The Origins: (FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL TO 7th BC)
Noah and Ararat
Immodestly, Armenians consider themselves direct descendants of Noah, survivor of the Biblical flood. According to Genesis, ...the boat came to rest on a mountain in the Ararat range. Ararat, located in the heart of Armenia, was a Holy Mountain for the peoples of the ancient world. Many ancient scriptures placed the Biblical Garden of Eden in the Land of Armenia also called the Land of Ararat.
Tradition states that Noah founded Nakhichevan, the oldest of the Armenian cities. Moses Khorenatsi , historian of the 5th century, presents a detailed genealogy of the Armenian forefather Haik from Japheth, Noah's son. Thus, the territory of the Armenian Plateau is regarded as the cradle of civilization, the initial point for the further spreading of mankind all around the world.
The oldest myths reflect the wars of ancient Armenians against the neighboring Assyrians. Haik, considered the patriarch of the Armenian people, led his army to defeat the Assyrian giant Baeleus. By approximately 2100 BC, a prototype of the first Armenian state was founded. Even now, Armenians call themselves Hai (pronounced high), and their country - Haik or Haiastan, in honor of Haik. The Hittite scripts also mention a Haiasa country. Meanwhile, the Assyrian cuneiform writings designate Armenia as Urartu (Arartu), which means Ararat. The Old Testament also associates Armenia with the Mount Ararat (the Kingdom of Ararat).
In ancient times, Armenia was equally associated with the rivers Tigris, Euphrates, Araks and Kura. That is why the neighboring Assyrians also called Armenia, Nairi, standing for Riverland, Country of Rivers.
Haik, once thought to be just a hero of an epic legend, is presently accepted by some researches as an actual chieftain of Armens in the 3rd millennium BC. Historians proved that later Haik was deified and proclaimed the prime god in the pantheon of gods in the pagan Armenia.
One of Haik's most famous scions, Aram, considerably extended the borders of his country, transforming it into a powerful state. Since then, Greeks and Persian began to call the country Armenia, i.e. the country of Aram.
Ara the Beautiful
Aram's son, Ara the Beautiful succeeded him. A very romantic Armenian legend tells that Ara was so handsome that the Assyrian Queen Semiramis (the same who founded Babylon and planted its marvelous hanging gardens) fell in love with him. Ara repeatedly rejected her love proposals until the desperate queen began war with him. The Assyrians troops won the furious battle, and Ara was killed, in despite of Semiramis's order to preserve his life. Inconsolable Semiramis reputed to be sorceress took his body and tried in vain to enliven him. When Armenians advanced to avenge their leader, she disguised one of her lovers and spread the rumor that Gods brought Ara back to life. As a result, the war was ceased.
Van and Yerevan
History attributes the building of Van, one of the most ancient Armenian cities at the shore of the salt lake of the same name, to the legendary Semiramis. Another ancient Armenian city is Yerevan, capital of today's Republic of Armenia. Its foundation dates from 782 BC, which is reported in a cuneiform writing of King Argiste.
Between Persia & Rome: (From 7th BC till Jesus Christ)
The Persian dominance
In 612 BC the Medes destroyed Nineveh and brought the Assyrian power to an end. Armenia's eternal antagonist abandoned the political arena. Some 50 years later, the king Tigranes the First in alliance with Cyrus the Great, founder of Achaemenid dynasty conquered the lands controlled by the Medes and reinforced the Armenian kingdom.
Tigranes the First had 3 sons; the third son's name was Vahagn the Dragonfighter. The Armenian pagan tradition covered this Vahagn with glory and legends: he was even deified and worshipped like Hercules.
However, the era of peace ended as a number of weak and insignificant kings ruled Armenia over the following years, and finally the country became tributary to Persia. An inscription on a rock (around 520 BC) called the Behestun Stone, found in Iran, mentions Armenia in the list of countries Darius I controlled. The dynasty of Hayk stopped: the kings of Armenia were henceforward anointed by the Persian kings. During the following centuries the Armenian troops fought for Persia in all major battles. The Armenian cavalry was well known for its valor. Vahe, the last offspring of Hayk dynasty, was killed in 331 BC, fighting for Darius in a battle against Alexander the Great.
Armenia regains independence
Armenia regained independence after the death of Alexander the Macedonian, when the monarchy of the latter was split into many parts. By 190 BC, Prince Artashes, the governor of Greater Armenia, united the shattered Armenian lands, establishing the Atashesian dynasty. He built the city of Artashat. According to some Roman historians, the construction of this new Armenian capital was supervised by famous commander Hannibal the Carthaginian, who took refuge in Armenia fleeing from the Romans.
The country enjoyed peace and prosperity under the rule of Vagharshak, who came to throne in 149 BC. He set up the institute of nobility in his kingdom and established the new senior official ranking system. Vagharshak made the city of Armavir his royal residence. Several Greek inscriptions from around that period found in Armavir witness about the influence of the Greek culture in Armenia.
Tigranes the Great
Vagharshak's son Arshak and his grandson Artashes were very successful rulers as well, but it was perhaps the son of the latter, Tigranes II, who distinguished himself as the most glorious among all Armenian kings. He succeeded his father in 95 BC. Brother-in-law and true ally of Mithridates the Great, the glorious King of Pontus, he struggled together with his formidable relative against the Roman dominance. Tigranes the Second also known as Tigranes the Great, extended the Armenian borders from Caspian Sea to Egypt, gaining full control over the vast territories. After having subdued the provinces in Syria, Cappadocia and Mesopotamia, Tigranes also conquered Palestine, taking many thousands of prisoners. He united all the Armenian lands and built 4 large cities in different parts of his empire all 4 called Tigranakert.
Just like his father Artashes, Tigranes transported from Greece many statues of the Greek Gods. A gigantic statue of Zeus was erected in Ani fortress, and sanctuary for Anahit (Aphrodite) was raised in the city of Ashtishat.
Roman and Parthian invasions
Tigran's expansion ended with the Roman and Parthian advances. In 69 BC,the troops of the Roman general Lucullus invaded Armenia and besieged Tigranakert.The city fell, betrayed by a Greek garrison. The Romans set the city ablaze. Many architect treasures including fine statues, temples and a splendid theater were demolished and lost in the fire.
At the same time, the Parthian army attacked the city of Artashat. The Partians were led by the treasonous son of Tigranes, who joined his father's enemy after marrying the Parthian princess. Battling on two fronts, Tigranes the Great defeated the Parthian army. Soon Lucullus was forced to turn back as well, facing the Armenian counterattacks. However, the Romans launched a new offensive expedition, under Pompey the Great. Tigranes, at time 75-year-old, was forced to sign a peace treaty. As a result, several lands were yielded to Rome, but the country and Tigranes's power remained strong.
Tigranes the Great died in 55 BC. Subsequently his son Artavazd ruled Armenia. Adept of ellenistic culture, Artavazd wrote plays and poems in Greek. The Greek tragedies were performed in his royal residence of Artashat on a regular basis. Historians testify that the head and the right hand of Crassus, the eminent Roman commander killed in a battle against the joint Persian and Armenian armies, was brought to Artavazd while he was enjoying the play of Euripide's Bacchantes.
The ruling of Artavazd was unsuccessful: he lost many of the lands that Tigranes, his glorious father, had conquered. Marcus Antonius captured the Armenian King, shackled him and took to Egypt as a present to Cleopatre. With haughtiness, Artavazd refused to greet Cleopatre, and was decapitated. Armenia became a vassal state of the Roman Empire.
Abgar and the First Baptism
Under the ruling of the aged Abgar, nephew of Tigranes the Great, the whole territory of Armenia was subdued to Rome. The Roman officials arrived to Armenia to take a census. They brought with them numerous statues of the Emperor Augustus.
Later, Abgar, planning to revolt against the Roman tyranny, settled in Mesopotamia and founded the city of Edessa. He transported there his court, the treasury, and the archives of the Armenian kings. That is why the Armenian sources designate him as King of Armenia while some Greek and Roman sources mention Abgar, ruler of Edessa. When Abgar heard about the miracles Jesus Christ was performing in Galilee, he was already ailing, in his declining years. Astonished, he came to believe in Christ and wrote a letter to Him. Abgar asked the Savior to heal him and invited Him to Edessa.
Following the Armenian tradition, Abgar's messengers met Jesus in Jerusalem. Jesus would not accept the offer to visit Edessa, but wrote a response to Abgar's request. After Christ's ascension Thaddaeus, one of the disciples, arrived to Edessa bringing a piece of cloth that some researchers identify as the Shroud of Turin. According to Moses of Khorene, Abgar and all inhabitants of his city were baptized.
Christianization (FROM APOSTOLIC ACTS TO 551)
Apostles in Armenia
Abgar died after 38 years of ruling. After his death the Armenian kingdom was split in two. His son Ananun (Nameless) mounted the throne in Edessa, while his nephew Sanatruk ruled in Greater Armenia. At that time, the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew traveled through Armenia to preach the word of God. Many people were converted and numerous secret Christian communities were established. However, the Apostles suffered martyrdom. Around 66, Ananun ordered to kill St.Thaddeus in Edessa. According to tradition, two other Apostles also met their death in different places of Armenia: St.Bartholomew was skinned alive in Alvanapolis, and Judas was pierced with arrows in Artaz region. In Armenia, the Apostles Thaddaeus and Bartholomew are particularly revered. They are considered the first preachers of Christianity in Armenia and the Armenian Church is called Apostolic in their honor.
Armenia becomes the first Christian nation
For all that, it's only two and half centuries later that Armenia was Christianized. In 301, the king Tiridates established Christianity as a sole religion of Armenia. Some modern researchers unsubstantially pretend the event took place in 314, and not in 301. The fact remains that the Edict of Milan decreed by Constantine the Great in 313 simply mandated tolerance of the Christians in the Roman Empire, while Tiridates the Great proclaimed Christianity as a sole religion throughout all Armenian lands. Thus, Armenia became the first Christian State in the history of the world.
Gregory the Illuminator, the first Patriarch of the Armenian Church, converted Tiridates and his court. Before his conversion Tiridates, famous for his tyranny, persecuted Christians. After many horrible tortures, he threw Gregory into an underground pit full of serpents and dead bodies, where Gregory spent 13 long years.
Agathangeghos, historian of 4th century, states that during Gregory's imprisonment a group of Christian virgins under the guidance of Gayane Abbess arrived in the city of Vagharshapat. The King Tiridates fell in love with Hripsime, one of the virgins. As Hripsime rejected his love, he put the whole group of virgins to the sword. As a result of this evil deed, Tiridates was stricken with an incurable illness. Then Khosroviducht, his Christian sister, urged him to free Gregory. The King did so, and was miraculously healed.
During the following years, Tiridates and Gregory implanted the new religion with fire and sword. The sanctuaries and heathen temples were destroyed throughout the country. The only pagan temple remained intact to this day is Garni.
The first Christian churches appeared in Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin), in Nakhijevan, in Artsakh. According to different accounts presented in ancient legends and in the History of Moses Khorenatzi, the first cathedral of St.Echmiadzin (now the official center of the Armenian Church) was built between 301 and 303. The exact design and place came to St.Gregory in a divine vision: Christ himself descended to the Ararat valley and struck with a golden hammer to indicate the future location of the cathedral.
Arshak II, Papes and Varazdat
The adoption of Christianity put an end to the pagan traditions and abolished the secular fine arts and poetry. The Persian influence was still very strong in Armenia, but now Armenia and Persia worshipped different Gods. The political consequences of the evolution were tragic. A series of wars weakened Armenia during the ruling of Arshak II. The Persian King Shapur II succeeded in sowing discord between Arshak II and his principal feudal lords, called Nakharars. Some of the lords defected to Shapur. The Armenian King was summoned to Persia and then imprisoned for life in the Castle of Oblivion. His wife, Queen Parandzem, led the Armenian defense in the Artagers castle, but after 14 months of siege was also imprisoned, taken to Persia and then killed.
Arshak's successor, King Papes was as contradictory figure as his father. He was assassinated by order of the Emperor Flavius Theodosius after he allegedly had ordered the Armenian Catholicos Nerses the Great be poisoned. At that time Papes' two sons were not of age to take the throne, so Theodosius crowned Varazdat, Papes's nephew. This Varazdat was a handsome young man, a formidable warrior and a skillful fisticuffs fighter. He took part in the Olympic Games at Olympia, Greece and became victor. But the end of his ruling was unfortunate. His intention to marry the Persian Princess angered Theodosius, Persia's sworn enemy. The perfidious Emperor ordered that Varazdat be enchained and exiled to an island.
St. Mesrob and the Golden Age of Armenia
The Armenian Kingdom fell into decay, but Christianity in Armenia strengthened considerably. At that time the necessity emerged to revive the lost Armenian alphabet. The Masses in Armenian churches were sung in Greek, the Royal Court and nobility spoke Greek and Parthian, priesthood, schools and different educational institutions widely used Greek and Syrian. Therefore, the recreation of the alphabet became vital to oppose the possible assimilation.
King Vramshapouh and Catholicos Sahak Partev assigned the task to Mesrob Mashtots, a genius scholar monk. For several years, he traveled throughout Greater and Lesser Armenias and Mediterranean world in quest for the lost scriptures. In Edessa, he finds some of the scrolls in old Armenian, and after carefully reviewing them and exploring the possibilities, he recreates the Armenian alphabet in 405.
In 425, the Bible was translated into the Armenian language from the authentic copies of the Bible brought from Constantinople and Edessa. The Armenian translation is the fifth known translation of the Bible. Earlier, the Bible was only translated into the Syriac, the Latin, the Coptic and the Abyssinian languages. Some specialists estimate this translation, performed by St.Mesrob and his disciples, as the best Bible translation ever. The French linguists of the 19th century termed it as the "Queen of translations". St.Mesrob, later elevated into sainthood, is also known as the author of the actual Georgian alphabet. He also invented an alphabet for the large tribe of Gargareans, that inhabited Aghuank.
Paradoxically, the 5th century, marked by serious political losses, became the Golden Age of the Armenian literature. The works of Faustus the Byzantine, Moses of Khorene, Eliseus , Koriun, Lazarus Barbedzi, Eznik of Kolb, David the Invincible, and others, may be considered milestones of historiography and philosophy.
St. Vardan and the first war for the Christian faith
Meanwhile, Armenia lost independence. Over the next 200 years the eastern provinces were ruled by the Persian marzpans. A number of insurrections took place during that period. The most famous among them was the so-called Vardanank, War of St.Vardan in 451, described in details by Eliseus and Lazarus Barbedzi. The Persian King Yazdegerd II tried to put an end to Christianity in Armenia, and to disseminate the doctrine of Zoroaster. Armenians revolted when the numerous Persian priests were sent to Armenia to build temples and conduct fire worship.
On May 6, 451 a horrifically bloody battle took place in the Avarayr place. 66 thousand Armenians heroically fought the overwhelmingly superior Persian troops. Most of the Armenian lords including St.Vardan fell in battle, but Armenia undoubtedly won a great moral victory. Over 60 thousand of Persian soldiers were killed, and Yazdegerd's hopes were dashed. That was the first known war for Christian faith in history.
30 years later a new resurrection took place, headed by Prince Vahan Mamikonean, St.Vardan's nephew. This commander fought the Persian king Firuz II with changeable success. Firuz's successor was a moderate ruler conceding the freedom of religion. Vahan was granted the title of marzpan. Another offspring of Mamikonean family, known as Red Vardan, rose against Persians in the middle of the next century. He captured the city of Dvin, the old Armenian capital. But soon the rising was put down, and Vardan made his escape to Greece.
In 551 Moses , the Armenian Catholicos set a new Armenian calendar from AD 551.
Restoration (FROM 590 TO 884)
The Bagradouni Princes and the Arab expansion
Around 590, a new partition of Armenia between Persia and Byzantine Empire took place. Western provinces of the Greater Armenia were ruled by the kuropalats - governors of the Greek Emperor. The Mamikonean Princes gradually conceded their leading role to the other noble Armenian families. The Bagradouni Princes became especially powerful and influential.
Meanwhile, the Persian Empire fell into decay. In the early seventh century, a new power emerged in the Middle East. The Arabian Caliphate began first great expansions. Egypt and Syria became Islamic countries. The Persian troops were routed several times.
By 680, Arabs destroyed the last remains of the Persian resistance and invaded all Persian territories. Zoroastrianism was replaced with Islam.
Arab invasions and Armenian revolts
The Arabs first invaded Armenia in 640. Prince Theodoros Rshtuni led the Armenian defense. In 652, a piece agreement was made, allowing Armenians freedom of religion. Prince Theidoros traveled to Damask, where he was recognized by the Arabs as the ruler of Armenia, Georgia and Albania.
By the end of the seventh century, the Caliphate's policy toward Armenia and the Christian faith hardened. Special representatives of Caliph called ostigans were sent to govern Armenia. The ostigans made the city of Dvin their residence. Before Dvin was the residence of Armenian Catholicos.
Although declared domain of Caliph, Armenia remained faithful to the Christian religion. The Arabs failed in several attempts to convert the Armenians to Islam. The Armenian obstinacy exasperated caliph Abd al-Malik. In 705, he gave to one of the ostigans an unprecedented order to murder all Armenian Nakharars. More than 400 Armenian noblemen were entrapped to one of Nakhichevan churches, then the doors were closed and the church was set in fire. Later, the Arab historians termed that time as The Year of Great Burning. Quoting John VI, "...ocean of tears flooded Armenia". A number of unsuccessful insurrections followed that tragic event during the 8th century.
By 850, the Bagradouni Princes strengthened their position among the other noble Armenian families. The Prince Bagarat Bagradouni was the one who enjoyed the confidence of the high-ranking Arab officials. The Caliph granted him the title of Grand Prince. But soon thereafter, other Armenian Nakharars rebelled against him.
In 851 Yussouf, a Caliph's commander, arrived to Armenia to put down the mutiny. To his surprise, he found nobody submissive. Enraged, Yussouf arrested the Grand Prince and sent him to the Caliph. A few later, the two sons of Bagarat revenged his father, raising the highlanders of Sassun province against Arabs. At nighttime, the armed multitude suddenly attacked the castle of Yussouf and killed him.
Furious, the Caliph sent a huge army, headed by Bugha. This commander, former slave, was known for his particular cruelty. Bugha's campaign was truly devastating. Many Armenian cities and fortresses were destroyed and set ablaze. Historians termed Bugha as "butcher" and "brutal urderer". The panic prevailed throughout the country. Only some few of the Armenian Nakharars put a stout resistance. Isaiah, the valiant Prince of Artsakh was Bugha's most uncompromising opponent, but in the end Bugha seized him and sent to Baghdad together with other captive Nakharars.
Many of these noble prisoners met their death in the Baghdad dungeons. Being aware of the particular authority of Bagradouni Princes, the Caliph tried to convert them to Islam. Sembat Bagradouni, Sparabet of Armenia, refused to apostatize and was murdered after many cruel tortures.
Restoration of Kingdom
Ten years later Ashot Bagradouni, son of Sembat was proclaimed Prince of Princes. Wise and astute politician, Ashot resourcefully balanced between the Arabs and the Greeks. Under his ruling, Armenia enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. In 884, Ashot I was solemnly crowned King of Armenia. Both the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor sent him a crown with many splendid presents, recognizing him as King. Thus, the Armenian Kingdom was de jure restored.
In the time of Ashot's ruling, Basil I, the first Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty, came to throne in the Byzantine Empire. Basil I and a number of his successors were of Armenian descent. The new Emperor declared himself a descendent of the Armenian Arshakids kings. Traditionally, during the coronation ceremonies of the Armenian kings, it was a representative of Bagradouni family who solemnly laid the crown on the new king's head. That's why Basil I delegated a certain Nikita, his court eunuch, to Armenia asking Ashot Bagradouni to symbolically send him a crown.
Civil Strife (FROM 890 TO 14th CENTURY)
After Ashot's death in 890 his son, Sembat I became King of Armenia. Bellicose and energetic, he waged non-stop warfare during 22 years of his ruling. He was very successful in the beginning, putting down a number of revolts in northern Armenia and subjecting the Moslem rulers of Dvin. The major Armenian Nakharars supported Sembat at that time, and his army was very efficient. But later, some of the most ambitious vassals sought independence. As a result the Kingdom was split into several rebellious principalities. Perhaps the King Sembat had only himself to blame. He began the destructive process in 899, when he granted the title of King to his friend and loyal vassal Adrnerseh, the Prince of the vast Vyrk province. The accession of Adrnerseh in Vyrk originated the future Georgian Kingdom.
The jealousy of other influential Princes caused unrest and trouble in Armenia. The ostigan Afshin, sworn enemy of King Sembat, was now able to turn the situation to his profit. He repeatedly attacked the Armenian cities and captured the important fortress of Kars, making Armenian Queen and other members of the royal family his hostages. The truce was established after Sembat I agreed to pay a huge ransom and give one of his nieces in marriage to Afshin.
Shortly after, Afshin died, but his brother Yussouf was even worse. He concluded an alliance with Gagik Ardsrouni, ruler of Vaspurakan province. A few later, Gagik was declared King of Armenia. Also the Sparapet Ashot seceded and declared himself King of Armenia. A number of fratricidal wars devastated the country. Then Yussouf, in alliance with the apostate Armenian princes, besieged and destroyed many of key cities and fortresses. At the end of his tether, the King Sembat locked him-self in an impregnable fortress of Kapuit.
The siege of Kapuit lasted over two years. Finally, Sembat surrendered to Yussouf making it a condition to spare his loyal soldiers. Yussouf hypocritically swore eternal friendship, but after a while he perfidiously captured the Armenian King again. Sembat I was accused of preparing a new war, tortured in a barbarous fashion, and finally put to death.
The internecine strife continued to destroy Armenia during the next decade. Ashot II, son of Sembat, came to throne of his father. He forthwith began the war against another King Ashot, his cousin and namesake who had for residence the city of Bagharan. The third Armenian king, Gagik Ardsrouni, ruled in relative peace the Vaspurakan province. An unprecedented renaissance in architecture marked his ruling. A number of splendid churches and a beautiful palace were built on the Akhtamar Island. Later, the Church of Holy Cross became the residence of the Catholicosate of Aghtamar.
In 914, Ashot II visited Constantinople. The Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus treated him with affection and sent him back to Armenia with a huge army. Now Ashot II was able to rout Yussouf and put an end to the Arab dominance. Historians called Ashot, Erkat i.e. Iron.
Heyday of Trade and Literature
Under the ruling of Abas I, and Ashot III, Armenia reentered the period of peace and prosperity. The capital moved into the glorious city of Ani, known as "the city of one thousand and one churches". Under the next kings, Sembat II and his brother Gaguik I, the resumption oftrade made Ani one of the most prosperous cities of that time. Its population reached 200 000 inhabitants.
The 10th and the 11th century produced new illustrious names in Armenian historical and ecclesiastic literature, such as John of Draskhanakert, Thomas Ardsrouni, Moses Kaghankatvatsi, Asoghik and Gregory Narekatsi.
The Turks emerge
However, new disastrous invasions marked the beginning of a new millennium. The Seljuk Turks emerged as a new dangerous power. The Vaspurakan province was the first to be attacked. As mentioned above, this province was ruled by Ardsrouni princes who proclaimed themselves kings. Unable to secure the country against the new enemy, the King Senekerim sought the protection of Emperor Basil II. As a result of their mutual accord, Basil II took the possession of Vaspurakan giving Senekerim one of the Greek provinces in exchange. Meanwhile, the Seljuks tried to capture the old Armenian city of Dvin, but were put to rout by Vahram Pahlavouni, Sparapet of Armenia.
During the next 50 years the Greeks gradually annexed the important part of the Great Armenia. Torn between the Turkish danger and co-religionist Byzantine power, Armenia was at the threshold of a national disaster. The army of Constantine IX besieged Ani in 1041. The Sparapet Vahram Pahlavouni, at the time 80 years old, repeatedly repulsed the enemy. Soon after, the Greeks raised the siege. A 16-year-old Gaguik II arrived in Ani and was proclaimed King of Armenia.
However, Gaguik II was fated to be the last king of the Armenian Bagratouni dynasty. Young and inexperienced, he was betrayed by some of his pro-Greek princes, especially by Prince Sarkis. During Gaguik's visit in Constantinople the Emperor Constantine IX told him that Sarkis and the other Armenian grandees had recognized the Greek authority over Armenia. Confused and upset, Gaguik refused to return to Armenia.
Armenia falls under the Turks
The Greek dominance in Armenia ended in 1071, after the famous battle of Manzikert. The 100-thousandth army of Byzantines including the Armenian forces met with the huge army of Seljuks under Alp Aslan. The Christians led by the Emperor Romanus Diogenes were defeated, and Diogenes was imprisoned by Alp Aslan. The Turks took control over all of the Greater Armenia.
Armenians and Georgians unite
In the 12th century and in the beginning of the 13th century, a number of Armenian nobles joined with the neighboring Georgians, in an attempt to liberate the Armenian lands. The strengthening Georgian Kingdom was at the time ruled by a branch of the Armenian Bagradouni dynasty. After a number of uprisings that took place in 1124, 1161 and 1174, the Seljuk rule was overthrown in different cities of Greater Armenia. During the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1213), some important cities of Greater Armenia, such as Ani, Kars and Dvin were retaken from the Turks. The military expeditions were led by Armenian nobles Zakare Zakarian and his brother Ivane, favorite of Queen Tamar.
Mongols and Turkomans in Armenia
The short revival in Armenia ended with the first Mongol invasions in the early 1220's. During the next 100 years the country was subjected to new campaigns of terror and destruction. The cities and the entire provinces, such as Ani, Kars, Lori, Gandzak, Shamkhor, Khachen, Nakhichevan and many others were destroyed, plundered and set ablaze. After the census taken in 1254, the population was overtaxed. According to Kirakos Gandzaketsi, eyewitness to the events, "…they demanded the most severe taxes, more than a man could bear…They harassed the people with incredible beatings and tortures… Those who hid were seized and killed."
A number of rebellions led by Armenian and Georgian lords were brutally crushed by Mongols.
From the beginning of the 14th century, the Mongol dominance in the region recedes. Now numerous Turkoman nomadic tribes invade the Armenian lands. Different parts of Armenia become the theater of warfare for the various nomadic clans, such as Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep) and Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep) .
Cilician Kingdom (FROM 1080 TO 1375)
Establishment of Rubenids dynasty
After the devastating raids of Seljuks thousands of Armenians moved toward Cilicia - region of Armenia Minor situated between the Taurus and Amanus mountains close to Mediterranean coast. The Armenian population in Cilicia gradually became predominant. In 1080 a certain Prince Ruben, that the historians believe to be descendant of the Bagradouni and Ardzrouni dynasties, asserted authority over the local Armenian and Greek princes. Ruben became founder of a new glorious royal House of Rubenids that ruled over Cilicia for more than 300 years.
Ruben I and his successors maintained close contacts with the Crusaders. As a result, the new Armenian Principality, which later became Kingdom, imitated the principles of State organization accepted in European countries. A number of new ranks and titles were established. Armenian Nakharars became Knights and Barons, Sparapets were often called Constables etc. The Armenian Cilician noblemen used the Latin and French languages alongside the Armenian. Intermarriages between the members of the Armenian and European noble families were widespread.
The first rulers of Cilicia
Leon II and the Crusaders
The first Armenian rulers of Cilicia, such as Constantine I and Thoros I led successful warfare against both Saracens and Greeks. The next ruler, the bellicose Leon I was less fortunate, as the Emperor John II Comnenus arrested him and seized all of his domains. Later Leon I and his elder son Ruben were murdered in prison, but Leon's younger son Thoros known as Thoros II was spared.
5 years later, Thoros II escaped to Cilicia to declare the country's independence. Then the Emperor Manuel I Comnenus sent his commander Andronicus (later known as Emperor Andronicus I Comnenus) to punish the fugitive prince. However, Thoros defeated the Greek army several times. Unable to subject Thoros, the Greeks even concluded a military alliance with Sultan of Konya, but the troops of the latter were also routed by Thoros.
During the ruling of Leon II, when Cilicia enjoyed the period of a prosperous development, the Third Crusade was proclaimed in Europe. The Roman Emperor Frederic I Barbarossa, the French King Philip II Augustus and the English King Richard the Lion-Hearted assembled their forces to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin. Arriving in Asia Minor, Frederic Barbarossa proposed an alliance to Leon II. The Armenian King promised to supply the Europeans with food and horses. Although Frederic I was tragically drowned in the Calycadnus River in Cilicia, Leon II continued to support the Crusaders. Wishing to reward Leon II for his loyalty, Henry IV, the son of Frederic Barbarossa, sent him a splendid crown. Other leaders of the Third Crusade also promised their friendship and protection. Nevertheless, the European monarchs and the Popes of Rome were never disinterested toward the Armenian state. Some religious concessions and the further reunion of the Armenian and Catholic churches were stipulated as an important condition.
The Cilician Armenian Kingdom was reinforced after Leon II gained the long-term conflict over the Latin princes of the neighboring Antioch Principality. The Armenian King captured Antioch twice. He also marked the end of his ruling with victories over the Sultans of Konya and Aleppo.
The Armenian Renaissance
Hetum I and the Mongols
While the inhabitants of the Greater Armenia eye-witnessed the loss of their national statehood and numerous foreign invasions, the Cilician Armenians lived in wealth and prosperity. Good geographic location involved the country into an intensive international trade. Science and culture flourished. This period of Armenian history is regarded as the brilliant Age of Ecclesiastical manuscript painting. The school of genius Thoros Roslin was especially famous. Theology, philosophy, rhetoric, medicine and mathematics were taught in a large number of new schools and monasteries. New significant names appeared in the Armenian literature, such as: Nerses Shnorhali, Matthew of Edessa, Vardan Aygektsi and Sembat the Constable.
Meanwhile, the enormous Empire of Mongols expanded on the East, and the Turks were consecutively ousted from the Greater Armenia, Syria and Mesopotamia. During the ruling of Hetum I, Mongols approached the borders of Cappadocia and Cilicia. A far-sighted politician, Hetum I was prompt to establish the good relations with Khan Batu. Later, when Khan Mangu assumed the title of Great Khan, Hetum I made a long trip to the Golden Horde with the many sumptuous presents. As a result the military alliance with the Mongols was reaffirmed. The Mongols supported Hetum I in his conflict against the Sultans of Konya and Aleppo. The next Armenian kings also maintained friendly connections with the Khans of Golden Horde. The situations drastically changed however, as the Mongols declined in power and were gradually converted to Islam.
Cilician Kingdom in danger
By the beginning of the 14th century, the aggressive Mamelukes dynasties becoming stronger and dangerous, the Armenian Kings had no way out but seeking protection of the European monarchs. The King Leon IV repeatedly sent messengers to Rome promising the reunion of the Armenian and Catholic churches. Later his brother Oshin I tried to make alliance with Philip V, King of France. Also Leon V, Oshin's son asked Philip VI to render assistance. But the European leaders, although sympathetic, were not able or willing to intervene.
End of Rubenids.
Fall of the Kingdom
Leon V was the last king of the Rubenids dynasty. Then, the descendants of Armenian branch of the royal Lusignan family ruled Cilicia. The country was already depleted as a result of the permanent Moslem invasions. As a matter of fact, the Christian Cilicia was doomed. The surrounding Moslem states feared new possible Crusades and often considered the Cilician Armenia as an eternal source of conflicts and an eternal pretext for European Kingdoms to interfere.
Under the ruling of Constantine IV, the Cilician Armenians gained perhaps their last victory, defeating the troops of Mamelukes near Alexandria. After Constantine's death in 1364 the Cilician throne remained unoccupied for more than 2 years. Finally, Leon VI, the last Armenian King, was elected in 1366. 8 years later, after a series of fatal battles against the superior enemy he locked himself in the Kapan fortress, but soon surrendered. The Mamelukes sent him to Egypt when he remained imprisoned for several years. Later the King of Castile mediated for his liberation. Leon VI died in Paris in 1393.
Under the Yoke (FROM 15TH TO MID 19th CENTURY)
Decline of Armenia
In the early 15th century Armenia was still divided into many small-scale principalities. However, after the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Muhammad II in 1453, the country gradually lost all vestiges of political sovereignty. Armenia was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The systematic invasions and ravages caused decline of the major Armenian cities. The Nakharar system was definitely destroyed. The Armenian Church also remained in disorder until the Holy See was transferred from the former Cilician capital of Sis to Vagharshapat.
A large number of Armenians continued to migrate from their devastated lands to Crimea, to Russia, to Poland, to India. As Constantinople became a thriving center of the Ottoman Empire, its Armenian community increased to the extent that a special see was set up apart from the Patriarchal See in Vagharshapat. The Armenian Church in Constantinople had particular privileges among the other branches of the Christian church.
While the Armenian colonies prospered in different countries, the population of Armenia proper suffered incredible privation and persecution. The peasantry was especially oppressed, discriminated and overtaxed. Several uprising against Turkish conquerors took place, but all of them were brutally crushed.
Partition of Armenia
From the beginning of the 16th century, Armenia became a scene of confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and Iran. The Armenian population fell victim of that bloody conflict that lasted more than two centuries. Following the final armistice in 1639 the territory of Great Armenia was split into two. The Western Armenia fell to the Ottoman Empire, and the Eastern Armenia fell to Iran.
The Shah Abbas I, the greatest of the Safavid rulers, led the policy of intensive settling of the Muslims on the Armenian lands, while the Armenian population was moved to Iran. A big colony was founded in New Julfa, a suburb of Safavid capital of Isfahan. Very soon, New Julfa became one of the centers of the Armenian intellectual and cultural life, just like Constantinople or Venice. In all of these cities, also in Amsterdam and in Vagharshapat, several Armenian printing houses were set up. The first printing of the whole Bible in Armenian was done in 1666 in Amsterdam, but the first book printed in Armenian appeared in Venice in the early 16th century.
The Russian Hope
From the early 17th century, Armenians began to place their hopes on the growing Russian Power. A number of messengers were sent to the Russian czars in order to ask protection. The rich Armenian community of New Julfa made the czar Alexis I Mikhailovich a sumptuous present of a golden throne adorned with precious stones. In the late 17th century, the ties with Russia strengthened as military victories of Peter the Great over Persians and Turks inspired Armenians. At the same time, a number of patriots, such as Israel Ori, traveled all over the Europe trying to find support of Christian powers. Unfortunately, their activities brought little results.
The Meliks of Karabakh
Eastern Armenia becomes part of Russian Empire
At the same time, the Eastern Armenian provinces rose against the Moslems. Uprisings were headed by the princes of Artsakh (the so-called Meliks of Karabakh). In 1697, the Meliks adopted Gandzasar Treaty, which proclaimed "the entry of Armenia under the patronage of Russia". Unfortunately, the Russian territorial expansion stopped soon, and Armenians met with great disappointment. David-Bek, ruler of Artsakh and Siunik provinces, supported by Mkhitar Sparapet, consolidated Armenian forces against the Turks. However, after David-Bek died in 1730, the Turkish tribes gradually dominated most of Artsakh, proclaiming the Khanate of Karabakh in the late 50s.
The Armenian nation took heart under the reign of Russian Empress Catherine the Great (1762-1796). As a result of the two successful wars against the Ottoman Empire, Russians annexed new vast territories. The Count Potemkin, illustrious statesman and favorite of the Empress, propounded the idea of forming a new Armenian-Georgian Kingdom. A number of enthusiastic rich Armenians abroad suggested financing the project. Unfortunately, it turned out Utopian just like another similar project of creating a Greek monarchy.
However, the Russian influence in Caucasus kept growing, while the Persian power fell in decline. In 1800, Georgia became part of the Russian Empire. 5 years later, the rebellious leaders of Karabach proclaimed themselves loyal subjects of the Russian czar. The Persian troops were defeated several times, and the Russian army besieged Erevan. The Treaty of Gulistan (1813) officially asserted the Russian sovereignty over a number of former Khanates including the Khanate of Karabakh.
After the Treaty of Turkmenchaj(1828), the greater part of the Eastern Armenia was brought under Russian control. As a result, a large number of Armenians moved back from Persia to Armenia. The Armenian Oblast (Province) was created, which lasted from 1828 to 1840.
From the middle of the 19th century, capitalist relations in the Eastern Armenia developed intensively. The newborn Armenian bourgeoisie invested its capital in the new industrial centers, such as Tiflis and Baku, also in Alaverdi and Zangezour, centers of the copper industry.
Meanwhile, the Western Armenia with most of the Armenian lands still remained under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks. The large Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire continued to experience immeasurable sufferings. Periodic uprising took place during the entire 19th century in Sassun, Mush, Zeytun, Van and other Armenian cities, but all of them were severely suppressed.
Western Armenia (FROM 1820 TO 1913)
Uprisings in the Ottoman Empire
The 20s and the 30s of the 19th century were marked by a series of revolts of the non-Turkish peoples throughout the Ottoman Empire. Greece obtained independence in 1829. The Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians and Armenians were about to throw off the Turkish sway. The fall of the declining Empire seemed inevitable. However, the Turks held on as a result of the European disagreement about how to divide the spheres of influence. Once again, Armenians put their hopes on Russia. During the Russo-Turkish war of 1829, the czar Nicholas I captured Erzerum and was already advancing to Constantinople, but was stopped by European powers. Paradoxically, just 3 years later, Russians were involved in a conflict against Egypt in order to protect the Ottoman Sultan. The inconsistent Russian policy resulted in a number of setbacks for Russia's further expansion. On the other hand, England, Germany and France, though sympathetic toward the enslaved nations of the Ottoman Empire, tried hard to reduce the Russian influence and finally became involuntary allies of the Turks.
First Armenian Political Parties
During the next decades, the Turk rulers led the policy of large-scale reforms known as the Tanzimat (Turkish for "reorganization"). The reforms were aimed to "civilize" Turkey making it look a more "European" country. The Tanzimat lasted for about 30 years and affected all aspects of political and social life. For the enslaved nations, it marked an unprecedented raise of the national-liberation movement.
The uprisings of Balkan peoples and the plight of Armenians urged the Russian intervention in 1877-1878. After the Treaty of San Stefano Russia gained control over a large part of Armenia and obtained the independence of Romania and Serbia. However, Russia had to step back as a result of the English and German pressure. The Treaty of San Stefano was revised and the Czar Alexander II withdrew the Russian troops from the Armenian territories.
The coming to power of the despotic Sultan Abd al-Hamid II in 1876 put an end to the Tanzimat. Nonetheless, the Armenian liberation movement gathered momentum. The three major Armenian political Parties were founded: Hnchak, Dashnaktsutiun and Ramkavar.
Massacres of Abdul-Hamid
From 1894 to 1896, the systematic massacres were organized by Abdul-Hamid in order to punish Armenians for their aspiration for freedom. The Sultan considered the Armenian population as an eternal excuse for Europeans and for Russians to interfere. The government instigated assaults on the Armenian villages, that quickly spread to all regions of Western Armenia. Despite the armed resistance in some places, particularly Zeytun, over 200 thousand of Armenians were killed as a result of these bloody pogroms. Historians named Abdul-Hamid "Red Sultan".
Young Turks and massacres in Adana
Meanwhile, the new opposition Party of the Young Turks rose in the Ottoman Empire. Propagating the attractive slogans of "fraternity and common homeland", the leaders of Young Turks inspired many short-sighted Armenians, who believed in the reality of an "autonomous Western Armenia". As the Young Turks struggled against the Red Sultan, Armenian parties and leaders assisted them and supported financially.
After the so-called Young Turk Revolution of 1908, the Sultan's authority was reduced to the point that he became a sheer symbolic figure. Although an attempt to a counterrevolution was made, the Young Turks managed to retain the real power. Abdul-Hamid, forced to abdicate in 1909 was removed to solitary confinement. He was replaced by Mehmet V, who was only a puppet of the Young Turks. Then, the leaders of the Young Turks founded a new powerful party called Ittihad ve Terakki (Turkish for "Union and Progress").
The victory of the Young Turks marked the immediate end to the Armenian illusions. In 1909, a series of bloody rampages took place in Adana, Cilicia, where the Turkish mobs were supported by the Turkish army. The sporadic pogroms took place in different cities. Some 35,000 Armenians were killed as a result of these massacres. In despite of the promises and oaths to "establish order", the threat of the physical extermination of the Armenian nation was imminent.
In 1912, the Balkan wars began. Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece formed a coalition against the Ottoman Empire. The coalition gained a number of important victories and the Turks sued for peace. An Armenian hero Andranik (later known as General Andranik) fought for the Bulgarians forming an Armenian volunteer unit.
The Armenians at death's door
The First Balkan war marked serious territorial losses for the Ottoman Empire, but during the Second War in the next year the Turks regained the large territories as a result of a discord between the Balkan States. In 1913, a coup d'état within the Union and Progress committee brought an extreme nationalist triumvirate headed by Enver, Talaat and Gemal to the absolute power in the Ottoman Empire. The racist doctrines of Pan-Turkism, Turkish national exclusiveness and Turkish homogeneous state were preached by party's ideologists, such as Zia, Dr.Nazim and Dr.Shakir. Armenians were openly termed as superfluous and dangerous elements inside the Ottoman Empire. In many places, the Armenian bankers were accused of "looting the country" just like the Armenian intelligentsia was blamed of undermining the state foundations.
The Armenian nation entered the gloomiest period of its history.
The Genocide (FROM 1914 TO 1922)
The Turkish Plan
It is generally accepted that the Armenian Genocide started on April 24, 1915. The Armenians commemorate this date because on April 24, 1915 more than 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested and then murdered in Constantinople. However, the Turkish plan of uprooting the Armenians from their ancestral homeland was masterminded far beforehand. The outbreak of the WWI in 1914 gave the Young Turks the perfect opportunity to solve the Armenian Question.
At first Dr. Nazim, the Young Turks ideologist, traveled throughout the vilayets (provinces) of the Ottoman Empire calling for the boycott of the Armenian businesses. Then Enver-Pasha, the idol of the Turkish revolution issued the order to form special battalions. Later, these units of violent criminals and Kurdish irregulars attacked, looted and burned thousands of Armenian shops in Dyarbekir. At the same time, Talaat-Pasha, one of the triumvirs and the most influential figure in the Turkish cabinet, ordered to carry out the disarmament of the Armenian villages. Since the Moslem Turkey was involved in war against the Christian countries, the Christian Armenians were considered "unreliable" and sympathizing to their coreligionists. The weapons collected from the Armenians were distributed in neighboring Turkish villages.
Disarmed, arrested and executed
The Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed, put in labor battalions, and then killed. Meanwhile, the legitimated bands of chete (Kurdish irregulars, criminal hirelings) began systematic raids on the defenseless Armenian villages to rape women and ransack houses. In all major cities, the Armenian businesses were looted under the convenient pretext of "war contributions". In October 1914, mass arrests and killings of Armenians were reported in Erzerum and Zeytun. In November, as Russia had declared war on Turkey, the jihad (holy war against non-believers) was proclaimed and publicly read in all the vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. Together with the mass execution of the Armenian soldiers in the army, a number of notable Armenian community leaders, including religious were slain in different cities. In the provinces, the Armenian bakers were publicly charged for poisoning the bread of the Turkish Army.
Hypocricy of Turkish leaders
In March, 1915 a special decision to exterminate all Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire was already issued by the Ittihad committee. Meanwhile, a severe censorship was established, and all foreign postal offices in Turkey were closed. Even the neutral US Ambassador was unable to read uncensored dispatches from his own government. In Constantinople, where a large number of Europeans, including foreign ambassadors were present, the Turkish leaders made hypocritical speeches. Enver-Pasha congratulated the brave Armenian soldiers for their admirable service on the Caucasus front, while Talaat-Pasha met with the Armenian leaders shortly before their mass arrests to declare they had nothing to fear.
In April, 1915 the regular Turkish troops began the non-stop attacks on the city of Van. The Armenians under the leadership of Aram Manukian organized a heroic defense. They decided to rise up arms after they were informed that more than 30 thousand of Armenians in surrounding villages had been killed in three days. The desperate defense of Van lasted 36 days with 55 thousand of Armenians being killed. The survivors were rescued by the units of the Armenian volunteers serving in the Russian army on the Caucasus front. Later, a handful of unarmed Armenians desperately defended themselves in Shabin-Karahisar, the native village of General Andranik. Another heroic example was the defense of Musa-Dagh in Cilicia, described by Austrian author Franz Werfel.
After the events that the Turks had termed as "revolution of Van", the Armenians were declared "internal enemies" of the Ottoman Empire. In Constantinople, many of the most eminent Armenians, including intellectuals, political and religious leaders were arrested and murdered. Among them were Grikor Zohrab and Vartkes Serengulian, members of the Ottoman Parliament and generally known as friends of Talaat-Pasha. At the same time, the mass killings took place in Bitlis, Mush and Dyarbekir. The special instructions for the detailed procedure of deportations were sent to all Governors of the vilayets throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians would be told they must be deported or relocated, and then marched off to the Syrian deserts between Jerablus, Mosul and Deir el-Zor. Only a small part of them would reach the final point. Many died of starvation, but most of them were killed on the march in extremely barbaric fashion. An American missionary testified to see, while traveling from Malatia to Sivas, a countless number of disfigured corpses all along both sides of the road for 9 hours running. Tens of thousands of dead bodies were thrown to the Euphrates River. In Trebizond, thousands of Armenians were sunk out at the sea...
In July 1915, there were virtually no Armenians remaining in Van, Bitlis, Dyarbekir, Sivas, Erzerum and Trebizond. Only a part of the orphan boys were converted to Islam and adopted by the Turkish families. Soon thereafter, Talat-Pasha told the German Ambassador that the Armenian Question had been finally solved. The depopulation of the Western Armenia was successfully completed.
End of Young Turks
In 1916, the deportations and the massacres continued with unremitting cruelty. The numerous instructions went to exterminate the remnants of the Armenian orphans. The survivors were subject to Islamization. But the most of the deportees who later reached the Syrian deserts were murdered or died from hunger or sicknesses.
In October 1916, the German Ambassador Wilhelm Radowitz reported to Berlin that out of the two and a half millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire alive were left only 300 000. The rest were killed or deported; some were lucky enough to escape eastward to the Caucasus or somewhere else. The ambassador mentioned "the two and a half millions" in accordance with the falsified results of the census taken in the Ottoman Empire in 1887, under the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. The actual number of Armenians was deliberately reduced, at least 3 times.
The governments of all European countries, and the United States condemned the Genocide of Armenians. Henry Morgenthau, the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote: "...the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915."
The Ittihad Cabinet resigned in October 1918. The triumvirs and other leaders of the Young Turks fled the country. They later were convicted by different courts-martial. Enver, Talat, Gemal and Nazim were sentenced to death by default. Kemal Bey, responsible for Yozgat massacres, was publicly hanged. Rashid Bey, governor of Dyarbekir, committed suicide. Other culprits of massacres were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment. Some of them were later released; others fled to join the army of Mustafa Kemal. However, the Genocide of Armenians was never officially recognized and condemned by the Turkish government. Even now, the Turkish authorities continue to deny the fact of the Genocide.
Talat-Pasha, one of main designers of the Genocide, was assassinated in 1921 in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian.
Enver-Pasha also fell from an Armenian in 1922 in a battle in Tajikistan.
Gemal-Pasha was assassinated in 1922 in Tiflis by an Armenian Tzagikian.
Gemal Azmi, former governor of Trabzon and Beahaddin Shakir, one of the Genocide's propagandists were both assassinated in 1922 in Berlin.
The First Republic (FROM 1918 TO SOVIETIZTION IN 1920-1921)
Collapse of Transcaucasian Federation
The triumph of Bolsheviks in 1917 put an end to the Russian Empire. In winter 1918, the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem leaders of Transcaucasia united to convene the Transcaucasian Federation, which proclaimed the secession of Transcaucasia from Russia.
The Turks, rapturous over the Russian Revolution, took it almost as a miracle produced by Allah. With the decline of the Russian military power, the Caucasus front collapsed, and the decaying Turkish power survived. To prevent the further destruction of the new Bolshevik State, Vladimir Lenin was forced to conclude the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The treaty had drastic consequences for the Armenians. The Turkish forces reoccupied the lands of the Western Armenia, earlier liberated by Russians.
In late May 1918, under the threat of a new Turkish offensive on the Caucasus, the Transcaucasian Federation collapsed after only 3 months of existence. In fact, the Federation was a still-born creature from the very beginning. Insuperable divergences existed between the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem deputations. The Georgians were oriented to Germany, and the Moslems to Turkey, whereas the Armenians, though loyal to the Entente, were supported by nobody.
On May 26 the independence of Georgia was declared. At the same time, the Moslems proclaimed a "Musavat Republic of Azerbaijan". This new Turkish state, created in the historical lands of the eastern Armenia, immediately and shamelessly laid claims on the Armenian territories in Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan.
The independence of Armenia proclaimed
Left alone, Armenians faced the total annihilation as the 100 thousandth Turkish army crossed the pre-war Russian frontier, annexed the city of Kars and approached the Armenian capital of Yerevan. After having depopulated the Western Armenia, the Turkish military were now about to destroy the rest of Armenia and achieve their goal of eliminating the Armenian nation.
The Armenians raised an army of 40,000 men, including soldiers, officers, volunteers and mass levies. At first the Dashnak leaders wanted to evacuate the population and to surrender Yerevan, but the Military Council headed by the Colonel Pirumian finally decided to do battle.
The two armies met on May 28, 1918 near Sardarapat. The battle was crowned with an outstanding Armenian victory. Some 30 thousand of Turkish soldiers were killed; the Turks were flung out. Vahib-Pasha, the defeated Turkish commander, termed the Armenian soldiers as "the best fighters in the world". The Armenians also held defenses at Karaklis and at Abaran.
On the same day of May 28, 1918 Armenia was proclaimed an independent republic. However, the embryo state was devastated, with a dislocated economy, dozens of thousands of refugees and the population starving. The danger of a new Turkish aggression was still imminent. Also, the country was soon involved in a territorial conflict with Georgia. Moreover, the situation in Karabakh was especially dangerous as the new Azerbaijani state made a series of ultimatums to the Armenian population.
In September, 1918 the Turkish troops invaded Baku and joined the Turkish-Azeri mobs in massacring some 30, 000 Armenians. Dozens of surrounding Armenian villages were destroyed.
The Wilsonian borders
Meanwhile, the European powers found themselves unable to solve the Armenian Question. The unification of the Caucasian Armenia with the Turkish Armenia proclaimed by the Armenian government in 1919 turned out Utopian. After Armenia was officially recognized by the governments of Allies and by the United States, the US President Woodrow Wilson was invited to determine the borders of the Armenian State. According to Wilson's map, a new Armenia would include most of its historically belonging lands. The project would never come true.
Armenia falls to Bolsheviks
USSR (FROM 1920s TO 1980s)
Furthermore, Armenia would face the new territorial losses. Mustafa Kemal, the new Turkish opposition leader, was able to reach an agreement with the Bolshevik leaders of Russia. Enthusiastic with the idea of "exporting the revolution eastward", Lenin and Stalin were prompt in starting an unprecedented financial and military aid to Kemal. At that time Armenia exploded into anarchy as the Armenian Bolsheviks rose in the cities of Nakhichevan, Alexandrople and Kars. The Soviet government hypocritically negotiated with both Dashnak and Bolshevik leaders of Armenia.
In August 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres, signed by England, France and Turkey, bound Turkey to recognize the independence of Armenia and the Wilsonian boundaries. The new Armenian state was recognized by most of the countries, including the United States. However, after the triumph of Mustafa Kemal, the Turks, supported by the Bolshevik Russia, attacked the infant Armenian Republic again. The Armenian and Russian Bolsheviks played a fatal role in demoralizing the population and the Armenian army. The Bolshevik propaganda now called the Turks "socialists" and "friends of Russians". On the other hand, the victorious Russian XI Red Army, after successfully Sovietizing Baku, Azerbaijan, and Karabakh, approached Yerevan to "overthrow the Dashnaks". The disoriented Armenian army retreated, surrendering Kars and the uyezd of Surmali. The whole Armenian population there was then pitilessly butchered by the Turks.
On November 29, 1920, Armenia was declared a Soviet state.
On December 1, 1920 as the news about the Sovietization of Armenia reached Azerbaijan, Narimanov, the chief of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, surprisingly declared about the cessation of the Azerbaijan's claims to the Armenian territories and proclaimed Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zanguezour, integral parts of Armenia. However, just a day later, the Narimanov's decree appeared in a slightly different wording: Nakhichevan and Zanguezour were recognized parts of Armenia, whereas Karabakh was given the right of self-determination.
Nonetheless, the strange alliance between the Turks and the Russian Bolsheviks played a fatal role in the final determination of borders. The Treaty of Alexandropol, signed in December of 1920 asserted the defeat of Armenia. Then in March of 1921, Turkey and Russia signed a mysterious Treaty of Moscow to tear Nakhichevan away from Armenia and to attach it to the Soviet Azerbaijan.
In summer of 1921, the Caucasian Office of the Communist Party of Bolsheviks held a number of sessions to solve the Karabakh problem. On July 4, the plenary session issued a decree confirming the belonging of Karabakh to Armenia. However, on the next day, Stalin convened an extraordinary session to transfer Karabakh to Azerbaijan. The Treaty of Kars signed in October of 1921 completed the carve-up of Armenia.
As a result of the Soviet and Turkish manipulations, the territory of the Soviet Republic of Armenia was reduced to 30,000 square km. Armenia was even deprived of Mount Ararat, its main symbol.
Fate of Nakhichevan
During the Soviet rule, Nakhichevan, the Armenian province with the Armenian name and the unique Armenian historical and cultural heritage underwent an unprecedented period of "white genocide" and "ethnic cleansing". Predominant there in the 19th century, the Armenians composed 50% of the population in the 20’s. From 1936, when the Turks of Azerbaijan became "Azerbaijanis" instead of "Caucasian Tartars", the Soviet historians followed the instructions of the Communist Party leaders and began creating the so-called "history of Azerbaijan". In order to erase any trace of the region's Armenian past, many unique Armenian monuments were destroyed, including khachkars and churches of early Christian period. The land was then extensively peopled with the Turks while the Armenians left on a large scale. According to the census of 1959, the number of Armenians in the region decreased to 1, 5%!
From 1922 to 1936, Armenia formed part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, consisting of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The new Constitution of the USSR adopted in 1936 dissolved the Transcaucasian Republic. Armenia became one of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics. Like the other Republics, Armenia was governed by the Central Committee of the Republican Communist Party. The 1st Secretaries of the Party were appointed from Moscow.
In the 30s, just like the other peoples of the Soviet Union, Armenians suffered from a large-scale campaign of political terror launched by Joseph Stalin. The purges touched virtually every Armenian family. Thousands of writers, artists, scientists and political leaders were executed or exiled.
During the World War II, Armenians made an important contribution to the Soviet victory. Over 600 thousand of Armenians fought for the Soviet army, and 367000 of them fell in battles. 5 Armenian infantry divisions were formed. Armenia gave 4 marshals and 60 generals. The Armenian Church and the Armenian colonies abroad donated large sums of money.
After the WW II, the Armenian and Georgian Republics laid territorial claims to Turkey. However, the Soviet Government was not willing to return the Armenian lands, and shortly thereafter stated to have no claims to Turkey.
The new wave of the Armenian migration
In 1946, many patriotic Armenians from the foreign Armenian colonies decided to repatriate to their historical homeland to contribute the post-war restoration. However, in years1948-1949, Stalin launched a new campaign of terror, and thousands of those repatriated Armenians were illegally arrested and forcibly deported to Siberia and Altay.
From the beginning of the 60’s, Armenians began to emigrate from the Soviet Union on a large-scale. The Soviet leaders considered the Armenians, together with the Jews and the Germans as "unreliable elements" of the Soviet system.
The Genocide commemorated
On April 24, 1965 the Armenians throughout the world took part in the mass meetings and manifestations, to commemorate the 50-th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In Yerevan, a grand monument was raised to the 1915-1921 victims' memory. Since then, the funeral marches and meetings on April 24 became an Armenian tradition.
At the same time, the Armenian colonies and organizations abroad began the large-scale campaign for the recognition of the Genocide. In the 70’s, a number of secret organizations were founded, such as ARA (Armenian Revolutionary Army) and ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia). These organizations stated to have no faith in the effectiveness of the peaceful demonstrations, and were involved in the terrorist activities. During the following decade, many terrorist attempts were committed against the Turkish representatives in the European countries, in order to attract public attention.
