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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.­

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