Treaty of Gulistan

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Treaty of Gulistan
Treaty of Peace between Imperial Russia and Persian Empire
Northwestern Persia's borders before and after the treaty
Effective 24 October 1813

The Treaty of Gulistan (Russian: Гюлистанский договор; Persian: عهدنامه گلستان‎) was a peace treaty concluded between Imperial Russia and Persia (modern day Iran) on 24 October 1813 in the village of Gulistan (in modern-day Goranboy Rayon of Azerbaijan) as a result of the first full scale Russo-Persian War. The peace negotiations were precipitated by Lankaran's fall to Gen. Pyotr Kotlyarevsky on 1 January 1813.

The treaty confirmed the ceding and inclusion of modern day Azerbaijan, Daghestan, Eastern Georgia and northern Armenia from Persia 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 Fyodorovich Rtischev from the Russian side[1] and Mirza Abolhassan Khan Ilchi from the Persian side.

Background and the Russo-Persian War[edit]

Imperial Russia had just sworn in a new tsar, Alexander I, in 1801 and the empire was very eager to control neighboring territories as the tsar was determined to expand. A few years previously in Persia, Fath Ali Shah Qajar also became the new shah after the assassination of his uncle, Mohammad Khan Qajar in 1797. Mohammad had, during his reign, killed off all of his enemies in the regions of present-day Georgia and Azerbaijan and claimed the areas as rightfully belonging to Persia. Simultaneously, Russia had formally annexed the region of Georgia, allowing unrestricted travel and trade between the regions and Russia, furthering its public claim on the land.[2] Persia was trying to align with France in 1801 to better position itself in case of war with Russia, yet those attempts fell through. Ironically, as both Russia and Britain were currently engaged in the Napoleonic wars, Fath Ali Shah instead brokered a deal with Britain that provided Persia with military support from Indian-British troops in exchange for preventing any European country from entering India.[3] With the alliance, Persia entered into the first Russo-Persian War against a militarily pre-occupied Russia, which was heavily invested in the Napoleonic Wars.

Although Persia entered the war mainly for the goal of recapturing the majority of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Fath Ali Shah had heard about the atrocities being committed by Russian Commanders in Georgia, the commanders ruling “through massive extortion and maladministration”.[4]

Numerically, Persian forces had a considerable advantage during the war: a ratio of 5 to 1 over their Russian adversaries. However, the Persian forces were technologically backwards and poorly trained - a problem that the Persian government did not recognize until a far later juncture. Despite these crippling disadvantages, fighting continued in northern Persia, Azerbaijan and in regions of Georgia. Persia was so enraged at Russia as to declare a jihad upon them, demanding that its people unite to fight the war against them.[5] Persia was actually losing the war and asked for military and financial aid from France’s Napoleon (with which they had a France-Persian Alliance), yet France's relations with Russia were more important to them after the two countries signed the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, resulting in France leaving 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, thus leaving Fath Ali Shah with no other option but to sign the Treaty of Gulistan.[6]

According to Cambridge History of Iran:


Persia in 1808 according to a British map, before losses to Russia in the north by the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan, and the loss of Herat to Great Britain in 1857 through the Treaty of Paris.

By this treaty:

  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."[8]
  2. These 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 the cities, towns and villages of the khanates in South Caucasus, including:
    7. Baku khanate (now capital of Azerbaijan Republic),
    8. Shirvan Khanate,
    9. Derbent,
    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, yet both must pay a 5% ad valorem tax on any items imported into each respective country, thus being seen as a light import/export duty tax.[9]
  5. Russia in return promises to support Abbas Mirza as heir to the Persian throne after the death of Fath Ali Shah.


Even until today, Iran officially sees this and the succeeding Treaty of Turkmenchay as one of its most humiliating treaties ever signed. The treaty is also regarded by Iranians as the main reason why Fath Ali Shah is seen as one of Iran's most incompetent rulers in memory. The scholars in Azerbaijan point out that the Karabakh khanate, where the treaty was signed, had pursued 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."[10]

Russian imperial historians maintain that Russia's absorption of the Transcaucasus territories delivered their population from constant Iranian and Ottoman invasions, and the Christian nations of the Caucasus were liberated from Muslim repression, ushering in the years of peace and relative economic stability.

Very vital to the signing of the treaty was the agreement made by Fath Ali Shah with Britain. With their defeat in the Russo-Persian War, the Shah understood that another attack by the Russians was close to inevitable. Britain saw the war as unwinnable for the Persians and used this to strengthen their foreign affairs. Using their new-found diplomatic connections with the British, Persia established the Treaty of Defensive Alliance in 1812. This promised that Britain would “offer a defensive alliance against further Russian encroachments”. It essentially had terms stating that Persia would provide defense against any European army from entering India (which stationed a majority of British troops) and in return, Britain would provide military and financial aid in case of another Russian attack.[11]


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 towards 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.[12] 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 to the military mainly to prevent Persia from trying to regain the regions of Georgia or the Caucasus, thus greatly leaving open the possibility of another future war.

According to Prof. Svante Cornell:

As another result of Persia's losses to Russia, the two treaties of Gulistan and Turkemenchai also divided Azerbaijani[14] and Talysh[15] people from their brethren in Iran and the wider Iranian cultural world.

Precursor to Second Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828[edit]

The Treaty of Gulistan was leaving conflict open between the two countries, thus being weak from the start. Russia’s main priority before the war was to focus on the wars being fought with Napoleon, which explains the significantly small amounts of troops he dedicated for the Russo-Persian War. The treaty of Gulistan was mainly a way for both countries to “gain a breath”[16] so that the Russo-Persian War could end and they could focus on other issues. After the Treaty of Gulistan was signed, Persia started to rapidly build up its army once more, as Fath Ali Shah was fully devoted to regaining the territories lost in the war. It was surprising to no one when Fath Ali Shah ordered his military commander, Abbas Mirza to start training troops in 1823, three years in advance of the second Russo-Persian War, which was three times as much military preparation than he spent for the first Russo-Persian War. The clergy in Persia also publicly announced that the jihad against Russia was not over.[17] In 1826, Persia attacked once again on the territories lost to Russia (with the British supporting the Persian more). The second Russo-Persian War lasted two years and Persia lost 35,000 troops to Russia’s 8,000. Performing poorly in the war, Persia lost, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Russian) Treaty of Gulistan
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Keddie, Nikki R.. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, Updated Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Pg. 32-39
  4. ^ David M. Lang “Griboedov's Last Years in Persia”, American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1948), pp. 317-339
  5. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000. Pg. 106-112
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ The Cambridge history of Iran By William Bayne Fisher, Published by Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 145-146.
  8. ^ John F. Baddeley, "The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus", Longman, Green and Co., London: 1908, p. 90
  9. ^ Issawi, Charles. "European economic penetration, 1872–1921." From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Cambridge University Press, 1991. Pg. 192-210
  10. ^ Muhammad Riza Nasiri, "Asnad va Mukatabat-i Tarikh-i Qajariya", Tehran, Intisharat-i Kayhan, 1366/1987, pp. 7-8.
  11. ^ Sicker, Martin. The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Praeger Publishers, 2000. Pg. 104-107
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Prof. Svante Cornell, "Small nations and great powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus", Richmond: Curzon Press, 2001, p. 37.
  14. ^ "However 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ 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


  • H. Pir Nia, Abbas Eghbal Ashtiani, B. Agheli. History of Persia. Tehran, 2002. pp. 673-686. ISBN 964-6895-16-6

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