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.

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.

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 Flag of Agha Mohammad Khan.svg Qajar dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Russian Empire Catherine the Great
Russian Empire Valerian Zubov
Flag of Agha Mohammad Khan.svg 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


  1. ^ Iranian-Russian Encounters: Empires and Revolutions Since 1800 p 51
  2. ^ Iranian-Russian Encounters: Empires and Revolutions Since 1800 p 51
  3. ^ Cronin, Stephanie. Iranian-Russian Encounters: Empires and Revolutions Since 1800 Routledge 2013. ISBN 978-0415624336 p 51
  4. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia (2 volumes): A Historical Encyclopedia ABC-CLIO, 22 jul. 2011 ISBN 978-1598843378 page 763


  • 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.


was a leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1796th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 796th year of the 2nd millennium, the 96th year of the 18th century, and the 7th year of the 1790s decade. As of the start of 1796, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.


Armeno-Tats (Armenian: հայ-թաթեր – hay-tater) are a distinct group of Tat-speaking Armenians that historically populated eastern parts of the South Caucasus. Most scholars researching the Tat language, such as Boris Miller and Igrar Aliyev, agree that Armeno-Tats are ethnic Armenians who underwent a language shift and adopted Tat as their first language. This is explained on one hand by the self-identification of Armeno-Tats who stated during Miller's research that they consider themselves Armenian as well as by some linguistic features of their dialect.

Black Sea Cossack Host

Black Sea Cossack Host (Russian: Черномо́рское каза́чье во́йско; Ukrainian: Чорномо́рське коза́цьке ві́йсько), also known as Chernomoriya (Russian: Черномо́рия), was a Cossack host of the Russian Empire created in 1787 in southern Ukraine from former Zaporozhian Cossacks. In the 1790s, the host was re-settled to the Kuban River. It comprised the Caucasus Fortified Defence Line from the mouth of the Kuban River to the mouth of the Bolshaya Laba River.

Caspian Flotilla

The Caspian Flotilla (Russian: Каспийская флотилия, tr. Kaspiyskaya flotiliya) is the flotilla of the Russian Navy in the Caspian Sea.

Established in November 1722 by the order of Tsar Peter the Great as part of the Imperial Russian Navy, the Caspian Flotilla is the oldest brown-water navy flotilla in the Russian Navy. In 1918, the fleet was inherited by the Russian SFSR then the Soviet Union in 1922, where it formed part of the Soviet Navy and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1945. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Caspian Flotilla and most of its vessels were inherited by the Russian Federation.

The Caspian Flotilla's headquarters are located in Astrakhan, but were historically in Baku (now in Azerbaijan) from 1867 until 1991, with additional facilities in Makhachkala (HQ being moved there) and Kaspiysk. The current commander is Rear Admiral Sergey Pinchuk.

Charles de Lambert (soldier)

Count Charles-Marie de Lambert (15 June 1773 – 30 May 1843), was a French Royalist general who fought for Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.

Javad Khan

Jafar al-Javad Khan Ziyad oghlu Qajar (c. 1748 – 1804) was a member of the Qajar dynasty, and the last khan of the Ganja khanate from 1786 to 1804.

Levin August von Bennigsen

Levin August Gottlieb Theophil Graf von Bennigsen (10 February 1745 in Braunschweig – 3 December 1826 in Banteln) was a German general in the service of the Russian Empire.

Pavel Tsitsianov

Prince Pavel Dmitriyevich Tsitsianov (Russian: Павел Дмитриевич Цицианов), also known as Pavle Dimitris dze Tsitsishvili (Georgian: პავლე ციციშვილი; 19 September [O.S. 8 September] 1754—20 February [O.S. 8 February] 1806) was a Georgian nobleman and a prominent General of the Imperial Russian Army. Responsible for conquering large parts of Persia's Caucasus territories during the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813, from 1802 to 1806 he also served as the Russian Commander-in-chief in the Caucasus.

Persian War

Persian War may refer to:

Persian War (horse) (1963–1984), British-trained racehorse

Persian Wars or Greco-Persian Wars

Persian War, the first two books of The Wars of Justinian by Procopius

Peter Wittgenstein

Louis Adolph Peter, 1st Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Ludwigsburg-Berleburg (German: Ludwig Adolf Peter Fürst zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg; Russian: Пётр Христиа́нович Ви́тгенштейн, tr. Pyotr Khristiánovich Vítgenshteyn; 17 January [O.S. 6 January] 1769 – 11 June 1843), better known as Peter Wittgenstein in English, was a Prince of the German dynasty Sayn-Wittgenstein and Field Marshal in the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic wars.

