Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti

Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti
ქართლ-კახეთის სამეფო
Flag Coat of arms
Extent of the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti.
Capital Tbilisi
Government Absolute Monarchy
   1762–1798 Erekle II (first)
  1798–1800 George XII (last)
   Unification of Kingdom of Kartli and Kingdom of Kakheti 1762
  Treaty of Georgievsk July 24, 1783
  Iranian invasion 1795
  Part of Qajar Iran 1795-1797
   Annexation to the Russian Empire December 18, 1801
  Ratification of Russian Annexation September 12, 1801
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Kartli
Kingdom of Kakheti
Afsharid dynasty
Russian Empire
Today part of

The Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti (Georgian: ქართლ-კახეთის სამეფო) (1762–1801[1] [2]) was created in 1762 by the unification of two eastern Georgian kingdoms, the Kingdom of Kartli and the Kingdom of Kakheti, which had existed independently since the disintegration of the united Georgian Kingdom in the 15th century. From the early 16th century, and confirmed in 1555 by the Peace of Amasya, both kingdoms came and remained under intermittent Iranian rule, until 1747 when due to the death of Nader Shah, both kingdoms under the energetic king Erekle II, declared de facto independence and were unified.

Erekle was able, after centuries of intermittent Iranian rule over Georgia, to guarantee the autonomy over the recently created unified kingdom throughout the chaos that erupted in Iran following the king's death there, and as well throughout the entire Zand period. In 1783, he signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, by which he would formally lay Georgia's investiture in the hands of the Russian Tsar, as well as having the nominal guarantee for protection against new Iranian attempts, or any others, to (re)conquer or attack Georgia. By the 1790s, a new strong Iranian dynasty had emerged under Agha Mohammad Khan, who founded the Qajar dynasty of Iran, which would prove pivotal in the history of the short-lived kingdom.

In the next few years, having secured mainland Iran, the new Iranian king straightly set out to reconquer the Caucasus and bring it back within the Iranian domains. Upon formal demanding of Erekle to denounce the treaty with Russia and to voluntarily reaccept Iranian suzerainty in return for peace and prosperity for his kingdom, which Erekle refused, he subsequently invaded Kartli-Kakheti, capturing and sacking Tbilisi, effectively bringing it back under Iranian rule.

The following years which were spent in muddling and confusion, ended in 1801 with the official annexation of the kingdom by Alexander I within the Russian Empire during the nominal ascension of Erekle's son Giorgi XI to the Georgian throne. Following the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), Iran officially ceded the kingdom to Russia, marking the start of a Russian-centred chapter in Georgian history.


Detail from the map by Claude Buffier, 1736

Historically, Kartli was the dominant province in Georgia, but at that time, it was weakened by Iranian military invasions more than its neighboring kingdom from the east. Therefore, the Kings of Kakheti became the rulers of the new kingdom and Telavi, the capital of Kakheti, the capital of the new state. The unification did not deter the Persian Empire, now under the Qajar dynasty, from bringing it fully back within the Iranian domains, which it had spent intermittently since the early 16th century.

Seeking protection from these attacks, in 1783 King Irakli (Erekle) II concluded the Treaty of Georgievsk with Russia, resulting in the transfer of responsibility for defense and foreign affairs in the eastern kingdom,[1] as well as importantly, officially abjuring any dependence on Iran or any other power. However, despite these large concessions made to Russia, Erekle II was successful in retaining internal autonomy in his kingdom.[1]

Invasion by Iran

Main article: Battle of Krtsanisi

Following the death of Nader Shah, the kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti had broken free from Iranian rule, and were reunited in a personal union under the rule by king Heraclius II in 1762. Between 1747 and 1795, Erekle was therefore, by the turn of events in Iran following the ongoing turmoil there, able to maintain Georgia's autonomy through the Zand period.[3] In 1783, Heraclius placed his kingdom under the protection of the Russian Empire in the Treaty of Georgievsk. In the last few decades of the 18th century, Georgia had become a more important element in Russo-Iranian relations than some provinces in northern mainland Iran, such as Mazandaran or even Gilan.[4] Unlike Peter I, Catherine, the then ruling monarch of Russia, viewed Georgia as a pivot for her Caucasian policy, as Russia's new aspirations were to use it as a base of operations against both Iran and the Ottoman Empire,[5] both immediate bordering geo-political rivals of Russia. On top of that, having another port on the Georgian coast of the Black Sea would be ideal.[4] A limited Russian contingent of two infantry battalions with four artillery pieces arrived in Tbilisi in 1784,[3] but was withdrawn, despite the frantic protests of the Georgians, in 1787 as a new war against Ottoman Turkey had started on a different front.[3]

