Fellowships and Bursaries

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation’s mission is to preserve and promote the rich and diverse cultural and artistic heritage of the Greater Iranian world in all its diverse aspects, with a particular emphasis on continuities, areas of neglect, and on interaction with other cultures.

Bahram Adjorloo

A Visiting Fellowship was awarded to Bahram Adjorloo while a PhD student at Tehran University for a sabbatical year at University of College London’s Institute of Archaeology, to assist the completion of his work on the Neolithisation process in Azerbaijan.

He is now professor of archaeology at Tabriz Islamic Art University in charge of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties .

Mahvash Alemi

Mahvash Alemi was awarded a grant for research on Persian gardens in travelogues of the Safavid era in the collection of the British Library and particularly to study a contemporary account of Ardabil in Am Hofe des Persischen Grosskönigs:1684-1685 (At the Court of the Persian Great King) by Engelbert Kaempfer.

Pooriya Alimoradi

A travel grant awarded in 2012 to Pooriya Alimoradi, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, to present Zoroastrian Clergy Dealing with Rebellions in the Eighth to Ninth-Century Iran According to the Eschatological Texts at ‘Celebrating a Treasure: 140 Years of Meherjirana Library’ in Navsari, Gujarat, in January 2013.

Abstract: Not long after the Arab invasion, Iranians, like most of the other conquered nations, started to rise against the new rulers. Amongst the list of the major revolts, I focus on those who had directly or indirectly used pre-Islamic identity to gain more attention between Iranians, namely: Spāhbad Xorshid, Ostād Sis, Ishaq Turk, Bābak, Māziār, BēhĀfarid, Hamza Āzarak, Rāvandis, Sinbād the Magus and Al-Muqanna’. But the question is while we expect that the Zoroastrian clergy would welcome any revolt against Arabs as such, this did not happen. As we can see in the Middle Persian sources, most of these revolts were perceived as horrible events.

In this article I am trying to show that the Zoroastrian priesthood, as the custodians of the Dēn, had persuasive reasons to compromise on Arab supremacy. After the Arab invasion of the Iranian plateau, most social structures remained the same. New rulers, not familiar with the requirements of managing this vast empire, needed ex-officers to operate the huge administrative system. Finding themselves unable to defeat the new power, compromising with the new rulers enabled the defeated former nobility (mōbeds, āzādān, dehqāns, etc.) to retain their status at the top of the social pyramid of their communities.

From another point of view, revolts often lead to devastation, demolition, destruction and massacres. Large numbers of people (including Zoroastrians and their clergies) died and many fire temples were demolished. So, in this situation, the Zoroastrian clergy preferred to have a powerful, more stable government – even though non-Zoroastrian – to guarantee their safety, despite the fact that they had to pay gaziyat (jizya). The same attitude is visible among Shiʻite ʻUlama to prefer a pagan government over a cruel one.

Farhad Assar

A two year grant was awarded to independent scholar Dr Farhad Assar in 2007 for groundbreaking research on Parthian and Seleucid numismatics and history. Apart from his prolific publication record devoted to revisions of Parthian chronology (such as in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, Parthica, Electrum, Name-ye Iran Bastan, Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society) within the larger framework of the Achaemenid, Seleucid and Sasanian eras, and to bold reassessments of the hitherto understudied Arsacid Dynasty that dominated Greater Iran for half a millenium, he was appointed to update the third edition of the late David Sellwood’s An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia, which will be published by Spinks. In 2013 he also published in Persian Parthian Coins. ‘Sekkehaye Ashkani; Baznegarie Tarikh va Sekkehshenasiy Ashkanian‘.

Stephanie Cronin

A Fellowship was awarded to Dr Stephanie Cronin to work on the preparation of an edited volume, ‘Empires and Revolutions: Iranian-Russian Encounters since 1800′, the proceedings of the conference of the same name also sponsored by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation in 2009.

Aftandil Erkinov

Aftandil Erkinov, a scholar at Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, received a travel grant to make present Timurid Authority and the Ottoman Sultan: Some Notes About Three Manuscripts with Jami`s Products from the Library of Bayezid II (1481–1512) at the Seventh European Conference of Iranian Studies organised by the Societas Iranologica Europaea (SIE) in Cracow, Poland, in September 2011.

Abstract: Interrelation between Timurids (1370–1506) and the Ottoman dynasty (1299–1923) was strong, especially in board of Timurid governor Husayn Baykara (1469–1510). Art and literature was developed in the epoch of Husayn Baykara in Herat. The classic representatives of Persian literature ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami (1414–1492) and of Turkish literature ‘Ali Shir Nava`i (1441–1501) lived and created in Herat‘s literary environment. Currently there are more than 1000 manuscripts related to Jami‘s works copied in 15th – 19th centuries in the manuscript fund of the library Sulaymaniya (Istanbul, Turkey). Relations between Herat and Ottoman palaces were strong in Jami and Navai period too. The poets who came from Ottoman Empire to Hirat met with Jami and Navai, then they carried away the manuscripts with their creative works to Istanbul. Three manuscripts with the personal seal of Bayezid II (1481–1512) of products of Jami are stored In Suleymaniya.

