The Justification For Restoring the Caucasian Albanian Autocephalous Church
In this article, Teymur Atayev, Azerbaijani Political Writer, Historian and Analyst, considers the historical basis for reinvigorating the Caucasian Albanian Church in the wake of the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from Armenian occupation and how the evidence negates Armenian claims to the region. ‘Azerbaijan in Focus’ reports Turan News.
After nearly 30 years of Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijani regions of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, the recently liberation by the Azerbaijani army provides the opportunity for these historic lands to undergo an unprecedented change.
Of key importance are the Caucasian Albanian churches on the liberated territories. The problem is that the Armenian occupiers had done their utmost to pass these churches before the whole world as representing their ‘ancestral’ lands in a vain attempt to give credence to their occupation. However, the existence of these churches is clearly indicative of the autocephaly of the Caucasian Albanian church during a certain period, despite being revoked by Russian Tsar Nicholas I in 1836.
Thus, it is apposite to prepare documents regarding the restoration of the rights of the Caucasian Albanian church; specifically the renewal of its ancient heritage by means of restitution of its autocephalic status. This is particularly important due to the existence of the Albanian-Udi Christian community in Azerbaijan.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to give an insight into the history of this issue and to justify our claims. For this to happen, it is essential to determine the origins of the Armenian people and to specify the true nature of the Armenian affiliation to South Caucasus as a whole and in relation to the churches of ancient Caucasian Albania, in particular.
Armenian linguistic roots in Karabakh
According to the research of Igor Dyakonov, the prominent Soviet orientalist, linguist and expert in ancient script, “the ancient Armenian language is unrelated to languages of the indigenous peoples of the Armenian Highlands, such as the Hurrians and Urartu”, thereby indicating that it came from outside.
Being a single branch of the Indo-European language family, the ancient Armenian language may be related to that of the Thracian-Phrygians. When adjusted for the fact that the common movement of Thracian-Phrygian tribes moved from west to east, “proto-Armenians comprised the advance guard of the movement”. Hence, “it is necessary to seek proto-Armenians among Mushgs or Urums, being the tribes that penetrated the valleys of the Upper Euphrates and Aratsani in approximately 1165 BC”. Note that present town of Malatya (Turkey) was a capital of the satrapy of Armenia under Achaemenides. Phrygian monuments are evidence of the Thracian-Phrygians in the aforementioned region.
It has to be borne in mind that the proto-Armenians of the Thracian-Phrygian language group “were not the only or main components to form the Armenian people”. The ancient Armenian people had initially comprised “an Upper Euphrates people from three components – Hurrians, Luwians and proto-Armenians (Mushgs and possibly Urums)”. In so doing, the Hurrians “being the most populous ethnicity ensured maintenance of the major line of physical continuity whilst, for historical reasons, proto-Armenians transferred their language to the new people”.
In all probability, the contribution of the Luwians was negligible. Perhaps, “by the end of this period, a small component – the Scythians – joined the ancient Armenian people”. Another “numerically and culturally powerful component in the composition of the Armenian people” was the Urarteans.
Dyakonov also pointed out that “in central and eastern Transcaucasia” there were possibly “groups of tribes supposedly related to both Hurrians and Urarteans. This group might be categorised as a group of Etiveans”. A note says that “a perceived relationship between the Etiveans with the Utians by classic and contemporary Armenian authors and the contemporary ethnic group of the Udis, who reside on the Azerbaijani–Georgian border, is solely based on the vague similarity of names and cannot be regarded as definitive.”
Dyakonov adds: “the term Etiuni was used in the Urartean texts of the 8th century BC only”. Also, Urartean inscriptions refer to numerous countries and tribes “in central Transcaucasia”, including that which formed an extensive, though unconsolidated, tribal alliance. The author reveals that Herodotus (III, 94; VII, 79) “makes no reference to Armenians in the 18th satrapy, but Alarodians (Urarteans) and Saspirs (Iberians of central Transcaucasia and Etiveans?), together with the Matiens (Hurrians, III, 94)” (1/ а, б).
In this context, the point is about satrapies, i.e. the provinces of the Achaemenid Empire and dependent territories led by satraps. Dyakonov refers to sections where Herodotus specifies the Urarteans, Iberians and Hurrians. The very notion of ‘Armeniyane’ (Dyakonov’s term) was not used, despite the fact that point III, 93, refers to the Utians from a district unrelated to Armenia (2).
In fact, Dyakonov makes no mention of this point in his work; however, he refers to the term ‘Etiveans’ in inverted commas. In so doing, he does not define concretely what he means. By associating the Urarteans with the Alarodians, he admits that the “remains of the Etiveans” were living amongst them. Again, he emphasises that “the main part of the Urartean-language population lived on a territorial origins of the Armenian peoples, with whom they sided”.
When it comes to the Hurrians, Etiveans and Luwians, “a large portion lived outside this territory and, hence, formed no part of the Armenian population”. A greater proportion of the Etiveans “were meant to account for a large proportion of the Albanians in the East and of the Georgians in the West. They finally blended in the composition of the Armenian people within the Ararat valley and adjacent territories”.
Dyakonov infers that the “history of the Armenian people has a direct continuation not only to proto-Armenians, but of the Hurrians, Urarteans and Luwians to the same extent”. The main body of the “Armenian people consisted of their descendants; at some point, if a descendant spoke ancient Armenian, his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were mostly bilingual, although their ancestors were of pure Hurrian or Urartean origin”. The ancient “Armenian history could be regarded as continuation of the older history of the Hurrians and Urarteans, as well as the Luwians” (1/ а, б). It is clear that proto-Armenians are regarded as indigenous to the Armenian Highlands, not of the South Caucasus, “based on the archaic nature of their Indo-European language, when compared with the languages of Hittite-Luwian group”. (3).
The point at issue is about the Armenian people, being a newly-formed ethnicity living on the Armenian highlands from the end of the second to the beginning of the first millennium BC, due to the gradual junction of ancient tribes and alliances, together with the other tribes that settled here at the end of the second millennium BC. Note that Medes and Persians named this people as ‘Armenians’, as in ‘Armens’, and their territory as ‘Armenia’. The ancestors of the Armenians occupied a territory they had assimilated, formerly inhabited by Armens. It should be acknowledged that the Greeks and Romans called these people and the place of their residence in the same manner, following which the ethnonym ‘Armenians’ and oronym of ‘Armenia’, as physical and geographical expressions, were widely spread.
In view of this, it may be noted that ancestors of the Armenians resided in the Balkans. Later on, they arrived at the Armenian highlands and migrated from there to South Caucasus, which was due to the first loss of the Armenian statehood in the 4th century, due to world migration flows, along with peoples under the sway of the Arabs and Seljuks. This resulted in some of the Armenians settling in southern parts of the Caucasus on historical Azerbaijani lands.
