Some Unknown Details about the Contradiction between Iran and Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom (1795)

There are a lot of researches concerning the Battle of Krtsanisi and the Persian governor Agha Mohammad Khan's campaign in Georgia. Many details connected with these facts are already specified [view: Shaishmelashvili, 1965; Tsintsadze, 1969; Kakabadze, 1991; Dumbadze, Tskitishvili, 1973]. Hence, the questions related to the Battle of Krtsanisi still attract researchers' attention. The given paper deals with two unknown documents kept in the national center of manuscripts, which specify some details of contradiction between Persia and Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom.

One of the documents is Erekle II's letter to the nobleman Kaikhosro Murvanishvili, which presents significant information about defensive measures taken by Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom. The Georgian historiography does not fully clarify the question of the well informed Erekle II's fail in gathering enough forces and his unpreparedness to meet numerous enemies before a decisive battle.

Scholars give different explanations to the question of Erekle II's unpreparedness before the Battle of Krtsanisi. Iv. Shaishmelashvili relied on Artem Araratel's, Butkov's and Al. Jambakur Orbeliani's notes and mentioned, that princes' and grand dukes' indifference stipulated the defeat of the country [see. Shaishmelashvili, 1965: 29-47]. On the background of the criticism of sources, Iase Tsintsadze justly rejected the facts of princes' and grand duke's treason. Hence, the defeat in the battle was treated as natural regarding socio-economical and backward forms of management of Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom [see. Tsintsadze,1969]. The same consideration was presented in Sargis Kakabadze's work "The Battle of Krtsanisi" [Kakabadze, 1991: 158-160]. During the investigation of the reasons of the defeat, the Soviet historiography did not consider particular circumstances and mainly accented an unsuitability of the governing system of Kartl-Kakheti and the backwardness of the country that was directly connected with the approval of legitimacy of Russia's reign in Georgia. For example, Iv. Shaishmelashvili mentioned, that after the Battle of Krtsanisi "the Georgian people were saved from the degradation and destruction by a trustworthy cover-shelter of the friendship with Russia" [Shaishmetashvili, 1965: 125]. According to the essays of the history of Georgia "one great reason of the tragedy of Krtsanisi was an internal feebleness of feudal Karlt-Kakheti and the weakness of its central authority" [Dumbadze, Tskitishvili, 1973: 766].

When the dislocation of the Persian troops was revealed, Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom began special preparations, but the mobilization of military forces was not well organized. Only 2000 men from Imereti and 2000-3000 soldiers from Karlt-Kakheti Kingdom were gathered by the end of August. The reason of Erekle II's unpreparedness was an internal feebleness of feudal Karlt-Kakheti and the weakness of its central authority" [Dumbadze, Tskitishvili, 1973:158-160]

We found the document (#14261, Hd fund, National Center of Manuscripts) concerning an important information about defensive measures taken by Erekle II against Agha Mohammad Khan's aggression. In the beginning of his letter to the nobleman Kaikhosro Murvanishvili, Erekle II writes about providing Alexander Batonishvili's detachment with soldiers and provisions, locating spies on appropriate places and other. Afterwards, Erekle II mentions: "...with the mercy of God, in two days we will come with 5000-6000 men or we will send our son Iulon. These 5000-6000 men are on their way now. They are joined by others and form the troops of Kartli and Kakheti (only one third of it). The mountaineers and foreign troops have not come yet. We are waiting for them. The same can be said about mountaineers, Imeretians and Lezgians" [NCM., Hd_14261].

It seems, that the document determined the plans of organizing the raise of the army of Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom in the middle of June of 1795. Erekle II wrote, that he was sending 5000-6000 soldiers (under his or his son's leadership) for supporting Ibreim Khan and Alexander Batonishvili, who led the Georgian army deployed in Karabakh. The king stated, that it was only one third of Kartl-Kakheti army and other soldiers were expected to arrive. Moreover, Erekle II was waiting for "mountaineers" and "foreign troops". Under the term "Mountaineers" the king implied the inhabitants of Tush-Pshav-Khevsureti, Aragvi and Ksani ravines, while "foreign troops" denoted "Imeretians and Lezgians". Therefore, according to Erekle II's plan, in June of 1795 he was going to raise 15000-16000 troops of the inhabitants of Kartl-Kakheti mountain and plain. By the end of June of 1795, the royal court was mobilizing 25000 men including the local army, Imeretians and Dagestanians. 

The possibility of the fulfillment of this plan can be determined by a careful study of the existed sources, which are connected with this question. Firstly, Darchia Bebutashvili's private letter to Isaia must be concerned. Darchia writes: "Batonishvili Alexander [with the army] has been deployed on Gogcha (Sevani Lake - A.T.) for a long time. The commanders Iulon Batonishvili, Mukhran-Batoni and Amilakhvari were sent by his Royal highness (Erekle II - A.T.). The artillery is also fully presented. Let's see what it will do with the mercy of God and the wealth of his highness. Yesterday a man of Javat-Khan came from Ganja and said, that Agha Mohammad Khan had come to Karabakh.  It's doubtful. Hence, a commander could come. An enormous army is gathering here. The Lezgians' army will come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow and the Imeretian (Solomon - A.T.) must be in Kartli now" (June of 1795) [Kakabadze, 1991: 82; Пурцеладзе, 1882: 61].