The Karabakh Question
The Armenian liberation movement also manifested itself in several petitions of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, requiring the reunification with Armenia. The leaders of the USSR discussed the problem in 1967-1970, while Anton Kochinian, Armenian 1st Secretary carried on the fruitless negotiations with the Azeri leaders Akhundov and Aliyev. In 1977, the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh was raised again. However, the issue was shelved again.
Karen the Builder
Under Karen Demirchyan, the 1st Secretary from1975, the economy of Armenia went through the period of stagnation, just like the economies of the rest of the Soviet Union. However, Demirchyan succeeded in construction and house building and later was deservedly nicknamed as Karen the Builder. Various sites and new buildings modernized Armenia, especially Yerevan. Armenia became a highly urbanized Republic.
Miatsum (FROM 1987 TO 1989)
Armenians support Perestroika
In 1985-1986, the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev launched a campaign aimed at reforming the Soviet Empire. The Armenians were almost unanimous in their enthusiastic support of perestroika and glastnost.
In late 1987, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh collected over 80,000 signatures to petition the Soviet Government about the secession of the region from the Soviet Azerbaijan and its reunification (Miatsum, in Armenian) to Armenia. After suffering for decades under the Azeri tyranny, the people of Karabakh thought the time was favorable to restore the historical truth.
At the same time, an unprecedented movement of support began in Armenia. Mass meetings, manifestations and general strikes frightened the Soviet leaders. These actions, both in Karabakh and Armenia were peaceful and well organized. As a matter of fact, the Gorbachev's perestroika experienced its first serious trial. To the great disappointment of the Armenians, Moscow first took a wait-and-see attitude, and then openly supported Azerbaijan by saying: "The map of the USSR will never be redrawn".
Azeri atrocities in Sumgait
In February 26-28, Azerbaijan took measures in a classic Ottoman fashion. Mass pogroms occurred in a small city of Sumgait, near Baku. Hundreds of innocent Armenians, including old people, women and children, were attacked in their homes by Azeri fanatic mobs to be beaten, raped, killed and burned alive. For the period of 3 days the city was plunged into complete anarchy. The deadly riots were designed and led by the members of the local government in Sumgait. The apartments of Armenians were ransacked or destroyed.
The Karabakh Committee
The rallies and peaceful protest actions in Armenia were organized by a group of intellectuals who formed the Karabakh Committee. The movement initially aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of Armenians in Artsakh gradually transformed into the All-Armenian national liberation movement. The leaders of the Karabakh Committee rapidly gained general support and admiration. By the fall of 1988, the Karabakh Committee became a powerful political force in Armenia.
Pogroms in Kirovabad
In late November, as tensions increased and the danger of the new pogroms threatened the Armenians in Azerbaijan, a new wave of meetings and strikes began in Armenia. A large number of Armenian refugees fled Azerbaijan and arrived in Armenia.
In Kirovabad, the second large city of Azerbaijan, the barbaric atrocities were committed. The armed Azeri bandits broke into an old people's home and killed a dozen of aged Armenians. Following the common practice of a "parity rule", the Soviet Government imposed marshal law in both unruly Azerbaijan and peaceful Armenia.
December 7, 1988
The Azeri blockade of Armenia and Karabakh
On December 7, 1988, the Armenian history turned a new tragic page. A devastating earthquake wiped off the northern regions of the Republic, killing at least 25 thousand and making 500 thousand homeless. An unprecedented campaign of direct aid to Armenia (not via Moscow) began in many countries, symbolizing the near end of the Iron Curtain.
Against the backdrop of a general mourning, Moscow tried to put an end to the Karabakh movement. The leaders of the Karabakh Committee were arrested and taken to Moscow. However, they were released from prisons 6 months later and returned in triumph to Armenia to found the Armenian Pan-National Movement. In summer of 1989, the 4 APNM representatives were elected members of the Armenian parliament.
From the early 1989, Azerbaijan imposed a severe economic blockade of Armenia and Artsakh. That resulted in the dramatic shortages of gas and other energy sources. At the same time, the Metsamor plant, the only nuclear station in Transcaucasia was shut down in Armenia, which severely diminished energy supply. Food supplies also greatly diminished.
Meanwhile, the situation extremely aggravated in Artsakh. In November of 1989, the USSR Supreme Soviet abolished the Special Administration Committee of Nagorno-Karabakh which was decreed earlier to subordinate the region directly to Moscow. Instead, the Organizational Committee of Nagorno-Karabakh was formed to reinstate the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan. On December 1, 1989 the Armenians of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh responded with a mutual decision of their parliaments, proclaiming the reunification of Armenia and Artsakh. That provoked mass disturbances and unrest in Azerbaijan.
Independece (FROM 1990)
Massacres in Baku
In January 1990, the Azerbaijan capital of Baku exploded into chaos and anarchy. The extremists from the Popular Front of Azerbaijan in fact seized the power, making extermination or expulsion of the Armenians their banner. From January 10, mass pogroms took place, resulting in the slaughter of hundreds. Many Armenians were shot, burned alive, raped, and tortured in barbaric fashion. Hundreds of thousands of refugees then flooded Armenia.
The Sovereignty of Armenia proclaimed
Just like some of the republics of the decaying Soviet Union, Armenia proclaimed its sovereignty, adopting the supremacy of the Armenian Constitution over the Constitution of the USSR. Levon Ter-Petrossian, member of the Karabakh Committee and leader of ANM, was elected Chairman of the Armenian Supreme Council.
Massacres and deportations in Karabakh
In the spring of 1991, the united Azeri and Soviet militia forces began the so-called "Circle" operation in the Armenian-populated villages of Shahumian, Khanlar and Shusi districts. Under pretext of "passports checking", the Azeri and Russian militiamen started unparalleled robbery and killing. During the deportation of 24 Armenian villages some 100 Armenians were killed. In despite of several protests of the Armenian Government, the purges continued with growing cruelty and impunity.
In the summer of 1991, the leaders of Artsakh appealed to the United Nations, asking to prevent the physical annihilation of the population. At the same time, the leaders of Artsakh understood that the impotence of the central Soviet power and the new political situation necessitated the new strategy in the task of reunification of Armenia and Artsakh. Now they headed for laying foundation of a proper State in Artsakh. A Declaration proclaiming the foundation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) was made in early September 1991.
Referendum in Armenia
The Soviet Empire de facto collapsed in the August of 1991, after an attempt to stage a coup failed in Moscow. A referendum was organized in Armenia on September 21, 1991, the Armenian residents voting overwhelmingly for the secession from the USSR. Thus, after 70 years of Soviet ruling Armenia became an independent State. In October 1991, the presidential elections took place in Armenia. Levon Ter-Petrossian became the first popularly elected President in Armenian history.
Referemdum in Karabakh
Meanwhile, the situation in Artsakh turned critical, as Azerbaijan began systematic bombing of the Armenian-populated areas. The Azeri-populated villages and the city of Shushi were converted into the military bases. After the disintegration of the USSR the Soviet Army units withdrew from Azerbaijan, and the latter became holder of a large amount of armament and military equipment.
On December 10, 1991, 98% of Artsakh residents voted for the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in a referendum carried in presence of the international observers and Human Rights Watch groups.
Azerbaijan answered by intensive bombing of Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, in which it used the deadly "Grad" rocket projectiles banned by the International Conventions. At the same time, the armed forces of Azerbaijan began the large-scale offensive against the infant Republic (for more information about the war please see History of Artsakh, part 3.
An Armenian diaspora has existed throughout the nation's history, and Armenian emigration has been particularly heavy since independence from the Soviet Union. An estimated 60% of the total 8 million Armenians worldwide live outside the country, with 1 million each in the United States and Russia. Other significant Armenian communities are located in Georgia, France, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, and Canada.
A truce has been in effect since May of 1994, but the conflicting sides did not make any substantial progress in finding a peaceful resolution of the problem. Azerbaijan continues to appeal to the international community trying to play the so-called "oil card". Armenia confirms itself ready to support any issue making it a condition that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic must approve the issue. Artsakh, in its turn, is inflexible in its will to obtain the complete independence.
Kocharyan becomes President of Armenia.
In March of 1997, L.Ter-Petrossian appointed as Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, President of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Kocharyan declared struggle against corruption and tax evasion his priorities. In Artsakh, the presidential elections took place. Arkady Ghukassian, former NKR Minister of Foreign Affairs, was elected President of the NKR. In February 1998, as a disagreement occurred concerning the Karabakh issue between the President and the members of his administration, L.Ter-Petrossian resigned. In March 1998, Robert Kocharyan was elected President of Armenia.
The present political situation in Armenia is not firm. The country is still recovering after the October 27, 1999 shocking terrorist attack in the Parliament building in Yerevan, in which the Prime Minister Vasken Sarkissian and the Parliament Speaker Karin Demirchyan were slain. However, Robert Kocharyan stood firm during the crisis.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian died suddenly in March 2007. He was replaced by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan.
Sarkisyan won almost 53% of the vote and former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan took 21.5% in February 2008 presidential elections. Ter-Petrosyan, who was Armenia's first president after it gained independence in 1991, claimed the vote was rigged. Tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Yerevan to protest the election. A 20-day state of emergency was declared on March 1 when the protests turned violent and eight people were killed. On March 22, the state of emergency ended and troops left the capital.
On April 9, 2008, Serzh Sarkisyan was sworn in as president and named Tigran Sarkisyan (no relation) as prime minister.
History of Artsakh (Part 1) (FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL TO 19th CENTURY)
Artsakh and Karabakh
There are several popular etymologies of the name of Artsakh. According to an old tradition, the Armenian forefather Hayk bestowed the country on Aramanyak, his first-born son. Aramanyak planted the land with countless trees and gardens. Subsequently, the country was named Ar-tsakh, meaning Woods of Aramanyak ("Tsakh" is Armenian for Woods, "Ar" is abbreviation for Aramanyak). Since Artsakh is a very wooded and mountainous area, another popular version identifies "Ar" with "Sar"(meaning "mountain").
As for the name of Karabakh, it first appeared in some Persian texts in the late 14th century after the descent of wild Turkish nomadic tribes. "Kara" is Turkish for Black; "Bakh" is Turkish for Garden. Devastated after one of the Turkish invasions, the country was called "Black garden".
Just like the rest of Armenia, Artsakh was one of the earliest sites of human civilization. Undoubtedly, it also was one of the first areas of bronze, copper and iron smelting. The excavations in different parts of Artsakh revealed numerous settling places of early Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Skeletal remains of a Neanderthal man were found in the Cave of Azokh.
Artsakh province of Greater Armenia
Artsakh as a part of the Kingdom of Ararat (Urartu) is mentioned in the 8th century BC in cuneiform inscriptions of the King Sardur. Two centuries later, the Kingdom of Ararat was conquered by the Medes. Then the Kingdom of Ararat, which became Armenia, remained under the Persian dominion until regaining independence in the middle of the 2nd century BC. In 149 BC, King Vagharshak came to the Armenian throne beginning the period of the dynasty of Arshakids.
According to tradition, King Vagharshak carried out social reforms, reorganized the royal court and instituted a new feudal order. He appointed the Prince Aran, one of his vassals and descendant of the Armenian forefather Hayk, as governor of the Armenian eastern provinces. Because of his kind and good-hearted character, Aran was nicknamed Aghu (Armenian for kind, gentle). Since then the Armenian sources designate the vast domain of Aran as Aghuank (Albania of Greek-Roman primary sources), while the Persian texts rather used Aran. The Aghu's domain also included the Artsakh Principality.