Caucasian Albania and the Udis
When it comes to the Udis, who pertain to the Caucasian-Iberian group of the Indo-European family, being indigenously Azerbaijani and one of the 26 Albanian tribes that established the Caucasian Albanian state (4th century BC–7th century AD), i.e. ancestors of the present-day Azerbaijani people.
As noted above, Herodotus, the ‘father of history’ wrote about the Utians in the 5th century BC, with a special emphasis on their rulers and armaments: “Utians, Mikians and Parikans were armed like Paktians. Please note that the Utians were headed by Arsamen, son of Darius.”
Strabo, the ancient historian and geographer of Roman Greece (1st century BC–1st century AD) emphasised the Albanians’ propensity to cattle-breeding and, hence, “to a nomadic lifestyle” and their dwelling “between Iberia and the Caspian Sea”. He explained: “In the East, their country abuts to the sea” and, in the West, to Iberia. The Northern side is encircled by the Caucasian mountains”. He states that the Caucasian Albanian “leaders are remarkable. One ruled over all tribes, although previously an individual leader ruled over each individual tribe. They speak 26 languages, so they find it difficult to communicate with each other” (5).
Pliny (1st century) wrote: “On the right of the entry into the Caspian sea on the edge of the strait, there lives a Scythian tribe of Udis. These are followed by Albanians” (6).
When describing the campaigns of ancient Roman Commander-in-Chief Pompey, including his Caucasian marches, ancient Greek writer and philosopher Plutarch (1st–2nd centuries) spoke of the lands inhabited by “Caucasian tribes” and, amongst the most numerous, he mentioned the Albanians “who live to the east of the Caspian Sea” (7). Also, Appian, the 2nd century Roman historian of Greek origin, spoke of Albanian ruler Orosius (8).
Concerning the Armenian factor in Caucasian Albania, Ivan Chopin, the Russian historian and ethnographer of the 19th century, emphasised that: “like other peoples of different tribes, Armenians and Albanians lived apart from each other, despite sharing the common religion of Christ”. Armenians “had never been able to support their domination on the banks of Kura and the Caspian Sea, so during the Strabo epoch had no presence on this land”. During the Ptolemy period (2nd century AD) “they owned districts at the mouth of the Kura”. The river has its rise in the North-East of Turkey in the Kars province and Armenian highlands, thereafter flowing to Azerbaijan via Georgia. The “difference in languages” testifies to the difference in ethnicity between the Armenians and Albanians, as reaffirmed by the 4th–5th century Armenian author Moses Horensky, who stated: “use of the Armenian language evolved from the Kura banks” (9).
Chopin believed that, during the Arsacid dynasty of Parthian origin that ruled in Caucasian Albania during the 1st–6th centuries AD, the Uti province included part of present-day Kazakh and the whole of Shanshadil province, Elisavetpol district and the North-Eastern part of Karabakh province that is adjacent to the Kura River. Ancient geographers named ‘Uti’ as ‘Otena’ and extended it up to the Araxes that separated it from Atropatakan, leaving no place on the left bank for Paytakaran province (present-day Beylagan in Azerbaijan). Eastern authors named ‘Uti’ as ‘Aran’, being the Persian name of Albania. It should be noted that Kura separated Uti from the Albanian kingdom and, in the East, Uti contained the Paytarakan province, which extended to the Caspian Sea (10). The town of Partav (Barda) was the capital of Uti.
The ‘Armenian geography’ of the 7th century describes Albania (Aguank), with its “fruit-bearing fields, towns, fortresses, villages, numerous rivers and strong canes”. There are a number of Caucasian Albanian provinces, including Sheki (Shake). The same source refers to ‘Uti’ as “unifying the seven regions owned by Albanians, including Uti and the town of Partav”(11).
Sources of Christianity in Caucasian Albania
Chopin identifies the Christian background as the single commonality between Albanians and Armenians. Azerbaijani historian Moses Bekker, leading researcher of the Institute of Law and Human Rights at the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan (ANAS), Political Expert and Deputy Chairman of the Baku religious community of Georgian Jews, points out that the Jews appeared on the territory of modern Azerbaijan after the creation of the Great Achaemenid power by Cyrus II. Next to the famous edict of Cyrus in 538 BC, part of the Babylonian exiles returned home to restore the Temple of Jerusalem and re-energise the country. The remaining Jews were drawn into the orbit of economic, political and social life of the new state.
The 2nd century BC was marked by paving the Great Silk Road, a basic trade route connecting China with the countries of Europe, Central Asia and the Near and Middle East. A stretch of the road ran over the territory of Azerbaijan, “and since Jews had always pioneered development of new markets, at that moment they missed no opportunity to develop trade in this country”. In Bekker’s words, Jews were residents of Caucasian Albania, and “many Jews residing in Azerbaijan today are genetic descendants of Jews from Caucasian Albania who, in turn, are the descendants of the Tribes of Israel scattered worldwide. This fact is well-documented” (12, 13).
Touching upon the background to this, Peter Uslar, Russian military engineer, linguist and ethnographer and one of the foremost Caucasian experts of the 19th century, pointed out that the: “ancient inflow of the Jewish population into Transcaucasia” finds convincing confirmation in “numerous Biblical legends of this region”. Beyond any doubt, “Caucasian Jews maintained close relations with Palestine inasmuch as Jerusalem, particularly Solomon’s temple, preserved its sainthood for them”. For this reason, they could not ignore “development of Christianity in the Roman Empire”. Owing to the fact that the “cornerstone of the Jewish religion is based on ‘waiting for the Messiah’, Jews beheld the true sense of Christianity.” Luckily, during the reviewed period, Caucasian Jews “maintained close relations with Palestine”. Hence, “we might dwell on the fact that, in the 1st century of Christian faith, scores of Christians had come upon the territory of present-day Azerbaijan, including Caucasian Albania, as had the local Jews” (14).
Adoption of Christianity and the first churches
Information about the promotion of Christianity on the territory of modern Azerbaijan has been provided by the 7th century Caucasian Albanian historian Moses of Kalankatuyk. It’s rather symptomatic that many current encyclopediae present him as an Armenian scholar, whilst Moses of Kalankatuyk wrote of “a large village of Kalankatuyk located in gavar Uti, from whence I came” (15).
Touching upon the first steps of spreading Christianity in the region, he points out that: “St. Apostle Thaddeus fell to us residents of the East” who underwent “a sacrificial death”. His disciple, “St. Elisha”, was “ordained as [bishop] by St. Jacob”, first Patriarch of Jerusalem. Then, “after inheriting the East”, from Jerusalem he headed for Persia, traversing Armenia and coming to Mazkutes. He began evangelising in the country of Chola (present-day Derbent). From there, “with three disciples he arrived in gavar Uti”. While at Gis (present-day Kish), “he built a church and said mass. Our church of the Eastern countries was founded in this place. This place became a spiritual capital and a place of enlightenment for residents of the East” (16).
Robert Mobili, Chairman of the Albanian–Udi Christian Religious Community of Azerbaijan, has provided the information in a readily understandable format. He stated that St. Bartholomew, the Apostle, and a disciple of St. Thaddeus, the Apostle, ordained by Apostle Jacob Brother of the Lord in Jerusalem, were the first evangelists of Christianity in South Caucasus. Please note that St. Elisha built the first Christian church, the Mother of the Eastern Churches, in the village of Kish. Thus, “Kish is believed to be the first Christian town and a source of enlightenment” (17, 18).
It was thus not Armenia, but Caucasian Albania, that proved to be the first country to adopt Christianity. This is also documented in a research work by Makarius, Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna from 1879–82 who, when making reference to visiting South Caucasus, noted that: “This apostle, unanimously recognised by Armenians as their first apostle, did not visit Armenia, especially the part currently within the limits of our homeland, as the town of Edessa was not located in Armenia proper, but in the upper parts of Syria or Mesopotamia covered by Armenia during this period. Other allegations by Armenian chroniclers are that Thaddeus, aged 70, preached for 18 years from 32–49AD in Armenia, Major and Minor, died and was buried in a province of Shavarshan, a village of Artaz, and even a monastery was built around his grave” (19).
It is worth recalling that, in 313AD, Albanian leader Urnayr adopted Christianity as a state religion, simultaneous with the Roman Empire. In the meantime, ‘Blessed Grigorios’ began enlightening Albania and erected “a church in Amaras” (16).
Robert Mobili explains that churches in gavar Amaras and a town of Tsri (Utik) were constructed by St Gregory the Illuminator and his grandson Grigoris, respectively, who was: “ordained as a bishop on insistence of Albanian leader Urnayr”. Due to this, “further claims of the Armenian Church to rank above the Albanian Church are groundless”. Robert Mobili propounds this, especially as the Albanian tradition always “emphasised its own precedence.” It has to be borne in mind that “hierarchically the Albanian Church was subject to the Roman Church, but held ordinations in Jerusalem”. Earlier, supposedly by 340AD, the Albanian Church became autocephalous and, from the end of the 4th century, its clergy was independent in electing an Apostle (17, 18).
A serious researcher and former cleric of the Baku and Prikaspiy eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hieromonach Alexis Nikanorov, put forward the factors that made it necessary to set up autocephaly of the Albanian Church. In particular, he defines the “political independence of the Albanian state and aspirations of the authorities, clergy and people for political independence upon Byzantine and Persia, and canonic independence upon Church of Jerusalem”. An important aspect of the issue “proved to be the historical fact of the apostolic foundation of the Albanian Church”. The fact that its apostles were titled as ‘Catholico’s reaffirms the autonomy of the Albanian Church: the title ‘Catholicos’, in the Eastern Church, was conferred to bishops arriving outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. It should be noted: “that these bishops enjoyed the authority of plenipotent hierarches of related laity under the canonic control of prelates”. To all appearances, this title of the Albanian Church apostles “goes back either to Gregory the Illuminator or prelate Grigoris the Albanian”. Alexis Nikanorov considers it expedient to consider that: “initially the Albanian Church enjoyed autonomy, actually legalised after patriarchate formation” (20).
What is important to remember is that all the processes mentioned above happened during the abolition of Zoroastrianism in Caucasian Albania. According to inscriptions in Sarmeshhed (near Kazerun, Iran), ‘sacred fires’ were instituted in Albania, Syria, Cilicia, Georgia and other regions and ‘sacrificers’ were appointed in the 3rd century, during the reign of Shapur I, King of Kings of Iran (Inscription in Sarmeshhed, lines 37, etc.) (21).
This refers to Zoroastrianism promotion attempts in Albania; however, this tendency was ineffective, as evidenced in Moses of Kalankatuyk’s works. In 457AD, two sons of the Persian King Yezdygerd: “fell out with each other over the kingdom, and began fighting. In the meanwhile, Vache, a king of Aluank, his nephew, was Christian on his father’s side, as enacted by Urnayr. However, he was forced to accept the Magi faith (Zoroastrianism). He now believed it necessary to save himself through death in action, rather than reigning by dint of apostasy” (16).
Chalcedonites and Monophysites
Account has to be taken of the fact that the status of the Albanian Church had been legalised after the 4th Ecumenical Council in 451 (Chalcedonian) that adopted the resolutions of three previous Councils and condemned Arianism and Nestorianism (17).
It should be added that the Chalcedonites considered the Albanians to be Monophysites, whilst the latter assessed Chalcedon Council as a return to Nestorianism (22).
We pursue no objective in considering a theological component in our research, but we would like to note that Armenians with their “eastern variant – Monophysitism (anti-Chalcedonism)” was dissociated from Byzantium, thereby losing their coreligionist allies. This enabled the Armenian Church “to become fully national and replace the statehood lost, even uniting the Armenian diaspora worldwide”. Owing to church dissent, the Chalcedon Byzantine failed to become established in the Caucasus under the slogan of community of religion with Georgia, despite the formidable obstacles represented by anti-Chalcedon Armenia (23).
When it comes to Caucasian Albania, by the time of the Aguen Council (488) convened by Albanian leader Vachagan III the Reverend, a local church had its own archbishop (residence in Partav) and eight eparchies. On the one hand, the Aguen Council was meant to promote the independence of the Albanian Church; on the other hand, Vachagan III tried to consolidate the state authority by means of Aguen canons (24).
It should be noted that the Aguen canons, with their legal status, are noted for standards regarding legally binding property, family, criminal and judicial law; execution of sentence; and evidence at law (25).
Acceptance of canonical resolution by the Council enabled the Caucasian Albanian Church to enact its own jurisdiction and standards of church life.
Starting with the Dwin Council of 506 and continuing until the mid-6th century, there is no direct evidence regarding the confession of the Caucasian churches. Some experts see this fact as a proxy indicator that statuses of these churches had not visibly changed throughout history, or if any, had not been secured synodically. On the other hand, Caucasian churches differently realised the “reconciling definitions of the Dwin Council of 506: Georgians and thus Albanians saw the right Chalcedonism, and Armenians – right Monophysitism”. During the Regional Councils of 551–553, the Armenian Church, with the participation of the representatives of the Syrian Church, officially announced Monophysitism as its ideological option to specify liturgy that was commensurate with appropriate dogmas. That was the general assessment by the Chalcedon experts of the importance of Second Dwin Council for the history of the Armenian Church (23).
An anonymous monument of Armenian medieval literature of the 7th century (in Greek) states that the Dwin Council of 555 members of the Armenian Church “anathematised the Holy Chalcedon Council”. In 568, “they [heretics]” sent a message to Abas, Catholicos of the Albanian country as follows: “Come and join us in faith”, however, “he did not join them” (26).
It ought to be noted that, in the mid-6th century, the Armenian Church adopted an ultra-left Monophysite faith known as Julianite. In all probability, Caucasian Albania did not convene a council, nor declined from the Chalcedon Council or “took the path of active anti-Monophysitism”. In his message to Abas, the Catholicos of the Albanians in 575, John IV, Patriarch of Jerusalem demanded that he should pursue a more aggressive anti-Monophysite policy (23).
Mhitar Gosh, the Armenian literary figure and theologian of the 12th–13th centuries wrote that, from the mid-6th century, “the ancient Caucasian Albanians used to sign letters as follows: ‘from the Catholicos of Albania, Lpnik and Chor’” (27). As noted by Kamilla Trever, Soviet historian and art expert, during this period, the “territories of Chor and Lpnik, as parts of Caucasian Albania, enjoyed internal independence, following which they were cited after mentioning Albania. There is no evidence of this, in the written sources, other that the title of the Albanian Catholicos who is referred to during the 7th century as the ‘Catholicos of Albania, Chor and Lpnik’ (28).”
In 591, Byzantine Emperor Mauritius, who had jurisdiction over a considerable part of Armenia (part of Persia since 387) (29) due to a peace treaty signed with the Sassanid state, instituted an alternative Chalcedon Catholicosate to alienate those Armenians from the Armenian Church who settled in the lands under their control (22).
The Third Dwin Council (607) undertook the formal separation of part of the Armenian Church from the Catholic Church, which marked the foundation of the Armenian Apostolic Church (ААC). However, another part of the Armenian Church (Armenian–Catholic) retained contacts with the Catholic Church. William Ter-Gazaryan, author of the site The Armenian Catholic Church refers to AAC Archbishop Nersoyan, whereas from the mid-5th to mid-7th centuries, when Armenia was divided between the Byzantine and Persian Empires, the bishops of the ‘Western’ part were ceded to the Chalcedonites, who were in contact with the Catholic Church, whilst those in the East had opposite views on the subject. As a result, there were attempts to achieve disunion between the two branches, drawing the entire Armenian Church “into a position of separation and breach of relations with the Greek and Roman Churches”. Yet, in the Armenian Church, there were scores of those seeking unity with the Catholic Church (30).
Following the actual ecclesiastic controversy, Abraham Albatanskiy, Patriarch of Armenia from 607–615, did not incorporate Georgia and Albania. In so doing, he permitted his flock to solely maintain trading relations with them (23). In 630–633, during the Karin Council, the Armenian priesthood “vowed not to reject the Chalcedon Council by signing this with their own hands” (26).
However, Moses Kalankatuyk states that Nerses I Bakur, the primate of the Albanian Church (elected in 689), ruled “righteously on the Hayrapet throne for 14 years and, as a heretic, for three years and half”. This is indicative of the actual struggle in Albania between the supporters and opponents of Monophysitism. As evidenced by the Albanian historian, in the early 8th century Nerses “returned to the usual abomination which he expected for so long”, namely, by accepting Chalcedon (31).
The suspension of the Caucasian Albanian church’s relations with the Armenian Church enabled Albanian churchmen to be ordained in-situ. Furthermore, Syunik, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Church, passed to the ordination of the Albanian Catholicosate (22).
Armenian complaints against the Albanian Church
It was natural that the situation that had developed did not sit well with the Armenian party. When the South Caucasus fell under the power of the Arab caliphate, Elias, the Catholicos of Armenia, forwarded a complaint to five caliphs from the Umayyad Dynasty, according to Abd al-Malik Amir Mumin (705), who wrote: “From now on, the Catholicos of Aluank in Partav (author: Albanian Catholicos Nerses I Bakur in Barda) agreed with the Roman Emperor (author: Byzantine Emperor), as they shared the same religion”. In his reply, the Caliph told Elias: “I’ll send you my faithful servant with a great army to punish them in Partav, in your presence” (32).
It should be noted that the caliphate backed the Christians – the Monophysites – as the doctrine of Monophysitism, within the framework of intra-Christian confessionalism, countered Orthodox Byzantine (Diophisites-Chalsedonites). As for relations with Byzantium, the Arabs pursued their own goals. As a result, having the backing of the caliph: “the Armenian Elias headed for Aluank’s great town Partav, sat down in the central church and ordered him to bring Nerses”. The latter was: “tortured heavily and then deported to an alien land; however, he refused food for eight days and died”. Simultaneously, Elias carried a false letter, allegedly from the Caucasian Albanian Church, which said that although earlier: “Our Catholicoses have been ordained by our bishops, from now on ordainment in the Catholicos of Aluank is to be made via the altar of St. Grigor” (author: Armenian Church) “with our sanction, though” (31).
According to Alexander Anninskiy, the late 19th century Russian historiographer: “Due to the treason of some Agvans and disgraceful nature of Catholicos Elias, the Orthodox Oecumenical faith in Albania was eradicated”. In so doing, “Agvania was obliged to follow an anti-Chalcedon faith and recognise an opponent of the Chalcedon Council as a Catholicos, and to bow to the rule of the Armenian Catholicos”. Simeon, who took over from Nerses, apparently destroyed all the books of his predecessor, which were “allegedly full of heresy”. As a protégé of the ‘Armenian Catholicos’, Simeon “sought to reduce the freedom of the Aguan flock and ensure success of the Monophysites” (33).
Alexis Nikanorov wrote that, having been backed by the caliphate, the Armenian Church began displacing the Albanian clergy from their positions through the “intensive ethnic, cultural and religious Armenisation of the Albanians” (34), i.e. the ethnocide of the Caucasian Albanians. Due to this, the Caucasian Albanian Church faced the loss of its independence and began re-subordinating to the Armenian Catholicosate.
Some researchers have noted, that in conformity with the council acts of the Eastern Syrian church, the works of church historians and other sources, 21 episcopates were established on the territory of Northern Adurbadagan vicariate, 10 of which were on Azerbaijani territory. These included Partav, which turned into the Nestorian metropolitan in 900.
The Treaty of Turkmenchay
Formally, the Caucasian Albanian Catholicosate, headquartered in Gandzasar, continued until 1836, when the Russian Orthodox Church finally put an end to the nominal existence of the Albanian Church, whilst the appropriate laities were re-subordinated to the Echmiadzin Catholicosate. However, Raffi confessed that the people of Caucasian Albania “used to live independently upon Echmiadzin and have their own spiritual administration, as was in the case for the Agvank Catholicosate” (55/б).
One of the major reasons for this situation is attributable to the fact that, under the Treaty of Turkmenchay (February 1828) that concluded a war between Russia and Iran, the “Persian Shah, on his behalf and on behalf of his heirs and successors”, ceded “the Erivan khanate and Nakhchivan khanate” to Russia.
Article 14 stipulated: “mutual subjects might settle and live wherever they wish on condition that a related government gives its permission” (57) in relation to the migration of Persian Armenians to the territory of the Russian Empire in the South Caucasus. These developments occurred in terms of the transfer of the Erivan and Nakhchivan khanates to the Armenian province in March 1828.
It is worthy of note that that author Alexander Griboyedov, Russian Ambassador to the Persian Empire, pointed out that the migration campaign was entrusted to the Caucasian Chief Commander Ivan Paskevich’s adjutant Lazar Lazarev, a representative of the Armenian family of Lazarevs who migrated to Russia from Persia in the 18th century, together with Moses Argutinsky, a grandson of Joseph Argutinsky-Dolgoruky. In March 1828, Mr Lazarev persuaded Persian Armenians that “the generous monarch of Russia provides a reliable, safe and fortunate shelter in his state. You will be supplied with abundant fertile lands… exempted from any taxes for six years, and the poorest will be aided. You will be naturalised and find a new homeland inhabited by Christians. Your sacred faith will be no longer suppressed!”(58).
Аlexander Griboyedov pointed out that Lazar Lazarev intended “to form a regular Armenian volunteer corps… to deal with Karabakh and other areas. In most cases Armenians settled on Muslim landed estates”. He commented that: “the Armenians were forcing out the Muslims who rebelled against them” (59).
In September 1828, Аlexander Griboyedov and Petr Zaveleyskiy, Civil Governor of Georgia, submitted a Russian Transcaucasian Company project. Both diplomats voiced their preparedness “to accept Armenian families incapable of sustaining themselves”. In so doing, they insisted on advancing money “as a loan at the expense of the company to meet needs of the said Armenians” (60).
Thus, this stage was marked by mass settlement of Persian Armenians on previously purely Azerbaijani lands. Ziya Bunyatov, the prominent Soviet and Azerbaijani orientalist noted “in 1978 an obelisk was installed in the village of Maraga/Maragashen (modern Leninavan) of the Agdere region of Nagorno-Karabakh in honour of the 150th anniversary of the migration of the first 200 Armenian families from Maraga (South Azerbaijan) to the lands of Karabakh” (61). The village was named in honour of the settlers’ motherland – the town of Maraga in Persia. At the present time, the word ‘Maraga’ and the number ‘150’ have been removed from the obelisk, although otherwise it remains unchanged (62).
Rescripting of history under Tsar Nicholas I
In conformity with Russian historical sources of the 19th century, in the wake of the treaty, Echmiadzin joined the Empire in 1828, according to the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos. This “designated the rights and authorities commensurate with his rank exclusively and solely to the Russian government’s guardianship.”
Consequently, Tsar Nicholas I, in the best interests of the Armenian Church and to support the Haykan (Armenian) people) decided to strengthen the credibility of the Echmiadzin throne. Thus, the provisions on the Armenian Gregorian Church Administration in Russia approved on March 11, 1836 included “all favours and rights of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos” (63).
American historian Paul Wert notes that, for the first time after the Mongol invasion in 1220 “Echmiadzin found itself in a country led by Christian monarch”. As distinct from other patriarchs and catholicoses “as subjects of the Islamic Empire”, Echmiadzin became a subject of the Russian Tsar. Wert states that “when adjusted for the fact that the Catholicos had no historical grounds to lay claim to the overriding spiritual power, adherents of the Armenian Apostolic Gregorian Church, irrespective of their residence, through the Imperial government, enjoyed an unprecedented instrument to influence the Armenian communities of Persia and Turkey. Throughout the 19th century it made great efforts to support and increase the authority of the Catholicos with a view to expanding the Russian influence beyond the southern boundaries” (64).
According to Ivan Ambartsumov, the Russian researcher, “liberation from the yoke of Muslim Persia and transition to the sceptre of Christian Russia was taken by most of the Armenian population as a conclusive blessing”. The authorities needed “to reinforce this belief amongst the Armenian people and increase sympathies to Russia from Armenians holding Persian and Turkish citizenship”. For this to happen, “it was important to transform the Armenian Gregorian church into a stanch ally of the Russian state”. These considerations were taken into account “when drafting the Principles of the Armenian Gregorian Church Administration in Russia in 1836”. The authors of these principles “tried to cover, as much as possible, the historical traditions of the Armenian Church within the framework of the existing legal system” (65).
One cannot ignore the fact that, under the said provisions, the Armenian Apostolic Church had first been known as ‘Armenian Gregorian’ after the first bishop, who was Grigor the Illuminator. As viewed by some researchers, the goal was to prevent naming the Armenian Church as ‘Orthodox’. Under Armenian sources, “national public opinion regarded the name of ‘Armenian Gregorian’” with mixed reception, for the church lost “its nature of direct apostolic heritage” (66).
It should be stated that the provisions stipulating the activities of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Russian Empire divided the Armenian parishes in the country into six eparchies (provinces): Nakhchivan and Bessarabia; (together with St. Petersburg), Moscow and the governorates of Novorossiysk and Bessarabia provinces) and Astrakhan; Erivan; Georgia; Karabakh (Karabakh proper, Sheki and Talyshin zones); and Shirvan (Shirvan proper, Quba, Baku and Derbent zones). Thus, the Caucasian Albanian autocephalous church was liquidated.
Please note that the Armenian Gregorian Church was ruled by the Echmiadzin patriarch in the role of the Supreme Catholicos of the ‘Haykan people’ (67).
According to Robert Mobili, after 1836, the Caucasian Albanian Church was abolished legally and in reality, its property being given to the Armenian party. Also, many churches were closed and the liturgical service was thereafter performed in the Armenian language only. The Caucasian Albanians, including Udis, had to adopt Gregorianism and worship in the eparchies of the Echmiadzin Church. This resulted “in cultural and ideological assimilation of some Albanians”.
In the meantime, “aggressive appropriation of the Albanian ethnic and cultural heritage and its Armenisation”, undertaken by by Echmiadzin with the help of Tsarist Russia together with the “dismantling of Caucasian Albanian churches” led to their “de-ethnisation”. As a mark of protest, the Udis declined from attending these churches and preferred to worship at home, enabling them to preserve their national identity (68, 69).
It should be acknowledged that the Armenisation of Albanians was clearly recalled in the memories of Russian Orthodox Church patriachs and Paul Florensky, philosopher and poet of the 19th century. Touching upon his nationality, he wrote that his mother Salomia (Salome) Pavlovna Sattarova (named Olga) came from the family of Sattarovs, dating back to “several Armenian families pertaining to the branch called ‘Albans’” (70).
