Afsharid dynasty

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Afsharid dynasty





Flag Emblem
The Afsharid Empire at its greatest extent under Nader Shah[1][2]
Capital Mashhad
Languages Persian (court language; official language) [3][4]
Turkic (Nader Shah's native language; court language)[5][6]
Government Absolute Monarchy
 -  1736–1747 Nader Shah
 -  1747–1748 Adil Shah
 -  1748 Ebrahim Afshar
 -  1748–1796 Shahrukh Afshar
 -  Established 22 January 1736
 -  Disestablished 1796
Area 5,300,000 km² (2,046,341 sq mi)
Currency toman[7]
Today part of  Uzbekistan
 United Arab Emirates

The Afsharids (Persian: افشاریان‎) were members of a native Iranian dynasty of Turkic[8] origin, specifically the Afshar tribe, from Khorasan, who ruled Persia in the 18th century. The dynasty was founded in 1736 by the brilliant military commander Nader Shah, who deposed Abbas III, the last member of the Safavid dynasty and proclaimed himself King of Iran. During Nader's reign, Iran reached its greatest extent since the Sassanid Empire, and at its height it controlled modern day Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, most of the North Caucasus (Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and parts of modern day Chechnya), Afghanistan, Bahrain, most of Iraq and Kuwait, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan, and parts of Turkey, North India, and Oman. After his death, most of his empire was divided between the Zands, Durranis, Georgians, and the Caucasian khanates, while Afsharid rule was confined to a small local state in Khorasan. Finally, the Afsharid dynasty was overthrown by Mohammad Khan Qajar in 1796, who would establish a new native Iranian empire and restore Iranian suzerainty over several of the aforementioned regions.

The dynasty was named after the Turkic Afshar tribe to which Nader belonged. The Afshars had migrated from Turkestan to Azerbaijan in the 13th century. In the early 17th century, Shah Abbas the Great moved many Afshars from Azerbaijan to Khorasan to defend the north-eastern borders of his state against the Uzbeks, after which the Afshars became native to those regions. Nader belonged to the Qereqlu branch of the Afshars.[9]

Foundation of the dynasty[edit]

Nader Shah was born (as Nader Qoli) into a humble semi-nomadic family of an Afshar tribe of Khorasan, where he became a local warlord.[10] His path to power began when the Ghilzai Mir Mahmud Hotaki overthrew the weakened and disintegrated Safavid shah Sultan Husayn in 1722. At the same time, Ottoman and Russian forces seized Persian land. Russia took swaths of Iran's Caucasian territories in the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia, as well as mainland northern Iran by the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723), while the neighbouring Ottomans invaded from the west. By the 1724 Constantinople Treaty, they agreed to divide the conquered areas between themselves.[11] On the other side of the theatre, Nader joined forces with Sultan Husayn's son Tahmasp II and led the resistance against the Ghilzai Afghans, driving their leader Ashraf Khan easily out of the capital in 1729 and establishing Tahmasp on the throne. Nader fought to regain the lands lost to the Ottomans and Russians and to restore Iranian hegemony in Iran. While he was away in the east fighting the Ghilzais, Tahmasp allowed the Ottomans to retake territory in the west. Nader, disgusted, had Tahmasp deposed in favour of his baby son Abbas III in 1732. Four years later, after he had recaptured most of the lost Persian lands, Nader was confident enough to have himself proclaimed shah in his own right at a ceremony on the Moghan Plain.[12]

He subsequently made the Russians cede the taken territories taken in 1722-1723 through the Treaty of Resht of 1732 and the Treaty of Ganja of 1735.[13] Back in control of the integral northern territories, and with a new Russo-Iranian alliance against the common Ottoman enemy,[14] he continued the Ottoman–Persian War (1730–35), which ended with the Ottoman armies being expelled from western Iran and the rest of the Caucasus, and resulted in the Treaty of Constantinople (1736) which amongst the terms of the treaty, forced the Ottomans to confirm Iranian suzerainty over the Caucasus and recognised Nader as the new Iranian shah (king).[15]

Nader's conquests and the succession problem[edit]

Nader initiated a new religious policy aimed at reconciling Shia with Sunni Islam. The Safavid dynasty had relied heavily on the support of Shi'ites (the Qizilbash and the so-called ghilmans, who were drawn from masses of converted Circassians, Georgians and Armenians, alike to the neighbouring system of the janissaries), but many soldiers in Nader's army were Sunnis. Nader also wanted to set himself up as the new arch rival of the Ottoman sultan (who before were the Iranian Safavids), for supremacy within the Muslim world, which would have been impossible had he remained an orthodox Shi'ite.[16]

Sindh silver rupee found in south east Pakistan, under the Afsharid Shahs of Iran 18th century.

