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

Observing the position of the Shushi highland, he estimated it to be a future key mountain outpost. The 2/3 part of the uplain edged with precipices with vertical cliffs and narrow defiles through the mountains. With the neighbouring Shikakar village Shushi formed a watch-tower, from where all the close lying territories could be watched and guarded. Shushi was the heart of the Armenian mountain stronghold. Arran undertook to restore the partially-preserved palace of the princes and the four-towered citadel. Not far from the former court-house he built a new mansion, installing weapon emplacements in the walls. The cave here descended into a small reservoir with an outlet in a cave above the village Karintak. Besides supplying the town with water, it was through this cave that the contact with the external world was realized. The Hunot defile too attracted the attention of Avan. Two huge caves were situated in the mountains here. Avan restored the old water-mills here and built new ones. The mountains surrounding the defile, abstracted the progress of the wind, thus creating a special climate inside and the grass remained green all the year round. This place could serve as a farm-house for the horses of the Russian army. Soon Avan understook to rebuild the rampart. The huge rampart in the northern side of the uplain consisted of fifty towers. Not far from the rampart, inside the fortress new houses were built which could serve as shelters for the soldiers. The reconstruction of the Shushi fortress was finished in 1717.

But there existed several other problems in Karabakh to be settled. The country was divided between the monasteries of Gandzassar and Yeritsmankank. The Jraberd and Giulistan meliks and militants, under the priest of Yeritsmankank, opposed to the heads of Gandzassar monastery, considering their monastery as the seat of the Albanian Catholicos. This question gave rise to much controversy since the time when the residence of the Albanian Catholicos was transferred from Berdakur (Katoghikosassar) to Gandzassar (Khachen). Various attempts had been made to heal that split, since it also added up to a split in the community, but without success. For reconciliation within the Albanian Church, steps were taken by the Catholicos of all Armenians Hakob in 1677.19

As in the medieval period, the Armenian policy remained local, infused with dynasticism and religious conflicts, and lacking a generalized, secular, ultimately territorial sense of homeland. In 1691, on February 10, the Karabakh meliks and princes held a meeting in Gandzassar, expressing their wish to recognize Yeremia as a legitimate Catholicos of Albania. (The term Albanian around the year AD 1000 only described the inhabitants of ancient Caucasian Albania, ie. the Armenians and descendants of Albanians, most of whom were Armenized. Later the term took on an ecclesiastical meaning. It continued to be applied to the patriarchate in charge of the Armenians of Azerbaijan, bearing the title of Catholicossate of Albania in Gandzassar).

On February 10, 1691 the Karabakh meliks held a meeting in Gandzassar and proclaimed Yeremia a Catholicos. But the Katoghikossassar clergy refused to recognize the new Catholicos. As a result of the rivalries the Jraberd monastry was laid to the ground. Simeon’s successors, continued the same policy, establishing profound disunion among the lords of the country, adding to the split in the whole community. The Gandzassar party tended towards the Persians, while the Jraberd lords were inclined towards the Ottoman Turks. The Echmiadzin heads didn’t do anything to bring the different wings together, they even encouraged the split, as it weakened the Albanian Catholicossate, enabling Echmiadzin to rule over it. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century Echmiadzin took possession of the Shamakhi diocese, sending his representatives there. Due to material support of the rich city, this diocese provided Yessayi Hassan-Jalalian in his political encroachments, so the Gandzassar patriarch considered the annexation as unlawful, and managed to retake the Shirvan diocese. The ecclesiastical conflict resulted in clashes between the Shushi-Avetaranots and Jraberd-Giulistan communities.

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