Научная статья на тему 'The Caucasus in the system of International relations: the Turkmanchay Treaty was signed 180 years ago'

The Caucasus in the system of International relations: the Turkmanchay Treaty was signed 180 years ago Текст научной статьи по специальности «История. Исторические науки»


Аннотация научной статьи по истории и историческим наукам, автор научной работы — Shukiurov Kerim

This article sheds new light on the history and certain aspects of the treaties signed among the Ottoman, Iranian, and Russian empires from the early 18th century to the 1813 Gulistan Treaty. The author has probed deeply into the treaties between Russia and the Caucasian states and offers a comparative analysis of the Russian-Iranian Gulistan and Turkmanchai treaties. He also discusses the role of the latter in the fates of the local peoples before and after the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1917.

Текст научной работы на тему «The Caucasus in the system of International relations: the Turkmanchay Treaty was signed 180 years ago»

C o n c l u s i o n

After establishing, by the early 1830s, its complete domination over the Caucasus and the Caspian, two areas found at the East-West and North-South geopolitical crossroads, Russian control over the vast adjacent territories stretching from the Caucasian mountains in the west to Central Asian deserts in the east became very real. From that time on Russia threatened the main communication lines that linked Britain to its Indian colonies. On top of this, given favorable geopolitical conditions, Russia could not merely block them but also move its troops toward India across Iran and Afghanistan or Central Asia.

From the military-strategic viewpoint these victories of the first third of the 19th century allowed Russia,

■ first, to use the natural riches of the Caucasus for a long time to come (the oil of Baku, Grozny and Maikop in particular);

■ second, to push the boundaries of the Christian Orthodox world far to the south with far-reaching geopolitical consequences;

■ third, to establish its control over the main communication routes (including one of the Silk Road branches) that crossed the region;

■ fourth, to completely conquer, in the mid-19th century, the Caucasus, and,

■ fifth, to establish a foothold that allowed it to move into Central Asia in the 1860s-1880s, thus making Russia’s threat to Britain’s colonial interests in the Middle East and Central Asia very real indeed.


D.Sc. (Hist.), associate professor, Chair of the History of Azerbaijan (for the humanities departments), Baku State University

(Baku, Azerbaijan).




his article sheds new light on the history and certain aspects of the treaties signed among the Ottoman, Ira-

nian, and Russian empires from the early 18th century to the 1813 Gulistan Treaty. The author has probed deeply into the

treaties between Russia and the Caucasian states and offers a comparative analysis of the Russian-Iranian Gulistan and Turkmanchai treaties. He also discusses

the role of the latter in the fates of the local peoples before and after the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1917.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

Throughout its history the Caucasus has remained part of the worldwide geographic, political, and ethno-linguistic processes. It was after the Turkmanchai Treaty of 1828 that the Caucasus became de facto part of the Russia Empire. (The Caucasian War, however, ended much later, in 1859.) In his book Russia: People and Empire British historian Geoffrey Hosking offers an apt remark: strange as it may seem the Russians became entrenched in the Transcaucasus without conquering the Caucasus itself.1 The Turkmanchai Treaty gave rise to a system of sorts, similar in a way to the Vienna or the Versailles-Washington systems. The Introduction to Obozrenie rossi-iskhikh vladeniy naKavkaze (1836) (Survey of the Russian Domains in the Caucasus. 1863), one of the first fundamental studies of the region, says: “Russia has become entrenched in the Caucasus over the last three decades. In 1801 Georgia was joined to Russia... in 1803 the Ganja Khanate was acquired and renamed the Elisavetpol District; in 1813 the war with Persia gave Russia the province of Erivan and the Nakhchyvan Khanate along with the Ordubat District. The Turkmanchai Treaty laid a natural border between the Russian and Persian domains along the Arax and the mountains (italics mine.—K.Sh.). In this way the domains of the Russian scepter beyond the Caucasian mountains were extended; this was how it fortified its power in Asia.”2 Much changed after the Turkmanchai Treaty, yet the political and geographic line—“the natural border. along the Arax and the mountains” remained intact. This “natural border” divided the Azeris into two parts and in fact created a new geopolitical situation in the region. This means that the historical studies of the 1828 Turkmanchai Treaty are not merely academic, they also have a political and practical dimension to them. This problem has so far remained outside the scope of academic attention, although some of its aspects have already been studied. Foreign historians, on the whole, regard Russia’s involvement in the Caucasus as purely aggressive. One of them, John Baddeley, gave his book an eloquent title The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus.3 Soviet and especially national (Russian, Azeri, Georgian, North Caucasian) historiographies added an ideological bias to the problem or even falsified it.

