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

On December 15 the Catholicos of all Armenians and his retinue appeared in downtown Shushi, where were met by the Armenian community led by Bishop Anton. The Catholicos was accompanied by the future literary dealer historian Mesrop Taghiadian, who later described this tour in a work. The Armenian Patriarch was accepted by the prosperous Shushi merchants – the two brothers Zohrap and Markos Tarrumians. The town had taken a highly visible role in trade before the arrival of the Russians. In the absence of normal trade routes and a market the two brothers pioneered and controlled a serious trade between Siberia and Europe, India, Iran and Russia. Due to its mercantile and trading class, Shushi had grown to the second trading centre in Transcaucasia, after Tiflis. The Hakhumians had invested one million roubles in the Russian bank. The Hakumians were originally Karabakhian, while the Tarrumians belonged to Shahkert (Goghtan province). Migrating to Yerevan in 1750 and being constantly subdued by the Sarder, they moved to Shushi. Hardly had the Russians taken over Baku, when 1808 the Shushi merchant Baba Tarrumian appeared there. He undertook to pioneer the Baku oil, as well as the Salian and other fishing places and other enterprises, which were extremely profitable. After Baba’s death in Derbent, his capital was taken to Shushi, where his brothers Markos and Zohrap resumed Baba’s activity adding new sacks of gold to those already filled by their brother.2

At that time Shushi was the third largest town of Transcaucasia, with a population of about 2600, or 500 families. There existed three churches in the higher town, occupied largely by Armenians. The churches were; Karabagian (St. Astvatsatsin), Aguletsian and Ghazanchian (an ancient building, in 1886 was replaced by a new one).

In contrast to the Tarrumians, the Hakhumians were not so munificent. They developed trade through their innumerable agents called “chraghs”, who gradually increasing their own capitals became independent merchants later. Moreover, the Shushi centre itself encouraged several dealers to serious business. The sense of wealth now united people around itself. The atmosphere gave an impetus to the process of assimilation of the new-comers into the natives. Though the Hakhumians were far from being generous, they established a strong mercantile unit in Karabakh.

The most prominent scholars of the time bishops Peter Ghardaghtsi and Hovsep Ter-Avagian Artsakhtsi were invited to teach the mercantile and trading class children. The latter was a specialist in theology, logics and grammer. He was famous for his activity in the Gandzassar and St. Hakoba monasteries. He was the author of a number of research works, such as “Concise Logics”, “Grammer”, “Grabar – Ashkharabar Dictionary”. After staying in Shushi for a short period of time he returned to his monastic schools.

General Yermolov, returning from the Caucasian war, ordered the Catholicos of all Armenians to leave for Echmiadzin at once. He was afraid that his stay would cause a Russo-Persian conflict. The Russian Emperor shared his fear in the matter.3 The restoration works of the St. Thaddeus Monastery had come to an end but the belfry was partially restored and the Persians did not undertake to resume the work, as they were not sure that their project to transfer the Main Chair to Maku would succeed. On June 8, 1822 the Archbishob Nerses arrived in Shushi. Markos Tarrumian was sick onto death. He paid eight thousand in gold to the Catholicos Yeprem instead of the requested four thousand.

At that time, after its reconstitution the Albanian Catholicossate became a Bishopic. The Yeprem Catholicos, afraid of Abbas “Muirza’s punishment refused to return to Echmiadzin. On August 5 the old Patrirch wrote a formal letter to the Russian Emperor, as well as to the Iranian crown-prince and to Prince Golitsin, where describing the unbearable situation of the Armenian priesthood under the Persians, asked for the Russian patronage. Probably this letter was the result of Nerses Ashtaraketsi’s diplomacy. Residing in the Haghpat Monastery, Yeprem kept being recognized as the Catholicos of all Armenians. The Iranian government demanded his return to Echmiadzin, but was responded that return would take place after the abolishment of the Sardar’s rule.

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