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

“In accordance with your wish, for his successful intermediary. We expressed our merciful attitude, respect and assistance towards Israel Ori. Let your bright sight observe, that there are many ignorant people in the mentioned nation, who hurt our dignity and deserved punishment for their bad conduct, but your friendly letter, which strengthened the old brotherhood and unity which existed between Us, called Us to act mercifully and respect Our subject race on Our own accord, and we magnanimously forgive all the errors of the mentioned people, on condition that they don’t repeat their mistakes further”.13

It is evident that the Persian court was attentive to all the political events taking part in the region and abroad. Israel Ori ceased to reach Moscow. He died in Astrakhan on his way back. His mission was not fated to succeed. There was nobody influential enough to replace him. But the seeds were sown, and in due course they would come out.

At that same period the Shah sent the Georgian King Gurgen, who escaping persecutions of his rivals had found shelter in Iran, with his fourteen divisions to suppress the revolt in the Afghan city Ghandahar. Soon the Afghan leader Mirveis was also sent to Ghandahar. The Shah hoped that they would enter into rivalry and destroy each other. But Mirveis was very shrewd. He used deceit to kill the Georgian (Gurgen had adopted Islam), then seized the fire arms from his divisions and arming his own troops, began to threaten Persia. Aware of the internal situation of the Persian state, he was sure that could easily occupy the whole country. Fear and excitement caused by the expectation of danger, grew in the Persian court.

At the same time the Gandzassar Catholicos Yessayi Hassan-Jalalian coordinated the Armenian capability and appointed Bishop Minas as the religious head of Armenians inhabiting Russia. He was also charged with the task of assisting the Catholicos. Peter the Great sent Artemi Volinski to Armenia as an ambassador. Investigating the situation in the Persian domain, in a report to the emperor he wrote;

“As far as I can judge, this kingdom is destined to perish. They drag the country into an abyss. I am surprised at their foolishness, but I consider that it’s the God’s will and the circumstances are very favourable to Your Highness. Though the war (Swedish) prevented us from advancing to this parts, but seeing how weak they are, now I think that we can undertake this conquest without fear, as we can maintain success not with a great army but with a small division, annexing the greater part of this country to Russia, the time is extremely fit for the compaign, and if this state undergoes restoration by another Shah, it will be too late for us”.14

At that time captain Avan was busy organizing the military capability of Karabakh. Arriving in Artsakh with his brother Torkhan and other Armenian commanders, he chose the mountain stronghold Shushi (former Karkar fortress) as the centre of political and military activity. We first came across the name Shushi in a document kept in the Repository of the Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran). The author of the manuscript, Ter-Manuel, created his handwritten Bible in the church of St. Astvatsatsin. In the colophon of this manuscript we read that, ” 1428, this village Shushi is in Amaras. Here this work was written by Ter-Manuel during the time of Catholicos Ter-Hovhannes and the tyrant Iskantar, who is from the family of Torgom, and a torturer of Christians. The God is almighty.”15

The Amaras Bishop Alexander added in the colophon,”… the bitter and evil times, as the Torgomians rule over the world, and everybody is grieving, wishing freedom”.16 Before captain Avan’s arrival, the Shushi fortress did not play any role in the system of the Sghnakhs, it was used as a summer house and farm for the neighbouring village Shosh.17 Captain Avan was an experienced militant, as for a long time he had been fighting against the Caucasian nomadic tribes.

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