The long history of studies on how Russia conquered the Caucasus brims with all sorts of conceptions that came to the fore or retreated into the background depending on the circumstances. In the 1920s-1930s, Soviet historiography mainly described the process as a conquest. In the 1940s-1950s a new formula of “the least evil” was officially accepted: Russia was the least evil for the local people compared with the Ottoman and Iranian empires. The formula developed into the “joining the Cauca-sus”4 conception. This was not the limit, however: it developed further to reach its apogee in the formula of “voluntary joining of the Caucasus to the Russian Empire” and the practice of celebrating the corresponding historical dates.5

1 See: G. Hosking, Rossia: narod i imperia (1552-1917), Smolensk, 2001, p. 35.

2 Obozrenie rossiiskikh vladeniy za Kavkazom, v statisticheskom, etnograficheskom, topograficheskom i flnans-

ovom otnosheniakh, Part I, St. Petersburg, pp. 3-4.

3 See: J.F. Baddelley, Zavoevanie Kavkaza russkimi,1720-1860, Tsentrpoligraf Publishers, Moscow, 2007.

4 Prisoedinenie Azerbaidzhana k Rossii i ego progressivnye posledstvia v oblasty ekonomiki i kultury (XIX-nach. XX v.), Baku, 1955.

5 See: “150th Anniversary of the Joining of Azerbaijan to Russia. The Gala Sitting of the C.C. C.P. and the Presid-

ium of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbajanian S.S.R.,” Kommunist, 30 May, 1964 (in Azeri).


The unified historical and ideological platform on which the problem of Russia’s domination in the Caucasus rested crumbled along with the state that created it. Today most Russian historians demonstrate a critical approach to the problem but, on the whole, they rely on the thesis that Russia’s rights to the Caucasus are unshakable. A. Shishov, for example, has written the following: “The situation changed when Russian power came to the political arena of the Caucasus for keeps. It established itself in the mountainous area not only through diplomatic efforts and concern for its economic development but also by means of more than two dozen victorious wars and military campaigns. The Caucasus became Russia’s possession at the price of many tens of thousands of Russian lives.”6 As distinct from their Russian colleagues, experts in Caucasian studies from the local states are more interested in their people’s struggle against the Russian conquerors and revival of their statehoods.

The 1828 Turkmanchai Treaty is no exception in this respect; it should be said that not only Russian but also Iranian studies of the treaty distort the facts. The latter are more interested in Iran’s influence in the Caucasus than the fates of the Caucasian peoples and logically concluded that the treaty opened a long chain of calamities and disasters in Iran.7

From this it follows that today, after 180 years, the treaty and its consequences have not lost their urgency.

Interstate Treaties among the Ottoman, Iranian, and Russian Empires from the Early 18th Century to the Gulistan Treaty of 1813

Early in the 18th century when the Ottoman and Safavid empires entered a new period of wars over the Caucasus, it naturally became an arena of interstate struggle. Before that the sides had been waging incessant wars alternating with peace treaties: the Amasia Treaty of 29 May, 1555 ended the war of 1514-1555; the Istanbul Treaty of 21 March, 1590 put an end to the 1578-1590 war; the Istanbul Treaty of 20 November, 1612 concluded the 1602-1612 war; the Maradan Treaty of 20 November, 1618 ended the 1616-1618 war, and the Gasri-Shirin treaty of 17 May, 1639 put an end to the 1623-1639 war.

