Between the Achaemenid era and the
beginning of the 19th century, Persia played a significant and
at times decisive role in the history of the Georgian people. The Persian
presence helped to shape political institutions, modified social structure
and land holding, and enriched literature and culture. Persians also acted as
a counterweight to other powerful forces in the region, notably the Romans
(and Byzantines), the Ottoman Turks, and the Russians. But the
Persian-Georgian relationship was by no means one-sided, for the Georgians
contributed substantially to Persia's
military and administrative successes and even affected its social structure,
especially under the Safavids.
Information about relations
between the Achaemenids and the inhabitants of present-day Georgia is fragmentary. During
the Achaemenid domination of eastern Anatolia and Transcaucasia
(546-331 B.C.E.) proto-Georgian tribes were, according to Herodotus (3.94),
included in the 18th and 19th satrapies (T. Kaukhchishvili, ed., pp. 10-11).
Although the territory of present-day southern Georgia fell within the
Achaemenid state, the Achaemenids apparently never brought those tribes
living further to the north under their control. When they tried to do so
their aggressiveness led to the formation of large associations of northern
proto-Georgian tribes (Melikishvili, pp. 235, 273). Xenophon was aware of the
changed conditions in 401-400 B.C.E. when he noted in the Anabasis
that these tribes, including those of Colchis
(q.v.), had ceased to be under Achaemenid rule (Mikeladze, ed., pp. 13-14).
By this time proto-Georgians were moving into the Kura
valley, where, merging with indigenous tribes, they eventually formed the
Georgian people (Lang, 1966, pp. 57, 75-76; on political formations in
eastern Georgia, see Melikishvili, ed., pp. 422-44).
Alexander's victory over Darius
III in 331 B.C.E. gave impetus to the formation and consolidation of an
independent Georgian monarchy in the following two centuries (on political and
ethnic questions between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C.E., see Melikishvili,
ed., pp. 445-67). The first king of Iberia, the ancient name for the
territory of present-day Kartli (Kārtīl) and Kakheti (Kākhet), or eastern
Georgia, was the half-legendary Parnavaz (S. Kaukhchishvili, ed., I, pp.
4-10, 26), who took Persian institutions as models in organizing his realm.
The example set by the Persian state system in eastern Georgia was undoubtedly a consequence of the
earlier influence exercised by tribal formations in southern Georgia.
Long controlled by the Achaemenids, they extended Persian influence
northward, as their aristocracies expanded their own power base.
Between the 3rd and 7th centuries
C.E. Iberia maintained a precarious existence between the two great rivals
for control of the Caucasus, namely Persia
and Rome (later Byzantium). Georgian kings successfully
played one off against the other and thereby preserved their freedom of
action. But as they came to rely on Rome to
uphold strong monarchical institutions, they became estranged from the great
nobles, who sought support from Persia to thwart the centralizing
ambitions of their kings.
Decisive for the evolution of the
Georgian state was the foundation of the Sasanian Empire in 224. By replacing
the weak Parthian realm with a strong, centralized state, it changed the
political orientation of Iberia
away from Rome.
Iberia apparently became a part of the Sasanian state during the reign of
āpūr I (240-70), who in his famous inscription at Ka“ba-ye Zardot (l.3)
listed Iberia (Wirān) as one of the lands that paid him tribute
(Melikishvili, pp. 391-92). Relations between the two countries seem to have
been friendly at first, as Iberia
cooperated in Persian campaigns against Rome,
and the Iberian ruler was a high dignitary of the Sasanian realm, not a
vassal who had been subdued by force of arms (S. Kaukhchishvili, ed., I, p.
57). But the aggressive tendencies of the Sasanians were evident in their
propagation of Zoroastrianism, which was probably established in Iberia
between the 260s and 290s (Lukonin, p. 32).
In the contest for supremacy in
the Caucasus, the advantage lay with Rome,
whose armies defeated the Persians in a series of battles toward the end of
the 3rd century. The Treaty of Nisibis in 298 assured Roman control of
eastern Georgia (Kartli) for the next sixty years (Frye, pp. 130-31). Roman
predominance proved crucial, since the Georgian king and leading nobles were
converted to Christianity, probably in 330. By making Christianity the state
religion, they erected what became an insurmountable barrier to Persian
influence in the region.