The list of the manuscripts in the library of Bayezid II:

  1. Jami. ―Silsilat al-zahab‖ (1-part). This manuscript was copied in the Ottoman period in 1472, that is when Bayezid II was the prince, instead of Ottoman Sultan.
  2. Jami. Kulliyat. It was specified in manuscript that it had been copied for Bayezid II.
  3. Jami. ―Khamsa‖. It was copied in 1485, and it was depicted the completing years of the work ―Khamsa‖.

It means that Bajazida II was especially interested in Jami‘s creative works. Interrelations between Herat and Istanbul (Ottoman court) existed during this period when Timurids Hirat strongly developed – in 1470 – 1500.

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation is pleased to be informed by Aftandil Erkinov that his book on the subject of Jami manuscripts in the Library of Bayezid is being published in Japan and is due out soon.

Irina Koshoridze

A travel bursary was awarded to Dr Irina Koshoridze, now Chief Curator at the Georgian National Museum, to present her paper ‘Abbas Mirza and Alexandre Bagrationi of Georgia: Russian-Iranian Wars and the Last Efforts of Georgians to Revive the Royal dynasty at the Beginning of the Nineteenth-Century‘ in the International Qajar Studies Association’s conference ‘War and Peace in Qajar Persia: Implications Past and Present‘ in July 2005.

Charles Melville

Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History, University of Cambridge, was awarded a Project Research Grant in 2006 for study leave at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, where he focused on Kashani’s ‘Chingiz Nama‘ or ‘The Book of Chingiz Khan‘, a verse chronicle of the Mongol period.

Laetitia Nanquette

A travel grant was awarded to Laetitia Nanquette to present her paper, The Translation of Modern Persian Literature in the United States, 1979-2011 at the Ninth Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies in Istanbul, August 2012.

Abstract: This paper analyses the practices of translation from modern Persian literature into English in the United States over the last thirty years, defining where the translation field intersects with the academic, political, and literary fields in the case of Persian translations. The analysis is based on the study of an exhaustive list of the 98 literary texts of modern Persian literature, defined as starting with Mohammad-Ali Jamalzadeh’s Once Upon a Time (1921), published between 1979 and 2011 and translated into English. It describes the production milieu of modern Persian translations in the American market and analyses in quantitative and qualitative terms the modern Persian translations.

Irene Natchkebia

A travel bursary was awarded to Dr Irene Natchkebia, a researcher at the G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies Academy of Sciences of Georgia, to present her paper ‘Napoleon’s Policy in Persia in the Context of the Indian Expedition and Georgia‘ in the International Qajar Studies Association’s conference ‘War and Peace in Qajar Persia: Implications Past and Present‘ in July 2005.

Abstract: In order to include Persia in the plan of the Indian expedition, Napoleon inserted the issue of Eastern Georgia which was annexed by Russia in 1801. With the object of clarification of this topic we introduce some documents preserved in the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the material published in the press. Among the Archive material especially important is the project of Franco-Persian Treaty of Warsaw, April of 1807, which preceded the Treaty concluded between France and Persia in Finkenstein on May 4, 1807. Formulation of the issue of Georgia given in the articles 3 and 4 of the of Warsaw Treaty project differs from the corresponding articles of the Finkenstein Alliance Treaty. Moreover, worthy to note are minutes of negotiations between French Ambassador and first Vizier of Shah – Mirza Shafi, held on February 20, 1808 where the question of Georgia was discussed. As for the press, in the context of Napoleon’s oriental policy it was not accidental that information about Georgia published by Malte-Brun in March and April of 1807 in the Journal de l’Empire preceded concluding of Finkenstein Treaty.

The question of Georgia was of particular importance for Persia and to this fact testify negotiations of Ambassador Gardane with the Teheran Court especially in 1808. In 1809 Ambassador of England Sir Harford Jones used towards the Teheran Court the original policy of France – disengagement of Georgia from Russia in favour of Persia – in order to implement the policy of his own state. In the context of Napoleon’s oriental policy the letters of Georgian princes to French Emperor are also analyzed. Princes Alexandre and Teimuraz emigrated to Persia and sent their letters through general Gardanne. Franco-Persian Alliance Treaty, which in fact was the first military and political agreement between European State and Persia at the beginning of the 19th century, attached to Georgia international importance. After concluding Treaty of Tilsit Georgia which was already included in the geopolitical space of the Russian Empire lost its importance for France. Unlike France Georgia still was important for Persia. While signing Treaty with Persia in Finkenstein, Napoleon did not take into consideration that on the one hand Russia in the Caucasus and Caspian Coast and on the other hand England in India would never give up their positions. It turned out that in Tilsit Napoleon’s political goals no longer coincided with Fath ‘Ali Shah’s plan.

