Political map of the eastern part of the Southern Caucasus between 1795 and 1801

The khanates of the Caucasus,[1] also known as the Azerbaijani khanates,[a] Persian khanates,[b] or Iranian khanates,[c] were various administrative units in the South Caucasus governed by a hereditary or appointed ruler under the official rule of Iran. The title of the ruler was khan, which was identical to the Ottoman rank of pasha.[2] Following the assassination of Nader Shah (r. 1736–1747) in 1747, internal chaos erupted in Iran, particularly in the South Caucasus, where semi-autonomous khanates emerged as a result of the lack of a centralized government.[3] The khans neither had territorial or religious unity, nor an ethnic/national identity. They were mostly interested in preserving their positions and income.[4]

The word "khanate" is an Anglicized form of the Russian word khanstvo and the Armenian word khanut'iun. In Persian, the word "khanate" is nonexistent; instead they were referred to as ulka or tuman, and a hakem (governor), was in charge of them. The shah could promote a hakem's status to that of a khan, but the hakem could also adopt the title himself.[5] In terms of structure, the khanates were a miniature version of Iranian kingship.[6] The administrative and literary language in the South Caucasus until the end of the 19th century was Persian, with Arabic being used only for religious studies, despite the fact that most of the Muslims in the region spoke a Turkic dialect.[7]

The Russo-Iranian War of 1804–1813 ended with the Treaty of Gulistan, which amongst other things led to the Iranian loss of seven khanates; Ganja, Karabakh, Quba, Derbent, Baku, Shirvan, and Shaki.[8][9] The northern and central part of the Talysh Khanate, along with a part of northern Erivan (Shuregol), was also ceded to the Russian Empire.[8] Following the conclusion of the Russo-Iranian War of 1826–1828 and the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Iran also lost the Erivan and Nakhichevan khanates to the Russians.[10]


The khanates that soon emerged after the death of Nader Shah in 1747 were the following:[11]


A number of these khanates, including Ganja, Shirvan, Shaki, Derbent, and Karabakh, produced their own coins, first in the name of Nader Shah and then in the name of the Zand ruler Karim Khan Zand. A large portion of their coinage was completely nameless by the end of the 18th-century. While a few uncommon issues of Derbent contain a vague reference to one of their khans, none of the khans ever put their names on their coins,[12] due to lacking the legitimacy of an sovereign monarch and any claims to independence.[13] These northern Iranian coins were made entirely of silver and copper.[12]

While the value of the copper coin in the khanates are unknown, the silver coins' value continued to be the same as the abbasi and its divisions. In 1770, the German scholar Johann Friedrich Gmelin made the observation that the full worth of a coin could only be understood in the region in which it was originally struck, and that relocating cost money. As had been the circumstance with copper money prior to the 1730s, this implied that silver coins were used as tokens in the khanates.[12]

See also


  1. ^ The term Azerbaijani (or Azeri) khanates is used by several authors:
    • Swietochowski, Tadeusz (2004), "Azerbaijani khanates and the conquest by Russia", Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521522455,

      In 1747 Nadir Shah, the strong ruler who had established his hold over Persia eleven years earlier, was assassinated in a palace coup, and his empire fell into chaos and anarchy. These circumstances effectively terminated the suzerainty of Persia over Azerbaijan, where local centers of power emerged in the form of indigenous principalities, independent or virtually so, inasmuch as some maintained tenuous links to Persia's weak Zand dynasty.

      Thus began a half-century-long period of Azerbaijani independence, albeit in a condition of deep political fragmentation and internal warfare. Most of the principalities were organized as khanates, small replicas of the Persian monarchy, including Karabagh, Sheki, Ganja, Baku, Derbent, Kuba, Nakhchivan, Talysh, and Erivan in northern Azerbaijan and Tabriz, Urmi, Ardabil, Khoi, Maku, Maragin, and Karadagh in its southern part. Many of the khanates were subdivided into mahals (regions), territorial units inhabited by members of the same tribe, reflecting the fact that residue of tribalism was still strong.

    • Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1993), Russia's Transcaucasian Policies and Azerbaijan: Ethnic Conflict and Regional Unity // In a collapsing empire. Feltrinelli Editore, p. 190, An Armenian oblast' (district) was created on the territory of the former Azerbaijani khanates of Erivan and Nakhichevan, yet remarkably there followed no large scale manifestation of ethnic strife in the countryside.
    • Mostashari, Firouzeh (2006), "The Caucasian Campaigns and the Azerbaijani Khanates", On the religious frontier: Tsarist Russia and Islam in the Caucasus. I.B. Tauris, New York, ISBN 1850437718, The success of the Russian campaigns in annexing the Transcaucasian territories was not solely due to the resolve of the generals and their troops, or even their superiority over the Persian military. The independent khanates, themselves, were disintegrating from within, helplessly weakening one another with their internal rivalries.((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
    • Strausz-Hupé, Robert; Hazard, Harry W. (1958), The idea of colonialism, Praeger, p. 77, In 1804 Russian troops occupied the khanate of Ganja, and this was followed by the surrender of several other autonomous Azeri khanates in western Azerbaijan.
    • Murinson, Alexander (2009), Turkey's Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan, Routledge, p. 2, The core territory of modern-day Azerbaijan, i.e. Shirvan, Quba and other Azeri Khanates in the Caucasus, served historically as place of refuge for Persian and later Russian Jews.
    • Yemelianova, Galina M. (2009), Radical Islam in the Former Soviet Union, Routledge, p. 149, With the fall of the Safawid empire in 1722, a number of independent khanates emerged on the territory of modern Azerbaijan. Among them were the khanates of Bakı, Gəncə, Qarabağ, Quba, Naxçıvan, Şirvan, Şəki, and Şamaxı. By 1805, the khanates of Qarabağ and Şirvan had become protectorates of the Russian Empire. In two wars between Russia and Qajār Persia in 1804–1813 and 1826–1828, the Russians conquered other Azerbaijani khanates.
    • Kazemzadeh, Firuz (1951), The Struggle for Transcaucasia, Templar Press, p. 6, All through the nineteenth century Russia kept driving southward. By the treaty of Gulistan (1813) she acquired Karabagh and Shirvan, as well as Talish. Thus the Azerbaijani Khanates were separated from Persia and added to the enormous body of the Russian Empire.
    • Huttenbach, Henry R. (1990), Soviet Nationality Policies, Mansell, p. 222, The pattern of the Russian conquest varied: in some cases, notably in the Azerbaijani khanate of Ganja, the emirate of Bukhara, the khanate of Kokand and Turkmenistan, violence and bloodshed were involved.
    • Nahaylo, Bohdan; Swoboda, Victor (1990), Soviet Disunion. A History of the Nationalities Problem in the USSR, Simon and Schuster, p. 12, Its inhabitants being Shiite, the Azerbaijani khanate was more closely linked with Persia than with their Turkish kin. Peter the Great defeated Persia and annexed the Derbent and Baku regions of Azerbaijan in 1724.
    • Batalden, Stephen K. (1997), The Newly Independent States of Eurasia, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 110, The 1812 Treaty of Gulistan and the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai ended the two Russo-Persian wars and brought Azerbaijani khanates north of the Aras River under Russian control.
    • Allworth, Edward (1994), Muslim Communities Reemerge. Historical Perspectives on Nationality, Duke University Press, p. 47, One of the first consequences of the conquest was the gradual dismantling of the Azerbaijani khanates, the principalities that had formed the political structure of the country. The khanates of Ganja, Shirvan, Talysh, Baku, Karabagh, Sheki, Nakhchivan, Derbent, and Kuba disappeared, one after the other, for the most part during the 1830s and the 1840s, and the process of breaking up these traditional polities contributed to the weakening of deeply rooted local particularisms
    • Encyclopædia Iranica, "ĀḴŪNDZĀDA", H. Algar (link); The third comedy, Sargoḏašt-e wazīr-e Lankarān, written in 1851, satirizes corrupt and tyrannical rulers, and is set in the period of the Azerbaijani khanates, on the eve of Russian rule.
  2. ^
    • Ronald G. Suny. "They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide", (Princeton University Press, 2015), 70; "In 1828 the Russian army took the Persian khanate of Erevan (which nearly a century later would become the capital of independent Armenia) and established a new frontier on the Arax River".
    • Rouben Paul Adalian. "Historical Dictionary of Armenia", (Scarecrow Press, 2010), 471; "(...) in the town of Ashtarak in Eastern Armenia during the period of the Persian khanates."
    • David Marshall Lang. "The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832", (Columbia University Press, 1957), 153; "(...) and to obtain the Persian regent Kerim Khan's recognition of Georgian suzerainty over the Persian khanates north of (...)"
    • Alexander Bitis. "Russia and the Eastern Question: Army, Government and Society, 1815-1833", (Oxford University Press, 2006), 223; "(...) Persian khanates north of the Arax."
