Persia had a long tradition as a great empire ruled by a King of Kings and the next task of the early Kajar rulers, having restored internal security, was to recover the border areas and restore the empire to the preceding Safavid limits. Aga Mohammed Khan, founder of the Kajar dynasty, had begun by invading Georgia and Khorasan and Persian efforts continued to be directed towards these two areas.
The first moves of his successor, Fath Ali Shah, were in the east. In 1799 he advanced to Mashad but stopped there when he learned that the Afghan ruler, Zaman Shah, had marched to Herat. In 1802 the Persians were in Mashad again where they consolidated their hold and three years later they attacked Herat. Internal troubles in Afghanistan prevented aid from reaching the Afghan governor there, and after a Persian victory at Ghurian, he ceded that border fortress to Persia and agreed to pay tribute for Herat. Persia was prevented from following up this success however, because war had broken out with Russia.
Russia had begun to move south of the Caucasus mountains in the late eighteenth century. Georgia was first made a protectorate and in 1801 was annexed to the Russian empire. But Georgia had once belonged to Persia and in fact it was Agha Mohammed Khan's invasion of their land in 1795 that finallly led the Georgians to submit to Russia for protection. War was brought on by Russian encroachment on the Persian vassal khanates of northern Azerbaijan. Initial Russian successes were offset by the need to divert troops and supplies to wars with Turkey and France but by 1813 the Persians had had enough. Fath Ali Shah recognized the Tsar's rule in Georgia and ceded the disputed Khanates as well.
During this war Persia first became involved in European diplomacy. Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 and the Afghan Zaman Shah's repeated wars in the Punjab aroused British fears for their possessions in India. Persia was seen by Britain as a potential check on both these threats and a mission was sent to Persia from India in 1801. But when Zaman Shah was deposed and Britain made peace with Napoleon, these feelers were not followed through. The French on the other hand saw a way to get at both Britain and Russia through Persia. In 1807 Persia signed a treaty with France and welcomed a French military mission. When Napoleon made peace with Russia later that year however, the French pulled out and British interest in Persia revived. Britain signed a treaty with Persia in 1812 and reaffirmed it in 1814, and this treaty lasted up to the siege of Herat. The chief provisions of this treaty were that:
1) Persia would oppose any European army that attempted to invade India by way of Central Asia. 2) The defensive articles (3 & 4) would apply only in cases where the outside power was the aggressor (the only difference between the 1812 and 1814 treaties, this article was added to give the British a loophole). 3) Britain would aid Persia with either troops from India or a yearly subsidy in the event Persia became involved in a war with any European power. 4) This aid would be given even if Britain was at peace with the European power. 5) Persia would attack Afghanistan if the latter was at war with Britain. 6) Britain would not interfere in any war between Persia and Afghanistan.
Persia's activities in the east had been curtailed while fighting Russia. The occasion of a major revolt by tribal chiefs in Khorasan in 1811 was used by the Afghans to retake Ghurian and stop paying tribute for Herat. Other revolts followed the unsuccessful war with Russia and it was not until 1816 that another effort could be made to advance the eastern frontiers. In that year the governor of Mashad advanced on Herat but this time the Afghans were able to send a substantial army from their capitol of Kabul to the scene. There was a battle in which both sides claimed victory but the Persians did not get Herat.
During the 1820's Persia was occupied with war along the Turkish border, and more seriously, a second war with Russia. Persia was dissatisfied with the settlement of 1813 in the Caucasus and in 1826, after the initial outbreak of fighting, a massive Persian invasion threw back the Russian forces. Russia recovered swiftly however, and in the following year defeated the Persians in battle and captured Tabriz. During the war, Persia had appealed to the British for aid under the terms of the 1814 treaty. Britain however, trying to reach an accommodation with Russia, chose to see Persia as the aggressor and refused to extend any aid. Defeated in 1828, Persia ceded further territory and agreed to pay an indemnity to Russia. The British then negotiated a release from their obligation to aid the Persians in return for a sum of money that Persia desperately needed to pay the first installment of the Russian indemnity.
During the first few years of the reign of Fath Ali Shah, the prospects for a Persian restoration had seemed rather good. In fact, when order was restored the economy began to recover and the population began to grow again. These conditions were most apparent around the new capital, Tehran, and in the northwestern province of Azerbaijan. In other areas however, recovery had barely begun. The south suffered from oppression and neglect and Khorasan was still racked by wars and rebellions. Militarily, restoration was even less successful. Efforts to regain the Caucasus ended with crushing defeats at the hands of the Russians. Even in the east where there was less opposition, the Kajars could make little headway. But far from giving up, after 1828 the Kajars would try even harder to recover the east to make up for what was lost forever in the west.
Notes to Chapter 2
Eliphinstone, Caubul, pp. 596-97; Robert G. Watson, A History of Persia from the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century to the Year 1858 (London: Smith and Elder, 1866), pp. 156-57.
David M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy 1658-1837 (New York: Columbia University, 1957), pp. 205-06.
John F. Baddeley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus (New York: Russell and Russell, 1908), pp. 57-91.
G. J. Alder, "Britain and the Defence of India -- The Origins of the Problem 1798- 1815," Journal of Asian History VI, 1 (1972), 15-22.
Sir Percy Sykes, A History of Persia, II (London: Macmillan, 1915), pp. 395-409.
C. U. Aitchison, ed., A Collection of Treaties, Engagements, and Sunnuds Relating to India and Neighboring Countries, VII (Calcutta: Government Printing, 1865), pp. 121-129.
Joseph P. Ferrier, History of the Afghans (London: J. Murray, 1858), pp. 151-156; Robert Watson, A History of Persia, pp. 193-197.
Baddeley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, pp. 152-181.
John B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf 1795-1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p.261; Melvin E. Yapp, "The Control of the Persia Mission 1822-1836," University of Birmingham Historical Journal, VII, 2 (1960), 170-71.
Watson, History of Persia, pp. 243-245; Yapp, "The Control of the Persia Mission," 171.