Научная статья на тему 'The Treaty of Gulistan: 200 years after (the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan in the context of its 200th anniversary)'

The Treaty of Gulistan: 200 years after (the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan in the context of its 200th anniversary) Текст научной статьи по специальности «История. Исторические науки»


Аннотация научной статьи по истории и историческим наукам, автор научной работы — Kuznetsov Oleg

The author looks at the causes and some of the aspects and repercussions of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan that ended it in the context of the rivalry between the Russian and the British Empire for geopolitical domination in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which went down to history as the Great Game or the Tournament of Shadows. This approach, which blends historical and political scientific slants, sheds new light on certain aspects of the history of Azeri statehood in the early nineteenth century.

Текст научной работы на тему «The Treaty of Gulistan: 200 years after (the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan in the context of its 200th anniversary)»



Ph.D. (Hist.), Deputy Rector for Research, Higher School of Social and Managerial Consulting (Institute) (Moscow, the Russian Federation).




The author looks at the causes and some of the aspects and repercussions of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan that ended it in the context of the rivalry between the Russian and the British Empire for geopolitical domination in Central Asia and the Cauca-

sus, which went down to history as the Great Game or the Tournament of Shadows. This approach, which blends historical and political scientific slants, sheds new light on certain aspects of the history of Azeri statehood in the early nineteenth century.

KEYWORDS: The Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813, the Treaty of Gulistan, the Great Game, the Tournament of Shadows, the Treaty of Kurakchay.

142 ■■■HIHnCRffiSSnKJBAWE^nnON Volume 7 Issue 3-4 2013


On 24 October, 2013, we marked the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Gulistan, which ended the longest war of the nineteenth century between the Russian and Persian empires; it went on for nearly ten years, from 1804 to late 1813. No other open armed conflict of the time was that long: the fifteen years of Napoleonic wars in Europe and Northern Africa was a string of fairly short and mainly local armed conflicts that cannot be described as the first world war in the history of mankind. Many events and many repercussions of this Russo-Persian war remain unclarified, and many questions are still waiting for direct and honest answers. This war was of fundamental importance for the historical destiny of the Azeri people; it predetermined, for many centuries to come, the directions of its national, intellectual, political, and state development. This means that the historical lacunae left by the previous generations should be filled in good faith. A comprehensive analysis of the military actions, political steps, diplomatic efforts, and other events of the time requires an extensive monographic study. For want of space I will limit myself to those aspects that should be further discussed by Russian, Azeri, and Iranian historians.

Pre-Soviet Russian historical tradition (represented by two outstanding historians Perpetual Academician-Secretary of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences Lieutenant-General Nikolay Du-brovin and Head of the Department of Military History of the Headquarters of the Caucasian Military District of the Russian Imperial Army Lieutenant-General Vasily Potto) saw Russia's intention to spread its geopolitical impact far and wide beyond the Greater Caucasus Range (the first step in this direction was taken in 1801 when Georgia became part of the Russian Empire) as the main or, even, the only cause of the 1804-1813 war.1 Soviet historiographic tradition, both Russian and Azeri, proceeded from the ideological postulate of "proletarian internationalism" and, therefore, tacitly ignored the subject or reduced it to realization of the "historically justified" desire of the Azeris to join the Russian Empire.2 In the last twenty years, that is, in the post-Soviet period, Russian and Azeri historians consistently ignored the subject despite the "chronologically favorable" suggestions in the form of the 200th anniversary of its beginning or its end. This shows that the academic community of both countries is not interested in the events and repercussions of the war. In fact, a 28-page leaflet Sovre-mennoe znachenie Gulistanskogo mirnogo dogovora (The Treaty of Gulistan: Its Importance Today),3 a highly tendentious political, rather than historical effort, the International Institute of New States issued in early 2013 was the only response to the 200th anniversary of the end of the Russo-Persian war. This means that this war has been and remains an unknown or "forgotten" war despite its continued pertinence for the Azeri and all the other Caucasian peoples.

This article is an attempt to fill the lacuna in the mainstream of contemporary historical science in the post-Soviet expanse.

I have not aspired to write a detailed account of the causes, course, and results of this war (this task requires a monograph). I pursued the much humbler task of drawing my colleagues' attention to facts, events, and processes that have remained outside the field of interest of Russian and Azeri

1 See: N.F. Dubrovin, Istoria voyny i vladychestva russkikh na Kavkaze, in 8 volumes, Print shop of the Department of State Lands, St. Petersburg, 1871-1888, Vol. IV; V.A. Potto, Kavkazskaia voyna v otdelnykh ocherkakh, epizodakh, legendakh i biografiiakh, in 5 volumes, Print shop of E. Evdokimov, St. Petersburg, 1887-1889, Vol. I; Utverzhdenie russkogo vladychestva na Kavkaze: 1801-1901. K stoletiiu prisoedineniia Gruzii kRossii, in 4 volumes, Vol. I, ed. by N.N. Belyaevsky, V.A. Potto, Print shop of Ya.I. Liberman, Tiflis, 1902.

2 See, for example: Kh.M. Ibragimbeyli, Rossia i Azerbaidzhan vpervoy tretiXIXveka (iz voenno-politicheskoy istorii), Nauka Publishers, Main Department of Oriental Literature, Moscow, 1969; J.M. Mustafaev, Severnye khanstvaAzerbaidzhana i Rossia (konetsXVIII-nachaloXIX v.), Elm, Baku, 1989; I.P. Petrushevsky, "Khanstva Azerbaidzhana i vozniknovenie russkoy orientatsii," Izvestia ANAzSSR (Department of Social Sciences), Issue II, No. 5, Baku, 1946; Prisoedinenie Azerbaidzhana k Rossii i egoprogressivnyeposledstviia v oblasti ekonomiki i kultury (XIX-nach. XX v.), ed. by A.S. Sumbatzade, Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan S.S.R., Institute of the Peoples of the Middle and Near East, Baku, 1955.

3 See: Sovremennoe znachenie Gulistanskogo mirnogo dogovora, International Institute of the New States, Moscow, 2013.


historians, and therefore, escaped scholarly interpretation, even though they are obviously worthy of closer scrutiny. In fact, I intend to formulate here a set of questions in the hope that at some time in the future Azeri historians will answer them (in their own interests) in a straightforward and sincere manner.

Debates on the War's Causes and Beginning

The geopolitical reasons for the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 are obvious. First, the Russian Empire sought a wider presence in the Caucasus by moving into territories that were legally dependent on Persia. The Georgievsk Treaty of 1783, which joined Georgia to Russia, was the first step in this direction. Second, the Persian Empire was obviously unable to protect its Caucasian vassals against the external military and political threat from the north amply confirmed by that fact that neither Fath Ali Shah Qajar nor Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, who ruled the Persian Caucasian territories populated by Turkic tribes (the ethnic foundation of a single Azeri people and, later, Azeri nation), responded to the Treaty of 1783 and its results. The Russian military in the Caucasus were past masters of using the slightest pretext to extend their imperial domains in the Caucasus and were equal to the task. The patrimonial nature of the relations between the local feudal lords and the administration of Prince Abbas made these territories de facto independent: there were no Persian armed contingents to protect these lands against external aggression. Disunited Northern Azerbaijan, which consisted of thirty feudal states (khanates) (close in their state and legal status to European dukedoms), was, therefore, fairly easy prey for the Russian troops hardened in the wars against the Ottoman Empire. This meant new lands for the Russian Empire and a shower of medals and orders for generals and the officer corps: the logic that moved all empires, Russia being no exception, was death or subjugation for the weak—tertium non datur.

