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

Melik Mejlum and Melik Abov immediately left for Tiflis. Tuli Arzuman in his turn hurried to Gandzassar to persuade the bishop Sargis Jalalian and his nephew Baghdassar (Daniel Bek’s son) to flee. The Gandzak Khan Javad sheltered them in his domain. During this time Ibrahim managed to murder the Jalal and Daniel Bek brothers of the Catholicos Hovhannes.

Since 1750 Ibrahim Khalil had set on settling the Tatar nomads in the Armenian villages, deporting the inhabitants to different parts of the area. The settlers also took possession of the personal belongings of the owners, besides the villages and houses. Slowly the Armenians were being squeezed out of their native land, mass deportations were organized and carried out by Ibrahim. During the absence of the Jraberd Melik, a thousand families were deported and settled in Dizak. To create a Muslim majority in Shushi, Ibrahim invited the Kazakh and Shamshadin Turks to settle here. Parallel to this shifts Ibrahim tried to convert the Armenian population of Shushi to Islam. After murdering the Dizak Melik Bakhtam in the Shushi prison, Ibrahim forced the Togh Melik Avanians to adopt Islam. The King Hercule demanded that Ibrahim should return back the Khazakh and Shamshadin Muslim population as they were his subjects and as such paid taxes to him. But being refused Hercule joined the Armenian meliks against Ibrahim. Two Russian regiments under Colonel Burrnashov took part in the campaign. But the seige of Shushi was not fated to come true. The Russo-Turkish war was set in motion and Burrnashov was ordered to return to eastern Caucasus.

Ibrahim made a new attempt to win Hercule’s favour, agreeing to send the Kazakh and Shamshadin settlers back to their land in return for Melik Mejlum and Melik Abov. Hercule was inclined to satisfy this demand. Sensing the trap, the two Armenian meliks fled from Tiflis and returned to Gandzak, resolute to revenge on Hercule for his treacherous intention whenever possible.

Melik Shahnazar died in 1792. The Karabakh Armenians considered him an arch-traitor, as his activity was destructive for the whole region. Melik Shahnazar had three wives. The wife Taguhi had given birth to Jumshud, Sona – to Hussein and Hourizad, Malayik – to Jhanbashkh, Jhangir and the daughter Huma. Ibrahim was the trustee of Melik Shahnazar’s sons. The son Jhanbashkh managed to receive a Melik’s title from his trustee. Husein attacked and plundered his brother’s mansion in Shushi. Jhanbashkh ran away to the Shamkhi Mustafa Khan who was hostile to Ibrahim.

Melik Shahnazar’s death was a great blow to Ibrahim. He became weak and disabled. Melik Mejlum and Melik Abov frequently attacked his domain, but he was unable to protect his population.42

The Mazandaran Qajar Agha Mohammad Khan was kept as hostage by the Iranian ruler Kerim Khan Zendi. The Qajar Khan had been castrated and employed as eunuch by Nadir Shah. After Kerim Khan’s death in 1799, the Qajar Khan fled to Mazandaran and revolted against the Iranian state claiming to the royal inheritance of the country. Soon he assumed royal power and chose Tehran as his residence.

In 1795 he subjugated the Atropateni district of Iran.

The Transcaucasian governors, who had submitted to Russia, treated the new Iranian Shah in a domineering manner. Agha Mohammad surpassed his predecessors in cruelty. He was an ugly man with short figure, colourless eyes, yellow hairless skin and squeaky voice. He had blinded one of his brothers – Martaz Ghuli and had murdered the elder brother Jafar Ghuli Khan. Capturing the rebellious city Kirman, he distributed the local 20 thousand women among his soldiers and ordered to blind the male representatives of the town. He was handed 7 thousand pair of eyes. This Agha Mohammad Khan set up the Qajar inheritance in Iran. Dividing his army into three parts the new Shah of Iran advanced to Transcaucasia. His brother Ali Ahuli Khan moved towards Yerevan. The Yerevan Khan immediately submitted to him. The second army moved to Talish, Shamakhi and Nukhi (Shaki) via Mukhank and subjugated the mentioned khanates. The third army led by the Shah, advanced to Shushi in 1795 in August. The Gandzak Khan Javad and the Jraberd Melik Mejlum led their troops in his army. The Georgian King Hercule sent his son Alexander to support Ibrahim Khalil. Melik Shahnazar’s son Jumshud sided with Ibrahim too. Ibrahim closed the gates of the fortress, expecting to meet his fate. The Persian artillery continuously fired from the settlement Khachin Tap (Topkhana) but without much result.43 The Shah thought to fill the Hunot gorge with horse saddles and form a bridge across it to pass to Shushi.44 The Armenian brigades often opened the gates of the fortress and with sudden attacks scattered the enemy. But the Persians managed to take captive one of such brigades consisting of one hundred Armenians. The heroic soldiers were soon barbarously victimized. Tied to each other they lay on the ground and the nailed horses walked over them piercing their bodies. This inhumane method of punishment was called “Jazid Kharman.”

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