In the 4th century the position of
worsened, as its powerful neighbors became increasingly aggressive. Iberian
kings chose Rome (Byzantium)
as the least dangerous to their independence, but Persia
became predominant after the defeat of the Roman armies before Ctesiphon in 363 (Frye,
pp. 137-38). Rome ceded control of Kartli to Persia,
and the king of Kartli, Varaz-Bakur II (363-65), became a Persian vassal, an
outcome confirmed by the Peace of Acilisene in 387. Although a later ruler of
Kartli, Pharsman IV (406-9), preserved his country's autonomy and ceased to
pay tribute to Persia (S.
Kaukhchishvili, ed., I, p. 133), Persia prevailed, and Sasanian kings
began to appoint a viceroy (pitiax/bidax) to keep watch on their
vassal. They eventually made the office hereditary in the ruling house of Lower Kartli, thus inaugurating the Kartli pitiaxat,
which brought an extensive territory under its control. Although it remained
a part of the kingdom
of Kartli, its viceroys
turned their domain into a center of Persian influence (Berdzenishvili et al,
I, p. 109).
Sasanian rulers put the
Christianity of the Georgians to a severe test. They promoted the teachings
of Zoroaster, and by the middle of the 5th century Mazdaism had become a
second official religion in eastern Georgia alongside Christianity.
Yazdegerd II (438-57), convinced that a single religion would enhance the
unity of his realm, issued a decree formally admonishing the peoples of the Caucasus to renounce Christianity and embrace Mazdaism
and dispatched Zoroastrian magi to Kartli to take charge of conversion
(Trever, pp. 203-5). The majority of Georgian nobles submitted, but their
commitment to the new faith proved shallow. Efforts to convert the common
people were even less successful, since Christianity appears to have struck
deep roots among them.
In seeking to weaken Christianity,
Persian rulers involved themselves in the internal affairs of the Christian
churches in the Caucasus. They tried to take
advantage of disputes among Christians by offering protection to the
Monophysites, who were opposed to the Chalcedonian doctrines patronized by
the Byzantine emperors, and they promoted unity among the Armenian, Albanian,
and Georgian churches in order to extend their control more easily over them.
Under Persian pressure the three churches adopted the Monophysite doctrines
at Dvin in 506 (Berdzenishvili et al., I, p. 136), but when Persian vigilance
slackened, the Chalcedonians rose again, and by the end of the 6th century
Monophysitism in Georgia had all but disappeared.
Religious controversy was
intertwined with political struggle in the 5th century. The leading champion
of Georgian independence was King Vakhtang I (447-522; Toumanoff, 1990, p.
378), who was called Gorgasar "wolf-headed" (Gorgasa in Georgian)
by the Persians, because of the shape of the helmet he wore. Married to a
Persian princess, he guarded the northern passes through Kartli and participated
in Persian campaigns against Byzantium between 455 and 458 and in India,
probably in Pźrōz's wars against the Hephthalites in 474-76 (Dzhuansheriani,
pp. 84-89). But loyalty had its limits. Vakhtang resented Persian
encroachments on his independence and reinforced his position by supporting
autocephalous status for the Georgian
Church and by uniting western Georgia
with Kartli (Muskhelishvili, p. 211). In 482 he led a general uprising
against his suzerain and declared war on "Persian Christianity,"
that is, Monophysitism. But he was defeated, and his country was ravaged by
Persian punitive expeditions in 483 and 484 (Toumanoff, 1963, p. 365). After
a short exile he made peace with the great king Balā (q.v.) in 485 and
returned to Kartli, but when Kavād I (488-96, 498-531) summoned him as a
vassal to join in a new campaign against Byzantium, he refused. Their dispute may be
related in part to Kavād's efforts to force Mazdaism upon the Georgians. When
Kavād attacked Kartli in 517-18, Vakhtang appealed to Justin I for help, but
the Byzantines provided none, and he fled to Lazika, where he probably died
in 522 (Frye, p. 152).
Byzantium and Persia
continued their contest for supremacy in the Caucasus.
War broke out in 526 and ended with the cession of Iberia
in 532. But Khosrow I Anōīravān (532-79) was eager to reach the Black Sea
and in 542 moved through Iberia
at the head of a large army toward Lazika and Colchis
(Berdzenishvili et al., I, p. 120). The Byzantines countered by invading Persia
and forcing Khosrow to make peace in 546. Once again it was merely a truce.
