The 1819 Russian Survey of the Khanate of Sheki

A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of an Iranian Province prior to its Annexation by Russia

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: The Iranian Heritage in the Caucasus and Central Asia 1
Availability: In stock
Published: 2016
Page #: XII + 220
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1568593159
appendix, bibliography, index, notes


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Quick Overview

Following the annexation of Georgia (1801) Russia in 1803 appointed General Paul Tsitsianov as the Commander-in-Chief and Civilian Governor of Georgia, Inspector of the Caucasian Line, and Military Governor of Astrakhan. Having been given such unprecedented authority, Tsitsianov, himself a Russianized Georgian prince, decided to prove himself to the tsar by completely subjugating the kingdom of eastern Georgia and by bringing the various khanates located south of the Caucasus Mountains, which had been nominally under Iranian suzerainty for some three centuries, under Russian authority.
After arresting and exiling most of the Georgian royal family to Russia, Tsitsianov send messages to the khans of the South Caucasus demanding their submission to Russia. Tsitsianov’s intention was to frighten the khans to such an extent that they would turn away from Iran—which, by now had resolved its internal problems and had accepted Fath `Ali Shah Qajar (the nephew of Aqa Mohammad Khan), as the new shah—and seek Russian protection.

After sending numerous threatening messages to a number of khans, Tsitsianov, at the start of 1804, decided to demonstrate the might of the Russian army by laying siege to Ganja. His destruction of Ganja (which he renamed Elisavetpol in honor of Tsar Alexander’s wife), where a large number (3,700) of Muslims, including Javad Khan of Ganja, his son and some of his relatives were killed, triggered the First Russo-Iranian War (1804-1813). Having failed to take Yerevan in 1804, Tsitsianov then tried to intimidate or entice the khans of Karabagh, Kuba, Karabagh, Kuba, Sheki, Shirvan and Baku to submit to Russia. Tsitsianov’s promise of Russian protection, as well as his guarantee that the khans would remain in charge of their domains, convinced the khans of Karabagh, Shirvan and Sheki to come to terms with Russia.

On May 26, 1805 Ebrahim Khan of Karabagh and Tsitsianov signed a treaty by which the khan swore by the Qur’an that he would be loyal to the Russian emperor. On January 6, 1806 Mostafa Khan of Shirvan signed a similar treaty. Although Salim Khan of Sheki had agreed to a similar treaty, the formal treaty was signed by Tsitsianov’s successor General Ivan Gudovich with Ja`far Qoli Khan of Sheki on January 12, 1807. The khans of Karabagh, Sheki and Shirvan were left to administer their own domains, continued to send their annual tribute in gold rubles, as well as hostages to Tiflis, and provide food and lodging for the Russian garrisons. More importantly, the khans remained in charge of appointing officials, collecting taxes or granting tax-exemption, and farming out revenues.

The state of affairs changed dramatically at the end of 1816 with the appointment of General Alexei Yermolov, as the new Commander-in-Chief of Georgia with jurisdiction over the whole of the Caucasus. Yermolov felt that the entire Caucasus and the region south of the Caucasus Mountains must become an integral part of the Russian Empire. He was not only against the continuation of independent or semi-independent khanates or enclaves, but also felt that Russian security in the region depended on the conquest of the khanates of Yerevan and Nakhichevan, with the Aras (Arax) River forming the new boundary between the two states.

When the khan of Sheki, Esma`il, died in 1819, without any direct male heir, Yermolov annexed the khanate. Seeing the writing on the wall, Mostafa Khan of Shirvan fled to Iran in 1820. Yermolov immediately annexed that khanate. When Mahdi Qoli Khan of Karabagh also fled to Iran in 1822 Yermolov annexed the last selfruling khanate as well.

Following the annexation of each khanate, Yermolov commissioned a detailed demographic and economic survey. Only a handful of these surveys, describing the socioeconomic conditions of a former Iranian province in its last year of its existence have survived in the archives of Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The first volume of this series is an English translation, with an introduction, annotations and commentary of the first survey, that of Sheki.


George A. Bournoutian

George A. Bournoutian is Professor of East European and Middle Eastern Studies at Iona College, New York. He has taught Iranian history at UCLA and Armenian History at Columbia University, New York University, University of Connecticut, Tufts University, Rutgers University, Ramapo College, and Glendale Community College. He is the author of 30 books, including The Khanate of Erevan Under Qajar Rule and From Tabriz to St. Petersburg: Iran’s Mission of Apology to Russia in 1829. His translations of primary sources such as The Chronicle of Abraham of Crete; Abraham of Erevan’s History of the Wars: 1721-1738 and documents such as Armenians and Russia, A Documentary Record, 1626-1796, Russia and the Armenians of Transcaucasia, A Documentary Record, 1797-1889, and A History of Qarabagh have received laudatory reviews in TLS, BSOAS and other important publications. Professor Bournoutian is a member of the Society for Iranian Studies and a member of the Society for Armenian Studies. He is also a frequent contributor to encyclopedias, various scholarly journals, and collections. His work has been cited in major publications and he is considered a world authority on the history of the South Caucasus in the Modem Period (1400-1900). Professor Bournoutian was born in Isfahan and grew up in Iran. He received his High school diploma from the well-known Andisheh (Don Bosco) institution in Tehran. His B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. are from UCLA. He is fluent in Armenian, Persian, Russian, and Polish and has a reading command of French. His A Concise History of the Armenian People is considered the best source in English and has been translated into Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Armenian, Russian and Japanese.

Transliteration, Geographical Names and Dates

Weights, Measures and Currencies



Plate: Facsimile of a page from the original survey


Explanatory Remarks

Map 1: South Caucasus ca. 1800

The 1819 Russian Survey of the Sheki Province

Register 1: Revenues from the Sheki Mahal

Register 2: Revenues from the Aghdash Mahal

Register 3: Revenues from the Aresh Mahal

Register 4: Revenues from the Alpaut Mahal

Register 5: Revenues frrom the Khachmaz Mahal

Register 6: Revenues from the Padar Mahal

Register 7: Revenues from the Kutkamish Mahal

Register 8: Revenues from the Bum Mahal

Register 9: Revenues from the Town of Nukha

Register 10: The Khan’s Personal Income

Register 11: The Molks of Kutkashin Mahal

Register 12: The Molks of Aghadsh Mahal

Register 13: The Molks of Aresh Mahal

Register 14: The Molks of Bum Mahal

Register 15: The Molks of Sheki Mahal

Map 2: The Location of Some of the Villages Indicated in the Survey




About the Translator

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