There were other, less obvious yet equally important reasons previously either ignored by Russian and Azeri historians or not widely publicized, separatist sentiments among the Azeri khans being one of them. In his Severnye khanstva Azerbaidzhana i Rossia (konets XVIII-nachalo XIX v.) (The Northern Khanates of Azerbaijan and Russia in the Late 18th-Early 19th Centuries), J. Mustafaev has fairly convincingly demonstrated that by the end of the 18th century, Baku, Ganja, Shaki, Shamakhi, and their neighbors had outstripped, economically and socially, the Persian regions of the Persian Empire. For this reason, many of the Caucasian khans dreamed of maximum detachment from Tabriz and Tehran and even of political sovereignty. The largest of the khanates had already acquired its material prerequisites in the form of financial and fiscal systems, currency, and measures and weights, which differed greatly from those used in Persia. In June 1812, soon after a large chunk of the territory of contemporary Azerbaijan was de facto acceded to Russia, General of Infantry Nikolay Rti-shchev, Chief Commander in Georgia and Chief Manager of the Civilian and Border Affairs in Georgia and the Caucasian and Astrakhan Gubernias (he filled this post from 1811 to 1815), the highest Russian official in the Caucasus, initiated financial auditing of the lands that later became part of Russia under the Treaty of Gulistan. Carried out by the Fiscal Expedition of the Supreme Georgian Government, the auditing revealed that the Caucasian khanates were administratively and economically absolutely independent from the Persian Empire: the local administrations developed fiscal and financial structures based on local monetary systems, mints, and treasuries.4 This confirms that the khans of Karabakh, Ganja, Shirvan, and Shamakhi, sick and tired of their political dependence on the Persians, were eager to end this dependence even by changing the suzerain.

4 See: Akty, sobrannye Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissiey (Acts Collected by the Caucasian Archeographic Commission), in 13 volumes, Print shop of the Main Department of the Caucasian Viceroy, Tiflis, 1866-1904, Vol. 5, 1873, pp. 201-207.


These sentiments were partly born by the domestic instability in the Persian Empire: throughout the 18th century, it was not an empire in the true sense of the word, but a state of shakhinshakhs (kings of kings), their supreme power limited by the administrative sovereignty of the local khans. The supreme power of the rulers of the Zand and later Qajar dynasties stopped at the patrimonial dominants of tribal corporations, which made a centralized state an illusion. In fact, in this respect Persia closely resembled the contemporary German princedoms or Rzeczpospolita, a situation fraught with centralization of the former and several partitions of the latter carried out by neighbors with strong armies or stable state systems. In the political, legal, and culturological respects, Persia differed little from the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation made up of over 350 more or less independent states, the only difference being the number of semi-sovereign subjects. The retrospective political and legal analogies suggest the objective conclusion that the developments in the Caucasus in the early 19th century were absolutely identical to those unfolding in Central Europe. In 1806, Napoleon and his Grande Armée set up the Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbund) out of numerous German princedoms and cut down the number of sovereign subjects of the German statehood from 350 to 36, which made it possible to establish the German Empire in 1871. Russia, in turn, fighting in the Caucasus, brought together the disunited Azeri khanates and tribes under the jurisdiction of the Russian Empire; this served as the starting point for the emergence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which became the Azerbaijan S.S.R., followed by the sovereign state of Azerbaijan as we know it.

At the turn of the 19th century, the relations between Persia and Azerbaijan and the Caucasus in general (by this I mean relations with Georgia and Daghestan) had developed into an open confrontation very much because of the national and religious factor. Under the Zand dynasty, the lands of contemporary Azerbaijan were a province, the population of which was oppressed and abused by Persian (Iranian) aristocrats. The tension led, in the 1780s, to a feudal war that brought to power the Azeri (that is, originating from Azeri territory or, to be more exact, from Ganja) Qajar dynasty. This defused the contradictions between the Azeris and the Persians by elevating the former and lowering the status of the latter, as well as exacerbating the contradictions among the Azeris.

It is a well-known fact that in 1783-1784 and in 1797-1799, Ibrahim Khalil Khan Javanshir, a vassal of the Zand dynasty, was engaged in secret talks with the Russian Empire on Russian sovereignty for his Karabakh Khanate. In 1795 and 1797, he stood alone against the Persian inroads under Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar (Shah of Persia since 1796), the founder of the Qajar dynasty in Persia. He plundered and routed Karabakh. According to Mirza Jamal Javanshir, historian of the Karabakh khans, Ibrahim Khalil Khan Javanshir was absolutely independent in his khanate: "After arriving in Karabakh, Ibrahim Khalil Khan became an independent khan and ruler and took commands from no one." This does not refute the fact that Isfahan of the Zand dynasty and Tehran of the Qajars regarded him as their vassal, even if recalcitrant; he inherited this status from his father Panah-Ali Khan Javanshir, who received his title from Adil Shah Afshar of Persia in 1748.5 Very much like the khans of Karabakh, the khans of Shaki had no sympathy for Persia of the Qajars. This was especially true of Mohammad Hasan Khan, grandson of Haji Chalabi Khan (from the Kara-Keshish dynasty), who founded the khanate. (In 1805, Mohammad Hasan Khan transferred his khanate to Russian protectorate.) In 1795-1797, he fled from his khanate under the pressure of Agha Muhammad Shah Qajar and his army. Mir Mustafa Khan of Talysh was another confirmed opponent of the Qajars; he applied for Russian protectorate in 1795; during the Russo-Persian war, his khanate became a protectorate of Russia, a status destroyed by Abbas Mirza in 1809. On the other hand, there was Jawad Khan Qajar, a member of the junior branch of the Persian dynasty; he ruled Ganja and predictably sided with his Persian relatives during all internecine wars in the Caucasus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In short, this period in the history of the Caucasus is better described as a never-ending bellum om-

5 See: M.D. Javanshir, IstoriaKarabakha, Publishing House of the AzSSR Academy of Sciences, Baku, 1959, pp. 13, 47.


nium contra omnes waged in the territory of contemporary Azerbaijan, a situation typical of Europe of the 12th-16th centuries.

This suggests a logical question: why did several vassals of Persia—the rulers of Georgia, Karabakh, Nakhchivan, Shaki—all of a sudden enter into negotiations with Commander of the Russian Kuban Corps Sergeant Major General Pavel Potemkin and why did King of Kartli-Kakheti Heraclius II even express his desire to become vassal of Russia? In the latter case, this led to the Treaty of Georgievsk signed on 24 July (4 August), 1783. Here is the answer. In1747, the Persian Empire began moving toward internal strife caused by a power struggle between the Persian tribes united around the Zand dynasty and the Turkic tribes of the Caucasus and the Caspian led by the Qajars. The khans of Northern Azerbaijan knew that Agha Muhammad Khan would become their ruler, a cruel tyrant whose name was associated with what is now called "crimes against humanity." Unable to protect themselves, they had to look for patrons and defenders on the other side of the Greater Caucasus Range, that is, in Russia.