This document reveals that Erekle II's plan was put into operation. Darchia Bebutashvili stated, that Erekle sent Iulion Batonishvili, a right-wing commander Amilakhvari and a left-wing commander Mukhranbatoni to Karabakh for supporting Ibreim Khan and Alexander Batonishvili. Bebutashvili did not specify the number of sent soldiers. Supposedly, it corresponded to the number given in Erekle II's letter of June 14. The army was accompanied by the artillery, which had never happened beforehand. Moreover, Erekle II had spent all his income on its creation. Therefore, he could not send the artillery with a small army causing its destruction in case of the defeat. It's obvious, that Erekle II sent additional 5000-6000 troops to Karabakh in the second half of June. Therefore, by the end of June of 1795 minimum 7000 men (in two stages) were sent under the leadership of Alexander Batonishvili, Iulion Batonishvili, Otar Amilakhvari and Ioane Mukhranbatoni. According to Butkov's notes, the joint army of Ibreim Khan and Kartl-Kakheti defeated Agha Mohammad Khan's 10 000 troops in June of 1795 [Бутков, 1869: 258]. At the end of the letter, the author states, that in addition to 7000 men sent to Karabakh Khanate, "great army" gathered in Tbilisi. As the context of the letter reveals, Bebutov did not mean Dagestanians and Imeretians under the term "great armies". Dagestanians were expected during the following days and Imeretians had to be in Kartli by June 30. It seems, that Erekle II's plan was not the utopian perspective and its implementation was going on. By the end of June, 5000-6000 men were additionally sent to Karabakh and "great armies gathered" in Tbilisi. If 7000 men were send to Karabakh and "great armies" comprised the same number of soldiers, it can be supposed, that by the end of June of 1795, Erekle II mobilized 14 000 - 15 000 men from Kartl-Kakheti.

A full scale mobilization of army is proved by the fact, that on June 8 newly arrived Alexander Batonoshvili mobilized nomadic Elles brought by him from Karabakh to Kazakh and Shamshadilu" [Brosset, 1857: 550].

The full mobilization is also seen from one of the documents (of 1795) published by D. Purtseladze. In this document Erekle II orders Glakha Chavchavadze to send him (June 30) one man from each family of his governance [Пурцеладзе, 1881: 29]. Obviously, similar orders were given to all managers and military-mobilizing "circles" of Kartl-Kakheti kingdom. Therefore, this document shows, that one man was mobilized from each household of Kartl-Kakhati plain.    

In his letter Erekle II mentioned, that the troops were expected from Imereti and Dagestan. It's a proved fact, that in July Imeretians came to Tbilisi and 2000 men participated in the Battle of Krtsanisi. Hence, different sources show, that in June and July Imeretians' more numerous troops were expected in Tbilisi. According to S. Kakabadze's point of view, the most reliable source is Davit Tumanishvili's note, which states, that additional troops of Imereti consisted of 4000 men [Kakabadze, 1991: 83]. Marie Brosset published a document dated 18 July 1795, which stated, that flood prevented Dadiani from joining Solomon II's army, which was deployed in Gori. The commander Kaikhosro Tsereteli was in Ptsa with 1500 men. He was going to Kartli [Brosset, 1857: 549].

According to this document, besides Solomon II's accompanying army, the commander Kaikhosro brought 1500 soldiers to Kartli. Therefore, 4000 Imeretian troops had to enter Tbilisi in July.

The existed sources prove the fact of hiring Dagestanians. One of the documents published by Marie Brosset depicts the hired army in June of 1795. According to the French translation, the soldiers were given 20 roubles. They were called the people of "Daouthalabi"[1][Brosset, 1857: 550]. In the beginning of August, the same people took part in military operations. Supposedly, the fact of paying a "salary" to the hired Dagestanian army is depicted in one of the documents, which describes the fact of providing Lezgians with a blue paint and a "brocade" at the cost of 2870 roubles [Пурцеладзе, 1882: 60].

Garsevan Chavchavadze's report to the Board of Foreign Affairs of Russia proves the mobilization of military forces in Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom in summer of 1795. The Georgian prince mentions: " king... has the army of different people receiving a salary ...." [Цагарели, 1898: 117].

It seems, that in June and July of 1795, Erekle II managed to mobilize 20 000 men. At the same time, in addition to the military support, the king sent 120 000 roubles to the Khan of Karabakh [Бутков, 1869: 254]. Ibreim Khan mobilized several thousand soldiers. Erevan Khanate was also ready.

