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

In 1737 Nadir’s army invaded Afghanistan and conquered Heat and Ahandahar. In 1739, defeating the Indian Shah Mohammad, Nadir took Deli and ravaging the Indian land, filled the Iranian treasury.

For three years the Iranian khans and citizens were not subject to taxation. Nadir’s domain covered a vast territory – from India to the Caucasian Mountain Range, from Central Asia to the Persian gulf. Nadir was named “Alexander the Second”.

Despite his military talents and individual strong characteristics, Nadir Shah was unable to bear the burden of responsibility for the universal domain on his shoulders. A moment of weakness from his part and the powerful state would be dashed to the ground. Soon his rise was followed by a fall. The Daghestan war marked the start of his fall. He moved deep into that land to punish the highlanders but was humiliated by a defeat. This autocratic rule was not destined to last long. He unreasonably suspected and distrusted everybody around him. Thousands of people were condemned to death, he sensed traps everywhere, considering that all his relatives were making secret plans and plots against himself. Soon he fell foul of the court intrigues. He was convinced that his son Mirza Reza-Gholi was plotting against himself. He ordered to blind the prince. But then the careful and thorough investigation of the matter showed that the beloved son wasn’t guilty. Conscious of his own guilt, Nadir fell down in fits of depression from time to time. Everything shocked and outraged him. Dissatisfaction was growing in the state. In 1747 the Great Nadir Shah of Iran was murdered in his bedroom. Nadir died in the age of 47, the image of Great Iran passed away too.

The collapse of Iranian state was a great disaster for the Karabakh Armenians. The meliks were largely autonomous in matters of defence, internal policy, justice and taxation, and their titles and rights to inheritance and the status of Karabakh as a whole were confirmed by the Shah of Iran, the region depended and relied on that state only.18

The family of Melik-Abovians ruled in Giulistan. According to the novelist Raffi and historian Leo, their family descended from Abov the Black, who probably represented a junior line of the Shaki (Nokhut-Nokhut) Khanate’s princely Sevordian(black) dynast, and adopting Christianity, established their domain in the village of Shaki at early seventeenth century. His descendants chose the village Giulistan as a permanent centre of the Melikdom and resided there.

The Melik-Shahnazarian Husein inherited the Varanda Melikdom from his father Melik-Baghi. He too, as all the other meliks of Karabakh, had taken an active part in Nadir Shah’s campaigns, and for his loyalty was not obliged to tax-paying. A tombstone inscription in Avetaranots testifies, “This is the tomb of Melik Shahnazar’s son Husein (1736). This owner of Varanda land with 35 villages deserves our praises. He was merciful and hospitable, the pride of Armenian nation, he fought against the Turks and slaughtered many of them and did not pay taxes to the King, he was the rampart of his world and it happened in 1709.”21 This heroic Melik was succeeded by Melik Baghr’s son Melik Mirzabek,22 after whose death Husein’s son Melik Hovsep inherited his father’s domain. Unlike his father, he was humble, weak and lame, but was a clever and educated person.

During the reign of Nadir Shah a number of important and decisive events took place in the Khamsa land (Karabakh), which turned to be fateful for the whole of Armenia later. A Panah Ali Khan from the Sarujalu tribe, whom Nadir Shah had deported from Arran (Kur-Arax valley) to Khorassan, entered the service of the Shah as a town crier (charji). After a crime, afraid of the Shah’s punishment, this town crier fled from the Persian camp with his family to Arran and joining the plunderers of Jar-Berakan, launched attacks on the neighbouring southern Kura territories, ravaging the villages and towns. The Shaki and Shirvan Khans were ordered to catch and arrest the robber Panah. But soon after his escape, Nadir Shah was murdered. Hearing this news, Panah, accompanied by two hundred men, moved to Lowland Karabakh in 1746 and settling on the bank of the river Tartarr, in the place called Tartarr-Bazar with the permission of the Jraberd lord, became a stockbreeder, and collecting taxes from his tribesmen, paid it to the Jraberd Melik Allah-Ghuli Sultan. He invited his tribesmen from Khorassan to come and inhabit the fertile land. During the winter months these nomads lived in holes dug in the ground, and in summer they took their cattles to the Mrav highland pastures, paying a “decimal” tax to the Jraberd and Khachen meliks for using their pastures. The meliks patronized the outlaw, as they profited much from the affair. They even refused the demand of the Shamakhi Khan to arrest Panah. The story of one of the Panah’s ancestors based mainly on tradition, says that this ancestor of his by the name of Ali, was fair-haired and so the family got the name of “Serujai”.

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