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

It was not difficult to draw the Armenians away from the Arran valley, as their country had long since lost its sovereignity and ceased to be able to protect its population. As to the Iranian lords, it was all the same for them which nation should submit and pay taxes to them. But it was no hardship to conquer the valleys. The same can’t be said in regard to the highlands, only by establishing themselves in the mountain strongholds could the nomads assume control of the whole land. In this context Panah Ali raised the Turkic hopes of better fortune and life as he had already established himself in the heart of Armenian mountain stronghold, due to the disunion and self-destruction of the Khamsa Meliks.

In 1752 Panah Ali already appeared allied to the Georgian princes Termuraz and Hercule, Gharadagh’s Khan Kiazim, Nakhichevani Khan Heidar and Gandzak Khan Shahverdi setting up a campaign against the Shirvan Khan Haji Chelebi, who had encamped his troops on the opposite bank of the Kura river in the Armenian village Minkechavr (Kandak). The Shirvan ruler continued to serve faithfully to Turkey and presented himself as the agent of the Sultan in Transcaucasia.

The Karabakh Melik Shahnazar led his troops in Panah’s army.11 The later development of events revealed Prince Teimuraz’s intentions. As a Georgian presiding prince he held a meeting in his army inviting all the “allies” and arrested them. Shahverdi Khan’s bodyguards immidiately informed Haji Chalebi about the incident, who taking advantage of the disorder crossed the river and attacked the Georgians. The Gharadagh, Nakhichevan, Gandzak and Karabakh troops joined his army. Winning an absolute victory over the Georgians, the Shirvan lord set the captives free. The Georgians were pursued up to downtown Shushi and then Haji Chelebi demanded that Teimuraz should leave the “Turkish” lands. Observing a chance of success in this turmoil Panah made up his mind to occupy the whole of Karabakh territory without delay. The Armenian meliks had already given up the idea of punishing Melik Shahnazar as they were conscious that their military capability couldn’t provide a base for such a campaign.

Taking advantage of the disorder and arnarchy reigning in Iran, Panah and Melik Shahnazar planned to subjugate the Karabakh Melikdoms or just capture their territories. They launched the first attack on Jraberd. This fortress was situated on a huge cliff on the Tartarr river and during the long period of its existence had served as a safe refuge against the foreign conquerers. Unsuccessful in overthrowing Melik Allah Ghuli Sultan, Panah Ali, who formerly was employed as a tax-collector by this powderful melik, offered to leave in peace, but didn’t cease looking forward to a chance to absorb his melikdom. Despite his great experience of a warrior, the Jraberd melik was an honest and noble person. He accepted Panah Ali’s invitation to meet and conduct friendly talks. For the second time they met in the Amaras monastery, which was situated in Melik Shahnazar’s domain. Here Nadir Shah’s favourite – the heroic Prince Allah Ghuli Sultan was arrested and transferred to the Shushi prison. The plot was made and carried out by Melik Shahnazar.

For a long time the people remembered and sang the songs which the Armenian giant was singing behind the bars of his cell. In the songs he called his brave brother Melik Adam and his brother-in-arms – invincible Avag the Giant (who was named Mad Bishop by the enemy) to come to his help and destroying Shushi, rescue him from the prison.12
Dali Mahrasa was the Armenian Kior Oghli. The people will remember his
miraculous victories forever. He mounted his famous grey horse and as
lightening flashed in the battlefield, his fierce and thunderous voice was
enough to make the enemy’s blood run cold. The fanatical clergy
punished the mad bishop for his bloody battles. During the reign of
Catholicos Simon13 he was imprisoned in Echmiadzin and was kept in a
icy room to repent of what he had done. Once, feeling that something

unexpected had thrown the prison into confusion, and making inquiries

and finding out that the Jalal Kurds had attacked to plunder the church of
its treasures, the repenter said, “Can you give me a horse and some
guns?” His request was granted. Several hours later he returned the
church bringing back the cattles that the Kurds had stolen. For this act he

was set free under a promise of not murdering anybody.14

The bishop Avag, Turi-Arzaman and Chalaghan-Yuzpashi kept guard of the Maze bridge (across the Karkarr river, near the village Varakn) for seven years and not even a Turk set foot on the Jraberd and Giulistan land.

Soon the heroic Melik was murdered in the Shushi prison. His brother Adam replaced him. The novelist Raffi wrote, “He bore a strong resemblence to his courageous brother, as a child he was taken hostage by the Daghestan Sultan Khosrov and was brought up among the highlanders, adopting their heroic qualities and characteristics. He was rescued by Nadir Shah during his Daghestan compaign.”15

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