The Iravan Khanate

Administrative Territory of the Khanate

The Iravan Khanate, which emerged in the mid-18th century on historical Azerbaijani territories, encompassed an area between Mount Ararat and Mount Alagoz, located on both sides of the Aras River. The Iravan Khanate bordered the Pambak Province, Shamshaddil, Kazakh Sultanates, and Ganja Khanate to the north, Karabakh and Nakhchivan Khanates to the east, Hoi and Maku Khanates and the Bayazid Pashalik to the south, and the Qars Pashalik to the west and northwest. The territory of the Iravan Khanate  was approximately 23,800 square kilometers.

This region began its history in the early 15th century when it was administered by the leaders of the Sa’adlu tribe, who joined the Qara Qoyunlu confederation, until the establishment of the Iravan Khanate. Due to its geographical location, Saadlu’s settlement was called Chukhursaad, meaning Saadlu’s Chukhur. Some sources also refer to Chukhursaad as the Iravan region. The ruler of Chukhursaad, Amir Saad, passed away, and after his death, his son Pir Husayn built a family mausoleum in 1413, which is currently located in the vicinity of the city of Iravan, specifically in the village of Jafarabad (known as Arqavand since 1946). Nowadays, Armenians try to present this monument as the “Turkmen monument.”

After the establishment of the Safavid state in 1501, the Azerbaijani province was divided into four administrative regions, and Chukhursaad was one of them. The center of this beylerbeylik (province) was the city of Iravan, and it was also known as the Iravan beylerbeylik. Chukhursaad beylerbeylik had periods when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and recognized as an Iravan province. According to the “Summary of the Iravan Province” compiled by the Ottomans in 1728, the province was divided into the following districts in terms of administrative-territorial divisions: the city of Iravan, Qirkhbulaq, Karbi, Maku, Khinzirak, Garni, Vedi, Derechichek, Abaran, Goycha, Dereleyez, Mezre, Sürmeli, Ighdir, Araliq, Sharur nahiyahs, Shorayel and Nakhchivan sanjaks.

During the rule of Nadir Shah (from 1736), the Iravan province was part of the Azerbaijani beylerbeylik. After Nadir Shah’s assassination in 1747, the Afsharid Empire dissolved, and independent khanates were established. Similar to other khanates in Azerbaijan, the territory of the Iravan Khanate  was divided into regions, and these regions were further divided into villages.

The city of Iravan was also considered a separate administrative unit. The city, serving as the center of the Khanate, witnessed significant development and architectural achievements, including the construction of several mosques, caravanserais, and baths, which were renowned architectural landmarks. The Iravan Fortress itself was a magnificent architectural complex. In 1795, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar incorporated the Iravan Khanate  into his dominions, and he specifically granted the Sharur and Pambak territories to the Khan of Iravan, Mohammad Khan. The Russian historian Ivan Chopin, who conducted a census in the territory of the former Iravan Khanate in 1829-1832, gave detailed information about the geographical location and administrative units of the districts, villages destroyed as a result of wars. On the eve of the invasion of the Iravan Khanate by Russian troops in 1827, the administrative-territorial division of the Khanate consisted of 15 districts and the semi-dependent Shurayel Sultanate.

Only two of these regions, Derekgind-Parchenis and Surmeli, were located on the right bank of the Aras River. The presence of irrigation systems and the proximity of towns to river basins were essential criteria during the organization of these regions. For example, villages that used water from the Zangi River were included in the Zangibasar region.

Qirkhbulaq district was situated between the Derecichek and Zangibasar districts. It was bordered by mountains to the east, which separated it from Lake Goycha, to the north by Derecichek district, to the south by the city of Iravan, the Zangi River, and to the south-west by Gernibasar, and to the west by Korpubasar district. The springs of Qirkhbulaq plateau provided drinking water to the city of Iravan. Of the 48 villages that existed in the district, 26 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Qirkhbulaq district corresponds to part of the present-day Kotayk province and the former Eller (Kotayk, Abovyan) district.

Zangibasar district was located south of the city of Iravan. This district was bordered by Korpubasar and Qirkhbulaq districts to the north and north-west, the Araz River to the south, Gernibasar to the east, and Sardarabad to the west. Of the 33 villages in the district, 7 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Zangibasar district corresponds to part of the present-day Ararat province, formerly known as the Zangibasar (Masis) district.

Gernibasar district was situated on the left bank of the Araz River. It bordered Qirkhbulaq district to the north, Vedibasar district to the south, Goycha district to the east, and Zangibasar district and the Araz River to the west. Of the 95 villages that existed in the district, 43 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Gernibasar district corresponds to part of the present-day Ararat province, formerly known as the Qamurli (Artaşat) district.

Vedibasar district was located along the left bank of the Araz River. Vedibasar was bordered by Gernibasar district to the north, Sharur district to the south and south-east, Goycha district to the east, and the Araz River to the west. This district consisted of mountains and plains covered by the Vedi and Qafan rivers. Of the 54 villages in the district, 33 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Vedibasar district corresponds to part of the present-day Ararat province, formerly known as the Vedi (Ararat) district.

Korpubasar district, also known as Karbibasar in some sources, was bordered by Seyidli-Aghsaqqalli to the north, Zangibasar to the south, Sardarabad to the west, Zangi River to the east, and Derecichek to the north-east. Of the 49 villages in the district, 9 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Korpubasar district corresponds to the present-day Armavir province’s former Echmiadzin district and part of the Ararat province’s former Qamurli (Artaşat) district.

Sardarabad district was situated on the northern bank of the Araz River, across from Surmeli district. It was bordered by Talin to the north, Sardarabad and Seyidli to the west, Araz River to the south, Körpübasar and Zangibasar to the east. This district was founded by the last Khan of Iravan, Hussein Ali Khan. The famous Sardarabad fortress, completed in 1817  was located in this district. Of the 30 villages in the district, 8 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Sardarabad district corresponds to part of the present-day Armavir province.

