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

At the end of the eighteenth century the population of Karabakh remained largely Armenian. In a report to Empress Catherine II, General Potiomkin noted that they should consider the question of putting the administration of the region inhabited by Armenians under the charge of Russia and reestablish a Christian state there, in accordance to the promises of the Russian Empire.

The Shushi Khanate was undergoing destruction at the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The Khan was looking for new allies. Soon he married the sister of Jar Khan Umma. The bride Bakhtak was twelve years old. The Sarujalu chieftain was the close friend of the Caucasian plunderers. The founder of Shushi Khanate Panah Ali used to ravage the Armenian, Georgian and Persian settlements together with the highlanders. Now, related by marriage, their relations became more close. The highlanders also benefited from the cooperation, so Umma Khan forcibly married the young girl to the “ugly, clumsy and hateful Ibrahim.”32 The bride left her native land accompanied by a cavalry of three thousand soldiers, which was needed to supress Armenian risings. Obtaining a solid ground Ibrahim undertook a campaign to deprive the Armenian meliks of their authority and influence. A plot was formed against the Jraberd Melik Mejlum in his village Ghazarkh (later Maragha), which turned unsuccessful for Ibrahim.

Again Russia began to encourage the Armenian liberation movements, holding out the prospect of the creation of a “christian” Armenian state. The Empress Catherine II ordered the heroic general of Russo-Turkish wars A. Suvorov to undertake the realization of the Caspian project. Hovhannes Lazarian and Archbishop Hovsep Arghutian were the general’s advisers in the matter. Suvorov regularly corresponded with the Armenian meliks from Astrakhan. He thoroughly investigated the geographical position and the routes of the region and described the Armenian fortresses in his reports to the Empress.33

General Suvorov was firstly acquainted with the Armenian issue in 1778, when settled the Armenians in the southern regions of Russia. The Armenians migrated there from Crimea. Suvorov was one of the faithful defenders of the nation in the Russian court. He was brought up in the atmosphere of his grandmother’s stories about the Karabakh patriots.The grandmother had an Armenian origin. Ezov wrote that “the Greek project of the Empress suggested restoring the political independence of Armenia under supreme protection of Russia. The project was especially actively supported by Prince Potiomkin and General Suvorov.”34

In 1728 Prince Potiomkin appointed his relative General Pavel Potiomkin commander-in-chief of Northern Caucasus. On March 5, 1728 the Catholicos of Albania held a meeting in Gandzassar. The Armenian meliks of Dizak, Jraberd, Giulistan and Gharadagh (the former Paitakaran) as well as six bishps took part in it. They composed a petition addressed to Prince Potiomkin. As a result of this document, the prince ordered General Potiomkin to dismiss the Ibrahim Khan of Shushi, “as Karabakh might form an independent unit under the protection of Russia. Do your best organize the new state considering the interests of the population. This way you can make the influential Armenian districts follow the example of Karabakh.”35 According to this project Karabakh, should be the heart of the future Armenian state. General Potiomkin wrote in a report to the Empress Catherine II;

“As soon as the occasion arises, we must consider the question of

putting the administration of this region, which is inhabited by Armenians

under our charge and so establishing in Asia a Christian state, in

accordance with the august promisis of Your Imperial Highness, made

through my intermediary, to the Armenian meliks.”

According to the project a part of the army was to conquer the Caspian coast in 1784, while the other part should advance to Tiflis and from there to Karabakh and then to Karadagh.

At that time Ali Murad Khan Zend was the crown-prince of Iran. He ruled over the greatest part of the country and was continuously warring against the Qajars for the royal title. In 1784 he offered the project of a Russo-Persian treaty, where the restoration of the Armenian statehood was considered very important.36. According to the project the Yerevan, Nakhichevan, Karabakh and Karadagh (Paitakaran) khanates should unite and form an Armenian state under Russia, in return for it Russia should be obliged to recognize Ali Murad Khan as Shah of Iran, and also defend Iran against the Turks. But Catherine II prolonged the conclusion of the treaty. Ali Murad Khan Zend was ill at that time and intended to winter in the Mughan plain and then in spring of 1784 be consecrated in the Artabil mosque, which was a sacred place for the Shii Muslims. In the opinion of the historian of Baku school G. Abdulaev in 1784 “Russia and Iran intended to carve up Azarbaijan between themselves”. This point of view is errenous because, firstly, Azarbaijan is an Iranian district, the Baku historian is striving to denigrate its Iranian element, and secondly, Gharadagh, which in ancient times was called Paitakaran, was inhabited by Armenians and after the seperation of Armenia in 387, when no Turkic tribe existed there, passed to Iran).

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