Pyotr Kotlyarevsky

Pyotr Stepanovich Kotlyarevsky (June 23, 1782 – November 2, 1852) was a Russian military hero of the early 19th century.

Pyotr Papkov

Pyotr Afanasievich Papkov (Russian: Папков, Петр Афанасьевич, 1772-1853) was a Russian mayor-general and statesman.

Roman Bagration

Prince Roman (Revaz) Ivanovich Bagration (Russian: Роман (Реваз) Иванович Багратион, Georgian: რომან (რევაზ) ბაგრატიონი Roman (Revaz) Bagrat'ioni) (1778 – 1834) was a Georgian nobleman and a general in the Imperial Russian Army. A scion of the Georgian royal family Bagrationi, he was a brother of Pyotr Bagration, a notable Russian commander during the Napoleonic Wars.

Son of Prince Ivan Aleksandrovich Bagration.

Russian Caucasus Forces (before 1865)

Before the creation of the Caucasus Military District in 1865, Russian forces in the Caucasus were organized, at different times, in a number of formations under various names.

Shirvan Khanate

Shirvan Khanate (Persian: خانات شیروان‎ — Khānāt-e Shirvan) was a khanate founded by the Afsharid dynasty that existed in what is now Azerbaijan in 1748—1820.

Storming of Derbent

The Storming of Derbent (Russian: Штурм Дербента) took place on 10 May 1796 during the Persian Expedition of 1796. Derbent, an ancient city with thick walls has a favorable geopolitical position, which locks the coastal passage between the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian.

Treaty of Georgievsk

The Treaty of Georgievsk (Russian: Георгиевский трактат, Georgievskiy traktat; Georgian: გეორგიევსკის ტრაქტატი, georgievskis trakt'at'i) was a bilateral treaty concluded between the Russian Empire and the east Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti on July 24, 1783. The treaty established eastern Georgia as a protectorate of Russia, which guaranteed its territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning Bagrationi dynasty in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs. By this, eastern Georgia abjured any form of dependence on Persia (who had been its suzerain for centuries) or another power, and every new Georgian monarch of Kartli-Kakheti would require the confirmation and investiture of the Russian tsar.

Valerian Zubov

Count Valerian Aleksandrovich Zubov (1771–1804) was a Russian general who led the Persian Expedition of 1796. His siblings included Platon Zubov and Olga Zherebtsova.

As a young man Zubov had flattering prospects of a brilliant military career due to his brother Platon's ascendancy at Catherine II's court. He was reputed by contemporaries as "the handsomest man in Russia". The legend has it that the aged Empress flirted with him, secretly from his brother.

During her reign he was much lionized as a military hero of incredible valor. He was appointed General-Major and sent to assist Suvorov in quelling the Kościuszko Uprising in Poland, where he was said to treat both the Polish noblemen and their wives brazenly and "in the most lowly manner". During this stay in Poland, he married Teodor Lubomirski's granddaughter and lost his left leg in the autumn of 1794 while crossing the Western Bug, as he was wounded by a cannonball.

Several months before Catherine's death, 24-year-old Zubov was invited to take charge of the army heading for Persia. The expedition, launched in 1796, initially under the motto of complying to the promise Russia had made 23 years earlier to Georgia to protect it against any Persian attempts to bring the country under its hegemony again, was now just one of another wars for regional hegemony that was going on for a long time between Turkey, Persia, and Imperial Russia.

Zubov started the expedition much promising, seizing Derbent in Dagestan in April, and Baku by July of the same year the invasion started. Catherine waxed jubilent at his rapid progress, which in two months repeated some of the gains of Peter the Great during the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723). 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 I, who detested the Zubovs and had other plans for the army, ordered the troops to retreat back to Russia. Zubov's return from his luckless expedition occasioned an ode by Derzhavin, meditating on the fleeting nature of fortune and success.

Armed conflicts involving Russia (incl. Imperial and Soviet times)

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.