ČALABĪĀNLŪ, a Turkicized tribe dwelling, for the most part, in the dehestān of Garmādūz in Aras­bārān (q.v., formerly Qarājadāḡ) region of northern Azerbaijan. Its summer pastures are around Ḥūrmogān (dehestān of Kaleybar), half-way between Ahar and the Aras river; its winter pastures are around Ḵānbāḡī (dehestān of Garmādūz), some 40 kilometers northeast of Kaleybar (Oberling, pp. 65-66). But today nearly all the Čalabīānlūs are sedentary. According to Lady Sheil (p. 396), in 1849 the tribe comprised 1,500 “tents and houses.” According to K. E. Abbott (Amanat, p. 232), in 1864 it comprised 6,000 families, 4,000 of which were sedentary. In 1960, the tribe comprised 1,974 house­holds and, by then, nearly all the tribesmen had settled down upon the land (Oberling, p. 65).

The Čalabīānlūs were among the most intractable of the nomads of Arasbārān. In 1225/1810-11 they re­belled against the central government and migrated to Qarābāḡ. But Pīrqolī Khan Qājār, whose task it was “to defend the frontiers of Mughan,” was ordered to subdue them. The Čalabīānlūs were then obliged to return to their old pasture grounds in Arasbārān (Brydges, pp. 424-25).

A detachment of Čalabīānlū cavalry participated in the capture of Herat in 1273/1856. Bāqer Khan, the commander of this unit, was killed during the campaign (Bāybūrdī, pp. 121-22).

During the Constitutional Revolution of 1325-­30/1906-11, the Čalabīānlūs acquired international notoriety owing to the exploits of their leader, Raḥīm Khan, who was a colorful bandit in the manner of Fra Diavolo in 18th-century Calabria. He became one of the favorites of the crown prince, Moḥammad-ʿAlī Mīrzā Qājār, when the latter was governor-general of Azer­baijan during the period immediately preceding the Revolution. When Moḥammad-ʿAlī became shah in Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1324/January 1907, Raḥīm Khan accompanied him to Tehran and was appointed comman­der of the court cavalry (rīāsat-e savārān-e dīvānī ). The titles of Noṣrat-al-Solṭān and Sardār-e Noṣrat were also bestowed upon him (Farzād, p. 91; Amīrḵīzī, P. 33).

Raḥīm Khan and his second (but favorite) son, Büyük (Bīyūk) Khan, remained loyal to Moḥammad­-ʿAlī Shah throughout the revolutionary period, and were the most powerful of the tribal leaders who fought on the royalist side. During the siege of Tabrīz, Raḥīm Khan and his private army consisting of Čalabīānlūs, as well as many Moḥammad-Ḵānlūs and Šāhsevans (qq.v.), occupied the northern approaches to the city and raided the whole countryside between the Kaleybar river and the Jolfā road. When Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah was overthrown in Jomādā II 1327/July 1909, Raḥīm Khan and several of his allies sent a telegram to the deposed shah in the Russian Embassy assuring him that “as long as we live we will not allow anyone to mention anywhere the word "constitution"” (Kasrawī, p. 90; Amīrḵīzī, p. 431; British Parliament: Persia No. 1, p. 5). Raḥīm Khan also threatened to march on Tehran with a force of Qarājadāḡīs and Šāhsevans, but instead he invaded northeastern Azerbaijan with a tribal army of about 10,000 men (Kasrawī, p. 91). A small force of approximately 100 men commanded by Sattār Khan was hastily assembled in Tabrīz and dispatched to Ardabīl to prevent the capture of that city by Raḥīm Khan. However, this unit could not withstand the superior force of Raḥīm Khan and soon was forced to return to Tabrīz. Raḥīm Khan occupied Ardabīl in Šawwāl 1327/November 1909 (Kasrawī, pp. 84-94; Amīrḵīzī, pp. 410-38).

