Revolutionary antique hunting


Revolutionary antique hunting
by Ari Siletz

On the night of the 14th of July 1789 nothing out of the ordinary was going on in Iranian politics. Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar, still a few years away from the Persian throne was locked in conflict with Lotf Ali Khan Zand, still a few years away from being betrayed, blinded and choked. Same old same old! The real action that night in July was happening a few thousand miles to the north, in Versailles.

There, Duke Rochefoucauld-Liancourt hastily entered the palace of Louis 16th of France, bowed, and reported that the Bastille prison had been stormed by the people of Paris. Still not blockbuster material for historical action dramas. Stuffing a handkerchief down Lotf Ali Khan’s throat with a stick would be a bigger box office draw. The French drama won the 1789 Oscar less for the action than for the dialog. “Is this a revolt?” Louis asked, to which the duke replied, “No Sir, this is a revolution.” With this repartee Liancourt sent the word “revolution” on its way to acquiring its modern political meaning.

The king saw the Bastille event as a defiance of authority, something his soldiers or even reformed policies could try to deal with. Liancourt on the other hand was thinking in terms of historic inevitability. He was saying there was nothing any king could do, no matter how powerful or how smart he was.

To be sure, in scientific circles the word “revolution” already did have connotations of inevitability. The planets revolved around the Sun in an orderly manner, and inevitably returned to their starting point, i.e. in one revolution. Putting History in its own celestial sphere, thinkers could glimpse the idea that greater laws of social origin trumped the laws of kings. Even the French saw their goal as a return to a romanticized version of Roman and Greek societies. We also see this in Farsi word enghelaab, which means, “return” or “turning over.” But Liancourt ‘s use of “revolution” signaled a progression of understandings until the word no longer means an inevitable and irresistible return to the origin. Nowadays “revolution” implies irreversible upheaval into something totally new, as in industrial revolution, or digital revolution.

In this modern sense, Iran’s 1906 revolution is properly named, as it tried to establish an order never before experienced by the nation. In the antique sense, the accession of the Pahlavi dynasty was a revolution too, though it is never called that. It was a cycling back to Iran’s old system of governance, and nominally did strive towards a romanticized version of a glorious past. The 1979 revolution, however, is not properly named in the modern context. There was only a superficial change from a monarchial form of absolutism, not too unfamiliar with handkerchiefs and sticks, to a theocratic order similarly comfortable with rapes and hangings. In this upheaval of 2010 the Supreme Leader is about to ask, “Is this a revolt?” The participants in the storming of Evin or Kahrizak, should make sure that Liancourt can confidently reply “Non Sire, c’est une enghelaab.”


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more from Ari Siletz

Analysing the analogy

by divaneh on

Thanks dear Ari for another thoughtful analysis. In our case unfortunately it seems that revolution has meant revolving like stars and returning to the same point. Hopefully this time we follow the path of a shooting star.



by Princess on

Both you and Mr. Dehkhoda got it!

"Taghallob e '57" it is, then. And that's what I am going to use from now on. 

Ari Siletz

Princess, "taghallob e 79"

by Ari Siletz on

The etymological suggestion kindly provided by Dehkhoda rings poetically (and factually) true.  





انقلاب . [ اِ ق ِ ] (ع مص ) برگشتن . (منتهی الارب )(ناظم الاطباء) (از اقرب الموارد). بازگردیدن . (ترجمان القرآن جرجانی ). برگردیدن و واژگون شدن و برگشتن از کاری و حالی . (غیاث اللغات ) (آنندراج ). واگردیدن . (تاج المصادر بیهقی ) (مصادر زوزنی ) (مجمل اللغة). تحول . بازگردانیدن . (مجمل اللغة). برگشتن از کاری . (مؤید الفضلاء). برگشتن . تقلب . انعکاس . (یادداشت مؤلف ).


Strongly to the point

by Monda on

Concise and clear, just the way I like to understand them Revolutions. 

Darius Kadivar

Food For Thought: Britain's 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688

by Darius Kadivar on

The Glorious Revolution is also occasionally termed the Bloodless Revolution saw the overthrow of King James II of England replaced by William III of England. It is regarded as  the begining of parliamentary democracy in Great Britain which led to draf the Bill of Rights. A document that  subsequenlty also influenced the American Constitution :

RESTORATION: Britain's 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 and the 'Bill of Rights'



by Princess on

excellent analysis, Ari! And like most powerful observations, its strength is derived from its simplicity. 

It might be useful to start referring to the '79 event as something else. Any suggestions for a more appropriate term?


Darius Kadivar

Your welcome Ari Jaan

by Darius Kadivar on

Feel Free to Embed it in your blog if you wish for all to see.

Warm Regards va Beh Omideh Peeroozyeh Nahayee va Democracyeh Vagheyee !



The Phantom Of The Opera

From Versailles, to Niavaran, to Evin...

by The Phantom Of The Opera on

I, most humbly, recuse myself from any scholastic analysis of this article, only to entertain its practical and mundane characteristic, which in my opinion, is wholly based on "high expectations". I don't see a revolution as a process; it is, I think, an event. And like any other event its impact and, ramifications are to be assessed after its occurrence; be it a victorious one like the French, or a failed one like our own in 1979, when the Shah was given a piece of paper to recite his own eulogy.

I share, or I try to share the excitement and enthusiasm which have filled Iranian social and political arena; but allow me to confide to you in a hush-hush manner that I have never heard of a revolution taken place by appointment. 

I hope I will be proved wrong.   

The Pahlavis, all mullahs, and all public figures associated with the Green Movement  must disclose the source and the amount of their wealth/income.

Ari Siletz

Wonderful clip Darius!

by Ari Siletz on

Edith adds a lot to this blog.

Sargord Pirouz

Ari, returns to a monarchial

by Sargord Pirouz on

Ari, returns to a monarchial system are termed "restorations."

And qualitative or ethical perceptions regarding governance are not applicable to the political term "revolution."

Darius Kadivar

Excellent Mon Ami Ari: Ah Ca Ira, Ca Ira ... ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Wonderful Comparative study.

I just hope that your predictions come out true on the 22nd of Bahman.

I would Add:

Ah Ca Ira, Ca Ira Ces Mullahs ( Sauf Karoubi) On Les Pendra !

Édith Piaf - Ah! Ça Ira!: