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

A regiment under colonel Koriagin hurried from Gandzak to support the Shushi defenders. The Armenian captain Vani from the Karabakh village Kussapat was among the leaders of the regiment. Unable to pass the Askeran (Mairaberd) castle, the regiment took position in the Muslim graveyard of Aghdam. The Persians continuously stormed their positions. The Russians suffered heavy casualties. With the help of Vani, the remains of the brigade, 150 soldiers, slipped to the Tigranakert (Shah-Aghbiur) castle, at night where soon joined by Tsitsanors regiment.

In 1806, on February 8, Prince Tsitsanor was murdered while conducting negotiations with the Baku Khan. His head was sent to Abbas Mirza, the Russian subject khanates became independent, as they hadn’t established an organized administrative unit, relying only on personal capability of the commanders. Imeretia, Mingrelia, Jar, Shaki, Karabakh and Shirvan formed an anti-Russian treaty. The Selim Khan of Shaki, who too had signed the Kurak treaty and had been given a degree of Leitenant-general, revolted against the Russians. All the Russian officers of Shaki were slain. But when the Russian General Nebelson besieged Shaki, Selim Khan fled to Iran, thus ending the rule of the Sevordian princely dynast over the territories lying between the Kura river and the Caucasian mountain range.

In 1806, in summer Abbas Mirza again crossed the Arax river. Ibrahim was conducting confidential talks with the Persian crown-prince about handing Shushi over to them and destroying Lisanovich’s regiment.

It was planned to move in two directions – to Yerevan and to Karabakh. The Shirvan, Shaki and Baku troops were to launch an attack on Karabakh. Ibrahim Khan had left the fortress accompanied by his family and close relatives and lived in a house in his downtown garden. The Russian commander Lissanevich was aware of Ibrahim Khalil’s letter addressed to Fatali Khan, where he begged to be forgiven for misconduct. The Shah in his turn had promised to assist him. Both the Khan’s son Mehti and grandson Jafar, dreaming of his title and position, suggested Lissanevich to kill Ibrahim. On June 2 at night a group of Russian Cossacks and Armenian volunteers left Shushi and attacking the summer house of Ibrahim Khan, murdered everybody inside, Sheitan Tuni who was from the brigade of Jumshud Melik-Shahnazarian, stabbed Ibrahim.

The death of Ibrahim Khan was a great blow to the Iranian Shah as Ibrahim Khan was the only one to be relied on while taking the fortress. The Persian army ended the siege and withdrew.

The Caucasian governor and commander-in-chier Count Gudovich appointed Mehti the new Khan of Shushi, granting a degree of Major-general. Mehti left for Tiflis to swear solemnly to be faithful to the Russian Empire. But Mehti was regularly corresponding with the Shahzada (crown-prince) through his brother Abul Fet. The head of the Russian army in Karabakh was General Koliarevski, who was famous for his victories against the Turks in Akhlkalak. The Russian governor of Caucasus was Count Pauluchi. Arriving in Shushi he decided to dismiss Mehti and replace him by colonel Melik Jumshud Melik-Shahnazarian. But the Armenian Prince refused the honour. Melik Jumshud and Melik Vani were good warriors but bad politicians, preferring not to be responsible for the fate of the country they handed the rule of it over to an alien lord. Alas, Israel Ori and Hovsep Emin were not alive to undertake that mission.

Long since had Abu Mirza prepared to seize Transcaucasia from the Russians. English officers were invited to train his soldiers. He too was educated in Europe and as such was an expert diplomat. General Ratishchev, who replaced Pauluchi, was aware of the crown-prince’s intentions, and planned to settle the matter through negotiations. But the crown-prince treated the Russians in a domineering manner. General Ratishchev was opposed by General Kotliaevski, who believed a solution could be achieved only forcibly. Without Ratishchev’s permission he crossed the Arax river and launched an attack on the Aslanduz fortress, where Abbas Mirza’s main forces were deployed. The Persian army was destroyed. The crown-prince had a narrow escape. Kotliarovski was granted a degree of Lieutenant-general.

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