Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Armenia IIII

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Armenia, officially the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located in Western Asia, on the Armenian Highlands, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan, or the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, to the south.



In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire. Cilicia extends inland from the southeastern coast of modern Turkey, due north and northeast of the island of Cyprus.

Cilicia is a geographical region extending inland from the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea; along the Mediterranean coast east from Pamphylia, to the Nur Mountains, which separated it from Syria.

Armenian presence in Cilicia dates back to the first century BC, when under Tigranes the Great, the Kingdom of Armenia expanded and conquered a vast region in the Levant.

During the High Middle Ages Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia formed an independent principality named the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, also known as the Cilician Armenia, Kingdom of Cilician Armenia or New Armenia.

Located outside of the Armenian Highland and distinct from the Armenian Kingdom of Antiquity, it was centered in the Cilicia region northwest of the Gulf of Alexandretta, in what is today southern Turkey.

Cilicia was settled from the Neolithic period onwards. It has been a crossroad for cultures, religions and ethnicities throughout its history. Anatolian civilizations, Romans, Greeks, Armenians, Arabs and Turks resided and built civilizations at the region.

Historically many people considered it as a part of the Levant. Cilicia is the ancient Roman name for the southeastern region of Asia Minor. It is referenced in the biblical books of Acts and Galatians, was the birthplace of Saint Paul, and the site of his early evangelical missions

North and east of Cilicia lie the rugged Taurus Mountains that separate it from the high central plateau of Anatolia, which are pierced by a narrow gorge, called in antiquity the Cilician Gates, a pass through the Taurus Mountains connecting the low plains of Cilicia to the Anatolian Plateau, by way of the narrow gorge of the Gökoluk River.

Ancient Cilicia was naturally divided into Cilicia Trachaea (“rugged Cilicia”; the Assyrian Hilakku, classical “Cilicia”) and Cilicia Pedias (“flat Cilicia”; Assyrian Kue) by the Limonlu River. Salamis, the city on the east coast of Cyprus, was included in its administrative jurisdiction.

Hilakku was one of the Neo-Hittite states during the Iron Age in southern Anatolia during the 1st millennium BC. Hilakku was north of the Neo-Hittite state of Tabal, west of Que, and north of the Mediterranean sea. It covered the land of Cilicia Tracheia, (Latin Aspera) of the Classical age, otherwise known as ‘Rough Cilicia’. It was also within the south-eastern frontiers of the Hittite appanage domain of Tarhuntassa.

Cilicia Trachea is a rugged mountain district formed by the spurs of Taurus, which often terminate in rocky headlands with small sheltered harbors, a feature which, in classical times, made the coast a string of havens for pirates and, in the Middle Ages, outposts for Genoese and Venetian traders. The district is watered by the Calycadnus and was covered in ancient times by forests that supplied timber to Phoenicia and Egypt.

Cilicia Pedias to the east, included the rugged spurs of Taurus and a large coastal plain, with rich loamy soil for its abundance (euthemia) filled with sesame and millet and olives and pasturage for the horses imported by Solomon. Many of its high places were fortified.

The plain is watered by the three great rivers, the Cydnus (Tarsus Çay), the Sarus (Seyhan) and the Pyramus (Ceyhan River), each of which brings down much silt from the deforested interior and which fed extensive wetlands. The Sarus now enters the sea almost due south of Tarsus, but there are clear indications that at one period it joined the Pyramus, and that the united rivers ran to the sea west of Kara-tash.

Through the rich plain of Issus ran the great highway that linked east and west, on which stood the cities of Tarsus (Tarsa) on the Cydnus, Adana (Adanija) on the Sarus, and Mopsuestia (Missis), an ancient city in Cilicia Campestris on the Pyramus River (now Ceyhan River) located approximately 20 km (12 mi) east of ancient Antiochia in Cilicia (present-day Adana, southern Turkey).

The Greeks invented for Cilicia an eponymous Hellene founder in the purely mythical Cilix, but the historic founder of the dynasty that ruled Cilicia Pedias was Mopsus, identifiable in Phoenician sources as Mpš, the founder of Mopsuestia who gave his name to an oracle nearby. Homer mentions the people of Mopsus, identified as Cilices, as from the Troad in the northernwesternmost part of Anatolia.

Mopsus was the name of one of two famous seers in Greek mythology; his rival being Calchas. A historical or legendary Mopsos or Mukšuš may have been the founder of a house in power at widespread sites in the coastal plains of Pamphylia and Cilicia during the early Iron Age.

Homer mentions the plain as the “Aleian plain” in which Bellerophon wandered, but he transferred the Cilicians far to the west and north and made them allies of Troy. The Cilician cities unknown to Homer already bore their pre-Greek names: Tarzu (Tarsus), Ingira (Anchiale), Danuna-Adana, which retains its ancient name, Pahri (perhaps Mopsuestia), Kundu (Kyinda, then Anazarbus) and Azatiwataya (today’s Karatepe).

