A Destiny Realized: A Timeline of Afsharid Iran and Beyond

Nader nodded. “That much is true. If we are ever to think of peace, we must have his word that our western flank is safe. If we are ever to stand against the Russians in the future, either of us, we should not quarrel. We are both Muslim, both Turks. This fighting is pointless”

Reza spoke out. “But sometimes, if there is a donkey who will not go across the bridge, it is better simply to get a new donkey.

“What do you mean?”

“Mahmud will not be the Sultan of the Ottomans for all time. His time will come one day, and were he to lose his throne earlier, perhaps our situation would be eased somewhat”


Nader had not seriously entertained this thought before. To unseat a fellow ruler, what kind of a precedent would it set? Would it matter? The Ottomans were forever killing their own in the pursuit of the throne, of even a temporary advantage. Surely the removal of the Sultan and his replacement with someone more pliant would not be such a bad thing if done in the interest of peace.

I am quite curious to at the thought of Nader playing Kingmaker with the nations surrounding his empire.
 
“Mahmud will not be the Sultan of the Ottomans for all time. His time will come one day, and were he to lose his throne earlier, perhaps our situation would be eased somewhat”

Oooh, foreshadowing.

I wonder how the residents of Mesopotamia and Erzurum are viewing the conflict. With all the armies marching about, I wouldn't be surprised if a poet or two is lamenting how, "the Elephants fight, yet the grasses are trampled". The Jafari madhab is also another wildcard; How do the peoples of the conquered regions react to this new branch of the faith?
 
Oooh, foreshadowing.

I wonder how the residents of Mesopotamia and Erzurum are viewing the conflict. With all the armies marching about, I wouldn't be surprised if a poet or two is lamenting how, "the Elephants fight, yet the grasses are trampled". The Jafari madhab is also another wildcard; How do the peoples of the conquered regions react to this new branch of the faith?
The areas involved had quite a tradition of being the grass that is trampled over, so sure, poets would lament, but really nothing very new.
 
Hopefully one that does better for Iran than the one Nader got in Down the Parallel Road and the Ottoman resurgence that saw.

In the name of Ali, Onwards to Constantinople!
Well, perhaps less in the name of Ali, and more in something else depending on how the Jafari' Madhab pans out. Certainly, Nader is looking at more than a temporary advantage over the Ottomans. The consensus seems to be that his ultimate goal was to secure some recognition of a multipolar political system within the Islamic World, something which traditionally was afforded to Muslim States with more obvious geographic separation. He was going to war in order to secure some measure of peace at the end of it.
And so, Nader Shah continues to follow the path of the armies of Timur.
The only difference being, of course, that the much more mature Ottoman Empire may be somewhat more resiliant.
Does Nader have any territorial ambitions beyond securing Mesopotamia and the Armenian highland?
I think nader will secure caucacus, iraq, and eastern anatolia for himself. Maybe he can gain a bit more but wisdom say he will be overextended. At very least what iran need after nader is someone who can manage all that new territories. It is easy to be a conqueror rather than administrator.
Places like Yerevan are already very distant from Nader's capital at Mashhad (about 1500 kilometers as the crow flies). Further expansion would certainly be good for Nader's ego, but without easy access by sea it is questionable whether any meaningful authority can be imposed on such far-flung lands. It is unlikely that the Iranians will be able to replicate, say, Tsarist Russia's administration in Siberia so ultimately demands will be moderated by what is realistic.
I am quite curious to at the thought of Nader playing Kingmaker with the nations surrounding his empire.
Well, in a way he had already done so. Officially, Nader had restored Mohammad Shah to the throne of the Mughal Empire rather than him sitting on it this whole time. Nader envisioned his ideal empire as being the pre-eminent Muslim power, and receiving at least some kind of deference from the Mughals and the Ottomans. Whether this could be done in the long run as other Muslim powers "caught up" in terms of military organization is questionable however.
The real benefit in this is securing Iraq (which can then be turned into a major producer of food and cash crops). The rest should be gained to fortify that new core region and extract soldiers.
Yeah, it might not have been as it was in ancient times, but Iraq at this point is still some pretty productive territory. Cotton in particular could prove to be a valuable crop in the future, provided that conditions (in terms of population, security) are better than OTL.
What would Nader and the rest of the Afsharids do with the Caucases? (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan).
Azerbaijan and Armenia were part of the Safavid Empire (the province was Shirvan), and will likely be integrated into the rest of the Afsharid Empire. Georgia had previously had something of a checkered history, and the dominant polity there, the Kingdom of Imereti, found itself more or less the plaything of the Ottomans, the Persians and the Russians until the Russians became dominant at the turn of the 19th century. Nader may well keep Georgia more tightly under his thumb than the Safavids did.
Oooh, foreshadowing.