As a province of the Greater Armenia, Artsakh is mentioned in several ancient authors' works, particularly in Strabo's Geography. In the 1st century BC, when Armenia became a powerful state, Tigranes the Great built the city of Tigranakert, one of the four cities of that name, near the present city of Aghdam.
In the early 4th century, Armenia was Christianized. In Artsakh, Gregory the Illuminator founded the first church near a small river of Amaras. Later in the 5th century it became the famous monastery. After St.Mesrob invented the Armenian alphabet in 405, a large number of schools appeared in Artsakh, making the province one of the centers of Christian enlightenment and culture.
In 387, Armenia was divided between the Persian and Byzantine Empires. The Persian part was then split into several satrapies, and the provinces of Artsakh and Outik were attached to Aghuank (Aran) satrapy. The Armenian satrapies were governed by marzpans. Since then the Aghuank appellation was mostly used by the Armenian chroniclers and historians to designate Artsakh and Outik provinces.
Among the other Armenian nobles, the Princes of Artsakh participated in the Anti-Persian uprising in 451 known as Vardanank. That was the first known war for freedom of worship in the history of the world.
Vachagan the Good
In the late 5th - early 6th centuries, Aghuank (i.e. the Armenian provinces Artsakh and Outik) was reinforced to the point that some of the rulers proclaimed themselves kings. The heads of Aguank Diocese, initially appointed by the Armenian Catholicoi, began to call themselves Catholicos of Aghuank. Aghvuank especially prospered under Vachagan the Good, descendant of Aran dynasty. The representatives of Aran family (or its brunches) conserved their leading role in the 7th and 8th centuries, when Aghuank with the rest of Armenia were under the Arab occupation. Artsakh was famous for its inaccessibility, so the region enjoyed relative peace as compared with other parts of Armenia.
The Arab invasions
However, the situation changed in the 9th century, when consecutive uprisings compelled the Arab rulers to take drastic measures in all parts of Armenia. In 852-854 Bugha, a cruel commander, appointed by Caliph, invaded Armenia sowing death and destruction. He captured many of the Armenian grandees and then invaded Artsakh, where he met fierce resistance. Isaiah, the brave Prince of Artsakh was Bugha's most uncompromising opponent. According to Thomas Ardzrouni, Bugha made 28 assaults in an attempt to take the fortress of Gtich, Isaiah's residence. Finally, the Arabs subdued the country for a short period of time, but the Caliphate was forced to revise its policy towards Armenia. Following the next decades, both Armenia and the eastern provinces gradually gained de facto independence. In 885, Ashot Bagradouni was proclaimed King of Armenia. At the same time, Gregory the Good was recognized King of Aghuank.
Gandzasar and Dadivank
Owing to its advantageous geographical location, Artsakh partly avoided the large-scale Seljuk invasion in the 11-12th centuries, as well as the Tatar-Mongolian invasions in the 13th century. The Armenian architecture reached its heights in Artsakh in the early 13th century. A number of outstanding monuments were built, of which the most sumptuous were the monasteries of Gandzasar and Dadivank. However, some of the churches were destroyed in the 14th century, when a number of Turkish nomadic tribes invaded Artsakh.
In the 15th century, the territory of Armenia became the scene of confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Following the truce concluded in 1639, Artsakh with the rest of the Eastern Armenia became part of Persia.
From the late 16th century, the Armenian Princes of Artsakh, called now Meliks of Karabakh began to unite into the military unions. The five of the most influential Meliks forming the so-called Country of Five were Melik of Gulistan, Melik of Dgeraberd, Melik of Khachen, Melik of Dizak and Melik of Varanda. The Meliks of Karabakh headed the Armenian liberation movement until the late 18th century. At the same time, the spiritual leaders of Artsakh spared no efforts in order to establish diplomatic contacts with the most influential Russian and European leaders. A number of outstanding patriots, such as Israel Ori, spent many years of their life traveling throughout the Europe in attempt to find support of Christian powers. Unfortunately, their activities brought little results.
Khanate of Karabakh
With the Turkish advance eastward in the 20s of the 18th century, the Armenians of Karabakh and Siunik united under the leadership of David-Bek. Supported by Mkhitar Sparapet, David-Bek organized the successful defense. As a result, Karabakh and Siunik remained under the Armenian control.
As the Meliks of Karabakh fought against different Turkish tribes, some Persian rulers, such as Nadir Shah (1732-1747) often encouraged them. The Persian policy changed, however, in the middle of the 18th century. The Shahs of Zand dynasty began to support the leaders of nomadic Saridjalli tribe, in their systematic incursions to Artsakh. First, a certain Panah-Ali was able to capture the fortress of Shushi and proclaim him-self Khan. Then his son Ibrahim took advantage of the continuous strife between the Meliks and captured the Monastery of Gandzasar. Ibrahim gradually subdued the whole of Artsakh, founding the so-called Khanate of Karabakh.
The Russian expansion
The Persian-Turkish yoke lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. Following the Russian expansion, Persia gradually ceded to Russia most of the Caucasus including Karabakh. The Treaty of Gulistan signed in 1813, asserted the Russian annexation. Evolving the expansion, Russian czar Nicholas I began the new war with Persia in 1826. During the Persian counterattack, the Persian army besieged Shushi in the summer of 1826. Armenian peasants and volunteers, supported by a small Russian garrison offered a fearless resistance. After 48 days of fighting, the Persians fell back. The war ended in 1828 with the Russian acquisition of Yerevan and Nakhichevan Khanates. Thus, the Eastern Armenia was definitely attached to the Russian Empire.
According to the Russian administrative division of 1840, Karabakh was part of the Caspian Guberniya. Following the new Ukase of 1867, it was attached to the Elizavetopol Guberniya. Shushi, which became city in 1847, grew into the one of important centers of Caucasus, in which trade and commerce flourished rapidly. Shushi also became the center of the Armenian enlightenment and culture. Of 22 newspapers and periodicals published in Shushi before the 1917 Russian Revolution, 20 were published in Armenian language and 2 were published in Russian.
History of Artsakh (Part 2) (FROM 1918 TO 1989)
Claims to the Armenian lands
The Russian Revolution of 1917 put an end to czarist administrative division of Caucasus. In March of 1918, the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem leaders of Caucasus united to form an independent multiethnic Transcaucasian Confederation. The Confederation was, however, shortly dissolved, due to strong divergences between the tree peoples. The complete evacuation of Russian armies left the entire region defenseless in the face of the Turkish aggression.
On May 27, the Moslem deputies of the Confederation proclaimed a Musavatist Republic of Azerbaijan. The new Turkish state immediately laid claims to the entire territory of the former Elizavetopol Guberniya. Nun Pasha, commander of Ottoman forces, made an ultimatum to the Armenians of Karabakh to submit to Azerbaijan. In August, the Congress of Armenians of Karabakh unanimously rejected the ultimatum.
The Turkish invasion in Baku and Shushi
In September 1918, the Turkish forces invaded Baku, unleashing ruthless massacres of the peaceful Armenian population. Afterwards, the Turkish army entered Shushi. The war was impending, as the army of Armenian volunteers led by General Andranik approached Karabakh for help. However, General Thompson, British Commander of Caucasus stopped Andranik, promising to solve the problem during the Paris Peace Conference. In the summer of 1919, leaning on the British guaranty and trying to gain time and prevent the massacres, the 7th Congress of Armenians of Karabakh temporarily recognized the authority of Azerbaijan pending the final decision of the Paris Peace Conference.
However, shortly thereafter Britain began the withdrawal of its forces from Caucasus. The Paris Conference gave no result. Getting carte blanche for a definitive capture of Karabakh, the General Sultanov appointed governor of Karabakh presented a new ultimatum, demanding immediate attachment of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Armenians rejected the ultimatum again.
In March 1920, after fierce fighting the Turkish forces invaded Shushi. Some 20,000 Armenians were killed and the city was burned to the ground. The arriving of the Armenian forces rescued the rest of population from the total annihilation.
On April 23, 1920 the 9th Congress of Armenians of Karabakh proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh an integral part of Armenia.
Bolsheviks in Armenia
The situation changed again after the Russian Red Army annexed Azerbaijan. On April 28, 1920 Azerbaijan became a Soviet Republic. Now the Republic of Armenia began receiving ultimatums from both Soviet Azerbaijan and Russia to withdraw Armenian troops from Karabakh and Zanguezour. In May 1920, Karabakh was Sovietized by the 11th Red Army. However, the region remained independent de facto, for the Soviet Government declared it a "contestable" territory.
Meanwhile, the Republic of Armenia, facing both Turkish and Bolshevik aggressions was next to the total destruction. Despite numerous resolutions and agreements, such as the Treaty of Sèvres, bounding Turkey to return the Armenian lands, the Armenian government could not expect physical help from anywhere. On November 29, 1920 the power in Armenia was transferred to the Bolsheviks, and the country became a Soviet Republic. Surprisingly, on the next day a telegram was sent from the government of the Soviet Azerbaijan to the new Armenian government, declaring Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zanguezour integral parts of the newborn Armenian Soviet Republic. This telegram was signed by Azerbaijan's Bolshevik leaders Narimanov and Guseinov, who urged to "communicate the decision of Azerbaijan to the fraternal Armenian people".
Karabakh and Nakhichevan annexed
Soon afterwards, however, the Turkish and Russian leaders were able to reach understanding upon carve-up Armenia. The year 1921 brought tragic territorial losses for Armenia. The Treaty of Moscow (March 1921), the Treaty of Kars (October 1921), and plenary sessions of the Caucasian Office of Russian Communist Party (June-July 1921) tore away historical lands from Armenia, reducing its territories thrice. With the stroke of a pen, Nakhichevan and Nagorno-Karabakh were forcibly attached to the Soviet Azerbaijan.
The autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh was formed on July 7, 1923. The map of the historical Artsakh was then systematically redrawn and some of its parts were cut off and included in the neighboring regions of the Azerbaijan Republic. For example, Gulistan became Shahumian region, Guetashen and Martunashen went to Khanlar region, and even Dadivank monastery found itself beyond the formal borders of Artsakh. Moreover, the Soviet power intentionally annexed and attached to Azerbaijan what are now Kaelbajar and Lachin regions, and so Karabakh was entirely cut off from Armenia and became an enclave.
"History of Azerbaijan" created
During the decades of Soviet rule, the Armenians of Artsakh repeatedly protested against the policy of barefaced discrimination and persecutions. Planning to change the ethnic structure of population, the government of Azerbaijan tried all ways to impede economic development of the region, and also pursued severe discrimination in cultural realm. Many Armenian schools and establishments ceased to exist, and the Armenian newspapers and periodicals were shut down. Out of more than 200 active Armenian churches no one was allowed to function. At the same, time both of the two mosques built in Shushi in the late 19th century functioned freely.
From 1936, a new concept of "Azerbaijanis" or "Azeris" was brought into general use in the Soviet Union. Before that, what is now Azeri was simply called Turk or Caucasian Tatar. Stalin ordered the Soviet historians to create the "history of Azerbaijan". As a result, many of the Armenian cultural-historical monuments in Karabakh were then destroyed or shamelessly declared belonging to the Azerbaijani heritage.
Aghasi Khanjian, leader of Communist Party of Armenia tried to raise the Armenian grievances before Stalin. He was later shot dead by the odious Beria. Then a campaign of purges launched by Stalin swept hundreds of local leaders and activists in Artsakh. In 1945, Arutiunov, Secretary of Communist Party of Armenia wrote a letter to Stalin, asking for reunification of Artsakh with Armenia, but without result.