The English spelling Cilicia is the same as the Latin, as it was transliterated directly from the Greek form. The palatalization of c occurring in the west in later Vulgar Latin (c. 500–700) accounts for its modern pronunciation in English.

Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

Ancient History

Sometime between 2700-2400 BCE, a people known as the Hatti either migrated into upper Anatolia or were natives of the region who only began making their presence known to the historical record at that time.

The Hatti were an agrarian people who spoke a language called Hattic but wrote using Mesopotamian cuneiform (as did the Hittites). They established their central city, Hattusa, north of Cilicia in c. 2500 BCE and were a powerful force in the region, able to repulse invasion by the formidable Sargon of Akkad (also known as Sargon the Great (r. 2334-2279 BCE) who, failing to take Hattusa, claimed the southern coast line of Cilicia.

Cilicia was held, loosely, by the Akkadian Empire until its collapse c. 2083 BCE at which time the Hatti were able to completely reassert their control (although it is likely they had already done so long before).

The Hatti controlled the ports along Cilicia’s coast until the Hittite king Anitta of the Kingdom of Kussara invaded in 1700 BCE, destroyed Hattusa and established the so-called Old Hittite Kingdom (1700-1500 BCE).

Simultaneously or shortly afterward, a people known as the Luwians, a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Asia Minor as well as the northern part of western Levant in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, enter the record, but little is known of them except for their language.

The Luwians spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian sub-family, which was written in cuneiform imported from Mesopotamia, and a unique native hieroglyphic script, which also was sometimes used by the linguistically related Hittites.

The origin of the Luwians can only be assumed. A wide variety of suggestions exist, even today, which are connected to the debate over the original homeland of the Indo-European speakers. Suggestions for the Indo-European homeland include the Balkans, the Lower Volga and Central Asia.

However, little can be proven about the route that led the ancestors of the Luwians to Anatolia. It is also unclear whether the separation of the Luwians from the Hittites and the Palaic speakers occurred in Anatolia or earlier.

It is possible that the Demircihüyük culture (c.3500–2500 BC), which, like Troy, is located on the northwest Anatolian Mainland but much further inland than Troy itself, is connected with the arrival of Indo-Europeans in Anatolia, since Proto-Anatolian must have split off around 3000 BC at the latest on linguistic grounds.

Certain evidence of the Luwians begins around 2000 BC, with the presence of personal names and loan words in Old Assyrian Empire documents from the Assyrian colony of Kültepe, dating from between 1950 and 1700 BC (Middle Chronology), which shows that Luwian and Hittite were already two distinct languages at this point.

According to most scholars,[who?] the Hittites were then settled in upper Kızılırmak and had their economic and political centre at Neša (Kaneš), from which the Hittite language gained its native name, nešili. The Luwians most likely lived in southern and western Anatolia, perhaps with a political centre at Purushanda.

The Assyrian colonists and traders who were present in Anatolia at this time refer to the local people as nuwaʿum without any differentiation. This term seems to derive from the name of the Luwians, with the change from l/n resulting from the mediation of Hurrian.

The Old Hittite laws from the 17th century BC contain cases relating to the then independent regions of Palā and Luwiya. Traders and displaced people seem to have moved from one country to the other on the basis of agreements between Ḫattusa and Luwiya.

It has been argued that the Luwians never formed a single unified Luwian state, but populated a number of polities where they mixed with other population groups. However, a minority opinion holds that in the end they did form a unified force, and brought about the end of Bronze Age civilization by attacking the Hittites and then other areas as the Sea People.

During the Hittite period, the kingdoms of Šeḫa and Arzawa developed in the west, focused in the Maeander valley. In the south was the state of Kizzuwatna, which was inhabited by a mixture of Hurrians and Luwians. The kingdom of Tarḫuntašša developed during the Hittite New Kingdom, in southern Anatolia. The kingdom of Wilusa was located in northwest Anatolia on the site of Troy. Whether any of these kingdoms represented a Luwian state cannot be clearly determined based on current evidence and is a matter of controversy in contemporary scholarship.

Between 1500-1400 BCE, the Old Kingdom declined but a new Hittite political entity was then established which is now known as the New Kingdom or the Hittite Empire (1400-1200 BCE). Any semblance of an autonomous Cilicia vanished as it became a vassal state of the Hittites. The greatest Hittite king of this period was Suppiluliuma I (r. c. 1344-1322 BCE) who expanded his territory and improved the kingdom’s infrastructure.

The city of Tarsus, a settlement already ancient by this time, was given its name by the Hittites. It was previously known as Tarsisi by the Akkadians, but the Hittites changed it to Tarsa in honor of one of their gods. The neighboring city of Adana (known as Uru Adaniyya) was also improved upon at this time.