It seems, that Agha Mohammad Khan avoided the fight against joint forces of Erekle II, Ibreim Khan and Erevan Khanate. In July Agha Mohammad Khan's army had an opportunity of attacking Tbilisi, but Ganja Khan's position determined its movement in three different directions: Shirvan, the Castle of Yerevan and Shusha Castle, which was besieged on July 8. Without the support of Russia's army, Erekle II did not dare joining Ibreim Khan and giving the battle in Karabakh.

The Persian governor intentionally procrastinated his campaign against Tbilisi. Moreover, he did not attack Shusha Castle and ordered the commanders to avoid taking Yerevan Castle and the imprisonment of the Khan [Цагарели, 1902: 94-95].

From the tactical point of view, it was absolutely a justified position. Therefore, the procrastination of time would stipulate Agha Mohammad Khan's military priority, slacken the Georgians' attention and create the illusion of victory.

Meanwhile, Erekle II sent Alexander Batonishvili and Iulon Batonishvili against the Khan of Ganja. In the beginning of August they made a raid upon Ganja. Hired Dagestanians participated in this campaign too [Brosset, 1857: 550].

On August 8 Agha Mohammad Khan left Shusha Castle and retreated. He created an illusion of the weakness of his army and facilitated the "burst" of joy in Tbilisi. The French translation of one of the documents informs, that: "Agha Mohammad Khan retreated like a refugee (deserter). He left two cannons, tents, flags, military equipment, bombs, bullets, gunpowder and went to Khudapreni Bridge (to the Aras - A.T.)" [Brosset, 1857: 550].

It seems, that Agha Mohammad Khan's ostentatious failure resulted in slackening of Georgians' tension. At the same time Erekle II received hopeful notifications from Russia. In case of Persians' attack, Gudovich - the General of Caucasian line - promised to help Erekle II. Hence, the possibility of an attack was excluded.  Moreover, winter was coming. The Georgian command believed, that Persians would not attack Tbilisi and demobilized most of the army - supposedly, Imeretians under the leadership of Kaikhosro Tsereteli, Dagestanians (who did not participate in the Battle of Krtsanisi) and the army of Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom. This idea is supported by the work ("A Short History of Tbilisi (Paitakaran), which was burnt by Agha Mohammad Khan on 11 September 1795") of Armenian Serob Rgich, who lived in Tbilisi and witnessed the Battle of Krtsanisi. This source states, that Erekle II demobilized the army in summer of 1795" [Serob Rgich, 1991: 119].

At the end of August, Erekle II and Solomon II went to Yerevan Khanate. They were accompanied by 2000 Imeretian troops and 2500 men from the king's army. When Erekle II reached Kazakh, he was informed about Agha Mohammad Khan's attack on Tbilisi [Цагарели, 1898: 96-97]. Mobilization of the army in a short time was impossible. Therefore, Erekle II met Persians with a small army. Despite defensive activities of June-August of 1795, Agha Mohammad Khan's right tactical steps and an embarrassing action of the Russian Empire deceived Erekle II. Therefore, he was unprepared for entering the war with Persians.

Another source of our interests is #9355 document of QD fund of the National Center of Manuscripts. It was given to Giorgi Vezirishvili by Vakhtang Batonishvili. The document is witnessed by Erekle II and concerns an initial stage of the Battle of Krtsanisi. Therefore, its reliability raises no doubts. The document states, that: "Agha Mohammad Khan - the son of Mohammad Hassan Khan from Astarabad - came to ravage Tbilisi. He was accompanied by numerous soldiers from Persia, Arak, Ardibejan... It was Monday, September 10. We were standing without our army beside the armory near the parks of Krtsanisi. There were few of us - 2 majors, 5-6 shooters and 12 others including my retinue. The army of the Kizilbash approached us from Soghanlughi road and from the rock above Krtsanisi. You came and fought for an hour till the army came from the city. You fought bravely and valiantly..." [NCM., Qd_9355].

The document concerns the peripeteias of the beginning of the battle of September 10. It seems, that the detachment of the Georgian sentries under the leadership of Vakhtang Batonishvili, a small group of artillerists and two officers were the first, who joined the battle. Facing numerous Persian forces was impossible. Hence, a small group of Georgians confronted the enemy for an hour. The reason of this success was the artillerists' effective action. Their sacrifice saved the Georgian military positions from Agha Mohammad Khan's occupation. Taking into possession Erekle II's cannons meant the defeat without entering into the war. The document reveals, that Georgian commanders did not expect Agha Mohammad Khan's sudden attack. Hence, they had placed "armory" or artillery on Krtsanisi field and therefore, prepared defensive positions.

All the above mentioned can be summarized in the following way: Georgians' unpreparedness for the Battle of Krtsanisi was not conditioned by internal treason or by the decentralization of the country. The main reasons of the defeat were confusing actions of the enemy and irresponsible policy of the Russian Empire. Agha Mohammad Khan's embarrassing and right tactical steps caused the failure of Erekle II's active defensive actions, which were carried out in summer of 1795.

[1]  Daouthalabi must be the translation of the name of one of the Dagestanian leaders.


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