Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Aryans and the Caucasian Albania

Posted by Fredsvenn on May 11, 2016

Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was an Iron Age kingdom centered on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Urartian-speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region. This language appears in cuneiform inscriptions.

The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian, both of which were spoken in the Taurus mountains area. Hurrian was the language of the Hurrians (occasionally called “Hurrites”), and was spoken in the northern parts of Mesopotamia and Syria and the southeastern parts of Anatolia between at least last quarter of the third millennium BC and its extinction towards the end of the second millennium BC.

Urartian is attested from the late 9th century BC to the late 7th century BC as the official written language of the state of Urartu and was probably spoken by the majority of the population in the mountainous areas around Lake Van and the upper Zab valley. It branched off from Hurrian at approximately the beginning of the second millennium BC.

The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau, and the Caucasus Mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands. The kingdom rose to power in the mid-ninth century BC, but was conquered by the Medes in the early sixth century BC.

Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium BC, Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms.

Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. It is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach.

Aratta is home to the goddess Inana, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk after being conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk. Inanna was the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BCE), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk.

The heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms It is argued on linguistic evidence that proto-Armenian came in contact with Urartian at an early date (3rd-2nd millennium BC), before formation of Urartian kingdom. The earliest attestations of the exonym Armenia date around the 6th century BC. In his trilingual Behistun Inscription, Darius I the Great of Persia refers to Urashtu (in Babylonian) as Armina (in Old Persian) and Harminuya (in Elamite). The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in c. 2250 BC. Another mention by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

The Èr people, also known as Èrsh or (in Georgian works) the Hers, are a hypothetical ancient people inhabiting northern modern Armenia, and to an extent, small areas of northeast Turkey, southern Georgia, and northwest Azerbaijan.

Most of their history is constructed based on archaeological and linguistic (primarily based on placenames, with some elements) data, compared to historical trends in the region and historical writings, such as the Georgian Chronicles or the Armenian Chronicles, as well as a couple notes made by Strabo.

The Urartian fortress Erebuni was named after them. According to Jaimoukha, buni is a Nakh root, meaning shelter or home, the same root which gave rise to the modern Chechen word bun, meaning a cabin, or small house. Hence, Erebuni meant “the home of the Èrs”. It corresponds to modern Yerevan (van is a common Armenian rendering for the root bun).

In the Georgian Chronicles, Leonti Mroveli refers to Lake Sevan as “Lake Ereta”. The name of the Arax River is also attributed to the Èrs. It is also called the Yeraskhi. The Armenian name is “Yeraskhadzor” (which Jaimoukha identifies as Èr + khi a Nakh water body suffix + Armenian dzor gorge). Interestingly, in close proximity to the South is the “Nakhchradzor” gorge, perhaps an old home of the Dzurdzuks. During the time of the kingdom of Urartu, there was a northern region near the Yerashkhadzor gorge and a little northwest of Erebuni called “Eriaki”.

They were a constituent of the state of Urartu, which either incorporated or conquered them during the 8th century BCE. Urartu was originally situated around the Lake Van, but expanded in all directions, including North, probably eventually incorporating or conquering the Èrs. Their relation to the main Urartians (who were probably ethnically separate from them, judging from place names) is unknown. Linguistically, based on placenames, they are thought to have been a Nakh people.

The Northeast Caucasian, East Caucasian, or Nakho-Dagestanian languages are a language family spoken in the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, in northern Azerbaijan and northeastern Georgia, as well as in diaspora populations in Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East. They are occasionally called Caspian, as opposed to Pontic for the Northwest Caucasian languages.

The Proto-Northeast Caucasian language had many terms for agriculture, and Johanna Nichols has suggested that its speakers may have been involved in the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. They had words for concepts such as yoke, as well as fruit trees such as apple and pear that suggest agriculture was already well developed when the proto-language broke up.

The Northwest Caucasian languages, also called West Caucasian, Abkhazo-Adyghean, or sometimes Pontic (as opposed to Caspian for the Northeast Caucasian languages), are a group of languages spoken in the northwestern Caucasus region, chiefly in three Russian republics (Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia), the disputed territory of Abkhazia (whose sovereignty is claimed by Georgia), and Turkey, with smaller communities scattered throughout the Middle East.

