The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Zand dynasty

The Zand dynasty ruled southern and central Iran in the eighteenth century. The dynasty was formed by Karim Khan Zand, chief of the Zand tribe of Lurs who had previously been moved by Nader Shah to eastern Iran, but had returned after the death of the latter.

Karim Khan and Alimardan Khan Bakhtiari took control of central Iran following the unrest that arose from the assassination of Nader Shah (1747). They both chose a minor prince of the Safavid Dynasty as their puppet ruler and named him Ismail III . Karim Khan chose to be the military commander and Alimardan Khan was the civil administrator. Soon enough Karim Khan managed to eliminate his partner as well as the puppet king and in 1760, founded his own dynasty, the Zand. He refused to accept the title of the king and instead named himself "The Advocate of the People".

Karim Khan was a compassionate and very able ruler who soon managed to bring peace and prosperity into his area of control and made his capital city of Shiraz a centre of commerce and culture. His foreign campaigns against Azad Khan in Azerbaijan and against the Ottomans in Mesopotamia brought Azerbaijan and the province of Basra into his control. He left Shahrokh Shah , a grandson of Nader Shah, as the autonomous ruler of Khurasan out of respect. But he never stopped his campaigns against his arch-enemey, Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar , the chief of the Ghoyounlou Qajars . The latter was finally defeated by Karim Khan and his sons, Agha Mohammad Khan and Hosseingholi Khan , were brought to Shiraz as hostages.

In foreign policy, Karim Khan attempted to revive the Safavid era trade by allowing the British to establish a trading post in the port of Bushehr. This opened the hands of the British East India company in Iran and increased their influence in the country.

Karim Khan's monuments in Shiraz include the famous Vakil Fortress , Vakil Bazaar , and several mosques and gardens. He is also responsible for building of a palace in the town of Tehran, the future capital of the Qajar dynasty.

Karim Khan's death in 1779 left his territory vulnerable to threats from his enemies. His son and successor Abolfath Khan was an incompetent ruler who was heavily influenced by his half uncle (and Karim Khan's commander), Zaki Khan . Other rulers such as Jafar Khan and Alimorad Khan also failed to follow the policies of Karim Khan and soon enough, the country was under attack from all sides.

Biggest enemies of the Zands, the Qajar chiefs lead by the former hostage, Agha Mohammad Khan, were advancing fast against the declining kingdom. Finally, in 1789, Lotfali Khan , a grand-nephew of Karim Khan, declared himself the new king. His reign (until 1794) was spent mostly in war with the Qajar khan. He was finally captured and brutally killed in the fortress of Bam, putting an effective end to the Zand Dynasty.

The Zand era was an era of relative peace and economic growth for the country. Many territories that were captured by the Ottomans in the late Safavid times were taken back and Iran was once again a coherent and prosperous country. The art of this era is remarkable and despite the short length of the dynasty, a distinct Zand art had the time to emerge. Many Qajar artistic traits was actually copied from the Zand examples.

Politically, it is also important that the Zands, especially Karim Khan, chose to call themselves [[Vakilol Ro'aya]] (Advocate of the People) instead of kings. Other than the obvious propaganda value of the title, it can be a reflection of the popular demands of the time, expecting rulers with popular leanings instead of absolute monarchs who were totally detached from the population, like the later Safavids.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 03:29:09
Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53