The Armenian Church steadily intensified its activities in an attempt to conceal traces of the Caucasian Albanian/Udi culture and literature; with that end in view, the Armenians destroyed old archives, including those of the ancient Albanian Church. Caucasian Albanian chronicles and books were burned, and domestic and farm utensils and 2000 years of valuable, unique heritage were destroyed. The enormous spiritual riches of Azerbaijani culture, including Udi heritage, were irretrievably lost (71.).
It has to be recalled that, since 1854, teaching in Oghuz and Nij was conducted solely in the Armenian language, which impacted the existence of the Udi language. Armenian teachers persuaded students that Udis should be grateful to the Armenian people for their faith, written language and churches (72). Despite many problems, the Udis, according to Robert Mobili, contrived to preserve their cultural and spiritual paradigm. For example, the entrances of the Caucasian Albanian and Armenian churches differ in height, as do the absis elements.
At the same time, after 1836 “Echmiadzin incorporates flagstones of fine-grained crystalline limestone from the deposits in Nagorno-Karabakh, incorporating Armenian notation on the walls and entrance parts of churches”. Of interest is the fact that the travertine from the unique Nij deposits were used as construction materials for all the Caucasian Albanian churches in the region, including the Kish Church and other historical monuments on the Kura left bank area, due to their cementitious characteristics (17, 18).
What is the current situation?
This brief introduction to the history of Caucasian Albania and Udi history makes it possible to review the situation around the liberation of Armenian-occupied historical lands by the victorious Azerbaijani army from today’s perspective, including the return of the Caucasian Albanian Church’s own jurisdiction.
As Robert Mobili pointed out a few years ago, today the time has come for the rebirth of the Albanian Autocephalous Patriarchate Church and the return of the Udis to their fold. Since the regaining of Azerbaijani independence, a new period has started in the history of restoring the Caucasian Albanian Church’s status. The Albanian–Udi Christian community of Azerbaijan was registered in 2003.
The revival of the Albanian Apostolic Autocephalous Church makes it possible to preserve the history of the church and provides a justification to Azerbaijan retaining its lands and maintaining its territorial integrity, according to Robert Mobili. He continued: “Contributing to our revival are parishioners, Udi Christians, successors to this powerful ethno-confessional religion, who feel the need to shape their religious life”. Hence, there is a real opportunity to transform the Caucasian Albanian Christian community into the Albanian Church of Azerbaijan as the “legal successor to the Albanian Autocephalous Apostolic Church”. The Church service, language and liturgy may be performed “on the basis of the Udi language by an Albanian-Udi ordained priest”.
Of interest here are Zaza Alexidze’s ideas of using the updated Caucasian Albanian language during the liturgy. Robert Mobili states that the Albanian clergy “must enjoy ordainment with Jerusalem, or rather an Antioch cathedral”. Ordainment is a procedure, specifically in Christianity, and Robert Mobili has suggested that five representatives of the Albanian–Udi Christian Community of Azerbaijan, including himself, should be baptised in the River Jordan. A question is in the ordination, following which the priesthood elects a head of the church within the framework of their community.
In Mobili’s view, it is necessary to view the Udis as “one of the indigenous peoples of Azerbaijan with their rich ethnic-cultural heritage and legal inheritance of the Christianity of Caucasian Albania”. It is thus appropriate to regard the Udi territories as a form of open-air museum. Mr Mobili commented: “We, the Udis, as one of the oldest linear descendants of Caucasian Albania, are a part of the Azerbaijani people and concurrently sole legal successors and bearers of the Christianity of Caucasian Albania” (17, 18, 69, 73).
It is now appropriate to reconsider that which was said by Bishop of Baku and Alexander Prikaspiy: “From standpoint of canonic law, the rescripting in 1836 was not legitimate. The question is that the Russian Orthodox Church during the St. Petersburg period of Russian history suffered a stunning blow due to the illegitimate acts of the Tsarist government. A cited example was the abolition of the administration of church hierarchy – particularly the patriarchate – by an arbitrary act of Peter the Great that disembowelled the Russian Orthodox Church for two centuries. Mention may be made to other acts of the Tsarist government that impacted the reputation of the Church and led to the spiritual degradation of the nation. Nonetheless, it became possible to revive the patriarchate in 1917.”
To sum up, the “the Armenian Apostolic Church is contrary to the standards of canonic law, and it is thus impossible to recognise its legitimacy. At one time, for example, complex political processes undermined the self-dependence of the Bulgarian Autocephalous Church. However, by the mid-20th century its autocephaly was restored. Furthermore, with regard to the Mediterranean Albanian Church, the entire priesthood was repressed and churches destroyed. Despite this, it returned to life. Anything is possible. The key step is that the Christian heirs to this religion must formalise their religious life (74). May God grant this!”
It should be noted that, in Sabrisho in 900, the Nestorian metropolitan of Barda (Partav), participated in electing the Catholicos John (900–905). From 899–902, Yunan served as the Albanian Catholicos. In 999, it was Elias, Metropolitan of Barda. It should be noted that that Nestorian Church was active in Barda until the 14th century, obeying the Holvan metropolitan (35).
Writing in the Caucasian Albanian Church
Koryun, the Armenian chronicler of the 5th century, noted that Mesrop Mashtots, author of the Armenian alphabet “incorporated the barbarian words of the Aluan (Caucasian Albanian) language, and then due to his God-given astute insight, created writing (for Aluans) and, by the Grace of Christ, evaluated, placed in context and specified all words”. The Caucasian Albanian “Bishop and Tsar agreed to accept the alphabet and issued an order as follows: bring children from different gavars and localities for educational purposes, gather them together and then distribute them in groups at schools and other proper places” (36).
Koryun’s emphasis on learning the Caucasian Albanian words, as specified by Мesrop Mashtots, provided Elias Okromchedelov-Serebryakov, in the final quarter of the 19th century, a teacher from the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, with the opportunity to conclude that “he deals with the Albanian alphabet, not as its author, but as the fountain of its renaissance”. Hence, he inferred that Albania “had an alphabet and awareness of science prior to Mesrop” (37).
Being roughly on the same page during the mid-20th century was George Klimov, the Soviet linguist and expert in Caucasian studies, who stated that: “a complex of issues regarding the origins of specific alphabets necessitates extreme caution”. For this reason, “there is a view, even in Armenology, which indicates that Mesrop Mashtots could have been a reformer of Armenian writing, but not its creator”.
In so doing, George Klimov pointed out that that the “researchers of the Agvanian alphabet” perpetually emphasised its striking similarity with the “phonological systems”, primarily of the Udi language. He wrote, “the statistical structure of the Agvanian text is proven to be very close to that of the Udis” (38/а).
