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

After the funeral a real struggle broke out between Panah’s sons for the material inheritance of their father. Ibrahim was supported by the Shushi population while Mihrali’s adherents inhabited the lowlands and were mainly the nomadic tribesmen, dissatisfied of Panah’s overlordship. Panah Ali’s former allies – the Avarians supported Ibrahim’s claims. The Derbend governor Fatali Khan sided with Mihrali as he was in continuous enmity with the Avar, whose leader Mohammad – Nutsuli22 was murdered while conducting negotiations with the Derbent Khan. Fatali intended to destroy the den of the Avar allies and establish his faithful Mihrali there. Fatali, who had already taken Gandzak, was to join Mihrali in the Karabakh valley and launch an attack on Shushi. But the successive events turned to be destructive for Mihrali. Fatali’s sudden death was a great blow to him. Soon after this Mihrali himself was murdered by a relative of his. Ibrahim easily assumed power in the Khanate. He had inherited the trait of diplomacy from his father, but was more deceitful and cruel. He decided to restore the stolen property of the Giulistan and Jraberd meliks, who, settled somewhere near Shamkor, threatened revenge on him. But the two “mighty and brave princes”,23 as the Simeon Yerevantsi Catholicos portrayed them, were of much benefit to the Gandzak Khan. Ibrahim set up a new, firm alliance with Melik Shahnazar, marrying his daughter – the beautiful Houri-Zade. She was the granddaughter of the Dizak Melik Yessayi, as Melik-Shahnazar’s first wife Sona was the daughter of Melik Yessayi and was forced by Melik Shahnazar to marry him, while her husband Hovsep was still alive.

In 1763 Catherine II came to throne in Russia. The Empress inherited the essence of Peter the Great’s diplomacy. The conquest of the Black sea straits became the foremost goal of the state. But they were prevented by the Turkish vassal state of Crimean Khanate and the European powers backing Turkey. Grigori Alexandrovich Potiomkin was the most influential person in the court. He intended to suppress the Ottoman Empire and make it leave Europe. The Armenian merchants and manufacturers had already taken a highly visible role in the development of industry and trade in Russia. The Empress greatly respected and honoured one of the most powerful Armenian magnates – Hovhannes Lazarian (Ivan Lazarev). His father, the merchant Yeghiazar (Aghazar) in 1747 left New Jugha (Isfahan) accompanied with his four sons and moved to Moscow, starting his business. Soon the family moved to Petersburg, where his son Hovhannes (Ivan) entered the state service and soon became famous for his activity in the financial sphere. He was elected a member of the State Bank administration. Soon he bought the estate Ropsha with its magnificent mansion in the Petersburg environment, which became the favourite place of the Russian royal family and the court. Hovhannes was a great patriot too, one of the adherents of the perspective movement of establishing an independent Armenian state under a single monarch. At this time the Catholicos Simeon appointed the Archbishop Hovsep the leader of Armenian diocese in Russia. This Hovsep Archbishop Arghutian was an active political dealer and was in fact the Armenian ambassador in Russia. Soon Hovhannes Lazarian and Hovsep Arghutian addressed to the Armenian meliks of Karabakh a letter, informing about the advance of the Russian troops. Thus Russia hadn’t given up the policy of expanding to the Caspian coast and Transcaucasia and intended to encourage the native Christian inhabitants to support them before undertaking the campaign.

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