I wonder how the residents of Mesopotamia and Erzurum are viewing the conflict. With all the armies marching about, I wouldn't be surprised if a poet or two is lamenting how, "the Elephants fight, yet the grasses are trampled". The Jafari madhab is also another wildcard; How do the peoples of the conquered regions react to this new branch of the faith?
The areas involved had quite a tradition of being the grass that is trampled over, so sure, poets would lament, but really nothing very new.
Unfortunately Iraq has been something of a plaything for larger powers for quite some time in history (clearly the fault of the traitorous Chaldeans, allying with smelly Medes to bring down the awesome Assyrians) so it is something they are used to. The Kurds rallied to Nader in OTL as they did in TTL, and provided happy recruits for Nader's army. We know less about what the Arabs of the region thought unfortunately, though many Shi'a Arabs may not have felt too negatively about losing the Ottomans as overlords.

The Jafari' Madhab is indeed a wild card. In OTL, religious scholars were always skeptical which isn't too surprising. The Madhab might not necessarily unseat the existing Sunni schools, to use another example, the Ottoman's support of Hanafi scholars did not necessarily unseat other schools in places like Egypt. Of course, things depend on the shape that the Jafari' Madhab takes, as at the moment it is little more than a state-directed "We aren't Shi'ites, we swear!" thing.
 
Georgia had previously had something of a checkered history, and the dominant polity there, the Kingdom of Imereti, found itself more or less the plaything of the Ottomans, the Persians and the Russians until the Russians became dominant at the turn of the 19th century. Nader may well keep Georgia more tightly under his thumb than the Safavids did.
Is it possible for Georgia to sustain a three-way play-off of Persian/Russian/Ottoman interests to preserve their independence, or are they doomed to fall firmly under the sway of one of them?
 
The Turco-Iranian War of 1743-47: Part Two
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The Iranian Advance to Ankara

After a string of defeats that had seen them pushed out of the Caucasus and Mesopotamia, it would not have been unreasonable for the Ottomans to capitulate and give into many of Nader Shah’s demands. That Mahmud I remained intransigent even after the fall of Erzurum was partially a testament to the obstinacy of some in his government, but also to the various concerns of the government as well as those close to power. The Ulema, as well as the Sharif of Makkah, had put pressure on the Sultan to avoid the recognition of the Ja'fari Madhab as a school of Sunni Islam, a key demand of Nader. In addition to this, there was the fear that a recognition of defeat would lead to rebellion among disaffected Janissaries which could see the overthrow of the Sultan. Last but not least, the Ottomans wanted to make the most of the window of opportunity afforded by the peace with Austria and Russia to secure their borders in the East.


As Nader moved from Erzurum to Erzincan, the Ottomans had certainly suffered setbacks, but their strategic situation was not disastrous as of yet. A large army was gathering near Scutari, and most of the Beys and Pashas in the far-flung Empire had remained loyal to the Sultan. Indeed, it was easy to imagine Nader’s army wearing itself out in the relatively barren wastes of Anatolia, and his army being decisively defeated as it moved into the Ottoman heartland. Indeed, Nader’s only defeat had been to the Ottomans, making the proposition less unrealistic than might have appeared. Thus, the Ottomans marched out from Scutari with confidence in the July of 1744, as the fortress of Erzincan fell to the Iranian army. Both armies ambled toward each other, ensuring to maintain their cohesion and supply trains.


It was the Ottoman army that reached the town of Ankara first, the gateway to Western Anatolia. The Ottomans made camp there, apparently less concerned about the significance of the town than Nader, who in his interest in emulating Timur the Great, was elated to be facing the Ottomans near the ground on which Timur had almost destroyed the Empire in its cradle. However, unlike the previous Battle of Ankara, the Ottoman soldiers were well rested and fed, and were able take the field in relatively good spirits. By contrast, the Iranian army was exhausted, having marched for almost two months from Erzincan to the location of the battlefield. Unlike Timur, the Iranians were outnumbered, with some 150,000 men to an Ottoman force of over 200,000. The Ottoman forces had chosen their positions well, controlling the approaches to the town of Ankara on high ground. If they were to win, the Iranians would have to prize the Ottomans from their positions.