This means that, strange as it may seem, the Azeri khans were interested in the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813; they hoped to use the Russian army to acquire even more rights and privileges than those they enjoyed in the Persian Empire. No matter how unpalatable this might be for contemporary Azeri self-awareness, the above is confirmed by facts. For example, convinced that the Crimean Tatars were the only source of the centuries-long confrontation between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, many of the Ottoman statesmen tried to persuade the rulers (sultan and padeshah) to withdraw their state and religious sovereignty from them.6 Just like the corps of Ottoman Janissaries under Serasker Ibrahim Pasha stationed in Theodosia during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774 showed no zeal in defending the interests of the last Crimean khans Devlet IV Giray and Bahadir II Giray,7 the Persian sarbazes (regular infantry) of the Fath Ali Shah Qajar's army were unwilling to shed blood in the interests of the khans of Adeberdin (Azerbaijan); the shah left his son Abbas Mirza to deal with his fairly fickle Azeri subjects using the means and forces at his disposal. This finally brought Persia to a military and political defeat in 1813.

One of the important, though far from obvious, causes of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 should be sought in the level of civilizational development of the North Azeri khanates in the late 18th-early 19th centuries. The economies, handicrafts, and trade of Baku, Ganja, Nukha, Shamakhi, and Shusha were fairly developed; this is confirmed by the fact that they had their own currencies and mints superior to those of the Persian Empire. At the same time, Europe, which had entered the industrial development stage, outstripped the khanates of Northern Azerbaijan by at least two centuries: these ethnicities still lingered at the political development stage, which fell behind the industrial (bourgeois in classical Marxist terms) type of organization of social relations. Within the context of the formational approach to the periodization of human history, we can place Europe and Russia in the Modern Times, leaving Persia and Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages. This made it much easier for Russia to spread its military and political domination in the Caucasus, as well as along the border with the Muslim ecumene—in the Greater Black Sea area, the Balkans, and Central Asia—since by the turn of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had fallen far behind the European states in civiliza-tional, economic, and military-technical respects.

In other words, the territory of contemporary Azerbaijan was unavoidably engulfed by Russia in the same way as India was doomed to become a British colony. It remained to be seen whether the process was peaceful or not. In the course of history, it became clear that some of the khanates were

6 See: A. Resmi Efendi, The Juice of Truth: On the Causes, Beginning and Most Important Events of the War that Took Place between the Sublime Porte and Russia from 1182 to 1190 year of Hegira: A Story by Resmi Efendi, Foreign Minister of the Ottoman Empire, of Seven Years of Struggle between Turkey and Russia (1769-1776) (in Turkish). Russian translation by O.-Yu.I. Senkovsky was published in Biblioteka dlia chtenia, Vol. 124, St. Petersburg, 1854, pp. 9. 77-78.

7 See: E.-M.-A. Necati Efendi, The Crimean Story: Notes by Muhammed Necati Efendi, Turkish Prisoner-of-War in Russia in 1771-1775 (in Turkish). Russian translation by V.D. Smirnov appeared in Russkaia starina, No. 4, 1894, pp. 190-194.


willing to join Russia, while others were easily conquered: resistance was feeble, while the local people showed no taste for guerilla warfare. This meant integration cum colonization: force was used to remove disagreements with the elites who refused to negotiate a peaceful transfer to imperial jurisdiction.

The fact that, at the turn of the 19th century, Persia and Azerbaijan were civilizationally lagging behind Europe was responsible for another not obvious yet very important cause of the war. In the latter half of the 18th century, there was no longer any room for unhampered expansion left and right. The spheres of imperial geopolitical domination had to be delineated. By that time, the world had already been divided among the six main empires: the Austrian, British, Ottoman, Persian, Russian, and French, which had moved into all formally independent "buffer zones" in Scandinavia, the Baltic, the German principalities, in the Balkans, North Africa, the Caucasus, and North and Central America. In short, the first division of the world was complete, which meant that human civilization had entered a period of permanent geopolitical redivision of the world, which is still going on unabated. For two centuries, each of the local wars was fought in the interests of one of the empires trying to use other states to undermine the position and influence of its geopolitical rival in a particular region. The Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 was one of the first such wars: France and Great Britain set Persia against Russia in an effort to force it to pull the largest possible number of Russian troops and the greatest possible share of other assets out of continental Europe. In the early 19th century, neither Fath Ali Shah Qajar, nor Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, nor the Azeri khans were ready to accept the fact that they were pawns on a geopolitical chess-board.

The Russo-Persian War was a logical continuation of the global Russian-British confrontation that started in 1799: The two empires could not agree on the status of the Isle of Malta, even though it was far removed from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. The story is interesting enough to be told here. In 1797, soon after Paul I had become Russian Emperor, he declared himself protector of one of Europe's oldest Christian military orders—the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Rhodes and of Malta (the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem), commonly known as the Order of Malta. In the summer of 1798, Napoleon captured the island without much fighting. This left the order without the Grand Master and without its base; the Knights of Malta asked the Russian emperor for help in exchange for the title of Grand Master. On 16 December, 1798, Paul I was elected Grand Master of the Order of Malta and immediately demanded that Napoleon leave the island, which he had declared a "gubernia of the Russian Empire." Napoleon refused; Russia joined the First Coalition fighting Napoleon. In 1799, a Russian corps under Field-Marshall (later Generalissimo) Alexander Suvorov took part in the Italian Campaign, which ended in the legendary crossing of the Alps in the winter of 1799/1800. On 5 September, 1800, the British capitalized on Napoleon's defeat in Egypt to occupy Valetta, the capital of Malta. The recently elected Grand Master asked the British crown to return the "gubernia of Malta" to Russia's jurisdiction; predictably, the Brits refused. The two empires separated by the European continent could not start a war in Europe. The Russian emperor removed the impediment by sending the Don Cossack Host to India on 28 February, 1801 to punish the British. Several days later, in the small hours of 12 March, 1801, the emperor was murdered and the punitive expedition was folded up.8

The planned Indian campaign of the Russian emperor worried London and stirred up rivalry between the two empires for domination in inner Asia, known in Britain as the Great Game and in Russia as the Tournament of Shadows. The British term refers to the struggle of the two empires for geopolitical domination in Central Asia, while the Russian term indicates their rivalry in the Trans-

8 See: V.A. Bezotosny, "Napoleonovskie plany Pavla Petrovicha," Rodina, No. 7, 2008, pp. 56-62; P.N. Krasnov, "Pokhod v Indiiu," Russkiy invalid, No. 22-23, 1900; A.A. Mitrofanov, "Russko-frantsuzskie otnoshenia v zerkale bonapartistskoy propagandy. 1800-1801 gg.," in: Frantsuzskiy ezhegodnik 2006, Nauka Publishers, Moscow, 2006, pp. 184190; N.K. Shilder, Imperator Pavel I, Veche, Moscow, 2009, pp. 308-312.


caucasus.9 On 12 Shaban the year 1215 of Hegira (29 December, 1800), Great Britain signed military and trade treaties with Persia (commonly dated 4 January, 1801 in British sources) as part of the Great Game. On the British side, the treaties were signed by Captain John Malcolm, and on the Persian side, by First Grand Vizier Haji Ibrahim. It is a well-known fact that the British authorities in India dispatched John Malcolm to the Persian court to prevent Persia's possible rapprochement with France and use of Persian territory as a springboard for a French attack on India. (Much earlier, in 1796, the French sent a mission to Persia under Olivier to achieve rapprochement with Fath Ali Shah.) By the same token, the British hoped to protect India against Afghan attacks. Under the military and political treaty, the shah pledged to send troops against Afghanistan if the latter attacked Britain's Indian domains, as well as drive the French away from Persia and never allow them back. In exchange, London promised weapons and armaments in the event of a French or Afghan attack on Persia. Indirectly, the treaty was aimed at Russia, which was regarded as an ally of France after the British seizure of Malta.

