Chapter XVI


     W.E.D. Allen (excerpt from the book”A History of the Georgian People”/London/1932)
     Maps and Illustrations: Andrew Andersen / 2003-2007




The first quarter of the eighteenth century was remarkable for the number of paladins who " o'er reached themselves ".

Louis XIV, now senescent amid the debris of his might, hadset the fashion. Charles XII at Poltava had ruptured finally the military and political power of Sweden. Peter the Great in 1711, rode into a dangerous trap by the river Pruth, and only narrowly slipped out. The fashion was maintained into the second quarter. Alberoni did not put his lofty dreams to a blood test, but monarchs so prosaic as Charles VI of Austria and the Empress Anne got their armies badly mauled by the Turks in 1739. It was as though the wind of the South Sea Bubble, wafted through the courts of Europe, had carried the
heads of rulers into the clouds of glory which drift in rarefied facility over the mud, the marshes, and the seas of flat reality.

In the East, in Persia, through the spring months of 1722, the decrepit House of Safavi -went stumbling to its sordid end. Not again, as after Tahmasp's death, a century and a half before, did the harams, though full of mountain girls from Georgia and Daghestan, of desert-princes' daughters and women of Turkish blood, not again did they throw out a rong cadet into the light. The one battle of Gulnabad, lught in March of 1722, gave the wealthy cities of central Persia into the hands of a pack of Afghan rievers.



" The sun had just appeared on the horizon, when the armies began to observe each other with that curiosity so natural on these dreadful occasions. The Persian army just come out of the capital, being com­posed of whatever was most brilliant at court, seemed as if it had been Formed rather to make a show than to fight. The riches and variety of their arms and vestments ; the beauty of their horses ; the gold and precious stones with which some of their harnesses were covered ; and :he richness of their tents, contributed to render the Persian camp very pompous and magnificent.

" On the other side there was a much smaller body of soldiers, dis­figured with fatigue and the scorching heat of the sun. Their cloathes were so ragged and torn, in so long a march, that they were scarce sufficient to cover them from the weather : and their horses being adorned with only leather and brass, there was nothing glittering among them but their spears and sabres."

The provinces of Persia slipped into the anarchy which attends upon a state where the few who rule the people forget that they at least must rule. From Mashhad to Baghdad, from Derbend to the Gulf, the day was for the bold men, all power to the hard and rude. Afghans, Kurds, Turkomans, Lazghis and Arabs butchered the patricians, looted all the cities, ravaged the harims, spilt the caravans, burned out and tortured all the merchants, cut in pieces the Armenians. And bigger men reached out further for the mastery of the rack Ian , Afghan chiefs, Persian pretenders stepping nearer to the throne over heaps of headless cousins, Khurasani free­booters, brigand khans of Daghestan. Tfie two most tough, most bloody men of the eighteenth century were looming in the moil ; Peter, the Russian Emperor, ten years after the Pruth, over-reaching once again ; and later Nadir, the obscure Turkoman soldier, who fora decade bestrode Asia from Erzerum to Delhi, in the authentic Mongolian tradition.

Since the death of Taymuraz 1, the Russian court had con­tinued to follow with a detached interest the course of events in the Caucasus. Besides the merely military aspects of Russian policy in the neighbourhood of the Northern Caucasus, the Sea of Azov and the Crimea, the trade across the Caspian was, at the end of the seventeenth century, beginning to assume an international importance. The English, the Dutch and the Holsteiners were concerned in the import trade to Persia through Russia and over the Caspian, and the export trade, particularly in silk, by the same route, was accumulating rival­ries which, before Hanway died, were to go very far to ruin it.

Between 1678 and 1710, the adventurous Archili of Mukh­rani--a king in passage—had taken the place of Taymurazi in earlier days as the principal agent, dupe and provocator of the Russian court in the Georgian lands. His activities aroused the anxiety of his brother, Giorgi X1 (Shah-Nawaz II), who, wiser than some of his successors, adhered more or less consistently to the Persian connection[2]. But while Boris Godunov more than a century before had been attracted by the romantic possibilities of Georgian dynastic politics, it was with the Caspian and the Caspian trade that Peter concerned himself. An outrage committed by the Lazghis on the Russian mer­chants at Shamakha in 1712, was the occasion of Russian inter­vention in 1722, and it was southward that Peter struck; he sent his armies into Shirvan, Ghilan and Mazandaran. His was not a Caucasian but a Caspian policy; he reached out to the far. hot waters of the Gulf ; he did not pad through the Georgian passes to plant his garrisons in the dried-out lake-basins of Armenia. The uncouth bully had more genius than all his successors—pompous or crazy or well-meaning—who for the next two centuries gloomed upon his Will.

