Treaty of Gulistan
The Treaty of Gulistan (Russian: Гюлистанский договор; Persian: عهدنامه گلستان) was a peace treaty concluded between Imperial Russia and Persia (modern day Iran) on 24 October 1813 in the village of Gulistan (in modern-day Goranboy Rayon of Azerbaijan) as a result of the first full-scale Russo-Persian War, lasting from 1804 to 1813. The peace negotiations were precipitated by Lankaran's fall to Gen. Pyotr Kotlyarevsky on 1 January 1813.
|Treaty of Peace between Imperial Russia and Persian Empire|
Northwestern Iran's borders before and after the treaty
|Effective||24 October 1813|
Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi
The text was prepared by the British diplomat Sir Gore Ouseley who served as the mediator and wielded great influence at the Persian court. It was signed by Nikolai Rtischev from the Russian side and Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi from the Persian side.
The result of the treaty was that it forcefully ceded the bulk of Iran's Caucasian territories, while it also directly contributed to the outbreak of the next war of the 19th century, namely the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828). Under the Treaty of Turkmenchay that came out of the 1826-1828 war, the last Caucasian territories were stripped off from Iran, comprising modern-day Armenia and the remaining part of contemporary Azerbaijan that remained in Iranian hands. By 1828, Iran had lost, through the Gulistan and Turkmenchay treaties, all its aforementioned integral territories in Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus. The area to the North of the river Aras, amongst which the territory of the contemporary nations of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia in the course of the 19th century.
As a further direct result and consequence of the Gulistan treaty in combination with the successive Turkmenchay treaty of 1828, the formerly Iranian territories became now part of Russia for around the next 180 years, except Dagestan, which remained a Russian possession ever since. Out of the greater part of the territory, three separate nations would be formed through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, namely Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Lastly and equally important, as a result of Russia's imposing of the two treaties, it also decisively parted the Azerbaijanis and Talysh ever since between the two nations.
Background and the Russo-Persian WarEdit
Imperial Russia had just sworn in a new tsar, Alexander I, in 1801 and the empire was very eager to control neighboring territories as the tsar was determined to expand. A few years previously in Persia, Fath Ali Shah Qajar also became the new shah after the assassination of his uncle, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar in 1797. Agha Mohammad Khan had, during his reign, defeated and re-subordinated all of his enemies and former Afsharid/Safavid vassals and subjects in the regions of present-day Georgia, Armenia, southern Dagestan, and Azerbaijan, and claimed the areas as rightfully belonging to Persia. By the events prior, during, and after the Battle of Krtsanisi of 1795, he had regained full control over Eastern Georgia, Dagestan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Several years later, after Agha Mohammad Khan was assassinated in Shusha and Erekle II had died as well, Russia stepped in and capitalized on the moment to annex eastern Georgia, allowing unrestricted travel and trade between the regions and Russia, furthering its public claim on the land. Persia was trying to align with France in 1801 to better position itself in case of war with Russia, yet those attempts fell through. Ironically, as both Russia and Britain were currently engaged in the Napoleonic wars, Fath Ali Shah instead brokered a deal with Britain that provided Persia with military support from British troops in exchange for preventing any European country from entering India. With the alliance, Persia entered into the first Russo-Persian War against a militarily pre-occupied Russia, which was heavily invested in the Napoleonic Wars.
Although Persia entered the war mainly for the goal of reasserting its control over Georgia and to ensure the protection of the rest of its northwestern borders, Fath Ali Shah had heard about the atrocities being committed by Russian Commanders in Georgia, the commanders ruling “through massive extortion and maladministration”.
Numerically, Persian forces had a considerable advantage during the war: a ratio of 5 to 1 over their Russian adversaries. However, the Persian forces were technologically backwards and poorly trained - a problem that the Persian government did not recognize until a far later juncture. Despite these crippling disadvantages, fighting continued in northern Persia, Azerbaijan and in regions of Georgia. Persia was so enraged at Russia as to declare a jihad upon them, demanding that its people unite to fight the war against them. Persia was actually losing the war and asked for military and financial aid from France’s Napoleon (with which they had a France-Persian Alliance), who promised to deliver French support regarding Iran's ambitions to regain its recently lost territory of Georgia, yet France's relations with Russia were more important to them after the two countries signed the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, resulting in France leaving Persia unassisted. The Battle of Aslanduz on 31 October 1812 was the turning point in the war, which led to the complete destruction of the Persian army, thus leaving Fath Ali Shah with no other option but to sign the Treaty of Gulistan.