Talin district was situated in the northern-western part of the Iravan Khanate, at the southern slopes of Mount Alagoz (Aleyez). The Arpachay River separated it from the Qars Pashalik. Talin district was bordered by Shoreyel Sultanate to the north, Qars Pashalik to the west, Sardarabad and Seyidli to the south, and Korpubasar and Zangi River to the east. The famous Talin caravanserai and Talin fortress were located in this area. Of the 47 villages that existed in the district, 27 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Talin district corresponds to part of the present-day Aragatsotn province.

Saadli district was the smallest district in the Iravan Khanate and it was situated in the westernmost part. The Arpachay River flowed to Araz river in this area. Seyidli district was bordered by Talin to the north, Qars Pashalik to the west, Derekend-Parchenis to the south, and Sardarabad to the east. In some sources, the district is erroneously referred to as “Saatli district.” Of the 14 villages that existed in the district, 5 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Seyidli district corresponds to part of the present-day Armavir province.

Abaran district was situated at the foothills of Mount Alagöz, in the northern part of the Khanate. It bordered Pambak province to the north, Seyidli-Agsaqqalli to the south, Korpubasar to the west, and Derecichek to the east. Of the 61 villages in the district, 22 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Abaran district corresponds to part of the present-day Aragatsotn province.

Seyidli-Agsaqqalli district was bordered by Abaran to the north, Talin to the west, Korpubasar to the east, and Sardarabad to the south and south-east. Out of the 20 villages in the district, 11 belonged to the Seyidli tribe, and 9 to the Agsaqqalli tribe. In some sources, the Agsaqqalli tribe is incorrectly referred to as “Axsaxlı.” This district’s villages were not affected by the war. The territory of Seyidli-Agsaqqalli district corresponds to parts of the present-day Aragatsotn and Ararat provinces.

Derecichek district was situated between Pambak to the north, Qirkhbulaq to the south, Abaran to the west, and Goycha to the east. Of the 53 villages in the district, 16 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Derecichek district corresponds to part of the present-day Kotayk province.

Goycha district was located to the north of Shamseddil Sultanate, Ganja Khanate, to the north-west of Derecichek, to the south of Nakhchivan Khanate, to the east of Karabakh Khanate, and bordered Qirkhbulaq, Gernibasar, and Vedibasar districts to the south-west. This district encompassed the entire basin of Lake Goycha. Of the 126 villages in the district, 67 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. According to I. Shopen, only 59 villages had populations, and 37 village names were forgotten. The territory of Goycha district corresponds to the present-day Gegharkunik province, formerly known as the Qaranlıq (Martuni), Yelenovka (Sevan), Basarkecher (Vardenis), and Chambarak (Krasnoselo) (part of it) districts.

Sharur district was bordered by Vedibasar district to the north, Araz River to the west, Nakhchivan Khanate to the south and south-east. The Arpa River divided the district into two parts. Of the 61 villages in the district, 11 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Sharur district corresponds to the present-day Sadarak district of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Derekend-Parchenis district was located on the right bank of the Araz River in the south-western part of the Khanate. It is currently within the territory of Türkiye. This district was bordered by Seyidli district to the north, Bayazid Pashalik to the west, Surmeli district to the south, and Sharur district to the east. Of the 88 villages in the district, 8 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. Parchenis Valley had 26 settlements, while Derekend Valley had 54 villages. The territory of Derekend-Parchenis district corresponds to the part of the Kars province of Türkiye.

Surmeli district extended along the right bank of the Araz River, in the southern and eastern directions. It was bordered by Talin and Seyidli to the north, Mountain Ağri and Maku Khanate to the south, and Derekend-Parchenis district to the west. Of the 78 villages in the district, 28 were destroyed due to the Russian occupation. The territory of Surmeli district corresponds to the present-day Iğdır province of Türkiye.

Shoreyel (Shuregel) Sultanate was situated in the north-western part of the Iravan Khanate , at the foothills of Mount Alagoz. The Sultanate was surrounded by Kartli-Kakheti Kingdom to the north, Talin and Seyidli-Agsaqqalli districts to the south, Pambak province to the east, and mountains separating it from Abaran district. The Arpachay River separated the Sultanate from Qars Pashalik. The central town of the Sultanate was Artik. According to the ” The Iravan Province Review Book,” there were 172 villages in the Sultanate of Shoreyel (together with Pambak province). According to information provided during Nadir Shah’s reign, the Sultanate of Shoreyel, which became part of the Iravan Khanate, had 109 villages. After the Russian occupation of Shoreyel Sultanate in 1804, except for a few villages, the remaining villages were settled by Armenians brought from Türkiye.

Pambak province was bordered by Kartli-Kakheti Kingdom to the north, Abaran and Derecichek districts to the south, Shoreyel (Shuregel) to the east, and Qazakh Sultanates to the west. In 1801, 14 out of 44 villages in Pambak were abandoned due to Russian occupation. With the exceptions of Derekend-Parchenis and Surmeli districts, the territories of Pambak province, as described earlier, now constitute the majority of the Republic of Armenia’s territory.

Population of the Khanate

The ethnic composition of the population of the Iravan Khanate was primarily made up of Oghuz Turkic tribes. Historical sources indicate that the main ethnic groups in the Khanate included the Bayat, Afshar, Saadli, Baharlu, Bayandur, Qajar, Shamli, Rumi, Ustajlu, Tekelu, Ayrımli, Muganlu, and others. Also, in 1441, during the reign of Jahanshah, the ruler of Qara Qoyunlu, after the transfer of the Armenian Catholicosate from Cilicia to the Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin) monastery in the village of Vagarshabad, Chukhursaad, a small number of Armenians who came from different places gradually settled in the territory of the khanate.

The Armenian Catholicosate of Echmiadzin and their emissaries, taking advantage of the protection of the Qara Qoyunlu, Aq Qoyunlu, and Safavid states, played a leading role in the settlement of Armenians in this fertile area of Azerbaijan. Armenian churches acquired land from local Muslim rulers, often with funds from Christian states and missionaries. Documents kept in Matenadaran show that as early as 1432, during the reign of Aq Qoyunlu Sultan Yaqub, an influential landowner named Amir Rustam Khan sold seven villages – including Vagharshabad, where the Echmiadzin Monastery was located, as well as Echmiadzin, Batrinc, Norakavit, Aghunatun, Kiradjli, and Mughni – to Gregory Makuluya. In return, he donated these villages to the Echmiadzin Monastery. Later, the Echmiadzin Monastery acquired an additional 16 villages and other properties and lands. Through these means, Armenians created new settlements for themselves in Azerbaijani territories.