The military alliance with the United Kingdom made Persia, a hitherto neutral or even friendly state, an opponent of Russia and pushed Tehran into a series of unfriendly actions, the main one being the closure of the Russian trading station on Ashuradeh Island off the Caspian coast of Persia, in the Gorgan Bay (better known as Astrabad in historical writings). The trade treaty with Britain under which Persia was expected to fulfill its obligations was not the only cause of this unfriendly act. The Persians were irritated with their Georgian vassals who had moved under Russia's jurisdiction, this act being legally confirmed by the Manifesto of Emperor Paul I dated 18 January, 1801. Emperor Alexander I, who ascended to the throne after the murder of his father Paul I during a palace coup, responded to the closure of the Astrabad trading station with a rescript of 19 December, 1802 addressed to Chief Commander in Georgia Lieutenant-General Pavel Tsitsianov, which established a Russian monopoly on naval trade in the Caspian. The Azeri khans could only use fishing boats, not because "they were entitled to this right, but because of the provinces to which bread was delivered by kirzhims (the local name for big flat-bottomed sea-going boats used for cabotage navigation.— O.K.), which look more like boats rather than ships."10

The winter of 1800-1801 was of immense importance for the Caucasus: this was when it became a region in which the geopolitical interests of four out of six empires clashed. Persia, incited by Great Britain, and Russia, encouraged by France, were rapidly moving toward a war that would turn, by a whim of fate, the territory of contemporary Azerbaijan into a theater of warfare. Without external impact, or even pressure, the two countries could have avoided an armed conflict and achieved, relatively peacefully, without the use of arms deliberately prolonged for ten years, a delimitation of the spheres of influence in the Caucasus by depriving some of the khanates of their political sovereignty and administrative independence. This happened later; in the early 19th century, however, the Russo-Persian War began under the strong pressure of Britain and France. At first, both sides did not consider the lands of contemporary Azerbaijan a prize: they were a chess-board used by the participants in the Tournament of Shadows, or the Great Game, which had India in mind, a much richer and, therefore, much more desirable booty.

It remains unclear which of the several events should be described as the beginning of the war. There was no clear answer to this question, either in imperial Russia, or in the Soviet Union, even if responsibility was vaguely piled on Tehran. According to this tradition, the date 10 June, 1804 was considered to be the first day of the war. On that day, Persian Shah Fath Ali, who had signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain, declared war on Russia. It should be said in all justice that Russia was

9 See: M.V. Leontiev,BolshaiaIgra:Britanskaiaimperia protiv RossiiiSSSR, Astrel, Moscow; Astrel-SPb, St. Petersburg, 2012; E.Yu. Sergeev, Bolshaia igra, 1856-1907: mify i realii rossiysko-britanskikh otnosheniy v Tsentralnoy i VostochnoyAzii, Partnership for Scholarly Publications KMK, Moscow, 2012; P. Hopkirk, The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001.

10 Akty, sobrannye Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissiey, Vol. 2, 1868, p. 789.


equally guilty of the war: on 3 January, 1804, the troops of the Georgian Corps took Ganja, the capital of a Persian vassal, by storm. St. Petersburg and Tiflis regarded the capture of the Ganja Khanate as another victory of Russia's colonial policy in the Caucasus and a logical continuation of Georgia's accession to Russia in 1801. This was not directly associated with the rapidly worsening relations with Persia for the simple reason that seen from the Russian capital and from Tiflis and very much in line with the European tradition (by analogy with the parts of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation), the khanate looked like an independent feudal state. Tehran and Tabriz could hardly agree: they interpreted the capture of Ganja as an act of military aggression against Persia and the Qajar dynasty: the captured khanate was home to the Qajar clan (a demesne in West European terminology). Seen in this light, the war started as a Russo-Qajar war and later developed into the Russo-Persian War. This perfectly fits it into the concept prevalent in the contemporary Azeri history writings: the Russo-Persian War and the Treaty of Gulistan interrupted the development of the Azeri statehood, which potentially could have created a Greater Azerbaij an spreading to the larger part of the Caucasus and the Southern Caspian (Northern Iran).

There is one more concealed, yet important, cause of the war, which can be referred to the Marxist postulate on the role of the individual in history. I have in mind the subjective ideas about the world rooted in the ethnic origins of Russia's Chief Manager in Georgia General of the Infantry Paver Tsit-sianov (1754-1806). He belonged to the Georgian princely family of Tsitsishvili (Panaskerteli) from Kartli, the members of which moved to Russia in 1724 together with King Vakhtang VI. On his mother's side, he belonged to the Georgian royal family and was closely related to Mariam (Maria) Tsitsishvili, the last Georgian queen, the second wife of King Georgi XII and the queen of Kartli-Kakheti. It was a well-known fact that in 1797 Agha Muhammad Shah Qajar and his troops invaded Georgia and plundered the domains of the Tsitsishvili-Tsitsianov princes in the Mzovreti Gorge. This makes the march of the Russian troops on Ganja in 1803-1804, which triggered the war between Russia and Persia, cost Jawad Khan Qajar of Ganja his life, and joined the khanate to Russia, an act of Tsitsishvili revenge. This means that at first this was an anti-Qajar rather than anti-Persian or anti-Azeri war. Whatever the case, until the murder of Prince Tsitsianov on 8 (20) February, 1806 in Ichari Shahar (Old City of Baku), revenge played a significant part in the actions of the commanderin-chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus.

In the Modern Times (in the European periodization of history), or in the 18th century, many of the peoples living on the periphery of the Muslim ecumene tended to solve the problem of national self-determination by entering alliances with neighbors of different faiths. The Azeris were no exception in this respect. The Arabs relied on the British and French to detach themselves from the Ottoman Turks in the Maghreb; the Greeks, Rumanians, and their Slavic neighbors in the Balkans looked to Russia and the Austrian Empire; the people of the Pamir relied on the British to liberate themselves from Persian and Afghan domination. This explains why today Azeri historical science cannot arrive at a satisfactory assessment of the role, place and importance of the Russo-Persian wars of 1804-1813 and 1826-1828 and the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmanchay in their national history.

Here is a graphic example of how hard it is to choose between different approaches to the voluntary (or practically voluntary) transfer, on the strength of the Kurakchay treaties of 1805, of several Azeri khanates (Karabakh, Shaki, and Shirvan) and the Shuragel sultanate, to Russianjurisdiction. Azeri historians doubt the legitimacy of the Kurakchay treaties Russia signed with Karabakh and Shaki, as well as the "Requests and Vows of Allegiance of Mustafa Khan of Shirvan;" they allege that the three khans (Ibrahim Khan of Karabakh, Mustafa Salim Khan of Shaki, and Mustafa Khan of Shirvan) signed the documents under threat of the use of force. This, however, contradicts the fact that even before the treaty of transfer to Russia's protectorate was signed, Ibrahim Khan rebelled against Prince Abbas Mirza and the Qajars and in 1804, unaided by Russian infantry and artillery, crushed the Persian troops sent to pacify him. In the first decade of the 19th century, the Azeri national elite chose Russia's patronage as the lesser of the two evils (the other being Persia and its rulers).


