Skip to content

1500-year-old fundamentals of law and order in Armenian Artsax (­Mountainous ­Karabakh­ Republic)

November 16, 2017

The ­formation ­of ­the ­Mountainous ­Karabakh­ Republic,­ the­ consolidation ­and ­further­ enforcement­ of ­its­ statehood ­in ­the ­arduous ­periods ­of­ war ­and­ the­ heavy­ post-­war ­times­ gave ­space ­for­ a ­number­ of­ questions. How­ could ­Azerbaijan ­constantly­ fail­ to ­assimi­late, ­to­ appropriate­ that ­small­ piece ­of ­highland ­after­ 70 ­years­ of ­anti­Armenian ­policy,­ after­ applying ­all­ the ­possible ­measures ­for ­persistent ­disturbance ­of­ the ­ethnical ­composition  ­of ­Artsakh?

­How­ could­ a­ handful­ of ­people ­stand ­up­ for ­the ­protection­ of ­their ­identity ­within ­the ­fierce ­regimes ­of ­the ­So­viet ­Union? ­Even­ when ­Azerbaijan­ largely ­used ­the­ military­ and ­political ­support­ of­ official­ Moscow ­to­ onset ­a ­war­ to ­suppress ­the ­struggle ­for­ self­determi­nation,­  to­ exterminate ­Armenians ­from ­that­ area, ­it­ was ­forced ­to­  face ­a­ disgraceful ­failure. ­How­ was ­the­ victory ­wheedled ­from ­an ­enemy ­that­ was ­multiply­  superior ­in quantity? How was it possible to establish a ­new­ type­ of­ modern ­and ­internationally ­recogniz­able ­statehood ­in­ the­ condition ­of­ war ­and ­economic­ crisis?

The ­answers ­to ­these ­questions ­are ­useful ­not ­only­ in­ terms­ of­ history,­ but ­for­effective ­building­ over­ the­ existing ­achievements.­ The­ right­ answers­ will ­support ­the ­interested­ political­ powers ­in ­finding ­the­ way ­to ­regulate ­the ­situation, ­in ­correct ­understand­ing ­the ­essence ­of ­the­Karabakh ­problem ­and­ in­ giv­ing ­an­ equivalent­ solution.­ The­ right­ answers ­will ­be­ useful­ to ­the ­people­who­ are ­fighting ­for ­indepen­dence ­and­ who ­are­ on ­the ­way­ of ­establishing ­the­ new ­statehood.
First ­of ­all, ­it ­must­ be ­well­ understood  ­that ­the­ mentioned ­issues ­have ­their­ own­ history. ­Both­ the­ military ­success ­and ­the ­political­ victories ­are­ closely­ related­ to­ it.­ Nothing ­new ­ever ­happened ­through­out ­that ­history, ­but everything ­rather ­developed ­in­ a ­natural ­flow  ­of­ time. At ­all­ times,­the ­threats ­to ­sovereignty ­and ­be­ lief­ have ­unified ­the ­people,­ the ­social­ and­ political­ powers­of ­Armenia.­ That ­is ­how ­the­ victories­ of­ 1918­ were ­gained­ in ­the ­battle ­of­Sardarapat,­ against ­the­ superior­ Turkish­ forces,­ hence ­establishing­ the­ fundament­ for ­the ­restoration ­of ­the ­Armenian­ statehood.­ One of the persisting evidences of such unity was ­the­ triumph­ our ­people ­celebrated ­in ­the­ War­ for Artsakh.

