Karabakh Khanate

The Karabakh Khanate (Persian: خانات قره‌باغ, romanizedXānāt e Qarebāq), (Azerbaijani: قاراباغ خانلیغی), (Armenian: Ղարաբաղի խանություն, romanizedGharabaghi khanut’yun) was a semi-independent Turkic khanate, a political entity ruled by a khan, on the territories of modern-day Armenia and Azerbaijan established in about 1748 under Iranian suzerainty[4] in Karabakh and adjacent areas.[5]

Karabakh Khanate
خانات قره‌باغ
Map of Karabakh Khanate according to a 1902 Russian map.
Map of Karabakh Khanate according to a 1902 Russian map.
Under Iranian suzerainty[1]
Common languagesPersian (official)[2][3] Azerbaijani, Armenian
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Karabakh Beylerbeylik
Principality of Khachen
Elisabethpol Governorate
Today part of

The Karabakh Khanate existed until 1806,[6] when the Russian Empire gained control over it from Iran.[7] The Russian annexation of Karabakh was not formalized until the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, when, as a result of Russo-Persian War (1804–13), Fath-Ali Shah of Iran officially ceded Karabakh to Tsar Alexander I of Russia.[8][9] The khanate was abolished in 1822, after a few years of Russian tolerance towards its Muslim rulers,[vague] and a province, with a military administration, was formed.[8] Russian control was decisively confirmed with Iran by the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828.



The precursor of the Karabakh Khanate, the Safavid province of Karabagh, was one of the provinces established in the northern part of the Safavid Empire.[10] The Safavid shah of Iran Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576) granted the governance of the province to a branch of the Qajars, the Ziyadoglu, in 1540.[11] It was initially founded in the lowland part of Karabakh ("Karabakh Steppe"), away from the mountainous regions, known today as Nagorno-Karabakh and Syunik. According to a prominent historian who hailed from the Karabakh Khanate, Mirza Adigozal Bey, "The power of the Karabakh beylerbeylik covered a vast territory – from the Georgian border near “Sinig Korpu” Bridge (currently “red Bridge”) to Khudafarin Bridge on the Araz river.[12] However, following the collapse of Safavid Empire and the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747, the Safavid domain split into several khanates with various forms of autonomy.


After the fall of the Safavid Empire, Panah-Ali Khan of the Javanshir clan consolidated his local power by establishing a de facto independent khanate.

Karabakh khanate's mahals

The capital of the khanate was initially Bayat Castle in modern-day Kəbirli in 1748, in the Karabakh Steppe (or “Lowlands Karabakh”), before being moved to the newly built fortress of Shahbulag and soon moved again to the newly built town of Panahabad (modern-day Shusha) in 1750–1752. During the reign of Ibrahim-Khalil khan, son of Panah-Ali khan, Panahabad became a large town and was renamed to Shusha, apparently after the name of a nearby Shusha, known also as Shushikent.[13][14][15] Later, Panah Ali Khan expanded the territory of the khanate, subjugating territories of Mountainous Karabakh, Zangezur, and Nakchivan Khanate.[citation needed]

Reign of Panah Ali Khan JavanshirEdit

1748 European map showing Karabagh as part of Iran.
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir -Page 1
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir - Page 2. Mehdi gholi Javanshir is called as the Beylerbeygi (Administrator) of the Karabakh vilayaat (province)

Less than a year after Shusha was founded, the Karabakh Khanate was attacked by Mohammad Hasan Khan Qajar, one of the major claimants to the Iranian throne. During Safavid rule, Karabakh was governed by the Turkic Qajar clan for almost two centuries, as they were appointed governors of the Ganja-Karabakh province. It was due to that, that Mohammed Hasan Khan Qajar considered Karabakh his hereditary estate.

Mohammad Hasan Khan besieged Panahabad but soon had to retreat because of the attack on his own domain by one of his major opponents to the Iranian throne, Karim Khan Zand. His retreat was so hasty that he even left his cannons under the walls of Shusha fortress. Panah Ali khan counterattacked the retreating troops of Mohammad Hasan Khan and even briefly took Ardabil across the Aras River in Azerbaijan.

