The Fateful Battle of Krtsanisi
16 September, 2015
The Fateful Battle of Krtsanisi
September 11th, 2015 marks the 220th anniversary of the fateful Krtsanisi Battle, in which Georgian forces, led by King Erekle, were defeated in a long standoff against Persian invaders. Despite the anniversary never being explicitly commemorated in Georgia, it does not in any way reduce its importance. That defeat severely weakened Eastern Georgia, allowing Russia to conquer and annex it.

In violation of the 1783 Giorgievsk treaty, the Russian forces that were supposed to become permanently stationed in the country
immediately withdrew, leaving Georgia alone with its enemies. The rest is history: The treaty signed between Georgia and Russia has provoked Agha Mohammad Khan, the Persian shah, into launching an attack on Georgia, but Russian forces were not there to help.
Times that Georgia went through during King Erekle’s rule we­re hard, but there were no signs of the coming cata­strophe – until Russian forces led by General Totleben and others marched into Georg­ia “to lend a helping hand.” Their appearance in the region signi­fi­cantly tensed Georgia’s relat­i­onship with its nei­ghboring countries. Russians wasted no time in engaging in provocations mainly aimed at getting rid of King Erekle. For instance, they abandoned him and his forces during the Battle of Aspindza, hoping he would not survive. Still, the external threat from Ottoman and Persian empires was so strong that Erekle had no choice but to sign the Treaty of Giorgievsk in 1783, putting the Kartli-Kakheti region under Russian protection.

Georgian political leadership counted on Russia providing military aid to them against what were supposed to be their common enemies. However, in violation of the agreement, the Russian forces that were supposed to become permanently stationed in the country immediately withdrew, leaving Georgia alone with its enemies. The rest is history: The treaty signed between Georgia and Russia provoked Agha Mohammad Khan, the Persian shah, into launching an attack on Georgia, but Russian forces were not there to help.

After Georgians, hopelessly outnumbered by Persian troops, were defeated, Russia immediately moved its forces back into Georgia. Agha Mohammad Khan’s demand for Georgia to break ties with Russia was refused and he started preparing for another attack, but it was cut short by a coup in which he was assassinated. Georgia was spared a second Persian invasion, but remained under Russian occupation.
A similar catastrophe, albeit larger in scale, took place in Kartli-Kakheti when Shah Abbas was the Persian ruler. His invasions resulted in a massive massacre and enslavement of the region’s population. The enslaved Georgians’ descendants live in Iran’s Fereydan province to this day.

It is noteworthy that Shah Abbas’ invasions were preceded by a pact between the king of Kartli-Kakheti and the Russian Empire in 1587, which envisioned the region becoming a Russian protectorate in exchange for its defense against external enemies. After spending a short time garrisoning the Georgian fortresses, the Russian forces were withdrawn. Seeing that, Abbas invaded Georgia four times, effectively decimating the region. Russia did not move a finger to prevent this.

History shows quite clearly that the Russians never intended to help Georgia to begin with. Russia aimed to weaken Georgia or to let it be weakened in order to subsequently conquer it. This policy has its roots in the 16th century and continues to this day.
The treaty of Giorgievsk signed in 1783

The Battle of Krtsanisi, however, is significant due to it representing the peak of Georgian fortitude. Abandoned by allies, Georgians nevertheless made their stand against overwhelming odds, destroying almost half of a 30,000-strong Persian army with a meager force of 5,000 troops. And although they were defeated, they fought like true sons of their homeland. The chronicle of this battle is not a tale of heroes as much as it is one of the last examples of an independent attempt at resisting an enemy invasion in Georgian history. Russia, which moved in to seize the weakened country, put this millennia-long record to an extensive halt.

The defeat in Krtsanisi has severely weakened Eastern Georgia, allowing Russia to conquer and annex it.


Author: Davit Maisuradze
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