CHAPTER 7 THE ARMENIAN SGHNAKHS (PROVINCES) IN THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE

The unstable internal conditions led to a weakening of Persian domination in late seventeenth century. Unlike Shah Abbas the Great, his successors were weak and effeminate. Shah Sultan Hussein (1694-1722), for example, was busy feasting with his harem all the time, ignoring state affairs. The only means to fill the treasury was the raising of taxes. The population was leaning under extra taxes. Sooner or later this would lead the state to destruction.

It was due to this weakening of Persian authority that the superpowers of the time again turned to words Transcaucasia. With the weakening of Persia the Ottoman influence became stronger. They were looking for a chance to reconquer Transcaucasia, as well as the Azarbaijan(Atropateni) district of Iran. These territories broke the continuity of the Turkic world, stretching all the way from the Bosphorus to Central Asia, from the Meditarenian sea to Shikeria. The Turks probably longed for their native Altai too.

The Russian court also paid much attention to the situation in Transcaucasia. The Russian state didn’t want to lose the chance to expand. The Christian Armenia could become a stronghold for their further conquests and a means to realize Peter the Great’s military strivings. In this aspect Russia turned Armenia’s being Christian to advantage, as compared with Iran and Turkey. As such the Armenians and Georgians would believe in Russia’s “liberating mission”, thus assisting its imperial policy. The Armenians and Georgians had only to choose which of the lords was “better” Russian, Persian or Turkish. And as the Russians were right to calculate, they were aquainted with Persian and Turkish overlordship, but not with the Russian and that’s why the nation and the leading circles would look to Russia. Already in 1665, the meliks of Karabakh, with the desire for a national renaissance and the idea of recreating an independent national state allied to Georgia, addressed a letter to Russian King Alexei Mikhailovich, asking to free Armenia from foreign yoke. The population of north-eastern Armenia, where national traditions were completely maintained, and the sense of national identity was growing day by day, was especially active.

In 1678 a secret meeting was held in Echmiadzin. Six secular lords and six higher clergy took part in it. It was decided to send a delegation to Rome, headed by Catholicos of all Armenians Hakob with an agreement to adopt Catholicism. In return to this, Buzantium might adopt a policy of patronage towards Armenia, with further restoration of Armenian state.1 New diplomatic steps to this effect were taken in 1699, when in a letter addressed to the Pope of Rome, the Karabakh meliks gave the thorough details of the political circumstances and their intentions.2 The famous Prince Israel, who “descended from the prominent Prince Prrosh”, whose family was a junior branch of the Jalalian family, was to accompany the Catholicos to Rome.

But later the mission was carried out by his son Yavri. Firstly the Catholicos Hakob went to Tiflis, to consult the Georgian King about creating an Armeno-Georgian alliance, then left for Constantinople, where was met by the Cilician Armenian Catholicos Yeghiasar, on his way to Jerusalem and the two envoys of the Pope.

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