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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

There were several other excitements before I left Teheran


Several

other high officials were arrested in connection with these army frauds, and would probably have lost their heads, had it not been for the special kindness of the Shah who punished them by heavy fines, repayment of the sums appropriated, and exile. It is a well-known fact in Persia that whether the frauds begin high up or lower down in the scale of officials, the pay often does not reach the private soldier, and if it does is generally reduced to a minimum.

The food rations, too, if received by the men at all, are most irregular, which compels the soldiers to look out for themselves at the expense of the general public. This is a very great pity, for with what the Shah pays for the maintenance of the army, he could easily, were the money not appropriated for other purposes, keep quite an efficient little force, properly instructed, clothed, and armed.

The drilling of the soldiers, which I witnessed just before the Shah's birthday, partook very much of the character of a theatrical performance. The drilling, which hardly ever lasted more than a couple of hours a day, was limited to teaching the soldiers how to keep time while marching and presenting arms. The brass bands played _fortissimo_--but not _benissimo_--all the time, and various evolutions were gone through in the spacious _place d'armes_ before the Italian General, in Persian employ, and a bevy of highly-dressed Persian officers. There was a great variety

of ragged uniforms, and head-gears, from kolah caps to brass and tin helmets, and the soldiers' ages ranged from ten to sixty.

The soldiers seemed very good-humoured and obedient, and certainly, when I saw them later before the Shah in their new uniforms, they looked quite different and had not the wretched appearance they present in daily life.

But these infantry soldiers do not bear comparison with the Russian-drilled Persian Cossacks. The jump is enormous, and well shows what can be done with these men if method and discipline are used. Of course perfection could not be expected in such a short time, especially considering the difficulties and interference which foreign officers have to bear from the Persians, but it is certainly to be regretted that such excellent material is now practically wasted and useless.

There were several other excitements before I left Teheran. The head Mullah--a most important person--died, and the whole population of Teheran turned out to do him honour when his imposing funeral took place. Curiously enough, the entire male Jewish community marched in the funeral procession--an event unprecedented, I am told, in the annals of Persian Mussulman history. The head Mullah, a man of great wisdom and justice, had, it was said, been very considerate towards the Jews and had protected them against persecution: hence this mark of respect and grief at his death.

The discovery of the ex-Minister of War's frauds, the death of the head Mullah, the reported secret attempts to poison the Shah, the prospects of a drought, the reported murder of two Russians at Resht, and other minor sources of discontent, all coming together, gave rise to fears on the part of Europeans that a revolution might take place in Teheran. But such rumours are so very frequent in all Eastern countries that generally no one attaches any importance to them until it is too late. Europeans are rather tolerated than loved in Persia, and a walk through the native streets or bazaars in Teheran is quite sufficient to convince one of the fact. Nor are the Persians to be blamed, for there is hardly a nation in Asia that has suffered more often and in a more shameful manner from European speculators and adventurers than the land of Iran.


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