Russia’s interference in the region tightened the rivalry. In 1722, during the Eastern (Caspian) March of Peter the Great, Russia occupied Derbent, Baku, and other lands. In 1723 Russia and the Safavids signed the Petersburg Treaty.8 P. Butkov had the following to say on this score: “Persian Ambassador Ismail Bey arrived in St. Petersburg on 10 August, 1723; on 14 August he attended a royal public audience. On 12 September, 1723 he signed a treaty with the Russian ministry in keeping with the powers granted him by Shah Hussein and Takhmasp. Under this treaty and in full accordance with the powers granted him by the shah the ambassador ceded to Russia for eternity the cities of Derbent and Baku with their lands, as well as the provinces of Gilan, Maz-andaran, and Astrabad.”9 Shah Takhmasib refused to approve the treaty while Ismail Bey preferred

6 A. Shishov, Skhvatka za Kavkaz. XVI-XXI veka, Moscow, 2007, p. 6.

7 See: G.Sh. Davudov, Vzaimootnoshenia Irana i Rossii v pervoi treti XIX v. v Iranskoy istoriografii, Author’s synopsis of candidate thesis, Baku, 2006, p. 21 (in Azeri).

8 See: Dogovory Rossii s Vostokom politicheskie i torgovye, Compiled and published by T. Iuzefovich, St. Petersburg, 1869, pp. 185-189.

9 P.G. Butkov, Materialy dlia novoy istorii Kavkaza s 1722 po 1803 g., Part I, St. Petersburg, 1869, p. 54.


not to go back. In 1724 Russia signed the Istanbul Treaty with the Ottoman Empire10 which confirmed the conditions of the Petersburg Treaty and divided the East-Caucasian lands between the empires. After Peter the Great Russia not only failed to extend its Caucasian domains: it could not hold on to what it had conquered. Under the Rasht (1732)11 and Ganja (1735)12 treaties Russia transferred the earlier captured lands to Nadir Shah Afshar (regent of Shah Abbas III who was still a minor and the actual ruler of the Safavid state) on the condition that these lands would not be transferred to the Ottoman Empire.

As distinct from Russia’s relations with the Safavid, which were more or less settled, relations with the Ottoman Empire were going from bad to worse. In the latter half of the 18th century the sides clashed in two strategically important wars of 1768-1774 and 1787-1791. A. Sotavov has summarized the former as: “The Kuchuk-Kainarji Treaty, which gave Russia access to the Black Sea and predetermined the joining of the Crimea to it, was of huge importance for the North Caucasian peoples” and “the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774 tipped the balance of forces forever in favor of Catherine the Great’s Russia.”13 A series of Russian victories in its wars with the Ottoman Empire continued into the early 19th century. Under the Bucharest Treaty,14 which ended the war of 18061812, Russia acquired the Black Sea Caucasian coast with the city of Sukhum.

Russia owed its military triumphs to the fact that the Turks were simultaneously engaged in fighting Iran: their wars continued on and off for the better part of the 18th century. The 17431746 war between them ended in the Peace of Kurdan.15 The death of Nadir Shah considerably weakened the Iranian state and gave the local people the opportunity to set up scores of independent and semi-independent states in the region. The Ottoman Empire finally acquired the chance to tighten its grip on the region but soon lost it in two wars during the latter half of the 18th century, which were won by Russia. The short rise and prompt decline of Aga Muhammad Shah of Kajar (1795-1797) undermined the positions of the local states in the face of Russia’s military might.

Since the 18th century the Caucasian issue has dominated the treaties concluded among the Ottoman, Iranian, and Russian empires; Russia was purposefully squeezing the Ottoman and Iranian empires from the Caucasus.

Treaties between Russia and the Caucasian States, or the Diplomatic Prelude to Russia’s Conquest of the Region

As distinct from the Ottoman Empire and the Iranian dynasties of the 18th century (the Safavids, Afsharids, Zends, and Kajars), for a certain amount of time in history Russia relied on treaties in its relations with some of the Caucasian states. This was a tactical ploy designed to prepare the ground for the final move: the use of arms. Russia’s relations with the local states rested on the following treaties: the 1782 treaty with the Guba Khanate; the 1783 Georgievsk Treaty with the Kartli-Kakhe-

10 See: Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoy imperii, Vol. VII, St. Petersburg, 1830, Document 4531.

11 See: Dogovory Rossii s Vostokom, pp. 194-202.

12 See: Ibid., pp. 202-207.

13 N.S. Sotavov, Severny Kavkaz v russko-iranskikh i russko-turetskikh otnosheniiakh v XVIII veke. Ot Konstantinopol'skogo dogovora do Kiuchuk-Kainarjiiskogo mira. 1700-1774 gg., Moscow, 1991, pp. 172, 178.