The initial attack, a faint on the part of 10,000 Uzbek Horsemen, failed to bring the Ottomans down from their hill, and resulted in heavy losses for the Uzbeks. Ottoman artillery tore through the charging Uzbeks, and peppered them as they pretended to flee from the Ottoman lives. The Ottoman commander of the left wing, Abdollah Pasha Jebhechi, maintained the discipline of his troops. This early success was followed by a more serious attack, as Persian musketeers, well supported by Afghan cavalry, advanced on the left wing. Still Abdollah Pasha refused to leave the hill to attack, despite his inferiority in musket-armed troops. Through the middle of the day, he requested time and time again for reinforcements, which the Ottoman Commander Grand Vizier Seyyid Hasan Pasha refused until around 1:15pm, as he dispatched Janissaries to reinforce the Ottoman left wing. By 2pm however, the Ottoman right wing was under attack by the Jazāyerchis, the elite of Nader’s army [1]. Convinced that this was the main attack, Seyyid Hasan Pasha dispatched reinforcements there to beat back the Iranians.

[1] – Jazāyerchis were gunpowder infantry, armed with a Jazāyer, which is something of a heavier version of a Jezzail.


* * * * * *

The Battle of Ankara

From his makeshift command post, Nader could see the charge of Sipahi Cavalry from the Ottoman lines. At last! After a whole day without a single aggressive Ottoman manoeuvre, they had finally made a critical mistake. He called his nephew, Ali Qoli Mirza over to him.

“Ali, I want you to take all our remaining Jazāyerchis, and some Zamburaks, take them to our left wing [2]. I want you to stop those Sipahis, cut every last one of them down if you have to. Then take our left and attack the Ottomans, and we shall meet you in the middle”

Ali nodded in acknowledgement, mounting his horse and racing down to the remaining Jazāyerchis.


Nader pointed at the centre of the Ottoman forces, and spoke to his sons Reza and Nasrollah. “You can see, they have their best there, the Janissaries. But they’ve weakened, and the majority of their strength are on the wings. If we smash the centre with what cavalry we have left, the Ottomans will be split and the day will be won”.

Reza peered at the carnage ahead of them. The explosions of cannons firing, the thundering charges of horsemen and the centre of the Ottomans. One could never tell at such a distance, but in Reza’s eyes, they looked calm.


Nader put on his helmet. “They will not be an easy foe to vanquish, but we do not have a choice. If we lose here today, then everything I have ever worked for has been lost. We must attack, all of us”

Reza fetched his lance, while Nasrollah fixed his helmet. The three men mounted their horses and joined the reserve body of cavalry. They were motley bunch, from all four corners of Iran, each dressed in the clothes of their own region. But these were all men who owed everything they had to Nader, and every last one of them, be he an Afghan, a Kurd or a Turk, and was willing to die for Nader.


The cavalry lined up, and there appeared to be little sign of activity at the centre of the Ottoman Army. Perhaps they really were all out of reserves. Reza Qoli held up his lance and screamed “there is no victory but through God!” and the cavalry lunged forward as one, dashing toward the Ottoman lines. Men fell to the sides, but were replaced as other men rode up. The great body of man and horse seemed unstoppable, as it crashed into the Ottoman lines.


[2] – Zamburaks were one of the more interesting of Nader’s innovations, essentially light guns (1 or 2 pounders) mounted on camels. Fairly mobile, and devastating when used properly.


* * * * * *

The Defeat of the Ottoman Empire

The defeat of the Ottoman Army at Ankara was nothing less than catastrophic for the Empire. The army was able to escape across the Dardanelles Straits in the wake of their retreat through Anatolia due to the naval superiority of the Ottomans, but this move in itself represented an abdication of their rule in Asia. With the Ottomans chased into Rumelia, a number of tantalising opportunities were now presented to the Iranians. Were they to march south into Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz, taking the Holy Cities of Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem for themselves? Were they to cross to Europe and loot Istanbul as they had done with Delhi? Both options presented opportunities but were fraught with dangers, whether it was the still-active Ottoman Navy in the Sea of Marmara or the regional governors and notables of the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces, who preferred the light touch of Ottoman rule to the likely heavy-handedness of Nader Shah.