The­ victories­ have­ historical­ and­ legal­ roots,­ which  ­is­ evidenced ­in­ quite ­an interesting­and­ valu­able ­historical ­document.­ That ­is ­the  ­Constitution ­of­ Vachagan­ the ­Pious,­ which ­was­ written­ in­ the ­land­ of­ Artsakh ­1500­ years ­ago­and­ was­ perfectly­ maintained­ to ­reach­ our ­times.­ An ­introduction­ to ­that­ unique­ legal ­document, ­as­ well ­as ­to ­the ­circumstances ­in­ which ­it­ was ­written,­in­our­opinion,­ will­ help­ in­ bet­ter­ understanding ­and ­evaluating ­the ­realities ­of­the­ past­and,­why­ not­–­the­ present. After ­long  ­lasting ­wars, ­in ­387­ad., ­the­Armenian­ Kingdom ­was­ divided ­between ­the­ Byzantine ­Empire­ and ­Persia.­ The­western ­part ­of ­the ­country ­was ­an­nexed ­to ­the ­Byzantine­ Empire ­and ­the­eastern ­lands­ (including­ Artsakh)­ were­ given­ to­ Persia,­ where ­the­ Kingdom ­as­such ­was­ destroyed ­already ­in ­428­ad.­ It ­was ­reformed ­into ­a ­Marz ­(a­provincial­district);­ and ­in­ order­ to ­provide ­for ­the ­easiest­ way ­to­ manage­ that­ new­administrative ­unit,­ the­ Persians­e liminated­ all ­the ­possible ­ways­ of ­reestablishing ­independence­ and ­removed ­the ­eastern ­states­ of­ Armenia­­­Artsakh­ and ­Utiq, ­which ­had ­always ­been­ named­ as­ the ­“East­ern­ Side” ­or­the­ “Eastern­ World”.­ The­ latter­ were­ an­nexed­ to the Albanian tribes, ruled by Persia of the time ­and ­occupying ­a ­territory­  from ­the ­River­ Kura­ to ­the­Caucasian ­mountain ­chain, ­hence ­combining­ an other­ province­ of­ Aghvank­(known ­as ­the ­Cauca­sian ­Albania­ or ­Aluania).

Aghvank­ consisted­ of­ two­ irreconcilable­ parts,­ which ­was ­the­ main ­reason ­that the­ province ­did ­not­ ever­ become ­a ­single ­unified ­administrative ­unit.­ The­ North ­of ­the­ River ­Kura­ was ­inhabited  ­by ­dozens­ of­ small ­tribes­ that ­lived separately ­from ­each ­other ­and­ had ­no ­common ­trade,­ language, ­culture ­or­ religion.­
In­ contrast ­to­ this, ­the ­Eastern ­World ­of­ Armenia­ ex­isted ­in­ common ­and­ purely­ shared ­cultural ­and­ reli­gious­ values, ­and­ talked­ the ­same­ language.
Yet ­the ­Greek ­and ­Roman ­historians ­of ­the­ an­tique ­world­ wrote­ that­ Armenia­was ­separated ­from­ the ­Albanian ­tribes­ by ­River­ Kura.­ Due ­to ­the­ review­ of­ these ­sources­ of ­information,­ the ­so­ considered­ founder­ of ­Azerbaijani­ historical­ discipline ­Abbas­ Kuli ­Aga­ Bakikhanov ­wrote:­ “The ­Armenian­ border­ draws­ along ­the ­right ­bank ­of­ the­ River ­Kura, ­to­ the­ point ­where ­the­ River­ Araks ­flows ­into” ­(Гюлистан-Ирам, Баку, 1926, с. 8).

The­ areas ­to ­the ­North ­from­ the ­River ­Kura­ were­ populated­ by­ dozens ­of­ small­ tribes­ and ­were­ com­monly ­known­ to ­the ­ancient­ historians ­as ­“Albania”,­ which­ means a country of mountains. It is worth no­ticing­ that­ these ­lands­ have ­the­ same ­name­ even­ to­day,­ as ­Dagestan ­is­ translated ­from  ­the ­local ­language as ­“Country ­of ­Mountains”. ­Now­ these­ lands­ are ­in­habited­ by­ numerous ­different­ ethnic ­groups,­ as ­they­ were­ in ­the ­past.­ That ­break ­up­ was ­the ­main­ reason­ for­ the ­division ­of ­that ­region ­between ­the­ Soviet­ Russia­ and­ Azerbaijan, ­in ­1920.­

From­ the ­time­ of ­the­ collapse ­of­ the ­Soviet ­Union,­ the ­peoples ­that­ lived­ there ­have­ been ­striving ­for­ unification,­ especially­ about­ one­ million­ Lezghines­ that­ intend­ to­ unite­ with ­their­ second ­part,­ even ­after ­being ­assimilated­ under­ the­rule ­of­ Azerbaijan. ­The ­same­ 800 ­thousand­ people­ of ­Tallish ­struggle ­for ­their­ determination,­ and­ are ­severely ­suppressed ­by­ Azerbaijan, ­including­ the­prohibitions ­of ­announcing ­any ­such ­ethnic ­defi­nitions ­and­ naming­ everybody ­Azeri.

