CHAPTER 6 A NEW ERA (KARABAKH IN 16-17 CENTURIES)

The Khan of Crimea in his turn captured 160 thousand of Transcaucasian population and sent them to Egypt to be sold as slaves. The chronologer Hovhannes, who was a preacher, witnessed the violences himself and described it in his works. The Albanian Church, among others, had given birth to such a writer as Hovhannes (1560-1623), who created and copied a great number of manuscripts, the works of the first codifier of Armenia law, Mkhitar Gosh included. He descended from the Jhashah branch of the royal Tsar dynast. Hovhannes was the founder of the St. Astvatsatsin Church (1618) in Geghama province. In his works he described the Turkish invasions under Osman Yuzdemir (1578) and their raids of Gianja (Gandzak), Partav, Jraberd, Khachen, Varanda, Dizan. This invasion lasted for three years, 1576-1580. Needless to say that the Turks captured cities, massacred the population, demolished and burnt down churches and monastries.

The situation was especially grave in Gandzak and Karabakh, as besides Osman, they suffered another misfortune. It was the plague. This great disaster fully destroyed the cities down to the Araxes river in a few days. The ground was covered with thousands of corpses, killed either by the Turks or by the plague. The chronologer wrote, “In the partially preserved buildings the naked bodies were sheltered. Those still alive, wandered from place to place, trying to find something to eat”.11

“But still there were some districts in the Armenian highlands which survived the Turkish and Iranian invasions, parts of Armenia, where a tradition of national sovereignty and independence movements was preserved unbroken. We can mention the Mountainous Karabakh, Sassun, Zeitun and even the homeland of the Arzu “jamat” Lori…”12. Moreover, the ruling houses got control of the ecclesiastical centers, the primates of which by the fifteenth century were always members of the family. The ruling house also supplied abbots and bishops to the monastries of the district.13 The Hassan-Jalalians headed the Catholicossate of Albania. The title “Catholicos of Albania” passed from uncle to nephew and the ecclesiastical lands, finances and influence was thus always available to the house.

Located at the monastry of Amaras after the Partav destruction, the Catholicossate was transferred to the large monastry of Gandzasar, founded by Hasan-Jalal Dawla. In the same way the Dopians ruled over Tsar. “The history of the Armenian “melikdoms”, founded on the bases of Nerkin Khachen, Tsar, Verin Khachen princely houses, is a source of continuity between the reassertation of independence in the ninth century and the rise of new movements. Though officially attached to the conquerors and semi-independent, they were largely autonomous and never destroyed”.14

The Persians formed three military-administrative units in Transcaucasia – Shirvan, with the center Shamakhi, the Chukhur-Sad (Yerevan province) and the Karabakh (with the Gandzak centre) beglerbegs. At the end of the sixteenth century Karabakh, together with the region of Yerevan, formed one of the administrative regions (beglerbegs).15 The Persion sources from the Repository of Ancient Manuscripts testify that the foreign rulers sometimes “sold” the conquered domains to their legal masters, i.e. to the local owners of the land.

In 552, when the Albanian Catholicossate was founded, it chose the city Partav as its residence and the fortress Berdakur as the summer house. The fortress was situated on the bank of Trtu river (the present day village of Hakob Kamari, in Mardakert district of Karabakh Republic). In the seventh century, coming under pressure of the Arab authorities of Partav, the Catholicos Hovhannes I preferred to reside in Bardakur. In the ninth century the Catholicossate was transferred to Gandzak.

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