Karabakh Khanate
Map of Karabakh Khanate according to a 1902 Russian map.
Map of Karabakh Khanate according to a 1902 Russian map.
Under Iranian suzerainty[1]
Common languagesPersian (official)[2][3] Azerbaijani, Armenian
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Karabakh Beylerbeylik
Principality of Khachen
Elisabethpol Governorate
Today part of

The Karabakh Khanate was a semi-independent Turkic Caucasian khanate on the territories of modern-day Armenia and Azerbaijan established in about 1748 under Iranian suzerainty[4] in Karabakh and adjacent areas.[5]

The Karabakh Khanate came under the control of the Russian Empire in 1805 during the course of the Russo-Persian War (1804–13).[6][7] The Russian annexation of Karabakh was not formalized until the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, when Fath-Ali Shah of Qajar Iran officially ceded Karabakh to Tsar Alexander I of Russia.[8][9] The khanate continued to exist under Russian suzerainty until its formal abolition in 1822, when the Karabakh Province, with a military administration, was formed.[8] Russian control was decisively confirmed by the Treaty of Turkmenchay with Iran in 1828.



The precursor of the Karabakh Khanate, the Safavid province of Karabakh, was one of the provinces established in the northern part of the Safavid Empire.[10] The Safavid shah of Iran Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576) granted the governance of the province to a branch of the Qajars, the Ziyadoglu, in 1540.[11] It was initially founded in the lowland part of Karabakh ("Karabakh Steppe"), away from the mountainous regions, known today as Nagorno-Karabakh and Syunik. The mountainous part of Karabakh was also home to several semi-autonomous Armenian principalities known as the Khamsa Melikdoms. According to a prominent historian who hailed from the Karabakh Khanate, Mirza Adigozal Bey, "The power of the Karabakh beylerbeylik covered a vast territory – from the Georgian border near “Sinig Korpu” Bridge (currently "Red Bridge”) to Khudafarin Bridge on the Araz River.[12] However, following the collapse of the Safavid Empire and the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747, the Safavid domain split into several khanates with various forms of autonomy.


After the death of Nader Shah and the fragmentation of the Safavid Empire, Panah Ali khan of the Javanshir clan consolidated his local power by establishing a de facto independent khanate. The Javanshir clan lived as nomads in Karabakh and had long been rivals of the Ziyadoglu.[13] Panah Ali was recognized as Khan of Karabakh by Nader Shah's successor Adel Shah (r. 1747–1748).[13]

Karabakh khanate's mahals
Karabakh khanate's mahals

The capital of the khanate was initially Bayat Castle in modern-day Kabirli in 1748, in the Karabakh Steppe (or “Lowland Karabakh”), before being moved to the newly built fortress of Shahbulag and soon moved again to the newly built fortress-town of Panahabad (modern-day Shusha) in 1750–1752. Panah Ali acquired this fortress in the heart of Mountainous Karabakh through his alliance with Melik Shahnazar II, the ruler of Varanda, who was in conflict with the other meliks of Karabakh.[14][15] Melik Shahnazar and Panah Ali Khan solidified their alliance with the marriage of Shahnazar's daughter to Panah Ali's son, Ibrahim Khalil.[16] During the reign of Ibrahim Khalil, Panahabad became a large town and was renamed to Shusha, apparently after the name of a nearby Shusha, known also as Shushikent.[17][15][18]

Later, Panah Ali Khan expanded the territory of the khanate, subjugating territories of Mountainous Karabakh, Zangezur, and Nakchivan Khanate.[citation needed]

Reign of Panah Ali Khan Javanshir

1748 European map showing Karabagh as part of Iran.
1748 European map showing Karabagh as part of Iran.
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir, page 1
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir, page 1
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir, page 2. Mehdi gholi Javanshir is referred to as the Beylerbeygi (Administrator) of the Karabakh vilayaat (province)
Fathali Shah to Mehdi gholi Javanshir, page 2. Mehdi gholi Javanshir is referred to as the Beylerbeygi (Administrator) of the Karabakh vilayaat (province)

Less than a year after Shusha was founded, the Karabakh Khanate was attacked by Mohammad Hasan Khan Qajar, one of the major claimants to the Iranian throne. During Safavid rule, Karabakh had been governed by the Turkic Qajar clan for almost two centuries, as they were appointed governors of the Ganja-Karabakh province. For this reason, Mohammed Hasan Khan Qajar considered Karabakh his hereditary estate.

Mohammad Hasan Khan besieged Panahabad but soon had to retreat because of the attack on his own domain by one of his major opponents in the struggle for the Iranian throne, Karim Khan Zand. His retreat was so hasty that he even left his cannons under the walls of Shusha fortress. Panah Ali Khan counterattacked the retreating troops of Mohammad Hasan Khan and even briefly took Ardabil across the Aras River in Azerbaijan.

In 1759, the Karabakh Khanate underwent a new attack from Fath-Ali Khan Afshar, ruler of the Urmia Khanate. With his 30,000-strong army, Fath-Ali Khan also managed to gain support from the meliks of Jraberd and Talysh (Gulistan); however, Melik Shahnazar of Varanda continued to support Panah Ali Khan. The siege of Shusha lasted for six months and Fath-Ali Khan eventually had to retreat. Panah Ali gave his son Ibrahim as a hostage to Fath-Ali Khan to end the siege.[13]

In 1761, Karim Khan Zand allied with Panah Ali Khan of Karabakh to defeat Fath-Ali Khan Afshar of Urmia, who had earlier subordinated the khanates of Karabakh, Marageh, and Tabriz.[19]

In 1762, during his war with Kazem Khan of Qaradagh, Panah Khan submitted to Karim Khan Zand, who was consolidating different khans under his rule and was about to besiege Urmia. After the fall of the city, Karim took Panah Khan among the hostages to Shiraz, where he soon died. Panah Ali Khan's son Ibrahim Khalil Khan was sent back to Karabakh as governor.[20]

Reign of Ibrahim Khalil Khan Javanshir

Under Ibrahim Khalil Khan Javanshir, the Karabakh Khanate became one of the strongest entities[citation needed] of the South Caucasus and Shusha turned into a big town. According to travelers who visited Shusha in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the town had about 2,000 houses and an approximate population of 10,000.[citation needed]

In the summer of 1795, Shusha was besieged by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, son of Mohammad Hasan Khan, who attacked Shusha in 1752. Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar's goal was to end the feudal fragmentation and restore the old Safavid imperial domain. For this purpose, he also wanted to proclaim himself shah (king) of Iran. However, according to Safavid tradition, the shah had to control the South Caucasus and southern Dagestan before his coronation.[citation needed] Therefore, the Karabakh Khanate and its fortified capital Shusha were the first and major obstacle to achieve these ends.

Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar besieged Shusha with his 80,000-strong army. Ibrahim Khalil Khan mobilized the population for long-term defense. The a militia 15,000 was assembled in Shusha, where women fought alongside men. The Armenian population of Karabakh also actively participated in this struggle against the invaders and fought side by side with the Muslim population, jointly organizing ambushes in the mountains and forests.

The siege lasted for 33 days. Not being able to capture Shusha, Agha Mohammad Khan ceased the siege and advanced to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), which, despite desperate resistance, was occupied and exposed to unprecedented destruction, with many thousands of its inhabitants carried off to mainland Iran.

Qajar period

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

See also: Qajar dynasty

In 1797, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, who by that time had already managed to declare himself Shah, and had swiftly either re-occupied or re-subjugated the entire Caucasus that previously made up part of Iran for centuries, decided now to carry out a second attack on Karabakh, as its khan was not letting him nor his armies enter the city. Nevertheless, the khan of Karabakh had already been paying regular tribute to Agha Mohammad Khan since the aftermath of the first attack in 1795.[21]

In this new siege, Agha Mohammad Khan devastated the surrounding villages near Shusha.[citation needed] The population could not recover from the previous 1795 attack and also suffered from a serious drought which lasted for three years.[citation needed] The artillery of the enemy also caused serious losses to the city defenders. Thus, in 1797 Aga Mohammad Khan succeeded in seizing Shusha and Ibrahim Khalil Khan was forced to flee to Dagestan.