However, the situation at home was beginning to take a turn for the worst. In order to fund his war effort against the Ottomans, Nader had begun to ramp up the taxes even further than had been the case in the past. Accompanying the existing depopulation of the Iranian countryside now came an increased number of peasant revolts. Following the victory of Ankara, Nader had sent his son Nasrollah Qoli back to Iran with 50,000 men to stop a revolt on the part of a Safavid Pretender, who had been aided by the Ottomans and possibly the Russians as well. Rumours of discontent came too from Central Asia, where Abu ‘Ul-Faiz had died, and his successor had been encouraged by the shift in Iranian attention. Khiva was once again on the brink of revolt, and there were rumours surrounding Muhammad Taqi Khan, Nader’s favourite and the governor of Fars. Were Iran to be pushed over the brink, and to erupt into revolt, than everything that Nader had gained against the Ottomans would be lost.


While his domestic situation was far from ideal, Nader was able to leverage his position against the Ottomans, securing a peace treaty that would not only justify the enormous cost of his war to the Persian people, but bring security on his Western front, something much needed in the wake of declining relations with the Russians and revolts in Iran and Central Asia. Envoys were once again sent to Mahmud, but in contrast to previous efforts at negotiation, they had come back with a compromise that was somewhat acceptable to both the Ottoman and Iranian Governments. The Ja'fari Madhab would be recognised as a valid Madhab of Sunni Islam, ensuring that they were to adjust their practices likewise. Provision was to be made in Makkah for Iranian pilgrims, and the Shah was to have a (rather ill-defined) role in the protection of the holy cities. In addition to this recognition, the Ottomans were to cede both Mesopotamia, as well as the Caucasus and part of Eastern Anatolia, with the Euphrates to be recognized as the border between the two.


This was short from the total victory that Nader was hoping for. He did not attain some formal recognition of Iran’s pre-eminent position in the Muslim world from the Ottoman Sultan, nor a full restoration of the borders of the Timurid Empire which Nader had originally hoped for. It is likely therefor that Nader’s acceptance of the peace was encouraged somewhat by further rumours of Muhammad Taqi Khan’s treachery in Persia. Finally, both Nader and Mahmud met each other in Bursa, the ancient capital of the Ottoman Empire. Although not as submissive as Muhammad Shah in India had been, even Ottoman sources talk of an “aura of defeat” around the Sultan. Mahmud rather unfortunately had spent much of his life before his rule in captivity, and was rather disinterested in the business of ruling than Nader was. After a week’s celebration of the new-found brotherhood of the Sultan and the Shah, in which Nader emphasised the Turcoman origins of both, the Iranian army decamped and began making its long journey to the East. For Mahmud, he had staved off the threat from the East but the weakness of the Empire had been displayed for all to see, and it would be likely that both Austria and Russia would soon seek to capitalise on this.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes: So the long-awaited Ottoman defeat has finally come. Whether or not Nader will be satisfied without having broken the walls of Istanbul himself is questionable, but for the time being he has secured what he really needs from the Ottomans. Formal recognition of his regime, a valuable buffer for the rest of Iran and some money to fuel further conquests. The question is of course, what happens to Mahmud now that he has given in to Iranian demands. A defeat of this scale isn't unprecedented (Karlowitz saw to that) but against fellow Muslims who had been seemingly annihilated only two decades ago?
 
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I'm a bit curious, Wikipedia has nothing on Jafari’ Madhab, except that it's a school of Shiites apparently?

What makes Jafari’ Madhab different from other Shiite schools and more akin to Sunni?
 
Ooooooooh... I kinda feel sorry for Mahmud. Now he has to watch his back just to survive the next few years.

On the other hand, a European-centric Ottoman Empire, or one that has greater stakes in Rumelia, might see itself transforming into an altogether different polity by Nader's war. Though with that said, I'd imagine a European-themed Islamic empire might cause some stink-eyes from the Levantine and Egyptian notables. Here's hoping Austria and Russia gets some arse's luck in their Balkan push.

Persia having the Mesopotamian rivers would be poised to become an agricultural or textile powerhouse, if the Industrial Revolution comes knocking.
 
Ooooooooh... I kinda feel sorry for Mahmud. Now he has to watch his back just to survive the next few years.

On the other hand, a European-centric Ottoman Empire, or one that has greater stakes in Rumelia, might see itself transforming into an altogether different polity by Nader's war. Though with that said, I'd imagine a European-themed Islamic empire might cause some stink-eyes from the Levantine and Egyptian notables. Here's hoping Austria and Russia gets some arse's luck in their Balkan push.