The War in the Geopolitical Context

The military aspects of the Russo-Persian War are fairly well known not only from Russian, Persian, and Azeri sources, but also from British and French sources and literature, which means that the military aspects and course of the fighting have been exhausted. Few authors, however, put the war into the context of geopolitics; Russian and Soviet historiography made no such attempts (at least in the works available). This lacuna should be filled before we start assessing the war's impact on the historical destiny of the Caucasus and the Eurasian continent.

From the military point of view, it was a fairly strange war: hostilities were resumed and discontinued; truces were entered; and the fighting flared up and died down without obvious reasons. It looked very much like a camp fire that continues burning while there is wood, only to die down and then flare up again when a new supply of wood is placed on the coals by some hand invisible in the dark beyond the circle of light created by the fire. It seems that the sides had no intention initially to become bogged down in a large-scale war; it was a local border conflict into which the sides were drawn against their will. The numerical strength of the Georgian Corps of the Russian Imperial Army on both sides of the Greater Caucasus Range (10 thousand men) hardly permitted wide-scale hostilities. Historical sources have supplied us with exact numbers: on 1 May, 1805, the Russian troops stationed in the Caucasus had 42 field officers, 286 subaltern officers,755 warrant officers, 326 musicians, 6,055 privates, and 883 low-ranking noncombatants; the cavalry had 4 field officers, 25 subaltern officers, 57 warrant officers, 15 musicians, 485 privates, and 59 noncombatants; and there were 4 field officers, 29 subaltern officers, 19 sergeants, 5 clerks, and 840 Cossacks in the Cossack regiments and detachments.11 This constituted a total of 9,888, not counting the generals, obviously not enough to invade a country with a multi-million population. No matter how unwilling the sides were, the war went on and on for ten years. This means that it was a way of protecting the interests of third countries.

To reach a better understanding, let us take a look at the arrangement of the Russian troops in the Caucasus. In 1804, they were united into the Caucasian Inspection set up as part of the military administrative reform realized by Paul I in 1796. It was a military-territorial administration responsible for all aspects of military life: from quartering and supplies to military training. At the time of the war, the troops were organized into an acting army (armies) divided into line corps, as well as infantry and cavalry divisions strengthened by units and formations registered with different inspections (the troops of the Caucasian, Orenburg, and Siberian inspections were never sent to the active army, they were used for garrison service and guarding the borders). This means that the units of the Caucasian Inspection designed to protect and defend rather than to invade were drawn into the war with Persia. It was their lot to carry the burden of fighting at the first stage of the war. They fought in Karabakh and in the Erivan direction from the very first day right up until the Uzun-Kilis truce. Signed early in 1807, it allowed Russia to reorganize, in February 1807, the troops of the Caucasian Inspection into the 19th and 20th infantry divisions with the 19th and 20th artillery brigades attached to them in order to adjust the military command and supply to meet the needs of an offensive, rather than defensive, war.12 This marked the beginning of Russia's organized and consistent military expansion in the Caucasus. Before that, Russian rule beyond the Greater Caucasus Range went on according to the will of Chief Administrator in the Caucasus Prince Pavel Tsitsianov. It followed the natural course of the region's policies: Karabakh, Shaki, Shamakhi, and Shuragel, which sought Russia's protectorate and received it. This went on until 1808, when the Persians, under French and then British pressure, dissolved the truce, leaving the Russian military commanders with only one option: consistent conquests in the Caucasus in order to inflict the biggest possible military and technical damage on the Qajars and their allies from among the khans of Northern Azerbaijan.

See: N.F. Dubrovin, op. cit., p. 437.

; See: A.A. Kersnovsky, Istoria Russkoy armii, in 4 volumes, Vol. 1, Golos, Moscow, 1992, p. 184.


Chronologically, the Russo-Persian War is divided into two periods: before and after the Uzun-Kilis truce. During the first period of the war associated with Prince Tsitsianov, Russia sought to bring the greatest damage to the Qajars, their relatives, and allies and drew all the enemies of this new dynasty into the orbit of Russia's geopolitics. Between the summer of 1804 and late 1806, the Russian military administration in the Caucasus distinguished between the Azeri khanates siding with Russia and supporting the Qajars. Those rulers of Northern Azerbaijan who remained undecided were subjected to various methods of coercion up to and including murder. This fate befell Ibrahim Halil Khan Jawanshir of Karabakh. This was very much in line with the practices of the time: earlier, in 1801, Russian Emperor Paul I was assassinated in a palace coup paid for by British Ambassador in St. Petersburg Sir Charles Whitworth. The first stage of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 can be described as anti-Qajar; the second (after 1808) can be described as anti-Persian. At this stage, Russia was consistently seeking military-strategic and military-technical defeat of Persia; it was determined to destroy or capture the weapons and equipment supplied by Tehran's European allies—first Great Britain, then France, and later Great Britain.

European politics directly affected the war dynamics. For ten years, Fath Ali Shah and his son Abbas Mirza had been consistently protecting the geopolitical interests of the main European rivals of Russia's (Britain and France) in the Caucasus. When moving into the war in June 1804, both expected that Britain would continue its military and technical support delivered from India, one of the British colonies, under the political and trade treaty of 4 January, 1801. The treaty envisaged supplying weapons and ammunition to allow the Persian army to rebuff a possible Afghan inroad into Britain's domains in India. Fath Ali Shah and his son used the British weapons and ammunition against Russia. After exhausting what was delivered by Britain, the Persians, in anticipation of further supplies, concluded the Uzun-Kilis truce. This time, however, London, unwilling to waste its material resources on the actions unrelated to India's safety, refused to comply.

Fath Ali Shah turned to Napoleon with the same request and sent Mirza Riza to negotiate and conclude a Franco-Persian alliance in the shortest time possible. A treaty on a defensive and offensive alliance signed on 4 May, 1807 at Finckenstein (East Prussia) was followed by a French mission of 70 members under General Claude-Matthieu Gardane. As soon as he arrived, the Shah ratified the treaty and extended considerable trade and other privileges to the French. However, the cooperation between France and Persia was short-lived: on 9 July, 1807, Napoleon and Russian Emperor Alexander I signed the Treaty of Tilsit. The French pulled out of the treaty with the Persians in their war with Russia and called back the mission. The British colonial administration, in turn, in an effort to trim French influence in Persia resumed the talks on military and technical cooperation between the two countries. In this way, the Franco-Persian treaty produced no results. The short-lived (not more than two months) Franco-Persian rapprochement cut short the Uzun-Kilis truce. The Persian army defeated at Karababa lost Nakhchivan to the Russians. The 1808 campaign demonstrated once more that in the military and technical respect the Persian Empire was too weak to rely on its own forces and resources in a war. After the defeat at Karababa, the Persians stopped fighting. Hostilities resumed a year and a half later when Fath Ali Shah and his son Abbas Mirza found a new-old source of weaponry and ammunition—Great Britain.