However, several days after the seizure of Shusha, Agha Mohammad Khan was killed in enigmatic circumstances by his bodyguards. Ibrahim Khalil Khan returned Agha Mohammad Shah's body to Tehran, and in return, the new king Fath-Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1797–1834) appointed him the governor of Karabakh and married his daughter Agha Beyim.[13] Agha Baji, as she came to be called, was brought to court accompanied by her brother Abol' Fath Khan, and became Fath' Ali Shah's twelfth wife; highly respected at the court, for some reason she remained a virgin.[22]

Conquest by Russia

See also: Russo-Persian Wars

During the rule of Ibrahim Khalil Khan, the Karabakh Khanate grew in importance and established ties with other neighbouring khanates. On May 14, 1805, amidst the still ongoing Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813, Ibrahim Khalil Khan and the Russian general Pavel Tsitsianov signed the Treaty of Kurekchay, which transferred the Karabakh Khanate to the dominion of the Russian Empire.[23] According to this agreement, the Khan of Karabakh gave up his right to carry out independent foreign policy, and took on the obligation to pay 8,000 gold rubles a year to the Russian treasury. In its turn, the Tsarist government promised not to infringe upon the right of Ibrahim Khan's legitimate successors to administer the internal affairs of their possessions.

However, in the same year, Russians reneged on the agreement, apparently acting on suspicion that Ibrahim Khalil Panah Khan was a traitor. He was killed near Shusha together with some members of his family by Major Dmitri Tikhonovich Lisanevich.

The Russian Empire finally gained control over Karabakh through the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) after defeating Iran in the Russo-Persian Wars.

Carpet, which belonged to Karabakh khans (Azerbaijan State Museum of History).
Carpet, which belonged to Karabakh khans (Azerbaijan State Museum of History).

In 1822, Russian Empire abolished the khanate. A Karabakh province was created in its place, administered by Russian officials.


See also: Elisabethpol Governorate

Some of the descendants of Panah Khan subsequently scattered around Iran with most remaining in Karabakh. Abdul Wakil Panah Khan became the Emir of Greater Khorasan.

Abul-Fath Khan Javanshir, was one of the sons of Ibrahim Khalil Javanshir, that through his sister was the brother-in-law of Fath-Alī Shah Qajar. In the First Russo-Persian War Abul-Fath Khan supported the Iranians and fought on the side of the crown prince Abbas Mirza. After Karabakh was ceded to Russia and even before it, Abul-Fath Khan withdrew from Karabakh along with his fellow tribesmen, and Abbās Mirza made him governor of Dezmār. Dezamār lay on a southern tributary of the Aras, which flowed into the main river at Ordubad. In the years following 1813 Abul-Fath Khan smuggled his warriors back across the Aras into southern Karabakh and took up residence in the village of Garmī (eight farsangs south of Shusha). Presumably, this must have been done with the connivance of his brother Mahdiqoli Khan Javanshir, who had succeeded his father in 1806 as governor of Shusha in the service of the Russians. In 1818, long before the outbreak of the Second Russo-Persian War, Abbas Mirza invaded the territory to which the Russians laid claim and which was de facto under their sovereignty; supported by 100 horsemen, he brought Abul-Fath Khan back by force. What happened to Abul-Fath Khan thereafter is not known; he does not appear to have taken part in the battles of the Second Russo-Persian War. His brother Mahdī-qolī Khan crossed into Iranian soil in 1822. Under the terms of the Treaty of Turkmanchay in 1828, the whole of Karabakh was finally ceded to Russia.[24]


Karabakh Khanate never had a permanent army, but those who were a certain age and had the ability to serve in the military were written in a special register. When it was necessary, soldiers were called together with local landlords, meliks and beks.[25] The persons whose names were included in the register with along with volunteers formed the army of the Karabakh Khanate, but they were deployed only in cases of war or emergency. Sometimes, especially in urgent circumstances, soldiers from Dagestan were invited to join the army of the Karabakh Khanate. For example, when Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar seized Shusha for 33 days, part of the soldiers who were defending Shusha were from Dagestan.[26] During the rule of Ibrahim Khalil Khan, the Army Register contained more than 12,000 names. All expenses of the army during the campaign were paid by Ibrahim Khan.[27]


The following is a list of the Khanate's rulers, all from the Javanshir clan.

