The Iranian public and the government have criticized Russia's ambassador for honoring a 19th-century forerunner, whom they blame for humiliating their country.
The fracas arose after the embassy’s posted February 10 a photo of the Russian ambassador, Levan Dzhagaryan, laying a wreath at the foot of a monument to Alexander Griboyedov inside the embassy compound on Diplomats Day.
The social-media posts expressed outrage because of Griboyedov’s role in the 1828 Torkmanchay Treaty, ending the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828) and under which the Persian Empire ceding areas in the south Caucasus to the Russian Empire. Griboyedov was killed by a mob in Tehran in 1929 after being appointed Russia's ambassador.
In recent months anti-Russian sentiments have been quite high in Iran. Many Iranians interpreted the embassy's recent post as a reminder of Iranians' “humiliation” by Tsarist Russia, as some criticized its coincidence with the Islamic Revolution's anniversary, and others saying it amounted to a threat.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday that while the ministry had registered a protest, Tehran and Moscow had "excellent relations."
"Any prominent diplomat and seasoned ambassador knows that he must not do things that hurt the feeling of the people of his host country,” the spokesman said. “These matters have obviously been relayed [to Moscow] through the appropriate channel and will be relayed in the future.”
Lingering in history
"We should learn from history but not linger in it,” assistant foreign minister Raoul Mousavi wrote Tuesday. “Lingering in history does not benefit relations between nations.” Mousavi shared a photo showing damage to the minaret of Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad from Russian artillery shells in 1912, part of the instability that led the Cossack-trained Reza Khan seizing power in 1921 and proclaiming himself Shah.
Former Iranian diplomat Kourosh Ahmadi in a Telegram post quoted by Hamshahri newspaper argued that while killing Griboyedov was unjustifiable, the ambassador had treated the Iranian government, royalty, and people with disrespect in enforcing the Torkmanchay treaty, a staple of Iranian school text-books. "It's very strange for an ambassador to honor a person with such [unfavorable] background in the country where he is posted and even to publicize it there," Ahmadi wrote.
The Russian embassy has explained that the wreath-laying ceremony is held annually as part of Diplomats Day and was unconnected to any commemoration of the 1979 Revolution. "We consider these publications provocative and aimed at undermining friendly and cordial relations between Russia and Iran,” the embassy said. “The Russian Embassy will respond firmly in the same way to such fake insinuations in the future.”
The Russian embassy suggested in a series of tweets on February 11 that Iran International TV, the United States-funded Radio Farda, and BBC Persian had all blown up social media comments.