In 1759, the Karabakh Khanate underwent a new attack from Fath-Ali Khan Afshar, ruler of Urmia. With his 30,000-strong army Fatali khan also managed to gain support from the meliks (feudal vassals) of Jraberd and Talysh (Gulistan), however melik Shahnazarian of Varanda continued to support Panah Ali Khan. The siege of Shusha lasted for six months and Fatali khan eventually had to retreat.

In 1761, Karim Khan Zand allied with Panah Ali Khan of Karabakh to defeat Fat'h Ali Khan Afshar of Urmia, who earlier subordinated the khanates of Karabakh, Marageh, and Tabriz.[16]

In 1762, during his war with Kazem Khan of Qaradagh, Panah Khan submitted to Karim Khan Zand, who was consolidating different Khans under his Rule and was about to besiege Urmia. After the fall of the city, Karim took Panah Khan among the hostages to Shiraz, where he soon died. Panah-Ali Khan's son Ibrahim-Khalil Khan was sent back to Karabakh as governor.[17]

Reign of Ibrahim Khalil Khan JavanshirEdit

Under Ibrahim-Khalil khan Javanshir, the Karabakh khanate became one of the strongest entities[citation needed] of the South Caucasus and Shusha turned into a big town. According to travelers who visited Shusha at the end of 18th-early 19th centuries the town had about 2,000 houses and an approximate population of 10,000.[citation needed]

In the summer of 1795, Shusha underwent a major attack by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, son of Mohammad Hasan khan who attacked Shusha in 1752. Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar's goal was to end with the feudal fragmentation and to restore the old Safavid imperial domain. For this purpose, he also wanted to proclaim himself shah (king) of Iran. However, according to Safavid tradition, the shah had to control the South Caucasus and southern Dagestan before his coronation.[citation needed] Therefore, Karabakh khanate and its fortified capital Shusha were the first and major obstacle to achieve these ends.

Aga Mohammad Khan Qajar besieged Shusha with his 80,000 strong army. Ibrahim Khalil khan mobilized the population for long-term defense. The number of militia in Shusha reached 15,000 and women fought alongside the men. The Armenian population of Karabakh also actively participated in this struggle against the invaders and fought side by side with the Muslim population jointly organizing ambushes in the mountains and forests.

The siege lasted for 33 days. Not being able to capture Shusha, Agha Mohammad Khan ceased the siege and advanced to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), which, despite desperate resistance, was occupied and exposed to unprecedented destruction, with many thousands of its inhabitants carried off to mainland Iran.

Qajar periodEdit

In 1797, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, who by that time had already managed to declare himself Shah, and had swiftly either re-occupied or re-subjugated the entire Caucasus that previously made up part of Iran for centuries, decided now to carry out a second attack on Karabakh, as its khan was not letting him nor his armies enter the city. Nevertheless, the khan of Karabakh had already been paying regular tribute to Agha Mohammad Khan since the aftermath of the first attack in 1795.[18]

In this new siege, Agha Mohammad Khan devastated the surrounding villages near Shusha.[citation needed] The population could not recover from the previous 1795 attack and also suffered from a serious drought which lasted for three years.[citation needed] The artillery of the enemy also caused serious losses to the city defenders. Thus, in 1797 Aga Mohammad Khan succeeded in seizing Shusha and Ibrahim Khalil Khan was forced to flee to Dagestan.

However, several days after the seizure of Shusha, Agha Mohammad Khan was killed in enigmatic circumstances by his bodyguards. Ibrahim-Khalil Khan returned Agha Mohammad Shah's body to Tehran, and in return, the new king Fath-Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1797–1834) appointed him the governor of Karabakh and married his daughter Agha Beyim.[19] Agha Baji, as she came to be called, was brought to court accompanied by her brother Abol' Fath Khan, and became Fath' Ali Shah's twelfth wife; highly respected at the court, for some reason she remained a virgin.[19]

Conquest by RussiaEdit

During the rule of Ibrahim-Khalil khan, the Karabakh khanate grew in importance and established ties with other neighbouring khanates. On May 14, 1805, amidst the still ongoing Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813, Ibrahim Khalil Khan and the Russian general Pavel Tsitsianov signed the Treaty of Kurekchay, which transferred the Karabakh Khanate to the dominion of the Russian Empire.[20] According to this agreement, the Khan of Karabakh gave up his right to carry out independent foreign policy, and took on the obligation to pay 8,000 gold rubles a year to the Russian treasury. In its turn, the Tsarist government promised not to infringe upon the right of Ibrahim Khan's legitimate successors to administer the internal affairs of their possessions.