The consequences of these events came a few years later, when a new dynasty, the Qajars, emerged victorious in the protracted power struggle in Iran. Qajar shah, Agha Mohammad Khan, as his first objective,[6] resolved to bring the Caucasus again fully under the Iranian orbit. For Agha Mohammah Khan, the re-subjugation and reintegration of Georgia into the Iranian Empire was part of the same process that had brought Shiraz, Esfahan, and Tabriz under his rule.[3] He him, like to the Safavids and Nader Shah before him, Georgia was a province of Iran the same way any other provinve in mainland Iran e.g. Khorasan was.[3] As the Cambridge History of Iran states, its permanent secession was inconceivable and had to be resisted in the same way as one would resist an attempt at the separation of Fars or Gilan.[3] It was therefore natural for Agha Mohammad Khan to perform whatever necessary means in the Caucasus in order to subdue and reincorporate the recently lost regions following Nader Shah's death and the collapse of the Zands, including putting down what in Iranian eyes was seen as treason on the part of the wali of Georgia.[3]

Finding an interval of peace amid their own quarrels and with northern, western, and central Persia secure, the Iranians demanded Heraclius II to renounce the treaty with Russia and to re-accept Persian suzerainty,[6] in return for peace and the security of his kingdom. The Ottomans, Iran's neighboring rival, recognized the latters rights over Kartli and Kakheti for the first time in four centuries.[7] Heraclius appealed then to his theoretical protector, Empress Catherine II of Russia, asking for at least 3,000 Russian troops,[7] but he was ignored, leaving Georgia to fend off the Iranian threat alone.[8] Nevertheless, Heraclius II still rejected the shah’s ultimatum.[9]

Agha Mohammad Khan subsequently crossed the Aras River, and after a turn of events by which he gathered more support from his subordinate khans of Erivan and Ganja, he sent Erekle a last ultimatum, which he also declined, but, sent couriers to St.Petersburg. Gudovich, who sat in Georgievsk at the time, instructed Erekle to avoid "expense and fuss",[7] while Erekle, together with Solomon II and some Imeretians headed southwards of Tbilisi to fend off the Iranians.[7]

With half of the troops Agha Mohammad Khan crossed the Aras river. He now marched directly upon Tbilisi, where it commenced into a huge battle between the Iranian and Georgian armies. Erekle had managed to mobilize some 5,000 troops, including some 2,000 from neighboring Imereti under its King Solomon II. The Georgians, hopelessly outnumbered, were eventually defeated despite stiff resistance. In a few hours, the Iranian king Agha Mohammad Khan was in full control of the Georgian capital. The Persian army marched back laden with spoil and carrying off thousands of captives.[8][10][11]

By this, after the conquest of Tbilisi and being in effective control of eastern Georgia,[12][13] Agha Mohammad was formally crowned Shah in 1796 in the Mughan plain.[12] As the Cambridge History of Iran notes; "Russia's client, Georgia, had been punished, and Russia's prestige, damaged." Heraclius II returned to Tbilisi to rebuild the city, but the destruction of his capital was a death blow to his hopes and projects. Upon learning of the fall of Tbilisi General Gudovich put the blame on the Georgians themselves.[14] To restore Russian prestige, Catherine II declared war on Persia, upon the proposal of Gudovich,[14] and sent an army under Valerian Zubov to the Qajar possessions on April of that year, but the new Tsar Paul I, who succeeded Catherine in November, shortly recalled it.

Aftermath and absorption into the Russian Empire

Entrance of the Russian troops in Tiflis, 26 November 1799, by Franz Roubaud, 1886

Reestablishment of Iranian rule over Georgia was short lived this time, and the next few years were years of muddling and confusion. In 1797, Agha Mohammad Khan was assassinated in his tent in Shusha, the capital of the Karabakh khanate, which he had taken just some days earlier.[14] On January 14, 1798, as King Erekle II died, and he was succeeded on the throne by his eldest son, George XII (1746–1800) who, on February 22, 1799, recognized his own eldest son, the Tsarevich David (Davit Bagrationi-batonishvili), 1767–1819, as official heir apparent. In the same year, following the power vacuum in Georgia that got created mainly due to Agha Mohammad Khan's death, the Russian troops entered Tbilisi. Pursuant to article VI of the 1783 treaty, Emperor Paul confirmed David’s claim to reign as the next king on April 18, 1799. But strife broke out among King George’s many sons and those of his late father over the throne, Erekle II having changed the succession order at the behest of his third wife, Queen Darejan (Darya), to favor the accession of younger brothers of deceased kings over their own sons.

