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

In 1735, after the failure of the Daghestan campaign, Nadir settled in the Mughan plain and invited the religious and secular lords of Iran to “Kurru-itai” (high council). The Armenian meliks and the Catholicos of all Armenians Abraham Kretatsi too took part in the meeting. The High Council recognized Nadir as the only claimant to the Persian throne. The next year, on March 21 (the day of the Persian New Year – Noruz-Bairam), Nadir was crowned a king of Persia. The coronation ceremony took place in Mughan. The Armenian Catholicos was responsible for the most important ceremonial part – the fastening of the sword to the belt of the Sovereign. This coronation marked the end of the Safavid inheritance and the start of the Afshar one.

Unlike the Russians, Nadir Shah appreciated the Armenian victories over the Turks highly, and founded and confirmed the Khamsa Melikdoms, which was officially attached to the Persian state, and given a large measure of regional autonomy. The achieved status was the result of the fifteen years’ effort of the Armenians. The centre of the Khamsa (Khamsa, in Arabic means five) Melikdoms was the town Togh, which once accepted Nadir Shah as a welcome guest. Opposing his rival Khan of Gandzak, (who was against Nadir’s coming to the throne in the High Council), Nadir Shah proceeded to make several territorial changes, establishing the Khamsa Melikdoms’ border from Gandzak to the Arax river. Moreover, the Armenian meliks were declared independent from the Gandzak Khanate in all matters. In the inscriptions around the door of Melik Yegan’s house all the Melikdoms included in Khamsa are mentioned; “One of them is Talish (Giulistan Melikdom), then Chmta(Jraberd), Khachen, Varanda, Kochez(Kashatagh), Tuzagh(Dizak) and the Khan(Nadir) appointed me a beglerbeg of the territories…”

Yegan’s beglerbeg’s title was confirmed by the Shah and he as Shirvan, Gandzak and Yerevan beglerbegs was made subordinate to Ibrahim, residing in Tabriz. (Nadir’s brother).

To weaken the Gandzak Khan, Nadir deported the nomadic tribes Jivanshir, Otuziki, Kabirli (the Sarujali family among them) from the Kur-Arax valley to the Sereks province of Khorassan.16 Thus they were returned back to the territories from where they had penetrated into Transcaucasia in the seventeenth century. These tribes, allied to the Gandzak Khanate and the Daghestan nomads frequently overran the Armenian and Persian villages.

According to Melik Yegan’s inscription, the Khamsa included the Kashatagh or Kashunik region (the present day Lachin), which covered the highland valley of the river Hagaru. From ancient times Kashatagh had formed a part of Siunik principality,17 and it was the first time that it was annexed to Karabakh. The historian of Siunik house Orbelian wrote that there were 53 villages in that province. As to the province Kovsakan (the present day Zangelan of Mountainous Karabakh Republic), it was already forming a part of Dizak Melikdom.

Nadir was a typical example of such individualities, who are never satisfied with what they have obtained and always strive for unlimited power and overlordship. Instead of creating and strengthening a mighty defence and administrative units in Iranian State, he chose to extend his territories. There was the vein of the turbulent outlaw in his character and as all the great and talented conquerors, he possessed several faults. As long as he was alive, he couldn’t help warring and extending his domain. Nadir Shah possessed another no less important ability for a monarch – he appreciated and made use of his vassals’ practices and ideas perfectly. He never considered humiliating to follow a wise advice. Through the intermediary of the Armenian Catholicos Abraham Kretatsi he employed two distinguished Armenian militants – the brothers Amir and Zohrab, who later took part in all his campaigns and achieved great success, being awarded with several titles and estates, raised to prominence and high rank. Amirkhan was appointed the defense minister of Iran and Zohrabkhan – the head of Nadir’s bodyguards. These Armenian generals never ceased to correspond with the Armenian meliks of Karabakh.

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