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

But thoughtless Armenian militants were still hoping that Russia would come to their help six months later. In 1725, on May 16, Bishop Anton and landlord Chalabi returned to Karabakh with Peter the Great’s decree of the Armenian deportation. The messengers were unaware that the Russian Emperor was already dead (Peter the Great died on January 28,1725) and his wife Empress Catherine I had succeeded him on the Russian throne. Bishop Anton behaved very cautiously first going to Shushi, to captain Avan, instead of Gandzassar. The Catholicos Yessayi, military commanders and Meliks of Sghnakhs, as well as the Russian envoy Ivan Karapet gathered to discuss the deceased Emperor’s decree. They learnt from the letter that the Derbent, Baku, Gilan and Mazandaran governors were instructed to support the Armenian settlers. Peter the Great had also written to the Russian ambassador in Constantinople general Rumiantsev to support the Armenians as much as possible.

“The Armenian delegates came to Us and asked to be defended, and if the military assistance is impossible, allow them to migrate to the provinces, that we obtained from Iran. We answered them, that as far as military forces is concerned, we are unable to assist them due to the treaty with the Higher Divan, but we allowed them to immigrate into those territories and confirmed it by a decree, which is sent to them. If the Turks inquire about the matter, you had better answer that we haven’t called them, that they asked us to act as patron towards them, and we as Christians, were unable to refuse another Christian subject race stressing that the Vesir himself affirmed the possibility of refusing assistance to a co-religionist, we must only follow that no acts in violation of the treaty concerning the confirmed borders take place, otherwise we are free to allow the nations to migrate from one place to another. They will get much benefit from this action too, as they can easily occupy the territories that the Armenians are going to leave. You may also add that if the Higher Divan expresses a wish of resettling the Muslim population of our territories, that formerly belonged to them, we shall in no way contrast to that and if they demand a written affirmation, you are authorized to make it and pass it to them.”48

The Shushi military council decided to correct the committed error informing the Russian court about their wish to leave, but demanding auxiliary means and support. But in fact they didn’t intend moving anywhere.

Ivan Karapet wrote in his letter addressed to Count Golovin that Bishop Anton’s announcement about the migration did not comply with the wishes and spirit of the Armenian nation, being merely the clergyman’s personal point of view. The envoy disliked the idea of migration too.

In August the Turkish army under Sari Mustafa Pasha captured Gandzak. He was supported by the Lezgi leader Daud Bek’s and his brother Hajin Ahmed Khan’s regiments. Daud Bek applied to the Sultan to send new divisions for launching an attack on Baku. But again the Armenian stronghold of Karabakh stood on their way, preventing them from advancing towards Shamakhi and Baku. The Turks thirsted for revenge. They were making special preparations for the attack on the Sghnakhs. They were doubtful about their success, remembering the shameful defeat of Gandzak.

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