CHAPTER 10 THE RUSSIAN DOMINATION IN TRANSCAUCASIA AND RUSSO-PERSIAN PEACE TREATY OF 1818

At that time the third largest town of Transcaucasia in the Mountainous Karabakh: Shushi, with a population of forty thousand, was preponderantly Armenian. A new educational movement was set up in the town by the Swiss Evangelical missionaries. Their preachers August Ditrich and Felician Zaremba were granted the permission to found German communities, printing houses and schools in Caucasia from the Russian authorities. They chose to work in Shushi as it was a settlement where both Christians and Muslims lived side by side. Before the Basle missionaries had arrived in Shushi, some events took place in the region, which deserve to be mentioned. The details of the events were given by the English traveller Lynch.4 The European protestant preachers, after a thorough investigation of the political situation in Asia, decided that it was high time to convert the Middle East Muslims to Christianity. It was beyond the English missionaries capability to christianize the local Muslims, but the Evangelical missionaries thought of other means to persuade them to adopt the Christian faith. They spread the news of the Advent: the second coming of Christ at the last Judgement to destroy the Earth and punish the inhabitants, sparing only the people of those regions where he will arrive, and they will live in the Kingdom of God. They mentioned the exact year of Advent – 1836, and the exact territory – the Kur-Araxes valley. 1500 German families took their way to the unknown land of the man-God. More than the half of pilgrims perished on the way to Odessa. Only one hundred families reached Georgia in 1817. They moved to the Tiflis and Yelizavetpol provinces and founded the Yelendorf (the present day Khanlar) and Annefeld (Shamkhor) settlements. The Armenian Protestants of the time intended to set up several Christian colonies on the Persian frontier thus providing the preachers and missionaries with a base. This activity would enable the access of Christian Faith to the Muslim world, of course not without political considerations, and conquer the Orient peacefully, an aim that the Crusaders failed to achieve.

And so the members of Basle Evangelical community Zaremba and Ditrich were accepted by the Russian Emperor Alexander and granted with certain priviliges and permission to baptize and set up printing houses and schools. They were also authorized to supply and appoint abbots to the German communities. In 1823 they bought a land and built a three storey house on it. This residence of theirs was situated between the Armenian and Tatar parts od Shushi. They set on preaching among the Armenians intending to spread their acticity on the Muslims some time later. With the arrival of Basle missionaries Shushi gradually became a flourishing centre of Armenian culture. They established a school and a printing press in the town.

The Iranian crown-prince Abbas Mirza, having the former Transcaucasian Khans around him, decided to set up a campaign against the Russians, instigating the Transcaucasian and Daghestan Muslims to rise in arms against the Russian rule, thus supplying the Persian army with a base. The unexpected death of the Russian Emperor Alexander on November 25, 1825, threw everything into confusion in Russia. The Persians tried to make the better of it. Alexander’s young brother Nikolai was the legitimate inheritor of the throne, but Constantine’ discontented adherents stirred up trouble amang the soldiers of the Russian army. The new Tsar immediately suppressed the attempt of revolt. Probably Abbas Mirza was sure that the situation was much more critical in Russia and hoped to advance easily and conquer Transcaucasia in a short period of time. General Yermolov, unaware of the Persian threat, was in Daghestin fighting against Shamil.

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