Some scholars have seen affinities between the Northwest Caucasian (Circassian) family and the extinct Hattic language, which was spoken in Anatolia (Turkey), in the area around ancient Hattusa (modern Boğazköy), until about 1800 BC, when it was replaced by the Indo-European Hittite language.

The name Hetto-Iberian (or Proto-Iberian) was proposed by Georgian historian Simon Janashia for a superfamily comprising the South Caucasian languages, other Caucasian language groups, Hattic and other languages of ancient Anatolia. The Iberian in the name refers to Caucasian Iberia, a kingdom centered in eastern Georgia which lasted from the 4th century BC to the 5th century AD; it is not related to the Iberian Peninsula.

Many Northwest Caucasian (Adygean) family names have prefixes like “Hath” or “Hatti”, and one of the well known Adyghe tribes has the name “Hattiqwai” (Adyghe: Хьатыкъуай) (From Хьаты (“Hatti”) + Кхъуэ (“male or son”); meaning “HattiSon”).

It has been conjectured that the North-West Caucasian languages may be genetically related to the Indo-European family, at a time depth of perhaps 12,000 years before the present. This hypothesised proto-language is called Proto-Pontic, but is not widely accepted. Pontic is a proposed language family or macrofamily, comprising the Indo-European and Northwest Caucasian language families, with Proto-Pontic being its reconstructed proto-language. However, there does at least appear to have been extensive contact between the two proto-languages, and the resemblances may be due to this influence.

The Kingdom of Hereti was a kingdom in the medieval Caucasus on the Georgian-Albanian frontier. Nowadays it roughly corresponds to the southeastern corner of Georgia’s Kakheti region and a portion of Azerbaijan’s northwestern districts.

The area was inhabited in earliest times by Hers (referred to as Èrs as well), Sujs, Tchilbs, and Lbins. Collectively called Hers (Heretians), these tribes came under the rule of the Caucasian Albania. Hereti was populated by Caucasian Albanians, Dagestani, Armenians, Persians and Georgians. It had flourishing towns that traded with Persia and Armenia.

With its decline, the area was gradually incorporated into the Iberian kingdom forming one of its duchies (saeristavo) in the 5th century and its peoples were eventually assimilated into the Georgians proper. It was when the name Hereti first appeared in the Georgian sources.

When the Georgian king David the Builder brought the kingdom under his control in 1104, Hereti became a saeristavo (i.e. a duchy) within the Georgian realm. Georgian rule of Hereti was interrupted by Atabegs of Azerbaijan, Khwarezmid Empire and Ilkhanid rule. After the final disintegration of the unified Georgian monarchy in 1466, Hereti came under the Kakhetian crown. Afterwards the name of the province itself has gradually disappeared from the historic records and public usage due to successively Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunlu, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman rules.

Azerbaijan is believed to be named after Atropates (Greek Aτρoπάτης, from Old Persian Aturpat “protected by fire”; c. 370 BC – after 321 BC), a Persian satrap (governor) who ruled in Atropatene (modern Iranian Azerbaijan) circa 321 BC. He served Darius III, then Alexander the Great, and eventually founded an independent kingdom and dynasty that was named after him.

The name Atropates is the Hellenistic form of Aturpat which means ‘guardian of fire’; itself a compound of ātūr (‘fire’), which later garbled into ādur and then into āðar in (early) New Persian, and is pronounced āzar today) + -pāt suffix for -guardian, -lord, -master (-pat in early Middle Persian, -bad in New Persian).

Present-day name Azerbaijan is the Arabicized form of Azarbaigān. The latter is derived from Ādurbādagān, itself ultimately from Āturpātakān meaning ‘the land associated with (satrap) Aturpat’ (-an, here garbled into -kān , is a suffix for association or forming adverbs and plurals; e.g.: Gilan ‘land associated with Gil people’).

