CHAPTER 5 KARABAGH IN XIV-XY CENTURIES

As to the ethnic and cultural situation of Karabakh of that period, the country continued to be predominantly populated by Armenians, and an essencial part of the Armenian culture area. Gandzasar remained as one of the important temporal and spiritual centres of the principality. Numerous manuscripts were written, copied and illuminated, new cross-stones were carved. The colophons of the manuscripts read about secular and ecclesiastical heads of the country, and gave coverage of the most important events of the time. Such a Gospal, dated 1428, was written in the town of Shushi. This was the first time that Karkarr fortress was called Shushi. In the colophon of the Gospel we read that the book was written in the St. Astvatsatsin Church of the village Shushi, during the time of Albanian Catholicos Hovhannes and “the torturer” Shandar. The ancient fortress Karkarr had already lost its importance as a citadel and was turned into a village at early fifteenth century, though had preserved its essence as a spiritual centre. There existed an ancient tradition in Karabakh, that the patrons were given the right to inform in the inscriptions carved on a special part of the cathedrals about their donation, the family and the period. There are such richly carved portraits of the patron princes and 250 inscriptions on walls of Gandzassar monastery, which describe the events that took place after “The history of Albanian Country” was written. No less significant are the inscriptions marked on the walls of hundreds of other churches, monasteries and on cross-stones of Karabakh. Historical writings were also one of the most important aspects of classical and medieval Karabakh culture. One couldn’t help admiring the creative originality of the authors. The Armenians esteem their manuscripts and generally their cultural inheritance higher than anything else. The colophons of manuscripts became abundant sources for historiography later.

In 1441 the residence of the Armenian Catholicos was established in Echmiadzin. The Cilician, Aghtamar and Albanian Catholicossates continued to exist. This Catholicossates, in theory having similar powers, recognized that the title of the Echmiadzin Catholicos was “Catholicos of all Armenians” and all the other institutions of the areas populated by Armenians, should subjugate to the jurisdiction of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin.

The Turkic tribes, who had already settled in Anatolia, united under the twenty-three year old Sultan Muhammad and surrounding the Byzantine capital Constantinople, took it on May 29, 1453. Both the militants and the inhabitants of the city were massacred. Armenia, its monarchy abolished and the country weakened, was unable to help Byzantium. Europe and Rome were indifferent to this destruction of the cradle of human civilization. Before the fall of Constantinople, the Turks had called by their name neither their native Altai, nor any of the occupied territories. But, absorbing the internally undermined Byzantine Empire, they called it “Turkey”.

Thus, the once mighty state, one of the historical superpowers, which had accumulated the treasures of the whole civilization, was devoured by the Turkic nomads.

The new country did not cease to expand. Already formalized in Asia Minor, the Turks extended to the north-west, conquering the Balkans, then to the south – Egypt, Arabian Peninsula.

Invading Armenia at early sixteenth century, they became neighboured to Iran, where certain cultural and political renaissance was taking place.

Over the centuries Armenians were prominent in the commercial life of the two states – Iran and Turkey. The silk route was dominated by an elite of Armenian merchants, who travelled to Europe accompanied by religious and cultural dealers, developing a remarkable understanding of all other nations.

A new era in the history of mankind was set up.

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