Coming ­back ­to ­the ­historical­ realities,­ the­ South­ern ­part ­of­ the­ newly ­established­ Aghvanian­ state,­i.e.­ the ­right ­bank ­of ­the ­River ­Kura,­ was ­at­ one ­time ­the­ Eastern ­border­ of­ Armenian ­Kingdom,­ with ­unified­ Armenian­  population that­ had­ common­ language,­ religion, ­shared­ historical­ and­ cultural­ values­ and­ practiced ­trade. ­Due ­to­ that­ unity, ­a ­small­ and ­partially ­independent kingdom was formed in that land under­ the­Persian ­rule,­in­ the ­5th­ century,­leaded­by­ the ­Armenian ­dynasty ­of­ Aranshahik. ­The ­liberation­ movements­ and­ struggle ­of ­the ­second ­half­ of­ the­ 5th­ century­ contributed ­to ­the ­consolidation­ of ­that­ kingdom, ­in ­the  ­result ­of ­which ­Persia ­was­ forced ­to­ alleviate ­its ­strict policy ­on ­Armenians,­ by­ signing­ the ­Treaty ­of­ Nvarsak. ­

Hence, ­the ­rights ­and­ freedom­ of ­the ­Armenian ­Marz ­were ­expanded; ­the­ tradition­ally ­established ­authorities ­of ­the ­Armenian ­minis­ters, ­to ­maintain ­armed­ forces ­and ­to ­collect­taxes,­ were ­completely ­restored.­ Naturally,­those­ compro­mises ­were­ also ­addressed­ to ­the ­Aranshahik ­dynasty­ established ­in­ Eastern ­Side. ­An ­Armenian­historian­ of ­the­ 5th ­century­ Movses­ Khorenatsi­ wrote­ that ­the­ dynasty­ came­ from­ Haik ­Nahapet.­ He­ also ­wrote ­that­ the­ Armenian­ Kingdom­ was­ established­ “զեզերբ­ հայկական­ խօսիցս”­ (Citation in old Armenian),­ which­ means­ in ­the­ area ­where­ people ­talked­ Ar­menian ­and ­marshals ­(leaders)­ were­ nominated ­from­ the­ generation ­of ­Haik ­Nahapet, ­to­ rule ­on ­the ­lands­ of ­the­ Kingdom.­ The ­North­ – Eastern ­part ­of ­Armenia­ stretched ­from  ­the­ River ­Araks ­to ­the ­right­ bank ­of­ the ­River ­Kura,­ also ­embracing­ the ­Castle ­of ­Hnarak­ert, ­on­ the­ left­ bank ­of­ the ­Kura.­ Khorenatsi ­tells­ that­ the­ courageous­ and ­noble ­Aran ­was ­nominated ­to­ rule  on ­those lands (Մովսէս Խորենացի, Պատմութիւն հայոց, գիրք երկրորդ գլուխ Ը).

The­ ministerial­ dynasty­ of ­Aran,­ which ­ruled ­the­ Armenian  ­people ­of ­those ­lands ­for ­centuries,­ used­ the­ traditional ­rights­ of ­theirs­ and­ established ­that­ small ­Armenian ­Kingdom ­in ­the ­5th ­century.­ Some­times­ that­ Kingdom­ was­named ­after­ the­  newly established­ unit ­of ­territory­–­Aghvank, ­but ­it ­lived ­and­developed ­as­ an­ Armenian ­land, ­and ­with ­Armenia.

In­ order ­to ­avoid ­the­ confusion ­in ­the ­names ­of­ this­ Armenian ­region ­and ­the­ country ­of­ Albania ­on­ the ­left­ bank ­of ­Kura,­ the­ writers ­of­ the ­time ­always­ differentiated ­Armenian ­Aghvank ­and ­the ­main land­ of ­Albania.­ For­instance,­ A.A.­ Tsagareli­ clearly ­sepa­rates ­the­ mainland ­of­ Albania,­ which­ stretched­ to­the­ North ­from ­River ­Kura,­ from ­the­ “Armenian ­Agh­vank” ­(Грамоты и другие исторические документы 18-го столетия, относящиеся до Грузии, том 2,  под ред. А. А. Цагарели)­ that ­lied­ to ­the­ South.