However, in the same year, Russians reneged on the agreement, apparently acting on suspicion that Ibrahim-Khalil Panah Khan was a traitor. He was killed near Shusha together with some members of his family by Major Dmitri Tikhonovich Lisanevich.

The Russian Empire finally gained control over Karabakh through the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) after defeating Iran in the Russo-Persian Wars.

Carpet, which belonged to Karabakh khans (Azerbaijan State Museum of History).

In 1822, Russian Empire abolished the khanate. A Karabakh province was created in its place, administered by Russian officials.


Some of the descendants of Panah Khan subsequently scattered around Iran with most remaining in Karabakh. Abdul Wakil Panah Khan became the Emir of Greater Khorasan.

Abul-Fath Khan Javanshir, was one of the sons of the Ibrahim-Khalil Javanshir, that through his sister brother-in-law of Fath-Alī Shah Qajar. In the First Russo-Persian War Abul-Fath Khan supported the Iranians and fought on the side of the crown prince Abbas Mirza. After Karabakh was ceded to Russia; and even before it, Abul-Fath Khan withdrew from Karabakh along with his fellow tribesmen, and Abbās Mirza made him governor of Dezmār. Dezamār lay on a southern tributary of the Aras, which flowed into the main river at Ordubad. In the years following 1813 Abul-Fath Khan smuggled his warriors back across the Aras into southern Karabakh and took up residence in the village of Garmī (eight farsangs south of Shusha). Presumably, this must have been done with the connivance of his brother Mahdiqoli Khan Javanshir, who had succeeded his father in 1806 as governor of Shusha in the service of the Russians. In 1818, long before the outbreak of the Second Russo-Persian War, Abbas Mirza invaded the territory to which the Russians laid claim and which was de facto under their sovereignty; supported by 100 horsemen, he brought Abul-Fath Khan back by force. What happened to Abul-Fath Khan thereafter is not known; he does not appear to have taken part in the battles of the Second Russo-Persian War. His brother Mahdī-qolī Khan crossed into Iranian soil in 1822. Under the terms of the Treaty of Turkmanchay in 1828, the whole of Karabakh was finally ceded to Russia.[21]


Shield of the Karabakh khanate.  Azerbaijan National Museum of Art

Karabakh Khanate never had a permanent army, but those who were a certain age and had the ability to serve in the military were written in a special register. When it was necessary, soldiers were called together with local landlords, meliks and beks.[22] The persons whose names were included in the register with along with volunteers formed the army of the Karabakh Khanate, but they were deployed only in cases of war or emergency. Sometimes, especially in urgent circumstances, soldiers from Dagestan were invited to join the army of the Karabakh Khanate. For example, when Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar seized Shusha for 33 days, part of the soldiers who were defending Shusha were from Dagestan.[23] During the rule of Ibrahim Khalil Khan, the Army Register contained more than 12,000 names. All expenses of the army during the campaign were paid by Ibrahim Khan.[24]


There were in total three rulers of the khanate, all members of the Javanshir clan;

In 1822, the Khanate of Karabakh was abolished and absorbed into the Russian Empire.

See alsoEdit


  • Abbasqulu Bakihanov, Gulistan-i-Iram, 1841 (Baku, Elm, 1991)
  • Mirza Karabaghi, Karabakh-name
  • Fisher, William Bayne; Avery, P.; Hambly, G. R. G; Melville, C. (1991). The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 7. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521200954.


