With the decree of Nicolas the First of March 20,1928, just after the conclusion of the Turkmenchai Treaty, the khanates of Yerevan and Nakhichevan were joined together, including the Ordubad region, to form the province of Yerevan. Karabakh, on the other hand, became part of the “Caspian Territory”1 in 1840, part of the province of Shemakha in 1846 and eventually in 1867 part of the province of Yelizavetpol (which was called Gandzak until 1804, Kirovabad between 1935 and 1989 and since then Gianja) together with the provinces of Kutaisi, Tiflis, Yerevan and Baku.

The Russian rule, though rather repressive, in many ways contained within itself the seeds of modernization, and saved the Armenian nation from physical elimination. Neither the Caucasian highlanders, nor the Turkish tribes and not even the Shah’s army threatened its borders. In general the Armenians prospered from the Russian conquest. In this aspect Russia is such a European country which guarantees the security of each nation within itself and provides them with an opportunity to develop economically. The Armenian historian Leo writes, “and this is a privilege granted to the nations who had been suffering under the Oriental yoke, and especially to Armenians”2. But the Russian bureaucracy brought the repressive structures of the Tsarist rule.

From 1827, with the arrival of missionaries from Basle, who established a school and a printing press in the town, Shushi gradually became a flourishing centre of Armenian culture, the most important after Tiflis and Baku. Of course the Basle enlighteners hadn’t forgotten their main cause of penetrating into the Muslim population of the area step by step and spreading the Christian faith through educational institutions. Within a year the number of their students in the Shushi school grew to 130. It was a true national educational institution. “The children came from various strata of society, but we strived to engage pupils from the lower classes more”, wrote the preachers. Poghos Vartabed (preacher) Garadaghtsi was teaching in that school. The Bastle preachers were especially attentive to the teaching methods, morality and conduct. They were surprised at the vigour of the Shushi children, trying to be diligent, and encouraged their general strive for education. Moreover, the school carried out another important mission in Karabakh; the graduates opened schools in the Karabakh villages. Soon five more schools were functioning on the Karabakh territory – two in Shushi, three in villages, each with 20-30 pupils. In addition to its schools and monuments, Shushi bacame after 1865 a centre for theatrical activity in the building of a large theatre. Also, from 1874 onwards, the presses in Shushi published numerous periodicals, as well as first editions of the works of numerous authers, including those of the celebrated historian Leo. In 1900, Shushi was third after Constantinople and Tiflis, for the number of Armenian students sent abroad. The Basle missionaries encouraged the use of the Armenian litarary language (ashkharabar), as it enabled to educate easily and freely. The Armenian nation should appriciate highly the activity of the preachers in this aspect, without obscuring the role of the great Armenian novelist and enlightener Khachatur Abovian. The Basle missionares were also researchers; August Ditrikh studied the Armenian grabar (the ancient literaty language) in Moscow and Haaz studied the Karabakh dialect of the Armenian language, to publish books using the mentioned languages. They had planned to publish the Bible in the Karabakh dialect, which alas, did not come true. The Basle activists published books both in Shushi and in Moscow, in the publishing house of the Lazarian Academy. The Shushi printing press was the second in Armenia, the first was in Echmiadzin. During the 7 years of its existence it published 11.679 Armenian, 728 Persian, 147 Turkish and 100 Hebrew books. In 1828 Harutiun Jughaetsi Davtian’s translation of the Russian “History of Holy Books” came out. The books published here, were distributed all over Karabakh. Soon textbooks, dictionaries, guides to the Armenian language were published. In 1829, 1830 they published the first editions of Poghos Gharadaghtsi’s “Armenian Grammer in Brief”, and Hovsep Ashtaraketsi’s “Grabar-Ashkharabar” dictionary. The following subjects were taught at school; Arithmetics, Armenian language, Geography, and for the able students – Latin and English. But soon the preachers expressed their motivation of converting the Apostolic Grigorians to the protestant faith, which aroused protest on the Armenian side.

Mirza Farukh (Harutiun Nerses Amirkhanian) taught in the Shushi school. Still a child he was taken captive by the Persians from his native Taghar village. He was set free in 1828 and immediately returned to Shushi. Here giving up Islam, he devoted himself to the study of basic principles of the Protestant faith and soon became an adherent of that Church. He had an excellent command of Persian and Arabic languages. He wrote the history of Karabakh in Persian; “Tarikhe-Safi”, which was later translated into Armenian as “Revised History”.3 The book depicted the events that took place at late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The author was the participant and witness of all the events described in the book. The Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi and Yeprem Dzoragetsi encouraged the activity of the Basle preachers. But the Catholicos Hovhannes Karbetsi set up a vigorous campaign against them, considering their activity as a great threat to the authority of the Armenian Church. The protector of the Basle missionaries, the Russian Emperor Alexander was already dead. The Caucasian governor, Baron Rozen sent a letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs, noting that the activity of the Basle missionaries was unacceptable and should be forbidden. The Ministerial Council decided,

“The members of the above mentioned society and the Basle preachers inhabiting Shushi, are forbidden to spread all sort of missionary activity. They are allowed to engage themselves in agricultural activity, economy and crafts. Considering the protests of the Armenian priests, they are forbidden to accept Armenian children to their schools.”

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