The lack of accurate information about the population of the Iravan Khanate can be attributed to the numerous wars that took place in the region. The wars fought by the Ottoman Empire against the Safavids and Afsharids for control of the Iravan Khanate significantly impacted the ethnic composition of the population. Decrees issued by the Ottoman sultans concerning the persecution of Shia Qizilbash Turks led to the forced departure of local Qizilbash populations before the arrival of Turkish forces. However, these decrees did not include Kurdish Qizilbash populations, which in turn led to the influx of Kurds into the Iravan Khanate.

Armenians benefited more from the wars in the Iravan Khanate. For example, during the war with the Safavids, the Ottoman sultan Murad III’s decree dated April 28, 1578 stated that the goods and lives of the Armenians, which were subjects and taxpayers, should not be harmed. In September 1579, before the Ottoman army’s attack on Iravan, 3,000 families from the Abaran district were transferred to the Erzurum province. In October of that year, the Ottoman army took 20,000 captives from the Sharabkhane nahiyah. In 1583, when the Ottoman army entered the Iravan province, the Muslim population of Iravan city and villages withdrew to the Aghri Dagh highlands, leaving only Armenians in the city and villages.

To further strengthen Armenian communities in the territories surrounding Echmiadzin, Safavid ruler Shah Abbas created more favorable conditions. In 1605, he allocated special areas for the Armenian communities to live in one place who were scattered across the Safavid state. At that time, the city of New Julfa was built near the capital city of Isfahan, a church and a monastery were built for the Armenians who moved here, and they were given wide privileges to engage in foreign trade. Even Shah Abbas I allocated funds from the treasury for these buildings. Shah Abbas even entrusted the Armenian advisor Khoja Sefer to deal with foreign policy matters and diplomatic negotiations with European countries on behalf of the Safavid state. In 1608, Shah Abbas I sent letters to the Pope of Rome, the King of Spain, the Duke of Tuscany and the Doge of Venice through a delegation to Europe led by Khoja Safar. In these letters, Christian European countries were requested to take under their protection Christian Armenians living in Muslim countries.

In 1629, Shah Safi, the successor of Shah Abbas I issued a decree in the name of Catholicos Movses, to exempt the Etchmiadz Catholicosate from the tax of 100 tumens that it paid to the royal treasury. With another decree issued by Shah Safi in 1638, he ordered the officials of the Shah and Khan not to interfere in the internal affairs of Etchmiadzin, any taxes, duties, etc. were forbidden to be demanded. Shah Abbas II (1642-1667) and Shah Suleyman (1667-1694) also conducted a benevolent policy towards the Church of Etchmiadzin.

The church of Etchmiadzin skillfully benefited from the good relations of the Safavid rulers towards the Armenians. Catholicos Philip I addressing to Shah Abbas II wrote in 1650: “I submit obediently that many of the local Armenians currently live in the capital Isfahan, and many in our province, who came here from different provinces thanks to Your Majesty’s inexhaustible care and love. Your Majesty Ruler, three hundred believers – let a hundred thousand believers like this be the sacrifice of your holy horse’s hooves – spend their days and nights praying to you in the Three Churches, because they owe their lives to the mercy of His Majesty the ruler.”

On the other hand, the Catholic missionaries asked the Safavid rulers for taking the Armenians under protection as a Christian minority on behalf of the Vatican and the heads of European states. For example, in 1688, King Louis XIV of France appealed to Shah Sultan Hussein with a letter and request to open a church and a school for Jesuits (missionaries of the Roman Catholic Church) in Shamakhi and Iravan. According to researchers, deeper economic and political issues, as well as intelligence purposes, were hidden behind these missions. In one of the clauses of the trade agreement concluded between the Safavids and France in 1708, it was stated that the Christian missionaries who took root in the territory of the Safavid state can live wherever they want, and all Armenians and Christians, their children, can visit the missionaries, learn from them and listen to their sermons, no one can stop and prevent them.

In 1723, during the next attack of the Ottoman troops on Iravan, an Armenian named Segbos, who served in the palace in Istanbul, asked Sultan Ahmed III to give instructions that the troops should not touch the church of Echmiadzin and the Armenians. The commander of the Ottoman troops, Abdulla Pasha, did not allow the troops to attack Etchmiadzin according to the decree given by the sultan, moreover, he allocated a regiment for its defense. On February 22, 1726, Empress Ekaterina I decreed that Armenians should be given high mercy and protection. All this made the Armenians, who were a minority among the Muslims, a special privileged group, gradually affecting the ethno-demographic situation of the region. At the beginning of the 19th century, Armenians had been living in more than 50 ancient Oghuz-Turkish settlements in the territory of the Iravan Khanate.

In 1801, after the Russian troops occupied Pambak province, located on the northern border of the Iravan Khanate, and in 1804, the Shoreyel Sultanate, the deportation of Azerbaijanis and the mass influx of Armenians to those areas began. 190 of the 200 Azerbaijani settlements that existed in the region before the occupation of Pambak and Shoreyel provinces by Russian troops were cleared of Azerbaijanis at the beginning of the 19th century. Armenians settled in the territories transferred from the Iravan Khanate to Russia under the Gulustan Treaty signed in 1813, especially in the Azerbaijani villages that were vacated as a result of the war. During that period, more than 32,000 Armenians were moved from Türkiye to the Pambak-Shoreyel region alone.

James Morier, the secretary of the British embassy in Qajar Iran, visited Iravan in 1813 and showed that approximately 100,000 people lived in the territory of the khanate. This information is also confirmed in the works of Russian authors. At the beginning of the 19th century, according to Semyon Bronevsky, who was the director of the Asian Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, 18,000 families lived in the Iravan Khanate. As a result of the attack of the Russian troops on the Iravan Khanate in 1827, a part of the Muslim population left their homeland and sought refuge in neighboring Iran and Türkiye. The commander of the Russian troops, General Paskevich, in his letter sent to Count Nesselor on July 27, 1827, stated that of Turkish tribes living in the Iravan Khanate, 900 Karapaks, 300 Ayrims, 600 Ulukhans, 200 Chobankerelis, and 2,600 Muslim Kurd families fled to different parts of Türkiye.

