My Enemy’s Enemy: Consequences of the CIA Operation against Abulqasim Lahuti, 1953–54

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In January 1954, the Iranian émigré poet living in the Soviet Union, Abulqasim Lahuti, was summoned before the Central Committee in Moscow to discuss the publication of a fraudulent Persian-language autobiography that reflected unfavorably on his experiences in the Soviet Union. This autobiography was the result of a 1953 CIA operation in Iran launched by Donald Wilber after he had become convinced that in case of a Soviet takeover Lahuti would be the one most likely put forward as leader. To preempt this threat, the CIA published the counterfeit autobiography. Unlike Mosaddeq and other CIA targets, however, Lahuti’s position as a cultural mediator between the Soviet Union, Soviet Tajikistan, and Iran made the consequences of this operation more complex than the CIA had imagined. This paper explores its aftermath using recently declassified Soviet archival documents and interviews. It argues that this operation transformed Lahuti’s professional and social standing in Moscow, empowered him to challenge his long-time enemy Bobojon Ghafurov on the issue of Tajik ethnogenesis, and helped change the official Stalinist line on Persian literary culture. Lastly, this operation politicized Lahuti’s biography in ways that are relevant to the present day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-465
Number of pages27
JournalIranian Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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