In the earlier Hittite era (2nd millennium BC) the area was known as Kizzuwatna. The region was divided into two parts, Uru Adaniya (flat Cilicia), a well-watered plain, and “rough” Cilicia (Tarza), in the mountainous west.

There exists evidence that circa 1650 BC both Hittite kings Hattusili I and Mursili I enjoyed freedom of movement along the Pyramus River (now the Ceyhan River in southern Turkey), proving they exerted strong control over Cilicia in their battles with Syria.

After the death of Murshili around 1595 BC, Hurrians wrested control from the Hitties, and Cilicia was free for two centuries. The first king of free Cilicia, Išputahšu, son of Pariyawatri, was recorded as a “great king” in both cuneiform and Hittite hieroglyphs. Another record of Hittite origins, a treaty between Išputahšu and Telipinu, king of the Hittites, is recorded in both Hittite and Akkadian.

Cilicia was known as Kizzuwatna (also given as Kizzuwadna) under the Hittites. Tarsa was the capital city and Suppiluliuma I, through a series of campaigns and shrewd manipulations, consolidated Hittite control of a vast region stretching across Anatolia, up into Mesopotamia, and down toward Egypt.

Cilicia existed as a political entity from the Hittite era until the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, during the late Byzantine Empire. Still, some political autonomy seems to have survived as evidenced by a series of kings, beginning with Isputahsu (c. 15th century BCE), entering into treaties with the Hittites and Mitanni.

In the next century, Cilician king Pilliya finalized treaties with both King Zidanta II of the Hittites and Idrimi of Alalakh, in which Idrimi mentions that he had assaulted several military targets throughout Eastern Cilicia.

Niqmepa, who succeeded Idrimi as king of Alalakh, went so far as to ask for help from a Hurrian rival, Shaushtatar of Mitanni, to try and reduce Cilicia’s power in the region.

It was soon apparent, however, that increased Hittite power would soon prove Niqmepa’s efforts to be futile, as the city of Kizzuwatna soon fell to the Hittites, threatening all of Cilicia. Soon after, King Sunassura II was forced to accept vassalization under the Hittites, becoming the last king of ancient Cilicia.

Suppiluliuma I died of the plague in 1322 BCE and was succeeded by his son Mursilli II (r. 1321-1295 BCE) who continued his father’s policies. His successor, Muwatalli II (r. 1295-1272 BCE), did the same and is best known for his engagement with Ramesses II of Egypt at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE.

At this time, the Hittite Empire was among the most powerful of the ancient world, but the Assyrians were growing stronger and finally challenged Hittite authority, defeating them at the Battle of Nihriya c. 1245 BCE. After this engagement, Hittite power began to wane, and the empire’s fall was hastened by the arrival of the Sea Peoples who harassed the Mediterranean region c. 1276-1178 BCE.

In the 13th century BC a major population shift occurred as the Sea Peoples overran Cilicia. The Hurrians that resided there deserted the area and moved northeast towards the Taurus Mountains, where they settled in the area of Cappadocia.

After the collapse of the Hittite realm c. 1190 BC, several small principalities developed in northern Syria and southwestern Anatolia. In south-central Anatolia was Tabal which probably consisted of several small city-states, in Cilicia there was Quwê, in northern Syria was Gurgum, on the Euphrates there were Melid, Kummuh, Carchemish and (east of the river) Masuwara, while on the Orontes River there were Unqi-Pattin and Hamath.

The princes and traders of these kingdoms used Hieroglyphic Luwian in inscriptions, the latest of which date to the 8th century BC. The Karatepe Bilingual inscription of prince Azatiwada is particularly important. These states were largely destroyed and incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) during the 9th century BC.


Kizzuwatna was the Hittite and Luwian name for ancient Cilicia. It was the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC. It was situated in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, near the Gulf of İskenderun. It encircled the Taurus Mountains and the Ceyhan river. The center of the kingdom was the city of Kummanni, situated in the highlands. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia.

The country possessed valuable resources, such as silver mines in the Taurus Mountains. The slopes of the mountain range are still partly covered by woods. Annual winter rains made agriculture possible in the area at a very early date. The plains at the lower course of the Ceyhan river provided rich cultivated fields.

The area was conquered by the Hittites in the 16th century BC. Around 1500, the area broke off and became the kingdom of Kizzuwatna, whose ruler used the title of “Great King”, like the Hittite ruler. The Hittite king Telipinu had to conclude a treaty with King Išputaḫšu, which was renewed by his successors.

Under King Pilliya, Kizzuwatna became a vassal of the Mitanni. Around 1420, King Šunaššura of Mitanni renounced control of Kizzuwatna and concluded an alliance with the Hittite king Tudḫaliya I. Soon after this, the area seems to have been incorporated into the Hittite empire and remained so until its collapse around 1190 BC at the hands of Assyria and Phrygia.

King Sargon of Akkad claimed to have reached the Taurus Mountains (the silver mountains) in the 23rd century BC. However, archaeology has yet to confirm any Akkadian influence in the area. The trade routes from Assyria to the karum in the Anatolian highlands went through Kizzuwatna by the early 2nd millennium BC.