The Treaty of Tilsit presupposed the joint offensive and defensive actions of France and Russia against external enemies, Britain and Persia among others. The treaty was potentially dangerous for British domination in India (since 1798, Napoleon had been planning a march on India); this forced London to resume deliveries of money, weapons, and ammunition to Persia to revive the hostilities against Russia, an ally of France at the time. Military and technical aid was to be extended under a preliminary treaty on alliance and friendship signed in Tehran on 12 March, 1809 by Grand Vizier Mirza Mohammad Shafi Mazanderani and Envoy Plenipotentiary of Britain Sir Harford Jones. The treaty demanded that the shah rupture its relations with France and other enemies of Britain. The Brits, in turn, pledged to pay the Persians 160 thousand tomans every year, resume weapons supplies, and


send British military instructors. In June 1812, Brigadier-General Sir John Malcolm accompanied by 350 British officers and warrant officers arrived in Persia on ships that also carried 30 thousand rifles, 12 cannons, and woolen cloth for uniforms of the sarbazes.13 It was these British servicemen, weapons, and assets that allowed Abbas Mirza to organize the last march of the war. In August 1812, the Persians captured Lenkoran and Arkivan; in October, they were crushed at Aslanduz. A large group of British supporting officers was taken prisoner; one was killed. The Russian side learned their names and ranks.

This means that at the first and second stages of the war—before and after the Uzun-Kilis truce—the Persian army used British weapons and British money to get all it needed. This makes Great Britain one of the sides in the war. The Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 was Britain's first "long-distance" colonial war: London carefully avoided direct armed clashes with the Russian Empire, one of its main geopolitical rivals in Europe. Instead, the Brits were waging a "proxy war" using the army of another state to weaken Russia's military might. Later, in 1904-1905 London returned to the methods of "soft" interference in the colonial war of another state, using them against Russia. It supplied the Japanese Navy with intelligence and latest artillery fire control systems. Persia, in fact, was not fighting for its interests and the interests of the Azeris: it was protecting the northern approaches to India, the Jewel in the British Crown (an expression attributed to Disraeli, British prime minister from 1874 to 1881).

At first glance this supposition sounds strange, however there is some grain of truth in it. Today, very much like in the Soviet Union textbooks on history (even those intended for higher educational establishments), the fact that the Russo-French Treaty of Tilsit created a state of war between Russia and Great Britain is passed over in silence, probably because it did not lead to large-scale confrontations on land. Between November 1807 and July 1812, however, there were several naval battles in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Adriatic, Barents, and Baltic seas. On 3 May, 1808, the British detained Russian sloop Diana under Vasily Golovnin, which was headed to the northern Pacific, in Simon's Town in South Africa. On 26 August of the same year, the British sank 74-gun liner Vsevolod in Ragerswik Bay (in the territorial waters of contemporary Estonia), as well as three gunboats; on 17 May, 1809, an English squadron (consisting of three liners, four frigates, and one brig) attacked the Russian detachment of five liners, one frigate and two corvettes under Captain 1st rank Ivan Bychevsky in Trieste and had to retreat under counter-pressure from the Russians. A month later, on 12 June, 44-gun British frigate Salset overtook Lieutenant Gavril Nevelskoy's 14-gun small ship Opyt off Nargen Island. Nevelskoy surrendered only after losing thirteen crew members and all of the ship's guns. The list of similar incidents at sea goes on. The Russian-British naval war stirred up a war between Russia and Sweden on land, which ended in 1809 when Russia joined Finland and the Aland Islands in the Baltics to its domains under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn. Speaking of the Persian-British Tehran Treaty of 12 March, 1809, we have every reason to say that it established a land front of the Russo-British War of 1807-1812 in the Caucasus functioning with British organizational assistance and material aid to Persia. The consequences of the Russo-Swedish War of 18081809 and the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 have a lot in common: Sweden, fighting for British interests, on the land front lost Finland; Persia in similar circumstances lost Azerbaijan.

It should be said that after signing the Uzun-Kilis truce Russia no longer needed the war in the Caucasus: it had acquired more than it expected to get. By late 1806, it had spread its jurisdiction (either legitimate or comparatively legitimate) to Karabakh, Shamakhi, Shaki, Shuragel, Baku, and Talysh, to say nothing of Ganja. This was more than enough to declare the war victorious. The political, military, and strategic situation in Europe demanded Russia's complete attention, which meant that the war in the Caucasus had to be promptly discontinued. After the Uzun-Kilis truce, there were

13 See: J.W. Kaye, The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, from Unpublished Letters and Journals, in 2 volumes, Vol. 2, Smith, Elder and Co., London, 1856, p. 625.


five (!) consecutive attempts to arrive at a peace treaty; the talks started in 1810 and restarted twice in 1812 and 1813. Certain forces behind the scene obviously wanted the war to go on.

External influence is confirmed by the way the Persian army was fighting in the second period of the war (after 1808): Prince Abbas did not push forward to capture the khanates in what is today Northern Azerbaijan; he limited himself to marches and inroads to keep the Russians riveted to the Caucasian front for the longest time possible. It seems that Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza merely wanted to knock together another army of volunteers, give them arms, and push them to fight without bothering about the possible results. They treated the war as a game or a process in which the final aim was unimportant. The Persian rulers were indifferent to the quality of training and battle-worthiness of their armed forces, which was very much inferior to that of the Russians. Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza wanted no changes: they counted on numerical superiority. The Persians, satisfied with the fairly extensive British military and technical aid they were receiving in 1809-1812, saw no reason to modernize their army or warfare tactics: they remained in the Middle Ages with their inroads, plunder, and capture of slaves. The Russian troops hardened by many years of rebuffing similar tactics of the Crimean khans, the Ottoman Empire, and the North Caucasian mountain people coped without much trouble. Plunder of peaceful people required no tactics, no concerted actions or discipline of the sarbazes—no wonder they stood little chance against Russia's Georgian Corps.

An analysis of the attack on Lenkoran of a unit under Major General Pyotr Kotlyarevsky undertook in the small hours of 1 (13) January, 1813 is the best proof of the above. Normally, the losses of the attacking side are three times higher than those of the defenders. The Russian unit at Lenkoran was 1,761 strong: 6 field officers; 57 subaltern offices, 131 warrant officers, 37 musicians, and 1,530 rank-and-file servicemen; the city was defended by 4,000 sarbazes. The Russian side lost 341 killed and 609 wounded; the Persian losses were 3,737 killed, not counting those who drowned while retreating and civilian losses.14 Simple calculations show that the attackers lost 12 times fewer people than the Persians behind the city walls, which means that the battle-worthiness of the Russian troops was 36 (!) times higher than of the Persian units. The above suggests that at the second stage, the Qajars systematically exterminated the adult males of the Persian Empire by pushing them into the war for the sake of their ambitions or to fulfill the obligations assumed under treaties with the British and French sponsors.

Today, some Azeri historians extol Mirza Khan as nothing short of a national hero fighting for the national interests of his people. Is this true? A negative answer is confirmed by the economic conditions of the treaties Persia entered, with his direct involvement, with Britain and France and their negative repercussions for the Empire's population.

Under the Finckenstein Treaty between Persia and France of 4 May, 1807 (also known as Traktat Kamieniecki), the shah pledged to end all political and trade relations with Britain, declare a war on it, persuade the Afghans to do the same, move his army into Britain's Indian domains, allow French troops to cross Persia to India, and supply them with food. According to the secret clause added to the Treaty later, when General Gardane's mission reached Tehran on 24 December, 1807, the Persians transferred the Isle of Karek to Napoleon and gave the French the right to set up military posts in Gombrun and Bushehr. In other words, for the first time in history, Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza allowed a foreign state to set up its extra-territorial military bases in Persian territory. This created a diplomatic and legal precedent used by European colonialists and imperialists to spread their influence far and wide on other countries and peoples without establishing their legal dominance over them. I doubt that what the Qajars did can be described as protection of the national interests of the Persians and Azeri.