Babak Rezvani

A travel grant awarded in 2014 to Babak Rezvani enabled him to participate in the ‘Indigenous Studies Summer Program on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights & Policy’ at Columbia University in New York.

The programme provides an overview and analysis of the major questions in indigenous affairs today, as they have emerged globally in the last decades, culminating with the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the course analysed the interaction between the Indigenous movement – one of the strongest social movements of our times – and the intergovernmental system over the past fifty years, paying special attention to its questioning of and impact on international norms, institutions and major global debates.

Luz Rodriguez

Luz Rodriguez was awarded a travel grant for a presentation on Persian manuscripts of the Zafarnameh of the Safavid period at the conference ‘Seven Centuries of Oriental Studies in Salamanca: Seven Centuries of Oriental Studies in Spain’ held in September 2011 at the University of Salamanca and was subsequently published by the university in its proceedings.

Abstract: The Zafarnāmeh is considered by Persian writers the perfect model of elegance and historical composition. It is a panegyric written by the Persian historian Sharaf al-Dīn ‘Ali Yazdi, based on the revised historical chronicles that Ibrahim Sultan, a grandson of Timūr (Governor of Fars 1394-1435; Governor of Shiraz 1434-1447) commissioned him to refine after the Sultan was satisfied with the revisions of the Turkic and Persian texts of the historical chronicles collected in situ by Uyghur and Persian scribes during Timūr’s campaigns. The Zafanāmeh was finished in 1425, translated into French by Petis de la Croix in 1722 and from French into English by John Darby the following year.

Sharaf al-Dīn ‘Ali Yazdi himself defines the Zafarnāmeh as the best book of its kind, because it instructs the reader about the chronology and history of Asia. It illustrates the development of Timūr from his fortune as soldier to the settlement of his empire and the subjection of territories and their inhabitants to his own law. Great attention to detail is given to subjects that one would consider atrocities.

In this paper I attempt to study in general the literary and historical importance of the Zafarnāmeh, the character of Timūr, his style of governance and his beliefs, focusing mainly on his concept of diplomacy; administration and justice; economy; role of women; hunting; his military strategies and hierarchy; and the importance of faith, astrology and divine mandate. I will not be focusing on art and architecture, the historical side of the wars or the capture of Bayezid I the Ottoman Sultan in 1402, since most of the books on Timūr are about those subjects.

Saghar Sadeghian

Saghar Sadeghian, Postdoctoral Associate in Iranian Studies at Yale, 2014-15, was awarded a travel grant to present Tabriz New Catholic Church: a Construction of Urban Constitutional Crisis (1906-1912) at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), Washington D.C. in November 2014.

Abstract: In 1910, while Azerbaijan was under Russian occupation, a new French Catholic church was being built in Tabriz. How this happened was the question that foreign diplomats and Iranian authorities were asking. The church belonged to the Congregation of the Mission (Lazarites). The new building surprised everyone, because according to the Qajar Shahs’ orders, the Christians in Iran were not allowed to construct new churches or any other buildings for institutional activities. They were only allowed to repair and restore the existing ones. For the same reason, each Christian group in Iran claimed the ownership of both big and small churches in different cities and towns.

Azerbaijan was a meeting point of different competing Christian groups; Iranian Armenians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Nestorians and Orthodox, as well as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox missionaries from Britain, France, America and Russia. This new church was built, not in a lesser known village, but in Tabriz, this big key city. The church was not small by any means; rather it was 8 meters high, with a thirty-meter tower and a capacity of 500 people. It is actually the biggest church in Iran. The church was built right under the nose of American Presbyterians and British Anglicans, not to mention the Iranian authorities. The building was ready to use in 1912.

This paper seeks to establish the place of this incident in the urban history of Tabriz, under Russian occupation. To do so, it will first discuss the wider geopolitical context of the city in 1906-1912, during the constitutional movements. Using an array of sources, French, Persian and English –from diplomatic and Lazarites’ archives – it will next narrate the procedure of this church’s construction in this crucial context of the city. These are correspondences and reports from the missionaries, French Consuls, British diplomats, Iranian governors and ministers about the story, the problems, frictions or satisfactions, from the time these Catholics tried to buy the land up until the time the church was completed. The main conclusion of this paper is that the presence of the Russian army – whom the Lazarites called their “real alliance” – in Tabriz, on one hand worried the Iranian authorities and prevented them from understanding what was going on, and on the other hand, supplied the “power” the Lazarites needed to build this church.