Information close to the truth about the population of the Iravan Khanate can be obtained from the book “Historical monument of the state of the Armenian region during the era of its annexation to the Russian Empire” published in Saint Petersburg in 1852, by Ivan Chopin, who conducted a census in the territory of the Khanate in 1829-1832. The fact that the interpreter who accompanied I. Chopin was an Armenian affected the registration of the ethnic composition of the population in favor of the Armenians. Also, at the beginning of the book, the historical summary given by I. Shopen was mainly written with reference to the works of Armenian authors, which prevented the author from drawing objective conclusions at some points. However, I. Chopin’s work should be considered as the work that provides the most detailed information about the Iravan Khanate. According to the author’s information, on the eve of the invasion, there were 831 villages in the territory of the Iravan Khanate, of which 310 were destroyed as a result of the war. Taking an average of 25 families in each village and 5-6 people in each family, it can be determined that more than 43 thousand people lived in 310 destroyed villages. According to I. Chopin, after the occupation, 7,331 Muslims were registered in the city of Iravan, and 57,364 Muslims were registered in the districts. In fact, 16 thousand Muslims lived in the city of Iravan before the occupation. If we add the 43,000 people who lived in the destroyed villages to these figures, then it becomes clear that at least 116,000 Muslims lived in the Iravan Khanate before the occupation.

As for Armenians, I. Chopin writes that 20,073 local Armenians live in the districts, and 2,369 in the city of Iravan: a total of 22,442 people. In fact, many of those 22,442 Armenians were not local residents, but Armenians who came from Türkiye and settled in the region after the wars in the territory of the khanate since 1804. However, if we express it as a percentage, before the occupation, Armenians made up approximately 19 percent of the total population of the khanate. George Burnoutyan, a US researcher of Armenian descent, analyzed the results of I. Chopin’s census and came to the conclusion that before the occupation, about 20,000 Armenians lived in the territory of the Iravan Khanate, which was 20 percent of the total population.

I. Chopin’s information about the different social classes of the Iravan khanate reveals who were the indigenous population of the khanate. The results of the census show that 270 noble Muslim families of Khans and Beys, 30 Armenian families of Maliks and Aghas were registered in the territory of the Iravan Khanate. So, the Armenian nobles made up 10 percent of the nobility in the territory of the khanate, but after the occupation of the Iravan Khanate by Russian troops in 1827, Azerbaijanis outnumbered Armenians in that area for a while. Only after the mass transfer of Armenians from Iran and Türkiye to the territory of the Iravan Khanate based on the agreements of Turkmenchay (1828) and Edirne (1829), the demographic situation changed in favor of the Armenians.

As a result of the resettlement policy of Tsarist Russia, Armenians were settled compactly, mainly in Azerbaijani settlements. As a result, although the Armenians outnumbered Azerbaijanis, Azerbaijani settlements were more in quantity than Armenian settlements. According to the data of 1865, Muslims lived in 694 of the 1198 villages in Iravan province, Armenians in 413, Russians in 10 villages, and Armenians and Muslims lived as a mixed population in 91 villages. Even after the occupation, Azerbaijanis were the majority in Iravan district, which surrounds the city of Iravan like a ring and is considered the core of the governorate.

In 1865, 46,617 Azerbaijanis (Tatars) and 26,709 Armenians made up the population of 79,661 registered in the city. In other words, 58.5 percent of the population were Azerbaijanis, and 33.5 percent were Armenians. At the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijanis still constituted the majority of the population in Iravan district. At that time, 65,871 Azerbaijanis, 45,624 Armenians, 7,865 Kurds, and 869 Russians made up the population of 121,809 people living in Iravan District. By percentage, 54.1 percent of the population were Azerbaijanis, 37.5 percent were Armenians, 6.5 percent were Kurds, and 0.7 percent were Russians. As a result of the genocides and deportations against Azerbaijanis in 1905-1906, 1918-1920, 1948-1953, 1988-1989, which we will talk about separately in the future, there is not a single Azerbaijani left in the territory of the former Iravan Khanate – the current Republic of Armenia.

The facts listed above once again prove that the local population of the Iravan Khanate consisted only of Azerbaijani Turks, while Armenians came and settled in that area in different ways since the Middle Ages. It is clear from the above figures that the claims of Armenian historians about the territory of the Iravan Khanate being an ancient Armenian land and the majority of its population being Armenians are nothing but nonsense.

The fall of the Iravan Khanate

Among the North Azerbaijani khanates occupied by Russia at the beginning of the 19th century, the Iravan khanate was the last to fall. It should be noted that for more than 150 years before the occupation, Armenians appealed to the Russian tsars for the establishment of an Armenian state in the lands surrounding the Echmiadzin church, tempting them with various promises to start military operations. Realizing that the European states could not provide real help, the Armenians tried to attract the attention of the Russian tsars by presenting them valuable gifts. In 1660, Khoja Zakar Sarhadov, an Armenian living in Yeni Julfa who was engaged in silk trade, gave Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich a “Diamond throne” made of ivory. 897 diamonds, 1298 rubies, and 18030 turquoise stones were used to decorate that throne, which is currently kept in the “Armoury Chamber” of the Moscow Kremlin.

In 1666, merchants from New Julfa, led by Grigor Lusikov, came to Moscow with valuable gifts and presented them to the tsar. A little later – in May 1667, a trade agreement was signed that opened great opportunities for the relations of Armenian merchants with Russia. In 1677, an Armenian named Israel Ori, who joined the delegation sent to Europe by the Church of Etchmiadzin, was convinced that European countries would not provide real help, and in 1701 he came to the reception of Tsar Peter I. He also brought dazzling gifts to the tsar. I. Ori presented the program for the establishment of an Armenian state in the territory of the Safavid empire to the tsar. On February 22, 1726, Empress Ekaterina I issued a decree that Armenians should be given high mercy and protection.