Peter's intervention was made professedly in the interest of the harassed Shah Hussain, and he met his opposition in the eastern Caucasus, neither from the ruined Persians, nor from the usurping Afghans, but from a powerful confederation of the tribes of Daghestan. In the mountains during the past two decades the reforming propaganda of the Sunni Mudarris Hajji Da'ud Effendi had aroused one of those waves of evan­gelical hysteria, which sometimes move the needy of the mountains and the desert. The fanatics, released by the collapse of the Persian frontier system, set themselves to pillage the wicked cities of the Shiahs of Shirvan and they turned also to the ravishing of the fat valleys of Christian Kakheti[3]. The movement out of Daghestan, which gained in impetus and ferocity throughout the eighteenth century until it shook and threatened to disrupt the whole settled life of Georgia and Shirvan, was in character at once, political, economic and religious. The collapse of strong and relatively ordered government in Georgia and north-west Persia, and the grave depopulation which was proceeding particularly in Georgia, was an invitation both to the cupidity and the aggressiveness of the mountain tribes. The poverty and the multiplication of the population in the mountains impelled the hungry tribesmen to go as raiders and conquerors into the provinces where they had formerly sought their livelihood as soldiers, cameleers and labourers. And, indifferent Muslims though they were,[4] the puritanism which is natural to mountaineers, and the intrigues of Turkish agents who had been attracted to the country since the wars of the late sixteenth century,[5] aroused in the Lazghis that fanaticism, fed upon rapacity, which incited them to perpetual attacks upon the unorthodox Shahs and the infidel Georgians. The political heads of the Lazghi con­federation were Chulak-Surkhai-Khan of the Ghazi-Ghumukh, and Sultan-Ahmad-Khan, Usmi of Kara-Kaituk. Chulak­Surkhai, Sulkhavi in the pages of Wakhushti, was the parti­cular scourge of the Georgians, until, towards the middle of the century, he was succeeded in the leadership of the tribes by Omar Khan of the Avars.[6]

By August Of 1722, operating from Astrakhan, Peter had concentrated at the mouth of the Sulak, an army ' numbering 82,000 regular infantry—all veterans of the Swedish War, 9,000 dragoons and about 70,000 Cossacks, Kalmucks and Tatars—the first European army of the modern type which had entered upon a campaign in Asia. Tarku, the Shamkhal's capital, was occupied without fighting ; and, after defeating a horde of 16,000 Lazghis under the Usmi Sultan-Ahmad-Khan at Utemish, Peter entered Derbend. " Lo," cried he, when an earthquake shock alarmed his army, "Nature herself gives me a solemn welcome and makes the very walls to tremble at my power."[7] a But welcoming Nature failed further to accommodate the Emperor Peter. His flotilla on the Caspian Sea was seriously damaged and almost incapacitated by violent storms
and the consequent shortage of supplies made further oper­ations impossible. And so, while Colonel Shipov invaded Ghilian only two battalions of regular Peter re­turned to make a triumphal entry into Moscow (13th December, 1722).

The Russian adventure already had in it the elements of abortive failure. The newest arms and uniforms did not make an efficient army even in the eighteenth century. And the Russian army then—as often since it has—lacked that amalgam of qualities, not easily defined, which go to make success in the business of war. Courage, daring and endurance the Russians always have had, but the sense of teamwork - coordination, honourable efficiency, awareness and adaptability, the genius of improvization, they have been without. In the following year, 1723, General Matiushkin took Baku, but the Russian invasion petered gradually over several years to a dreary failure without defeat. The same deficiencies in organization, in supply, transport, and, above all, sanitation, which during the next two decades were to cause the dreadful Russian losses at Okzakov and in the Crimea, ruined their offensive struggle in Shirvan, Ghilan and Mazandaran during years from 1724 to 1732.

Nevertheless, this first Russian invasion of the Caucasus was for all the local potentates both a portend and a snare.

Peter had sent envoys to King Wakhtangi in Tiflis[8] ; had even played to the hopes of the petty Armenian meliksin the mountains of Karabagh[9]. In Persia it was believed that Wakhtangi might yet save the house of Safavi, and the Shah-zade Tahmasp, who, in Tabriz, was organizing an army to fight the Afghans, sent him "a crown, an aigrette and a jewlled dagger "[10], and invested him with the title of General of Azerbaijan. Wakhtangi had very considerable forces at his disposal ; in 1720 he had been credited with the ability to raise an army of 60,000 for the reduction of Daghestan. The intrigues of the Persian court had compelled him to abandon this expedition under orders from the Shah, and Krusinski suggests that it was his chagrin at this interfer ference which caused him to refrain from intervening to support the Shahagainst the Afghans[11].

In Stambul there was alarm at this new aggression of the Russians. The Porte was not unconcerned in Caspian policy, and, in the Black Sea, they had no wish that the favourable position created by Peter's surrender of Azov in 1713, should in any way be modified. And so while a Turkish envoy visited the camp of Peter at Derbend and protracted negotiations were conducted in Stambul under the aegis of the French ambassador, the Seraskier at Kars received orders lo Prepare for the invasion of Georgia, and emissaries were dispatched to sound the politics of Tiflis.


