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

During this period anarchy and violence reigned in Turkey. The revolts of militants succeeded each other. Different divisions of men-of-arms conquered territories, plundered the population. The weak Sultan Muhammad, who came to throne in 1595, was unable to protect his state and population. This was advantageous for the Persian Shah. Two Englishmen, the brothers Anthony and Robert Sherly, acted as military advisors in the Shah’s court. They intended to support Iran against the Turks, at the same time trying to link Iran with the European countries and with the Pope of Rome.24 Many Armenian, Georgian and Muslim representatives from Transcaucasia appeared in the Persian court of Isfahan. They applied to Shah Abbas the Great to save them from the Turkish tyrant. The Armenian historiographer Arrakel Davrizhetsi described the visit of the Albanian (Karabakh and Utik) princes Sarukhan Bek and his brother Nazar, Oghlan Beshir (a priest) and his brother Ghalabek (from Haterk), Jalal Bek and his nephews (from Khachen), Melik Sujum (from Dizak), Melik Pashik (from the village Kochiz), Melik Baren (from the village Britis), bishop Melikset (from the Melikzada village of Verin Zakam), Melik Haikaz (from Zangezur – Kshtagh) to the palace of Ali-Ahap in Isfahan.

The historiographer told that four Armenian villages of Karabakh and Dizak provinces, tired of Turkish persecutions, applied to the Great Shah for help and he inhabited them in the city of Isfahan.25

Organizing his army, Shah Abbas with a sudden attack defeated the Turks near Tabriz, and following them, completely destroyed in the Sofian valley not far from Tabriz. Their commander was taken captive. The turmoil spread all over the Turkish land. Leaving Nakhichevan the Turks settled in the Yerevan fortress. Shah Abbas crossed the Arax river and entered Jugha. The Armenians accepted him heartily. They referred to him as to their “liberator”. The Great Shah was pleased with their hospitality. Being situated on the crossroads of trading routes, Jugha was turned into a flourishing centre. The community came to be dominated by an elite of merchants who lived in the wealthy environment of the city. They traded with India and China and with the western European countries on the other side. The famous historian Leo wrote, “Shah Abbas was a merchant king”.26

He managed the silk trade route, connecting the east with the west and filled his treasury with gold. This ability of his shows that he considered the establishment of a complete system as a basis for the further development of his country.

Yerevan remained under siege for nine months, and in June of 1604 the Shah took the city without a battle. Entering the city, the soldiers plundered the population and taking them captive, sold in Iran. The Armenians were disappointed, they didn’t expect such a treatment. After conquering the city, the Persian army headed for Kars. The Turkish army was waiting for them. Shah Abbas was skillful military commander. He announced about the retreat of his troops. But it was not simply a retreat. He decided to set up an artificial rampart against the Turks, thus creating a “desert” on their way by destroying and burning down all the inhabited Armenian areas and deporting the population to Persia. It was not only a strategical means. Aware of the Armenian trading abilities, he tried to export it to Persia. He understood that the might of the country depended not upon the amount of treasure, but upon the people creating that wealth. Seventeen thousand people were deported and inhabited in Ispahan, others in highland Peria, Chharmhal, Burvar.27 The Ararat plain, Maku, Aghbak, Khoi, Salmast, Lorri, Shirak, Aparan, Urmi were deprived of their citizens.

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