Yerevan: A Hotspot of Millennium Conflict and Historical Tension

Geopolitical Shift in Armenia: The 1827 Russo-Persian War

The year 1827 represented a pivotal moment in Armenian history, as the Russo-Persian War led in significant geopolitical shifts in the region. For more than a thousand years, Armenia had been under Muslim rule, but the capture of Yerevan by the Russian army, commanded by General Ivan Paskevich, signified the conclusion of this era. He was made a Count of Erivan (Count of Yerevan) in recognition of his military successes in the Caucasus, particularly during the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828. In this article, we will delve into the geopolitical consequences of this event, which persistently influence the contemporary situation in Armenia.

A Millennium of Muslim Governance:

Following the passing of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, the Muslim conquests expanded into various regions, including parts of Armenia and Anatolia. The Arab Rashidun Caliphate had established authority over Persian Armenia by 645 CE, and Byzantine Armenia had already been seized between 638 and 639 CE.

Before we delve into the events of 1827, it's crucial to grasp the historical backdrop of Armenia's period of Muslim control. Armenia, one of the world's most ancient Christian nations, confronted centuries of political turmoil and foreign governance. It underwent different phases of Persian and Byzantine rule, but it was the arrival of Islam in the 7th century that initiated a thousand-year period of Muslim control.

Throughout this era, Armenia found itself strategically located at the junction of empires, frequently serving as a battleground for the dominant powers in the region. The Arab Caliphate, the Seljuk Turks, and then the Safavid and Qajar dynasties of Persia proclaimed control over Armenian territories, while the Armenian populace struggled to preserve their cultural and religious heritage.

The Russo-Persian War of 1827:

The Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828 played a pivotal role in shaping the history of Armenia and the broader Caucasus Region. This conflict was a part of the larger geopolitical rivalry between the Russian Empire and the Persian Empire, both fighting for dominance and control in the South Caucasus.

Yerevan: A Hotspot of Millennium Conflict and Historical Tension
Russo-Persian War

In 1827, General Ivan Paskevich led the Russian army in a decisive assault on Yerevan, the capital of the Erivan Khanate, which was then under Persian rule. This event marked a significant transformation in the geopolitical dynamics of the area, as it brought an end to centuries of Muslim governance over Armenian territories.

Geopolitical Implications

Russian Expansionism: Russia's borders have shifted for over five centuries, from 1533 to the present, due to a combination of wars, territorial acquisitions, and political alliances. Following a period of significant turmoil and uncertainty between 1598 and 1613, known as the "Time of Troubles," the Romanov family assumed power in 1613. Under their rule, Russia expanded its territories and gained control over additional lands, a process that had begun when Russia was still referred to as the Tsardom.

On October 1, 1827 (or September 13, 1827 by the Julian calendar), during the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828, the Russian Army, led by General Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich, successfully captured Yerevan, the capital city of Eastern Armenia, after a seven-day siege. The capture of Yerevan reflected Russia's ambitions for expansion in the Caucasus Region. The Russian Empire aimed to secure a presence in the South Caucasus and secure access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. This expansionist drive later played a role in escalating tensions between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which in turn reshaped the geopolitical landscape of the area.

Yerevan: A Hotspot of Millennium Conflict and Historical Tension
Armenian-Russian Friendship

Armenian Liberation: For the Armenian people living in Yerevan and nearby areas, the arrival of the Russians was viewed as a liberating force. After enduring years of Persian rule, Armenians saw the Russians as potential guardians of their cultural and religious traditions. This marked the beginning of Russian-Armenian relations, which still impact Armenia's foreign policy today.

Treaty of Turkmenchay: The Treaty of Turkmenchay was an agreement between Qajar Iran and the Russian Empire that ended the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828. It was the second in a series of treaties (the first being the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan and the last being the 1881 Treaty of Akhal) between these two powers. This treaty forced Persia to give up or acknowledge Russian control over territories that had previously belonged to Iran.

The treaty was signed on February 21, 1828, in a place called Torkamanchay, situated between Tabriz and Tehran. According to the terms of the treaty, Persia had to surrender control of several areas in the South Caucasus to Russia. These included the Erivan Khanate, the Nakhchivan Khanate, and what remained of the Talysh Khanate. The border between Russia and Persia was established along the Aras River. These territories now make up present-day Armenia, the southern part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan, and Iğdır Province (which is now part of Turkey).

Yerevan: A Hotspot of Millennium Conflict and Historical Tension
The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The treaty was signed on behalf of Persia by Crown Prince Abbas Mirza and Allah-Yar Khan Asaf al-Daula, who served as the chancellor to Shah Fath Ali of the Qajar dynasty. On behalf of Russia, it was signed by General Ivan Paskievich.

This treaty further hardened Russia's presence in the region and redesigned the geopolitical dynamics of the Caucasus. The consequences of this treaty are still felt in existing politics, as Armenia maintains a gentle balance between its Russian alliance and its desire for independence.

Religious Shifts: The end of Muslim control in Armenia had profound religious consequences. While Islam had been the central religion in the region for centuries, the Russian annexation of Armenian territories allowed for the re-establishment and reappearance of Armenian Christianity. This shift in religious shifting still influences the cultural and religious identity of Armenia today.

Ongoing Tensions: The events of 1827 and the consequent geopolitical changes in the region have left a legacy of ongoing tensions and conflicts. The Caucasus region has historically been a hotbed of geopolitical conflict, with Russia, Iran, and Turkey competing for influence in the area. This competition is driven by the region's strategic location, rich resources, and diverse ethnic and religious groups.

The South Caucasus remains an unstable region with unresolved disputes, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which exploded as the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, highlighted the difficult geopolitical dynamics at play in the Caucasus. The influence of external powers, including Russia, Turkey and Iran, continues to shape the political landscape of Armenia and its neighbors.

Modern Geopolitical Realities:

Today, Armenia finds itself in a complex geopolitical environment, partly shaped by the events of 1827. The country has maintained its independence since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it faces several challenges and dilemmas:

Russian-Armenian Relations: Armenia's ties with Russia are central to its foreign policy. The presence of a Russian military base in Armenia offers security, but it also raises questions about Armenia's sovereignty and reliance on its powerful neighbor.

Regional Conflicts: Ongoing unresolved issues in the South Caucasus, like the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, continue to strain Armenia's relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. These conflicts have deep historical roots dating back to the shifting geopolitics of the 19th century.

Iranian Influence: Iran shares cultural and historical connections with Armenia and shares a border with it. Iran's impact on Armenia is particularly noticeable in cultural and economic aspects.

European Ambitions: Armenia has expressed a desire to strengthen its relationships with Europe and the European Union. This reflects Armenia's efforts to diversify its foreign ties and reduce dependence on any single major power.

Armenia's history has been deeply shaped by its position as a buffer state in the complex web of geopolitics. The Russo-Persian War of 1827 and the capture of Yerevan by the Russian army brought an end to a thousand years of Muslim rule in Armenia. This important event had significant effects on the region's politics that still matter today.

Recently, Nagorno-Karabakh has once again become a source of ongoing tension and conflict. The primary parties in this territorial dispute are Armenia and Azerbaijan, and it's an area where the geopolitical interests of several countries, including Iran, Turkey, and Russia, are at stake. This makes Nagorno-Karabakh a crucial hotspot in the geopolitics of the South Caucasus.