It is worth remembering that the discovery of Caucasian Albanian manuscripts in the collection of medieval palimpsests of the Convent of St. Catherine in Sinai in 1996, spearheaded by Georgian historian, Armenologist and linguist Zaza Alexidze and their deciphering verified the hypothesis that the Caucasian Albanian (Agvanian) language “is a historical ancestor of the Udi language”. In view of this, Russian linguist Timur Maysak tended to specify the Agvanian language as a factor “predominating in Caucasian Albania during its golden age of the 4th–7th centuries, where it operated as a “liturgical language” (39/а).
Zaza Alexidze made it clear that “the discovery of a full Lectionary in the Albanian writing and language explicitly specifies that there was a developed Christian written language in Albania”. As viewed by this Georgian researcher, the language of the Albanian Lectionary was “based independently on the currently lost Greek Lectionary” and was “nearest to the Udi language lexically, phonetically and grammatically amongst today’s Caucasian languages”. Given that, “there is opportunity to introduce the reconstructed Albanian language as that of sacred worship in the restored Caucasian Albanian church” (40).
“The Albanian text must serve as a form of ecclesiastical written language”, infers Zaza Alexidze (41).
In turn, Yuri Koryakov, a Russian linguist, expert in linguistic maps and author of atlases showing the geographical classification of languages, in his map The Agvanian Language in the Middle Ages, positions Nagorno-Karabakh in the distribution area of the Caucasian Albanian language, which also included the Barda, Gyandja, Oghuz and Gabala regions of Azerbaijan (42). There is no requirement for further comment.
The snag is that, at the beginning of Arab caliphate’s patronage over the Armenian Church, when the Church of Caucasian Albania had finally lost its independence and its Catholicos was now ordained by Armenia, divine service in Caucasian Albanian Churches was held in the Armenian language. The use of non-Armenian liturgical books was forbidden, according to Timur Maysak. Even worse, books in the Caucasian Albanian language ceased to be re-written and the written language almost disappeared, with many manuscripts of the 5th–7th centuries being destroyed or used “as the basis of new texts in other languages” (39/б).
For Klimov, it was “not the unfavourable political destiny of Agvania and development of Islam that impacted the survival of the language. Instead, it was the early, strong competition from the Armenian language that curtailed the propagation of the Agvanian written language”. (38/ б).
An eloquent testimony to this is the opinion of the 10th century Arab geographer and traveller Ibn Haukal, who stated that the “residents of Barda speak Arranian” (43). According to the Arab sources, Arranian referred to a Udi-Caucasian-Albanian linguistic component. On the other hand, Yuri Koryakov spoke about the permanent reduction of the “territory of the Agvanian language suppressed by the Armenian language from the South” (42).
It should be added that, according to the research of Udi-origin Voroshil Gukasyan, Soviet/Azerbaijani linguist, historian, specialist in Caucasian studies and the Udi language and expert in the language of Agvan (Albanian) inscriptions “there is an interesting manuscript named Fundamentals of Grammar in the Agvan Language, written in the Armenian alphabet, kept in the manuscript collection (N ‘Armenica’ С-7) of the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. In 1842, Tovma Korganov, collegiate councillor of the Echmiadzin Armenian–Gregorian Synod, transferred this, together with other manuscripts on Caucasian Albania, to the Russian Imperial Academy.
This contains about 150 Udi words, together with paradigms of noun declension, verb conjugation, phraseology, sentences and finally (on 19 sheets) a list of 43 words and their translation into the Armenian language. In other words, “contrary to the heading, the manuscript deals with the vocabulary of the Udi language. In all probability, the author was in the dark about the Udi and Agvan languages”. The first Udi vocabulary of 322 words was issued in St. Petersburg in 1853 entitled The Vocabulary of the Commonly-used Caucasian Udi Terms with translation into Russian (44).
Meliks and more
The 12th–13th centuries in Karabakh were marked by the increased prominence of the Hachen principality, ruled by Hasan Jalal, an offspring from the Caucasian Albanian princes of the Mihranid family. The ancient monastery of Gandzasar, built in the mid-10th century, served as the ancestral burial vault of the Hachen rulers of the Jalalids. Upon the insistence of the Caucasian Albanian Patriarch Nerses in 1238, Hasan Jalal constructed the Gandzasar Cathedral, which was defined as the ‘Patronal Cathedral of Albania’. Having lost political power, the representatives of the Jalalid family that reigned in Hachen until the 10th century, became the spiritual masters of the country and the Patriarchs and Catholicoses of the independent Caucasian Albanian Church (45).
The church records of Simeon Yerevantsi, Catholicos of the Armenian Church from 1763–80, shed light on events during the 14th century. Based on documents kept in archives of Echmiadzin Monastery, he wrote numerous religious, philosophical and historical works. He believed that, following the results of campaigns by outstanding military commander and political figure Timur in the South Caucasus in 1386–87, “native Agvans” were moved by “unclean Tamerlane to Kandagar”. There was “an insignificant number” of Albanians in the country. Simeon Yerevantsi does not mean that there were “insignificant numbers” of native Albanians, but the fact that “owing to the destruction of the Armenian country by Timur, Armenians had left their lands, dispersed and then gathered in the country of Agvank” (46).
These facts are indicative that the Armenians were not an indigenous population of Caucasian Albania, but Agvans with their own cultural and spiritual life on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the 15th century, Albanian apanage possessors from Hasan Jalal’s family, were self-described as meliks, during the period of the Azerbaijani state of Gara Goyunlu, under Jakhan-shah. It should be noted that those in Karabakh came to Jakhan-shah to recognise his authority, informing him of the split of the Hasan Jalal family into five branches. They asked him to confer a title to each branch, thereby suppressing dissent and gaining support from the Gara Goyunlu state. Jakhan-shah answered their appeal and gave the title of melik to each of the five possessors from the Hasan-Jalal family. (47).
Thus, a single domain of Hasan Jalal was divided into five Caucasian Albanian small autonomous principalities. It is no mere coincidence that Azerbaijanis, as their direct offspring, are named Melik-Yeganov, Melik-Aslanov.
Of interest is the fact that Hasan Jalal and his descendants patronised monasteries and the Caucasian Albanian patriarch altar in Gandzasar which, in the words of Armenian historian P. Arutyunyan “pursued independence from Echmiadzin policy up to the 1630s until Echmiadzin was owned by those patriarchs who were the natives of the Syunik desert. During that period, the Gandzasar patriarchs recognised Echmiadzin’s supremacy and voiced their preparedness to obey him” (46).
As a consequence, in 1691, the possessors of Djraberd in charge of Upper Hachen completed the construction of the Yerek Mankuk (Three Youths) Monastery and proclaimed the rule of a new Catholicos in the certainty that the first minister of religion of Albania would rule thereafter.