  1. ^ Bournoutian, George A. (2016). The 1820 Russian Survey of the Khanate of Shirvan: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of an Iranian Province prior to its Annexation by Russia. Gibb Memorial Trust. p. xvii. ISBN 978-1909724808. Serious historians and geographers agree that after the fall of the Safavids, and especially from the mid-eighteenth century, the territory of the South Caucasus was composed of the khanates of Ganja, Kuba, Shirvan, Baku, Talesh, Sheki, Karabagh, Nakhichivan and Yerevan, all of which were under Iranian suzerainty.
  2. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (2004). Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of a National Identity in a Muslim Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0521522458. (...) and Persian continued to be the official language of the judiciary and the local administration [even after the abolishment of the khanates].
  3. ^ Pavlovich, Petrushevsky Ilya (1949). Essays on the history of feudal relations in Armenia and Azerbaijan in XVI - the beginning of XIX centuries. LSU them. Zhdanov. p. 7. (...) The language of official acts not only in Iran proper and its fully dependant Khanates, but also in those Caucasian khanates that were semi-independent until the time of their accession to the Russian Empire, and even for some time after, was New Persian (Farsi). It played the role of the literary language of class feudal lords as well.
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online: History of Azerbaijan
  5. ^ Abbas-gulu Aga Bakikhanov. Golestan-i Iram
  6. ^ Gammer, Moshe (1992). Muslim resistance to the tsar. Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0-7146-3431-X. In 1805 the khans of Qarabagh, Shirvan and Sheki swore allegiance to Russia.
  7. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-231-07068-3. The brief and successful Russian campaign of 1812 was concluded with the Treaty of Gulistan, which was signed on October 12 of the following year. The treaty provided for the incorporation into the Russian Empire of vast tracts of Iranian territory, including Daghestan, Georgia with the Sheragel province, Imeretia, Guria, Mingrelia, and Abkhazia, as well as the khanates of Karabagh, Ganja, Sheki, Shirvan, Derbent, Kuba, Baku, and Talysh,
  8. ^ a b Potier, Tim (2001). Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 1: "Panah Ali-Khan founded the Karabakh Khanate in the mid 18th century. To defend it, in the 1750s, he built Panakhabad fortress (subsequently renamed Shusha, after a nearby village) which became the capital of the Khanate. It was not until 1805 that the Russian empire gained control over the Karabakh Khanate, from Persia.". ISBN 90-411-1477-7.
  9. ^ Croissant, Michael (1998). The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications. Praeger/Greenwood. p. 12. ISBN 0-275-96241-5.
  10. ^ Rahmani A. A. Azerbaijan in the late 16th and 17th centuries (1590–1700). Baku,1981, pp.87–89
  11. ^ (A collection of articles on the history of Azerbaijan, edition 1, Baku, 1949, p. 250
  12. ^ Mirza Adigozal-bey, Karabakh-nameh, Baku, 1950, p.47
  13. ^ The Princedoms of Khamsa
  14. ^ Hewsen, Robert H., Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 155.
  15. ^ (in Russian) Mirza Jamal Javanshir Karabagi. The History of Karabakh Archived 2007-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-231-07068-3.
  17. ^ Tapper, Richard (1997). Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 114–115. ISBN 0-521-47340-3.
  18. ^ Fisher et al. 1991, p. 126.
  19. ^ a b Tapper, Richard (1997). Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-521-47340-3.
  20. ^ Gammer, Moshe (1992). Muslim resistance to the tsar. Routledge, 6. ISBN 0-7146-3431-X. “In 1805 the khans of Qarabagh, Shirvan, and Sheki swore allegiance to Russia.”
  21. ^ Busse, H. "ABU'L-FATḤ KHAN JAVĀNŠĪR". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  22. ^ Bilal Dedeyev, Qarabag Xanliginin Idare Sistemi, Ictimai-Iqtisadi, Medeni, Etnik Veziyyeti ve Ordusu, in Qarabag:Bildiklerimiz ve Bilmediklerimiz, Edited by Reha Yilmaz, Qafqaz University Press, Baku 2010, p.167
  23. ^ Mirza Camaloglu, Panah Xan ve Ibrahim Xanin Qarabagda hakimiyyetleri ve o zamanin hadiseleri, in Qarabagnameler, II, Baku 1991, p.243
  24. ^ Mir Mehdi Xezani, Kitabi-Tarixi-Qarabag, in Qarabagnameler, II, Baku 1991, p.199.

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