Wakhtang VI for a few weeks found his favour sought by the agents of three Empites. As a man Wakhtangi was the most pleasing of all the gifted house of Mukhrani.  Gentle and studious, of a mind devout and eagable, he was yet a gallant soldier, a fine horsernan, a cgurtier of,grace and wit. But he was rash and sentimental, without judgement ot dexterity or the peculiar flair which iealous men call luck.


In September he cast in his lot with Peter - who was then at Derbend - and moved on Ganja by Kazakh. The Shahzade Tahmasp, playing on the rivalry beween the Mukhranian and Kahkhian Bagratids, fended by engaging the support of the Kakhian pri-nces Constantine (Mahmad-Qluli-Khan) and Taymurazi, and near Kazakh the two Georgian forces fought an indecisive action. Then, while Constantine, reinforced by the Jari Lazghis, ravaged the villages of Lilo, Wakhtangi sent his son Bakari to ride through the Kakhian district of Saguramo. Sekhnia Chkheidze, the Kartlian envoy in Tabriz, betayed Wakhtangi's plans to Tahmasp, who responded by according to Constantine of Kakheti the reverslon. of the Kartlian viceroyalty.


Through the winter months of 1722-3 there was heavy fighting round Tiflis; the Kakhian princes were supported Mussulman contingents from Erivan and Ganja and by the Lazshis; Wakhtangi by mercenaries from Imereti led his relative, Sirnon Abashidze.


With the spring of 1723 the Turks proceeded to intervene. A Turkish envoy informed Wakhtangi that he taken under the protection of the Grand Signior and wamed him to give no aid to the Persians. The King, in answer, sent Edisher Rodshikashvili to Kars with a cheerful message to the effect that he had no intention of sustaining the.Persians and that he was awaiting the arrival of the Fmperor of Russia. Meanwhile, on May 8th, Constantine suddenly attacked Tiflis with a sorps of 7,000 Lazghis; and Wakhtangi and Bakari






To be continued











[1] Hanway, Account of British Trade across the Caspian Sea, III, 104-105.


[2] Cf. Brosset, H. de la G., II, ii, 350.

See also ibid., p. 85, note z; and p. 9: note I; and p.91, note I.  Archili lived for many years to Moscow,and at one time conducted a correspondence with the noted savant and traveller, Nicholas Witsen (see Nord en Oest Tartarye, Amsterdam. 1785, pp. 504-554). Archili's eldest son, Alexander, was an officer of artillery in the Russian army, and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Narva (1700).


[3] As early as the period of Bejan-Khan's governorship of Kakheti (1677-83) the Lazghi raids, formerly a nuisance, were becoming a recurrent danger (see Wakhushti, Hist. de Kakheti in Brosset, H. de la G., II, i, 178-9)


[4] The Lazghis did not impress Evliya Chelebi as pious Muslims, and Hanway says of them that " they talk very lightly of thetended miracles of Mahommed; adding that he was a very artful man and whether he had any particular interest with the Almighty, will be best known hereafter " (I, 374)


[5] The Turks provided by the Treaty of 1612, that trhe Shamkhal and others of their protégés should not be interfered with by Shah Abbas. In 1638 the Usmi Rustem Khan supported the Turks in hostilities against Persia, and in 1712, after the capture of Shamakha, the first step taken by the Lazghi confederates was the dispatch of an embassyto Stambul (see Bartold, article in E.I.). The history of Turkish frontier policy with regard to Persia is a neglected subject, full of interest. Beside the Lazghis the Porte maintained constant relations with the Usbeg rulers on the eastern frontier of Persia (see von Hammer, French ed. tome XIV, pp.77 et sqq.).


[6] For an excellent survey of the history of Daghestan, see the article under this head in E.I. by Professor BArtold. The political leadership gradually passed from the magnates into the hands of popular religious leaders, such as the four iImams of the earlynineteenth century. For this late period and for general history, see Baddley, Russian Conquest of the Caucasus.


[7] Buddley, p. 27.


[8] Brosset, H. de la G., II, i, 117, and note 4.


[9] The five Armenian "melikates" in Karabagh were, with their reigning families : Gulistan or Thalish (Beglarian), Chrapiert'h (Israelian), Khachin (Hassan-Jalalian), Varranda (Shahnazarian) and Thizak (Avanian). See Life of J.Emin, pp. 332-59, " Note on the Five Meliks of Karabagh " (based on Raffi's Five Meliks, Vienna, 1906). For an account of fightin between the Meliks and the Turks in September 1726, see von Hammer, XIV, 150 (based on Chelebi-zade).


[10] Brosset, H. de la G., II, i, 117, and note 3; cf. also Hanway, III, 133, and Krusinski, II, 76.


[11] Krusinski, I, 267-8. The fear that Wakhtmgi would become himself too strong and that the subjection of the Lazghis would facilitate a Russian invasion, caused the Shah to interrupt the expedition. See also Hanway, III, 86-8.