The Confessions of Dolgoruki

The Crisis of Identity and the Creation of a Master Narrative
  • Mina Yazdani


In his discussion of the “tenuous” relationship between historiography and literature, Hayden White mentions that, while historiography arises against a background of “literary” discourse, it shares with it the “systems of meaning-production (the modes of emplotment).” It is by virtue of its subject matter (“real” rather than “imaginary” events) that historiography differentiates itself from literature.1 White would perhaps be intrigued to learn that a work of fiction, masquerading as historiography, in time created a long-lasting master narrative. The Confessions of Dolgoruki was a narrative that appeared in 1930s Iran, purporting to be the memoirs or political confessions of Dimitriy Ivanovich Dolgorukov (d. 1867), the Russian minister in Iran from 1845 to 1854.2 According to these Confessions, in the 1830s, Dolgoruki, who had been commissioned as translator to the Russian embassy, came to Iran with a secret mission. He subsequently converted to Islam, studied under a certain Hakim Ahmad Gilani and donned the clerics’ garments. He employed a number of people as spies, among them Mirza Hosayn ’Ali, the future founder of the Baha’i religion. After returning to Russia, he set off for the ’Atabat (the Shi’i shrine cities of Iraq) under the alias Shaykh ‘Isa Lankarani. Upon arriving in the ’Atabat, he persuaded a young seminary student from Shiraz to return to Iran and launch the Babi movement. He subsequently returned to Iran himself as the Russian ambassador and began to bring about the appearance of the Baha’i religion by giving instructions to Mirza Hosayn ’Ali.


World Order Conspiracy Theory Master Narrative Handwritten Text Foreign Power 
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    Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” History and Theory 23, no. 1 (February 1984): 1–33. Quotation is from page 21. This chapter supports White’s arguments on the ideological function of narrative history.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Abbas Amanat and Farzin Vejdani 2012

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  • Mina Yazdani

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