Rafal Stepien

Rafal Stepien was awarded a research grant for 2008-09 (co-funded by the Soudavar Fund at the University of Cambridge) to translate the Asrar Nama or Book of Secrets by Farid ud-Din Attar (c. 1142- c.1220 CE) into English, and to write a comprehensive accompanying commentary and glossary of Sufi and Islamic terms found in Attar’s poetry. His work on Attar involved him in an exhibition on Persian manuscripts at the Bodleian Collection held in Australia, ‘Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond’. His MPhil dissertation research was later published as an article in 2013 by Oriens, entitled A Study in Sufi Poetics: The Case of ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī.

Abstract: Throughout his poetic oeuvre, Shaykh Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī (d. ca. 618/1221) repeatedly addresses the question of the relationship between literary-poetic and religio-mystical pursuits. ʿAṭṭār vacillates between denouncing poetic composition as inconsistent with religious orthodoxy, and embracing poetry as the very apex of spiritual practice. This essay explores ʿAṭṭār’s fluid poetics through a comprehensive examination of his stated positions in his four authentic mathnavīs. It concludes that ʿAṭṭār’s contradictory statements regarding the poetic enterprise exemplify the paradoxical position of a Sufi mystic-poet grappling with the tension of literary self-affirmation in the face of spiritual self-annihilation.

Eliza Tasbihi

A Research Fellowship awarded to Eliza Tasbihi, currently a PhD candidate working under the supervision of Professor Richard Foltz, Professor and Director of the Centre for Iranian Studies, Concordia University, enabled her to stay in Turkey for four months to consult several important manuscript collections as preliminary research for her doctorate. For her thesis entitled Commentaries on Rumi’s Masnavi, Tasbihi’s grant facilitated access to rare and unpublished works in libraries around Istabnul and Konya, including original copies of Anqarawi’s commentary on the Masnavi to study his various audiences in the context of the Mevlevi tradition.

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi , who grew up in Iran during the Iran / Iraq war and is currently residing in Ramallah, Palestine where she is being funded by a Fulbright grant, speaks and writes Persian and Arabic fluently and has a PhD from Harvard University in Comparative Literature, Secondary Field in Film and Visual Studies and is a current MFA candidate at Bard in Film/Video.

Maryam is one of 7 artists selected for a Delfina residency from 400 applicants.  She used the time at Delfina to begin development of a new film/video/net project which she would complete during or shortly after the residency and to continue to develop and write her book.

Pegah Shahbaz

Pegah Shahbaz is a postdoctoral researcher at Sorbonne-Nouvelle University and works on her field of specialty: Indo-Persian narratives. She was awarded a travel grant from SMF to work on Persian manuscripts preserved in India. She undertook the trip in 2018 and spent most of her time in Hyderabad to consult the collections of the Osmania University Library, the Salar Jung Museum Library, the State Central Library and the Asifia Library, with rewarding results. Her PhD dissertation focuses on Persian stories of Sanskrit origin , their themed-based categorization and the literary analysis of the Ṭūṭī- nāma (Tales of the Parrot). Her research project is entitled: Indo-Persian Narratives as Representatives of Cultural Interactions in South Asia: Ṭūṭī-nāma Manuscripts.

Helen Giunashvili

Helen Giunashvili is a researcher and reader specializing in Iranian-Georgian cultural-linguistic relations; Middle Iranian lexis in Georgian; Iranian onomastics (proper names, ethnical names, geographic terminology) in Old and Middle Georgian sources; XVI-XVIII cc. Persian and Georgian-Persian historical documents, their linguistic characteristics; Persian elements in the language of the Iranian Georgians. She is currently a researcher and reader at the Giorgi Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies/Ilia State University. Dr. Giunashvili was awarded a travel grant to make a presentation on ancient Iranian geographic names  in Old Georgian religious sources at a conference at the International Forum Deutscher Orientalistentag in Jena, Germany, in September 2017. The grant was given in memory of her late father the distinguished Georgian diplomat and Persian scholar, Jamshid Giunashvili, whose book “Rustaveli’s Poem in Iran”, co-authored with his daughter, Helen, is due to appear soon.

Professor Aisa Esjanjari

Professor Aisa Esfanjari‘s presentation scheduled for BANEA in January 2020 was impeded by the tragic event that closed the airport and cancelled all flights out of Tehran. He was subsequently invited by the Oriental Institute to make the same presentation in Oxford in mid-February with the support of SMF for travel and lodging costs. The title of his presentation was: Lessons learned from the processes of restoration and reconstruction of the Dih Nau Mosque in Maibud, Iran.