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Russo-Persian War (1804–13)

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Title: Russo-Persian War (1804–13)  
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Subject: Napoleonic Wars, Military history of Azerbaijan, Battle of Stralsund (1809), Siege of Stralsund (1807), Russo-Persian War (1722–23)
Collection: 1800S in Iran, 1804 in Iran, 1804 in Russia, 1810S in Iran, 1813 in Iran, 1813 in Russia, 19Th Century in Azerbaijan, 19Th Century in Georgia (Country), 19Th Century in Iran, 19Th Century in Russia, Conflicts in 1804, Conflicts in 1805, Conflicts in 1806, Conflicts in 1807, Conflicts in 1808, Conflicts in 1809, Conflicts in 1810, Conflicts in 1811, Conflicts in 1812, Conflicts in 1813, History of the Caucasus, Khanates of the North Caucasus, Khanates of the South Caucasus, Military History of Azerbaijan, Military History of Georgia (Country), Military History of Iran, Military History of Russia, Napoleonic Wars, Russo-Persian Wars
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Russo-Persian War (1804–13)

Russo Persian War (1804–1813)
Part of the Russo-Persian Wars
and the Napoleonic Wars

This painting by Franz Roubaud illustrates an episode near the Askerna river where the Russians managed to repel attacks by a larger Persian army for two weeks. They made a "living bridge", so that two cannons could be transported over their bodies.
Date 1804–1813
Location South Caucasus
North Iran
Result Russian victory[1]
Treaty of Gulistan
Russia holds on to disputed territories
Russian Empire Persian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Alexander I
Ivan Gudovich
Pavel Tsitsianov 
Pyotr Kotlyarevsky
Fath Ali Shah Qajar
Abbas Mirza
Javad Khan Qajar 
Alexander of Georgia
48,000 troops, 21,000 irregular cavalry 50,000 Nezam-e Jadid (modern style infantry), 20,000 irregular cavalry, 25,000 other allied or old style Persian troops

The 1804–1813 Russo-Persian War, was one of the many wars between the Dagestan—which had been annexed by Tsar Paul I several years after the Russo-Persian War of 1796. Like his Persian counterpart, the Tsar Alexander I was also new to the throne and equally determined to control the disputed territories. The war ended with the Treaty of Gulistan which ceded the vast majority of the previously disputed territories to Imperial Russia.


  • Origins 1
  • Unequal forces 2
  • Outbreak of war 3
  • Holy war and Persian defeat 4
  • War 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Literature 8


The origins of the first Russo-Persian War can be traced back to the decision of Tsar Alexander, aimed at establishing Russian control over the khanates of the eastern Caucasus. In 1803, the newly appointed commander of Russian forces in the Caucasus, Paul Tsitsianov, attacked Ganja and captured its citadel on 15 January 1804. Ganja's governor, Javad Khan Qajar, was killed, and a large number of the inhabitants slaughtered. The Qajar ruler, Fath Ali Shah, saw the Russian threat to Armenia, Karabagh, and Azerbaijan not only as a source of instability on his northwestern frontier but as a direct challenge to Qajar authority.[2]

Unequal forces

The Russians were unable to commit a large portion of their troops to the Caucasus region, because Alexander's attention was continually distracted by simultaneous wars with France, the Ottoman Empire, Sweden and Great Britain. Therefore, the Russians were forced to rely on superior technology, training, and strategy in the face of an overwhelming disparity in numbers. Some estimates put the Persian numerical advantage at five to one. Shah Fath Ali's heir, Abbas Mirza, tried to modernize the Persian army, seeking help from French experts through the Franco-Persian alliance, and then from British experts, with a mind to achieving this cause, but this merely delayed the Persian defeat.

Outbreak of war

The war began when Russian commanders Ivan Gudovich and Paul Tsitsianov attacked the Persian settlement of Echmiadzin, the most holy town in Armenia. Gudovich, unsuccessful in the siege of Echmiadzin due to a lack of troops, withdrew to Yerevan, where his siege again failed. Despite these ineffective forays, the Russians held the advantage for the majority of the war, due to superior troops and strategy. Russia's inability, however, to dedicate anything more than 10,000 troops to the campaign allowed the Persians to mount a fairly respectable resistance effort. The Persian troops were of a low grade, mostly irregular cavalry.

Holy war and Persian defeat

The Persians scaled up their efforts late in the war, declaring a holy war on Imperial Russia in 1810; however, this was to little avail. Russia's superior technology and tactics ensured a series of strategic victories. Nor did it avail the Persians that Napoleon – who was the ally of Persia's Abbas Mirza but could provide little concrete direct help – invaded Russia itself. Even when the French were in occupation of the Russian former (and future) capital Moscow, Russian forces in the south were not recalled but continued their offensive against Persia, culminating in Pyotr Kotlyarevsky's victories at Aslanduz and Lenkoran, after the setback in the Battle of Sultanabad in 1812 and 1813 respectively. Upon the Persian surrender, the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan ceded the vast majority of the previously disputed territories to Imperial Russia. This led to the region's once-powerful khans being decimated and forced to pay homage to Russia.