In the second half of the 18th century, Armenians became active again. In 1760, Iosif Emin, an Indian Armenian, negotiated with the Russian government and the Georgian Tsar, and offered the help of Armenians in the war against Iran and Türkiye. In 1769, Movses Safarov, an Armenian from Astrakhan, presented a project to the Russian court. In the project, he proposed to “liberate Armenia” with the help of the Russian army and establish a state under Russian protection. In 1780, Iosif Argutinsky (Hovsep Argutyan), the head of the Armenian diocese in Russia, and a wealthy Armenian living in Moscow Ivan Lazarev (Hovhannes Lazaryan – his father, Yeghiazar Lazaryanhis, stole valuable jewels from the treasury and fled to Moscow after the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747. The largest of these diamonds was later presented to Catherine II and is currently kept in the “Armoury Chamber” in Moscow) proposed to the representatives of the Russian government to create an independent Armenian monarchy under the protectorate of Russia in the areas where the borders of Ottoman Türkiye and Iran intersect. The capital of the desired Armenian kingdom was supposed to be Vagarshabad or Ani.

After some time, Russia planned a military campaign to the Caucasus, and in order to negotiate with Catherine II for the purpose of establishing an Armenian state, Count Grigory Potemkin and the Russian general Alexander Suvorov, whose mother was allegedly Armenian, were involved in the negotiations as mediators. The Armenians assured Suvorov that local Armenians will actively help the Russian troops during the march to the South Caucasus.

In Valentin Pikul’s “Favorite” novel-chronicle, a dialogue between Grigory Potemkin and Catherine II is noteworthy. He tells the empress that they will discuss the issue of Armenians together with Suvorov, Lazarev and Argutinsky. Potemkin adds that Armenians are smart, they have already liked Iravan as their capital. To Catherine II’s question, “Armenians don’t have a country, what is the use of a capital?” Potemkin answered: “It doesn’t exist now, it will after us.”

From the second half of the 18th century, the constant quarrels and clashes between the Azerbaijani khanates made the Iravan khanate partially dependent on the Kartli-Kakhetian kingdom and created conditions for its interference in its internal affairs. The acceptance of the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom as a Russian protectorate by the treaty signed in Georgiyevsk in July 1783 further strengthened Russia’s position in the South Caucasus. After that, the ruling circles of Russia sent letters and gifts to all the khanates of Azerbaijan to accept the protectorate of Russia. In November of the same year, Count Apraksin presented the letter of the Russian government to the Khan of Iravan Huseynali Khan. In the letter, Huseynali Khan was offered to obey Irakli II, the king of Kartli-Kakhetia. These steps of Russia seriously disturbed Ottoman Türkiye, and the Ottoman sultan began to pursue a policy of inciting the Azerbaijani khanates against Russia.

In the early 90s of the 18th century, the intention of Agha Muhammad Khan, who subjugated the South Azerbaijani khanates, was to restore the Safavid empire. He marched to the South Caucasus in 1795 to subjugate all the Northern Azerbaijan khanates and the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom. His attack disrupted Russia’s plans to seize the South Caucasus. In April 1796, Russian troops under the command of General Valerian Zubov attacked the South Caucasus. Russian troops occupied Derbend, Shamakhi, Ganja, and Baku in a short period of time. The next target was the Iravan Khanate, but after the death of Catherine II in November of the same year, the march of the Russian troops was stopped and they retreated.

As a result of the annexation of Eastern Georgia to Russia in February 1801, the sultanates of Pambak, Borchali, Gazakh and Shamshaddil, located on the northern borders of the Iravan Khanate and dependent on the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom, also came under Russian control. Iravan Khan’s attempts to return the Pambak province were unsuccessful. After the appointment of General Pavel Sisianov (a descendant of the Georgian princes Chichishvilis who moved to Russia from the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom in 1724, was killed and beheaded by the nephew of the Baku Khan during his second attack on Baku in February 1806, his head was sent to Fatali Shah. His headless body was buried in Tiflis), who became famous for his cruelty in September 1802 as the commander-in-chief of the Russian army in the Caucasus, the Sultanate of Shoreyel was also occupied.

After the invasion of the Ganja Khanate in January 1804, the next target of the Russian troops was the Iravan Khanate. Because by capturing the Khanate of Iravan, Russia not only gained a military-strategic battlefield, but also strengthened itself on the borders of Iran and Türkiye. On May 10 of the same year, P. Sisianov sent a letter to the Khan of Iravan, Muhammad Khan, requesting him to send a letter stating his agreement to the following conditions: the Russian army should be stationed in the fortress of Iravan, the khan should accept the Russian emperor as his king and swear allegiance to him, and finally, he must pay tribute to the emperor in the amount of 80,000 rubles a year. If these conditions were accepted, Sisianov promised that the Khan’s life and power will be inviolable forever, but Muhammad Khan did not accept Sisianov’s proposals. He took serious measures to further strengthen the Iravan fortress. The number of defenders of the fortress was increased to 7 thousand warriors, the number of ready-to-fire cannons in the towers of the fortress was increased to 22, and a large supply of food was stored.

The first march of Russian troops on the Iravan Khanate began on June 12, 1804, under the command of Sisianov, by capturing Gyumri and attacking the Iravan fortress from the direction of Abaran. Qajar Iran, in turn, under the command of Abbas Mirza, the crown prince of Fatali Shah, wanted to get ahead of the Russians by sending troops to the territory of the Iravan Khanate. On June 19, when the Russian troops reached Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin), Abbas Mirza’s army had already stationed there. Sisianov’s attacks to capture Uchkilsa did not bring any results. The Russians were retreating with heavy losses. On June 25, Sisianov gave the order to attack the Iravan fortress. At the same time, the Russians forced Abbas Mirza’s army to retreat to the opposite side of the Araz River. The Russians besieged the Iravan fortress. Muhammad Khan tried to earn some time by diplomatically responding to Sisianov’s letters full of threats to surrender the fortress. The attacks of the Russians on the fortress and the help of the treacherous Armenians did not bring any results. Muhammad Khan was sure that as time went on, the food supply of the Russian troops would run out, and the siege of the fort would not bring any results. And so it was. On August 31, Sisianov called a meeting of the military council. At the meeting, it was decided to end the siege of the castle. The failed war, which resulted in the loss of 2000 Russian soldiers, ended. Sisianov’s dream of conquest was wasted. Russian troops retreated and returned to Georgia on September 4.