With the seizure of Ardabīl, Raḥīm Khan completed his conquest of northeastern Azerbaijan. But he was not able to consolidate his power in the region. When news of the fall of Ardabīl reached Tehran, the constitution­alist regime at once sent Yeprem Khan, the brilliant Armenian revolutionary leader who had been named commander of the Army of the North, and Jaʿfarqolī Khan Baḵtīārī to the scene with a force consisting of 500 men and four cannon. This well-­disciplined force, which was joined by the garrison in Sarāb, easily routed Raḥīm Khan’s ragtag army, which had been weakened by the desertion of many of its elements. By the middle of Ḏu’l-ḥejja 1327/end of December 1909, government troops had not only recaptured Ardabīl but also taken Ahar, the Čalabīānlū capital. Raḥīm Khan and his retinue were then chased all the way to the Aras river, and, in late Moḥarram 1328/early February 1910, they were forced to seek asylum in Russia (Kasrawī, pp. 107-09; Amīrḵīzī, pp. 444-47, 481-84; British Parliament: Persia No. 2, p. 155).

In January 1911 Raḥīm Khan returned to Iran, “to become a further source of expense and difficulty to the constitutionalist regime” (Shuster, p. lii). But he was soon lured to Tabrīz by the leaders of the provincial anjoman. There, he was given a room in the Ālā Qāpū and placed under police surveillance. Later, he was incarcerated in the Ark. Finally, in the month of Ramażān 1329/September 1911, he was secretly executed during Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah’s unsuccessful attempt to reestablish himself in power (Kasrawī, pp. 154-55, 206-08; Malekzāda, VI, pp. 179-82). Büyük Khan died in Arasbārān in 1313 Š./1934-35 (Bāybūrdī, p. 137).

Following the death of Raḥīm Khan, the Čalabīānlūs lost most of their influence in Arasbārān, and Sām Khan Amīr-e Aršad, the chief of the Ḥājī-ʿAlīlū tribe, rapidly filled the power vacuum in the region.

During the reign of Reżā Shah, the tribes of Aras­bārān did not suffer as much as the tribes of Fārs and Lorestān from his forced settlement policy, for most of the tribesmen were already sedentary, and their lands were comparatively fertile. Moreover, their migration routes were very short, so that a few shepherds were able to move the flocks from their summer pastures to their winter pastures, and vice versa, without attracting much attention.



There is a huge amount of infor­mation on the activities of Raḥīm Khan during the Constitutional Revolution in the Foreign Office files at the Public Record Office in London and in British Parliament: Accounts and Papers 1909, Vol. CV, Persia No. 1, and Persia No. 2; 1910, vol. CXII, Continuation of Persia No. 2; 1911, vol. CIII, Continuation of Persia No. 1; 1912-13, vol. CXXII, Persia No. 3, and Continuation of Persia No. 3. The Times (of London) also frequently mentioned him. The two most informative sources in Persian are Kasrawī and Amīrḵīzī (with detailed index).

Ī. Afšār Sīstānī, Īlhā, čādornešīnān o ṭawāyef-e ʿašāyerī-e Īrān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.

A. Amanat, ed., Cities and Trade. Consul Abbott on the Economy and Society of Iran, 1847-1866, London, 1983.

E. Amīrḵīzī, Qīām-e Āḏarbāyjān wa Sattār Khan, Tabrīz, 1339 Š./1960.

M. Atrapet, Rahim Khan Serdar, Alexandropol, 1910. Bāmdād, Rejāl I, pp. 506-07.

S. Bāybūrdī, Tārīḵ-e Arasbārān, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 122-37.

Browne, The Persian Rev­olution, pp. 141-42, 148, 256, 271, 296, 349, 441, 446.

H. J. Brydges, The Dynasty of the Kajars, London, 1829.

Ḥ. Farzād, Enqelāb wa taḥawwol-e Āḏarbāyjān dar dawra-ye Mašrūṭīyat, Tabrīz, 1324 Š./1945.

M. Moḵber-al-Salṭana Hedāyat, Ḵāṭerāt o ḵaṭarāt, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950, pp. 256-60.

M. S. Ivanov, Iranskaya revolyutsiya 1905-1911 godov, Moscow, 1957.

A. Kasrawī, Tārīḵ-e hījdah-sāla-ye Āḏarbāyjān, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954-55.

M. Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, 7 vols., Tehran, n.d.

A. Moore, The Orient Express, London, 1914, pp. 4-7.

P. Oberling, “The Tribes of Qarāca Dāġ,” Oriens 17, 1964, pp. 78-88.

M. L. Sheil, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, London, 1856.

W. M. Shuster, The Strangling of Persia, New York, 1912, pp. lii-liii.

(Pierre Oberling)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 655-656