On an Unknown Fact concerning the Relationship between Nader Shah and Georgian Royalty according to ‘Alam Ara-ye Naderi by Iranian Historian Mohammad Kazem

The period of reign of Nader Shah Afshar (1736-1747) is one of the most remarkable eras in the history of Iran as well as the Middle East and the Caucasus in general. The very period is of special importance for Georgia as well, as it was during the times and through direct participation of Nader Shah that the so-called “compromise period” in Iran-Eastern Georgia relations (spanning over a century) came to an end.

Certainly, the Nader Shah era and various aspects of his reign have always been and still are a focus of attention of historians. From this perspective, Georgian historians are no exception. The study of the Persian sources is rather valuable in order to determine the same facts and events related to the history of the Caucasus and Georgia of this period.

The Iranian historian Mohammad Kazem (b. 1720/21) provides rather extensive and interesting accounts of the 18th century Iran. His historical work entitled Alam Ara-ye Naderi (The World-Illuminating History of Nadir) comprises three books and includes information on the Caucasus and, specifically, Georgia of the time.

       Mirza Mohammad Kazem was born in the town of Merv, in the family of a government employee. The exact official position of his father is unclear; however, it is known that in 1730s Mohammad Kazem’s father, being held in high esteem, worked for Ibrahim Khan, Nader Shah's brother who later served as a ruler of Azerbaijan. Only his childhood years were spent in Merv, later on Mohammad Kazem and his family moved to Mashhad. In 1736, Ibrahim Khan left Mashhad to proceed to the Mughan steppe where Nader Shah’s coronation was held / Nader Shah was proclaimed new Shah of Iran. The same year, Ibrahim Khan was appointed ruler of Azerbaijan, moving to Tabriz. In 1737, his wife passed away and its was Mohammad Kazem’s father who was instructed to reinter Ibrahim Khan’s wife in Mashhad, and to bring his son to employ him. Mohammad Kazem’s father brought his sixteen-year-old son to Azerbaijan where the latter proceeded to serve Ibrahim Khan. From 1739 onward, worked for Beglerbeg (provincial governor) of Merv. As a chancellery official, he participated in Nader Shah's campaign in Central Asia in 1740, while in 1741, he worked as a maker of military reports[1], being engaged in the campaign against Balkh. In 1744-1746, Kazem worked for the financial office of the Merv arsenal. And in 1746-1747, serves in the Merv artillery under Bihbud khan, who was a commander of Iranian army in Turkestan. By the time when Mohammad Kazem started writing his chronicle (ca. 1749/50), he apparently had been working as the vizier (i.e. head of finance office) of Merv Beglerbeg [Стори,1977:914].

There is the only manuscript of Mohammad Kazem’s work that has come down to us. At first, only the second and third volumes were available to specialists, hence, the title of the chronicle was unknown. Later, in 1940, the first volume of the same manuscripts was discovered in the library of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow, and the name Alam Ara-ye Naderi was brought to light. In terms of calligraphy, style and miniatures, it was absolutely identical with the chronicle’s second and third volumes which had been preserved at the Asiatic Museum in Leningrad. The dating of the first volume − 1166 (1752/53) – suggests that all three volumes represent part of the same manuscript.

The first volume of Kazem’s work covers the period when Nader Shah has not yet been coronated, therefore, the author most certainly made the use of the relevant resources of his predecessor Iranian historians as he could not have been a direct eyewitness of those events. Volume two describes the events of 1736-1743, while volume three that is under consideration, covers the final period of Nader Shah’s rule (1743-1747).[2] [Kazem, 2016:5]

Mohammad Kazem’s contemporaries include rather distinguished and reliable chroniclers (Papuna Orbeliani, Oman Kherkheulidzde, Vakhushti Batonishvili (Bagrationi), Hakop Shemakhets, Jonas Hanway, Mirza Mohammad Mahdi Khan Astarabadi, etc.), however, we should not be surprised to find that sometimes the same events or facts have been described by the historians of the time in a mutually exclusive way. It is well known that Mohammad Kazem represents quite a reliable source even due to the fact that he personally witnessed and participated in the events described by him.

