Treaty of Gulistan

Azerbaijan Treaty of Turkmenchay Russian Empire
Treaty of Gulistan
Northwestern Iran's borders before and after the treaty
Effective24 October 1813
SignatoriesRussian Empire Nikolai Rtischev
Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi

The Treaty of Gulistan (Russian: Гюлистанский договор; Persian: عهدنامه گلستان‎) was a peace treaty concluded between the Russian Empire and Iran on 24 October 1813 in the village of Gulistan (now in Goranboy Rayon of Azerbaijan) as a result of the first full-scale Russo-Persian War, (1804 to 1813). The peace negotiations were precipitated by the successful storming of Lankaran by General Pyotr Kotlyarevsky on 1 January 1813.

The treaty confirmed the ceding and inclusion of what is now Daghestan, eastern Georgia, most of the Republic of Azerbaijan and parts of northern Armenia from Iran 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 Rtischev for Russia[1] and Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi for Persia.

The result of the treaty was that it forcefully ceded the bulk of Iran's Caucasian territories, and it also directly contributed to the outbreak of the next war of the 19th century: the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828). Under the Treaty of Turkmenchay that came out of that war, the last Caucasian territories were stripped from Iran, now Armenia and the remaining part of modern-day Azerbaijan that had remained in Iranian hands. By 1828, Iran had lost by both treaties all of those integral territories in Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus.[2] The area north of the Aras River, including the territory of the contemporary nations of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, were part of Iran until they were occupied by Russia during the 19th century.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

As a further direct result and consequence of the Treaty of Gulistan in combination with the 1828 Treaty Turkmenchay, the formerly-Iranian territories became part of Russia for around the next 180 years, except Dagestan, which has remained a Russian possession ever since. Out of most the territory, three separate nations would be formed through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Lastly and equally importantly, Russia's imposing the two treaties has also decisively parted the Azerbaijanis and Talysh between the two nations.


The Russian Empire had sworn in a new tsar, Alexander I, in 1801 and was very eager to control neighboring territories, as he was determined to expand. A few years previously in Iran, 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 what is now Georgia, Armenia, southern Dagestan, and Azerbaijan and claimed those areas as rightfully belonging to Persia. By the events prior, during and after the Battle of Krtsanisi in 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 to allow unrestricted travel and trade between the regions and Russia, furthering its public claim on the land.[9] Persia tried to align with France in 1801 to better position itself in case of war with Russia, but those attempts fell through. Ironically, as both Russia and Britain were engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, Fath Ali Shah instead brokered a deal with Britain to provide Persia with military support from British troops in exchange for preventing any European country from entering India.[10] With the alliance, Persia entered into the First Russo-Persian War against a militarily-preoccupied Russia, which was heavily invested in the Napoleonic Wars.

Although Persia entered the war mainly to reassert 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 "through massive extortion and maladministration".[11]

Numerically, the Persian forces had a considerable advantage during the war since they were five times as large as Russian adversaries. However, the Persian forces were technologically backwards and poorly trained, a problem that the Persian government did not recognize until far later. Despite the crippling disadvantages, the fighting continued in northern Persia, Azerbaijan and in regions of Georgia. Persia was so enraged at Russia that it declared a jihad and demanding its people to unite to fight the war against it.[12] Persia was actually losing the war and asked for military and financial aid from France's Napoleon because if the Franco-Persian alliance. France promised to deliver support on Iran's ambitions to regain its recently-lost territory of Georgia,[13] but France's relations with Russia were more important after the two countries signed the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 and so France left 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 and so Fath Ali Shah had no option but to sign the Treaty of Gulistan.[14]

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.[15]


Persia in 1808 according to a British map before its losses to Russia in the north by the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan and the loss of Herat to Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1857)
  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."[16]
  2. The 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 cities, towns and villages of the khanates in the South Caucasus and partly North Caucasus:
    7. Baku khanate,
    8. Shirvan Khanate,
    9. Derbent Khanate,
    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, but both must pay a 5% ad valorem tax on any itemsl imported into each respective country, thus being seen as a light import/export duty tax.[17]
  5. Russia, in return, promises to support Abbas Mirza as heir to the Persian throne after the death of Fath Ali Shah.