Caucasian-speaking Albanian tribes are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of the region where the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan is located. Originally, at least some of the Caucasian Albanians probably spoke Lezgic languages close to those found in modern Daghestan; overall, though, as many as 26 different languages may have been spoken in Caucasian Albania.

The Udis (self-name Udi or Uti) are an ancient native people of the Caucasus. Currently, they live in Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and many other countries. The total number is about 10,000 people. They speak the Udi language, a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian languages depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

The Udi people are one of the Caucasian Albania tribes, whose language is within that language family. The Udi are considered to be the descendants of the people of Caucasian Albania, a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and partially southern Dagestan. According to the classical authors, the Udi inhabited the area of the eastern Caucasus along the coast of the Caspian Sea, in a territory extending to the Kura River in the north, as well as the ancient province of Utik.

Around the first centuries BC and AD the land south of the Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Kolchis in the west, Caucasian Iberia in the center and Caucasian Albania in the east. To the southwest was Armenia and to the southeast Atropatene. After the rise of the Parthian Empire the kings of Caucasian Albania were replaced with an Arsacid family and would later be succeeded by another Iranian royal family in the 5th century AD, the Mihranids.

After the Caucasian Albanians were Christianized in the 4th century, parts of the population was assimilated by the Armenians (who dominated in the provinces of Artsakh and Utik that were earlier detached from the Kingdom of Armenia) and Georgians (in the north), while the eastern parts of Caucasian Albania were Islamized and absorbed by Iranian and subsequently Turkic peoples (modern Azerbaijanis). Small remnants of this group continue to exist independently, and are known as the Udi people.

The pre-Islamic population of Caucasian Albania might have played a role in the ethnogenesis of a number of modern ethnicities, including the Azerbaijanis, the Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh, the Georgians of Kakhetia, the Laks, the Lezgins and the Tsakhurs of Daghestan.

Proto-Iranians are believed to have emerged as a separate branch of the Indo-Iranians in Central Asia in the mid 2nd millennium BC. The Iranians had domesticated horses, had traveled far and wide, and from the late 2nd millennium BCE to early 1st millennium BCE they had expanded from the Eurasian Steppe and settled on the Iranian Plateau. At their peak of expansion in the mid 1st millennium BC, the territory of the Iranian peoples stretched across the Iranian Plateau and the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Great Hungarian Plain in the west to the Ordos Plateau in the east.

Early Iranian settlements included the Scythians in the ninth century BC. Following the Scythians, the Medes came to dominate the area to the south of the Aras River. Ancient Iranian people of the Medes forged a vast empire between 900 and 700 BC, which the Achaemenids integrated into their own empire around 550 BC. During this period, Zoroastrianism spread in the Caucasus and in Atropatene.

Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenids in 330 BC, but allowed the Median satrap Atropates to remain in power. Following the decline of the Seleucids in Persia in 247 BC, an Armenian Kingdom exercised control over parts of Caucasian Albania. Caucasian Albanians established a kingdom in the first century BC and largely remained independent until the Persian Sassanids made their kingdom a vassal state in 252 AD. Caucasian Albania’s ruler, King Urnayr, went to Armenia and then officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century AD, and Albania remained a Christian state until the 8th century. Sassanid control ended with their defeat by Muslim Arabs in 642 AD, through the Muslim conquest of Persia.

Muslim Arabs defeated the Sassanids and Byzantines as they marched into the Caucasus region. The Arabs made Caucasian Albania a vassal state after the Christian resistance, led by Prince Javanshir, surrendered in 667. Between the 9th and 10th centuries, Arab authors began to refer to the region between the Kura and Aras rivers as Arran. During this time, Arabs from Basra and Kufa came to Azerbaijan and seized lands that indigenous peoples had abandoned; the Arabs became a land-owning elite.

Conversion to Islam was slow as local resistance persisted for centuries and resentment grew as small groups of Arabs began migrating to cities such as Tabriz and Maraghah. This influx sparked a major rebellion in Iranian Azerbaijan from 816–837, led by a local Zoroastrian commoner named Bābak. However, despite pockets of continued resistance, the majority of the inhabitants of Azerbaijan converted to Islam. Later, in the 10th and 11th centuries, parts of Azerbaijan were ruled by the Kurdish dynasties of Shaddadid and Rawadid.