The resulting dynastic upheaval prompted King George to secretly invite Paul I of Russia to invade Kartli-Kakheti, subdue the Bagrationi princes, and govern the kingdom from St. Petersburg, on the condition that George and his descendants be allowed to continue to reign nominally – in effect, offering to mediatise the Bagrationi dynasty under the Romanov emperors.[15] Continued pressure from Persia, also prompted George XII's request for Russian intervention.[16]

Paul tentatively accepted this offer, but before negotiations could be finalized, he changed his mind and issued a decree on December 18, 1800 annexing Kartli-Kakheti to Russia and deposing the Bagratids.[2] Paul himself was assassinated shortly thereafter. It is said that his successor, Emperor Alexander I, considered retracting the annexation in favor of a Bagratid heir, but being unable to identify one likely to retain the crown, on September 12, 1801 Alexander proceeded to confirm annexation.[2] Meanwhile, King George had died on December 28, 1800, before learning that he had lost his throne. By the following April, Russian troops took control of the country’s administration and in February 1803 Tsarevich David Bagrationi was escorted by Russian troops from Tbilisi to St. Petersburg.

As it was impossible for Iran to give up Georgia, which had made part of the concept of Iran for three centuries like the rest of its Caucasian territories,[14] the annexation of Kartli-Kakheti would mark the direct lead-up to the Russo-Persian Wars of the 19th century, namely the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) and the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828). By the war of 1804-1813, scoring a crucial victory over the Iranian army at the Zagam river saving Tbilisi from Iranian reconquest, it eventually ended with the Treaty of Gulistan, which would make Iran forced to officially cede eastern Georgia, Dagestan, as well as most of modern-day Azerbaijan to Russia. By the 1826-28 war, Russia took modern-day Armenia, the Nakhichevan Khanate, the Lankaran Khanate and Iğdır from Iran, by which now in 1828, it would have completed conquering all Caucasian territories in the Transcaucasus and North Caucasus from Iran, and by that, having secured an immensely strong foothold in the Caucasus. Parts of western Georgia would later be added to the empire by wars against the Ottoman Empire, also in the course of the 19th century.

Russian troops stayed in Tbilisi until July 2001, leaving the country after just over 200 years.

Kings of Kartli-Kakheti


  1. 1 2 3 Eur, Imogen Bell (2002). Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia 2003. Taylor & Francis. p. 170. ISBN 1-85743-137-5.
  2. 1 2 3 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Treaty of Georgievsk", 2008, retrieved 2008-6-16
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Fisher et al. 1991, p. 328.
  4. 1 2 Fisher et al. 1991, p. 327.
  5. Mikaberidze 2011, p. 327.
  6. 1 2 Mikaberidze 2011, p. 409.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Donald Rayfield. Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia Reaktion Books, 15 feb. 2013 ISBN 1780230702 p 255
  8. 1 2 Lang, David Marshall (1962), A Modern History of Georgia, p. 38. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  9. Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 59. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3
  10. P.Sykes, A history of Persia, Vol. 2, p.293
  11. Malcolm, Sir John (1829), The History of Persia from the Most Early Period to the Present Time, pp. 189-191. London: John Murray.
  12. 1 2 Michael Axworthy. Iran: Empire of the Mind: A History from Zoroaster to the Present Day Penguin UK, 6 nov. 2008 ISBN 0141903414
  13. Fisher, William Bayne (1991). The Cambridge History of Iran. 7. Cambridge University Press. pp. 128–129. (...) Agha Muhammad Khan remained nine days in the vicinity of Tiflis. His victory proclaimed the restoration of Iranian military power in the region formerly under Safavid domination.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Fisher et al. 1991, p. 329.
  15. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh, 1980, "Burke’s Royal Families of the World: Volume II Africa & the Middle East, page 59 ISBN 0-85011-029-7
  16. Tsagareli, A (1902). Charters and other historical documents of the XVIII century regarding Georgia. pp. 287–288.


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