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

But soon the Shah understood his mistake. The Turkish army seized the opportunity to move freely and unhindered in the empty territoties. There were no cities or people to rely on. Later the Khan Amirgunna undertook to resettle the Armenians in the same territories (Zakaria Sarkavak). The Khan headed the compaign himself inhabiting Armenians in Ararat valley, Artskeh and Khlat.

In 1606 the Turkish army was once again beaten up by the Persian Jghaloghli Pasha. The Turks were defeated and hid in Gandzak. The Persians surrounded the city and soon taking it, slaughtered the Turks and the local Chekirlu Sunni tribesmen.

On his way back the Shah was a welcome guest in the house of Melik Shahnazar in Mazra village (now Zod) of Geghama province. Arrakel Davrizhetsi wrote, “Melik Shahnazar was an Armenian, Christian by faith, a famous prince and he accepted the Shah and honoured him. He was a close friend of the king and was respected by the king. The king presented him with splendid garbs. He awarded him with the title of “melik”, and gave him and his brothers many other estates and villages. He wrote a decree and sealed it with his ring, to confirm his and his descendants’ right to inheritance forever”.28

The historian B. Ulubabian, investigating some sorces found out that in 1906 Melik Shahnazar was already dead and probably the Shah was accepted by his sons Yavri Bek, Kemal Bek and other relatives. B. Ulubabian also found out that the mentioned family descended from a junior branch of the Dopian princes, later forming a district line. Generally from the Dopians there were issued several other of the Melik houses.

In the 16-17 centuries, there were five Armenian families which retained power over their mountain domains in the former Khachen territory, they were called the five melikdoms of Khamsa (Khamsa in Arabic means five). The leading families of the provinces recieved their titles of Meliks (prince) in the 15th and 16th centuries from the Turkomanian rulers. They were confirmed by Shah Abbas in 1603. Officially they became attached to the Persian province administrated in Gandzak; however, they were largely autonomous in matters of defence and internal policy, justice and taxation.

Melik Shahnazar’s father Melikbek was the first legitimate Melik of the province. The foreign rulers encouraged the centrifugal tendences of the Meliks. The noble dynasts showed enmity to each other, and always longed for a foreign overlordship.30 But on the whole when the native country was partitioned between foreign empires and the motherland ceased to be able to protect its population, the meliks were the sole authorities capable of withstanding threats from abroad and maintaining national traditions. It is understandable that Karabakh survived the invasion of Tomerlane, the incursions of the Turkmens and also the Turko-Persian wars owing to its nobility. Their revival and existence was a good example of national identity.

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