IMAGES FROM THE ENDGAME Persia through a Russian Lens 1901-1914

Exhibition - Introduction

10 October - 9 December 2006
Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Russell Square, London

Photographs taken by Alexander Iyas during his stay in Persia from 1901 to 1914.

Organised by

The Iran Heritage Foundation in association with the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London).

Supported by

University of the Arts London, the British Academy and the Finnish Museum of Photography Helsinki.

Curated by

John Falconer (Curator of Photographs, British Library) & John Tchalenko (Reader in Drawing and Cognition, University of the Arts London).

Academic advisor

John Gurney (University of Oxford).


Alexander Ivanovitch Iyas, officer in the Tsar's Lithuanian Regiment, had arrived in Persia in 1901, in the small town of Turbat-i Haydari near the Afghan border. He was armed with several cameras, including the Kodak Panoram taking wide-angle images of 1420. As Head of the Quarantine Cordon his mission was to ensure that Bubonic Plague would not be carried to Russia by trading caravans coming from British India, but the British were convinced he was simply there to gather intelligence. In 1912 he was appointed Consul in Soujbulak, a Kurdish town south of Lake Urmiyeh near Persia's western border with Turkey. Throughout his years in Persia he documented with remarkable photographs the places, people and events he encountered, providing us today with a rare Russian point of view of the Great Game - the rivalry between Britain and Russia for the domination of Central Asia. Iyas was also a linguist and fluent in Persian, Kurmanji and Turkish, and his photographs betray a natural feeling for subject well in advance of the prevalent Orientalist approach of the times. The discovery of the Alexander Iyas collection of photographs of Persia 1901-1914 has unearthed a highly important archive which documents important aspects of the social history of Northeast Persia during a very critical and eventful period of the country's history. Iyas was assassinated during one of the opening battles of World War 1 on the Middle Eastern front. However, by a truly remarkable set of circumstances, his negatives, some of which had been recovered on a fallen Turkish officer during the Battle of Tabriz in 1915, were saved and recently rediscovered.


Admission free.


This event is marked by the publication of a fully illustrated book coinciding with the exhibition. The book, which is written by John Tchalenko (title: Images from the Endgame: Persia Through a Russian Lens 1901-1914) - including the vital commentaries by Alexander Iyas on the circumstances of his stay in Persia - is available through the publisher (Saqi Books). Get free postage and packing (world-wide) until 1 October 2006. In order to benefit from this offer, mention the 'Iran Heritage Foundation' when placing your order. Retail price 19.99 GBP (paper). The book will be published in July 2006. Contact information for orders:
Telephone: +44 (20) 72219347
Fax: +44 (20) 72292911

Enquiries (Iran Heritage Foundation)

The Iran Heritage Foundation, 5 Stanhope Gate, London W1K 1AH. 44 20 7493 4766 (tel), 44 20 7499 9293 (fax),