    • S. Frederick Starr. "The legacy of history in Russia and the new states of Eurasia", (M.E. Sharpe, 1994), 259; "(...) to welcome the Russian armies and the annexation of the Persian khanates north of the Araxes River between 1806 and 1828."
    • Britannica online, "Azerbaijan", History section (link); "Persian-ruled khanates in Shirvan (Şamaxı), Baku, Ganja (Gäncä), Karabakh, and Yerevan dominated this frontier of Ṣafavid Iran. (...) After a series of wars between the Russian Empire and Iran, the treaties of Golestān (Gulistan; 1813) and Turkmenchay (Torkmānchāy; 1828) established a new border between the empires. Russia acquired Baku, Shirvan, Ganja, Nakhichevan (Naxçıvan), and Yerevan.
    • Jo Laycock. Chapter: "Developing a Soviet Armenian Nation: Refugees and Resettlement in the Early Soviet South Caucasus". In: Krista A. Goff, Lewis H. Siegelbaum, eds, "Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands" (Cornell University Press, 2019), 108; "The incorporation of the Persian Khanates of Erivan and Nakhichevan into the Russian Empire in 1828 and the addition of the Ottoman provinces of Kars, Ardahan, and Batumi after 1878 were all followed by the movement of tens of thousands of Armenians from Anatolia and Persia into the new Russian imperial territories."
    • Norman E. Saul. "Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy", (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 152; "In the wake of the Napoleonic Invasion of 1812, and with the assistance of Great Britain, the Russian Empire concluded the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), with major gains of disputed territories in the eastern Caucasus, including parts of Armenia and Azerbaijan, ceded by the Persian Empire. The treaty, concluded in the town of Gulistan in the Persian khanate of Qarabag (Karabakh) in October 1813, not only expanded Russian territory beyond the Caucasus Mountains but also relieved Russia of fighting a subsidiary war during (...)."
  3. ^
    • George A. Bournoutian. "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", (Mazda Publishers, 2016).
    • George A. Bournoutian. "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, 2016), pp. xvi-xvii, 6 (amongst many others);
      • "Following the conquest of the former Iranian khanates of Baku, Shirvan, Sheki, Karabagh and Talesh, the Russians combined them into (...)"
      • "In 1827, Tsar Nicholas I finally replaced Yermolov with General Ivan Paskevich, who roundly defeated the Iranians and forced them, in 1828, to sign the Treaty of Turkmenchay (Torkmanchay), by which the last two remaining Iranian khanates of Yerevan and Nakhichevan, as well as (...)."
      • "In 1840, tsarist policy, which favored a more uniform system for the region, consolidated all of South Caucasus into two provinces (...) were made part of the Georgian-Imeretian Province, while the rest of the former Iranian khanates formed the Caspian Province."
      • "In the 1930s, a number of Soviet historians, including the prominent Russian Orientalist, Ilya Petrushevskii, were instructed by the Kremlin to accept the totally unsubstantiated notion that the territory of the former Iranian khanates (except Yerevan, which had become Soviet Armenia) was part of an Azerbaijani nation."
    • Encyclopædia Iranica. AZERBAIJAN, (1987); "This new entity consisted of the former Iranian Khanates of Arrān, including Karabagh, Baku, Shirvan, Ganja, Talysh (Ṭāleš), Derbent (Darband), Kuba, and Nakhichevan (Naḵjavān), which had been annexed to Russia by the treaties of Golestān (1813) and Torkamānčāy (1828) under the rubric of Eastern Transcaucasia."
    • George A. Bournoutian. "The 1829-1832 Russian Surveys of the Khanate of Nakhichevan (Nakhjavan): A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of an Iranian Province Prior to Its Annexation by Russia", (Mazda Publishers, 2016).
    • George A. Bournoutian. "Armenia and Imperial Decline: The Yerevan Province, 1900-1914", (Routledge, 2018), 6; "(...) After establishing Tiflis as its administrative and military headquarters in the region, Russia attacked the Iranian Khanate of Ganja (Ganjeh) and began the First Russo-Iranian War (1804-1813). (...) By 1813, the restraints of these other military engagements were removed, and following a number of defeats, Iran was forced to sign the Gulistan (Golestan) agreement. The treaty, which the Iranians considered to be only an armistice, handed the former Iranian khanates of Ganja, Derbent (Darband), Kuba (Qobbeh), Shirvan, Karabagh (Qarabagh), Sheki (Shakki) and parts of Talysh (Talesh) to Russia (...)"


  1. ^ Cronin, Stephanie, ed. (2013). Iranian-Russian Encounters: Empires and Revolutions Since 1800. Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 978-0415624336. The shah's dominions, including the khanates of the Caucasus, included only about 5 to 6 million inhabitants against Russia's 500,000-strong army and estimated 40 million population.
  2. ^ Bournoutian 1976, p. 23.
  3. ^ Bournoutian 2016a, pp. 107–108.
  4. ^ Bournoutian 2016a, p. 120.
  5. ^ Bournoutian 2016b, p. 2 (see note 7).
  6. ^ Swietochowski 1995, p. 2.
  7. ^ Bournoutian 1994, p. 1.
  8. ^ a b Behrooz 2023, p. 102.
  9. ^ Daniel 2001, pp. 86–90.
  10. ^ Behrooz 2023, p. 128.
  11. ^ Bournoutian 2016a, pp. 107–108; Bournoutian 2021, p. 11
  12. ^ a b c Matthee, Floor & Clawson 2013, p. 170.
  13. ^ Akopyan & Petrov 2016, pp. 1–2.