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BAZALETI, BATTLE OF (1626). Decisive battle between the supporters of King Teimuraz I and Giorgi Saakadze. In the early 17th century, Persia emerged as a powerful state under the capable leadership of Shah Abbas I and began aggressive expansion into Georgia. The attempts of Giorgi Saakadze, the mouravi of Kartli, to unite Georgian forces against foreign threats failed due to internal feuds of the nobility, and he was forced to flee to Persia where he became distinguished as a military commander. In 1625, Saakadze returned to Georgia where he raised a rebellion in Kartli and annihilated a Persian armed force in the battle of Martkopi on 25 March. He then quickly captured Tbilisi and campaigned in Kakheti, Ganja-Karabagh, and Akhaltsikhe. Teimuraz of Kakheti was invited to take the crown of Kartli, and thereby united both principalities. Although the Georgians suffered a defeat in the subsequent battle of Marabda in late 1625, Saakadze turned to guerrilla war, eliminating some 12,000 Persians in the Ksani Valley alone. His successful resistance frustrated Shah Abbas’ plans to destroy the Georgian states and set up Qizilbash khanates on Georgian territory. However, the rise of Saakadze embittered many powerful lords who feared losing their power at court and conspired against Saakadze. Shah Abbas also took advantage of this discontent and skillfully revived the feud between the Georgian nobles. An important aspect of this was a struggle between the gentry, who rallied around Saakadze, and the grand nobility who supported the king.

The final rupture between Saakadze and King Teimuraz occurred in the late summer of 1626, and both sides quickly gathered their supporters. Teimuraz was joined by many grand nobles, including the powerful lords Eristavi Zurab of Aragvi and Iotam Amilakhvari, while Saakadze was supported by the gentry as well as by Kaikhosro Mukhranbatoni of Kartli and Eristavi Iese of Ksani. Pursuing his dream of uniting the Georgian principalities, Saakadze’s offer to King Giorgi III of Imereti to place his son, Alexander, on the throne of Kartli-Kakheti, laid the foundation for restoring the united kingdom of Georgia. Furthermore, he also appealed for help to the Ottoman sultan, who welcomed this opportunity to replace Persian influence in Transcaucasia.

The decisive battle took place near Bazaleti Lake in the fall of 1626. Both Teimuraz and Saakadze used stand-ins appearing at several locations at once to bolster their troops. However, this tactic backfired when the death of Saakadze’s proxy, David Gogorishvili, demoralized the Saakadze supporters; Saakadze himself slew King Teimuraz’s proxy. The fierce battle ended in victory for Teimuraz, which effectively precluded the future unification of the Georgian principalities and signaled the triumph of the grand nobility.