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

Ivan Karapet, who was an able and talented diplomat, tried to arouse the interest of Russian generals and Peter the Great towards Karabakh, describing the natural treasures of the land in his reports. He begged the Russian authorities to send at least one regiment for show.

But the political interests of super-powers dictated other terms and other steps were taken. The Russian diplomats offered to support the Persian Shah Tahmasp against the Afghans, at the same time persuading the Afghan leader not to yield to Persian or Turkish force. Negotiations were conducted with the Turkish side too, ignoring the prospect of the creation of “Christian” Armenian and Georgian states.

On June 12, 1724, when the Turks had already taken the Yerevan fortress, the Russians at last negotiated a treaty with the Turks. Russia hurried to confirm the occupied Caspian territories by treaty. The Shamakhi city with its surroundings and the whole Shirvan valley, with its towns and villages were placed under Sultan’s armed vassal Haji Daud. Thus, although reduced to vassalage, the Lezgiz received autonomy.

All the other Caspian territories were considered Russian. The passage, where the river Kura joined Arax, demarkated the limits of Russian, Turkish and Persian boundaries. In accordance to the treaty, if Tohmasp II tried to express his dissatisfaction with the results in any way, Russia and Turkey would unite in war against Persia.40

A Muslim presence had already existed, since tenth century along the northern and south-eastern borders of Karabakh, as the result of the establishment of Shaddadid Kurdish emirs in the town of Gandzak (formerly in Utik, it has alternately been known as Ganja, Yelizavetpol, Kirovabad) and on the Mughan plain. In the sixteenth century there were reported to be living in the Mughan plain 24 Kurdish tribes. Their tendencies for pillaging and theft were strong, from time to time they came into conflict with the Armenians. Regularly corresponding captain Avan, David Bek asked him to hurry to Ghapan (Siunik) as the Kurds had captured the city, ravaged and slaughtered 4 thousand people. Captain Avan immediately hurried to their help. As far as the geographical position of Siunik was concerned, it was easier to conduct a partisan war there, than enter into a dirrect battle with the Turks or the Kurds, a thing that was impossible in Karabakh. Davit Bek, a remarkable leader, had also to fight against the Turks, who had penetrated into Armenia during and after Seljuk invasions, gradually occupying the territories of former Albania or Arran. Besides the 24 Kurdish tribes, 32 Turkish ones were living on the Mugham plain, the principle of which was the Jevanshir tribe, who came into a conflict with Armenian movements, but was conquered by Davit Bek in 1722.

Captain Avan arrived in Siunik accompanied by the Russian Emperor’s envoy Ivan Karapet. The leaders of Ghapan and the whole population declared about their submission to the Russian Emperor Peter the Great, and again applied to him for assistance to liberate their country. The Turkish army, conquering Tiflis, Borchalu, Kazakh, Lorri in summer of 1724, was advancing towards Gandzak. In conformity with the treaty those territories belonged to them. But Karabakh was the iron apple on their way, on which they were to break their teeth. Ghapan had no way out – to fight or perish in the attempt. What steps did the last Safavid Shah Tahmasp II take in such a situation? Here is his decree of August 21, 1724;

“… after which he (Bergushat governor Fat-Ali-Sultan-B) is bound to coordinate the military forces and the militant crowds (iljari) and advance to Ordubad and joining the Nakhichevan and Maranda high-ranking hakims, who too are ordered to go to Ordubad, come to Beglerbeg Mansur Khan, and consulting this able man, drive away the Armenians, the mean Ottoman Turks and the Kurds with the joint army and seize back the mentioned city (Ghapan). It’s also necessary to gather the Jevanshir and Kabirlu tribesmen, and encouraging and raising their hopes and taking them under Our care, persuade that Our Highness charges them with the task of rebuking the Armenians and other enemies, and let them know, that they are given a free hand in the matter, and they should be responsible for the course of events…”41

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