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

After the death of Peter the Great, the power in Russia was held by the Supreme Secret Council, who was not consistent in Oriential matters. The court entirely belonged to the foreigners (Birovchina)55, and the Armenian issue was completely ignored. Besides this, England and France tried to use Turkey for hindering the advance of Russian power, which was unacceptable to them. The hopes of the Armenians dashed to the ground. The people blamed the failure of the Russian campaign on Yessayi Hassan Jalalian and captain Avan. The historian Leo wrote that “Hassan-Jalalian’s attitude towards his position (his trust in Russians) was always steady and loyal, in contrast to the Russian ambigious policy.”55

The Ottoman Turks, unable to break down the Armenian resistance, tried to bribe the Catholicos into an alliance with them. “Perhaps the Armenians would make good use of this opportunity and strengthen their position, but we witnessed for many times to the truth that the Highlanders are devoted soldiers, but bad politicians.”56

The Catholicos tersely refused any approach with the Turks.

The Catholicos Yessayi Hassan Jalalian died in 1728, the remarkable leader David Bek followed him. Their deaths were a great blow to the liberation movements of Karabakh and Siunik. Yessayi Catholicos gave the written account of facts, events and other official acts which occured in 1711-1728, and as such is considered one of the most famous historiographes of Armenia. For his victories against the Turks, captain Avan was awarded with the titles of “Khan” and “Sepahsalar” by the Iranian Shah, which testify to his ability and authority. He should have made the best of his position obtaining a definite support or concrete status for Karabakh, but his unquestioning confidence and trust in Russians prevented him from doing that. His faithfullness turned out to be distructive for the country. Soon this remarkable leader left the Sghnakhs for Russia accompanied by his brother Tarkhan and 232 other military commanders and soldiers. They entered the service of the Russian army. This action added to the destruction of the Sghnakhs defence unit, but the Russian army gained from it, inciting the experienced officers to leave their country.

From Shushi, Avetaranots and other places former soldiers left the country to join their commander Avan and enter the service of Russia. Possibly Avan was able to create an autonomous Khanate under Persia in Karabakh, thus turning the country into an independent Armenian state, but he failed to do so, and his mistake was fateful for Karabakh, which later became an arena of struggle for the Turkish tribes. However, captain Avan was a mighty strategist commander and an able and experienced political dealer.

Peter the Great’s envoy Ivan Karapet too, ending his sad mission, left the country with the Armenian officers. He too, despised the Russian ambiguous policy.

But Karabakh continued to fight against the Ottoman Turks, who had already conquered Iranian Azarbaijan and the whole Transcaucasia.

As Bishop Minas testified the bloody clashes and battles with the Turks went on day and night, but Karabakh did not kneel down.57 Moreover, the Turks were struck a heavy blow in Jraberd battle by the troops of Mets Sghnakhs under Tonmaz. Totally, during the years of 1728, 1729 5800 Turk soldiers were killed by the Armenians.58. Due to the Armenian resistance, the Turks were unable to occupy the Caspian coast from the Russians.

Though the tight system of the Armenian Sghnakhs gradually weakened and was undermined by internal discordance and disunion, the Karabakh people grew in self-awareness and believed in the power of unity and knew that they deserved better than to be treated as serfs by the Turks or the Kurds.

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