CHAPTER 9 THE SHUSHI KHANATE (AVSHARS, KERIM ZEND KHAN, THE QAJAR INHERITANCE)

A war broke out between Imeretia and Turkey. The Turks were defeated by the King Solomon of Imeretia. The Turks intended to launch an attack on Iran and eastern Georgia. The Catholicos of all Armenians was afraid that Emin’s activity would autagonize the Turkish officials, so he applied to Hercule with a letter of March 25, 1764 and advised “to send back the Armenian Prince to the place, from where he had arrived”.28

Simeon Yerevantsi, who was one of the educated persons of the time, was a great scholar and philosopher, but was very coutious in political matters and opposed to Emin’s undertaking, which could be destructive for the Armenian Church and the nation. He considered that the nation should be patronized by one of the powerful states and achieve its aims only with an external assistance. Herkule in his turn appreciated highly the opinion and the influence of the Armenian patriarch. Hercule, as one of the descendants of the Armenian Bagratids, considered himself an heir of that inheritance, so the Catholicos’ allusion that Emin was a “prince”, greatly irritated him. Besides, he was sure that the Turks had given up the idea of conquering Georgia and decided to get rid of Emin. He sent Emin with the group of his volunteers beyond the Caucasus, from where he should leave for Russia. On his way Emin fell ill and remained in the Chechen village Bragun for a couple of months. An Armenian family was taking care of him. The local tribes, especially the tribesmen of Michigiz, suggested Emin to lead them to Georgia. 12 thousand highlanders were ready to carry out his orders. Emin went to the Khunzakh settlement of the Avars and met their leader Mohammad Mussakhan. He remained there for three months. He refused the Khan’s proposal of launching an attack on Georgia and asked him to order a group of highlanders to accompany him to Karabakh. His request was carried out, a group of 21 men accompanied him to Jar.

Led by Shahverdi Khan the Lezgiz and Avarians prepared a new attack and asked Emin to join them. Instead of the promised payment of the Gandzak Khan the highlanders were persuaded to move to Yerevan and plunder the Armenian villages. Emin put off his visit to Karabakh trying to prevent them from that disasterous campaign. The Jari Avarians accepted him gladly and appointed 40 bodyguards to him.29 Emin undertook the leadership of one of the regiments. On their way to Yerevan they ran into a large group of Kurdish refugees from the Kolani tribe. They were offered a new settlement in the Karabakh villages Tsar (Karvacharr-Kialbajar), Kashunik (Kochez, then Lachin), Kovshakan (Zangelan) of Jebrail district by the Ibrahim Khan of Shushi, who intended to draw away the native Armenians from their homeland and also separate Karabakh from the heart of Armenia, the Ararat valley in this way. He also hoped that the Armenian meliks would have an additional problem to cope with, as the Kurds had strong tendences for pillaging and stealing Armenian girls. Many other nomadic tribes migrated to Armenia from Georgia including the tribes Pius, Koi-Ahmedli, Koracharli, Jinly, Dmirchi-Hsanli, Ghzl-Hajili, Safi-Kiurd, Sahertli, Kergirli.30 The Lezgis won a victory over the Kolani tribe, seizing 2 thousand eight hundred horned cattle, 6 hundred horses and took 814 captives. The Kolanis turned to Giulistan Melik Hovsep residing in Shamshadin. He was leading the Georgian army. With a sudden attack Hovsep defeated the Lezgis and taking back the pillage, and persued them to the Kura river. During that time Emin had already managed to free the number of Kurdish and Armenian captives from the Lezgis. The Lezgis let the Gandzak Khan know about their intention to punish him for the deceit. Shahverdi had to collect money from his own subjects to pay the highlanders. The population revolted against him. The khan had a narrow escape with his family and found refuge in Shamkor, in Melik Adam’s house. The rebells handed up the Gandzak rule to Ibrahim. Melik Adam and Shahverdi Khan tried to reconquer Gandzak but without success. Shahverdi turned to the Shemakhi Khan, Herkule and the Lezgis for help. Hercule did his best to reestablish him in Gandzak in return for recognizing his independence. Through the intermidiary of the Giulistan Melik Hovsep Ibrahim Khan too accepted him as the only ruler of Georgia. In summer of 1767 Hovsep had established himself in Getashen and released his brigade of 5 hundred soldiers, when the Shahverdi Khan sent an army of 4 thousand 5 hundred men against him. At that time Hovsep Emin was hosted by the Melik. Emin had concluded that the cradle of Armenian liberation movement was Karabakh, though the heart of the mountain stronghold Shushi, was not in their hands. Emin was accompanied by Movses Baghramian, who acquainted him with the political and economical peculiarities of his native district.

In his autobiography Emin had described thoroughly the attack of the Gandzakians. He wrote about their defenders, “It was a great pleasure to watch the activity of our heroes. They climbed the hills and attacked the enemy as enraged lions, scattering them on all sides.” The enemy, unable to resist the attacks of Melik Hovsep’s brave son Beglar, retreated.

The enemy suffered heavy consualties. From Armenian side only four soldiers were killed, while the enemy lost forty soldiers and 50 horses. After the victory the melik’s soldiers, without rest, prepared to resist the new attack of the Gandzak Khan. Soon his new army of 10 thousand soldiers arrived under the leadership of his son Mohammad Hassan. This time they had brought an artillery with them. Mohammad was accompanied by the Jraberd Melik Adam, whose intermediary turned to be unsuccessful as the Giulistans preferred to fight. During the battle the Giulistan soldiers were trying not to kill their Armenian brothers on the other side. The Gandzak Khan was humiliated by defeat. His enormous army was pursued by a small group of Melik Hovsep’s son to the Gandzak gates. Seeing this act of bravery Ibrahim Khan agreed to become reconciled with Melik Hovsep. Melik Adam followed his example and returned to Jraberd with his people and his troops. The “not real” Catholicos Israel came with Melik Adam and resided in Yeritsmankants monastery.

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