Oral History of State: Importance and Function

Hamid Qazvini
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


  In the politics, state is considered as the main and concentrated apparatus of power, and most of authors use concepts of “state” and “government” in the same meaning.

  Regardless of various and fashionable definitions on this phenomenon, which is sometimes called bureaucracy, having a short review of the history shows that Iranian society identified the concept of state in the modern form from the middle of Qajar Period, and experienced the modern state through the Constitutional movement.

  Since then structure of the state expanded and developed remarkably, and in practice, all affairs of administrating the country were determined under the institution of state; an institution which got a central position in the context of political and social developments and at some point it turned into the focus of internal conflicts and foreign interventions.

  That’s why how to administrate the state has been considered by different political forces and currents before and after Islamic Revolution. The revolutionaries who saw there were major problems in corrupt and ineffective operation of the bureaucracy system of Pahlavi Regime, while preserved general structure of the state, set a series of developments from the beginning of Islamic Revolution which resulted partly in founding revolutionary agencies and reforming administrative structures.

  Islamic Revolution not only led to overthrow the Shah’s reign and end of the monarchy, but also established a structure based on republicanism in relationship with religion; thereafter, despite all the internal and external difficulties and imposing the eight-year war and severe sanctions, extensive activities were implemented aimed at developing the country and serving the people.

  Naturally, one question that is raised in studying the contemporary history is that what was impact of Islamic Revolution theoretically and practically? Which approach had the revolutionaries about the pre-post revolution states? Did they consider the past experience of bureaucracy? Did the events such as armored measures of subversive and separatist groups, the imposed war, the construction (Sazandegi) period, and the sanctions influence the manner of administrating the government and changing political, economic, cultural, and social approaches? In fact, how the institution of state with its all subordinate departments and agencies in different areas of the country was administrated, and what can we learn from what happened in the past?

  It is obvious that answering these questions need exact study and recording data and what it is called historiography of the state. Therefore, one can address and study separately the way of forming and operation of every state before and after the revolution within contemporary historical studies.

  What is notable in this regard is increasing the general interest and favor of research institutes toward knowledge about the pre-post revolution state and their operation which have preoccupied many practitioners of different human science disciplines with a mixture of interdisciplinary studies. Such studies typically need accurate statistics data, and first-hand documents and narratives, and in this regard, oral history can contribute greatly.

  Another interesting point is that the modern historiography which see task of the history to judge the past and teach the contemporary people in order to benefit the future generations, has emerged mostly in the last two centuries that coincided with forming the modern state in Iran; the modern historiography is a method that need details and its relationship with the whole, and it is based on types of written and oral resources.

Therefore, regarding participation of most of statesmen of the contemporary state, planning and implementing oral history projects centered at clear and accurate subjects and questions not only help to record a historical piece but also produce much data for scholars of different scientific disciplines.

However, conducting, compiling, and publishing oral history of states is not aimed at identifying weaknesses and finding the guilty, condemning one and exonerating the other. It should be noted for executers of the projects and interviewees that this project aims at generating data and recording features of the measures for historical studies. Moreover, oral history of the states regardless of who is in power, is a part of history of Islamic Revolution, and recording the measures will be also effective in explaining services, clearing doubts, and presenting a real image of the conducted services.

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