The kings of Kizzuwatna of the 2nd millennium BC had frequent contact with the Hittites to the north. The earliest Hittite records seem to refer to Kizzuwatna, in Ancient Egyptian Kode or Qode, and Arzawa (Western Anatolia) collectively as Luwia.

Several ethnic groups coexisted in the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna. The Hurrians inhabited this area at least since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Hittite expansion in the early Old Kingdom period (under Hattusili I and Mursili I) was likely to bring the Hittites and the Luwians to southeastern Anatolia.

The Luwian language was part of the Indo-European language group, with close ties to the Hittite language. Both the local Hittites and the Luwians were likely to contribute to the formation of independent Kizzuwatna after the weakening of the Hittite Old Kingdom.

The toponym Kizzuwatna is possibly a Luwian adaptation of Hittite *kez-udne ‘country on this side (of the mountains)’, while the name Isputahsu is definitely Hittite and not Luwian. Hurrian culture became more prominent in Kizzuwatna once it entered the sphere of influence of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, with whom they shared various degrees of kinship.

Their pantheon was also integrated into the Hittite one, and the goddess Hebat of Kizzuwatna became very important in Hittite religion towards the end of the 13th century BC. A corpus of religious texts called the Kizzuwatna rituals, believed to be at present the earliest Indo-European ritual corpus discovered to date, was discovered at Hattusa.

In the power struggle that arose between the Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, Kizzuwatna became a strategic partner due to its location. Isputahsu made a treaty with the Hittite king Telepinu. Later, Kizzuwatna shifted its allegiance, perhaps due to a new ruling dynasty.

The city state of Alalakh to the south expanded under its new vigorous leader Idrimi, himself a subject of the Mitannian king Barattarna. King Pilliya of Kizzuwatna had to sign a treaty with Idrimi. Kizzuwatna became an ally of Mitanni from the reign of Shunashura I, until the Hittite king Arnuwanda I overran the country and made it a vassal kingdom.

Due to the exceedingly rough and unfavorable terrain of the Tarsus Mountains, it is likely that in order to remain in a position of prominence among their Hurrian and Luwian speaking neighbors, favorable terms were requested by the Kizzuwanta and subsequently granted.

Kizzuwatna rebelled during the reign of Suppiluliuma I, but remained within the Hittite empire for two hundred years. In the famous Battle of Kadesh (c. 1274 BC), Kizzuwatna supplied troops to the Hittite king. As master equestrians, some of the first in the areas south of the Caucasus region, they provided the horses, later favored by King Solomon, which allowed the more aggressive use of the Hittite chariot in contrast to their Egyptian and Assyrian rivals.

The Kizzuwatna were master craftsman, mining experts and blacksmiths. Being the first to work “black iron” which is understood to have been iron of meteoric origin, into weapons such as maces, swords and warheads for spears. Their location in the mineral rich Tarsus Range gave them ample materials with which to work.

Around 1200 BC an invasion by the Sea Peoples is believed to have temporarily displaced the people of the Cilician plain, though many among the entourage of said peoples were likely to have been composed of Luwian and Hurrians. Possibly to ensure that they had a stake in how the invasions ended for their people, and not be simple victims of them.

After the fall of the Hittite empire, the Neo-Hittite kingdom Quwe (also spelled Que, Kue, Qeve, Coa, Kuê and Keveh) or Hiyawa emerged in the area of former Kizzuwatna. The same state is known as Hume from Babylonian sources. In Luwian the region of Cilicia was known as ‘Hiyawa’.


Arzawa was the name of a region and a political entity (a “kingdom” or a federation of local powers) in Western Anatolia in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC (roughly from the late 15th century BC until the beginning of the 12th century BC). The core of Arzawa is believed to be along the Kaystros River (now known as Küçük Menderes River), with its capital at Apasa, later known as Ephesus.

When the Hittites conquered Arzawa it was divided into three Hittite provinces: a southern province called Mira along the Maeander River, which would later become known as Caria; a northern province called the Seha River Land, along the Gediz River, which would later become known as Lydia; and an eastern province called Hapalla.

Arzawa is already attested in the time of the Hittite Old Kingdom, but lay outside the Hittite realm at that time. The first hostile interaction occurred under King Tudḫaliya I or Tudḫaliya II.

The invasion of the Hittite realm by the Kaskians led to the decline of Hittite power and the expansion of Arzawa, whose king Tarḫuntaradu was asked by Pharaoh Amenhotep III to send one of his daughters to him as a wife. After a long period of warfare, the Arzawan capital of Apaša (Ephesus) was surrendered by King Uḫḫaziti to the Hittites under King Muršili II. Arzawa was split into two vassal states: Mira [de] and Ḫapalla.