Soon afterwards Nader started his campaigns, firstly waging a war against the Afghans and captured Kandahar, their last bastion. In 1738, accompanied by his Georgian subject Erekle II who served as a commander in his army leading a Georgian contingent of troops (and the future king of Georgia), he invaded Mughal India.[17] Following the huge Battle of Karnal where he defeated a numerically vastly superior Mughal army, they moved upon Delhi. In the city, after a chain of events in which several Persian soldiers were murdered, Nader ordered the massacre of 30,000 of the inhabitants of Delhi, and sacked the entire city, and in a single campaign captured an incredible amount of wealth, including the legendary Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-Nor diamond. He lifted tax payment in his empire for 3 years after he returned.[18]

After his return from India, Nader fell out with his eldest son Reza Qoli Mirza, who had ruled Persia during his father's absence. Having heard a rumour that Nader was dead, he had prepared to seize the throne by having the Safavid royal captives, Tahmasp and his son Abbas, executed. Nader was not pleased with the young man's behaviour and humiliated him by removing him from the post of viceroy. Nader became increasingly despotic, taxing his subjects heavily to pay for his military campaigns, and his health decayed. When there was an assassination attempt on him during an expedition to Iranian-ruled Daghestan to crush several Lezgin uprisings, Nader blamed Reza and in 1742 he had him blinded so he could not succeed to the throne.[19] Nader's despotism and excessive demands for tax provoked many revolts. In 1747 while on his way to crush one of them, he was assassinated by two of his own officers. Iran was soon to descend into civil war.[20]

Civil war and downfall of the Afsharids[edit]

After Nader's death, his nephew Ali Qoli (who may have been involved in the assassination plot) seized the throne and proclaimed himself Adil Shah ("The Just Shah"). He ordered the execution of all Nader's sons and grandsons, with the exception of the 13-year-old Shahrokh, the son of Reza Qoli.[21] Meanwhile, Nadir's former treasurer, Ahmad Shah Abdali, had declared his independence by founding the Durrani Empire in Khorasan. In the process, the eastern territories were lost and in the following decades became part of Afghanistan, the successor-state to the Durrani Empire. The northern territories, Iran's most integral regions, had a different fate. In 1747, Erekle II, who had been appointed king of Kakheti by Nader himself several years prior for his loyal service,[22] declared independance and took control of neighbouring Kartli as well; he would unify both several years later in the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti. Under the successive Qajar dynasty, Iran managed to restore Iranian suzerainty over the Georgian regions, until they would be irrevocably lost in the course of the 19th century, to neighbouring Imperial Russia.[23] Many of the rest of the territories in the Caucasus, comprising modern-day Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Dagestan were taken over by local lords, who, until the advent of the Zands and Qajars, many of them often had semi-independent or quasi-independent self rule, but stayed vassals and subjects to the Iranian king.[24] Under the early Qajars, these territories in Transcaucasia and Dagestan would all be fully reincorporated into Iran, but eventually permanently lost as well (alongside Georgia), in the course of the 19th century to Imperial Russia through the two Russo-Persian Wars of the 19th century.[25]

Adil made the mistake of sending his brother Ebrahim to secure the capital Isfahan. Ebrahim decided to set himself up as a rival, defeated Adil in battle, blinded him and took the throne. Adil had reigned for less than a year. Meanwhile a group of army officers freed Shahrokh from prison in Mashhad and proclaimed him shah in October 1748. Ebrahim was defeated and died in captivity in 1750 and Adil was also put to death at the request of Nader Shah's widow. Shahrokh was briefly deposed in favour of another puppet ruler Soleyman II but, although blinded, Shahrokh was restored to the throne by his supporters. He reigned in Mashhad and from the 1750s his territory was mostly confined to Khorasan. In 1796 Mohammad Khan Qajar, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, seized Mashhad and tortured Shahrokh to force him to reveal the whereabouts of Nader Shah's treasures. Shahrokh died of his injuries soon after and with him the Afsharid dynasty came to an end.[26][27] Shahrokh's descendants continue into the 21st century under the Afshar Naderi surname.

