Chapter 1.
Caucasian vicegerency.

The administrative-territorial system.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century in the South Caucasus the interests of the tree neighboring countries Persia (Iran), Russia and Turkey came into collision. The wars to possess these lands had been going on for a century and led to great changes in historical and political geography of the region. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the following lands existed in the South Caucasus:

  • Khanates: Derbent, Baku Sheki, Shemakha, Talysh, Ganja, Karabakh, Nakhichevan, Erivan;
  • Kingdom of Imereti;
  • Principalities: Mingrelian, Abkhazian, Gurian;
  • Akhaltsikhe pashalik and others.

Having conquered these territories, Russian government made a lot of administrative redistributions. The management of Caucasus was constantly changed in accordance with the Russian Empire management. The lands of khanates, sultanates and melikdoms were turned into administrative units, led by the military commandant from the Russian officers.

Failures in economic policy, as well as the national mutinies of 30s forced the tsarist government to make changes in its colonial policy. On January 1, 1841 under the new law commandant management system was liquidated in the Caucasus. Transcaucasian region (with the exception of Abkhazia, Mingrelia and Svaneti) is administratively divided into two parts: the western part called the Georgia-Imereti province and the eastern, which called the name of Caspian region.

In 1844, at the Caucasus territories, which entered in the Russian Empire (including Georgian province, Armenian region, the Caspian region) the Caucasian vicegerency was established with the center in Tiflis. It included one province and two regions:

  • Georgian-Imereti province (Tiflis) — later transformed into the Tiflis province;
  • Armenian region (Erivan) — was transformed into the Erivan province June 9, 1849;
  • The Caspian region (Shamakhi) — was transformed into Derbent (Derbent) and Shemakha province in 1846. On May 30, 1860 Derbent Province was abolished and Dagestan region (Derbent) and Jaro-Belokan (Zakatala) District were established. Shamakhi province was renamed into Baku province on December 2, 1859.

After the establishment of the vicegerency at the vicegerent, the graph M.S.Vorontsov, another administrative reform of the region was performed. The project to reorganize the Region submitted by him was approved by the decree of the Russian Emperor on December 14, 1846. According to this law, all the South Caucasus was divided into four provinces: Kutaisi, Tiflis, Shamakhy and Derbent. In 1847, Derbent Province together with Tarkovsky and Shamkhalate Mehtulinsky Khanate formed a special administrative area called Caspian region. According to the document of 1855 Caspian region consisted of two parts: Derbent Province and the lands of Northern and Upland Dagestan. [1]

These administrative reforms aimed to strengthen the royal power in the Caucasus. In 1849 Erivan province was established. [2] Erivan province was formed from the parts of the Tiflis and Shamakhi provinces. The lands, lying on the southern slope of the Caucasus, from the Surami ridge to the Black Sea, were included into Kutaisi Governorate-General a few months after the end of the Crimean War (August 16, 1856). Apart from Kutaisi province such autonomous possessions as Abkhazia, Samurzakan, Tsebelda, Svanetia and Mingrelia were included in the Kutaisi governorate-general.

Caucasus vicegerency is a special body of administrative and territorial management in the Russian Empire. It was headed by the governor, who was appointed personally by the Russian emperor. The vicegerent reported only to the tsar and carried out full civil authority (other than the legislative). At the same time, he was a major military rank in the region. The Head of the vicegerency, the vicegerent of His Majesty in the Caucasus, possessed practically unlimited powers. He had the right to solve all the problems, which did not require publication of new laws.

The map of the Caucasus of K. Koch, 1850.

The map of the Caucasus of K. Koch, 1850.

He owned all rights to appoint the people, to displace and dismiss the officials and their responsibilities, to assign ranks, to reward, to grant their pensions (with the exception of officials of the State Control, the State Bank and the judiciary). Under the extreme circumstances, he could revoke the decision of the provincial and regional officials of the Caucasus region, that is, he supervised the governors, governors-general (both military and civilian). There was a consultative body at the vicegerent — the Board. It included two specially appointed by the Emperor individuals — representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Home Affairs. In addition to them there were the Chief Executive on land management and agriculture, senior chairman of the Tiflis Court of Justice and the Director of the vicegerent’s Office on the Board.

Caucasian vicegerent, vested with extensive powers, was the representative of the supreme state power on the territories of the region and coordinated the activities of Russian ministries and departments, and partially performed the functions of the judiciary. [3]

It was this high status of the vicegerent that allowed establishing a separate issue of post stamps without the approval of this decision in the capital of the empire. The vicegerent was a competent deputy of Russian Emperor in the Caucasus and obeyed only to him.

The main legal documents determining the activity of the Caucasian vicegerent, were: “Highly approved the rules on the relationship of the Caucasian vicegerent dated January 6, 1846”, “Imperial rescript, issued to the name of Adjutant General Count Vorontsov “On strengthening the rights of the chief superintendent over the civil part of the Caucasus” from January 30, 1845” and “On introduction of all the cases of the Transcaucasian region and the Caucasian region into the Caucasian Committee from July 23, 1845”. [4, 5, 6]

Only those officials, who enjoyed the full personal confidence of Russian emperor, could be appointed to the position of the vicegerent. Therefore, Tsar Nicholas I appointed the graph M.S.Vorontsov the vicegerent of the Caucasus and the Commander-in-chief of a separate Caucasian Corps by the decree of November 17, 1844. Novorossiysk and Bessarabian Governorate-Generals were under his command too. The rescript of the appointment said: “I consider it necessary to choose a performer of my indispensable will the person, who will get all my unlimited trust and who will combine renowned military prowess with the experience of civil cases, which are very important...”.

The vicegerent was awarded the power and the authorities of the Minister in relation to all branches of management in the region. The cases which exceed ministerial authority were settled by him himself, reporting them to the emperor, or they were brought to the Office of the Transcaucasian Region Committee. The cases on the rewards of the officials and the reports were presented directly to the emperor. Vicegerent Vorontsov asked for the impact of the Ministers on the cases of the region to be discontinued. Just the influence of the Minister of Finance on the cases “of audit and control of any accountability” was recognized.

The power of the vicegerent on the territory entrusted to him was much more comprehensive than the governor-general’s. By the end of 1846 the control management was established. It included the Council and the Office of the vicegerent. The Council consisted of the officials and the governors appointed by the Emperor. He carried out the oversight functions over the entire management and the court in the Region. The vicegerent of the Caucasus supervised the chiefs of gendarmerie and railways. Military governors governed military institutions as well as the civil ones. The Headquarters of the vicegerent performed the general guidance. Later there appeared the Expedition of State Property on the Rights of the ministerial department.

By 1859, the Headquarters of the vicegerent consisted of the five original “ministerial departments”: the department of general affairs (which was in charge of the personnel, post offices, construction, healthcare and educational affairs), judicial, financial, state property and control department. There was even a special diplomatic Chancellery.

Since 1867 the vicegerent of the Caucasus was given even more extensive rights and powers, both in staffing the vicegerency and in managing the Region. Since that time Supreme supervision over the management of the Caucasus and the Transcaucasian region has been concentrated in the General Directorate established at the vicegerent, headed by a Chief. All the institutions included in it reported directly to him.

In 1883 governorate-general in the Caucasus was canceled and restored again February 26, 1905. It lasted until March 1917. [7]

The painter V.F. Timm. The palace of the Vicegerent in the Caucasus at Golovin Avenue in Tiflis, 1830.

The painter V.F. Timm. The palace of the Vicegerent in the Caucasus at Golovin Avenue in Tiflis, 1830.


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