By: Mir M.Hosseini
For years Soviet transmitters beamed a propaganda barrage against neighboring Iran, including appeals for insurrection against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Then Moscow's line became more seductive than destructive. Soviet Chief of State, Leonid L. Brezhnev on a state visit arrived in Tehran on Nov, 17, 1963.
Relations between Iran are USSR took a bitter turn in 1950s when Iran and USA signed a military agreement. The Soviet criticized Shah in every way especially on land reforms of the White Revolution. But on Sep, 15, 1962 Shah's excellent decision to turn down American request for missile bases in Iran did not go unnoticed. USSR sent a high-level envoy in Dec, 1963 to pave the way for normalizing bilateral ties seeking cooperation in cultural, economic and technical fields.
During his visit, Brezhnev as the highest ranking Soviet official accelerated solving key border and customs issues. Agreements and memorandums were signed and uncommon cheers for his royal majesty by a Soviet leader signaled a turning point in the relation between the two countries. The Soviet leader's friendly attitudes surprised most Iranian officials who had only heard the barking sound of the Tas news agency other than Western propaganda against them. Brezhnev promised to build Iran a steel-mill and help Shah's ambition to industrialize Iran but probably his biggest surprise for the Pahlavi family's was when he talked about his belief in God, easing away all prejudice about the Soviets as a atheist state.
During Reza Shah's reign (1925-1941), Germans had started constructing a steel-mill factory but the Allied Powers invaded Iran in 1941 and Reza Shah was overthrown. Germany lost the war and all the equipments were left to rot at the site near Karaj. After the end of World War II, both UK and US were only interested in selling weapons in return for cheap oil and did not show any interest in infrastructural development of Iran. Iranian politicians had to play the East and West blocks against each other using a delicate policy without leaning too much towards any side.
The next visit by Brezhnev to Tehran took place on Oct, 6, 1974. Many things had changed by then; the Zobahan steel-mill had been operational in Isfahan for four years and the Soviet leader was offering the Shah to consider buying weapons from the USSR but Shah was more interested in obtaining the Western technology over the Soviets.
The Iran-Soviet relations became bitter-sweet after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and subsequently after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 but then gradually Russia evolved as a key player in the region and put its weight on Iran to counter-balance the hegemony of the US which had became a hostile state breaking diplomatic ties with Iran since 1979.