Portrait Titular Name Full Name Birth Reign Death Notes
Panah Ali Khan.jpg
Panah Ali Khan
(Persian: پناه‌علی‌ خان جوانشیر)
Panah Ali Khan Javanshir 1693
Alaqarghu, Arazbar, Safavid Karabakh
1748 – 1760 1763
Shiraz, Iran
The founder and first ruler of the Karabakh Khanate.[28][5]
Mehrali bey Mehrali Bey Javanshir 1735
Safavid Karabakh
1759 – 1760 1785
Shamakhi, Shirvan Khanate
The de facto leader of the Karabakh Khanate prior to Ibrahim Khalil Khan's arrival from Zand Iran. Most of the information about him came from his descendant Ahmad bey Javanshir's On the Political Affairs of the Karabakh khanate in 1747–1805.[29]
Ibrahim Khalil Khan
(Persian: ابراهیم خلیل جوانشیر)
Ibrahim Khalil Khan Javanshir 1732
Safavid Karabakh
1763 – 12 June 1806 12 June 1806
Khankendi, Karabakh Khanate
He defeated his brother and became ruler of the khanate.[30] As an ally of the Avar Khanate, he fought against the Quba Khanate. He depended on Russia and was killed by them.[31]
Mehdigulu Khan
(Persian: مهدیقلی خان جوانشیر)
Mehdigulu Khan Javanshir 1763 or 1772
13 September 1806 – 1822 14 May 1845
Aghdam, Russian Empire
The last khan of the Karabakh Khanate, functioning as its head from 1806 up to his flight in 1822. His only known issue was Khurshidbanu Natavan - famous Azerbaijani poetess.[32]