The Byzantine-Persian rivalry had
baleful consequences for Iberia.
In 580 Hormozd IV (579-90) abolished the monarchy after the death of King
Bakur (Dzhuansheriani, p. 97), and Iberia became a Persian province.
Hormozd at first had the support of the great nobles, but rather than
receiving the enhanced privileges promised them, they were subjected to heavy
taxation and a restrictive administration headed by a Persian-appointed governor
(marzbān). When, therefore, the Byzantine emperor Maurice attacked Persia in 582 many Georgian nobles urged him
to revive the kingdom of Iberia, but in 591 Maurice and Khusrau II Parvźz
(590, 591-628) agreed to divide Iberia
between them, with Tbilisi
to be in Persian hands and Mtskheta, the old capital, to be under Byzantine
control (Dzhuansheriani, pp. 98-99).
At the beginning of the 7th
century the truce between Byzantium and Persia
collapsed. Stepanoz I, Prince of Iberia (ca. 590-627), decided in 607 to join
forces with Persia in
order to reunite all the territories of Iberia, a goal he seems to have
accomplished. But Emperor Heraclius's offensive between 622 and 628 brought
victory over the Georgians and Persians and ensured Byzantine predominance in
western and eastern Georgia
until the invasion of the Caucasus by the
The Arabs reached Iberia about 645 and forced its prince,
Stepanoz II (637-c. 650) to abandon his allegiance to Byzantium and recognize the caliph as his
suzerain. Iberia thus
became a tributary state, and an Arab amir was installed in Tbilisi about 653 (Balādhorī, Fotūh,
pp. 201-2; Tabarī, I, p. 2674).
Between the Arabs' consolidation
of their position in eastern Georgia
in the 730s and the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in Persia at the beginning of the
16th century the Georgian kingdom was revived, experienced a period of glory,
and then declined in the face of powerful new enemies. At the beginning of
the 9th century, Ashot I (813-30) of the new Bagratid dynasty (see BAGRATIDS),
from his base in southwestern Georgia,
took advantage of the weakness of the Byzantine emperor and the Arab caliph
to establish himself as hereditary prince of Iberia. A successor, Bagrat III
(1008-14), brought the various principalities together to form a united
Georgian state, and David II "the Builder" (1089-1125), laid the
foundations for Georgia's
golden age during the reign of Queen Tamara (1184-1213). Georgia's decline began with the
Mongol invasions of the 1220s, and, despite brief revivals, it proved
inexorable. The rise of the Ottoman Turks and their capture of Constantinople
in 1453 raised up a powerful new military threat to Georgia at a time when,
at the end of the 15th century, the country had been fragmented into three
kingdoms (Kartli, Kakheti, and Imereti) and the duchy of Samtskhe-Saatbago.
At the beginning of the 16th
once again lay in the precarious middle ground between two powerful enemies, the
Ottoman Turks to the west and the Persian Safavids to the east. The two
powers were themselves constantly at war (1514-55, 1578-90, 1602-18,
1623-39), with control of Georgia
one of their objectives. Mainly under the leadership of the kings of Kartli the
Georgians carried on a valiant, but unequal struggle to maintain their
independence (for an overview of Georgia's economic and political situation
between Persia and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th17th centuries, see
Dumbadze, ed., pp. 85-186).
At first, the initiative lay with
the Safavids. Shah Esmā“īl I (907-30/1501-24), the founder of the dynasty,
sent raiding expeditions into Georgia, notably in 1518, but he was too
preoccupied with consolidating his hold on power at home to pursue more
ambitious undertakings in the Caucasus (Mozµtar, ed., pp. 109, 542-45, 555,
557; Hasan Rūmlū, ed. Navā`ī, pp. 218-19, 225; Brosset, II/1, p. 446). Shah
Tahmāsb I (930-84/1524-76), who launched four campaigns against Georgia between 1540 and 1554, inaugurated the
systematic extension of his dynasty's control over Georgia. All four expeditions
were costly for the Georgians. In the first, 947/1540-41, Persians captured Tbilisi and plundered it
and the surrounding region. They repeated these practices during subsequent
expeditions in 953/1546-47, 958/1551, and 961/1553-54. Much booty was taken,
especially from Georgian churches, and Tahmāsb claimed as his rightful share
the wives, daughters, and sons of the nobility, instead of the usual
one-fifth of the treasure (Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 84-90, tr. Savory, I, pp.