List of Afsharid monarchs[edit]

Family tree[edit]

Imam Qoli
(d. 1704)
Ebrahim Khan
(d. 1738)
Nader Shah
(r. 1736–1747)1
Adil Shah
(r. 1747–1748)2
Ebrahim Afshar
(r. 1748)3
Reza Qoli Mirza
(b. 1719 – d.1747)
Shahrukh Afshar
(r. 1748–1796)4
Nader Mirza
(d. 1803)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NĀDER SHAH – Encyclopaedia Iranica". 
  2. ^ Soucek, Svat (2000). A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780521657044. In 1740 Nadir Shah, the new ruler of Iran, crossed the Amu Darya and, accepting the submission of Muhammad Hakim Bi which was then formalized by the acquiescence of Abulfayz Khan himself, proceeded to attack Khiva. When rebellions broke out in 1743 upon the death of Muhammad Hakim, the shah dispatched the ataliq’s son Muhammad Rahim Bi, who had accompanied him to Iran, to quell them. 
  3. ^ Katouzian, Homa (2003). Iranian History and Politics. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 0-415-29754-0. Indeed, since the formation of the Ghaznavids state in the tenth century until the fall of Qajars at the beginning of the twentieth century, most parts of the Iranian cultural regions were ruled by Turkic-speaking dynasties most of the time. At the same time, the official language was Persian, the court literature was in Persian, and most of the chancellors, ministers, and mandarins were Persian speakers of the highest learning and ability. 
  4. ^ "HISTORIOGRAPHY vii. AFSHARID AND ZAND PERIODS – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Afsharid and Zand court histories largely followed Safavid models in their structure and language, but departed from long-established historiographical conventions in small but meaningful ways. 
  5. ^ Axworthy, Michael (2008). Iran: Empire of the Mind. London: Penguin. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-14-103629-8. he [Nader] and his Safavid predecessors were of Turkic origin and spoke a Turkic language at court... 
  6. ^ Axworthy, Michael (2006). The Sword of Persia. I.B. Tauris. p. 19. ISBN 1-84511-982-7. 
  7. ^ علی‌اصغر شمیم، ایران در دوره سلطنت قاجار، ته‍ران‌: انتشارات علمی، ۱۳۷۱، ص ۲۸۷
  8. ^ Stokes, Jamie; Gorman, Anthony (2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Infobase. p. 11. 
  9. ^ Cambridge History of Iran Volume 7, pp.2-4
  10. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica
  11. ^ Martin, Samuel Elmo (1997). Uralic And Altaic Series. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN 0-7007-0380-2. 
  12. ^ Michael Axworthy Iran: Empire of the Mind (Penguin, 2008) pp.153-156
  13. ^ "Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond ...". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Tucker, Ernest (2006). "Nāder Shah". Encyclopædia Iranica Online. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ Axworthy Iran p.157
  17. ^ David Marshall Lang. Russia and the Armenians of Transcaucasia, 1797-1889: a documentary record Columbia University Press, 1957 (digitalised March 2009, originally from the University of Michigan) p 142
  18. ^ Axworthy Iran pp.158-159
  19. ^ Axworthy Iran pp.160-161
  20. ^ Axworthy Iran p.165
  21. ^ Cambridge History p.59
  22. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny. "The Making of the Georgian Nation" Indiana University Press, 1994. p 55
  23. ^ Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond p 728-729 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014 ISBN 1598849484
  24. ^ Encyclopedia of Soviet law By Ferdinand Joseph Maria Feldbrugge, Gerard Pieter van den Berg, William B. Simons, Page 457
  25. ^ Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond p 728-729 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014 ISBN 1598849484
  26. ^ Axworthy p.168
  27. ^ Cambridge History pp.60-62

External links[edit]