Battle of Krtsanisi
|Battle of Krtsanisi|
|Part of Persian invasions of Georgia|
The Battle of Krtsanisi by Severian Maisashvili
| Persian Empire
* Ganja Khanate
* Erivan Khanate
|Commanders and leaders|
| Heraclius II
|Agha Mohammad Khan|
|Casualties and losses|
15,000 captives (civilians) moved to Persia
The Battle of Krtsanisi was fought between the Qajars of Iran and the Georgian armies at the place of Krtsanisi near Tbilisi, Georgia, from September 8 to September 11, 1795, as part of Qajar Emperor Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar's war in response to King Heraclius II of Georgia’s alliance with the Russian Empire. The battle resulted in the decisive defeat of the Georgians and complete destruction of their capital Tbilisi.
Eastern Georgia, composed of the kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti, had been under intermittent Iranian suzerainty since 1555. However, with the death of Nader Shah in 1747, both kingdoms broke free of Iranian control and were reunited in personal union under the rule of the energetic king Heraclius II (Erekle) in 1762. In 1783, Heraclius placed his kingdom under the protection of the Russian Empire in the Treaty of Georgievsk. A limited Russian contingent of two infantry battalions with four artillery pieces arrived in Tbilisi in 1784, but was withdrawn, despite the frantic protests of the Georgians, in 1787. Despite being left to his own devices, Heraclius still cherished a dream of establishing, with Russian protection, a strong and united monarchy, into which the western Georgian Kingdom of Imereti and the lost provinces under Ottoman rule would all eventually be drawn.
The consequences of these events came a few years later, when a new dynasty, the Qajars, emerged victorious in the protracted power struggle in Persia. Their head, Agha Mohammad Khan, resolved to bring the Caucasus once more under the Persian orbit. Finding an interval of peace amid their own quarrels, the Persians demanded Heraclius II to renounce the treaty with Russia in return for peace and the security of his kingdom. Heraclius appealed then to his theoretical protector, Empress Catherine II of Russia, but he was not listened, leaving Georgia to fend off the Persian threat alone. Nevertheless, Heraclius II still rejected the Khan’s ultimatum.
In August 1795, Agha Mohammad Khan led his 35,000-strong army into the Caucasus, forcing the Khans of Ganja and Erivan into alliance. Having abandoned the siege of Shusha in the Karabakh Khanate, Agha Mohammad Khan marched directly on Tbilisi, and attacked the heavily fortified Georgian positions on the southwestern limits of the city. Abandoned by several of his nobles, Heraclius II managed to mobilize around 5,000 troops, including some 2,000 auxiliaries from neighbouring Imereti under its King Solomon II, a member of the Georgian Bagrationi Dynasty and thus distantly related to Heraclius II. The Georgians offered a desperate resistance and succeeded in rolling back a series of Persian attacks on September 9 and 10. After that, it is said that some traitors informed the Persians that the Georgians had no more strength to fight and the Qajars army cancelled their plan of going back to Persia, which they previously had. Early on September 11, Agha Mohammad Khan personally led an all-out offensive against the Georgians. Amid an artillery duel and a fierce cavalry charge, the Persians managed to cross the Kura River and outflanked the decimated Georgian army. Heraclius II attempted to mount a counterattack, but he had to retreat to the last available positions in the outskirts of Tbilisi. By nightfall, the Georgian forces had been exhausted and almost completely destroyed. The last surviving Georgian artillery briefly held the advancing Persians to allow Heraclius II and his retinue of some 150 men to escape through the city to the mountains. The fighting continued in the streets of Tbilisi and at the fortress of Narikala. In a few hours, Agha Mohammad Khan was in full control of the Georgian capital which was completely sacked and its population massacred. The Persian army marched back laden with spoil and carrying off some 15,000 captives.
On his return, Agha Mohammad was crowned Shah in 1796. Heraclius II returned to Tbilisi to rebuild the city, but the destruction of his capital was a death blow to his hopes and projects. To restore Russian prestige, Catherine II declared war on Persia 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.
Agha Mohammad Shah was later assassinated while preparing a second expedition against Georgia in 1797 and the seasoned king Heraclius died early in 1798. The next three years were a time of muddle and confusion, and the weakened and devastated Georgian kingdom, with its capital half in ruins, was easily absorbed by Russia in 1801.
- Lang, David Marshall (1962), A Modern History of Georgia, p. 38. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
- "Tiflis", in: Yust, Walter (ed., 1952), The Encyclopaedia Britannica - A new survey of universal knowledge. Volume 14, p. 209.
- Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 59. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3
- Tapper, Richard (1997), Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan, p. 122. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-58336-5.
- Malcolm, Sir John (1829), The History of Persia from the Most Early Period to the Present Time, pp. 189-191. London: John Murray.