Persia having the Mesopotamian rivers would be poised to become an agricultural or textile powerhouse, if the Industrial Revolution comes knocking.

Ripples might be the ethnic nationalities styling themselves as sultanates upon independence.
 
Really interested in seeing whether this will affect the seven years war or not
Well if anything, the severe defeat suffered at the hands of the Iranians will make the Ottomans more reluctant to enter the war than they did in OTL. The butterflies that affect the war are probably likely to come in elsewhere, and the non-European theatres are more likely to be changed than the main theatre in Central Europe.
I'm a bit curious, Wikipedia has nothing on Jafari’ Madhab, except that it's a school of Shiites apparently?

What makes Jafari’ Madhab different from other Shiite schools and more akin to Sunni?
Now this is the complicated part. The best source on Nader's historical Jafari' Madhab is Ernst Tucker's article "Nadir Shah and the Ja 'fari Madhhab Reconsidered". The way that Nader Shah went about things was mainly through the elimination of practices common to Shi'a Islam that Sunnis found offensive such as the ritual cursing of the first three Caliphs. Michael Axworthy speculates that the Usuli school of Twelver Shi'ism would likely be supplanted by the Akhbari School which amongst other things argued against a powerful clergy. There will be more detail in future updates but hopefully it gives something of an impression as to where Nader's religious reforms are likely to head.
Ooooooooh... I kinda feel sorry for Mahmud. Now he has to watch his back just to survive the next few years.

On the other hand, a European-centric Ottoman Empire, or one that has greater stakes in Rumelia, might see itself transforming into an altogether different polity by Nader's war. Though with that said, I'd imagine a European-themed Islamic empire might cause some stink-eyes from the Levantine and Egyptian notables. Here's hoping Austria and Russia gets some arse's luck in their Balkan push.

Persia having the Mesopotamian rivers would be poised to become an agricultural or textile powerhouse, if the Industrial Revolution comes knocking.
Being an Ottoman Sultan, or indeed a member of the family, hasn't traditionally had a brilliant life expectancy.

The future orientation depends on where the Empire's rulers judge the priorities lie. Nader had a vision of an Islamic world in which Islamic powers refrained from warring with each other (strictly on terms favourable to Iran of course) but his successors, as well as his rivals, may not share his vision. On the other hand, an Ottoman Empire more hard pressed by Europe may welcome a less belligerent Iran (as opposed to the weak one she got in OTL).
Ripples might be the ethnic nationalities styling themselves as sultanates upon independence.
North Africa by this point has moved toward de facto independence, but the Ottomans do have more of a window to enact centralising reforms, though ironically they will likely find this harder than Nader, who more or less had a monopoly of power in Iran.
 
Nader's Russian War
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The Articulation of the Ja'fari Madhab

The 18th Century would see a number of innovations in Islamic thought, so much so that the famous Orientalist Scholar of the 19th century, Richard Theil would declare it as the period in which “the gates of Ijtihad had opened once again”. Subsequent consensus disputes that they had ever closed, but nevertheless the reform movements and general shifts of the 18th century were perhaps some of the most significant in the Islamic World for quite some time. The most famous of these were the “re-conversion” of Iran back to the Sunni fold, the subsequent reformist movement in Central Arabia which had in part been a reaction to what was seen as the acceptance of heresy by the mainstream of Sunni Islam, as well as other reform movements in West Africa, India and South East Asia.


In Iran, which for almost 200 years had been the standard-bearer of the Shi’a sect, the change was initially political rather than theological. The Safavids had emerged from a Shi’a affiliated Sufi order in the early 16th century, and their embracement of Shi’ism as a way to legitimise their rule in Iran had ensured political stability, though with the fall of the Safavid Dynasty had come new rulers. The austere Afghans, who followed a more conventional school of Sunni Islam quickly made themselves unpopular, in part due to the persecutions of Shi’a, who were said to have been treated worse than even the Dhimmis during the brief rule of the Hotaki Dynasty. With the fall of the Afghans came the rise of Nader Shah, who was born a Shi’a but whom Shi’a sources record as being personally irreligious, or perhaps most scandalously, an Atheist! [1] His position as Shah had been usurped from the Safavids, who were still immensely popular for the Shia population of Iran, who represented a majority. In addition to this, Iran’s enemies had fought against her with the justification that as Shi’a, the Iranians were not subject to the same protection usually offered to Muslims in times of war. If Nader was to cement his power at home, and ensure his legitimacy among other Muslim rulers, a change of religious policy was needed.


A Sunni Iran rather than a Shia one, which had been the dream of many Sunni Muslims since Iran’s conversion to the Shi’a creed in the 16th century appeared to be Nader’s best hope for achieving the legitimisation of his rule both domestically and abroad. The first elements of his new religious policy, which would later become the basis for the articulation of the Ja'fari Madhab as a school of Shi’a Islam rather than Sunni, first became apparent with his coronation as Shah at the Moghan Steppe. At this point, the idea behind the religious transformation was that with the elimination of practices offensive to Sunni Muslims, such as the ritual cursing of the first three Rashidun or “Rightly Guided” Caliphs, the Iranians could find acceptance as Sunni Muslims rather than Shi’a. In practice of course, it was not to be as easy as this. An initial gathering at Najaf between Sunni Scholars and members of the Iranian Ulema floundered on the supposedly strange practices of the Shi’a in attendance (possibly though the practice of joining the prayers of Zuhr and Asr, as well as Maghrib and Isha).


Eventually, it was not to be theological victories which led to the political recognition of the Ja'fari Madhab as a part of Sunni Islam, but rather Nader Shah’s final victory over the Ottomans in 1746. Against the resistance of the Ulema, the Ottoman Sultan finally recognised the Ja'fari Madhab, as well as the conversion of Iran to a Sunni rather than Shi’a country. But as of yet, the specifics of the Ja'fari Madhab were still not refined. Nader Shah had spent just under a year of his reign in Iran itself, making his mark as a conqueror rather than as an administrator. Although he did have a relatively clear religious policy, increasing tolerance of minorities such as Christians and banning the more unique practices of Shi’a Islam, the questions over the power of the Ulema, as well as their role in the community had still not been resolved [2].


To this end, Nader began to interfere in the rift that had grown in the Ja'fari Madhab, between Usuli Scholars who emphasised the role of learned men in guiding people’s practice, and the Akhbaris who argued for an approach in which individuals were supposed to read and make their own judgements from sacred texts. One of the most prominent of the latter school was Yusuf al-Bahrani, who had been born in Bahrain but in the tumult that came with the decline and fall of the Safavid Empire, had found himself living in a number of locations before settling in the city of Shiraz in Iran [3]. Although his background and education had been in the Usuli Madhab, al-Bahraini had become a famed Akhbari scholar, and upon the return of Nader Shah to Iran was invited to settle in Mashhad to act as a religious advisor for him. Al-Bahrani was firmly opposed to the state-centric nature of Usuli Ja'farism, a position which suited Nader, who had some desire to detach the religious establishment from the Iranian state, just fine.


[1] – Interestingly enough, Nader did seem to have a very sceptical attitude toward religion in OTL. He was reported to have questioned the desirability of heaven when told there was no war there, possibly sarcastically, but one can never tell with an Iranian…

[2] – Nader in particular had a good relationship with the Armenian Catholicos, whom Nader seems to have got on well with better than members of the Islamic Ulema in Iran. For more information, refer to “Sword of Persia” by Michael Axworthy.

[3] – al-Bahraini is an interesting character. He was born in the village of Shakhura in Bahrain (close to my own ancestral village) and is quite a useful source on the troubles which afflicted Bahrain and Iran at the time, as well as an interesting religious scholar.


* * * * * *

Nader's Russian War

Nader’s return from the Ottoman Empire was something of a bittersweet event for most Iranians. Although he had accomplished one of the greatest feats in Iranian History, the decisive defeat of the powerful Ottomans, in doing so he had made a desert of his own nation. The rapacious taxation that had funded his war had encouraged a great deal of depopulation, further exacerbating the devastation that had come with the fall of the Safavids and the Afghan invasion. The population of Nader’s Empire was roughly about 11 million at this point, somewhat higher than what the Safavid Empire’s had been, but the population of Iran proper had declined from 9 million at the beginning of the 18th century to around 6-7 million. A great number of Iranians had died, or had migrated, and this now represented a significant problem for a state which had already possessed a lower economic base than its neighbours. Nader had never been particularly sympathetic to the settled and urban population in his Empire, but in the face of a declining economy and revolts, he was finally forced to begin the moderation of his policies.


Nader had long possessed a reputation for rapaciousness and greed, and there was some initial scepticism about his apparent change of heart. Upon the advice of others in his court (Mirza Astrabadi notes his sons in particular as a powerful influence), Nader began to implement a system of standardised taxes that in combination with his earlier centralisation of taxation in Iran, produced something approaching a rationalised tax system. Although the level of taxation was still high when compared to states such as China (but not, interestingly enough, states such as France), the consistency of taxation at least enabled Iranian peasants to plan accordingly. In an attempt to profit from trade, Nader also increased both import and export tariffs, though went some way toward abolishing internal tariffs in Iran. There was some concern recorded within the Iranian government about the continuing drain of currency into India, a particularly pressing concern for the money-mad Nader.


Besides this, Nader also began to undertake steps intended to grow the economy somewhat. He had always attempted to encourage trade, maintaining the caravanserais built in the Safavid Era and attempting to clamp down upon banditry. He began to take these steps further, turning some of his soldiers into a force to combat banditry and brigandage, providing employment for the soldiers and perhaps avoiding the chance that they would become brigands themselves. Both VOC and East India Company records note that these four years of peace seemed to have been the beginning of a turnaround in Iran’s economic fortunes. The VOC, which had been considering closing up shop in Iran prior to Nader’s return on the account of financial difficulties, began to export more Persian Silk, and the English too seemed to have somewhat more success with their trade.


This prosperity seemed to be threatened, however, following a renewed revolt on the part of the Chechens. Nader accused the Russians of supplying the rebels, and now began drawing up plans for an invasion of Russia. This came as something of a disappointment to some in his court, who had hoped that the period of peace may have been more permanent than that. Nevertheless, the majority remained loyal to Nader, and he was able to finance preparations for a Russian war largely on existing taxation as well as the reserves of his treasury in Kalat-i-Naderi, which avoided large-scale revolts on the part of the Iranian population. Preparations for a war with Russia were not quite as great as had been the case for the Ottoman Empire. Nader’s plan was to travel along the Caspian Coast, taking Astrakhan and from there moving up the Volga, eventually inspiring revolts as far as Kazan and making allies of the Tatar population there.


However, the war itself was something of a disappointment to Nader. The Russian navy in the Caspian Sea outperformed the Iranian navy, hampering the advance of the Iranian army along the Caspian coastline. On land however, the tables were turned, and the plodding regular forces of the Russian army seemed to be unsure of how to react to the fast-moving forces of the Iranians. Indeed, the famed General Suvorov, who fought as a junior officer in the Russo-Persian War, noted that only the Cossacks seemed to have been able to hold their won against the Iranian cavalry. Although the Iranians won a victory at Astrakhan, their supply lines were greatly overstretched, and disease was beginning to take a hold of the attackers. When offered a peace that involved a generous indemnity as well as a promise not to support rebels within Iran and religious freedom for Muslims within the Russian Empire, Nader was keen to accept before the strategic situation turned against him.


Indeed, the Russo-Persian War was the war he had come closest to losing in his life. Although he had not lost any battles personally, as had been the case in his first war with the Ottomans, he had allowed his army to be in something of a perilous situation, cut off from supplies in the wastes of Russia. Besides giving an impetus to improve Iran’s navy in the Caspian, Nader had somewhat been wizened to the sheer expanse of Russian territory. His scouts reported wide open spaces, devoid of supplies in the same way that Baluchistan was. The Tatars of Kazan had not responded to his offers of support, and the Russians were mobilizing reinforcements, and so the peace was not an ill-advised one. And yet, it represented something of a blow to Nader, to whom it was now apparent that there were limits to what he could achieve. Perhaps just as importantly, it spoke to the growing influence of Reza Qoli, who desired further expansion into Turan, on his father.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes - I could see a surviving Nader definitely having the ambition to take on Russia. She had already shown herself to be a threat to Iran previously, when she occupied the Caspian provinces during the Iranian Interregnum. Nader's interest in emulating Timur would take him to the area, as Timur had attacked the Golden Horde which had held sway. However, the logistical difficulties would plague Nader as they had done previous rulers, as would the general war-exhaustion of the Iranian people. Nevertheless, attempts to secure a great victory over Russia will have their effects.
 
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Brilliant! A few followup questions.