The British-Persian agreement was even less adjusted to the interests of Persian sovereignty in the international context. The Tehran Trade Treaty signed by two countries on 29 December, 1800 reconfirmed the privileges bestowed on the Indian and British merchants by members of the Zand dynasty

1 V.A. Sollogub, Biografia generala Kotlyarevskogo, 2nd edition, K. Kray Print shop, St. Petersburg, 1855, pp. 230-233.


under the 1763 British-Persian Agreement in the form of the firman of Karim Khan Zand issued on 2 July in Shiraz, which gave the Ost-Indian Company several important rights. These included the right to own land and set up fortified trading stations in Gulf ports (in Bandar-e Bushehr, in particular) and elsewhere in Persia and the right of duty-free trade on the condition that the gold and silver thus earned would remain in Iran to be used to buy Iranian goods. The company received the monopoly right to import woolen fabrics and exempted the people employed by the British trading stations from paying all sorts of taxes and duties, etc. This made Persia the main market for British goods; it also permitted foreign military bases and trading stations to be set up inside the country in free economic areas. In fact, Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza laid the foundations of economic concessions and allowed enterprising foreigners to exploit the natural riches of their country. This policy survived until 1925, the year the Qajars were deposed by Reza Pahlavi amid internal unrest stirred up by foreign domination and foreign intervention. The Revolution of 1357 (the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979) removed the remnants of the policy started by Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza: foreign commercial property was nationalized, concessions liquidated, and natural riches took Islamic state jurisdiction. It took the people of Persia/Iran 170 years to become aware of the negative effects of the economic dependence on foreign capital established by Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza Qajars, while it also took thousands of deaths to cast off the yoke. I wonder what contemporary Azerbaijan would look like if the short-sighted Qajars rather than the brave Russian troops had won the war of 1804-1813?

Behind the Scenes of the Treaty of Gulistan

The Treaty of Gulistan, which ended the mutual enmity of Russia and Persia, was not an act of their free will. To a great extent, it was imposed from the outside, by the British Empire in particular; its role in the war cannot be underestimated. The treaty was brokered by Sir Gore Ouseley, Ambassador of Great Britain and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Persian court, who in June 1812 met Crown Prince Abbas Mirza in Tabriz to persuade him to start another round of peace talks with Russia. London did not want the war to go on, since peace talks between Britain and Russia were going on at full speed in Orebro in Sweden. The treaty was finally signed on 18 July, 1812. Acting under pressure, Abbas Mirza entered into negotiations and hastened to recall his peace initiatives as soon as Napoleon had invaded Russia and captured Moscow. The Russian troops in the Caucasus resumed fighting and routed the Persians at Aslanduz on 19-20 October, 1812; the Persians had no choice but to return to the negotiation table. Late in December, a detachment of Maj or General Pyotr Kotlyarevsky was sent against the Talysh Khanate across the Mugan steppe to push the Persians toward a peace treaty. In the small hours of 1 January, 1813, the Russians, having destroyed an enemy three times superior in numbers to it, took Lenkoran by storm. On 30 March, 1813, Colonel of the Tiflis Infantry Regiment Andrey Pestel routed a unit led by Hosein Qoli Khan Sardar Qajar, the last battle-worthy Persian unit in the Caucasus, in Karabuk, on the border between Nakhchivan and Erivan. This proved to be the final straw: Abbas Mirza sent his representatives supervised by Sir Gore Ouseley to start preliminary talks on the peace treaty.

The British diplomat wrote the text of the treaty. He was probably the best expert in Persia among his British colleagues: for several years he had served as interpreter for the Persian Ambassador to London Mirza Abul Hasan Khan; on 10 March, 1810 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Britain at the Persian court. On 18 June, he left for Persia accompanied by his wife and brother William. He travelled together with the British diplomatic mission and Mirza Abul Hasan Khan. In April 1911, he reached Shiraz. In November 1811, Sir Gore Ouseley arrived in Tehran and was given audience with Fath Ali Shah. On 14 March, 1812, after prolonged and vehement


discussions, he finally persuaded the shah to sign a treaty with Britain, his efforts rewarded with an Order of the Lion and Sun set in diamonds.15 In 1812, Caucasian Governor General Nikolay Rtishchev twice, in August and September, invited the Persians through his representatives (first Major Popov and Court Councilor Freygang and later Commander of the 19th Infantry Division Major General F. Akhverdov) to resume the peace talks. Both times, the British-Persian team—Mirza Abdul Qasim, Sir Gore Ouseley, and Robert Gordon—refused; they wanted Russia to leave the Transcaucasus without preliminary conditions.16 By that time, however, the news about the Orebro Peace Treaty between Russia and Great Britain had reached Tabriz, transforming Sir Gore Ouseley from a Russophobe into a Russophile. A typical Brit, he continued to insist on a peace treaty with the same ardor he had wanted the war to continue. He passionately wanted Persia to lose the talks in the same way as he had passionately wanted Russia to lose the war. He went to Tiflis to discuss the conditions to be imposed on the Persian court with Rtishchev. Much later, on 1 March, 1848, Prime Minister of Britain Palmerstone clarified the British tactics before the House of Commons: "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual."

The honor of formulating the main principles of the Treaty of Gulistan, the central of them being status quo ad praesentem (which drew new borders along the borders of the lands occupied by Russia) belongs to Sir Gore Ouseley. Persia had to reconcile itself to the loss to Russia of Daghestan, Kartli, Kakheti, Megrelia, Imeretia, Guria, Abkhazia, and parts of contemporary Azerbaijan: the Baku, Karabakh, Ganja, Shirvan, Shaki, Derbent, and Quba khanates, as well as part of the territory of the Talysh Khanate. In the summer of 1814, Sir Gore Ouseley's diplomatic services to Russia (he had prepared the text of the peace treaty) were rewarded with an audience with Emperor Alexander I, as well as an Order of St. Alexander of Neva and a gold snuff-box set in diamonds and embellished with a portrait of the Russian emperor. He was elected Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and received thanks from the State Collegium of the Foreign Ministry.17 In 1825, a book by William Price, secretary and interpreter at the Persian embassy of Sir Gore, called Journal of the British Embassy to Persia, embellished with numerous views taken in India and Persia, also, a Dissertation upon the Antiquates of Persepolis was published in London, in which he revealed the twists and turns of the diplomatic games played during the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 and the intrigues of Great Britain to fan and, later, quench the fire of war. Unlike Russia, Britain made no secrets about its diplomatic victories.

Despite his exceptionally important role in signing the Gulistan Treaty, Sir Gore was mainly acting on orders from Sir Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh, Marquess of Londonderry, the true architect of British foreign policy in Hither Asia, who filled the post of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1807-1812 and Foreign Secretary in 1812-1822. It was his idea to wage "proxy wars" against Napoleon and his allies, pushing third countries into the fighting while preserving the British troops and developing Great Britain's military industry. He was not alien to military provocations and started wars without announcement (the war against Denmark that started on 14 August and ended on 21 September, 1807 is the best known among them). The Ouseley mission was an initiative of the Secretary for War and the Colonies; he kept the supplies of British weapons to the Qajars under control; he was behind the U-turn in the way Russia was treated in the Caucasus after the Orebro Peace Treaty was signed in July 1812.

