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

Murad Khan Zend intended to winter in the Mughan plain and consequently the Russian army could not advance the Gandzak and Karabakh. And again the liberation of Armenia was put off to better times. Soon the French Count and probably a secret agent Ferier Sovbef arrived in Isfahan. He took several steps “to move the Armenian question” from immobility, together with Ali Murad Khan, he spread rumours about French and Irano-Turkish treaty, which made Catherine II hurry to conclude a treaty with Iran. Colonel V.S. Tomara was sent to Isfahan by General Potiomkin, where he declared about the Empress’ order “wishing to make use of Ali Murad Khan’s intention to conclude a treaty with the Russian Empire” and also stressed that Russia would feel safe having “the Armenian nation as a rampart between Russia and Turkey”, which was the continuation of the Empress “rampart tactics.”38

With the Russian project of the treaty the restoration of Armenian kingdom was overlooked and mentions were made only about the Armenian nature of the authoritative powers of the restored state. The second provision of the document viewed introduction of Russian protection over eastern and western Georgia, which would have an actual power only in case of the victory of the “Russo-Iranian defensive treaty.” The first provision of the document read;

“The liberation of western Armenian territories from Turkey. Later eastern

Armenia reunites with its “national corps” of western Armenia and creates

a united and independent Armenia, under a national

government.”Corresponding agreements” should be reached with that

government.”

Then it was stated that the treaty must be signed by Ali Murad Khan Zend, laying him under an obligation to guard and forbid the established Armenian territory “to expand”.But the course of events wasn’t beneficial for the treaty. While the envoys were on their way, the news of Murad Khan Zend in death was broken in Khoi (formerly Ter). The Colonel left the city. Though the hopes of the Armenians were frusterated, but it was the first time in the Armenian history that Russia and Iran exercised their authority to reunite eastern and western Armenias and establish an Armenian state.

Aware of the current situation of Armeno-Russian relations Ibrahim Khan sent an Armenian envoy to General Potiomkin in Derbent to declare about his submission to Russia. The queen seemed to back this submission. But General Potiomkin was soon disillusioned. The Khan wasn’t hurrying to submit, gaining time, deliberately using slow methods. He set on to fortify the Shushi fortress and mobilize his military forces. The Karabakh, Khoi, Nakhichevan and Baku governor khans made secret plans to hinder the advance of the Russian troops. The Suleiman Khan of Akhaltska took part in the plot too. But soon observing the threatening position of the Russian army in Transcaucasia, all khans hurried to declare about their submission to the Russian Empire. Instead of the Russians, the Fatali Khan of Derbent launched an attack on Shushi. Ibrahim turned to the Georgian King Hercule, who hurriedly came to his help. The Derbent ruler offered Hercule to destroy Ibrahim with joint power and divide his domain between themselves; the Armenian part – to Hercule and the Tatar part – to Fatali. But Hercule refused the idea. General Potiomkin demanded that Fatali Khan should draw off his army, as Ibrahim, as a Russian subject, was placed under Russian protection.39

This situation set the insidious Khan free to realize his intrigues. He considered the circumstances favourable to start a campaign against the Armenian princehood. The straighforward struggle was full of dangers, so he set a trap for the meliks. In 1787 the Armenian meliks Mejlum Khan, Abov II, Bakhtam (from Dizak) and thirty other meliks were invited to Shushi. The naive meliks, being brave warriers but bad diplomats, gladly accepted the invitation of Ibrahim Khan. They were immidiately arrested and imprisoned.40 Then Ibrahim robbed the Gandzassar monastery of its treasures (a part of the valuable belongings was hidded by the Catholicos) arrested the Catholicos with his five brothers and took them to Shushi. It is said that the Catholicos Hovhannes Jalalian was betrayed by his brother Allah-Ahuli Bek and the Yeritsmankank monastery Catholicos Israel, who soon established himself in the Amaras monastery with the help of Ibrahim.

Some time later the Armenian volunteers led by Tuli Arzuman of Metsashen and landlord Khachatur, captured the Shushi prison and freed Melik Mejlum, Melik Abov and all the other prisoners. The Catholicos Hovhannes, Dizak Melik Yegan and Melik Bakhtam were already poisoned by the Khan.41

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