We have been given an opportunity to translate Mohammad Kazem’s References about Georgia into the Georgian language and place it into scholarly circulation for the first time[3]. The proposed article we are specifying our point of view regarding Kazem’s account of the relationship between Nader Shah and one of the daughters of Teimuraz II.

From the history of Georgia it is known that Teimuraz II had five daughters: Ketevan, Ana, Elisabed, Elene and Tamar. Since 1744, Ana had been the spouse of Dimitri Orbeliani; Elisabed (1750-1770) had been married first to Giorgi Amilakhvari, and later to Katsia Dadiani [Surguladze, 1995:62]. Elene (died in 1743) had married Zaza Tsitsishvili [Orbeliani, 1981:68], while Ketevan, since 1737, had been married to Nader Shah’s nephew, 'Ali Quli Khan, who later became the shah of Iran, known as ‘Adil Shah. As for Tamar (b.1749), we have no accounts of her marriage.

In his chronicles, Mohammad Kazem recounts about the relationship between one of the daughters of  Teimuraz II and Nader Shah. This specific episode is clearly unfamilar to the history of Georgia. Kazem’s chronicles dedicate almost an entire chapter to this story and in the light of its full length, we have considered it necessary to focus on it.

One of the chronicles’ chapters entitled The story of return of Amir Aslan Khan[4] into the blessed king’s horde and getting hold of a daughter of Tahmuras Mirza (Teimuraz) reads: “the firman from his majesty commanded to bring Tahmuras Mirza, along with men and women, to a splendid palace”; “When Tahmuras Mirza learned about the supreme command, he brought his daughter of outstanding beauty (untouched by the sun), a girl with a moon-like face who grew up guarded with the veil of innocence and whose beauty, elegance and attractiveness had no match, from the main castle at midnight, along with two nannies and his thirty loyal servants, and sent them to the top of Mount Elbrus. and hid his countless wealth at that place, God forbid that the naibs of the country’s supreme ruler[5]   should ever get hold of this beauty [Kazem, 2016:50].

The girl’s leaving of the castle and noble couriers’ arrival happened simultaneously. They brought with them an amnesty warrant for Teimuraz: “the country’s supreme ruler Nader Shah wishes to have solidarity between themselves. For this purpose, it is essentials (for Teimuraz) to let his daughter (who under the guard of the veil of innocence was brought up by Tahmuras) sit upon a gilded sedan chair and sent her, accompanied by a thousand men, to the Kizilbash nobles.”

Tahmuras Mirza replied to his holiness, saying: “I had a daughter whom I had been bringing up like a date palm of life, and in [her] entire life I had been acting the same way to achieve an overall perfection. She had approached the Lord (i.e. died) due to the heavenly destiny and justice of the Lord.” The couriers returned and informed the ruler of this country about the death of the deceased noble.  Tahmuras Mirza was honored to visit the palace of the country’s supreme ruler together with some of the Kizilbash warriors. When the great khan heard about it, his royal face showed sorrow and grief, becoming nicer and taking tender care of Tahmuras Mirza, glorifying him with his noble royal nature” [Kazem, 2016:50].

The text certainly shows that the daughter of the king Teimuraz may have been a very young virgin, brought up under “the veil of innocence”. Probably, this appeared to be one of the reasons for hiding her away and deceiving Kizilbash nobles about her death.

       Kazem continues the narrative: Amir Aslan Khan approached the border, stayed for a while and enjoyed his time in a state of bliss and pleasure with beautiful Georgian women. The next day, together with a unit of warriors, he went hunting. Suddenly, he saw a few horsemen who were on a mountain slope. He approached Georgians and saw a girl who had put her head on an older woman’s knees, illuminating the entire wilderness with her beauty. The above-mentioned commander asked around about this girl. He was told that the girl was a daughter of the Georgian Vali, Tahmuras Mirza, who had been hidden by her father, terrified by the intention of the great Saheb Giran (Nader) to take her away and marry her. When Amir Aslan Khan found out about it, he stood up, followed a number of horsemen and left for the horde in order to carry the girl upon a gilded sedan chair. This girl with a moon-like face was seated on the sedan chair [and taken away] [Kazem, 2016: 51].

„while on their way, the famous (Amir Aslan Khan) was following the sedan chair and did his best (to protect sultan’s reputation), since he knew that the blessed and greatest [king] of the country was dreaming about having this girl with a moon-like face” [Kazem, 2016: 52].

 According to the chronicles, Nader Shah found out the truth, called him in and told him: your daughter that had been gone, rose from the dead and, therefore, you should let her mother, relatives and friends know about it. Teimuraz already knew that his daughter had been taken by Kizilbash warriors, so no other way was left but to tell the truth. Nader Shah extended sympathy to him, as he was beware of Christian Valis. According to Nader’s order, in the middle of the journey the girl was taken to her father’s house, and in a few days, Teimuraz himself made preparations for sending her daughter. He sent a number of women from his own harem to that of the blessed (Nader), and offered them a magnificent place to stay there. Then Teimuraz sent his brother Mohammad 'Ali Mirza to the king, expressing his wish to give his own daughter to the king. Shah treated Mohammad Quli Mirza with esteem in a royal manner and gave order to his advisers and viziers to dress her up, embellish her and adorn her with gold and silver. He prepared jewelry and other items embellished with precious gems for this “innocent virgin. They adorned and dressed her up and led her to a “special bedroom”. “The blessed noble became one with a young Georgian woman” [Kazem, 2016: 53].

„[Next day, Shah offered tremendous amount of presents to the people of the country; [he] paid special respect to the Georgian people. He appointed (i.e. strengthened the reputation of) Tahmuras Mirza to a position of the Vali and protector of that vilayet, while sending Mohammad Quli Mirza to serve in the Aragvi gorge and Kartli region” [Kazem, 2016: 53].

As has already been mentioned, no similar information is available in the works of Mohammad Kazem’s contemporary Georgian historians and, especially, the information concerning the fact that, supposedly, Nader Shah himself preferred to have this young woman in his harem, or for one night only.

So, the question arises, which one of Teimuraz’ daughters is this young woman, the story about whom has not been attested either in the writings of Mohammad Kazem’s contemporary Georgian historians or in the works of Mirza-Mahdi Khan Astarabadi. Moreover, we have not encountered a similar reference in the European historical chronicles that have been available to us. It should be noted that the girl could not have been either Elisabed or Tamar, as they were born after the death of Nader Shah. However, there is still a possibility that the girl was among three other daughters of Teimuraz.

In Persian sources we often encounter fictional stories which, as scholars identify, represent legends and historical anecdotes. Despite the fact that this case does not represent a fictional account, we would anyway specify the opinion held by the Italian researcher, Giorgio Rota concerning such pieces of incomplete information, which we acknowledge.

In its prejudices and its assumptions, in its omissions no less than in its contents. Is the reflection of the inconstant human situation, and even where it is least informative it supplies us with data which no explicit statement could convincingly express and which, perhaps are as valuable to the understanding of the past as the dates and the deeds.He further adds that “Every such work, therefore, however inadequate and inaccurate it may be in detail, is itself a historical fact of singular importance, and is best understood when considered with its fellows in their mutual complementary relationship throughout a total situation rather than being merely confronted with them on the particulars” [Rota, 1998:159].

In his records about Georgia, Nikolay Yazykov[6] mentions King Erekle’s sister who apparently spent a night with Nader Shah: “When Georgia was under the rule of Nader Shah, if encountered, they would forcedly take beautiful young women (including those of royal descent). They say, king Erekle’s sister was with Nader Shah (it is also noteworthy that according to the Persian traditional customs, virgins could be taken, unlike married women). Therefore, fathers started marrying off their daughters at a young age, arranging their engagement as far back as in their childhood years”[7] [Языков,1891:183-196].

In his verse Adventure, Teimuraz II expresses his heartbreak concerning his daughter’s marriage to 'Ali Quli Khan and the fact that his son Erekle was summoned to Iran.

/ “couriers were sent to Kakheti which gives no joy to me, / they summoned my daughter and son, I had a disheartening day, / I have no other sons; do take thought as a wise man, / no one is left in my family; how to endure?! it is distressing / Khan acted unjustly towards me / he took my fair daughter whose radiant beauty illuminates darkness, / and gave her in marriage to his nephew, I no longer expect her return,  / my heart is wounded as she was taken away from me / “[Georgian Literature, 1990:89-90].

The story of Ketevan and 'Ali Quli Khan’s marriage is depicted in this verse and historians, understandably, emphasize that Teimuraz’ suffering is stemming from this fact.

It is also interesting that the order of these chapters in Mohammad Kazem’s chronicles is as follows: the chapter recounting the story of getting hold of the daughter (of Teimuraz) by Shah precedes the chapter describing the wedding of Ketevan and 'Ali Quli Khan.

It is important to consider the above-mentioned factors that refer to the Yazykov’s account of Nader and Erekle’s sister and, as already mentioned above, Yazykov appears to be a rather significant figure; the phrase “they say”, quite frequently used by the author, is also noteworthy.

It is also notable that Yazykov’s story was written not long after the actual events. Worth considering is the fact that in those records he mentions that some of the information he has heard from Anton I of Georgia, and Catholicos Anton I was the eye-witness of those events of the time that Mohammad Kazem had described in his chronicles. Therefore, there is practically no reason to doubt the validity of information provided by the Catholicos.

       In addition, given the historical background of our country, Nader Shah (as well as others) would go any lengths to have members of Georgian nobility as wives or concubines, even for just one night (for example, we will remember the event of the time that revolved around Catholicos Anton I as well, when (it seems fair to say that) Nader Shah took away Givi Amilakhvari’s daughter by force;[8] and we will also recall the account provided by a European person, Louis-François de Ferrières Sauvebeuf[9]. If we take these events into account, then Mohammad Kazem’s reference of an alleged liaison between Nader Shah and the daughter of Teimuraz II may well be true as opposed to a fictitious narratives which, as mentioned above, often occur in Persian sources. As for the identity of the young woman, we suppose that she might be Ketevan, since:

a) such sorrow (reflected in Teimuraz’ verse) with regard to becoming relatives with Nader Shah is unconvincing when considering the relationship between Teimuraz and Nader Shah as well as calculated moves towards its strengthening, the moves that Teimuraz II certainly had which further became obvious and had a positive impact on the history of Georgia. Therefore, it is possible that King Timuraz may be expressing his heartbreak through the verse due to the fact that his daughter (Ketevan) was first with Nader Shah, later marrying Adil Shah.

b) besides, Teimuraz had written a letter with less of a dramatic tone to Erekle, asking him to take her sister and visit Shah in order for him (Teimuraz) to be liberated by Shah: “My beloved son, whenever bad things happen to us, we encounter the good. I am compelled to write to you that Shah is willing to set me free from my captivity. The only thing he insists on is that you arrive and take my daughter and your sister Keteven with you. Only your arrival to Persia will let me free from captivity. This is Shah’s will” [Kikodze, 1941:31]

       Certain features employed in this excerpt of Mohammad Kazem’s chronicles such as details of life and recurrent stereotypes, which could be regarded as literary methods and which are applied by the author willing to transform the text into belles lettres, attract our attention in terms of source studies, since, in every particular case, the author specifies and provides a detailed description of a depicted event, thus increasing the reliability of the text.

The same outcome is attained by the attempt to provide assessment and critical discussion of events, rather than merely providing a list of facts, and noting both virtues and faults when defining characteristics of personalities.

We believe, Nader Shah’s politics toward the Caucasus was generally not homogeneous and could be regarded as diverging from each other, as a result of circumstances or because of specific regions or other factors.

The situation in regards to Eastern Georgia seems more difficult. A rather rough tax policy and confrontation against local elite, on the one hand, and a pragmatic approach employed by representatives of the Georgian royal dynasty, on the other, as well as accurate evaluation of reality on the part of Nader Shah provided an opportunity for Georgia for ending the policy of the so-called “compromise period” in the time of the Safavids and going beyond Iran’s orbit.

Nader Shah’s politics toward Georgia reflected the circumstances which shaped certain aspects of this policy, rather than making concessions by one or another party.  

In this particular case, the involvement of Georgian women – king’s daughter, in this specific case – in then extant political ups and downs should be considered as one of the well-defined features. Here, we will not go into details about the significant role of Georgian (along with Circassian) women at the Persian court. However, the above-discussed episode again shows how prestigious was the presence of the Georgian king’s daughter (in a certain role) at the Persian royal court which, in its turn, should apparently have been a rather favorable factor for solving particular problems of the Georgia royal court in a pragmatic way.


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