See also



  1. ^ Bournoutian, George A. (2016). The 1820 Russian Survey of the Khanate of Shirvan: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of an Iranian Province prior to its Annexation by Russia. Gibb Memorial Trust. p. xvii. ISBN 978-1909724808. Serious historians and geographers agree that after the fall of the Safavids, and especially from the mid-eighteenth century, the territory of the South Caucasus was composed of the khanates of Ganja, Kuba, Shirvan, Baku, Talesh, Sheki, Karabagh, Nakhichivan and Yerevan, all of which were under Iranian suzerainty.
  2. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (2004). Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of a National Identity in a Muslim Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0521522458. (...) and Persian continued to be the official language of the judiciary and the local administration [even after the abolishment of the khanates].
  3. ^ Pavlovich, Petrushevsky Ilya (1949). Essays on the history of feudal relations in Armenia and Azerbaijan in XVI - the beginning of XIX centuries. LSU them. Zhdanov. p. 7. (...) The language of official acts not only in Iran proper and its fully dependant Khanates, but also in those Caucasian khanates that were semi-independent until the time of their accession to the Russian Empire, and even for some time after, was New Persian (Farsi). It played the role of the literary language of class feudal lords as well.
  4. ^ Silaev, Evgeny Dmitrievich. "Azerbaijan". Britannica. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  5. ^ a b Abbas-gulu Aga Bakikhanov. Golestan-i Iram
  6. ^ Gammer, Moshe (1992). Muslim resistance to the tsar. Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0-7146-3431-X. In 1805 the khans of Qarabagh, Shirvan and Sheki swore allegiance to Russia.
  7. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-231-07068-3. The brief and successful Russian campaign of 1812 was concluded with the Treaty of Gulistan, which was signed on October 12 of the following year. The treaty provided for the incorporation into the Russian Empire of vast tracts of Iranian territory, including Daghestan, Georgia with the Sheragel province, Imeretia, Guria, Mingrelia, and Abkhazia, as well as the khanates of Karabagh, Ganja, Sheki, Shirvan, Derbent, Kuba, Baku, and Talysh,
  8. ^ a b Potier, Tim (2001). Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 1: "Panah Ali-Khan founded the Karabakh Khanate in the mid 18th century. To defend it, in the 1750s, he built Panakhabad fortress (subsequently renamed Shusha, after a nearby village) which became the capital of the Khanate. It was not until 1805 that the Russian empire gained control over the Karabakh Khanate, from Persia.". ISBN 90-411-1477-7.
  9. ^ Croissant, Michael (1998). The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications. Praeger/Greenwood. p. 12. ISBN 0-275-96241-5.
  10. ^ Rahmani A. A. Azerbaijan in the late 16th and 17th centuries (1590–1700). Baku,1981, pp.87–89
  11. ^ (A collection of articles on the history of Azerbaijan, edition 1, Baku, 1949, p. 250
  12. ^ Mirza Adigozal-bey, Karabakh-nameh, Baku, 1950, p.47
  13. ^ a b c d Tapper, Richard (1997). Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge University Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-521-47340-3.
  14. ^ Raffi (1918). "The Five Melikdoms of Karabagh". Life and Adventures of Emin Joseph Emin. Translated by Apcar, Amy. Calcutta. p. 335. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2021. Shahnazar needed an ally, and he found one ready to his hand in the Jevanshir ... the two constructed a fort on the banks of the river Karkar as quickly as they could in the intervals of fighting the four Meliks. Shahnazar laid the foundation stone, and the fortress was completed in 1752, the people of the village of Shoshi were brought to live there, and it was named Shoshi or Shushi fortress
  15. ^ a b (in Russian) Mirza Jamal Javanshir Karabagi. The History of Karabakh Archived 2007-01-27 at the Wayback Machine. "They shared these (their) thoughts with Melik Shahnazar bey, who was always their well-wisher. The issue of building the fortress of Shusha was resolved on his advice and instructions."
  16. ^ Адигезаль-Бек, Мирза. "Карабаг-Наме" [Mirza Adigozal bey, Karabaghname]. vostlit.info (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-04-24. And since one of Melik-Shakhnazar's daughters was the wife of Ibragim-khan, they were even connected by familial ties
  17. ^ Hewsen, Robert H., Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 155.
  18. ^ Raffi (1918). "The Five Melikdoms of Karabagh". The Adventures of Hovsep Emin. Calcutta. p. 335. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2021. Shahnazar needed an ally, and he found one ready to his hand in the Jevanshir ... the two constructed a fort on the banks of the river Karkar as quickly as they could in the intervals of fighting the four Meliks. Shahnazar laid the foundation stone, and the fortress was completed in 1752, the people of the village of Shoshi were brought to live there, and it was named Shoshi or Shushi fortress
  19. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-231-07068-3.
  20. ^ Tapper, Richard (1997). Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 114–115. ISBN 0-521-47340-3.
  21. ^ Fisher et al. 1991, p. 126.
  22. ^ Tapper 1997, p. 114.
  23. ^ Gammer, Moshe (1992). Muslim resistance to the tsar. Routledge, 6. ISBN 0-7146-3431-X. “In 1805 the khans of Qarabagh, Shirvan, and Sheki swore allegiance to Russia.”
  24. ^ Busse, H. "ABU'L-FATḤ KHAN JAVĀNŠĪR". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  25. ^ Bilal Dedeyev, Qarabag Xanliginin Idare Sistemi, Ictimai-Iqtisadi, Medeni, Etnik Veziyyeti ve Ordusu, in Qarabag:Bildiklerimiz ve Bilmediklerimiz, Edited by Reha Yilmaz, Qafqaz University Press, Baku 2010, p.167
  26. ^ Mirza Camaloglu, Panah Xan ve Ibrahim Xanin Qarabagda hakimiyyetleri ve o zamanin hadiseleri, in Qarabagnameler, II, Baku 1991, p.243
  27. ^ Mir Mehdi Xezani, Kitabi-Tarixi-Qarabag, in Qarabagnameler, II, Baku 1991, p.199.
  28. ^ "History of Azerbaijan" Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  29. ^ Javanshir, Ăḣmădbăi̐ (1961). О политическом существовании Карабахского ханства: с 1747 по 1805 год (in Russian). Азәрбајҹан ССР Елмләр Академијасы Нәшријјаты. p. 60.
  30. ^ Ismayilov, Eldar (January 2014). "The Khans of Karabakh: The Elder Line by Generations". The Caucasus & Globalization.
  31. ^ Atkin, Muriel (Winter–Spring 1979). "The Strange Death of Ibrahim Khalil Khan of Qarabagh". Iranian Studies. 12 (1/2): 79–107. doi:10.1080/00210867908701551. JSTOR 4310310.
  32. ^ Qarabaghi, Jamal Javanshir; Qarābāghī, Jamāl Javānshīr; Bournoutian, George A. (1994). A History of Qarabagh: An Annotated Translation of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-e Qarabagh. Mazda Publishers. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-56859-011-0.