It is worth repeating that the Gandzasar Catholicos was under full control of Echmiadzin, and thus some Caucasian Albanian Patriarchs did not want to be ruled by Echmiadzin. Then Albanian Catholicos Israel (1728–63) disobeyed the Echmiadzin Catholicos. To confirm this fact, P. Arutyunyan refers to a letter of Israel addressed to Georgian Tsar Irakly II. He established his claim to the throne by identifying “Karabakh and Gyandja Armenians as Agvans” and “emphasising an ethnic difference between Agvans and Armenians”. In turn, Simeon Yerevantsi specifies that: “in their native environs, Agvans generally preserved their Christian faith and titled themselves as Udis [Utians]”. Also, scores of Armenians arrived via migrations (46). As a matter of fact, in a letter to Peter, the First Udi wrote: “We are Agvans and…Utians” (48).
Russian support of Armenian claims to the Caucasian Albanian Church
Since the 17th century, the Catholicoses of the Albanian Church were accommodated at the Hachen Church Yeritsmankats. This being said, the heads of the Astrakhan eparchy (1717) of the Armenian Apostolic Church were ordained (since 1749) by the Gandzasar Catholicosate, not Echmiadzin. In this connection, the Catholicos of the Armenian Church (Echmiadzin) Simeon in his contakion (1766) described the Russian Armenians as “one of the most remarkable peoples worldwide – our Gaykan people” emphasising the key role of the Catholicos in Echmiadzin as “Patriarch of all Armenians”, indicating that none of the Albanian Catholicoses “can be titled as Catholicos of all Armenians”, since “they enjoy no authority outside their eparchies”. As a result, he characterised those residing currently “in the country of Agvan” as Armenians pertaining to the “Gregorian confession”.
Hereafter, Simeon cited the facts of non-obedience of Albanian Catholicoses, particularly, Israel who “declined from arriving at sacred Echmiadzin”, refused “to go to Gandzasar” and “rose against us”. Hence, Echmiadzin defrocked him of “patriarchal rank” and instead exalted Hovannes who “was sent to the Gandzasar altar”. The latter was bestowed with “legal” (canonical) “contakion on the name of house of Agvanian, ordering him to submit” and inform the Albanians about the liability of recognising the Catholicos of Echmiadzin as “their Father and ruler”. For this reason the headquarters of the Caucasian Albanians could not independently appoint Catholicoses” by sending pretenders to the throne to Echmiadzin, to the “Great Catholicos of all Armenians” to get chrismatory and “give the rank of Catholicos to the country of Agvans” (49).
In so doing, Simeon hoped to be supported Russian Empress Catherine the Great. He forwarded a message to her as saying: “Unlucky Armenia is in wretched plight. The whole nation is hopeful of assistance from the patriarchate only. We earnestly ask you to provide conditions for us to live under the authority of Echmiadzin, i.e. the Armenian Apostolic Church” (50).
In other words, the question was of St. Petersburg’s recognition of Russian Armenians as part of the eparchy of Echmiadzin. In her answering message of 1768, the Russian Empress promised to support “the entire honest Armenian people” and permitted “Patriarch Simeon and his successors residing in our Russian Empire to perform his duties in due order…” (51).
Consequentially, in 1773 Archbishop Joseph (Ovsep) Argutinsky-Dolgoruky was appointed Head of the Astrakhan eparchy of the Armenian Church, which included all Armenian communities on Russian territory. However, Simeon was dissatisfied with the situation. In 1806, Albanian Patriarch Israel, in a letter to Ivan Gudovich, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus, stressed that “Ararat Patriarchs had nothing in common with the Albanian Church”, for it had always been subordinated to the Amar Patriarch” (52).
The point at issue concerns the Amaras Monastery as a residence of the Catholicos of the Albanian Church in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under a Tsarist edict of 1815, the rank of Albanian Patriarch-Catholicos was abolished, and since that time a primate of the Albanian Church was described as Metropolitan. Appropriate information can be taken from Raffi, Armenian poet and author of historical novels in the 19th century. It is initially appropriate to dwell on some provisions of the Kurekchay treatise of 1805 ‘The Act of Nationality’ for the Karabakh khanate of the Russian Empire as approved by ‘Imperial Certificate’.
Obligated “to pay 8,000 chervonets annual tribute to Khan of Karabakh, Ibrahim Halil-khan was granted a rank of Lieutenant-General; elder son and heir Mamat Asan-aga (author: Magomed Hasan) the rank of Major-General; middle son, Megti Aga (author: Mehtigulu), the rank of Major-General; and younger son, Khanlar Aga, the rank of Colonel, all of whom were provided with wages totalling 8,405 roubles and 80 kopeks in silver” (53).
Under the treaty, “Ibrahim-khan Shushinskiy and Karabagskiy announced the non-recognition of other autocracy above my successors and myself, other than the supreme power of the Russian Emperor and his successors”.
In turn, the Russian authorities granted a “warranty for preserving the integrity” of all domains of Ibrahim-khan, saying that the khan and his descendants “entering the khanate” would be guaranteed with “investiture” with due regard for their recognition of the “supreme and single authority” of the Russian Tsars. St. Petersburg promised to protect Ibrahim-khan and his heirs “perpetually in the Shusha khanate, together with trial management and revenues from his possessions” (54).
However, in 1806, Ibrahim-khan was killed by Lieutenant-Colonel Lisanevich of the Russian army. Thereafter, the Karabakh-khanate was headed by Mehtigulu-khan.
Raffi’s work indicates that, following the death of Caucasian Albanian Patriarch Israel in 1808, his enemy Sargis decided to “again ascend the throne of the Catholicos of Asgvank”. On the basis of this, there is no need to go deep into this internecine feud, and thus it is more important to focus on the controversy between Sargis and Echmiadzin that arose due to self-conceit of Sargis (55/а).
By some accounts, Sergiy II (Sargis) of Gandzasar became a primate of the Caucasian Albanian Church in 1810 (56). Raffi states that, at one time, Sargis “gave his promise” to Echmiadzin “not to use the title and the seal of the Catholicos, but to limit himself to the title and the seal of the Archbishop. In this way, he gained pastorship over the Ahpat Monastery”. However, when he returned to Karabakh, he self-titled himself as the Catholicos of Agvank and went on enjoying Catholicos privileges, which stirred the discontent of Echmiadzin”. However, Raffi notes that Sargis “not only ignored the demand but, having recourse to Ibrahim-khan’s successor, Mehti-khan declared himself absolutely independent to Echmiadzin”. This “internecine dissention” continued till 1815 “until the supreme spiritual authority of Echmiadzin, with the help of the Russians, forced Sargis to decline from the title of Catholicos and assume the title of Metropolitan with rights of Archbishop.”
That was the story of the Agvank Catholicosate (55/а).
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