The Capture of Rasht, also written as Capture of Resht, occurred between December 1722 and late March 1723 amidst the successful spree of campaigns of Peter the Great during the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723). The capture of Rasht brought the Caspian Sea town alongside the rest of Gilan into Russian possession for a decade, until the Treaty of Resht of 1732, when they would be returned.
Capture and battle
The war went on swiftly for Peter and his troops. By now, he was in possession of Iranian-ruled Dagestan and had made large inroads into Arran and Shirvan, the latter two territories roughly comprising the modern-day Azerbaijan Republic. Taking further advantage of Tahmasp II's desperate situation, Peter wanted to push deeper into Iran and annex even more territories. Even though the bulk of the army had withdrawn to Astrakhan following the storm of early September 1722 that had destroyed a large number of vessels, the horse epidemic that virtually destroyed the Russian cavalry, and the diseases amongst the soldiers which made the Russians suffer tens of thousands of losses every year during the war, he still ordered for new captures, namely the Caspian Sea provinces of contemporary northern Iran and the rest of modern-day Azerbaijan.
In November 1722, he ordered Colonel Shipov to sail for Gilan with two battalion of troops. The vessels of the Caspian Flotilla were under the command of Soimonov. When it was questioned whether two batallions would be sufficient, Peter replied, as quoted by Laurence Lockhart, in characteristic fashion "Why not? Was not Stenka Razin able to maintain himself there with 500 Cossacks? And you have two battalions of regular soldiers and you have doubts!"
Although Peter's forces had entered the town already in late 1722, ostensibly to help defend the city, the local Iranian governor had demanded their withdrawal. In February 1723 the governor is known to have assured the Russians that their help was not needed, the Persians being able to protect themselves, and that Russian troops should leave. The Russian commander, Colonel Shipov, promised to send away his artillery and equipment first and then to withdraw. However, he failed to keep his promise and thus found himself under siege in the barracks, near Rasht where the battle commenced. Late at night on 28 March 1723, a detachment of Russian troops krept through the Persian lines. The Russians attacked from two directions, taking the Iranians by surprise. As the Persians fled, the Russians pursued, killing about, or over, 1,000 men.
By now, Rasht was in firm hands of the Russians. The town, alongside the rest of Gilan and the Caspian Sea coast provinces of what is modern-day Iran, would remain in their hands for a decade until the Treaty of Resht of 1732 concluded by the government of Peter the Great's successor, Tsarievna Anna of Russia, and the newly emerging Iranian general and leader Nader Shah.
Peter was determined to keep Gilan, Mazandaran and the rest of the newly conquered territories from Iran in the Caucasus, and add them to Russia. In May 1724 the Tsar wrote to Matiushkin, Russian commander in Rasht, that he should invite "Armenians and other Christians, if there are such, to Gilan and Mazandaran and settle them, while Muslims should be very quietly, so that they would not know it, diminished in number as much as possible." Peter however never managed to fullfil these plans for the long-term future, for he died in 1725.
Under the circumstances and with Russian keeping the offensive, king Tahmasp II had no choice but to negotiate. The Treaty of Saint Petersburg was signed just a few months later after even more territorial losses, confirming all Russian conquerings of Iran's territories in the North Caucasus, South Caucasus, and northern mainland Iran as made during the war.
- Mikaberidze, Alexander Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A Historical Encyclopedia ABC-CLIO, 22 jul. 2011 ISBN 1598843370 p 762
- William Bayne Fisher,P. Avery,G. R. G. Hambly,C. Melville. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 Cambridge University Press, 10 okt. 1991 ISBN 0521200954 p 318
- Laurence Lockhart. The fall of the Ṣafavī dynasty and the Afghan occupation of Persia Cambridge University Press, 1958 (originally from the University of Michigan) p 239
- William Bayne Fisher,P. Avery,G. R. G. Hambly,C. Melville. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 Cambridge University Press, 10 okt. 1991 ISBN 0521200954 p 321
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