The next wave of mass protestations in 1965-1967 was suppressed by Azerbaijani government. Hundreds of Armenian activists were arrested on charges of nationalism and some of them were murdered in prisons. Despite the promises, the Soviet government shelved the issue for an indefinite time. In 1975, Kochynian, leader of Soviet Armenia was made scapegoat and removed from his post. The protest demonstrations continued under the next Armenian leader Karin Demirchyan.
By 1986-1987, the economic and cultural oppression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh culminated, making their life conditions intolerable. The declarations made by Gorbachev about the democratization of Soviet society, inspired the Armenians. During the entire year of 1987, mass demonstrations and public rallies took place throughout Artsakh. Over 80 000 inhabitants of Artsakh signed a petition demanding the reunification with Armenia. In February 1988, the deputies of Nagorno-Karabakh adopted a document to the parliaments of Azerbaijan and Armenia. At the same time, an unprecedented movement of support began in Armenia. The general strikes, marches and meetings paralyzed the life in both Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Diaspora throughout the world enthusiastically supported the people of Artsakh as well.
Beginning of violence
Special Administrations in Artsakh
However, both Soviet and Azerbaijani governments firmly opposed to the idea of reunification of Armenia and Artsakh. The Soviet functionaries openly blackmailed the Armenian officials and community leaders, making it clear that the large Armenian population in Azerbaijan might become target of future irregularities.
On February 22, 1988 Azeri mobs marched from Aghdam to Stepanakert to punish the Armenians. The bloodshed was prevented. Yet 6 days later, the unparalleled bloody riots took place in the city of Sumgayit, near Baku. During the 3 days of bloodthirsty pogroms, dozens of innocent Armenians were killed, injured and raped while their apartments were ransacked and set to fire. The Soviet Army intervened on the forth day.
On June 18, 1988 a session of Supreme Council of USSR convened in Moscow to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Following the decision of Gorbachev, a special administration directly subordinate to Moscow was set in Stepanakert. However, the situation even worsened, as Azerbaijan established a severe blockade of Armenia and Artsakh. The region was isolated from the rest of the world, and the Armenian population was on the verge of starvation.
In November of 1989, Gorbachev abolished the special administration and formed the Organizational Committee of Nagorno-Karabakh. In fact, the new ukase returned the region under the Azeri jurisdiction. In response to that, a joint session of deputies of Armenia and Artsakh adopted a document proclaiming the reunification of Armenia and Artsakh
History of Artsakh (Part 3) (FROM 1990)
Azeri atrocities in Baku and Karabakh
In the January of 1990, hundreds of Armenians in Baku fell victims in the barbaric pogroms, inspired by the extremists from the Popular Front of Azerbaijan. Many of the Armenians, young and old alike were burned alive in their homes, while others were shot after being raped and tortured. Those survived were herded to the harbor, embarked to the ferry and deported to the Turkmen port of Krasnovodsk. The extremely nationalistic Popular Front in fact seized the power in Azerbaijan, making "Kill the Armenian" and "Cleanse Karabakh of the Armenians" their main banners.
Soon thereafter, the armed confrontation began in the Armenian populated Shahumian and Khanlar regions, and along the Armenian-Azeri border. In October of 1990, the Azeri militia blockaded the airport in Stepanakert suburb of Hodjallu, which definitely isolated Artsakh from Armenia.
In April 1991, the special Azeri and Soviet militia detachment forces began the so-called "Circle" operation. First, the population of the Armenian Guetashen and Martunashen villages of Khanlar region was forcibly deported, then the punitive raids continued in the Shahumian, Hadrout and Shushi regions. These purely terrorist actions conducted by Azerbaijani and Soviet State organs resulted in the depopulation of 24 Armenian villages. During the purges hundreds of Armenians were arrested and killed.
Independence of NKR proclaimed
In the face of the forthcoming Azeri aggression and the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union, the leaders of Artsakh understood the necessity of founding their own statehood in Artsakh. This decision, though opposed to the unanimous popular will to incorporate the region with Armenia, allowed ensuring the security of the population in an optimum way. On September 2, 1991 a joint session of deputies of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Shahumian region voted for an independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. On December 10, 1991 the overwhelming majority of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Shahumian region voted for independence in the referendum held in presence of international observers and Human Rights watch. On January 6, 1992 the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) was officially proclaimed, and on the next day, Arthur Mkrtichyan was elected Chairman of the NKR Parliament.
Azerbaijan begins military actions
From December 1991, the Azerbaijani forces deployed large-scale military operations against Artsakh. The Azeri-populated areas, especially Shushi and Hodjallu were quickly converted into mighty military bases, from which artillery and rocket launchers began systematic bombing of Stepanakert and the surrounding Armenian villages. The "Grad" projectile banned by many international conventions as a weapon of mass destruction was widely used by Azeri military. The twenty-four-hour a day bombing and shelling caused hundreds of deaths and turned the life of Stepanakert inhabitants into a constant nightmare. The Armenians took shelter in basements. Many establishments and institutions, including hospitals and maternity homes also relocated in basements.
First Armenian victories
The Azeri regular forces, heavily superior in men and machines, began a large-scale offensive in the beginning of 1992. In the early stages of the war, the small groups of Armenian volunteers called Fedayi played the major role in defending the Armenian border villages. However, the growing Azeri aggression necessitated reorganizing the Armenian Fedayi brigades into an effective force under united command. In January of 1992, the special Headquarters was formed to coordinate the defense forces of Artsakh. During the following weeks, the Armenians won their first serious military victories in Stepanakert-adjacent villages of Kirkijan, Malibeyli and Ghushchilar.
Liberation of Khodjalu, Shushi and Lachin
After the elimination of Azeri bridgeheads near Stepanakert, the liberation of Khodjalu became the primary task, as the Azeri forces concentrated in this large village considerable manpower and military equipment. Also, that would allow regaining control over the airport, located in Khodjalu.
The operation started on February 25, 1992, when the Armenians took up the positions in the west of Khodjalu. The enemy was offered to surrender the village while a humanitarian corridor for the civilians was established. Conversely, the Azeri commandment resumed the military actions, using the Azeri civilians as a shield. On February 26, Khodjalu was liberated, which finally allowed the normal functioning of the airport.
However, from the city of Shushi, towering above Stepanakert and converted into a mighty military base, intensive bombardment continued day and night, causing many casualties. The Armenian military commandment decided to eliminate the firing points throughout Artsakh. Thus, the liberation of Shushi became vital necessity. Because of its unique geographic location, Shushi was always considered inaccessible fortress. There is a saying: Whoever controls Shushi, will control Karabakh.
The Shushi operation began on May 8, 1992. First, the Armenian forces under Arkady Ter-Tadevossian gained control over Shushi-Lachin road. Then, following an onslaught from the northeast, they broke through the Azeri defense line. After street fighting on May 9, the defeated Azeri troops finally left the city. Continuing the offensive, the Armenians gradually liberated the all-important strong points along the Shushi-Lachin-Zabuh road, and, on May 18 they took the town of Lachin. Thus, after the 3-year blockade, a land bridge linking the Republic of Armenia with the NKR was reestablished.
Elshibey launches new offensive
Meanwhile, the leaders of Azerbaijan planned a new large-scale offensive. Abulfaz Elchibey, the leader of the Popular Front elected President of Azerbaijan, declared the rapid military victory in Karabakh his major objective. The Azeri leadership made financial arrangement with commanders of the former Soviet 23-d division of the 4-th Army, winning over a large number of Russian officers, especially in the Tanks. On June 12, 1992 Azeri infantry supported by many Russian Tank corps launched an unprecedented offensive on the Shahumian region. During the next week, Azeri forces succeeded in taking control over the Shahumian region, and also occupied most of the Mardakert region. Some 40,000 refugees fled to Stepanakert, while small groups of the Shahumian fighters led by Shahen Meghryan were trying to penetrate into the occupied areas to wage guerrilla warfare.
Half of Karabakh under Azeri occupation
As the danger of further Azeri advances persisted, the NKR Parliament declared a state of emergency. The situation worsened to impending disaster when the Armenian defenders retreated from Mardakert and Aterk, on July 5, 1992. The whole Mardakert region was embroiled in combats. At the same time, the Azeri troops tried to break through the Armenian positions in Askeran, Martouni and Hadrout regions. On August 12, as half of the NKR territory fell under the Azeri occupation, the NKR Parliament decreed marshal law and the mobilization of 18-45 year-olds. On August 15, the State Defense Committee of the NKR was formed, and Robert Kocharyan became its Chairman with emergency powers.
Armenians withstand Azeri attacks
The summer of 1992 was crucial. Despite great losses, the Armenians were able to withstand furious attacks on all front lines. Azeri military widely used bomber forces, in which Russian and Ukrainian mercenary pilots played the major role. Dropping forbidden cluster bombs on the Armenian villages became a common practice. In the fall of 1992, the Azeri troops tried to regain control over Lachin, but were definitively hurled back. Following the Armenian counterattack, the military operations moved to the Kubatli region of Azerbaijan. However, most of the Mardakert region was still under the Azeri control.
Another Armenian counteroffensive took place in February 1993. After a number of fierce battles, the Armenian fighters regained control over the Sarsang Reservoir. In March, the NKR Army began the Kelbajar operation, which succeeded in April. The Azeri forces responded with desperate attacks from the East, but the defense of the Martuni region was well organized by Monte, whose exceptional courage and devotion to the liberation of Artsakh made him the legendary Armenian hero.
The liberation of the city of Mardakert on June 27, 1993 was a turning point. Afterwards, the elimination of mighty weapon emplacements in the city of Aghdam became an urgent objective. At the very beginning of the conflict, Aghdam was converted into a dangerous base, packed with ammunition and weapons. On July 23, Aghdam was taken, which allowed the inhabitants of Stepanakert and Askeran relaxing after 18 months of non-stop bombing.
Ghukassian elected President of the NKR
In August of 1993, the major operations took place in the Hadrout region, which was finally liberated by the advancing Armenian forces on August 26. By the end of August, Djebrail and Kubatli regions also fell under the Armenian control. The Armenian victories forced the Azeri military leadership to call off their troops, and a lull was established for the next 45 days. Then, Azerbaijan resumed the military operations trying to recapture the strong points in the Hadrout region. However, the Azeri forces suffered a new repulse. Continuing their offensive, the Armenians also took the Zanguelan region. In February 1994, the Azeri troops made their last attempt to break the Armenian positions in northeast of the NKR, but were defeated again. In April, the final lull was established after the Armenian fighters gained a number of important commanding heights in the Mardakert region. To this day, the NKR Army continues to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as a buffer area comprising neighboring regions in the Azerbaijan Republic.
A cease-fire brokered by Russia and other countries of the CIS was signed in Bishkek, Kirghizia on May 5, 1994. The truce was confirmed on May 16 in Moscow during the meeting of the Defense Ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the NKR. Since then, the issue has become the focus of mediation efforts of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). A special group, called "Minsk group" was formed by OSCE to work out principles of settling the conflict.
In April of 1995, the first parliamentary elections took place in Artsakh in new and peaceful conditions, to form a new 33-seat legislature. In November of 1996, the first nation-wide presidential elections were held in Artsakh, and Robert Kocharyan was elected President of the NKR to a five-year term. However, as Kocharyan accepted Levon Ter-Petrossian's offer to become Prime Minister of Armenia in March 1997, new presidential elections were held in Artsakh in September 1997. Arkady Ghukassian, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the NKR, was elected President with 89% of the vote.