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

On July 1826 the Persian army advancing in the directions of Yerevan and Karabakh violated the frontier and entered the territories which were under the jurisdiction of Russia. Muslim revolts broke out in former Karabakh, Shaki, Shamakhi, Shirvan, Gandzak, Baku and Talish khanates.

Yermolov lost his head, unable to react. The Armenians were his only hope. Nerses Ashtaraketsi published an appeal to the Armenian nation in the school printing press of Tiflis, which was established by himself. They called the Armenians to rise in arms to defend the country. At that time General Madatov was in Piatigorsk healing his wounds in the local minaral waters.

The Karabakh commandant Major Cheliaev sent Armenian couriers to Yermolov to report that the Iranian crown-prince with an army of 60 thousand soldiers and 30 cannons had already entered Karabakh and was advancing to Shushi. Abbas Mirza’s main intention was to capture Tiflis. But he decided to take Shushi first. And this decision turned to be fateful for them.

Only 2700 soldiers and 400 Cossacks with 6 cannons were left in Shushi under Colonel Iosif Reut. He was heroic participant of Caucasian war and Akhalkalak battle.

Three batallions deployed in Goris were ordered to leave for Shushi at once. The Tatar inhabitants of the city had plotted to attack the Russian soldiers defending the city and slaughter all of them and then open the gates of the town to Abbas Mirza under the ramparts hundreds of Armenian corpes were laid. Abbas Mirza had promised a gold coin for each Armenian head, as the Russian success of Transcaucasian campaign was related to the Armenian moral and material aid. Besides, the Persian court didn’t possess Nadir Khan’s political and diplomatic abillities. Instead of preserving the Armenian autonomous or semi-independent position, as Nadir Shah did, they tried to increase the supression of the Armenians as much as possible, and consequently the latter refused to accept their overlordship or enter the service of the Persian army, adding to their might. The erronous nationalities policy gave impetus to the liberation movements of the Armenian side in Karabakh and other regions inhabited by Armenians. Under such circumstances, the Armenians had nothing else to do but turn towards Russia, which was considered the only power able to free them from the violences of the Persian administrative structures. The anti-Armenian policy of Abbas Mirza made them rise in arms against the Persian rule and support the Russian batallion of Shushi.

Considering the Shushi fortifications not satisfactory, Yermolov intended to build a new fortress on the bank of the river Arax, in the Aslanduz settlement. The Shushi battalion was ordered to retreat to Tiflis or Yelizavetpol, destroying the fortifications beforehand. But the Persians had managed to catch the courier on his way and take the letter, realizing their previous action had been fatal to their plans. Reut himself decided to hide the contents of the letters from the defenders of Shushi.

The three Russian batallions, under Colonel Nazimka, were surrounded by Persians on their way to Shushi and completely destroyed.

The Russian General Valerian Potto later described the Shushi defence in detail,5 accepting that it would be impossible to hold the fortress without the Armenian volunteers’ and inhabitant’s support. Abbas-Mirza offered Reut to hand the fortress over to him and leave in peace. After the latter’s refusal, the Persians resumed the attacks but without any result. Again the crown-prince tried to settle the matter through negotiations. The defenders deliberately prolonged the answer to gain the time, as they were looking forward to the arrival of auxiliary troops.

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