Shirvan Khanate

Shirvan Khanate (Persian: خانات شیروان‎ — Khānāt-e Shirvan) was a khanate founded by the Afsharid dynasty that existed in what is now Azerbaijan in 1748—1820.

Khanate of Shirvan

خانات شیروان
Location of Shirvan
Under Iranian suzerainty[1]
CapitalShamakhy, Agsu, Fit dag
Common languagesPersian (official),[2][3]
Shia Islam
• Assassination of Nader Shah
• Annexation by Imperial Russia
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Afsharid dynasty
Russian Empire
Today part ofAzerbaijan


In 1742, Shamakhi was taken and destroyed by Nader Shah of Persia, who relocated inhabitants into a new town under the same name about 16 miles to the west (now Agsu), at the foot of the main chain of the Caucasus. The "new" Shamakhi was a residence of the Khan of Shamakhi Hajji Muhammed Ali Khan, who ruled until 1765.[citation needed]

The smaller Old Shamakhi khanate continued to exist under brothers Muhammad Said khan and (1748—1786) Aghasi Khan until the two killed Hajji Muhammed Ali Khan and united two khanates. After the merge, the New Shamakha was finally abandoned, and the old town rebuilt in 1786. During 1768—1789 the Shirvan khanate was occupied by the much stronger Quba Khanate and Shaki Khanate. Aghasi Khan was blinded and Muhammad Said Khan was taken captive to Derbent.[citation needed]

Children of Aghasi Khan and Muhammad Said khan were killed or exiled from Shirvan. Once Fatali Khan died, they came back restored their khanate. Askar Khan, Qasim Khan and Mostafa Khan ruled after decline of Quba Khanate. In 1795 the Russians captured Shamakhi as well as Baku as part of Persian Expedition of 1796 by Valerian Zubov. However, the campaign was abandoned and the army recalled after Catherine's death.

After the massacre in Ganja, Mostafa Khan asked the central government in Tehran for assistance, in order to prevent Tsitsianov's advance.[4] The government responded by sending an army under general Pir-Qoli Khan Qajar.[4] However, when the general had reached the Mughan plain, he found out that Mostafa Khan had entered negotiations with the Russians.[4] Mostafa Khan hoped that the Russians would recognize a Shirvan Khanate "enlarged" to the boundaries of the Shirvanshah's of the Medieval era.[5] Though Mostafa Khan was uncomfortable with Tsitsianov's proposal, the latter threatened that if he wouldn't agree with his terms, he would replace Mostafa with his younger brother (who was reportedly enthusiastic about it).[5] Anyhow, the Russians invaded the khanate, and on 6 January 1806, Mostafa Khan was forced to submit.[6][7]

"I, Mostafa Khan of Shirvan, in my name and that of my heirs, remove myself forever from the vassalage or honors of Persia (Iran) or any other state. I declare before the entire world that I do not recognize anyone as my liege, except His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of All the Russias and His heirs to the throne. I promise to be a loyal slave to that throne. I swear this by the Holy Qur'an."[8]

Mostafa Khan was allowed to administer the khanate, and had to give an annual tribute in gold rubles to the Russians. Furthermore, he had to send hostages to Tiflis (Tbilisi), which had recently been annexed and transformed into the "base" of the Russian Caucasus Viceroyalty. Lastly, he also had to provide food and accommodation for the Russian garrisons.[6] After Tsitsianov was killed in Baku in 1806, Mostafa Khan repudiated his allegiance to the Russians, and re-submitted himself to the shah.[9]

Things changed when Aleksey Yermolov took office as the new Russian commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, in 1816.[6] A staunch Russian imperialist, Yermolov was committed to bring the entire Caucasus under the Russian sway. He wanted to establish the Aras river as the border between Iran and Russia at all costs, and was therefore determined to conquer the last remaining khanates under Iranian rule; the Erivan Khanate and the Nakchivan Khanate.[6][10] When Ismail, the khan of Shaki, died in 1819 without any heir, Yermolov annexed the entity. Realizing what was going to happen to himself, Mostafa Khan fled to mainland Iran in 1820 with his son; Yermolov did not waste any time to annex the Shirvan Khanate.[6][11]

Several years later, in violation of the Gulistan treaty (1813), the Russians invaded Iran's Erivan Khanate.[12][10] This sparked the final bout of hostilities between the two; the Russo-Iranian War of 1826-1828. Crown prince Abbas Mirza led a full-scale attack in the summer of 1826 order to recover the Iranian territories that had been lost by the Gulistan treaty.[13] The war started off well for the Iranians; they quickly recaptured Ganja, Shirvan and Shaki amongst others, and performed attacks on Tiflis.[13] The government then reinstated Mostafa in Shirvan.[13] However, just a few months later, the tide had completely turned with the Iranian army suffering decisive defeats against the militarily superior Russians. In September 1826, Abbas Mirza was defeated at Ganja by Ivan Paskevich, and thus the army had to retreat over the Aras. Mostafa Khan, accompanied by a small retinue, fled once again to mainland Iran.[13]


  1. Hajji Muhammad Ali Khan (1748 - 1763)
  2. Aghasi Khan & Muhammad Said khan (1763 - 1768 )
  3. Puppets of Quba Khanate (1768 - 1778)
  4. Aghasi Khan (1778 - 1786)
  5. Askar Khan (1786 - 1789)
  6. Qasim Khan (1789 - 1796)
  7. Mostafa Khan (?-1820)

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ a b c Tapper 1997, pp. 152–153.
  5. ^ a b Atkin 1980, p. 87.
  6. ^ a b c d e Bournoutian 2016a.
  7. ^ Atkin 1980, p. 86.
  8. ^ Bournoutian 2016b, p. 213.
  9. ^ Tapper 1997, p. 153.
  10. ^ a b Cronin 2013, p. 63.
  11. ^ Atkin 1980, p. 148.
  12. ^ Dowling 2014, p. 729.
  13. ^ a b c d Tapper 1997, pp. 161–162.


  • Atkin, Muriel (1980). Russia and Iran, 1780-1828. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0816656974.
  • Bournoutian, George A. (2016a). "Quick Overview". The 1819 Russian Survey of the Khanate of Sheki: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of an Iranian Province Prior to its Annexation by Russia. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers. ISBN 978-1568593159.
  • Bournoutian, George A. (2016b). 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. ISBN 978-1909724808.
  • Cronin, Stephanie, ed. (2013). Iranian-Russian Encounters: Empires and Revolutions since 1800. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415624336.
  • Dowling, Timothy C., ed. (2014). Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1598849486.
  • Tapper, Richard (1997). Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521583367.