According to Cambridge History of Iran:
|“||Even when rulers on the plateau lacked the means to effect suzerainty beyond the Aras, the neighboring Khanates were still regarded as Iranian dependencies. Naturally, it was those Khanates located closest to the province of Azarbaijan which most frequently experienced attempts to re-impose Iranian suzerainty: the Khanates of Erivan, Nakhchivan and Qarabagh across the Aras, and the cis-Aras Khanate of Talish, with its administrative headquarters located at Lankaran and therefore very vulnerable to pressure, either from the direction of Tabriz or Rasht. Beyond the Khanate of Qarabagh, the Khan of Ganja and the Vali of Gurjistan (ruler of the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom of south-east Georgia), although less accessible for purposes of coercion, were also regarded as the Shah's vassals, as were the Khans of Shakki and Shirvan, north of the Kura river. The contacts between Iran and the Khanates of Baku and Qubba, however, were more tenuous and consisted mainly of maritime commercial links with Anzali and Rasht. The effectiveness of these somewhat haphazard assertions of suzerainty depended on the ability of a particular Shah to make his will felt, and the determination of the local khans to evade obligations they regarded as onerous.||”|
By this treaty:
- "Russia by this instrument was confirmed in possession of all the khanates -- Karabagh, Gandja, Shekeen, Shirvan, Derbend, Kouba, and Baku, together with part of Talish and the fortress of Lenkoran. Persia further abandoned all pretensions to Daghestan, Georgia, Mingrelia, Imeretia, and Abkhazia."
- These lands include:
- All the cities, towns, and villages of Georgia, including all the villages and towns on the coast of the Black Sea, such as:
- Almost all the cities, towns and villages of the khanates in the South Caucasus and partly North Caucasus including:
- Baku khanate,
- Shirvan Khanate,
- Derbent Khanate,
- Karabakh khanate,
- Ganja khanate,
- Shaki Khanate,
- Quba Khanate,
- part of the Talysh Khanate;
- Iran loses all rights to navigate the Caspian Sea, and Russia is granted exclusive rights to station its military fleet in the Caspian Sea.
- Both countries agree on the establishment of free trade, with Russians having free access to conduct business anywhere in Iran.
- Iran is also given complete and free access to Russia, yet both must pay a 5% ad valorem tax on any items imported into each respective country, thus being seen as a light import/export duty tax.
- Russia in return promises to support Abbas Mirza as heir to the Persian throne after the death of Fath Ali Shah.
Even until today, Iran officially sees this and the succeeding Treaty of Turkmenchay as one of its most humiliating treaties ever signed. The treaty is also regarded by Iranians as the main reason why Fath Ali Shah is seen as one of Iran's most incompetent rulers in memory. The scholars in Azerbaijan point out that the Karabakh khanate, where the treaty was signed, had pursued independent foreign policy as early as 1795, when "Ibrahim Khalil Khan, the wali of Qarabagh, fearing for his independence, warned Sultan Selim III of Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar's ambitions to subdue Azerbaijan and later Qarabagh, Erivan and Georgia. In the same year Muhammad Khan, the hakim of Erivan, also wrote the Sultan alerting him to Agha Muhammad's "aggression" and seeking Ottoman protection."
Russian imperial historians maintain that Russia's absorption of the Transcaucasus territories delivered their population from constant Iranian and Ottoman invasions, and the Christian nations of the Caucasus were liberated from Muslim repression, ushering in the years of peace and relative economic stability.
Vital to the signing of the treaty was the agreement made by Fath Ali Shah with Britain. With their defeat in the Russo-Persian War, the Shah understood that another attack by the Russians was close to inevitable. Britain saw the war as unwinnable for the Persians and used this to strengthen their foreign affairs. Using their new-found diplomatic connections with the British, Persia established the Treaty of Defensive Alliance in 1812. This promised that Britain would “offer a defensive alliance against further Russian encroachments”. It essentially had terms stating that Persia would provide defense against any European army from entering India (which stationed a majority of British troops) and in return, Britain would provide military and financial aid in case of another Russian attack.
