadegaar (MEY), which is believed to be the first Iranian Journal of Culture
HIS JOURNAL AND HIS COLLEAGUES: MEY was a monthly Journal, which regularly published from 1946 to 1951 in Tehran. Each issue of MEY was usually composed of editorial, communication, cultural, historical, and geographical sections. In the editorial section, written always by AEA, the important cultural subjects were presented and discussed. This section was also called the Questions of the Day (in Persian: Massael-e-Rooz). Here is a part of one of those editorials, which is still legitimate and valid: “There is a value in knowing something about the nature of culture and its relationship to the individual. In addition to living in a physical environment, an individual lives in a cultural environment consisting of manmade physical objects, social institutions, and ideas and beliefs. The culture of any people is the product of history and is built up over time largely through processes, which are, as far as the individual is concerned, beyond his awareness. It is by means of culture that the young learn to adapt themselves to the physical environment and to the people with whom they associate”.
In the communication section the cultural, historical, and geographical questions and inquiries posted by the readers were answered. This section was literary called We & the Readers (in Persian: Maa va Khanandeh-gaan). Other sections usually covered cultural and historical events, history of ancient Iran, Greek, Arab and Mongolian invasions, rebirths of Imperial Dynasties, Persian language and literature, geographical sites, old scripts, historical personalities, photos and maps, and many more.
MEY enjoyed the collaboration of scholars like Mohammad Ghazvini (researcher of Persian Culture), Ghassem Ghani (researcher of Persian Literature), Saeed Nafisi (writer and poet), Hossein Saadat Nouri (researcher of Qajar History), Abdolhossein Navaaey, aka Abdolhossein Navaei (historian), Mohammad Ali Mokhber (engineer), and others. MEY had a policy to publish a book as an annual supplement to the Journal. Herat Dispute of 1856 and Anglo-Persian War (in Persian: Jang-e-Irano-Engleess), translated by late Hossein Saadat Nouri, and the Biography of Molk Aara (a historical personality of Qajar era) edited by late Abdolhossein Navaaey were among those books that were also offered freely to all MEY subscribers.
TODAY, MANY RESEARCHERS IN IRAN AND AROUND THE WORLD STILL TURN TO THE PAGES OF THE BOOKS PUBLISHED BY LATE ABBAS EGHBAL ASHTIAANI OR TO THE ARTICLES APPEARED IN HIS MASTERPIECE OF YADEGAAR TO GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING ON DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE IRANIAN CULTURE AND HISTORY.
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
BROWNE, E. G. (1998): Literary History of Persia, ed., (Four volumes, 2256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing), Ibex Publishers, Bethesda, Md (USA).
MORADI, H. and PAJOOH, P. (1974): Roles of Graduated Iranian Students Abroad on the Changes in the Society of Iran (in Persian), ed., Tehran, Iran.
SAADAT NOURY, M. (2005): Online Articles on the First Iranians.
SAADAT NOURY, M. (2009): Various Articles on Persian Culture and the History of History.
SAFA, Z. (1969): Various Notes & Articles on Persian Literature (in Persian).
SHAFAGH, R. (1956): Hoistory of Persian Literature (in Persian), ed., Tehran, Iran.
TABATABAII MAJD, Gh. ((1996): Farsi Encyclopedia (in Persian), 2nd ed., Zarrin Publications, Tehran, Iran.
VARIOUS SOURCES: Notes and Articles on Abbas Eghbal Ashtiani and Yadegar.
WIKIPEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA (2009): Online Article on Abbas Eghbal Ashtiani (in Persian).
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