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

In Baku Ivan Karapet met the Karabakh delegates Bishop Anton Arakelian and landlord Chalabi on their way to Petersburg.30 They had got the letters of Karabakh commanders and Catholicos Yessayi Hassan-Jalalian addressed to the Emperor with them. In his letter the Catholicos requested Peter the Great to use his influence on the behalf of the suffering Armenian nation and send one thousand soldiers to Karabakh. It took Ivan Karapet seven months to travel from Petersburg to Karabakh. This was an eventful period for the region. In October, 80 thousand Turks, led by Ibrahim Pasha, launched an attack on Gandzak. For twenty days they plundered the Armenian villages. A delegation from Sghnakhs requested Ibrahim Pasha to set the Armenian captives free. Ibrahim in his turn sent a delegation to captain Avan, offering to join his army. Of course, the Turks were aware of Shushi as a mountain stronghold. The military council of Shushi refused the proposal. Instead of supporting the Pasha, Avan hurried to Gandzak’s help, obliged by a treaty of mutual assistance, signed a year ago. The battle took place in downtown Gandzak, twenty thousand Turkish soldiers were killed, Ibrahim fled to Tiflis, where his army disintegrated. The Turks understood that there existed a great rampart, obstructing their way to the Caspian coast. It was the country of Karabakh, a mighty mountain stronghold. The Gandzak battle was the first serious failure of the Turkish army in the occupation of Caspian shores. It was also the first clash of the Sghnakh army with the regular Turkish military forces, as a result of which they started to believe in their ability to win.

The next year, in March, the Sghnakhs entered into a new treaty with Gandzak against the Turks. From the Sghnaks side the document was signed by the Catholicos Yessayi and Nerses, captains Avan, Mirza, Tarkhan, Baghi, Sargis and Abrahamm, Meliks Tahmaz, Bagher, Grigor, Daniel and Yegan.

As a territorial-administrative and military-political unit, the Sghnaks was recognized by the neighbouring countries and Khanates, they all accepted its “de facto” existence. It had only to make a serious step towards independence, but the Karabakhians were still not resolute enough to achieve that aim. Unable to choose a reliable patron, the country again underwent dissension. The Catholicos Nerses had a determined Turkish orientation, considering that no power could resist them. He separated his subject Jrabert Sghnakh from Giulistan and appointed his brother captain Sargis as the military commander of the new unit. The Giulistan Sghnakh in its turn opposed to the stronghold of Shushi.

The Giulistan Melik Baghr, as if agreeing to become reconciled with the Shirvanian patriots, invited them to his fortress and organized a ceremony in their honour. Soon the forty-five Shirvanian military commanders were slain. Their heads were sent to Shah Tohmasp as a present.33 In a letter addressed to the Shah, Melik Baghr begged the Shah to come to Karabakh and punish the rebels.34 The Melik’s Persian orientation was evident.

Those who approached Russian authorities with a view of freeing Armenia from the Turks and Persians, coordinated their military capability in Siunik under Davit Bek. The first gains of Davit Bek and captain Avan threw the Persian court into confusion. The pro-Iranian Giulistan and Gardman Meliks immediately paid a visit of honour to the new Shah, who had replaced Tahmasp on the Persian throne. The delegates begged the Shah to take actions against the rebels, or else they would soon seize the Yerevan and Gandzak fortresses.35 Probably Yegan, who was later confirmed as Melik of Dizak, was among the delegates. There was an inscription on the door of his house which read, “1737,In this way, I, who am the son of preacher Ghukas, by the name of Melik Yegan, was chosen as a master by the people. Then disorder reigned over the country, I rendered some service to Sultan-Hussein’s son King Tahmasp and he confirmed me as the Melik of this land (Dizak). Then the Ottomans came…”

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35