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KRTSANISI, BATTLE OF (1795). Major battle between the Persian and Georgian armies on 11 September 1795. In the late 18th century, King Erekle II took advantage of the declining power of Persia and effectively expanded his sphere of influence in the southeastern Transcaucasia. Seeking a new ally in his struggle against the Ottomans and Persians, he turned to Russia and concluded a military alliance with Empress Catherine II at Giorgievsk in 1783. As Persia emerged from civil war, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar claimed the throne and sought to restore Persian influence in Transcaucasia. The pro-Russian policy of Georgia led to his demands to annul the Treaty of Georgievsk and recognize Persian suzerainty. Erekle rejected this ultimatum and appealed to Catherine II to honor her obligations under the Treaty of Georgievsk. However, Russia failed to provide any military aid, leaving the Georgians to face the brunt of the Persian reprisals.

In the late summer of 1795, the 35,000-man Persian army under the command of Agha Mohammad Khan invaded eastern Georgia, quickly advancing to Tbilisi. King Erekle was able to rally only 5,000 men and decided to engage the enemy on the approaches to the Georgian capital. On 89 September, the Georgians put up fierce resistance in the valleys leading to Tbilisi, successfully delaying the Persians. The main battle began on 10 September on the Krtsanisi field near Tbilisi, where King Erekle fought the superior Persian army to a draw. On the night of 11 September, Agha Mohammad Khan, frustrated by Georgian resistance, was already preparing to withdraw when two defectors from Tbilisi informed him of the Georgian vulnerability. Rallying his forces, the shah engaged the Georgians on 11 September. The brutal fighting produced many instances of heroism, including the 300 Aragvians who fought their way to the shah and captured the Persian imperial standard but perished in the process. The 75-year old King Erekle personally distinguished himself before his bodyguards forced him to leave the battlefield. Following their victory, the Persians captured Tbilisi and pillaged it for the next nine days, virtually razing the city. Tens of thousands of residents were slaughtered or taken captive. Kartli-Kakheti never recovered from this invasion. King Erekle, his spirit unbroken, continued his pro-Russian policy but died in January 1798, and the weakened Kartli-Kakheti was annexed by Russia in 1801.