­Nu­merous­ books,­ printed­ by­ the­ order ­of ­the ­Russian­ Emperor­ Alexander,­ observed­ the­ River ­Kura­ as­ the­ border­ between­ Armenia­ and­ Albania ­(Описание Кавказа с кратким историческим описанием Грузии, СПБ, 1805, с. 28.). ­The ­sources­ of ­information­ under ­the­ services ­provided ­to­ the ­Russian  Tsars, ­permanently stated that the right banks of the River ­Kura ­were ­Armenian­ and­ were ­“…ruled by  Armenians till the recent times”­(Акты, собранные  Кавказской Археографической комиссией. Под ред. Ад. Берже, том 6, часть1, 1874, с. 840).­ In ­his­ works, ­a ­Russian ­researcher­ Nikolay ­Frolovsky ­ob­served ­the existence ­of­ another ­ethnical­ group,­ex­cept­ Armenians,­ on­ the­ left ­bank­ of ­the­River ­Kura­ in­ the­ middle ­of ­the­ 19th­ century, ­and ­gave  the following explanation: “Armenians have been the oldest inhabitants of these lands, and the tatars came from the other side of the Caspian Sea”  (Обозрение российских владений за Кавказом, ч. 2, СПБ, 1836, с. 439).

It­ is ­worth ­mentioning ­that ­the ­new­comes ,­ who ­had ­been ­accustomed ­to­ dry ­climate­ and­ deserts ­in­ the­ Eastern ­part ­of ­the ­Caspian ­Sea,­ discov­ered ­a­completely­ different ­climate­ and­ different ­na­ture ­in­ the ­Eastern­ World ­of­Armenia,­rich ­in ­forests,­ a ­plenty­ of­ meadows­ and­ gardens.­ They­ named­ that­ land ­Karabagh, ­which ­in ­their ­language ­meant ­“A­ Big­ Orchard”,­the ­same­ way ­as­they­(presently)­call­ the­ Karakum­–­A ­Big­ Sand­or­ Kara ­boghaz­ gyol­–­A­ Deep­ Hollow ­Lake,­ etc.­ Hence­ Artsakh­ obtained ­its­ second­ name, ­as ­Karabagh­ (Gharabagh).
The ­history ­of­ Azerbaijan ­contains ­justified ­expla­nations ­of­ changes ­in ­the ­ethnical­ composition­ of­ the mentioned­ Armenian lands, on the right bank of the River­ Kura.­ One ­of ­the ­founders ­of­ the­ Azerbaijani­ historical­ discipline,­Y.­A.­Pakhomov ­wrote ­that­ in­ the ­second­ half­ of ­the­ 18th­ century, ­long­ before ­the ­formation ­of­ khanates,­ a­ dynasty­ of ­beks ­ruled­ on­ those ­lands, ­and ­maintained ­their ­identity­  even ­dur­ing­ the ­khanates, ­though ­in­ parallel­ with ­the ­nominations ­of­ Turkish­ Tatar­ beks,­ from­ the ­leaders­ of­ the­ new­coming ­tribes:­ “In­ the ­future­the ­heirs­ of ­Turk­ish ­tribe ­leaders­ or,­ more ­exactly,­leaders ­of ­groups­ of­ tribes­ were­ envoyed­ by­ the­ Sefevian­ (Persian)­ Shahs ­to ­these ­lands ­and­ agreed­ to ­settle ­in­ the­ Tran­scaucasia ­from ­the ­16th ­century”­(Е. А. Пахомов, О  земельно-сословном вопросе Азербайджана, Баку,  1926, сс. 1-2).­

That­ process­ continued­ from ­the ­middle­ of ­the­ 18th­ century, ­when ­Persia ­formed ­a ­separate ­khan­ate  ­in­ Artsakh.­ In ­order ­to ­enforce ­credible ­ruling­ on­those­ lands, ­Muslim ­nomadic ­leader ­of ­a­ Turkish­ tribe ­Panah­ was­ proclaimed­the ­khan ­of ­­ Artsakh­.­ The­ khan­ himself­ always­ strived ­to­ establish ­firm ­social ­support ­that ­would­ help ­maintain ­his ­rule ­in ­those ­lands.