14 See: Ibid., pp. 49-58.

15 See: Novaia istoria Irana, Khrestomatia, Moscow, 1988, pp. 44-45.


tian Kingdom; the 1802 Georgievsk Treaty with the Guba Khanate; the 1805 treaties with the Kara-bakh, Sheki, and Shirvan khanates; the treaties with the princedoms and kingdoms of Western Georgia, etc. Both Georgievsk treaties stand apart in terms of their nature.

The Georgievsk Treaty of 1783,16 which made Russia the patron of Georgia, was the only one that took into account Georgia’s interests. Art Five, for example, spoke of the exchange of representatives in the royal courts of the two states. Art Eight made the Georgian Catholicos the eighth archbishop of Russia and a member of the Holy Synod; Art Nine granted the Georgian nobles the rights enjoyed by the Russian nobles; Art Ten allowed the people of Kartli and Kakhetia to move to Russia; Art Eleven allowed Georgian merchants to do business in Russia, etc. A. Novoseltsev has written: “The Treaty of Georgievsk should be highly assessed as an outstanding political act (italics mine.—K.Sh.) of great importance for the future of the Caucasian people and their further rapprochement with Russia and the Russian people.”17 Russia, however, failed to perform its obligations under the treaty on the eve of Aga Muhammad Shah’s march of 1795; in 1801 the royal manifestos of Paul I (1796-1801) and Alexander I (1801-1825) liquidated the Kingdom of Kartli and Kakhetia.

In the late 18th century the czarist government devised a new line to further fortify its position in the Caucasus. In his rescript of 5 January, 1797 Paul I instructed General Gudovich: “You should work toward setting up a federative state from among the potentates favorably disposed toward Russia, which should be dependent on Us (italics mine.—K.Sh.) as their supreme ruler and patron whom they, however, will find constrictive. We have no intention of interfering in the way they rule, we need no other tribute than loyalty to us.”18

This was what made the 1802 Georgievsk Treaty19 signed with the Guba and other rulers very special. This course, however, did not last long. Prince P. Tsitsianov, who commanded the Russian troops in the Caucasus in 1802-1806, crowned his conquests with treaties with the local potentates that deprived them of their independence. The treaties were identical, with the exception of the amount of baj, therefore I shall limit myself here to the Kiurekchai Treaty signed on 14 May, 1805 with the Karabakh Khanate.20 An analysis of the text reveals that it was based on the Georgievsk Treaty of 1783 but, deprived of several of the important articles of its predecessor, it was much more limited than the Georgievsk Treaty.

The Kiurekchai Treaty consisted of a Preamble and eleven articles. The Preamble said that Ibrahim Khan of Shusha and Karabakh became the subject of the Russian Empire while the articles specified the conditions stemming from this circumstance. Arts 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 dealt with Ibrahim Khan’s new obligations, while Arts 2, 3, 5 and 7 with the obligations of the Russian Empire, which unequivocally recognized the Karabakh Khanate as an independent state ruled by Ibrahim Khan and his descendants as the only potentates. The articles refer to him as the Khan of Shusha and Karabakh. The emperor guaranteed the khanate’s integrity: Art Ten pointed out that the treaty was signed for perpetuity and could not be revised; and Art Eleven dealt with the ratification of the treaty.21 It shared the fate of all Russia’s treaties with the local states: in 1822 General Alexey Yermolov, Chief Commander of the Russian Army in the Caucasus (1816-1827), annulled the Karabakh Khanate, which ended the period of treaties between Russia and the Caucasian states.

’ See: P.G. Butkov, Materialy dlia novoy istorii Kavkaza s 1722 po 1803 g., Part II, pp. 122-129.

!6 i

17 A.P. Novoseltsev, “Georgievskiy traktat 1783 goda i ego istoricheskoe znachenie (K 200-letiu Georgievskogo

traktata),” Istoria SSSR, No. 4, 1983, p. 60.

18 E.A. Kozubskiy, Istoria goroda Derbenta, Temirkhan-shura, 1906, p. 123.

19 See: Akty Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissii, Vol. II, Tiflis, 1868, pp. 1009-1011.

20 See: Ibid., pp. 702-705.

21 For more detail, see: K. Shukiurov, “Kurekchaiskiy dogovor: ob osnovnykh polozheniakh, pretvorenii v zhizn i posledstviakh uprazdnenia,” in: Garabag: Kiurekchai Treaty-200, Baku, 2005, pp. 145-152.