Arzawa succeeded the Assuwa league, a confederation (or league) of 22 ancient Anatolian states which also included parts of western Anatolia that formed some time before 1400 BC, when it was defeated by the Hittite Empire, under Tudhaliya I.

Arzawa was the western neighbour and rival of the Middle and New Hittite Kingdoms. On the other hand, it was in close contact with the Ahhiyawa of the Hittite texts, which corresponds to the Achaeans of Mycenaean Greece. Moreover, Achaeans and Arzawa formed a coalition against the Hittites in various periods.


The center of Kizzuwatna was the city of Kummanni (Hittite: Kummiya). Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Comana in Cappadocia. Recent research make a location in Plain Cilicia more likely, presumably at Sirkeli Höyük.

Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.”The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kisuatni in Assyrian records.

It was located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia. It was located in the east of Que, the successor of Kizzuwatna. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia. The town should not be confused with Kumme, a holy city for Assyrians and Urarteans, located in the highlands between Assyria and Urartu. 

The three chief deities in the Urartian pantheon were “the god of Ardini, the god of Kumenu, and the god of Tushpa.” Kumme was still considered a holy city in Assyrian times, both in Assyria and in Urartu]. Adad-nirari II, after re-conquering the city, made sacrifices to “Adad of Kumme.”

Theispas (also known as Teisheba or Teišeba) of Kumenu was the Araratian (Urartian) weather-god, notably the god of storms and thunder. He was also sometimes the god of war. He formed part of a triad along with Khaldi and Shivini. The ancient Araratian cities of Teyseba and Teishebaini were named after Theispas.

He is a counterpart to the Assyrian god Adad, the Vedic God Indra, and the Hurrian god, Teshub. He was often depicted as a man standing on a bull, holding a handful of thunderbolts. His wife was the goddess Huba, who was the counterpart of the Hurrian goddess Hebat.

Lawazantiya was the cultic city of the goddess Šauška and mentioned in Old-Assyrian documents as Luhuzantiya. In Hittite texts the city is known as Lawazantiya, in Ugarit as Lwsnd and in Assyrian Annals as Lusanda.

The earliest mention of the city comes from the Old Assyrian documents as a trading colony in Kaniš, where the place Luḫuzatia is often mentioned. Gojko Barjamovic considers Luḫuzatia and Lawazantiya to be two separate localities, with the former locating in Elbistan. Meanwhile Lawazantiya might be located at Sirkeli Höyük.


Quwê was a Syro-Hittite Assyrian vassal state or province at various times from the 9th century BCE to shortly after the death of Ashurbanipal around 627 BCE in the lowlands of eastern Cilicia, and the name of its capital city, tentatively identified with Adana.

The name Que reflects the Assyrian transmission of the indigenous name Hiyawa. The question whether the toponym Hiyawa is related to Ahhiyawa, the Hittite designation of Mycenaean Greeks, is at present hotly debated.

The principal argument in favour of a Greek migration into Cilicia at the end of the Bronze Age is the mention of Muksa/Mopsos as the founder of the local dynasty in indigenous Luwian and Phoenician inscriptions. According to many translations of the Bible, Quwê was the place from which King Solomon obtained horses. (I Kings 10: 28, 29; II Chron. 1:16)

The Çineköy inscription is a Hieroglyphic Luwian-Phoenician bilingual inscription, uncovered in 1997 in Çineköy, Adana Province, Turkey (ancient Cilicia). The village of Çineköy lies 30 km south of Adana. The inscription is dated to the 8th century BC.

Another important inscription of the same type is known as the Karatepe inscription, also known as the Azatiwada inscription, a bilingual inscription on stone slabs consisting of Phoenician and Luwian text each, which enabled the decryption of the Anatolian hieroglyphs.

Both of these inscriptions trace the kings of ancient Adana from the “house of Mopsos” (given in Hieroglyphic Luwian as Muksa and in Phoenician as Mopsos in the form mps). He was a legendary king of antiquity.

The object on which the inscription is found is a monument to the Storm God Tarhunza. In this monumental inscription, Urikki made reference to the relationship between his kingdom and his Assyrian overlords. The inscription was authored by the man known as Urikki in Assyrian texts, which is equivalent to War(a)ika in Luwian.

The question whether it is the same person as Awar(i)ku of the Karatepe inscription or a different one remains debatable. He was the vassal king of Quwê (Assyrian name), the modern Cilicia. In Luwian this region was known as ‘Hiyawa’.

The Çineköy inscription was the subject of a 2006 paper published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, in which the author, Robert Rollinger, lends support to the age-old debate of the name “Syria” being derived from “Assyria”. The Luwian inscription reads “Sura/i” whereas the Phoenician translation reads ’ŠR or “Ashur” which, according to Rollinger (2006), “settles the problem once and for all”.

Names similar to Mopsos, whether Greek or Anatolian, are also attested in Near Eastern languages. Since the discovery of a bilingual Hieroglyphic Luwian-Phoenician inscription in Karatepe (in Cilicia) in 1946-7, it has been conjectured that Mopsos was a historical person.