Even today, Iran officially sees it and the later Treaty of Turkmenchay as some of its most humiliating treaties ever signed. The treaty is also regarded by Iranians as the main reason for Fath Ali Shah to be seen as one of Iran's most incompetent rulers in memory. Scholars in Azerbaijan point out that the Karabakh Khanate, where the treaty was signed, had pursued an 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".[18]

Imperial Russian historians maintain that Russia's absorption of the Transcaucasus territories delivered their population from constant Iranian and Ottoman invasions and that the Christian nations of the Caucasus were liberated from Muslim repression, which ushered 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 the defeat in the Russo-Persian War, the Shah understood that another attack by the Russians was almost inevitable. Britain saw the war as unwinnable for the Persians and used that to strengthen their foreign affairs. Using their new-found diplomatic connections with the British, Persia established the Treaty of Defensive Alliance in 1812, which promised that Britain would "offer a defensive alliance against further Russian encroachments". Its terms essentially stated that Persia would defend against any European army entering India, which stationed most British troops and, in return, Britain would provide military and financial against any future Russian attack.[19]


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.[20] 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.[21]

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].[22]

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.[21]

As another result of Persia's losses to Russia, the two treaties of Gulistan and Turkemenchai also divided Azerbaijani[23] and Talysh[24] people from their brethren in Iran.

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.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Precursor to Second Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828

The Treaty of Gulistan left the possibility of conflict between the two countries and so was 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 ghat it dedicated for the Russo-Persian War. The Treaty of Gulistan was mainly a way for both countries to "gain a breath"[25] so that the Russo-Persian War could end, and they could focus on other issues. After the treaty was signed, Persia started rapidly building 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 before 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.[26] In 1826, Persia once again attacked the territories lost to Russia, and the British supported the Persians. The second war lasted two years, and Persia lost 35,000 troops to Russia's 8,000. Persia's poor performance led to the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which resulted in the loss of modern-day Armenia and the remaining parts of Azerbaijan.

See also


  1. ^ (in Russian) Treaty of Gulistan
  2. ^ Fisher et al. 1991, pp. 329-330.
  3. ^ a b Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press. pp. 69, 133. ISBN 978-0-231-07068-3.
  4. ^ a b L. Batalden, Sandra (1997). The newly independent states of Eurasia: handbook of former Soviet republics. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-89774-940-4.
  5. ^ a b E. Ebel, Robert, Menon, Rajan (2000). Energy and conflict in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7425-0063-1.
  6. ^ a b Andreeva, Elena (2010). Russia and Iran in the great game: travelogues and orientalism (reprint ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-415-78153-4.
  7. ^ a b Çiçek, Kemal, Kuran, Ercüment (2000). The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilisation. University of Michigan. ISBN 978-975-6782-18-7.
  8. ^ a b Ernest Meyer, Karl, Blair Brysac, Shareen (2006). Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. Basic Books. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-465-04576-1.
  9. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000. Pg. 98-104
  10. ^ Keddie, Nikki R.. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, Updated Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Pg. 32-39
  11. ^ David M. Lang “Griboedov's Last Years in Persia”, American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1948), pp. 317-339
  12. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000, p. 106-112
  13. ^ Atkin, Muriel (1980). Russia and Iran, 1780-1828. U of Minnesota Press. p. 101. ISBN 9780816656974.
  14. ^ Polk, William R.. Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Ahmadinijad. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Pg. 75-84
  15. ^ The Cambridge history of Iran By William Bayne Fisher, Published by Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 145-146.
  16. ^ John F. Baddeley, "The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus", Longman, Green and Co., London: 1908, p. 90
  17. ^ Issawi, Charles. "European economic penetration, 1872–1921." From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 192-210
  18. ^ Muhammad Riza Nasiri, "Asnad va Mukatabat-i Tarikh-i Qajariya", Tehran, Intisharat-i Kayhan, 1366/1987, pp. 7-8.
  19. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000, p. 104-107
  20. ^ Kazemzadeh, F. "Iranian relations with Russia and the Soviet Union, to 1921." From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Cambridge University Press, 1991. Pg. 330-338
  21. ^ a b Fisher et al. 1991, pp. 334.
  22. ^ Dowling, Timothy C. (2014). Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond. ABC-CLIO. p. 729. ISBN 9781598849486.
  23. ^ "The result of the Treaty of Turkmenchay was a tragedy for the Azerbaijani people. It demarcated a borderline through their territory along the Araxes river, a border that still today divides the Azerbaijani people." in Svante Cornell, "Small nations and great powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus", Richmond: Curzon Press, 2001, p. 37.
  24. ^ Michael P. Croissant, "The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: causes and implications", Praeger/Greenwood,1998 - Page 67: The historical homeland of the Talysh was divided between Russia and Iran in 1813.
  25. ^ Lambton, Ann K. S. "Persia: The Breakdown of Society." The Central Islamic Lands from Pre-Islamic Times to the First World War. Cambridge University Press, 1970. Pg. 435-452
  26. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000. Pg. 114-122


External links

  1. ^ Altstadt, Audrey (1992). The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity Under Russian Rule. Hoover Institution Press Publications. p. 17. ISBN 0817991824.