Failure of the 1813 Gulistan Treaty— the War of 1826-1828— the Turkmanchai Treaty of 1828

In order to entrench itself in the Caucasus Russia pushed aside the treaties with some of the local states and opted for the use of force. In 1801 it annexed Eastern Georgia and moved ahead to occupy the Azeri lands. In 1803 it captured the territory of the Jaro-Belokan communities (jamaats); in 1804 it took Ganja, its ruler Javad Khan was killed in the battle. A historian of the Ganja Khanate offered the following picture: “The Ganja people who still remained in the fortress put up desperate resistance; they fought for every little bit of their land, for every street of their city. The death of Javad Khan and the enemy that outnumbered them many times over made resistance futile, they had to surrender. The chaos was indescribable: dead bodies littered the streets; the Russian solders who poured into the city robbed the locals and even removed gold decorations from dead horses.”22

In the course of the Russian-Iranian war of 1804-1813 Russia never let the Azeri khanates out of its sight. This explains Prince Tsitsianov’s insistent desire to capture Baku; in February 1806 he was murdered there. His death, however, did not stop the war with the Azeri khanates and Iran.23 The war with the latter ended on 12 October, 1813 with the Gulistan Treaty.24 Art Three of the Treaty says: “To confirm His sincere loyalty to His Majesty Emperor of all Russia His Majesty the Shah solemnly recognized for Himself and for the Supreme Descendants of the Persian throne the Karabakh and Ganja Khanates transformed into provinces under the name of Elisavetpol Province as belonging to the Russian Empire. The same applies to the Khanates of Sheki, Shirvan, Derbent, Guba, Baku, and Talysh together with the lands of this Khanate. From this time on they come under the power of the Russian Empire along with the whole of Dagestan, Georgia with the Shuragel province, Imeretia, Guria, Mingrelia, and Abkhazia, as well as all the domains and lands found between the newly established border (the Caucasian Line), including the lands adjacent to it, and the lands and nations neighboring on the Caspian.”25 The Gulistan Treaty completed the first stage of Russia’s conquests in the Caucasus.

The status of the Azeri khanates on the eve of the Russian-Iranian War of 1804-1813 is no less important. American historian Tadeusz Swietochowski has written: “The treaty legitimized Azerbaijan’s status quo created by Russia’s military presence. Under the treaty Fatali Shah abandoned his claims to the Karabakh, Baku, Shirvan, Sheki, Guba, and Derbent khanates. His claims to the khanates of Northern Azerbaijan were declined because they had been independent for a long time before Russia conquered them (italics mine.—K.Sh.). This was the first and last recognition of Azerbaijan’s independence, even though it now belongs to the past.”26

A new war between Russia and Iran was inevitable: this was amply clear not only from the text of the Gulistan Treaty but also from what followed it—the embassy of Mirza Abul Hassan Khan to St. Petersburg, Yermolov’s mission, etc. The war started in the summer of 1826 and coincided with a “general Muslim uprising” of the Azeris who suffered under Russia’s oppression. The fate

’ E. Babaev, Iz istorii Ganjinskogo khanstva, Baku, 2003, p. 104.

22 ]

23 The military developments of this period have been substantially covered in academic writings: V.A. Potto,

Kavkazskaia voyna, Vol. 1, Stavropol, 1994; Kh.M. Ibragimbeili, Rossia i Azerbaidzhan v pervoy treti XIX veka (iz voen-no-politicheskoy istorii), Moscow, 1969, etc.

24 See: Dogovory Rossii s Vostokom, pp. 208-214.

25 See: Ibid., p. 210.

26 T. Swietochowski, “Russkiy Azerbaijan. 1905-1920. Formirovanie natsional’nogo samosoznania v musul’manskom obshchestve,” Khazar, No. 1, 1990, p. 85.


of the rebels was sealed by Russia’s victory over the troops of Iranian Prince Abbas Mirza during the war of 1826-1828. After preliminary negotiations in Karaziadin and Dehkargan a peace treaty was signed in the village of Turkmanchai in the small hours of 10 February. V. Potto, a military historian, has written: “The small village of Turkmanchai is located forty-three versts from Miane on the road from Tabriz. This tiny settlement, which during Ivan Paskevich’s time was hardly known in the closest cities of Persia, was fated to leave its mark on history... At midnight on 9 February, at the moment identified by a Persian astrologist as the most favorable, the peace treaty was signed. One hundred and one salvoes informed the troops and the people about this.”27

