I believe that there is no other way more accurate and reliable than studying artists’ reactions to the current affairs of their world to learn unbiased history. History through Caricatures is one of these ways.
Separating Lion from Sun
A Caricature from Molla Nasraddin (magazine)
15 of August 1925
This caricature was published at the end of the Qajar Dynasty in Iran and during the Soviet Union in a magazine that was printed in South Caucasus (countries such as Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan which were separated from Iran and added to Russia during Qajar). The person in the front is representing England and a traitor from Iran is helping him from behind.
The Lion says: ” If someone doesn’t push from behind, the one in the front wouldn’t be capable of doing a thing.”
To understand this caricature, you must first learn about an ancient Iranian(Persian) emblem called Lion and Sun. You need to know how the map of Iran ended up looking like a cat!
You also need to understand how a country like England which was first shaped as a kingdom uniting Anglo-Saxon tribes across modern-day England in 925 A.D. ended up having the lion as their symbol. Be aware that the lion is not native to this country. (The UK, Britain, Great Britain, The British Isles, England – what’s the difference?)
The Harmless Necessary Cat
Punch, 2 October 1907
The name of this cartoon is extracted from The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. This reference quite clearly indicates that the Persian cat in this cartoon is looked upon with no respect or admiration.
“In 1907, Britain and Russia prepared to divide Iran into “spheres of influence”, and Mohammed Ali Shah welcomed this as an opportunity to overthrow the constitutional government and re-establish the absolute monarchy.”(Iran Chamber Society: History of Iran: The origin and development of imperialist contention in Iran; 1884-1921.)
British Lion (to Russian Bear). “Look here! You can play with his head, and I can play with his tail, and we can both stroke the small of his back.” Persian Cat. “I don’t remember having been consulted about this!”
As Between Friends
Punch magazine, 13 December 1911
“A cartoon from the English satirical magazine Punch, or The London Charivari. With the Russian Bear sitting on the tail of the Persian Cat while the British Lion looks on, it represents a new friendship regarding the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 and their plan to divide Persia.” (Alamy)
The caption reads: ‘AS BETWEEN FRIENDS. British Lion (to Russian Bear): “IF WE HADN’T SUCH A THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING I MIGHT ALMOST BE TEMPTED TO ASK WHAT YOU’RE DOING THERE WITH OUR LITTLE PLAYFELLOW.”
This cartoon is perfectly showing the bullying and condescending natures of those who call themselves civilized!
The cat that wanted to be alone
Punch magazine, December 1945
This cartoon is showing the shadows of the British lion, American eagle and Russian bear looming over the Iranian cat. (Propagandapolis)
To understand this cartoon we need to go back to 1921, the time a real nationalist called Reza Khan( later, Reza Shah Pahlavi) came into the picture. His reforms indicated a striving for an Iran that according to scholar Ervand Abrahamian—would be “free of clerical influence, nomadic uprisings, and ethnic differences”. (Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power)
I could guess how humiliated Reza Khan as an Iranian/Persian must have felt just by looking at these clearly rude Punch Caricatures!
To better understand this cartoon you must know about the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941 following their long-planned strategy after exiling Reza Shah. You must also understand the Iran crisis of 1946.
Iran during both the First and Second World Wars declared neutrality but as you could imagine and see in this cartoon, nobody cared!
Mistake or Ignorance
Just a quick note about some of the websites and so-called scholars and professors on Middle Eastern history; Iran was known as Persia and not Iraq eventhough Iraq was part of Persia/Iran for centuries from ancient to modern time. Also, Persia has never been part of the Ottoman Empire. (Read the caption underneath the caricature on the Middle Tennessee State University website)