CHAPTER 10 THE RUSSIAN DOMINATION IN TRANSCAUCASIA AND RUSSO-PERSIAN PEACE TREATY OF 1818

Probably the Persian officers had failed to adopt Nadir Shah’s military tactics of conducting war through the sudden attacks of a mobile army. Besides the army being very immobile, the crown-prince was irresolute himself and couldn’t distinguish between the principal and secondary actions. Being a bad warrior, Abbas Mirza was the best politician and diplomat of Iran. As a governor of Iranian Azarbaijan he did his best to develop the trade in his region. He granted the Armenian merchants with certain priviliges, he himself took part in their ventures and in a couple of years turned the region into a flourishing trading centre. He never encouraged the anti-Christian campaigns of Muslim fanatics. The Tabriz Armenians were freed from paying taxes to the court.

Arriving in Tiflis Prince Madatov mobilized an army of 2 thousand soldiers and headed for Gandzak. Archbishop Grigor Manucharian and his cavalry joined his army. This brave soldier was named “Dalikeshis” (mad priest) by the Tatars. He took off his priest’s mantle and took up a gun or a sword instead of a cross whenever needed. With the army of his Madatov had to struggle against a superior army of 10 thousand men under the Shah’s son-in-law Amirkhan Sardar and elder son Mohhamad Mirza. By taking Gandzak this Persian army intended to lead the way for the immobile army of Abbas Mirza advancing to Tiflis. The Karabakhian commander advised Madatov to avoid direct conflict with numerically superior army of the Persians. But on September 3 a battle took place between them. The Shushi historiographer Hakob Poghossian gave all the details of this battle.6 General Madatov set a trap for the enemy and destroyed the enormous army of the Shah. For this brilliant victory the Armenian Prince was awarded with a diamond-sword and a degree of Leutenant-General. The enraged Abbas Mirza left the besieged Shushi and headed for Gandzak to punish the “audacious” Madatov. But confronting the Russian army under General Paskevich arriving from Tiflis, he couldn’t avoid a battle with fateful results for his army. Leaving a thousand captives, 2 thousand deads, 2 cannons and 4 flags in the battlefield, he drew back the remains of his army. Prince Madatov, crossing the river Yeraskh, invaded Shahsevan and seizing 80 thousand sheep, 15 thousand cows, 4 thousand horses and 3 thousand camels, took them to Karabakh. 40 thousand Iranian Armenians, led by Colonel Ghazar Lazarian, migrated to the Ararat valley. The citizens of the Maragha town moved to the close lying territories of Partav, but unable to bear the summer heat, they migrated to Karabakh and settled in the Ghazarkh winter house of the Jraberd meliks, naming it Maragha.

Mehti Ghuli, aware of hostilities between the Russian commanders Paskevich and Yermolov, introducing himself as the victim of Madatov’s and Yermolov’s policy, offered his service to Paskevich in the hope of restoring his former rank and position. Through Mehti Ghuli’s intermediary the Tatar beks were rehabilitated and returned to Karabakh. The Armenian princes who were devoted servants and supporters of the Russian power, were supressed and exiled from the country. Such were the surprises of the Russian bureaucracy, which accepting the Armenian support on the one hand and supporting their enemy Tatars on the other, later became the victim of its own policy.

In 1828 the Russian army, supported by the Armenian volunteers, took the Yerevan fortress. Russia took over the whole Transcaucasia. The German missionary Felician Zaremba accompanied General Raskevich during his Persian campaign, distributing the Bible translated into Turkish among the Muslims and preaching. But the Persian nation refused to adopt the Christian faith and destroyed Zaremba’s books. Establishing themselves in Tabriz, the Russians conducted negotiations with the Persian court. On February 10 1828 the Russian conquest was confirmed by the Russo-Persian Peace Treaty concluded at Giulistan. The year saw the disappearance of the Yerevan Khanate, which was transformed into the Yerevan province. Mountanous Karabakh, geographically an extension of the Armenian plateau, conquered by Russia 21 years before the Armenian territories around Yerevan, remained separate and was attached instead to the east. In 1840 it was incorporated in the Caspian province, in 1846 became a part of Shamakha province, renamed Baku province later. In 1868 it bacame part of Yelizavetpol province (Yelizavetpol or Elizavetpo was the name for Gandzak or Gianja).

Thus the “liberator” Russia captured eastern Armenia from Qajar Persia. The Russian rule turned to be more repressive than over-hopeful Armenians had anticipated. The idea of establishing national statehood soon died out. Russian authorities immediately neutralized national claims. The Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi was exiled to Bessarabia. The proposals made by the Armenian side, that areas populated by Armenians in the Russian Empire should be united as one administrative unit, were rejected by the Tsar on the grounds that an ethnic – homogeneous territory would have meant a danger to the Russian ruling powers.

Soon a Russo-Turkish war was to break out.

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