The inscription is dated to c. 700 BC, and the person speaking in it, ’-z-t-w-d (Phoenician) / Azatiwada (Luwian), professes to be king of the d-n-n-y-m / Hiyawa, and describes his dynasty as “the house of M-p-š / Muksa”. Apparently, he is a descendant of Mopsus.

The relationship between the earlier form Muksa, preserved in Luwian treansmission, and the later form M-p-š / Mopsos, preserved in Phoenician transmission, is indicative of the evolution of Greek labiovelars and can hardly be explained otherwise.

The Phoenician name of the people recalls one of the Homeric names of the Greeks, Danaoi with the -m plural, whereas the Luwian name Hiyawa probably goes back to Hittite Ahhiyā(wa), which is, according to most interpretations, the “Achaean”, or Mycenaean Greek, settlement in Asia Minor. Ancient Greek authors ascribe a central role to Mopsus in the colonization of Pamphylia.

A 13th-century date for the historical Mopsus may be confirmed by a Hittite tablet from Boğazkale which mentions a person called Mukšuš in connection with Madduwattaš of Arzawa and Attarsiya of Ahhiyā. This text is dated to the reign of Arnuwandaš III.

Therefore, some scholars associate Mopsus’ activities along the coast of Asia Minor and the Levant with the Sea Peoples’ attacking Egypt in the beginning of the 12th century BC, one of those peoples being the Denyen—comparable to the d-n-n-y-m of the Karatepe inscription. The Sea People identification is, however, questioned by other scholars.

The name of the king erecting the Karatepe inscription, Azatiwada, is probably related to the toponym Aspendos, the name of a city in Pamphylia founded by the Argives according to Strabo. The name of the city is written Estwediius on coins of the 5th century BC. Presumably, it was an earlier Azatiwada, the ancestor of our king, that gave his name to the city.

The name does not appear to be Greek of origin (= Luwian “Lover of the Sun God [Wa(n)da]”?, or “Sun-god (Tiwad) love (him)”, according to a more recent interpretation). The ethnicity of Mopsus himself is not clear: The fragmentary Lydian historiographer Xanthus made him a Lydian campaigning in Phoenicia.

If the transmission of Nicolaus of Damascus, who quotes him, is believable, Xanthus wrote the name with -ks-, like in the Hittite and Luwian texts. Given that Lydian also belongs to the Anatolian language family, it is possible that Xanthus relied on a local non-Greek tradition according to which Mukšuš was a Luwian.

The name Mopsus or Mopsos is also mentioned in the more recently discovered Çineköy inscription. This is also a Hieroglyphic Luwian-Phoenician bilingual inscription, similar to the Karatepe inscription.

Cilician History

The identity of the Sea Peoples is still debated, and even the name they may have called themselves is unknown. “Sea Peoples” is a modern designation coined in c. 1881 CE by the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero because ancient inscriptions describe them as coming “from the sea”.

Various scholars have suggested they were Etruscans, Trojans, Myceneans, Libyans, or Minoans, or a coalition of some or all, but most scholars either include or define them primarily as Philistines.

The Sea Peoples are best known from the inscriptions of the Egyptian pharaohs Ramesses II (r. 1279-1213 BCE), Merenptah (r. 1213-1203 BCE), and Ramesses III (r. 1186-1155 BCE), and all three describe them as a coalition which came from the sea, struck suddenly, and caused severe damage.

The scholar William H. Stiebing Jr. claims that they may have been Cilicians as one of the ethnicities included in ancient descriptions is the Danuna whom Stiebing claims were most likely from the city of Adana (224).

If so, the Danuna could be considered early Cilician pirates. The Sea Peoples destabilized the region and toppled the already weakened Hittite Empire, eventually allowing the Assyrians to take the region with relative ease.

Under the Assyrians, the eastern fertile plains of Cilicia were called Qu’e, and the western region Hilikku, which provided the basis for the later Greek name Kilikia which was then rendered as Cilicia.

In the ninth century BC it became part of Assyria and remained so until the late seventh century BC. The Cilicians appear as Hilikku in Assyrian inscriptions, and in the early part of the first millennium BC were one of the four chief powers of Western Asia.

The Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III (r. 745-727 BCE) established the capital at Adana through a governorship but, as with the Akkadian Empire, the Assyrian hold over Cilicia was never firm, and it slipped from their grasp shortly after the death of Sargon II in 705 BCE.

Around this time, the king Muksa (better known as Mopsus, 8th century BCE) ruled from Adana but the region would not remain independent for long as Qu’e was retaken by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (r. 681-669 BCE) who left Hilikku to anyone who cared to live there. The Assyrians retained control of the region until 612 BCE when their empire collapsed under the invading coalition of Babylonians and Medes.

