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

REFERENCE MATTER TO CHAPTER 10

1.M. Taghiadian “Literary Inheritance”, v.9. Academy of Sciences of the R.A.,

Yerevan,1975, p.157.

2. Leo, v.IY, p.512.

3. Al. Yeritsian “Catholicossate of all Armenia and Caucasian Armenia”, Tiflis,

1894, p.199.

4. Lynch XFB, Armenia, Reports and Sketches, Tbilisi, 1910, p.127.

5.V. Potto “The Heroic Defence of the Shushi Fortress”. Petersburg, 1903.

6. Hakob Poghossian “History of Albanian Province”, Yerevan, Repository of

Ancient Manuscripts, m. N2734, pp.3-9.

All the foreign powers dominating Armenia throughout centuries assumed overlordship in the country through the Armenian Church and especially through the Echmiadzin Main Chair (Mair Ator), which had been replacing statehood since the day when Armenia was divided between the Roman Empire and Persia, soon after the Sassanid Persians putting an end to the existence of the Kingdom of Armenia and its independence in 428. The Armenian Apostolic Church played a central role in the life of the Armenian community in early nineteenth century. All the Armenians regarded membership of the Church as an integral part of being Armenian. Aware of these circumstances the Russians managed to keep the rule of Echmiadzin in their hands through the pro-Russian Armenian Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi, who in his turn hurried to put an end to the Iranian war and liberate Armenia from the Persian domination. Turkey too, had tried to transfer the Armenian Catholicossate to Constantinople from Echmiadzin, but the attempts turned to be fruitless.

Abbas Mirza was aware of the pro-Russian tendences of the Armenian religious head. Though geographically Echmiadzin was situated in the sphere of Iranian influence, he formed an interesting plan, according to which the Catholicos’ Chair should be transferred to southwards of the Arax river, far from the Russian influence. The Iranian crown-prince, who was parallel the viceroy of the Azarbaijan district (Atropateni), chose the St. Thaddeus Monastery near the town Maku as a residence for the Armenian Catholicos. The monastery underwent restoration since 1910. The restoration works were in full swing and soon, because of the press of the crown-prince through the Yerevan Sardar Hussein Kuli Khan, the weak Yeprem Catholicos was unable to resist the crown-prince and agreed to move to Maku. The increase in oppression and the extra taxes had made him heavily indebted to money lender beks and he saw no way out of the trap set for himself. In winter of 1812 the Catholicos, accompanied by his retinue left for Siunik then for Nakhichevan from were was to cross the river thus realizing Abbas Mirza’s intentions, when suddenly the agents of Nerses Ashtaraketsi, who had been following the Catholicos during the whole journey, forced him to return back to the Tatev Monastery, where on the pretext of receiving the generous contribution of the prosperous Shushi merchants, he was persuaded to go to Karabakh, which was already under the Russian jurisdictions, and the Persian crown-prince would be unable to do him harm. It seemed that this step of the Catholicos would give an impetus to a new escalation of a Russo-Persian conflict, but nothing happened as Abbas-Mirza was not ready for a new war. The situation of Russia was not satisfactory either, as a new cycle of violence was set in motion in the Caucasian Highlands, where Russia was fighting against the Lezgis, Avars, Dargins, Chechens and the others for fifty years.

The Russian utilization of Christianity as a device for imperial expansion encouraged those opposed to Russia, to utilize Islam as a counter force. The highlanders were led by Imam Shamil, the Chechens among his most ardent supporters and suppliers of warriors dedicated to the North Caucasian independence in the name of Islam.

General Yermolov reported about the tour of the Armenian Catholicos to Shushi to the Emperor Alexander I and asked his imperial permission for the Catholicos to reside in Shushi as a civilian. Yermolov turned to the Archbishop Nerses Ashtaraketsi, who had won the favour of the Russians and maintained good relations with the court, to promote an agreement between the Catholicos and the Emperor.

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