Nader Gholi Afshar Gharakhlou, son of a cloak tailor from the Khorasan province in the north east of Iran, was born on 1688 in Daregaz. His father died when Nader was very young and the young boy had to support his mom. He was once kidnapped by Uzbek bandits along with his Brother Ebrahim and his mother. Nader spent four years in the Uzbeks jail, but he escaped with his brother when their mother died on captivity.
Nader began his career by joining the army of Baba Ali Beyg Koose Ahmadlou Afshar. In his army, Nader started showing his military abilities and was soon promoted as a general and married Goharshad, Baba Ali's daughter. He took over the power and wealth of Ali Beyg Koose after he passed away. At this time, Shah Tahmasp II Safavi, who declared himself king after the defeat of Afghans, heard of Nader's growing power and decided to take advantage of this new power. He sent Hossein-Ali Beyg Bastamy to invite Nader to join his army. Nader saw the opportunity and joined Tahmasp II's growing number of commanders.
Very soon Nader became the second most powerful person in Tahmasp II's court, and he soon decided that he has to get rid of the most powerful person, Fath-Ali Khan Qajar Qovanlou. Fath-Ali Khan, who was older and more experienced than Nader, felt the danger and started his struggle to escape Nader's trap, but he lost the game to him and was killed soon after.
Shah Tahmasp II, weak and careless like his father and grandfather, was happy with the peace in his court and did not care about who really controls his divided and anarchic country. When Nader became the ultimate strong man, Tahmasp awarded him with the title of “Tahmaspgholi Khan”, meaning “The Servant of Tahmasp”. A title with which Nader was known until his election as king.
At this time, the country was under chaos. Afghans, headed by Ashraf, controlled the eastern and central parts of the country, Tahmasp II was just claiming the country, without any actual territories. Ottomans, taking advantage of this situation, attacked and invaded the western sections of the country and captured Hamedan. Nader, both for his own ambitions and also patriotism, decided to throw the enemies out of the country.
For the beginning, he faced Ashraf and his Afghans twice, once in Mehmandoost near Semnan, and then in Moorche-Khort on north of Esphahan. Both times Ashraf was defeated and pushed back to Shiraz, there, in a final battle, Nader destroyed Ashraf’s army. Ashraf, escaping to Laarestan, was killed by a servant of his cousin, Mir Hossein, and his head was sent to Nader.
After finishing the Afghan business, Nader looked to the west (1733). In several battles with Ottoman’s, Nader defeated Ottomans and pushed them back to the older boundaries. Then he continued his attacks on Mesopotamia. He conquered Soleymania, Samera, and Karkouk, but was defeated behind the walls of Baghdad when Toupal Osman Pasha sent more forces to support Ahmad Pasha, the Ottoman governor of the city. Nader did not give up and came back with greater forces and this time put Ottomans under such pressure that they agreed to give the cities on the west of Aras river to Iran, in addition to Karbala and Basra on southern Mesopotamia. At this time, Russians, also getting afraid of this new strong man, gave back the cities of Yervan and Tephlis that they had taken away during the time of chaos.
When Nader went back to the now safe capital of Esphahan in 1736, he saw the weak Safavi king living in wealth and comfort and enjoying the goods of life. Nader, being aware of kings behavior, planned a trap for the king so that courtiers can see kings behavior with their own eyes, then he started a plot to depose Tahmasp and elect his 9 years old son, Abbas as Shah Abbas III. Nader became the sole ruler of the country, but finally he invited all of the governors of different provinces to a council in Moghan, north east of Azerbaijan. In the council of Moghan, pressured by Nader’s army, but also deciding partly on their own observations, the nobles unanimously chose Nader as the new king. Abandoning his “Tahmasp-Gholi Khan” title, Nader crowned as Nadershah I.
When Nader became king, his first action was to pursue his ultimate goal of gaining more money and more territories. He turned to the sure place, India! For the start, he had to secure his back, thus still operating from Esphahan, Nader headed for Ghandehar and Haraat, the eastern most parts of the country. He invaded Ghandehar and Haraat just opened the gates to the ruthless warrior. Nader’s eldest son, Reza Gholi, captured Balkh, then with the support of Balkh’s governor, Nader conquered Bokhara, Samarghand, and then the rest of the Transoxania.
Now, being sure that his northern neighbors would not have the power to rise against him, Nader turned his attention to Kabul, then part of Mongol Empire of India. Nader invaded Kabul and did not waste anytime to continue to the south, he invaded Lahour and Karachi, and reached the gates of Delhi (then Shah Jahan Abad) in 1738. Mohammad Shah, taken by storm, was incapable of defending his falling empire, so he just opened the doors of the city. Indians, upset by their kings weak reaction, started killing Nader’s soldiers, despite the orders to stop the fight. Nader, always fast tempered, ordered massacre of residents and only stopped after Mohammad Shah’s request and offers of money.
After emptying Mohammad Shah’s treasury from all of the precious stones and money, Nader spoke in public and expressed his support for the reign of Mohammad Shah and ordered the coins with his name to be changed back to Mohammad Shah’s name. Then he made a deal with the emperor to provide him with a hefty amount of money each year and promise of support and help. Next, Nader turned back home, this time looking for a good place to store the treasures. He found the perfect place in Kalat mountains, just north of his birthplace in Dareggaz. Then he changed the capital from Esphahan to Mashhad, the biggest city in Khorasan.
From then he started again to conquer Transoxania, he killed the king of Kharazam and appointed Khan of Bokhara as the ruler of all of Transoxania. Then he decided to go to Mesopotamia and conquer that section, but he got the news of his brothers death in Caucasia in the hand of Lezgi (present day Daghestani) tribes. Nader reached Caucasia in 1741, and fought with Lezgis, with no real results, this war ended in peace and a treaty of cease-fire. This was the place that Nader first meat Dr. Bazin, a French friar who became his personal physician.
Next, Nader headed to Mesopotamia and fought with Ottomans and in a treaty agreed to occupy Najaf and leave the rest of the Mesopotamia alone. He then went to Shiraz and then back to Mashahad. For some times, he lived in peace, but once again he had to head out to war with some tribes that rebelled. One night, in 1747, near Damghan in north east of the country, two of Naders commanders decided to kill Nader, so they entered his tent and cut his head with a sword, this was the end of life one of Iran’s greatest and cruelest kings.
Although a great conqueror, Nader can not be considered as a good or wise king. He did nothing to organize the war stricken country. He did not consider will of the people in his reign. All of the money that he gained from his conquest, he put on a treasure in Kalat. At the end of his life, he grew so suspicious of others that he even blinded his own son Reza Gholi Mirza in charge of treason. Nobody was safe from his anger. His death was both bitter and sweet. It marked the end of a period of golden conquests and national pride, but it also was full of murder and suspicion. All in all, Nader is considered as a great and influential king, but never reaching the level of Kourosh with his unusual open minuends or Shah Abbas for his creation of a united and powerful country.
Almost immediately after Nader’s murder in Damghan, the country fell into anarchy. All of Nader’s commanders started collecting forces and declaring themselves kings. The first one was Ahmad Khan Ebdali, one of Nader’s Afghan commanders. Ahmad Khan invaded Kabul, Ghandehar and Mazarsharif and declared himself king of Afghanistan, he later captured Harat for a short period of time.
At the same time, Nader’s nephew, Ali Khan declared himself king as Adel Shah (the Just King). The first action of this “Just” ruler was t kill all of his cousins! He killed Reza Gholi Mirza, Emam Gholi Mirza and all of other descendants of Nader who could be a problem for him. As you can expect, he did not enjoy his “just!” actions for a long time and was soon killed by his own brother who became Ebrahim Shah. Ebrahim Shah also gave his place to other adventurers.
Next, the nobles elected Shahrokh, the teenage son of Reza Gholi Mirza, Nader’s blind son, as the new king, but it was not long until a new person came along, Shah Soleyman III. This man, originally called Mirza Mohammad, was the son of Shah Soleyman I Safavis daughter and a clergy man in Mashhad. Encouraged by some nobles, he called himself the true heir to the throne and captured and blinded Shahrokh. In his own term, he did not last a long time (1749-1750). He was captured and blinded, and Shahrokh returned to the throne, with blind eyes! His “reign” continued 1796, when he was imprisoned by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (see next chapter).
At the other side of the country, three local chiefs tried to gain the power. They were Ali Morad Khan Bakhtiari, Karim Khan Zand, and Abolfath Khan Haft Lang. They found a grandson of Shah Soltan Hossein and called him Ismail III. Under the name of protecting the “rightful” king, these three gained power. Abolfath Khan became the Prime Minister, Karim Khan got the job of the army chief commander and Ali Morad Khan became the regent. The three friends, as they came to be known, conquered all of the country with the exemptions of Azerbaijan (ruled by Azad Khan Afghan), Mazandaran (controlled by Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar) and Khorasan (still under the power of Shahrokh). Then, as long as some people are smarter than others, Karim Khan and Ali Morad Khan got rid of Abolfath Khan, and then Karim Khan just illuminated Ali Morad Khan! In the process, “Shah” Ismail III just was not important any more!!! So, Karim Khan, becoming the only “regent”, decided to do the better thing and called himself, well, not king, rather “The Servant of the People” (Vakil Al-Melleh).