Azerbaijanis, also known as Azerbaijani Turks are a Turkic ethnic group living mainly in Iranian Azerbaijan and the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. They are the second most numerous ethnic group among the Turkic peoples after Turks. They are predominantly Shi’i Muslims, and have a mixed cultural heritage, including Iranian, Turkic and Caucasian elements.

Old Azeri, also known as Azeri or Azari (Persian: also spelled Adari, Adhari), was the extinct Iranian language once spoken in Iranian Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan. It was the dominant language in Azerbaijan before it was replaced by Azerbaijani, which is a Turkic language. Some linguists believe the southern Tati varieties of Iranian Azerbaijan such as those around Takestan such as the Harzandi and Karingani dialects to be remnants of Azeri. In addition, Old Azeri is known to have strong affinities with Talysh.

The first scholar who discovered Azeri language, is Ahmad Kasravi. He used Arabic, Persian and Greek historical sources to prove that people of Azerbaijan used to speak a language of Iranian family called Azeri before they spoke the Turkic language of the same name. This discovery lead him to conclude that the people of Azarbaijan were Iranians who were assimilated by invading Seljuq Turks, an Oghuz Turk Sunni Muslim dynasty that gradually became a Persianate society and contributed to the Turko-Persian tradition in the medieval West and Central Asia.

The Seljuqs originated from the Qynyk branch of the Oghuz Turks, who in the 9th century lived on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspian and Aral seas in their Yabghu Khaganate of the Oghuz confederacy, in the Kazakh Steppe of Turkestan. During the 10th century, due to various events, the Oghuz had come into close contact with Muslim cities.

When Seljuq, the leader of the Seljuq clan, had a falling out with Yabghu, the supreme chieftain of the Oghuz, he split his clan off from the bulk of the Tokuz-Oghuz and set up camp on the west bank of the lower Syr Darya. Around 985, Seljuq converted to Islam. In the 11th century the Seljuqs migrated from their ancestral homelands into mainland Persia, in the province of Khurasan, where they encountered the Ghaznavid empire.

In 1025, 40,000 families of Oghuz Turks migrated to area of Caucasian Albania. The Seljuqs defeated the Ghaznavids, a Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin, at the battle of Nasa plains in 1035. Tughril, Chaghri, and Yabghu received the insignias of governor, grants of land, and were given the title of dehqan. At the battle of Dandanaqan they defeated a Ghaznavid army, and after a successful siege of Isfahan by Tughril in 1050/51, they established both the Seljuk Empire and Sultanate of Rum, which at their heights stretched from Anatolia through Iran and were targets of the First Crusade.

After arriving in Persia, the Seljuqs mixed with the local population and adopted the Persian culture and used the Persian language as the official language of the government, and played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition which features “Persian culture patronized by Turkic rulers.” Today, they are regarded as the partial ancestors of the Western Turks – the present-day inhabitants of Azerbaijan (incl. Iranian Azerbaijan), Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

In the 11th century A.D. with Seljukid conquests, Oghuz Turkic tribes started moving across the Iranian plateau into the Caucasus and Anatolia. The influx of the Oghuz and other Turkmen tribes was further accentuated by the Mongol invasion. Here, the Oghuz tribes divided into various smaller groups, some of whom – mostly Sunni – moved to Anatolia (i.e., the later Ottomans) and became settled, while others remained in the Caucasus region and later – due to the influence of the Safaviyya – eventually converted to the Shia branch of Islam.

The latter were to keep the name “Turkmen” or “Turcoman” for a long time: from the 13th century onwards they gradually Turkified the Iranian-speaking populations of Azerbaijan, both the contemporary Republic and Iranian Azerbaijan, thus creating a new identity based on Shia and the use of Oghuz Turkic. Today, this Turkic-speaking population is known as Azerbaijani.

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