Mīrzā Kūchak Khān
1880 - December 2, 1921) was an early twentieth century revolutionary, a Gilani Nationalist and the president of the Republic Of Gilan. He is considered a national hero in modern Iranianhistory. He was the founder of a revolutionary movement based in the forests of Gilan in northern Iran that became known as the Nehzat-e Jangal (The Jungle Movement). This uprising started in 1914 and remained active against internal and foreign enemies until 1921 when the movement was completely abandoned after the demise of Mirza Kuchak Khan.
He studied theology (as the only available formal education at the time) to become a cleric at Jame Rasht in Rasht and later at Mahmudiyeh schools in Tehran. On the eve of the Iranian constitutional revolution as all the intelligentsia and ordinary people became more involved in politics, Mirza quit his studies to join the movement. Finally in an Imperial decree the Shah of Iran Muzaffar al-Din Shah agreed to a constitutional monarchy in August 1906.
However, the ruling feudalistic society was not ready to give up on its privileges and respect the newly elected Parliament (Majlis). In June 1908 the parliament was shut down during a coup d'état ordered by the new monarch, Mohammad Ali Shah. The Russian Cossack Brigade under the command of Colonel Liakhov serving the Shah bombarded the parliament and arrested pro-democracy leaders, activists, journalists, and members of Parliament. Uprisings all over the country followed in particular in Tabriz, Ardabil and Rasht. During the Tabriz uprising Kuchak Khan tried to join Sattar Khan & Haj Baba Khan-e- Ardabili's forces, but was unable to actively participate due to an illness. He was injured in the Constitutionalist war, and had to travel to Baku and Tbilisi for medical attention.
After going through a period of renewed and bloody dictatorship nicknamed the Short Dictatorship (or Lesser Autocracy), in July 1909 the national revolutionary forces from Gilanand central Iran (Bakhtiari tribes) were united to attack and conquer the capital Tehran. Mirza Kuchak Khan was one of the lower rank commanders of the force that invaded the capital from North (under the command of Sepahdar Aazam Mohammad Vali Khan Tonekaboni).
Unfortunately, given the shortcomings of the advanced social thinkers and activists of the time on one hand and the stronger establishment of the old autocracy on the other hand, again the same privileged class and their political representatives took control of the new regime. The freedom fighters were not satisfied and in fact were disarmed, in some cases using force. Meanwhile, the direct and indirect manipulation of the country's internal politics by Tsarist Russians and the British added to the sufferings of the people and resulted in social unrest. It was during such tumultuous period that Mirza Kuchak Khan, in collaboration with the Society of Islamic Union, started his uprising in the northern forests (Southern Caspian). Initially, the headquarters of the movement was in Kasma. Mirza Kuchak Khan's return to Rasht was not easy since he had been expelled from Gilan by the Russian consulate for five years. His cause seems to have been a mixture of that of the newly emerging national bourgeoisie and downtrodden peasants and therefore gained momentum soon after it started. The Jangal forces (locally referred to as 'Jangalis' i.e., 'People of the Jungle' in Persian) defeated the local governmental and Russian troops which added to their reputation as potential saviors of the ideas of the constitutional revolution.
On June 12, 1918 Manjil was the site of a battle between the Jangali troops and the joint British and White Russian forces. The latter force (led by General Dunsterville and Colonel Lazar Bicherakhov) although formally just trying to organize the return of Russian soldiers back home, in reality was planning to pass through Manjil as the only passage to the Caspian in order to reach Baku and fight against the newly formed Baku commune (led by Stepan Shahumian). General Dunsterville's private diaries and notes, including those kept during his command of the Dunsterforce Mission to North Persia and Baku, are transcribed from the original by General Dunsterville's great granddaughter, and are co-located on the Great War Primary Documents Archive. Mirza Koochek Khan's troops were defeated in this war because of the use of artillery, armored car and airplanes by the joint forces. Mirza's field commander was a German officer (Major Von Pashen) who had joined the Jangal movement after being released by them from the British prison in Rasht.
The Jangal movement was further boosted and gained gravity after the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia. In May 1920 the Soviet Navy led by Fyodor Raskolnikov and accompanied by Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze entered the Caspian port of Anzali. This mission was declared to be only in pursue of the Russian vessels and ammunition taken to Anzali by the White Russian counter-revolutionary general Denikin, who had been given asylum by British forces in Anzali.