CHAPTER 8 THE KHAMSA MELIKDOMS THE REIGN OF NADIR SHAH (1736-1747) POLITICAL AND SOCIAL UPHEVALS

After the fall of the Sghnaks system in Karabakh, the meliks again became the only autocratic lords of their domains. In the absence of general centralized power and after the break down of the established order, the intermarriages became the only means to keep the country going. Related by marriage, the princely families of the region managed to overcome the internal disunion and the excessive ambitions of the Karabakh lords. The marriage connections successfully replaced a military treaty, due to which the nomadic tribes were unable to penetrate into Karabakh and settle there. The Sghnakhs soldiers entered the services of meliks.

The investigator of Armeno-Persian relations Hakob Papasian wrote, “The second quarter of the eighteenth century was one of the exceptional periods in the Armenian political self-awareness, when the historical upheavals did not prevent the ruling circles from determining how to stand in relation to the surrounding and adopt new political decisions dictated by the new historical situations.”1

As a result of this reasonable attitude the Armenian militants entered the service of Nadir Khan, to fight against the Turkish army of Topal (lame) Osman Pasha. In 1732 six Armenian divisions took part in the battles in the Irano-Iraqi frontier and in Hamadan.2

Maintaining good relations with the Persian court, the Dizak Melik Yegan promoted the Armeno-Persian relations with great success. According to the Armenian novelist Raffi, his family descended from the princely dynast of Lorris-Melikian and moved to Karabakh from the Arto village of Lorri. Melik Yegan was at continuous enmity with his relative Melik Elizbarov who had forcibly seized his family domain of Pambak valley and a part of Lorri. Yegan was forced to leave his native land accompanied by his father and his people and settle in Dizak. Here his father Ghukas Vardanian restored the Gtich Monastery, establishing a new monastic order, and his son, named Yegan, founded another church in the Togh village, and built ramparts around their new domain.3

Nadir Shah’s court chronologer Mohammad Khazem in the first book of his historiography (the book consisted of three volumes) mentioned the name of Armenian Melik Yegan, considering him an able and extremely talented politician, who had won the confidence and the trust of the Shah. Nadir always believed in the honesty and reliability of Melik Yegan. After this Melik, the chronologer appreciated highly the abilities of Armenian military commanders Melik Tamraz (Giulistan) and Melik Harutiun (Jraberd).4 The cooperation of Karabakh meliks and Nadir Shah resulted in the Armenian gains of 1733. In late autumn of 1732 the Gandzak and Karabakh meliks, avoiding direct conflict with the Turkish regular army, accepted them in their estates, obliged to supply them during the whole winter. After wintering here, the Turks intended to launch a massive attack on Iran in spring. Of course, the Turks remembered the Varanda slaughter very well, but they couldn’t help wintering in the fertile and rich Karabakh, besides the once mighty Sghnaks had ceased to exist, and they considered not dangerous remaining there in winter. Moreover, with the Russo-Persian treaty, the Russian army had left the Caspian coast, and the Armenians could not turn to Russia for support. But Karabakh, together with the whole of Gandzak Khanate, was making secret plans against the Turks. The plot was formed and led by the Dizak Melik Yegan. The slogan of the plotters was, “Preserve the old seeds of hope and destroy the new ones, which won’t be productive.”5 These metaphors indicated the Persians to be the “old seeds” and the Turks – “the new ones”.

Guns were fired at the first Easter night, signalling the plotters to act. The whole of Karabakh population, already experienced in such campaigns, immediately attacked the Turks, killing and scattering the soldiers of the Turkish army. The notorious commander-in-chief Sari Mustafa (we got to know him from the Shushi battle) fled to Yerevan, which was still held by the Turks. In Varanda the revolt was headed by Anna Khatun, who was Melik Yegan’s sister. His beautiful daughter Gayaneh killed the hateful Turkish general Suleiman Bek with a dagger.6 Later the heroic girl took religious vows and lived a life in the service of God in a convent in the Avetaranots village monastery.7

This optional Armeno-Persian alliance laid the foundation of the new political and military treaty with Iran.

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