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King George XI

George XI (Georgian: გიორგი XI, Giorgi XI; Persian: گرگین‌خان , Gurgin Khan or Gorgin Khan) (1651 – April 21, 1709), ruled Kartli, eastern Georgiamarker, from 1676 to 1688 and again from 1703 to 1709. He is best known for his struggle, as a Safavid commander, against the rebel Afghan tribes that cost his life.


He was the son of Vakhtang V, also known as Shahnawaz I, whom he succeeded as a ruler of Kartli in 1676. He had to accept Islam and take the name of Shahnawaz II before being able to be confirmed as a wali (viceroy) by Shah Solayman I. However, Georgians continued to consider him as their king under his Christian name George (Giorgi).

It was when nearly half-century-long peaceful relations between Kartli and its Persian suzerains significantly deteriorated. Giorgi attempted to centralise loose royal authority in Kartli and to weaken the Persian influence. He patronised Catholic missioners and had correspondence with Innocent XI. After the liberation of Vienna of the siege of the Ottomans hoped Giorgi XI first on weakening of Ottomans. In the letter to Innocent XI from April 29 1687 he vowed to be a Catholic King and declared the readiness and willingness of him and his troops to obey any order of the Roman Pope. According to Catholic missionaries Giorgi remained until his death a faithful Catholic.

In 1688, Giorgi headed an abortive coup against the Persian governor of the neighboring Georgian region of Kakhetimarker, and attempted, though vainly, to gain an Ottoman support against the Saffavid overlordship. In response, Shah Solayman deposed George and gave his crown to the rival Kakhetian prince Erekle I, who embraced, on this occasion, Islam and took the name Nazar-Ali Khan. Abbas-Quli Khan, the former beglarbeg (governor general) of Ganjamarker, was placed in charge of the government in Kakheti and commissioned to reinforce Erekle’s positions in Kartli. Giorgi fled to Racha in western Georgia, whence he made several attempts to reclaim his possession. In 1696, he managed to stage a temporary comeback and helped his brother Archil to temporarily regain the crown of Imereti in western Georgia, but was eventually forced to withdraw from Kartli again. In 1694, following the death of Solayman, there was a change in the government in Georgia: Abbas-Quli Khan was accused by his rivals of supporting Giorgi XI. On the orders of the new shah Soltan Hosayn, he was promptly arrested by Erekle and sent to Isfahanmarker under guard, while of his possessions were confiscated. Qalb-Ali Khan was appointed Abbas-Quli Khan’s successor as Persian governor of Kakheti. However, the strife in Georgia as well as the Saffavid empire in general forced Husayn to make peace with Giorgi who was summoned to Isfahan in 1696. The shah entrusted him with restoring order along the eastern frontiers of the empire and appointed him beglarbeg of Kermanmarker in 1699. It was the beginning of an illustrious but, ultimately, tragic career in the service of the Saffavids.

Giorgi, aided by his brother Levan, by 1700 had reestablished the shah's sovereignty in Kerman. As a reward, George was restored to the throne of Kartli in 1703, but was not allowed to return to his country. Instead, he was soon assigned to suppress the Afghan rebellion in May 1704. He was granted the title of Gurgin Khan by the Shah and was appointed the viceroy of Kandahar province and sipah salar (commander-in-chief) of the Persian armies. While he was in the field, he entrusted the administration of his country of Kartli to a nephew, the future King Vakhtang VI. Gurgin managed to crush the revolts of Afghan tribes and ruled Kandahar with uncompromising severity. He subdued many of the local leaders and sent Mirwais Khan Hotak, a powerful chieftain of the Ghilzai Afghans (Pashtuns), in chains to Isfahan. However, Mirwais Khan managed to gain the favour of the Shah and even to arouse his suspicion against the beglarbeg. Determined to bring about the overthrow of Gurgin, Mirwais Khan staged a carefully planned coup. On April 21, 1709, when the majority of the Georgian troops under Gurgin’s nephew, Alexander, were away from Kandahar on a raid against the rebels, Mirwais invited Gurgin on a banquet at his country estate at Kokaron in Kandahar Citymarker and assassinated him. The assassinator was supposedly an Afghan warrior, Younis Kakar, one of a tribal chiefs of Mirwais Khan Hotak. Gurgin's small escort was also massacred and Mirwais seized the power in Kandahar. He sent to Isfahan the cross and psalms, found at the murdered Georgian general, as the proof of the latter’s covert defection.

A punitive expedition into the Afghan lands led by Giorgi’s nephew, Kay Khusrau, ended in October 1711 disastrously with his death and the destruction of nearly his entire Persian-Georgian force of 30,000.

Family and children

Giorgi was married twice. He married first Tamar, daughter of Prince Davit Davitashvili, 1676. She died on December 4, 1683, and was survived by a son Bagrat and a daughter Maryam. Giorgi remarried, in 1687, Khoreshan (died on February 24, 1695), daughter of Prince Giorgi Mikeladze. She bore him a daughter, Princess Rwadam who was married, from 1703 to 1714, to the king George VII of Imereti.

See also


  1. Afghanland - Mirwais Khan Hotaki
  2. Nancy Hatch Dupree at American University of Afghanistan, An Historical Guide to Afghanistan, Mir Wais Hotak (1709–1715)
  3. Packard Humanities Institute - Persian Literature in Translation - Chapter IV: An Outline Of The History Of Persia During The Last Two Centuries (A.D. 1722-1922)... Link

Further reading

  • Rudi Matthee’s biography of Gorgin Khan in Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Martin Sicker, The Islamic World in Decline: From the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire (Hardcover) (2000), Praeger/Greenwood, ISBN 0-275-96891-X, page 44
  • The Cambridge History of Iran: Volume 6, the Timurid and Safavid Periods, edited by Peter Jackson, Stanley I Grossman, Laurence Lockhart: Reissue edition (1986), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-20094-6, page 315
  • Willem Vogelsang, The Afghans (2001), Blackwell Publishing ISBN 0-631-19841-5
  • Political history of Georgia 1658-1703, excerpt from David Marshall Lang, The Last years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832
  • Kings of Kartli at The Royal Ark

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