CHAPTER 9 THE SHUSHI KHANATE (AVSHARS, KERIM ZEND KHAN, THE QAJAR INHERITANCE)

The courtiers formed a plot against the Shah. Safar Ali and Abbas entered into his bedroom at night and stabbed the Shah.46

The main plotter Sadikh Khan hurried to Iran to occupy the throne. He freed Ibrahim Khalil’s nephew Mamed Bek, promising the Karabakh Khanate in return for his assistance. But Sedikh Khan was not strong enough to seize the throne from Agha-Mohammad Khan’s nephew, who was soon placed on the Persian throne. Encouraged by the turn of events, Ibrahim sent his son Mehti to Shushi, then arrived personally.

Once again the famine came to rule over Karabakh. The population of Karabakh was Armenian, as witnessed throughout the whole of the medieval period. It is known from various sources and official Turkish, Georgian and Russian documents that its population remained largely Armenian at the end of the eighteenth century. Figures are produced estimating Armenian families 60 thousand in 1795. Later statistics of 1804 put the total at only 4 thousand families. The decrease was due to the life conditions and the continual shifts of the Armenian population to Georgia, Shamakhi and Shaki. The Armenian princes left the land too. The Giulistan Melik Freidun moved to a part of Borchalu, Melik Jumshad – to Lorri, Melik Abov – to Bolnis. They intended to join these territories and form an autonomous region, but didn’t consider that Georgia and Russia would never encourage such an action.

This continuous Armenian emigration from homeland was destructive for the Karabakh country. They were immediately replaced by the Tatar nomads. Ibrahim encouraged them handing over the Armenian villages and princely estates.

The Russian governor and commander-in-chief of Caucasian army Prince Tsitsianor left Tiflis and soon surrounded Gandzak. It was in December 1803. The Armenian meliks Jumshud, Melik-Shahnazarian and the leader of Georgian Armenians Archbishop Hovhannes and Bishop Nerses (later Catholicos of all Armenians) took part in the campaign. On January 3 Gandzak surrendered. Javad Khan and his sons were killed during a battle, though Tsitsianov did his best to conquer the fortress and generally the Karabakh land and Shushi without much losses.

The Russian strategists considered Shushi a base for their later attack on Azerbaijan through the Kudaferim bridge accross the Arax river. Besides even a small army could resist external attacks from that stronghold.

Ibrahim shrewdly avoided direct talks and submission to the Russians. He was sure that the Russians would never forgive him the death of Agha Mohammad Khan in Shushi. At last he made up his mind and calling the Russian Major Lisanevich in February of 1805, asked him to convey his submission to Tsitsianov.47

The Kurak river, separating Karabakh from the Gandzak Khanate, was chosen as a place where the two parties were to meet to sign the agreement. On May 14 a treaty consisting of 11 articles was signed by Tsitsianov and Ibrahim Khan. With the treaty Ibrahim was obliged to provide the Russian regiment of Shushi of 500 soldiers. Ibrahim was given the degree of Leutenant-general and a flag with the Russian coat-of-arms on it. The Khan was also obliged to pay an annual tribute of 8 thousand in gold. Ibrahim’s son Shakur Ullah was to be taken hostage and inhabit in Tiflis. With the third article of the treaty Ibrahim’s descendants would be the inheritors of his title and land. The legitimate masters of the lands, the Armenians, their rights and obligations weren’t even obscurely mentioned in the treaty.

Three days later exactly such a treaty was concluded with the Shaki ruler Selim Khan. This Selim was the last representative of the princely Sevada dynast’s Muslim branch, who had settled in Shaki in the ninth century.

Major Lisanevich, whom the Karabagians called “mad major” settled in the Armenian part of Shushi with his three hundred soldiers. The Iranian crown-prince Abbas Mirza, who was attentively following the course of events, took advantage of the fact that Russia was engaged in the struggle against Napoleon, and decided to reconquer Transcaucasia and punish the treacherous governors and their agents. Observing the Persian presence in the Jebrail gardens, Lisanevich hurried to Shushi. He was afraid that a revolt of the Tatars would break from inside which would enable Abbas Mirza to take the town. A week later the Persian army encamped near the Khonashen river, its vanguard cavalary deployed in Askeran. The Georgian Prince Alexander led his troops in the Persian army. He scolded Ibrahim Khalil in his letter “Nobody ever benefited from joining the Russians, why did you agree to hand the country over to them, adding to their might?”39

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