Alexander Griboedov (1795-1829) was among those who drafted the treaty. O. Popova was right when she wrote: “As for Griboedov’s involvement in drafting the articles of the Turkmanchai Treaty, it remains vague for the want of documentary confirmation.”28 We all know, however, that Alexander Griboedov, as envoy plenipotentiary of Russia in Tehran, fell victim to the events that unfolded around the Turkmanchai Treaty.29

The Treaty consists of 16 articles (there is also a trade addendum), most of which were borrowed from the Gulistan Treaty; Sections II, VI, XI, XII, XIV, and XV were new. Under Art I the sides agreed on “perpetual peace for all times;” Art II annulled the Gulistan Treaty. Under Art III of the new document Russia acquired the Irevan and Nakhchyvan khanates; Art IV drew new frontiers; under Art VI Iran pledged to pay Russia a contribution of ten kururs (20 million silver rubles); Art VII recognized Prince Abbas Mirza as the heir to the Iranian throne; Art VIII confirmed Russia’s exclusive right to a Caspian Navy; Art X envisaged that the countries would set up a trade consulate; Art XI resumed the contacts disrupted by the war; Art XIII dealt with prisoners-of-war, Arts XII, XIV and XV with the movement of people from one state to another. The notorious Art XV deserves special attention: it envisaged the resettlement of Armenians from Iran to the Caucasus. The last, Art XVI, dealt with the spread of information about the treaty, its adoption and ratification.30

The Manifesto on the End of War with Persia and Peace between Russia and Persia issued on 21 March, 1828 offered the first assessment of the Turkmanchai Treaty: “This treaty is primarily profitable for Us because it establishes fixed and safe borders. This is the only benefit to Us from the territorial acquisitions,”31 etc. Russia ratified the treaty in March, Iran in July 1828.

Ratification opened the next and the most difficult period in the history of the Turkmanchai Treaty—its implementation.

In 1829 the two countries signed a protocol on the borders.32 Arts XII, XIV, and XV created even more problems. In his letter to Ivan Paskevich of 23 September, 1828 Griboedov wrote: “I believe that it would be useful to state my opinion about three articles of the Turkmanchai Treaty which the sides still interpret differently.

(1) Art XII established a three-year long period for those subjects of both powers who have real estate on both sides of the Arax and who are free during this time to sell or exchange it. Nothing is said about the freedom of resettlement for the two groups.

(2) Art XIV prohibits turncoats and deserters who are khans, beks, spiritual heads, and mullahs and may exert harmful influence on their compatriots by their propaganda from settling close to the border.

27 V.A. Potto, Kavkazskaia voyna. Persidskaia voyna 1826-1828 gg., Vol. 3, Stavropol, 1993, pp. 469-470.

28 O.I. Popova, Griboedov—diplomat, Moscow, 1964, p. 102.

29 His death served the subject of Yuri Tynianov’s well-known historical novel Smert’ Vezir-Mukhtara, Moscow,


30 See: Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoy imperii. Sobr. vt. Vol. III, 1828, pp. 125-130; S. Aliarly, K. Shukiurov, “Zavoevanie Severnykh khanstv Rossiei. Konets khanskogo perioda,” in: Istoria Azerbaidzhana, Baku, 2008, p. 586.

31 Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoy imperii. Sobr. vt. Vol. III, p. 272.

32 See: Documents on Contacts with the Caucasian Regions, Tehran, 1994, pp. 335-370 (in Farsi).


(3) Under Art XV His Majesty the Shah fully pardoned all the people and officials of Azerbaijan.

On top of this these officials and common people will be granted a year-long period, starting from the day the treaty is signed, to freely move together with their families from Persian to Russian lands and to take their property with them or sell it. This is the only way the treaty should be interpreted.”33 Later, in 1844, Russia and Iran signed a special convention to deal with the problems created by Art XIV. The new document had four articles; Art I specified the rule: “The subjects of both Powers cannot in future travel from one state to the other without passports and formal permission from their governments.”34 Art XV, on the other hand, related to the resettlement of Armenians, was consistently fulfilled. According to an Armenian historian, over 40 thousand Armenians moved to the Transcaucasus from Persia in 1828.35 This was how the Armenization of the Caucasus started.