During the first march of the Russians to the Iravan fortress, the Armenians showed their treachery again. When the fortress was under siege, Armenian spies sent a message to Sisianov that the defense of the fortress from the eastern side was weak and that they should attack from that direction first. During the tense days of the siege of the fortress, the Georgian Armenian Rostam Bey’s group carried weapons and ammunition to the Russian troops from Tiflis on the Pambak-Abaran road twice, and was captured the third time. The traitor Rostam Bey was executed in Tabriz to serve as a lesson to others.

One of the tasks assigned to Field Marshal Ivan Gudovich, who was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus in July 1806, was to occupy the Khanate of Iravan and add its territory to Russian lands, but the policy of aggression carried out by Russia in the Caucasus was primarily a concern of France. France wanted to use Iran and Türkiye against Russia. In December 1806, France sent many officers and engineers to those countries to solve the problems of rebuilding the armies and providing them with modern equipment. Huseyngulu Khan Qajar, who was the Khan of Iravan since December 1807, used the services of French engineers to strengthen the fortress of Iravan. Cannon and gunpowder plants were built in the Iravan fortress, additional troops were gathered, and the fortress walls were strengthened. Gudovich described the Iravan fortress as follows: “The fortress is fortified according to all European military regulations, it has two walls, trenches are dug in front of the walls, and hills of earth and sand are formed in front of the trench, on which cannons are installed, and there are fugas bombs that did not exist in the fortress before.”

The second march of Russian troops on the Iravan Khanate took place on September 25, 1808. Gudovich attacked Iravan with 6,000 troops and 12 cannons. Huseyngulu Khan wanted to stop the Russians in Abarand with 5 thousand troops the next day, but he could not succeed and retreated. On September 27, the Russians captured the Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin) monastery and then set up a camp around Iravan. Huseyngulu Khan left two thousand troops in the fortress and entrusted its defense to his brother Hasan Khan. He himself left the fortress with 5,000 troops and camped around the Geder river in order to attack the Russian troops from behind. Hasan Khan rejected all the ultimatums and tempting promises of General Gudovich, who captured Bayir city and besieged the fortress from all sides, declaring that the garrison in the fortress will fight to the last breath.

After a long time of preparation, the next attack of the Russian troops on the Iravan fortress, which began on November 17, lasted for two weeks and was still unsuccessful. The detachments organized by Gudovich were forced to retreat under the blows of the fortress defenders, having suffered heavy losses. About 300 soldiers and officers of the Russian army died, and up to 600 soldiers and officers were seriously injured. Winter was approaching, the Russian troops besieging the Iravan fortress was running out of ammunition and food. Finally, on November 30, the siege of the fortress was ended. Under the command of General Gudovich, who was proud and arrogant like Sisianov, the Russian army returned to Georgia with the loss of more than a thousand people in the snowy and frosty weather. With that, the second march of the Russians to the Iravan fortress ended in disgrace.

Huseyngulu Khan, who knew well that Russia did not give up its intention to occupy the Iravan Khanate, in addition to strengthening the Iravan Castle, built a magnificent military-fortification complex called Sardarabad Castle in 1815-1817 with the participation of French engineers. According to the Gulustan Treaty concluded between Russia and Iran on October 12, 1813, the provinces of Ganja, Karabakh, Sheki, Shirvan, Baku, Guba, Darbend, Talysh and Dagestan permanently joined Russia, but stability in the region was not provided.

Russia wanted to further expand its borders by seizing the Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates, but Britain, which played an active role in the region instead of France, by providing military aid to Iran and Türkiye, wanted to push Russia out of the South Caucasus, which intended to reach the warm seas. Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, who was satisfied with the level of preparation of his army, was confident that he would win the war with Russia, and he first attacked on July 16, 1826, to liberate the Karabakh Khanate from occupation. Iravan Khan Huseyngulu Khan also seriously prepared for the war in order to return the lost territories of the Khanate with the Gulustan Treaty and on July 16, he attacked the post of Russian soldiers in Mirak village of Abaran district. Hasan Khan, the brother of Huseyngulu Khan, attacked the Boyuk Qarakilsa (later Kirovakan, the present-day city of Vanadzor), the headquarters of the Russian troops, and captured it on August 9. After that, Gyumri also fell into the hands of the Khan’s forces. With this, the provinces of Shoreyel and Pambak were again included in the territory of the Iravan khanate.

Tsar Nicholas I ordered Yermolov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus, to seize the Khanate of Iravan in a short time. In the first half of September, after the defeat of Abbas Mirza’s troops in the battles of Shamkir, Ganja and Karabakh, the troops of the Iravan khan were forced to retreat from Pambak and Shoreyel, and until the spring of 1827, the Russian troops were preparing to march on Iravan. Tsar Nicholas I instructed Yermolov to march on the Iravan Khanate by April 1, and therefore sent Dibich, the chief of the general staff of the Russian army, to Tiflis for help. According to the emperor’s order dated March 27, Yermolov was replaced by adjutant-general Ivan Paskevich.

On March 30, a parade of Armenian volunteer units was held in Tbilisi who prepared to participate in the attack on the Iravan Khanate. At the beginning of April, under the command of Adjutant-General Konstantin Benkendorf, accompanied by Archbishop Nerses Ashtarakesi, the third march of Russian troops over Borchali to Iravan Khanate began. Benkendorf’s vanguard group included about 5,000 infantry, up to a thousand Cossack warriors and 12 cannons. After reaching Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin) monastery on April 13 without encountering serious resistance, the Russian troops faced a shortage of food. Nerses Ashtarakesi’s promises that the Armenians would supply the Russian troops with food turned out to be false. Because there were not enough Armenians living in the territory of the khanate to supply the Russian troops with food even for a few days. The Azerbaijani population was moved to the opposite side of Araz by the khan before the fighting started. On the 16th of the month, Benkendorf attacked the fortress of Sardarabad. Fatali Khan, the 16-year-old grandson of Hasan Khan, commanded the fortress garrison. Hasan Khan’s cavalry chased the Russians and prevented them from approaching the fortress. However, the superiority of the Russians in the number of cannons was an obsatcle for Hasan Khan’s victory. Fatali Khan gave a sharp rejection to Benkendorff’s letter about surrendering Sardarabad fortress. After the 10-day food supply sent by Paskevich from Tiflis reached Echmiadzin, Benkendorf ordered an attack on the Iravan fortress.

