CHAPTER 2 THE ALBANIAN PROVINCE (MARZPANAT) IN 428-637

Vahan demanded control over his own territory, sacrifying his country. This was the most dangerous crack that was formed between Armenian Albania (Utik and Artsakh) and the Ararat valley. Suren’s policy caused great turmoil which soon turned into a huge rebellion under the leadership of Armenian sparapet Vardan II Mamikonian. In 522 Vardan’s brother Manuel beheaded Suren and drove the mages away from the country43. Siunik was again joined to Armenia after the fall of Sassanid dominance.

In the sixth century a religious conflict (concerning Christ’s essence) broke out in Armenian Apostolic Church. The first party accepted that Christ was the only God, attributing him only one nature. The other wing (the majority) attributed Christ two natures – of a human being and of God. In the year of 451 in Chalcedon, in St Yevpimeh Cathedral, the universal, all-Christian ecclesiastical council was held. 630 prelates took part in it. The biophysite wing subdued the monophysite one and thus got the name of Chalcedonians. Soon this already formalized split was transferred to the political and diplomatic spheres of great powers.

The Armenian church supported the monophysite theory, vigourously opposing to the Roman and Byzantine strong wing. In view of these ecclesiastical differences it was natural that Armenia and Armenians moved away from the western policy. The Persian king Khosrov, who was a clever and able politician, protected the isolation of the Armenian Church from his powerful rival-Byzantinum. The registration of Armenian list of days (calendar) at the first councils of Dvin, added up to the separation. At the second Council of Dvin (554) the Catholicos Nerses II initiated concordance and harmony in Armenian Church, bringing the different wings together44.

Historian Sebeos wrote that at that time the Persian king held a meeting in Tizbon inviting the ecclesiastical representatives of subordine countries and “investigating the religious subdivisions, approved the superiority of the Armenian one and ordered his subject Christians to join that wing”45.

There existed also another split between the churches of Virk and Albania, concerning the right of possessing Catholicossates. In 551 the Catholicos of all Armenians granted them both with the permission of such seats, on condition that they should be ordained only by the Catholicos of all-Armenians. In view of ecclesiastical connection with Armenia it was natural that the Albanian church should be subordinated to the Church of Armenia, which it joined in the sixth century. At the first Dvin Council bishop Abbas (551-595) who was in charge of Artsakh Metsarank pronince, was anointed by Catholicos Movses I as the first entitled “Catholicos of Albania, Lpink and Chogh”, covering the entire territory of the marzpanat. By the name of Albania (Arran) the Kur-Araxes valley was meant. Lpink and Chor were situated on the left bank of the river, where among the 26 tribes the Lezgis and Avarians were already distinguishable.

In 552 the seat of the Albanian Church was tranferred from Derbent or Derband (in present day Daghestan) to Partav or Bardhaa. “This Cathalicossate had great authority not only over the believers of his region but over the neighbouring provinces as well”. When prince Vahan treacherously handed over the administrative rule of his province to Persia, the Siunik archbishop Petros joined his diocese to the Armenian Catholicossate.

The Albanian Catholicossate was a means of concordence between the nobility and common people, it was a rampart against the invaders and conquerers, it was a power which prevented the nation from being absorbed or assimilated by the neighbours. The Catholocos Abbas cosidered the ordination of his nation by the all-Armenian patriarch as a most important factor of keeping the region Armenian, the national spirit alive, even if dormant in a way. The struggle between the two superpowers neighbouring Armenia, went on. In 572 the Persian army won a victory over Byzantium. A fateful political decision was taken in 577 when Byzantium and Persia entered into a treaty. Persia dominated Armenia once again. Byzantium was bound by treaty to pay annual tribute of 30 thousand in gold for fifty years. They were also obliged to hand the Armenian and Georgian rebells Vardan and Gurgen over to Persia.

In late sixth century the Artsakh and Utik Armenian princes again revolted against oppression, violence and persecutions. The chronologer grieved over the slaughter and deportation of the Armenian dignitaries. After the death of the Persian king Hormozd II his two sons, Khosrov and Bahram both lay claims to the royal inheritance. The younger son Khosrov applied to the Byzantine Emperor for help., in return promising Armenia and Assyria. In 591 Khosrov II came to throne (with the Emperor’s help) and carried out his promise, presenting Byzantinum with the territories down to Garni, Dvin and Maku48. Khosrov’s elder brother was killed in a battle by Mushegh Mamikonian. The Persian king gave Armenia away so easly as he was conscious of the fact that it was not his native land.

If the Armenian provinces were partly self-governed and semi-independent under the Persian rule and the population was neither persecuted nor treated harshly for adherence to the Armenian Church, now, in the face of Byzantinum they obtained a dangerous enemy both to the Monophysite Apostolic Church and to the princehood, who was the basis and bearer of the secular power. The Byzantine emperors treated Armenia in a domineering manner as well.

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