CHAPTER 3 ARRAN IN THE PERIOD OF ARAB DOMINATION

Smbat I Bagratuni did not cease to extend the holdings of his kingdom. Soon he occupied the whole of Kura left bank territory reaching the Alanian Gates, then Partav, Tus(Tauz), Shamkor, Siunik, Nakhichevan, Bassen, Hark, Taron. The Armenian northern borders stretched from the Black sea, Kakhet, Darial to Albania1. The Byzantine Empire was closely linked not only with Armenia but with the other borderlands, even with the vassal states in the Bagratid kingdom. The emperors tried to interfere in internal affairs of these states whenever possible. It is interesting to note that Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentioned amongst the Armenian political figures with whom he corresponded, “the prince of Khachen in Armenia”2.

Many scholars, especially foreign (A.E. Krimski, V.F. Minorski, I.P. Petrushevski, K.V.Trever). still unaware of comings and goings of the royal dynasts in different historical periods, sometimes confuse the spheres of influences of the prior Albanian (Aghvan) Arsacid royal dynast and Armenian Albanian (Artsakh-Khachen and Utik) Arranshahikids’. In the same way they don’t distinguish the Arranshahikids from the Gardmanian Mihranids, who moved to Armenia in the seventh century and had a Persian descent. Geneological tables were drawn by the authers of “History of Albania” Hovhannes Daskhurantsi, Mkhitar Gosh, Kirakos Gandzaketsi and later by the historiographers of Artsakh Yessayi Hasan Jalalian (Catholicos of Albania, YIII century), Baghdasar Metropolitan (XIX century), Archbishop Barkhutariants (XIX century), Bagrat Ulubabian (XX century), who consider that the Arranshahikids were the immemorial dynast of the Artsakh and Utik land and descended from the Armenian patriarch Haik.

Since the times of Vache and Vachagan Arranshahik kings, the Persian court had put under their rule not only Armenian Albania, but the left bank Kura administrative units as well. Sahl Smbation is mentioned by the ancient historiographers as “ruler of Shaki”4. This fact has a historical grounding, Sahl was the ruler of Khachen and for serving the Persians (the imprisonment of Babek) he was awarded with the principality of Shaki. He could even have bought the district with the money of one million silver and join it to his family domains(Kambechan). Sahl’s son Atrnerseh was the lord of Verin(High) Khachen (present day Karvacharr-Kelbajar), who “built the fortress of Handaberd and erected a palace in Vaikunk, a hot spring which had been the site of royal baths of the old Albanian rulers”.The site of the baths is today’s Istisu health-resort in Kelbajar district. The next son of Sahl- Hovhannes Muavia (patrick-noble of Arran) ruled over Nerkin (low) Khachen. Atrnerseh had two sons, Grigor, meaning “awake”, “attentive”, “caring” and Apuset. “Grigor” was the prince’s Christian name having the Arabic form of “Hamam”, which also meant “sober”, “careing”6.

It was this Grigor-Hamam who in 887 restored the Albanian kingdom, achieving recognition by both the Arabs and Byzantines. His domain comprised the eastern shores of the Lake Sevan, from Mazra and Sodk (which his grandfather Sahl, son of Smbat had forcibly seized from the Siunid family domains)7, to Kambechan and Shaki (obtained by Sahl), as well as the whole Artsakh and Utik.

For his cultural activity Hamam was named “Pious” as his ancestor Vachagan the Pious. Hamam organized the building of numerous churches and monastries. He paid much attention to the districts Tchar (Jar), Tala and Belukan in southern Caucasus (the present day Zakatalah and Belokan districts, Republic of Azerbaijan), building fortresses and the churches Mamrukh and Likit, which bore a strong resemblence to Zvartnots. These two churches condescend the previous ones architecturally, but of course they are great achievements of art. The historians of Baku school (D.A. Akhundov) announce the mentioned constructions to be built in the IY-Y centuries, because of political considerations striving to denigrate the Armenian element in Albania and representing them as Azerbaijanian architectural monuments. Trying to prove that the Armenian character of Karabakh is a myth, he has deliberately missed to illustrate the cross on the hood. Hamam-Grigor had five sons; Apuli (Apu Ali Haikasuni), Artrnersah II, Vasak, Smbat, Sahak (Isaak) Sevada. As the historiographer assumed, Smbat murdered his elder brother Apuli, who was styled “Great Prince of Albania”. The whole family lamented over him. “The other son, Sahak Sevada, was a brave and wise man. He subjected the district of Gardman or Parisos, Kossa (Kusti) and Parrna and other lands to the north. He leaded the outlaws of Dzoraget. He was a pursuer of literacy and several teachers were hired by him. The Armenian King Smbat opposed to him in this, but could not do anything to make him change his mind”9. Probably Smbat Bagratuni, subjecting the greater part of Albania, intended to abolish the Albanian Kingdom. But the princes of Khachen reinforced centrifugal tendences and counteracted the centralizing policy of the Bagratids.

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