The treaty did not answer vital questions such as whether the Persian army would be disarmed or be able to regroup. It was known to both sides that Persia would strike again because they considered the regions rightfully theirs and were furious about Russia’s treatment of the land and people. The war was becoming costly in terms of troops and finance, so the Treaty of Gulistan led to over a decade of nominal peace (1813–1826) between Russia and Persia, mainly for the clause regarding trade: both governments saw much potential with it and used it to their advantage. Permanent diplomatic missions were set up in Persia as well as Russia in order to keep trade open as long as possible. It was a period of tense stability, though, as both countries understood that the treaty was written very vaguely and that nothing was written about provisions for the military mainly to prevent Persia from trying to regain the regions of Georgia or the Caucasus, thus leaving open the possibility of another future war. It is likely that neither the Iranian Shah (king) nor the Tsar regarded the treaty of Gulistan as definitive.
According to Prof. Timothy C. Dowling:
|“||Iran lost all its territories north of the Aras river, which included Daghestan, all of Georgia, and parts of Armenia and Azerbaijan. (...) The shah also surrendered Iranian rights to navigate the Caspian Sea and granted Russia exclusive rights to maintain a military fleet there, with capituloratory rights to trade within Iran. Russia in return promised to support Crown Prince Abbas Mirza as heir to the Iranian throne. Following the disastrous Russo-Iranian War of 1804-1813, Iranian leadership considered the Treaty of Gulistan more as a truce that allowed Iran to regroup. (...) Continued Russian encroachment into the southern Caucasian territories as well as the mistreatment of Muslim populations had seriously strained Russo-Iranian relations. General Aleksei Yermolov, the New Russian commander in chief in the Caucasus, shared his predecessor Tsitsianov's worldview toward "Asiatics" and was committed to war as a means of achieving Russia's political goals. In May 1826, Russia therefore occupied Mirak, in the Erivan Khanate, in violation of the Treaty of Gulistan, [sparking the next and final bout of hostilities between the two].||”|
According to Prof. William Bayne Fisher (et al.):
|“||British mediation made it possible for the two sides to negotiate a peace treaty which was signed on 14 Oktober 1813, at the village of Gulistan. By its terms Iran lost many of its Caucasian provinces, including Qarabagh and Ganja, Shirvan and Baku, Georgia and parts of Talish. No power other than Russia was permitted warships on the Caspian Sea. This provision left the Persian shores vulnerable to Russian attack. The treaty also dealt with commercial matters and with the establishment of permanent diplomatic missions. Perhaps the most dangerous provisions of the Gulistan treaty were those that promised Russian recognition and support of the legitimate heir to the Persian throne and those which delineated the border between the two states. These provisions were so vague as to invite misinterpretation and conflict.||”|
The area to the North of the river Aras, amongst which is the territory of the contemporary nations of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia in the course of the 19th century.
Precursor to Second Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828Edit
The Treaty of Gulistan left the possibility of conflict open between the two countries, thus being weak from the start. Russia's main priority before the war was to focus on the wars being fought with Napoleon, which explains the small numbers of troops it dedicated for the Russo-Persian War. The treaty of Gulistan was mainly a way for both countries to “gain a breath” so that the Russo-Persian War could end and they could focus on other issues. After the Treaty was signed, Persia started to rapidly build up its army once more, as Fath Ali Shah was fully devoted to regaining the lost territories. It was surprising to no one when Fath Ali Shah ordered his military commander, Abbas Mirza, to start training troops in 1823, three years in advance of the second Russo-Persian War of the century, which was three times as much military preparation as he had devoted to the first War. The clergy in Persia also publicly announced that the jihad against Russia was not over. In 1826, once again Persia attacked the territories lost to Russia (with the British supporting the Persians). The second Russo-Persian War lasted two years and Persia lost 35,000 troops to Russia’s 8,000. Performing poorly in the war, Persia lost, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which resulted in the loss of modern-day Armenia and the remaining parts of contemporary Azerbaijan.
- (in Russian) Treaty of Gulistan
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