History of the City of Baku. Part II.

The II half of the XVI century and the beginning of the XVII century were marked by the sequence of wars between the Safavis’ state and the Ottoman Turkey. At that time Baku changed hands. In 1578 the city was occupied by the Ottoman army. In 1580 the Safavis defeated the Ottoman forces, but in 1684 the Ottomans recaptured Baku. In 1590 the Safavis’ Shah Abbas I had to make heavy peace with the Turks according to which they took over the northern and southern provinces of Azerbaijan. Shah Abbas I made use of the respite in the war with the Ottomans, reinforced the army and resumed the war. In 1607 Baku was transferred to the dominion of the Safavis again. According to the agreement reached in Istanbul in 1612 the Safavis took over the entire Azerbaijan and the neighbouring provinces.

The reinforcement of the centralized power, the termination of the devastating wars and feudal discords in the 40s of the XVII century gave an impetus to the flourishing of the urban life. Copper coins were minted, carpet weaving, as well as extraction and trade of oil and salt were developed in Baku in the period of the Safavis. The houses built in the city in the XVII-XVIII centuries testify to the flourishing of architecture and stone carving. At this time Baku was enclosed with a second row of fortress walls.

The XVII century is marked by the inroads of the Don and Volga kazakhs on Apsheron. In April 1660 the kazakhs led by Stepan Razin attacked the Baku coast and plundered the village of Mashtaga. He was said to have lived in a cave near the village of Sabunchu from where he made his plundering raids.

Beginning from the XVIII century the rich natural resources and significant strategic importance of the city started to attract the attention of Russia to it. Peter I tried to occupy the western and southern shores of the Caspian and become the host of the Caspian by ousting the Turks and Iranians. To capture the Caspian coastal areas he organized a special naval expedition. At the end of June 1723 a squadron of 7 vessels was sent from Astrakhan under Mayor-General Matyushkin. On 26 June 1723 after a lasting siege and firing from the cannons Baku surrendered to the Russians. According to Peter’s decree the soldiers of two regiments(2382 people) were left in the Baku garrison under the command of Prince Baryatyanski, the commandant of the city.

Wishing to consolidate his position in the region Peter I pursued an active policy to settle the Christians, mainly the Armenians in Baku. On November 10, 1724, shortly before his death, Peter I received 4 delegates of the Armenian people who were petitioning for “ the relief to the Armenians and permission for them to settle in the Caspian provinces”. On the same day Peter I presented the credentials to the Armenian Patriarch Isay and the entire Armenian people permitting the Armenians to settle in Gilan, Mazandaran and Baku. General Matyushkin and Brigadier Levashov were ordered “to make all possible efforts to arrange the Armenians’ settlement in Gilan, Mazandaran, Baku, Derbend and so on, and to oust the Persians (the Azerbaijanis) when opportunity offers” (Butkov’s report). Thus the settlement of the Armenians in Baku mainly goes back to that time. In 1724 about 5 thousand Kazan Tatars, Cheremisses, Chuvashes who had been deported to Baku for shipbuilding also started to settle in Baku.

After Peter’s death in 1725 the Caspian areas became a burden on the Russians. A big army was required to maintain the occupied territories, but the incomes did not cover the expenses. By 1730 the situation had deteriorated as Nadir shah, a talented commander rose in Iran. Nadir Shah’s successes in Shirvan made the Russians conclude an agreement near Ganja on March 10, 1735 according to which the Russian troops were withdrawn from Baku. Again Baku went under the dominion of Iran.

Nadir Shah was murdered as a result of a palace revolution in 1747 which was followed by his empire’s fall. A number of independent khanates were formed in the territory of Azerbaijan, one of the significant among them was the Baku khanate. Seizing power Mirza Mahammad khan (1747-1768) stood at the head of the Baku khanate. During his 20 year power Mirza Mahammad khan was involved in the restoration of the economy of the country, contributed the development of trade. Being an admiral he directed all his efforts at shipbuilding for the freight transportation and military purposes.