140-44, 146; Hasan Rūmlū. ed. Navā`ī, pp. 383-85; Brosset, II/1, pp. 445-53,
based on Eskandar Beg's account with notes and commentary; on the importance
of Eskandar Beg's work for the history of Georgia, see Puturidze). The death,
probably in 1558, of King Luarsab I (1534-57; Lovārsāb in Eskandar Beg)
brought a temporary end to the hostilities.
During these campaigns Tahmāsb
brought to Persia
large numbers of Georgians, whose subsequent role in the army and civil administration
led to significant changes in the character of Safavid society. The new
ethnic element became a "third force" which interposed itself
between the two "founding elements," the Persians and the Turkmen.
Indeed, by the end of the 16th century the Georgians were threatening to
replace the latter, the qezelbā, as the military aristocracy of the
The competition between the
Ottomans and the Safavids for control of the Caucasus
was temporarily interrupted by the Treaty of Amasya (962/1555, q.v.). In Georgia
it established a rough balance between the two rivals, as Kartli, Kakheti,
and eastern Samtskhe (Masq) fell into the Persian sphere of influence, and
Imereti and western Samtskhe into the Ottoman.
Shah Tahmāsb used the opportunity
to tighten Persian predominance in eastern Georgia by imposing Persian
social and political institutions and by placing converts to Islam on the
thrones of Kartli and Kakheti. One of these was David/Dāwūd Khan II
(1569-78), whose reign marked the beginning of almost two and a half
centuries of Persian political dominance over eastern Georgia, with only occasional
interruptions, until the advent of the Russians at the end of the 18th
century. To hasten the integration of eastern Georgia into his realm Tahmāsb
used bilingual Georgian-Persian firmans to make Persian the official
administrative language of the country (Tabatadze, pp. 262-63).
The Ottomans, eager to extend
their control over Kartli and Kakheti, attacked Persian positions in eastern Georgia
in 1578. Despite spirited resistance led by King Simon of Kartli (1557-69,
1578-99; Brosset, II/1, pp. 36-42), the Ottomans prevailed, and in 1590 the
Persians recognized all of Georgia
as an Ottoman possession (Uzunēar¶ili, pp. 57-63).
Shah “Abbās I (996-1038/1587-1629)
was determined to restore Persian predominance in the Caucasus.
Although he inflicted enormous devastation on the Georgian kingdoms and
appointed and dismissed their rulers almost at will, he never succeeded fully
in stamping out resistance to his rule. When he resumed war with the Ottoman Empire in 1602 he forced Giorgi X of Kartli
(1599-1605) and Aleksandre II of Kakheti (1574-1605) to join the campaign.
But resistance to “Abbās was fierce among the nobles. In 1605 they revolted
and placed Teimuraz/Tahmūrath I (1605-63) on the throne, who for sixty years
served as a rallying point for opposition to the Safavids. “Abbās acquiesced
and confirmed Teimuraz as king in 1606. He also recognized Luarsab II
(1605-14) as King of Kartli, but when Luarsab refused to become a Muslim and
encouraged the nobles to reject a Muslim replacement for him, “Abbās exiled
him to Isfahan
and in 1622 had him strangled (Dumbadze, IV, p. 276).
Shah “Abbās I
“Abbās undertook another campaign
in 1614 against Kartli and Kakheti, replacing their kings with Muslims. When
nobles of Kakheti rose in revolt in 1615, his troops ravaged the country, a
punishment from which it never fully recovered (Eskandar Beg, pp. 896-901,
tr. Savory, II, pp. 1081-83; Brosset, II/1, pp. 484-87). Perhaps as many as
70,000 people were killed and over 100,00 deported to Persia. “Abbās appointed a
loyalist, Simon II/Semāyūn Khan (1619-29), as wālī, or viceroy, but he
kept a tight grip on Kakheti, administering it through an appointed governor
(on the functions of the wālī and the role of other Persian officials
appointed to supervise Georgian affairs in the 17th century, see Gabashvili,
pp. 366-411). “Abbās regarded these arrangements as temporary and apparently
planned to deal a drastic blow to the rebellious Georgians: the Kakhetians
were to be wiped out or deported and their country settled by qezelbā
and other Turkmen tribes, while the nobles of Kartli were to be resettled in Persia
(Berdzenishvili et al., I, p. 358).
In subduing the two Georgian
kingdoms, “Abbās had counted on a leading noble, Giorgi Saakadze (known to
the Persians as Mūrāv Beg). A Muslim, he was admired in Persia for his military exploits
and was regularly consulted on Georgian affairs (Eskandar Beg, pp. 1020-21,
tr. Savory, pp. 1242-43). “Abbās had appointed him advisor to Simon II of
Kartli and in 1620 entrusted both with the suppression of anti-Persian
opposition. For reasons that are unclear Saakadze turned against “Abbās and
led a rebellion of nobles in 1623. He invited the exiled Teimuraz/Tahmūrath
to return home and proclaimed him king of Kartli and Kakheti. But in 1624,
“Abbās won a decisive victory against the rebels on Marabda Field near Tbilisi (Eskandar Beg,
pp. 1024-28, tr. Savory, pp. 1245-49; Dumbadze, IV, pp. 255-87). He also used
the rivalry between Saakadze and Teimuraz to divide the Georgians and drive
the former into exile in Istanbul,
where in 1629 he was executed (Dumbadze, IV, pp. 1284-85).
“Abbās's measures in Kartli and
Kakheti represented a continuation of his predecessors' efforts to integrate
fully into the Safavid empire. Besides war, he institutionalized the practice
begun by Tahmāsb of employing Georgians as qūllar or gholāmān-e
khāssa-ye arīfa in the Persian army and civil administration. They were
obliged to become Muslims, but the majority of such conversions were entered
into without conviction. After a period of training they were assigned either
to the special regiments of the army or to a branch of the royal household
administration. Estimates vary as to the size of the military forces composed
of Georgian "slaves." One source indicates that in 1588 “Abbās had
formed his bodyguard from 12,000 of them taken into his service. Another
source in 1608 puts the number of Georgian cavalry guards at 25,000 (Lang,
1952, p. 525). In any case, the Georgians were renowned throughout Persia
as fierce warriors. Both Tahmāsb and “Abbās were pursuing a policy to
strengthen the "third force" in Safavid society and thus diminish
the power of the qezelbā, whose loyalty had become suspect.
The contributions which the gholāms
made to the Safavids were substantial. Many of “Abbās's gholāms
were the descendants of those Georgians who had been brought to Persia
by Tahmāsb. Still other Georgians, nobles and princes among them, entered
Persian service voluntarily, and a significant number achieved high office.
Two outstanding examples were Allāhverdī Khan (d. 1022/1613), who rose to be
governor of Fārs province and commander-in-chief of all Persian forces (sepahsālār-e
Īrān), and his son, Emāmqolī Khan (qq.v.). Other Georgians became
prefects (dārūgha) of Isfahan.
But the majority of the Georgians were settled in widely scattered parts of Persia
and became cultivators of the soil. The most important of these Georgian
colonies was in Farīdan (q.v.) in Isfahan
province, where their descendants still speak Georgian and retain their
Christian faith (Oberling, pp. 128-33; Sharashenidze).
During the remaining century of Safavid
predominance in Georgia
after the death of “Abbās in 1629 Persian influence was unprecedented. The kingdom of Kartli
was transformed into a province
of Persia and regularly
paid tribute and sent gifts (pīke) to the shah in the form of boys
and girls, horses, and wines (Berdzenishvili, ed., 1973, pp. 252-54). The
Georgian economy was also closely linked to that of Persia, and Georgian literature
was enriched by translations of Persian classics and adaptations of Persian
Shah Suleiman I and his courtiers, Isfahan, 1670. Note the
two Georgian figures with their names at the top left
Nonetheless, in contrast to the
calamities of Shah “Abbās's reign, eastern Georgia experienced a period of
relative peace and prosperity under an enlightened and able viceroy, Khosrow
Mīrzā, the son of Dāwūd Khan and a Muslim. As a reward for aiding Sām Mīrzā
gain the throne as Shah Safī (1038-52/1629-42) the shah granted him the title
Rostam Khan and in 1632 appointed him wālī of Kartli, a post he held
until 1658 (Bagrationi, pp. 63-68). His willingness to cooperate with his
suzerains won for Kartli a large measure of autonomy, but Kakheti, the center
of unyielding resistance to the Safavids, was brought directly under Persian
Kakheti knew little of peace and
prosperity during this period, as nobles and the populace rallied around the
exiled Teimuraz in the hope of ending their subjection to Muslims. Teimuraz
himself was intent upon uniting all of eastern Georgia under his rule and sought
help from the Ottomans and the Russians. But when he contested Rostam Khan's
administration in Kartli in 1634, neither of his presumed allies moved to
support him. At the behest of Shah “Abbās II (1642-66) Rostam invaded Kakheti
in 1648 and, driving Teimuraz into exile again, was named ruler of Kakheti
(1648-56; Berdzenishvili et al., I, pp. 368-69). In order to end
resistance in Kakheti once and for all, the shah revived “Abbās I's plan to
populate the country with Turkmen nomads, a measure that incited a general
uprising of nobles in 1659. Although they halted the settlement of Turkmens,
they failed to shake Persian control of their country (Berdzenishvili et al.,
I, pp. 369-72).
Georgian nobles now grudgingly
recognized the need for an accommodation with the Persians. Even Teimuraz
concluded that the prospects for Georgian independence were nil and submitted
But when his grandson Erekle/Ereglī Khan rejected Teimuraz's understanding
with the shah, both men were imprisoned. Teimuraz died in captivity in 1663.
The Persian-appointed kings of
Kartli never completely abandoned the idea of independence. Vakhtang V
(1659-75), āhnavāz II to the Persians, tried to reestablish a united kingdom in eastern Georgia by placing his son,
Archil II, on the throne of Kakheti (Brosset, II/1, pp. 74-78; Asatiani, pp.
115-26). Although Archil converted to Islam and assumed the title āhnazar
Khan (1664-75), factions at the Persian court thwarted Vakhtang's master plan
(Bagrationi, p. 159).
Giorgi XI (1678-88) tried to
achieve the unity his father, Vakhtang, had sought, but the shah discovered
his plans and forced him into exile (for Georgian-Iranian relations between
1675 and 1725, see Tabagua, pp. 12-41). But Giorgi/Gorgīn Khan, too,
eventually reconciled himself to Persian suzerainty and in 1696 agreed to
terms with the new shah, Soltān Hosayn (1105-35/1694-1722). It was the
beginning of an illustrious but, ultimately, tragic career in the service of
the Safavids. The shah entrusted him with restoring order along the eastern
frontiers of the empire. As beglarbegī of Kermān, Giorgi, aided by his
brother Levan, by 1700 had reestablished the shah's fiat in the region. As a
reward the shah made Levan dīv@ānbegī (q.v.) of Persia and his son, Kaikhosro/Khosrow Khan, dārūgha
(see CITIES iii) of Isfahan.
The shah appointed Giorgi commander-in-chief (sepahsālār) of his
armies and dispatched him to the east once again, this time to relieve the
garrison at Qandahār, which was under siege by Afghan rebels. The shah also
designated him wālī of Kartli, but, while he was in the field, he
entrusted the administration of the country to a nephew, the future Vakhtang
VI. Giorgi was victorious at Qandahār in 1704, but the leaders of the
anti-Georgian faction at the shah's court had him assassinated in 1709. A
punitive expedition to the Afghan border led by Kaikhosro in 1711 ended
disastrously with his death and the destruction of nearly his entire force of
30,000 (Lang, 1952, pp. 530-34; for a contemporary account of the
Georgian-led campaigns between 1700 and 1711, see the chronicle of Sekhnia
Chkheidze in Brosset, II/2, pp. 16-31).
For much of the 18th century Persia
generally maintained its position in Georgian affairs, but the viceroys
asserted their independence whenever the opportunity arose. They looked for
support to Russia, which
now supplanted the Ottomans as Persia's
chief rival in the Caucasus.
Vakhtang VI, wālī of Kartli
(1711-14, 1719-23), at first opposed Persian predominance and was forced to
give up his throne. But in 1716, convinced that no foreign aid would be
forthcoming, he accepted Islam. After serving the shah as sepahsālār
of Persia and beglarbegī
he became wālī of Kartli again in 1719. But his true allegiance was to
Georgia, and he made no
secret of his pro-Russian and pro-Christian sentiments to Russian envoys in Persia
(Butkov, pp. 16, 51). When Persia
was attacked by the Afghans in 1722 and the Ottomans in 1723, he sided with
the Russians (Paichadze, 1970, pp. 35-59). He hoped that Peter the Great
would not only seek gains for Russia,
but would also protect Georgia
from both Persians and Turks (Paichadze, 1965, pp. 26-35). But the tsar cut
short his Caucasus campaign, and Vakhtang had to flee to Russia, where he died in 1737.
Under the vigorous Nāder Shah
Afār (1148-60/1736-47), Persia
reasserted itself in the Caucasus. In 1734
and 1735 he drove the Ottomans out of eastern Georgia, confirmed Teimuraz II
(1729-44) as wālī of Kakheti, and appointed a Persian as governor of
Kartli. His forces pillaged the country and deported thousands of villagers
(Brossert, II/2, pp. 49-50). When the Georgian nobles revolted, Teimuraz and
his son Erekle, who had fought with Nāder Shah's armies in India in 1737-40, aided the
Persians in defeating the rebels. For services rendered, Nāder Shah awarded
Kartli to Teimuraz (1744-62) and Kakheti to his son, Erekle II (1744-62;
Bagrationi, pp. 177-82). Yet, Nāder Shah continued his despotic ways,
relentlessly draining both countries of their resources (Brosset, II/2, pp.
Nāder Shah's assassination in 1747
promised a measure of relief. The new ruler, “Ādel Shah (1160-61 /1747-48,
q.v.), who had married one of Teimuraz's daughters, sought Georgian help in
consolidating his rule over all of Persia (Brosset, pp. 118-25). Both Teimuraz
and Erekle used the opportunity to assert their independence. When Teimuraz
died in 1762 Erekle succeeded him, thus uniting eastern Georgia as a single state for the
first time in nearly three centuries.
Under Erekle II (1762-98) the
independence of Kartli-Kakheti remained precarious, and he reluctantly
decided to seek Russian protection. His policy coincided with Catherine II's
renewed interest in Georgia,
and in 1783 the two monarchs signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, which made
Kartli-Kakheti a Russian protectorate (Tsagareli, pp. iii-x, 32-36;
Paichadze, 1983, pp. 91-137). It also marked the beginning of the end of Persia's pretensions to political dominance
The founder of the Qajar dynasty,
Āghā Mohammad Khan (1193-1212/1779-97, q.v.) was determined to recover those
provinces that had once formed part of the Safavid empire. Georgia was the special object of
his ambitions. Erekle (Ereglī Khan) refused to become a mere wālī of
Kartli-Kakheti and reaffirmed his attachment to Russia. Āghā Mohammad responded
by attacking the country, capturing Tbilisi in September 1795 and deporting
some 15,000 of its inhabitants to Persia as slaves (Hedāyat, Rawzµat
al-safā IX, pp. 269-71; Tsagareli, II/2, pp. 107-24; Hambly, pp. 126-30).
His assassination in 1797 ended plans for a second expedition into Georgia.
(1212-50/1797-1834), Āghā Muhammad's successor, pursued a similar policy
In 1798 he demanded the unconditional submission of Erekle's son and
successor, Giorgi XII (1798-1800; Tsagareli, II/2, pp. 181-82). Giorgi
refused, and Russia's
firm support caused Persian armies to remain in place (Dubrovina, pp.
The end of Georgian independence,
nonetheless, was at hand. When Giorgi died in December 1800, Tsar Paul took
advantage of the interregnum to proclaim the incorporation of Kartli and
Kakheti into the Russian Empire in January 1801. War with Persia, which broke out in 1804,
ended in 1813 with the Treaty of Golestān. Under its terms Persia gave up all claims to Kartli and
Kakheti in favor of Russia,
thereby effectively ending her centuries-long involvement in Georgian
Although Russia and Persia
were at peace, Fath-“Alī Shah had not given up hope of reclaiming Georgia.
War between the two countries broke out again in 1826, and Russia's success on the battlefield and the
Treaty of Torkamānchāy in 1828 confirmed her control of Georgia (Shengelia, pp. 55-72).
The treaty also set the tone of Russo-Iranian relations down to World War I
and made manifest Persia's
inability to challenge Russia's
supremacy in Georgia and
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