Persian Expedition of 1796

The Persian Expedition of Catherine the Great, alongside the Persian Expedition of Peter the Great, was one of the Russo-Persian Wars of the 18th century which did not entail any lasting consequences for either belligerent.

Russo-Persian War of 1796
Part of Russo-Persian Wars
DateApril - November 1796

Status quo ante bellum

  • Tactical Russian victory
  • Strategic Persian victory
  • Russian withdrawal after the death of Catherine II
 Russian Empire Qajar dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Catherine the Great
Valerian Zubov
Agha Mohammad Khan
50,000[1] (other estimates suggest 30,000-40,000)[2] Tofangchi Musketeers
Royal Regiment of Mohammad Khan
Northern Town Watch
Casualties and losses
2,150 men unknown

The last decades of the 18th century were marked by continual strife between rival claimants to the Peacock Throne. Catherine the Great of Russia took advantage of the disorder to consolidate her control over the weak polities of the Caucasus, which was, for swaths of it, an integral Persian domain. The kingdom of Georgia, a subject of the Persians for many centuries, became a Russian protectorate in 1783, when Erekle II signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, whereby the Empress promised to defend him in case of the Iranian attack. The shamkhals of Tarki followed the lead and accepted Russian protection three years later.

With the enthronement of Agha Mohammad Khan as Shah of Persia in 1794 the political climate changed. He put an end to the period of dynastic strife and proceeded to re-strengthen the hold of the Caucasus by re-garrisoning the Iranian territories and cities in what is modern-day Dagestan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as ravaging and recapturing Georgia and reducing its capital Tbilisi to a pile of ashes in 1795. Belatedly, Catherine II was determined to mount a punitive expedition against the Shah. The ultimate goal for the Russian government was to topple the anti-Russian shah, and to replace him with a half-brother of Agha Muhammad Khan, namely Morteza Qoli Khan, who had defected to Russia, and was therefore pro-Russian.[3][4]

Although it was widely expected that a 50,000-strong Russian corps would be led by a seasoned general (Gudovich), the Empress followed the advice of her lover, Prince Zubov, and entrusted the command to his youthful brother, Count Valerian Zubov. The Russian troops set out from Kizlyar in April 1796 and stormed the key fortress of Derbent on 10 May. The event was glorified by the court poet Derzhavin in his famous ode; he was later to comment bitterly on Zubov's inglorious return from the expedition in another remarkable poem.

By mid-June, Zubov's troops overran without any resistance most of the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan, including three principal cities — Baku, Shemakha and Ganja. By November, they were stationed at the confluence of the Araks and Kura Rivers, poised to attack mainland Iran.

It was in that month that the Empress of Russia died and her successor Paul, who detested the Zubovs and had other plans for the army, ordered the troops to retreat back to Russia. This reversal aroused the frustration and enmity of the powerful Zubovs and other officers who took part in the campaign: many of them would be among the conspirators who arranged Paul's murder five years later.



  • Gen. V.A. Potto. The Caucasian Wars of Russia from the 16th century onward. Volumes 1-5. SPb, 1885–86, reprinted in 2006. ISBN 5-9524-2107-5.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.