He was followed by his son Malik Mahammad khan. There was no end to the feudal intestine dissensions among separate khans. The Baku khan was also involved in this struggle and fought on the side of Fatali khan of Guba subject to him and having ties of relationship with him. In 1784 Malik Mahammad khan died leaving the Baku throne to his son Mirza Mahammad khan II, who later became the father of A.Bakikhanov, the famous Azerbaijani historian. The following years were also spent on the struggle among khans. The intestine dissensions in the Baku khanate took place mainly because of the oil fields which brought enormous incomes.

Despite a certain revival in the economy in this period, Azerbaijan suffered heavy losses at the end of the XVIII century as a result of devastating inroads by the Iranian ruler Aga Mahammad khan Gajar who overrode all the provinces of Iran and the south of Azerbaijan. In 1795 Aga Mahammad khan Gajar invaded and destroyed Baku, but soon his army left Shirvan.

Having seen Aga Mahammad khan Gajar’s reinforcement the czarist government began to pursue a policy of subduing Azerbaijan to Russia. In the spring of 1796 by Yekaterina II’s order General Zubov’s troops started a large campaign of the tzarist military forces in Transcaucasia. Baku surrendered after the first demand of Zubov who had sent 6 thousand militants to capture the city. On June 13 1796 the Caspian flotilla entered the Baku bay and a garrison of the Russian troops was placed in Baku. General P.D.Sisianov was appointed the commandant of the city. But after Yekaterina II’s death her son Pavel I ordered to cease the campaign of the Russian forces and withdraw them back to Russia. In March 1797 the tzarist troops left Baku. After his father Pavel I’s death in March 1801 Alexandre I began to show a special interest in capturing the Caspian provinces and Baku in particular. The Russian – Iranian wars (1804-1813) accelerated his plans. Prince Sisianov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the troops in the Caucasus.

In 1803 Sisianov reached an agreement with the Baku khan to compromise. The khan even swore an oath of citizenship to Russia, but the agreement was soon annulled. At the beginning of 1806 marching with a big army Sisianov united with General Zavalishin’s fleet at 2 verst distance of Baku and restarted to conduct negotiations with the Baku khan on the surrender of the city. In a reply to the refusal on capitulation the city was exposed to firing of the marine flotilla after which the ruler of Baku Huseingulu khan gave his consent to surrender the city. On February 8, 1806 under the accompaniment of the retinue Huseingulu khan of Baku left the city to present the city’s keys to Sisianov. When Sisianov accepted the keys he and Prince Elizbar Erstov standing next to him were suddenly killed by two people from among the retinue. Sisianov’s body was chopped on the spot by the citizens of Baku who had run out of the fortress. After this his head was sent to Fatali Shah in Iran and his body was buried in front of the Shamakhy gates where his murder had taken place. Having heard of Sisianov’s death the Russian army retreated. But this murder only put off the city’s capture. On October 3, 1806 General Bulgakov’s forces captured Baku without striking a blow the Baku Khanate was annexed to Russia. Huseingulu khan of Baku fled to Iran.

In addition the Gulustan treaty signed between Russia and Iran in 1813 legalized the annexation of the Baku kahanate to the Russian empire. However, the treaty did not solve all the Russian-Iranian contradictions. And the former Baku khan did not give up his hope to return to the power. In July 1826 when the Iranian army invaded the boundary of Northern Azerbaijan a detachment headed by Huseingulu khan made for Baku and seiged the city. He was actively supported by the inhabitants of Baku and its neighbouring villages that revolted against the Russians. But the defeat of the Iranian army as well as the action of the Russian army directed against the Baku khan, forced the latter to return to Iran in October 1826. With the termination of the last Russian-Iranian war in 1828 the Turkmanchay treaty was signed which divided Azerbaijan between Russia and Iran along the river Araks and officially annexed the occupied areas including Baku to Russia. That was a national tragedy, however the treaty contributed to the termination of wars in the region and its further development.

At that time Baku was limited itself to Ichari Shahar – the Inner City surrounded by the fortress walls with only about 300 houses and 3000 inhabitants. Only after the termination of the Russian-Iranian war of 1826-1828 the city began to grow gradually.