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Swedish Gendarmerie

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Title: Swedish Gendarmerie  
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Swedish Gendarmerie

Persian Central Government Gendarmerie
Zhāndārmeri-ye Dowlati

General Harald O. Hjalmarson in Persia, 1911
Active 1911-1920
Country Persian Empire
Allegiance to the Shah of Persia
Size 7,200
Patron Ahmad Shah Qajar
Colors light blue, grey and gold
Engagements Shiraz, Kazerun, Boroujerd, Soltanabad
Gen H Hjalmarson

The Swedish Gendarmerie, also called the Government Gendarmerie (Jandarmiri-ye Daulati), was the first modern highway patrol and rural police force in Persia. A paramilitary force, it also played a significant part in politics from its establishment in 1910 until the advent of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1921. It continued its services into the Pahlavi era.[1] Originally established as a constitutional army, the force began with Swedish officers and Iranian troops, with traditional police duties besides military campaigns against tribal forces.[1]

Throughout the nineteenth century military modernization was a constant preoccupation of Iranian reformers and the history of the Qajar period is peppered with attempts to create a standing army on the European model. As a neutral choice between Britain and Russia, the Persians would choose that Sweden would be the country given the task to secure their trade routes and unify the country. On August 15, 1911, the Swedish Major Harald Hjalmarson would be given the rank of General and put in command of the Persian Gendarmerie. Many other officers, often recruited from the Swedish aristocracy would now come to follow in Hjalmarson's footsteps.

During the First World War the officers of the Swedish Gendarmerie, who like most of the Iranian intelligentsia and constitutionalists were sympathetic towards Germany helped the Central Powers and at one point in autumn 1915 seized control of Shiraz with the connivance of the German-trained provincial governor Mohammad-Qoli Mokhber'ol Saltaneh Hedayat.[2] After the 1921 coup d'état the War Minister Reza Khan merged the two viable military forces which existed in Iran at that point i.e. the Cossack division and the Gendarmerie, to create the modern Iranian national army. A rural police, amnieh, was created and the nazmieh or the police force was also revamped and placed under the Iranian officers.[3]

The disbanding of the Swedish Gendarmerie would greatly weaken the Qajar monarchy and with the Persian Cossack Brigade being the only remaining army unit, it greatly facilitated Reza Shah’s coup in 1921. Hjalmarson would return to Sweden and take command of the volunteer Swedish Brigade serving on the White side in the Finnish Civil War. Another officer, Eric Carlberg, would later on become Sweden’s ambassador to Iran, and a confidant of Mohammed Mosaddeq.


The Gendarmerie's Purpose was to guard the frontiers and interior. It consisted of battalions of 4 to 6 Companies. For discipline and administration, the force was under the supervision of the General Officer commanding the division in whose area it was stationed. For police administration work, it came under local civil authorities. It was armed with old pattern rifles of various makes and some Soviet, French and British carbines, but not many modern. It consisted of a total of 7 Independent Mixed Regiments and 15 Mixed Battalions, forming a Corps.[4]


Name Period
Sweden General Harald O. Hjalmarson August 1911 – February 1915
Sweden Colonel Nystrom March 1915 – end of 1916
Sweden Colonel Gleerup August 1918 – end of 1921

Notable officers




  • The Times; "Policing Persia–The Work of the Swedish Gendarmerie", 27 December 1913
  • Fazlhashemi, Mohammad; Swedish Officers in Persia, 1911-1915 [1]
  • Cronin, Stephanie. "Gendarmerie", Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition, 15 December 2000, available at
  • The Army and the Creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran 1910-1926, by Stephanie Cronin
  • Carlberg, Eric; "På uppdrag i Persien. Glimtar från en trettioårig vistelse under solens och lejonets tecken" Sthlm; Natur och Kultur, 1962.


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