From Treaty of Gulistan to today’s reality: Experts say 200 years on, Russo-Persian peace deal still relevant

The Treaty of Gulistan concluded two centuries ago between the Persian and Russian empires regarding control of the South Caucasus still has importance today, according to experts in Armenia and Russia.

Advisor to the Russian ambassador to Armenia, head of the Rossotrudnichestvo agency Viktor Krivopuskov believes that the treaty signed exactly 200 years ago marked the beginning of modern drastic geopolitical change in the region.

After the end of the Russo-Persian war in which the Persian Empire was defeated, the two sides signed a peace treaty under which Moscow took control over vast territory in the South Caucasus, including the Karabakh khanate. What became known as the Treaty of Gulistan was signed on October 12 (24), 1813.

A roundtable dedicated to the anniversary was hosted by the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University in Yerevan on Thursday.

Talking to the media on the sidelines of the event, the Russian diplomat, who was a member of the operative-investigative group of the USSR Interior Ministry working in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast in 1990, said that although quite a long time has passed after the conclusion of the treaty, it still does not mean that the story connected with the Treaty of Gulistan and the way preceding it should be forgotten.

“There is a direct connection. Russia is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Today Russia, too, as it is noted in the Treaty of Gulistan, is undoubtedly interested in the preservation of peace in this region,” said Krivopuskov.

Leader of the Democratic Party of Armenia Aram Sargsyan said that the Treaty of Gulistan had led to the historical reality that the Armenian people has been with the Russian people for 200 years, having had both achievements and losses during this period, but not choosing another way.

The Treaty of Gulistan became an occasion for discussions in recent days in the wake of an open letter by prominent Armenian publicist Zori Balayan to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he essentially urges Russia to restore its dominance in the South Caucasus, including in Nagorno-Karabakh.

But according to Sargsyan, the main purpose of Balayan’s letter was to demonstrate that “historically and legally there was no notion of Azerbaijan in this region and Balayan draws the attention of Russia to the fact that Azerbaijan gets its privileges out of geopolitical interests.”

Directory of the Institute of History of Armenia’s National Academy of Sciences Ashot Melkonyan said that historically Armenia has sufficiently demonstrated its loyalty to Russia and as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Russia certainly has a lot to do in this region to fairly resolve the current geopolitical realities.

“We should constantly remind our strategic ally that the 1921 treaties of Moscow and Kars, as a result of which Armenia lost nearly half of its territory, are unacceptable to us. As strategic allies we should know one important thing – yes, we do expect Russian support in this matter, in particular in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, and most probably have the right to expect that among the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs Russia will have a more decisive role in finding a fair solution to this problem,” stressed Melkonyan.