The siege of the Iravan fortress began on April 25. Benkendorff’s attempts to capture the fortress were unsuccessful. The castle was defended bravely. 26 cannons were placed in the fortress, the number of the garrison was increased to 5 thousand fighters, sufficient food reserves were collected. The positions of the Russians were heavily bombarded from inside the fortress. Khan’s warriors came out of the fortress in small groups, attacked the Russians suddenly and quickly retreated. The ultimatums and tempting promises sent by Benkendorf about the surrender of the fortress to the Huseyngulu khan did not work either. Hasan Khan, after strengthening his army in his camp on the other side of Araz, helped his brother Huseyngulu Khan by continuously attacking Benkendorf’s army from behind. Increasingly intense heat and spreading diseases weakened Benkendorf’s army day by day, making the occupation of the fortress impossible.

On June 1, Paskevich, who set off from Tiflis with about 5,000 infantry, 800 cavalry, 3,000 irregular horsemen and 26 cannons, reached Uchkilsa on June 8. Pachkevich, who inspected the siege of Iravan, was convinced that it would not be possible to capture Iravan under the command of coward Benkendorf. On June 19, Pachkevich entrusted the siege of Iravan to the division commanded by General Athanasius Krasovski. The goal of Paskevich, who left for Nakhchivan on the same day, was to capture Nakhchivan and the Abbasabad fortress and cut off the connection between Abbas Mirza’s army and the Iravan khanate. Russian troops captured Nakhchivan on June 26, and Abbasabad fortress on July 7. Seeing that the continuation of the siege of the Iravan fortress did not bring any results, Krasovsky ordered on June 22 to lift the siege and withdraw the army to the camp located in Abaran until the weather cools down and the heavy weapons sent from Tiflis arrive.

Huseyngulu Khan knew that the Russian troops were temporarily leaving and that Paskevich’s army would attack the Iravan fortress again after returning from Nakhchivan. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Huseyngulu Khan took serious measures to further strengthen the fortress. The fortifications around the castle were improved, all the buildings within rifle range of the castle were destroyed, the earthen fortifications were raised considerably to better observe the surroundings of the castle, and the trees of the garden belonging to the khan’s harem, located between the castle and the city, were completely cut down so that it was possible to observe the surroundings better. 52 cannons were placed on the walls of the fortress. 18,000 people from the outer city and surrounding regions were transferred and placed in the fortress. The issue of their food supply for several months was solved.

On August 4, Abbas Mirza’s approximately 30,000 troops took a position around Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin). The Crown Prince’s army and Krasovsky’s army faced each other on August 17 around the village of Ushayan (now Oshakan) located between Ashtarek and Uchkilsa. Russian troops suffered heavy losses. After the battle, Abbas Mirza’s army camped on the bank of Zangi river. Hearing the news of the defeat of the Russians, Paskevich left a detachment in Nakhchivan and returned to Uchkilsa (Echmiadzin) with the army. Abbas Mirza’s army retreated to the opposite side of Araz. Before attacking the Iravan fortress, Paskevich wanted to capture the Sardarabad fortress and the food stock collected there. On September 13, the troops of Paskevich and Krasovsky attacked the Sardarabad fortress from two directions. There were 2,000 warriors and 14 cannons in the fortress garrison. On the night of September 15, Hasan Khan, the brother of Iravan Khan, entered the fortress unnoticed with his group and led its defense, but after the Russian cannons destroyed the southern walls of the fortress, its defense became impossible, and on the night of September 20, Hasan Khan and his group left the fortress and headed towards Iravan and the Sardarabad castle fell. Paskevich entered the castle early in the morning. The Russians captured from the fort 6 months’ supply of food, 13 copper cannons, and a large amount of gunpowder and ammunition.

According to the Armenian historian V. Parsamyan, after Hasan Khan left the fortress, the Armenians opened the gates of the fortress to the Russian troops. After the fall of the Sardarabad fortress, Huseyngulu Khan left the fortress with 1200 warriors and entrusted the defense of the Iravan fortress to his brother Hasan Khan, who was awarded the title of “Saraslan” (ie “Head of Lions “) by Fatali Shah for his bravery in the battles. Abbas Mirza directed a part of his army to Nakhchivan to distract the Russian troops from attacking Iravan.

On September 23, Paskevich arrived two versts from the Iravan fortress and took a position on a height called Mukhannattape. The next day, it was decided to begin the siege of the fortress from the southeast. On the 25th of the month, shells were fired at the fortress from Mukhannattape. From the morning of the next day, the positions of the Russians were hit by heavy blows from the cannons placed in the towers of the castle. One of the shells fired from the Russian cannons pierced one of the minarets of the large mosque in the fortress, and another shell fell into the Sardar’s palace. The Russians shelled the fortress all night until morning. On September 27, 18 cannons fired the rest of the day. At the end of the day, the defenders of the fortress restored the parts of the fortification damaged by Russian shells. The next day, the cannons fired at the fort again. On the morning of the 29th of the month, the eastern tower of the fortress and the walls adjacent to it collapsed after the heavy fire from the cannons. Paskevich gave Hasan Khan 6 hours and demanded to surrender the castle, but Hasan Khan wanted to gain time by not giving any answer to Paskevich. He expected that the troops of Abbas Mirza and his brother Huseyngulu Khan would attack the Russians from behind, thereby ending the siege of the fortress, but Paskevich took a preventive measure and blocked their way to the Iravan fortress.

On September 30, new artillery batteries were brought to the positions of the Russians. The defenders of the fortress were constantly responding to Russian cannon fire. The Russians wanted to enter the fortress at night by expanding the blown-up areas. 40 cannons of the Russians shelled the fort all night. Although Hasan Khan tried to break through the siege of the Russians and leave the fortress, he did not succeed.