After capturing Ganja, Tsiatsianov marched on Erevan, encountering the army of Abbas Mirza near Echmiadzin. Tsiatsianov, with fewer troops but more artillery, defeated Abbas Mirza on 7 June but failed to capture Erevan. Between 1805 and 1806, the Russians persuaded the khan of Shirvan to submit; conquered the khanates of Karabakh, Shaki Khanate, Baku, and Qobba-Darband; and had ambitions to annex Khoy and even Tabriz. After the failure of the Russian siege of Erevan and an unsuccessful attempt to invade Gilān, Tsiatsianov was assassinated in 1806 and his head delivered to Tehran, while attempting to negotiate with the governor of Baku, Husayn Quli Khan. Russia had thus gained control of all the disputed areas north of the Kura and some of those between the Kura and the Aras, a situation which would not change significantly for the remainder of the war, but was finding it difficult to expand any further. The situation for the Russians was further complicated by the outbreak of war with the Ottoman Empire (1806–12). Tsiatsianov was succeeded by Ivan Gudovich, who sought without result to reach a peace settlement; he then resumed the Russian offensive in 1808, temporarily occupying Echmiadzin and Nakhchivan and laying siege to Erevan, but he still could not capture that city, wich was under the capable governorship of Husayn Quli Khan Qajar. Erevan remained a bulwark of Persian defenses for the rest of the war. The Qajars, having obtained a fatwa declaring the conflict to be a Holy War, and then receiving significant support from Britain, went on the offensive in 1810, invaded Karabakh, won the Battle of Sultanabad on the Aras (13 February 1812), and recovered territory in Talesh in 1812.

The Iranian Envoy Mirza Mohammed Reza-Qazvini meeting with Napoleon I at the Finckenstein Palace, 27 April 1807, to sign the Treaty of Finckenstein.

Although this Russo-Persian War was in many respects a continuation of a struggle for supremacy in Transcaucasia dating back to the time of Peter the Great and Nader Shah, it differed from earlier conflicts between Persia and Russia in that its course came to be affected as much by the diplomatic maneuvering of European powers during the Napoleonic era as by developments on the battlefield. Following the Russian occupation of the various khanates, Fath Ali Shah, strapped for cash and anxious to find an ally, had made a request for British support as early as December 1804. In 1805, however, Russia and Britain allied in the Third Coalition against France, which meant that Britain was not in a position to cultivate its Persian connection at Russian expense and felt it necessary to evade repeated requests from the shah for assistance. As the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Charles Arbuthnot, put it in August 1806,

To please the Emperor [of Russia], we have thrown away all our influence in Persia.

This opened the door for France to use Persia to threaten both Russian and British interests. Hoping to forge a tripartite alliance of France, the Ottoman Empire, and Persia, Treaty of Tilsit (7 July 1807), which effectively rendered the French commitments to Persia untenable, although the French mission did continue to provide some military assistance and tried to mediate a settlement with Russia. The French efforts failed, prompting Gudovich to resume the siege of Erevan in 1808.

Askar Khan Afshar received by Napoleon I at Saint Cloud 4 September 1808 by Benjamin Zix

The rise of French influence in Persia, viewed as the prelude to an attack on India, had greatly alarmed the British, and the Franco-Russian rapprochement at Tilsit conveniently provided an opportunity for a now isolated Britain to resume its efforts in Persia, as reflected in the subsequent missions of John Malcolm (1807–8) and Harford Jones (1809). According to the preliminary treaty of Tehran arranged by Jones (15 March 1809), Britain agreed to train and equip 16,000 Persian infantry and pay a subsidy of £100,000 should Persia be invaded by a European power, or to mediate if that power should be at peace with Great Britain. Although Russia had been making peace overtures, and Jones had hoped the preliminary agreement would encourage a settlement, these developments strengthened Fath Ali Shah ’s determination to continue the war. Anglo-Persian relations warmed even further with the visit of Abu’l-Hasan Khan to London in 1809 and his return to Persia with Gore Ouseley as ambassador and minister plenipotentiary in 1810. Under Ouseley’s auspices, the preliminary treaty was converted into the Definitive Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in 1812, which confirmed the earlier promises of military assistance and increased the amount of the subsidy for that purpose to £150,000 .

Then, in the third and final twist to this story, Lindesay Bethune, and some drill sergeants with the Persian army), and threatened to withhold payment of the subsidy promised to the Qajars .

In February 1812, N. R. Ritischev assumed command of the Russian forces and opened peace negotiations with the Persians. Ouseley and his representative at the talks, James Morier, acted as intermediaries and made various proposals to Rtischev, but they were not accepted . In August, Abbas Mirza resumed hostilities and captured Lankaran. After news arrived that Napoleon had occupied Moscow, the negotiations were suspended (Ramażān 1227/September 1812). Then, on 24 Shawwal 1227/31 October 1812, while Ritischev was away in Tbilisi, the general Peter Kotliarevski launched a surprise night attack on the Persian encampment at Aslanduz, which resulted in the complete rout of the army of Abbas Mirza and the death of one of the British supporting officers (Christie). As it also became increasingly apparent that Napoleon’s offensive in Russia had failed disastrously, the Russians were emboldened to pursue a more aggressive campaign in the Caucasus. In early 1813, the Persian fortress at Lankarān fell and its garrison was annihilated, enabling the Russians to occupy most of Talesh again . Although Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza wanted to fight on after these setbacks, they eventually had to yield to Ouseley, who assured the Shah that either the Russians would make territorial concessions or the British would continue the subsidy they had promised.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Erik Goldstein, Wars and Peace Treaties: 1816 to 1991 (Routledge, 1992), p.67.
  2. ^ a b Daniel, Elton L. "GOLESTĀN TREATY". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 6 November 2011. 


  • N. Dubrovin. История войны и владычества русских на Кавказе, volumes 4–6. SPb, 1886–88.
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