In the 8th century BC, the region was unified under the rule of the dynasty of Mukšuš, whom the Greeks rendered Mopso and credited as the founder of Mopsuestia, though the capital was Adana. Mopsuestia’s multicultural character is reflected in the bilingual inscriptions of the ninth and eighth centuries, written both in Indo-European hieroglyphic Luwian and West Semitic Phoenician.

Cilicians could manage to protect themselves from Assyrian domination and with the dissolution of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 612BC, they had established their fully independent kingdom. As being at a geography that is strategically significant, Cilicians could manage to expand their kingdom as north as Halys River in a short period.

Peace Making

With the expansions, Cilician Kingdom became as strong as Babylonia, one of the powerhouses of the time. In 585BC, Herodotus praised Cilician king Syennesis I, the founder of the kingdom, for his efforts in leading negotiations in ending the 5 years’ war between Lydia and Median Kingdom.

War broke out between the two countries and continued for five years, during which both the Lydians and Medes won a number of victories. On one occasion they had an unexpected battle in the dark, an event which occurred after five years of indecisive warfare. The two armies had already engaged and the fight was in progress, when the day was suddenly turned into night. […]

Both Lydians and Medes broke off the engagement when they saw this darkening of the day; they were more anxious than they had been to conclude peace, and a reconciliation was brought about by Syennesis, a Cilician, and Labynetus of Babylon, who were the men responsible both for the pact to keep the peace and for the exchange of marriages between the two kingdoms.

They persuaded Alyattes to give his daughter Aryenis to Astyages, son of Cyaxares – knowing that treaties seldom remain intact without powerful sanctions. Peaceful governance conducted by the Syennesis dynasty, not only kept the kingdom survive, also prevented Achaemenid Empire to attacks Lydians, after Achaemenid invasions of Median lands.

Achaemenid Empire

Appuašu, the son of Syennessis, defended the country against the Babylonian king Neriglissar campaign, whose army reached Cilicia and crossed the Taurus mountain range. The Achaemenids, however, could manage to defeat Lydians, thus Appuašu had to recognize the authority of the Persians in 549BBC to keep the local administration with the Cilicians. Cilicia became an autonomous satrapy under the reign of Cyrus II.

Cilicians were independent in their internal affairs and kept this autonomy for almost 150 years. In 401, Syennesis III and his wife Epyaxa supported the revolt of Cyrus the Younger against his brother Artaxerxes II Mnemon.

This was sound policy, because otherwise, Cilicia would have been looted by the rebel army. However, after the defeat of Cyrus at Cunaxa, Syennesis’ position was difficult. Most scholars assume that this behavior marked the end of the independence of Cilicia. After 400, it became a normal satrapy.

Under the Persian empire Cilicia (in Old Persian: Karka) was apparently governed by tributary native kings who bore a Hellenized name or the title of “Syennesis”, but it was officially included in the fourth satrapy by Darius. Xenophon found a queen in power, and no opposition was offered to the march of Cyrus the Younger.

The great highway from the west existed before Cyrus conquered Cilicia. On its long rough descent from the Anatolian plateau to Tarsus, it ran through the narrow pass between walls of rock called the Cilician Gates.

After crossing the low hills east of the Pyramus it passed through a masonry (Cilician) gate, Demir Kapu, and entered the plain of Issus. From that plain one road ran southward through another masonry (Syrian) gate to Alexandretta, and thence crossed Mt. Amanus by the Syrian Gate, Beilan Pass, eventually to Antioch and Syria.

Another road ran northwards through a masonry (Armenian) gate, south of Toprak Kale, and crossed Mt. Amanus by the Armenian Gate, Baghche Pass, to northern Syria and the Euphrates. By the last pass, which was apparently unknown to Alexander, Darius crossed the mountains prior to the battle of Issus. Both passes are short and easy and connect Cilicia Pedias geographically and politically with Syria rather than with Anatolia.

Alexander the Great

Alexander forded the Halys River in the summer of 333 BC, ending up on the border of southeastern Phrygia and Cilicia. He knew well the writings of Xenophon, and how the Cilician Gates had been “impassable if obstructed by the enemy”.

Alexander reasoned that by force alone he could frighten the defenders and break through, and he gathered his men to do so. In the cover of night they attacked, startling the guards and sending them and their satrap into full flight, setting their crops aflame as they made for Tarsus. This good fortune allowed Alexander and his army to pass unharmed through the Gates and into Cilicia.

After Alexander’s death it was long a battleground of rival Hellenistic monarchs and kingdoms, and for a time fell under Ptolemaic dominion (i.e., Egypt), but finally came to the Seleucids, who, however, never held effectually more than the eastern half. During the Hellenistic era, numerous cities were established in Cilicia, which minted coins showing the badges (gods, animals and objects) associated with each polis.

Roman Empire

Cilicia Trachea became the haunt of pirates, who were subdued by Pompey in 67 BC following a Battle of Korakesion (modern Alanya), and Tarsus was made the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia.