Early in the morning of October 1, the people of the fortress saw the Russians crowding into the trenches dug along the walls of the fortress. The Russians captured the southwest tower of the fort under a hail of bullets. At this time, another group of Russians took a position in front of the northern gate of the fortress (Shirvan gate). The people of the castle, who wanted to escape from the blows of the Russian cannons, gathered in front of the gate, but the gate was filled with stones and covered with earth. Shortly after General Krasovsky’s demand to open the gate, the gates were broken and the Russian troops entered the fortress. After the occupation of the fortress, Paskevich wrote in his report to Nicholas I that the emperor’s flag was already flying on the walls of the Iravan fortress, the keys to the very famous fortress were in his hands, the entire garrison was captured, Hasan Khan did not manage to break through the siege and escape this time, 4 flags (two of these flags are currently stored in the National History Museum of Azerbaijan), 37 cannons, 2 howitzers (short-barreled heavy cannons), 9 mortars (short-barreled cannons), up to 50 falconets (small-caliber cannons) were captured as booty.

After the Russians entered the fortress, Hasan Khan retreated to one of the mosques in the fortress with his warriors. Entering the mosque, General Krasovsky ordered the Russians not to fire. He took Hasan Khan’s weapon and disarmed him. Hasan Khan asked Krasovsky to find and return the sword he had lost when he wanted to leave the fortress. This sword, which belonged to Amir Teymur and later decorated the palace of the Safavid rulers, was given to Hasan Khan by Fatali Shah for his bravery in battles. Krasovski bought that sword in exchange for a valuable gift and returned it to Hasan Khan. But the hilt of the sword, decorated with precious stones, had broken off and disappeared. After the hilt made of gold was restored, at the request of Hasan Khan, Krasovsky described the sword as the mighty sword of Amir Teymur, the conqueror of the East, and sent it as a gift to Emperor Nicholas I.

The Russian generals behaved very politely with Hasan Khan, an outstanding general who shook the Russian army for about 23 years, and whose heroism was well-known. Paskevich could not come to any conclusions about his future fate. Therefore, it was decided to send Hasan Khan to the presence of Nicholas I and let the Emperor himself make the final decision. On the instructions of Paskevich, Hasan Khan was sent to Tiflis in a special carriage, and then to Petersburg. According to the Russian military historian V. Potto, the political conditions did not allow Hasan Khan to reach Petersburg, he was delayed in the city of Yekaterinograd on the Terek River. After that, the author did not give any information about the fate of Hasan Khan. According to other information, according to the thirteenth article of the Treaty of Turkmenchay (February 1828), which was signed after the occupation of the Iravan Khanate, the captives from both sides were returned to their countries, including Hasan Khan. Hasan Khan, who belonged to the Govanli-Qajar dynasty, returned to Iran. In 1828, Fatali Shah sent Qajar Hasan Khan to quell the riots in Khorasan and ruled it until 1830. Then Fatali Shah called General Hasan Khan to Tehran. Hasan Khan was the ruler of Yazd, Kerman and Baluchistan provinces in 1848. He died in Kerman in 1856 and was buried in Najaf.

There is conflicting information about the fate of Huseyngulu Khan, Khan of Iravan. According to the information provided by I. Chopin, Huseyngulu Khan Qajar, died in poverty in South Azerbaijan in 1834. Huseyngulu Khan and Fatali Shah were related by marriges. Fatali Shah married Huseyngulu Khan’s sister and Abbas Mirza married Huseyngulu Khan’s daughter. George Burnoutian, an American researcher of Armenian descent, quoting Iranian researcher M. Bamda, informs that even after the occupation of the khanate, Huseyngulu Khan was appointed to various positions by Fatali Shah and died in 1831 as a rich man at the age of 90.

As a result of 23 years of intermittent wars, the Iravan fortress, which was called “Impregnable fortress”, was occupied by Russian fighters, and all the Northern Azerbaijani khanates came under Russian occupation. Armenian treachery played an important role in the capture of the Iravan fortress. The Armenians, who were familiar with the terrain of the region, guided the Russian soldiers, pointed out weakly defended areas of the fortress to the Russian soldiers, and performed espionage activities. Armenian volunteer units organized in Tiflis fought against the troops of Iravan Khan as part of Russian forces. On September 27 and 28, Archbishop Nerses Ashtarakesi, seeing that the invasion of the Iravan fortress was delayed, appealed to the Armenians living in the territory of the khanate to immediately come to the aid of the Russian army. The Armenians inside the fortress tried to destroy the fortress by any means. An Armenian with the surname Astvasaturyan, because of his treason was tied to the barrel of a cannon by the command of the Sardar, so that it would be a lesson to other traitorous Armenians.

When the news reached Paskevich, who was in his camp outside the fortress, that the Iravan fortress had been captured, the Russian soldiers had already started looting. All the houses in the fortress were destroyed by cannon balls, and the streets were filled with corpses. On October 2, a victory parade was held in front of the southern gate of the fortress. A victory march was played with salvo discharged from cannons. At that time, part of the damaged fortress walls collapsed and many people died. For the capture of the Iravan fortress, Paskevich was awarded the title of “Count of Iravan” by the emperor and the Order of St. George of the Second Degree. Other generals also received high awards. After some time, a special medal “for the capture of the Iravan fortress” was established. By the order of the emperor, Archbishop Nerses was awarded the Order of “Saint Alexander Nevsky” for his services during the occupation of the Iravan Khanate. The news of the capture of the Iravan fortress was delivered to Russian Emperor Nicholas I while he was in Riga. Hasan Khan’s sword was presented to the tsar. The tsar, in turn, donated that sword to the city hall as a souvenir of his presence in Riga (the sword is now kept in the “Armoury Chamber” of the Kremlin). After returning to Petersburg, on November 8, the Emperor and his family went to the church in the Winter Palace and prayed on the occasion of the capture of the Iravan fortress. The keys and 4 flags taken during the occupation of the Iravan fortress were carried on the streets to the cheers of the capital’s residents.

Encouraged by the fall of the Iravan fortress, the Russian troops captured the cities of Tabriz, Khoy, Urmia, Selmas and Ardabil in South Azerbaijan at the end of 1827 and the beginning of 1828. On February 10, 1828, the annexation of the Khanate of Iravan to Russia was formalized with the agreement signed in the village of Turkmenchay.

Nazim Mustafa
Doctor of philosophy in history, recipient of the State Prize