The Turkmanchai Treaty remained in force until October 1917, that is, until the Provisional Government of Russia was deposed. On 16/29 January, 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars of the R.S.F.S.R. announced that it was annulling all unequal treaties with Iran. The statement said: “In strict accordance with the principles of international policy confirmed by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets on 26 October, 1917 ... the Council of People’s Commissars announced all agreements that predated and succeeded the treaty null and void.”36 This was confirmed by the agreement between the R.S.F.S.R. and Iran signed on 26 February, 1921.37 At the same time the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921 not only preserved but also continued the foreign policy line started by the Turkmanchai Treaty. Having made several aborted attempts to restore the position in the Caucasus it had lost under the Turkmanchai Treaty, Iran had to agree on all the conditions formulated by its northern neighbor.38 The treaty, which divided the Azeri lands and people, can be described as a tragic page in the history of Azerbaijan. It was under this treaty that vast masses of Armenians were sent to Azerbaijan (mainly to Karabakh), which laid a delayed action bomb under the country’s stability and security. Handled by the czarist and Soviet empires and the Russian Federation, it became a powerful tool for putting pressure not only on Azerbaijan but also on all the Central Caucasus.

C o n c l u s i o n

The Turkmanchai Treaty ended the military and political confrontation of three empires (the Russian, Ottoman, and Iranian) over the Caucasus that had lasted for many years. The Caucasian states lost their independence to the Russian Empire while the Ottoman and Iranian empires divided the Southern Caucasus among themselves.

History is repeating itself. After the Soviet Union’s disintegration the Central Caucasian countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia)39 recovered their independence. The vast transit potential of Azerbaijan and Georgia and the huge hydrocarbon resources (which are mainly found

33 A.S. Griboedov, Works, Moscow, 1988, pp. 607-608.

34 Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoy imperii. Sobr. vt. Vol. XIX, Otd. Pervoe, 1844, p. 589.

35 See: Ts.P. Agaian, Pobeda sovetskoy vlasti i vozrozhdemie armianskogo naroda, Moscow, 1981, p. 26.

36 Khrestomatia po noveyshey istorii v trekh tomakh, Vol. 1, 1917-1939. Dokumenty i materialy, Moscow, 1960,

p. 814.

37 See: Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR, Moscow, 1959, Vol. III, Document 305, p. 536.

38 See: K. Shukiurov, Turkmanchai—1828. Historical Chronicles, Baku, 2006, pp. 90-91 (in Azeri).

39 The author has accepted the division of the Caucasian region suggested by Eldar Ismailov and Vladimir Papava in The Central Caucasus: Essays on Geopolitical Economy, Sweden, 2006, pp. 10-13. Under it Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia are parts of the Central Caucasus.

in Azerbaijan) became an object of tough rivalry among the great powers. Russia seems to follow the principle “the stronger always blames the weaker.” According to the official statement of Russian President Medvedev, “We will stand firm in the Caucasus.” The threat is very real, which is confirmed by Russia’s aggression against Georgia and the creation of two vassal states on its territory. The West, in turn, is pursuing its interests in the region under the guise of democratization of the Central Caucasian states. This clash is pushing the legal rights and interests of the local states aside. We all hope, however, that the Central Caucasian states will defend their independence against the encroachments of external forces and ensure sustainable development of the local people and states.


Senior lecturer, Chair of Arabic Philology, Baku State University (Baku, Azerbaijan).



The author looks at one of the least studied pages of Caucasian history— Judaism and its spread in the region. He has covered the main versions of

why the Jews arrived in the Caucasus in the first place and describes the stable and largest communities of Caucasian Jews.

I n t r o d u c t i o n. Judaism and its Main Dogmas

Like elsewhere in the world, in the Caucasus Judaism lives alongside Christianity and Islam. In fact, it is a monotheist religion, like its two Caucasian neighbors. Being born in the same region and sharing much in their theology they have many things in common. The Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament, or Tanach) is the most influential book in human history: the Jews and the Christians alike treat it as their most important religious text. It has much in common with the Koran as well. The Old Testament consists of the Torah (The Teaching), Neveim (The Prophets), and Ketubim (The Writings).