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  • 10/22/2011

History of Iranian-Georgian Reations

(part 3)


Giorgi XI (1678-88) tried to achieve the unity his father, Vakhtang, had sought, but the shah discovered his plans and forced him into exile (for Georgian-Iranian relations between 1675 and 1725, see Tabagua, pp. 12-41). But Giorgi/Gorgin Khan, too, eventually reconciled himself to Persian suzerainty and in 1696 agreed to terms with the new shah, Solt‌an Hossein (1105-35/1694-1722). It was the beginning of an illustrious but, ultimately, tragic career in the service of the Safavids. The shah entrusted him with restoring order along the eastern frontiers of the empire. As beglarbegi of Kerman, Giorgi, aided by his brother Levan, by 1700 had reestablished the shah’s fiat in the region. As a reward the shah made Levan divanbegi (q.v.) of Persia and his son, Kaikhosro/Khosrow Khan, daruga (see CITIES iii) of Isfahan. The shah appointed Giorgi commander-in-chief (sepahsalar) of his armies and dispatched him to the east once again, this time to relieve the garrison at Qandahar, which was under siege by Afghan rebels. The shah also designated him wali of Kartli, but, while he was in the field, he entrusted the administration of the country to a nephew, the future Vakhtang VI. Giorgi was victorious at Qandahar in 1704, but the leaders of the anti-Georgian faction at the shah’s court had him assassinated in 1709. A punitive expedition to the Afghan border led by Kaikhosro in 1711 ended disastrously with his death and the destruction of nearly his entire force of 30,000 (Lang, 1952, pp. 530-34; for a contemporary account of the Georgian-led campaigns between 1700 and 1711, see the chronicle of Sekhnia Chkheidze in Brosset, II/2, pp. 16-31).

For much of the 18th century Persia generally maintained its position in Georgian affairs, but the viceroys asserted their independence whenever the opportunity arose. They looked for support to Russia, which now supplanted the Ottomans as Persia’s chief rival in the Caucasus.

Vakhtang VI, wali of Kartli (1711-14, 1719-23), at first opposed Persian predominance and was forced to give up his throne. But in 1716, convinced that no foreign aid would be forthcoming, he accepted Islam. After serving the shah as sepahsalar of Persia and beglarbegi of Azerbaijan, he became wali of Kartli again in 1719. But his true allegiance was to Georgia, and he made no secret of his pro-Russian and pro-Christian sentiments to Russian envoys in Persia (Butkov, pp. 16, 51). When Persia was attacked by the Afghans in 1722 and the Ottomans in 1723, he sided with the Russians (Paichadze, 1970, pp. 35-59). He hoped that Peter the Great would not only seek gains for Russia, but would also protect Georgia from both Persians and Turks (Paichadze, 1965, pp. 26-35). But the tsar cut short his Caucasus campaign, and Vakhtang had to flee to Russia, where he died in 1737.

Under the vigorous Nader Shah Afshar (1148-60/1736-47), Persia reasserted itself in the Caucasus. In 1734 and 1735 he drove the Ottomans out of eastern Georgia, confirmed Teimuraz II (1729-44) as wali of Kakheti, and appointed a Persian as governor of Kartli. His forces pillaged the country and deported thousands of villagers to Persia (Brossert, II/2, pp. 49-50). When the Georgian nobles revolted, Teimuraz and his son Erekle, who had fought with Nader Shah’s armies in India in 1737-40, aided the Persians in defeating the rebels. For services rendered, Nader Shah awarded Kartli to Teimuraz (1744-62) and Kakheti to his son, Erekle II (1744-62; Bagrationi, pp. 177-82). Yet, Nader Shah continued his despotic ways, relentlessly draining both countries of their resources (Brosset, II/2, pp. 114-19).

Nader Shah’s assassination in 1747 promised a measure of relief. The new ruler, Adel Shah (1160-61 /1747-48, q.v.), who had married one of Teimuraz’s daughters, sought Georgian help in consolidating his rule over all of Persia (Brosset, pp. 118-25). Both Teimuraz and Erekle used the opportunity to assert their independence. When Teimuraz died in 1762 Erekle succeeded him, thus uniting eastern Georgia as a single state for the first time in nearly three centuries.

Under Erekle II (1762-98) the independence of Kartli-Kakheti remained precarious, and he reluctantly decided to seek Russian protection. His policy coincided with Catherine II’s renewed interest in Georgia, and in 1783 the two monarchs signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, which made Kartli-Kakheti a Russian protectorate (Tsagareli, pp. iii-x, 32-36; Paichadze, 1983, pp. 91-137). It also marked the beginning of the end of Persia’s pretensions to political dominance over Georgia.

The founder of the Qajar dynasty, Agha Moل¸¥ammad Khan (1193-1212/1779-97, q.v.) was determined to recover those provinces that had once formed part of the Safavid empire. Georgia was the special object of his ambitions. Erekle (Eregli Khan) refused to become a mere wali of Kartli-Kakheti and reaffirmed his attachment to Russia. Aga Mohammad responded by attacking the country, capturing Tbilisi in September 1795 and deporting some 15,000 of its inhabitants to Persia as slaves (Hedayat, Rawzat al-safa IX, pp. 269-71; Tsagareli, II/2, pp. 107-24; Hambly, pp. 126-30). His assassination in 1797 ended plans for a second expedition into Georgia.

Fatali Shah (1212-50/1797-1834), Aga Mohammad’s successor, pursued a similar policy toward Georgia. In 1798 he demanded the unconditional submission of Erekle’s son and successor, Giorgi XII (1798-1800; Tsagareli, II/2, pp. 181-82). Giorgi refused, and Russia’s firm support caused Persian armies to remain in place (Dubrovina, pp. 116-21).

The end of Georgian independence, nonetheless, was at hand. When Giorgi died in December 1800, Tsar Paul took advantage of the interregnum to proclaim the incorporation of Kartli and Kakheti into the Russian Empire in January 1801. War with Persia, which broke out in 1804, ended in 1813 with the Treaty of Golestan. Under its terms Persia gave up all claims to Kartli and Kakheti in favor of Russia, thereby effectively ending her centuries-long involvement in Georgian political affairs.

Although Russia and Persia were at peace, Fatali Shah had not given up hope of reclaiming Georgia. War between the two countries broke out again in 1826, and Russia’s success on the battlefield and the Treaty of Torkamanay in 1828 confirmed her control of Georgia (Shengelia, pp. 55-72). The treaty also set the tone of Russo-Iranian relations down to World War I and made manifest Persia’s inability to challenge Russia’s supremacy in Georgia and the Caucasus.

Source: encycos&wikis

Other Links:

Eastern Iranian Languages: part 4

Jade in Iran

Jade in Iran (part 2)

Jade in Iran (part 3)

Jade in Iran (part 4)

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