The 1823 Russian Survey of the Karabagh Province.

A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of Karabagh in the First Half of the 19th Century

Series: Armenian Studies Series. 18
Availability: In stock
Published: 2011
Page #: xvi + 458
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1568591735, 1-56859-173-X
appendix, bibliography, index, notes


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Quick Overview

On May 14 (26), 1805 General Paul Tsitsianov, the Russian commander in the Caucasus, and Ebrahim Khan of Karabagh signed a treaty, by which the Karabagh Province became a Russian protectorate. Ebrahim Khan promised to be a loyal subject of the Russian Emperor, to pay an annual tribute of 8,000 gold rubles to the treasury in Tiflis, and to send a son and a grandson as hostages to Tiflis. In exchange, Russia promised that Ebrahim Khan and his progeny would continue as the khans of Karabagh and that local rule, including the courts and administration, as well as the taxes would remain under Ebrahim Khan’s jurisdiction.

On the night of June 2 (14), 1806, a group of Russian soldiers killed Ebrahim Khan, after he had reportedly resubmitted to Fath `Ali Shah of Iran and had left Shushi to join the Iranian army. The Russians appointed Mahdiqoli, a son of Ebrahim Khan, as the new Khan of Karabagh. He promised to abide by the articles of the 1805 treaty.

On November 21 (December 2) 1822 Mahdiqoli Khan fled to Iran. Taking advantage of the situation, General Alexei Ermolov, the Commander-in-Chief of Georgia, Astrakhan, and the Caucasus, declared the 1805 treaty null and void. He terminated the protectorate and, on December 26 (January 7, 1823) sent a letter to Count Victor Kochubei, the Minister of Internal Affairs, stating that Karabagh was now incorporated into the Russian Empire.

In order to enumerate the population of Karabagh and ascertain the revenues collected by the Khan, Ermolov, on January 13 (25), 1823, ordered State Counselor Paul I. Mogilevskii and Colonel Ermolov II to conduct a detailed survey of the Karabagh Province. On April 17 (29) 1823, they presented their findings in thirty-five registers to the Municipal Council in Shushi, and on May 2 (14) to General Ermolov in Tiflis.

The survey, titled The Description of the Karabagh Province, compiled in 1823, was eventually published in 1866 by the printing house of the Viceroy of the Caucasus in Tiflis. The number of copies printed must have been very few, for it, as well as the previous surveys conducted in the Sheki (Shakki) Province by Mogilevskii and General F. Akhverdov in 1819, and in the Shirvan Province, by Mogilevskii and General V. Madatov in 1820, both of which were also printed in 1866 in Tiflis, soon became rarities. To our knowledge, with the exception of I. P. Petrushevskii, no serious scholar of 19th-century Transcaucasia or Iran has mined the valuable information contained in these surveys.

As a historian of the various khanates of Transcaucasia and Iran, Prof. George Bournoutian had been very interested in examining this survey for many years. Although he was told that it contained information about the Armenians of Karabagh, his main interest was the data on land tenure and taxation of another khanate which had been under Iranian rule, but which had developed its own unique system of land tenure and taxation, prior to its incorporation into the Russian Empire. His interest in the region began as a graduate student, when he chose the social and economic history of the Khanate of Erevan under Iranian suzerainty as his doctoral subject. The survey conducted in the Erevan Province immediately after the Russian annexation revealed unique data on the administration, land tenure and taxation of the khanate during the rule of its last Khan, Hoseynqoli, and added a great deal of new information to our knowledge of the region.

The author, therefore, sought the 1823 survey printed in 1866 for many years. Although he had been able to obtain a number of Xerox copies from Armenia and Georgia, they were incomplete and poorly reproduced. Finally, in 2003, he was delighted to learn that a new edition, numbering only 500 copies, had appeared in Baku. However, instead of printing a facsimile of the original, the production team had decided to reformat the entire text. In doing so, they not only had made numerous spelling and typographic errors, but had also omitted important data, some of which appear to have been intentional. The editors had not bothered to explain the invaluable data on the administration, land tenure and taxation of Karabagh prior to its annexation to Russia. One would have hoped that in reformatting the entire text, the editor or some other scholar would have researched the many terms and presented a true picture of the socioeconomic conditions of Karabagh under the last Khan.

The present work is an accurate translation of the original survey, which was obtained with the help of Vadim Gomoz from the Moscow Library. It details the revenues collected from the city of Shushi, as well as each district of Karabagh in 1822. Prof. Bournoutian explains the various taxes collected and the types of land tenure prevalent at the time. He also indicates the number of Armenians, Tatars, and nomadic families, which inhabited each district in the region.

Finally he analyzes the data and provides an accurate picture of the demography and economic conditions of Karabagh prior to its incorporation into the Russian Empire and an important addition to the history of the region under Iranian rule. The present study will finally put to rest the claims that Armenian arrived in Karabagh only after 1828.


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, Dating and Place Names
Weights and Measures
Land Tenure
The 1823 Survey
Original Introduction
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