Economy? Wither this? Iraq is a nice addition and other posters have alluded to cotton-growing in Iraq and the potential of upper Mesopotamia. Is that fertile land for cash or food crops in this period? In addition, with the Tigris and Euphrates, is vertical integration of cottons in addition to silks possible? Could we see either competition with Indian cotton exports or a kind of trade in both raw and finished cottons? If waterpower milling in particular becomes a major thing(was it OTL) then obviously you have something that really only happened OTL in the US with a major industrialized cotton-growing country.

Military? Will Nader pursue further campaigns or is he going to focus on consolidation? Rationalization and improvement of the taxation system will have major effects on his treasury, especially if it means he can engage in military activity without raising or adding taxes.

Religion-where does this go?
 
Yes, I confess I still don't quite understand this "Jafari' Madhab" and other aspects of Nader's religious settlement. This may partly be because I lack access to JSTOR and other such article platforms however and so I cannot read your recommended article unfortunately. I don't quite get Jafari' Madhab, is its "recognition" as a Sunni legalistic school and the thus achieved by default "restoration/reconversion" of Iran to the Sunni mould. How does this recognition fit into Shia attitudes towards the other three "Rashidun" Caliphs and how does this affect Sunni views on the Iranians? Are Sunnis now viewing the Iranian court elites as having returned but the common rabble as still being tainted by Shia?

I do feel you've been vague, though maybe this is the problems of just how "Arabic" Islamic theology is and how that translates to English along with spoilers.

Do you have any articles freely available by non JSTOR methods that are readable on Iran and Jafari' Madhab?

Also on another note, why is there an apostrophe at the end of Jajari', is it for the accentuation I assume? And I've heard that the word used for conversion in Arabic is closer to reversion, and something about people being born in the faith but then leaving it in the case of Atheists and other such non Muslims, does the move from Sunni to Shia still count as reversion then to the person opposed to such who is also Islamic? Ie, would a Sunni person call a Sunni turning to Shia a conversion or reversion? And is the same word used for other religions, would a Sunni/Shiite call a conversion from Lutheranism to Anglicanism conversion or reversion? Off topic, I know, but you seem to know a lot and I'd like to educate myself on this stuff while being entertained if possible.
 
Also on another note, why is there an apostrophe at the end of Jajari', is it for the accentuation I assume?

My understanding is that in transliteration, apostrophes are usually used to indicate the letter 'ayn ع found in Arabic and Persian which is a glottal stop. As for why it's at the end of the word in the transliteration, I'm a bit confused on that too, so maybe the author could speak to that. The English wikipedia article transliterates it as Ja'fari with the apostrophe in the middle of the word, and the Arabic version is also titled الخعفريون with the ayn in the middle of the word, but perhaps it's different in Persian.
 
[1] – Interestingly enough, Nader did seem to have a very sceptical attitude toward religion in OTL. He was reported to have questioned the desirability of heaven when told there was no war there, possibly sarcastically, but one can never tell with an Iranian

Nader Shah thought of himself as an Iranian? Did he not see himself as Turkic?

Or am I drastically overthinking a minor joke?
 
You've detailed the cavalry comparison, but what of Nader's infantry and their Russian counterparts? The difference between the european paper cartridge and the Iranian powder horn could have been something to catch Nader's interest.
 
Nader in particular had a good relationship with the Armenian Catholicos, whom Nader seems to have got on well with better than members of the Islamic Ulema in Iran. For more information, refer to “Sword of Persia” by Michael Axworthy.

Are you sure it wasn't for their famed Armenian Wine?

To this end, Nader began to interfere in the rift that had grown in the Jafari’ Madhab, between Usuli Scholars who emphasised the role of learned men in guiding people’s practice, and the Akhbaris who argued for an approach in which individuals were supposed to read and make their own judgements from sacred texts. One of the most prominent of the latter school was Yusuf al-Bahrani, who had been born in Bahrain but in the tumult that came with the decline and fall of the Safavid Empire, had found himself living in a number of locations before settling in the city of Shiraz in Iran [3]. Although his background and education had been in the Usuli Madhab, al-Bahraini had become a famed Akhbari scholar, and upon the return of Nader Shah to Iran was invited to settle in Mashhad to act as a religious advisor for him. Al-Bahrani was firmly opposed to the state-centric nature of Usuli Jafari’ism, a position which suited Nader, who had some desire to detach the religious establishment from the Iranian state, just fine.

Wonder if these religious developments in Islam will make it more open to incorporating western concepts when colonialism comes knocking in the future.
 
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