Sir Robert Stewart and Sir Gore Ouseley were true British diplomats: the preliminary text of the Gulistan Treaty allowed a revision of the results of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813. Art 4 of the Treaty related the final decision on the borderline between Russia and Persia in the Caucasus to a bilateral commission on border delimitation, but said nothing of its members and set no dates. Lieu-

15 See: W. Price, Journal of the British Embassy to Persia, embellished with numerous views taken in India and Persia, also, a Dissertation upon the Antiquates of Persepolis, London, 1825, pp. 84-86.

16 Utverzhdenie Russkogo vladychestva na Kavkaze: 1801-1901, Vol. 2, pp. 426, 428.

17 See: W. Price, op. cit., pp. 112, 114.


tenant General Nikolay Rtishchev, head of the Russian Caucasian Administration and promoted to Infantry General in reward for his services related to the peace treaty, could not have failed to notice this "delayed action mine," but was not in a position to defuse it. By that time, Russia did not have enough battleworthy troops to continue fighting—in 1813, each of the Russian infantry regiments stationed in the Caucasus had 200 to 250 bayonets and 10-15 officers. Persia, deprived of British military and technical support because of the war in Europe, was equally powerless to go on with the war. It had to accept the provisions, which nurtured the hope that the border disagreements might develop into casus belli. The Treaty of Gulistan suspended rather than stopped the war in the Caucasus. It never brought peace there.

The Russian-Persian demarcation commission completed its mission in 1818 thanks to the Tabriz mission of Commander of the Caucasian Corps General of Artillery Alexey Ermolov. The official text of the treaty was published shortly afterwards. Persia, supported and encouraged by Great Britain, spent the four years that separated the treaty from the final demarcation in a frantic effort to revise its conditions and restore the 1801 borders. In other words, Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza were prepared to exchange the territory of contemporary Georgia for restored Persian jurisdiction over the territory of contemporary Azerbaijan. Alexey Ermolov, a general whose name became known during the wars with Napoleon, proved to be a valiant defender of Russia's interests in the Caucasus: it was thanks to him that the borders of the Russian occupation zone were not pushed northward. The former Talysh Khanate, divided between Persia and Russia, was affected more than the other lands: its northern part, together with Lenkoran, became part of the Russian Empire, while its southern part, together with Astara, remained in Persia.18

London profited from the mutual territorial claims and disagreements over borders to gain a tighter grip on the Qajars. On 25 November, 1814, Britain and Persia signed another treaty, this time "on perpetual peace" based on the preliminary treaty of 12 March, 1809. Under its conditions, Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza pledged to annul all the treaties and alliances Persia had with European countries hostile to Britain; they promised not to allow the European powers to cross Persian territory into India and to force the rulers of Khorezm, Bukhara, and Samarkand to do the same. Moreover, the treaty obliged the Qajars to send Persian troops to help the Brits in the event of a war between Afghanistan and British India and to invite military instructors from Britain or its allies. Great Britain, in turn, promised its support to Persia if it was attacked by a European country (for geographic reasons the choice was limited to Russia) either by sending troops or extending financial support of 200 thousand tomans every year. London promised to insist on a revision of the Russo-Persian border legalized by the Treaty of Gulistan, not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Persia or its possible war with Afghanistan, and not to occupy any part of it territory. The treaty on "perpetual peace" of 1814 was spearheaded at Russia; it was prompted by the desire of Foreign Secretary Sir Robert Stewart to keep Russia as far away from British India as possible. In fact, in the first quarter of the 19th century, the British establishment was indifferent either to contradictions between Russia and Persia or to the future of the khanates of Northern Azerbaijan: it was solely concerned about the safety of its rich Indian colonies, which it was determined to exploit for the sake of world domination of the British crown. This is what the Treaty of Gulistan was about.


The 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Gulistan provides us with a good opportunity to reassess its place and the events that predated it in the historical destiny of the contemporary Azeri nation. I

18 See: Obozrenie rossiyskikh vladeniyzaKavkazom v statisticheskom, etnograficheskom, topograficheskom i finansovom otnosheniiakh, in 3 volumes, Vol. 3, Print shop of the Department of State-owned Lands, St. Petersburg, 1836, pp. 175-176.


will not engage in primitive deliberations about whether the Qajars were Azeri or autochthonous Persian rulers of contemporary Iran. Likewise, it is useless (or even stupid) to talk about alternative variants of regional and world history. It is useless to try to imagine what would have happened if back in 1812 Persia, supported by Britain, had defeated Russia and moved closer to the Greater Caucasus Range. History tolerates no "ifs." Today, Russian and Azeri historians should join their British, French, and Iranian colleagues to write a true history of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813. The following facts should be accepted as a starting point.

The Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 was a logical product of the processes and trends of European geopolitics of the early 19th century fed, to a great extent, by Britain's colonial policy in India and neighboring Central Asian states. In fact, for ten years, Persia fought Russia not for its Azeri domains in the Caucasus, but for Britain's interests in India. The Russian and British empires were not interested in Azerbaijan and its people: the former wanted to destroy and the latter to preserve its monopoly over use of the riches of India. Persia was nothing but the shortest overland route to India and a door that Britain wanted to keep closed, while Russia wanted it open. St. Petersburg took advantage of the discontent of the majority of the Azeri khans (Karabakh, Shirvan, and Talysh) with the policies of Crown Prince Abbas in the Azeri lands. He did not live long enough to become the shah, a status he wanted more than anything else in order to step out of the shadow of his royal father.

Abbas Mirza was one of the tragic figures of the time: with no significance and no power he wanted to prove to himself and others that he had both. Hence his readiness to "play at war" with Russia in defiance of common sense, morality, and Persia's national interests. He did not stop at setting up (for the first time in world history) exterritorial foreign military bases and transferring the management rights of the most profitable economic and trade branches to the British or the French. The senseless war with Russia destroyed the country's economy to the extent that it was left without money, weapons, and even cloth for uniforms. Persia found itself in the trap of European (mainly British) concessions, from which it was unable to free itself for another 150 years. The Iranian people had to carry out the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979 to finally rid themselves of the poisoned heritage of the Qajars. Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza are personally responsible for the loss of Northern Azerbaijan and economic independence. It was Great Britain that profited most from the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 formally won by the Russian Empire.

Azerbaijan was a chess-board on which the grand-masters of the time, indifferent to the moods and fates of the local peoples, played their geopolitical gambits and end-games. The Azeri people became a divided people, but the responsibility should not be heaped on Russia alone. It should be shared among Moscow and St. Petersburg, Tehran and Tabriz, London and Delhi, as well as Shusha, Shamakhi, Nukha, and Lenkoran.


There is another aspect of the Treaty of Gulistan, named after the place where it was signed back in 1813. Today, the village of this name is found in the Goranboy District of Azerbaijan, dangerously close to the line that separates the armed forces of the Azerbaijan Republic and the separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, the 200th anniversary of this treaty cannot be celebrated at the place where it was signed. So the Treaty of Gulistan is related to two armed conflicts: the war that ended 200 years ago and the conflict that has been going on for 20 years now.