The ­histori­ographer ­of­ the­ khan ­wrote­ that­ the ­khan ­forcefully­ brought­ dozens­ of­ nomadic­ shepherds ­to­ settle­ in­ Shushi­ with­ their­ families,­ where­ his ­residence ­was­ (Мирза Адигезаль-бек, Карабах-наме, Баку, 1950,  с. 50-59).­ These­ families­ had ­never ­resided­ on ­any­ land ­and­ became ­a­ disaster ­for­ the ­locals,­ as­they ­de­stroyed ­the­ cattlesheds ­and­ gardens, ­stole ­the­ cattle­ and ­robbed ­the farmers.­  One ­of ­the­ statesmen ­of ­the­ historiography­ of­ Azerbaijan,­ V.­N.­Leviatov ­showed­ what­ destructive ­consequences ­all­ of­ those ­processes­ had ­on ­the ­economy ­of ­the ­region ­in­ general ­(В. Н.  Левиатов, Очерки истории Азербайджана в 18 в.,  Баку, 1948, с. 54-55).­
That ­policy ­brought ­to changes­ in ­the­ ethnical­ composition ­throughout ­the ­region,­ nevertheless,­ ac­cording ­to­ another­  known­ Azeri­ historian,­ Gasi­ Abdulayev:­ “Armenian ­feudal­ Meliks ­continued ­to ­rule­ in­ the ­mountainous ­parts­ of­ Karabakh”­(Г. Абдуллаев, “Азербайджан в 18 веке и взаимоотношения его с Россией”, Баку, 1965, с. 25).­

The ­existence ­of­ that ­small­ Kingdom ­in ­the ­East­ern ­World­ of ­Armenia­ was­ the­ first ­to ­be ­thoroughly­ studied ­by­ a­ known ­orientalist ­S.­V.­Yushkov,­ based­ on­ the­ writing­ of­ Movses ­Kaghankatvatsi­ “History ­of­ Aghvank”­ and­ other­sources.­ In­ order ­to ­avoid ­any­ confusion ­or­ misperception ­of ­the ­historical­ source­ of ­information, ­Yushkov ­stressed ­that ­the­ Kingdom­ mentioned ­in ­the ­“History ­of­ Aghvank”­ was ­on­ the­ territory ­of­ Ancient­ Armenia ­and ­was­ the­ “fragment”­ of­ once powerful Armenian State (К вопросу о границах древней Албании. Исторические записки  АН СССр, том 1, Москва, 1937, с. 137).

­It­ is ­worth­ mentioning­ that ­Movses ­Kaghankatvatsi ­presents­ the­ Albanian­ tribes ­as ­“savage”  ­and­ their­ rulers­ as­ “evil”­ (Book 1, Chapter 11).­ It­ means ­that ­the­ author ­of ­the­ “History ­of­ Aghvank” ­describes­ the ­Albanian ­tribes­ as­ strange ­and­ hostile.

It­ must­ be ­recalled­ at­ this ­part­ of ­the ­discussion­ that ­the ­correct ­knowledge ­of­geographical ­locations­ and ­ethnic­ names ­is ­important ­for ­proper ­understanding­of ­the ­historical­ realities.­ Related­ scientific­ works­ have ­been­ carried­ out ­in Azerbaijan,­ in ­the­ first­ years­ of ­formation ­of ­that­ country.­ Before  ­the ­1930s ­the­ core ­population ­of­ Azerbaijan ­was ­comprised ­of Udi people, Ta­tars, ­Tats, ­Tallish,­ Lezghines, ­Avars,­ Caucasian­ Turks,­ Kurds ­and­ Persians, ­including­ Armenians ­and­ Rus­sians, ­as­ well­ as ­other ­ethnic ­groups.­ Starting ­from­ 1930s, ­all­ the ­Muslim­ ethnic­ groups ­were­ called ­Azeries,­ in ­the­ name ­of ­the­ newly ­established­ state.­It­ is­ interesting ­that ­the ­same ­people ­who­ called­ themselves­ “Azerbaijani”,­ in­ routine­ named ­themselves­ simply ­Muslims, ­which­ means­ that­the­ self­percep­tion ­of ­“Azerbaijani”­ did ­not­ exist­ in ­practice.­


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: