Treaty of Gulistan

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Treaty of Gulistan was a peace treaty concluded between Imperial Russia and Persia on 24 October 1813 in the village of Gulistan (in modern-day Goranboy Rayon of Azerbaijan) as a result of the first Russo-Persian War. The peace negotiations were precipitated by Lankaran's fall to Gen. Pyotr Kotlyarevsky on 1 January 1813.

The treaty confirmed inclusion of modern day Azerbaijan, Daghestan and Eastern Georgia into the Russian Empire.

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 Fyodorovich Rtischev from the Russian side and Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi from the Iranian side.

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, Mohammad Khan Qajar in 1797. Mohammad had, during his reign, killed off all of his enemies in the regions of present-day Georgia and Azerbaijan and claimed the areas to rightfully belong to Persia. Simultaneously, Russia had formally annexed the region of 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 Indian-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 recapturing the majority of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, 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), 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.

By this treaty:

1. "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."

2. These lands include:

1. All the cities, towns, and villages of Georgia, including all the villages and towns on the coast of the Black Sea, such as:
2. Megrelia,
3. Abkhazia,
4. Imeretia,
5. Guria;
6. Almost all the cities, towns and villages of the khanates in South Caucasus, including:
7. Baku khanate (now capital of Azerbaijan Republic),
8. Shirvan Khanate,
9. Derbent,
10. Karabakh khanate,
11. Ganja khanate,
12. Shaki Khanate,
13. Quba Khanate,
14. part of the Talysh Khanate;

3. Iran loses all rights to navigate the Caspian Sea, and Russia is granted exclusive rights to station its military fleet in the Caspian Sea.

4. Both countries agree on the establishment of free trade, with Russians having free access to conduct business anywhere in Iran.

1. 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.

5. 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 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 towards 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 to the military mainly to prevent Persia from trying to regain the regions of Georgia or the Caucasus, thus greatly leaving open the possibility of another future war.

As another result of Persia's losses to Russia, the two treaties of Gulistan and Turkemenchai also divided Azerbaijani and Talysh people from their brethren in Iran and the wider Iranian cultural world.

The Treaty of Gulistan was leaving 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 significantly small amounts of troops he 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 of Gulistan was signed, Persia started to rapidly build up its army once more, as Fath Ali Shah was fully devoted to regaining the territories lost in the war. 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, which was three times as much military preparation than he spent for the first Russo-Persian War. The clergy in Persia also publicly announced that the jihad against Russia was not over. In 1826, Persia attacked once again on the territories lost to Russia. 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.

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