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

The Qajar Khan greatly enjoyed the sight. Agha Mohammad Khan and his brothers intended to take Tiflis after Shushi and punish the Georgian King.

Prolongation of Shushi conquest made the Khan leave it to the next spring. On the thirty third day of the siege he took his army and moved to Tiflis. Melik Mejlum joined him to take revenge on the Georgian King. The next morning the inhabitants of the besieged fortress opened the gates and hurried to the fields and mountains. But the Persian Shah had set a trap for them. His soldiers had hidden in the Devatalap gorge and in Avan’s cave. With a sudden attack they killed the Armenians, those alive tried to return to the town, the gates of which were already closed.

Agha Mohammed’s army entered Tiflis on September 13 and plundered the city for eight days. The seventy year old King managed to flee. The Persians took 12 thousand captives. The prominent Armenian poet and bard bishop Harutiun (Saiat-Nova) was murdered in the St. George’s church. From here the Shah hurried to Persia to supress the revolt of Kerim Khan’s brother Liftali Khan in Ghandahar and Herat. He intended to return to Shushi the next spring. Melik Mejlum and Melik Abov established themselves in the Gandzak fortress. Soon the King Hercule, allied to the Lezgis and Ibrahim Khan surrounded the fortress. The Georgians ravaged the Karabakh districts of Gardman, Parrissos, Kusti and Koght and completely destroyed the large Banants village. The siege of Gandzak lasted four months. Hercule demanded that Javad Khan should hand Melik Mejlum over to him and then leave Gandzak. The demand was refused. from the eight towers of the fortress, the four were held by the Armenians. Tiuli-Arzuman fell in one of the battles. Melik Mejlum suffered severe injuries and died. He was burried in the St. Hovhannes Church of Gandzak. At last Hercule, Ibrahim and Umma Khan agreed to become reconciled with Javad Khan, whose son and daughter were taken hostage.

In spring of 1796 the Russian army under Count Valerian Zubov moved to the Caspian coast, intending to occupy the whole of Transcaucasia. The Count was accompanied by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Russia Archbishop Arghutian. Valerian Zubov was known to the Turks by the name of Kizil-aiaghi (golden foot), as one of his feet was lost in battles and replaced by an artificial limb. The prosthesis was covered by sheet gold. Hovsep Arghutian pursuaded the Shamakhi Mustafa Khan to submit to Russia. Ibrahim Khan sensing the danger, sent his son Abdul-Feteh Bek with his declaration of submission and presents to the Russian commander. Count Zubov in his turn sent a cane to the Muslim religious head of Shushi – Molla Panah. the Russians intended to winter in Salian and launch an attack on Iran in spring. A regiment under General Rimski-Korsakov, accompanied by Hovsep Arghutian moved towards Gandzak. Through Hovsep’s intermediary the Gandzak Javat Khan too submitted to Russia and opened the gates of the fortress. From here the Russians moved to Tiflis. The Empress Catherine II intended to join Armenia and Georgia, holding out the prospect of the creation of a mighty Christian state of Transcaucasia.

On November 6 the Russian Empress Catherine II died. Paul I replaced her on the throne. The first thing he did, was to call Zubov back to Russia. The Armenian and Georgian hopes were frusterated again.

The next year in spring Agha Mohammad Khan crossed the Arax river with an army of 100.000 soldiers and ravaging the land on his way, moved towards the Shushi fortress.

Ibrahim, trying to save his family, fled to his wife’s native country – Jar and Tal.

A new disaster broke out in Karabakh. It was impossible to collect the crops. Plague and famine destroyed the people. The Armenian migration grew into a flood. Melik Abov taking his people emigrated in Georgia, Melik Jumshud (son of Melik Shahnazar) headed for Tiflis. The population of Shushi decided to meet the cruel Shah with numerous presents and icons. The Shah marched solomnly into the fortress. The population came to declare about their submittion. Some of them were spared, others decapitated. A part of the army set on plundering the inhabitants, but there wasn’t much to take. There was a lack of supplies in the army. Soon the militants gathered to express their dissatisfaction to the Shah. The protesters were decapitated. The existing hostility between the court people , who were originally Persian, and the military commanders, who were Turkish, was increasing. The Shah himself encouraged the split and even set the two parties against each other. Once a crowd of the local people met the Shah and begged him to save them from the violence of his militants. The enraged Shah, instead of punishing the offenders, ordered to cut the ears of his servant Safar Ali, which “failed to hear” and threatened to cut off as much heads the next morning as would be needed to erect a tower in Shushi, higher than the minaret of Khamkor mosque.45

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