Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Occupation of Yerevan (October 1, 1827)

The Russian vision of reaching the “hot waters” of the Mediterranean Sea, formulated during the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725), achieved its initial objective in the period from 1804-1828, when the region known as Transcaucasia (now called South Caucasus) was conquered from Persia and incorporated with the Russian Empire. This included, indeed, Eastern Armenia.
The treaty of Gulistan (1813) incorporated the region of Gharabagh to Russia. The rest of Eastern Armenia was conquered during the Russo-Persian war of 1826-1828. With British financial support, Persian crown prince Abbas Mirza launched the hostilities without previous declaration of war in July 1826. After Persian initial success, Czar Nicholas I (1825-1855) sent General Ivan Paskevich (1782-1856), who had distinguished himself in 1807-1814 during campaigns against Turkey and France, as second in command. He took the chief command in early 1827 and the Russian troops started advancing in territory of the Khanate of Yerevan.  
In April 1827 the monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin was occupied without resistance, and Yerevan was first besieged from April to June. Paskevich joined Russian general A. I. Krasovky in June and occupied Nakhichevan. However, Krasovky was forced to raise the siege due to the condition of his troops. He left one regiment at Etchmiadzin and retired further north. 
Abbas Mirza attempted a counterattack, planning to take Etchmiadzin and Gyumri, plunder Tiflis and return to Tabriz via Gharabagh. Krasovsky was forced to return south in August to relieve the garrison of Etchmiadzin. Despite the inferiority of troops (2300 Russians against 30000 Persians), the Russians were able to cut their way through at the battle of Oshagan, losing half of their number. They relieved Etchmiadzin, while the Persians withdrew south with a loss of just 400 men. 
Paskevich returned to Etchmiadzin in early September. He moved east and, after capturing Sardarabad, he appeared before the walls of Yerevan on September 23. The fortress was located on a rocky shore of the Hrazdan River, and had double walls and a moat. After shelling the fortress, the Russian command suggested Persians to capitulate. The garrison and residents asked Hasan Khan to surrender, but the khan turned down the suggestion of capitulation, hoping to resist until the arrival of the Persian army.

Capture of Erivan Fortress by Russia, 1827 (by Franz Roubaud)
After a week of siege, disorder broke out in Yerevan on the morning of October 1. The Armenian population of the city forcefully demanded that Hasan surrender the city. Armenian and Persian citizens took up arms and occupied the already destroyed part of the eastern wall. The Persian garrison refused to fight and Russian troops entered Yerevan. Hasan Khan and his army laid down their arms in front of the Russian before the main mosque. Four thousand prisoners were taken. 
After this victory, advancing Russian troops crossed the Arax River and entered Persian Azerbaijan, seizing its capital Tabriz. Paskevich arrived later with the main Russian forces. Persia sued for peace, but the negotiations dragged on due to the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-1829. However, the Russian occupation of Ardabil and Urmia forced Fath-Ali Shah to accept all peace conditions, according to the Treaty of Turkmenchay (February 10, 1828). For the victory in the Russo-Persian war, Paskevich was awarded the St. George Order of the 2nd class and the title of Count of Yerevan. He also received a million rubles and a diamond-mounted sword. 
The khanates of Yerevan and Nakhichevan went to the Russian Empire, and Yerevan became the capital of the newly-created Armenian Province until 1840. After short-lived administrative changes, the Yerevan Governorate would be created in 1849, again with Yerevan as capital of a territory that included both Persian khanates.