Cilicia Pedias became Roman territory in 103 BC first conquered by Marcus Antonius Orator in his campaign against pirates, with Sulla acting as its first governor, foiling an invasion of Mithridates, and the whole was organized by Pompey, 64 BC, into a province which, for a short time, extended to and included part of Phrygia.

It was reorganized by Julius Caesar, 47 BC, and about 27 BC became part of the province Syria-Cilicia Phoenice. At first the western district was left independent under native kings or priest-dynasts, and a small kingdom, under Tarcondimotus I, was left in the east; but these were finally united to the province by Vespasian, AD 72. Containing 47 known cities, it had been deemed important enough to be governed by a proconsul.

Under Emperor Diocletian’s Tetrarchy (c. 297), Cilicia was governed by a consularis; with Isauria and the Syrian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Libyan provinces, formed the Diocesis Orientis. In the late 4th century the African component was split off as Diocese of Egypt. Part of the pretorian prefecture, also called Oriens (‘the East’), included the dioceses of Asiana and Pontica, both in Anatolia, and Thraciae in the Balkans.

Roman Cilicia exported the goats-hair cloth, Cilicium, which was used to make tents. Tarsus was also the birthplace of the early Christian missionary and author St. Paul, writer (or purported writer) of 13 of the 27 books included in the New Testament.

Cilicia had numerous Christian communities and is mentioned six times in the Book of Acts and once in the Epistle to the Galatians (1:21). After Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Cilicia was included in the territories of the patriarchate of Antioch.

The region was divided into two civil and ecclesiastical provinces: Cilicia Prima, with a metropolitan diocese at Tarsus and suffragan dioceses for Pompeiopolis, Sebaste, Augusta, Corycus, Adana, Mallus and Zephyrium; and Cilicia Secunda, with a metropolitan diocese at Anazarbus and suffragan dioceses for Mopsuestia, Aegae, Epiphania, Irenopolis, Flavias, Castabala, Alexandria, Citidiopolis and Rhosus.

Bishops from the various dioceses of Cilicia were well represented at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and at the later ecumenical councils. After the division of the Roman Empire, Cilicia became part of the eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire.

Arabic Conquest

In the 7th century Cilicia was invaded by the Muslim Arabs. The area was for some time an embattled no-man’s land. The Arabs succeeded in conquering the area in the early 8th century. During what is called the Rashidun Caliphate, the first of the four major caliphates established after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a large part of the area was called “Ath-Thugur As-Shamiyya” meaning the Levantine outskirts.

The Rashidun Caliphate was ruled by the first four successive caliphs (successors) of Muhammad after his death in 632 CE. These caliphs are collectively known in Sunni Islam as the Rashidun, or “Rightly Guided” caliphs. This term is not widely used in Shia Islam as Shia Muslims do not consider the rule of the first three caliphs as legitimate.

Under the Abbasid Caliphate, Cilicia was resettled and transformed into a fortified frontier zone (thughur). Tarsus, re-built in 787/788, quickly became the largest settlement in the region and the Arabs’ most important base in their raids across the Taurus Mountains into Byzantine-held Anatolia.

The Muslims held the country until it was reoccupied by the Emperor Nicephorus II in 965. From this period onward, the area increasingly came to be settled by Armenians, especially as Imperial rule pushed deeper into the Caucasus over the course of the 11th century.

Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

The Seljuk Turkish invasions of Armenia were followed by an exodus of Armenians migrating westward into the Byzantine Empire, and in 1080 Ruben, a relative of the last king of Ani, founded in the heart of the Cilician Taurus a small principality which gradually expanded into the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, also known as Cilician Armenia, Lesser Armenia, or New Armenia, and formerly known as the Armenian Principality of Cilicia, was an Armenian state formed during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia.

Located outside the Armenian Highlands and distinct from the Kingdom of Armenia of antiquity, it was centered in the Cilicia region northwest of the Gulf of Alexandretta.

The kingdom had its origins in the principality founded c. 1080 by the Rubenid dynasty, an alleged offshoot of the larger Bagratid family, which at various times had held the throne of Armenia. Their capital was originally at Tarsus, and later became Sis.

During the time of the First Crusade, the area was controlled by the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. This Christian state, surrounded by Muslim states hostile to its existence, had a stormy history of about 300 years, giving valuable support to the Crusaders, and trading with the great commercial cities of Italy.

Cilicia was a strong ally of the European Crusaders, and saw itself as a bastion of Christendom in the East. It also served as a focus for Armenian nationalism and culture, since Armenia proper was under foreign occupation at the time.

Cilicia’s significance in Armenian history and statehood is also attested by the transfer of the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, spiritual leader of the Armenian people, to the region. In 1198, with the crowning of Leo the Magnificent of the Rubenid dynasty, Cilician Armenia became a kingdom.

It prospered for three centuries due to the vast network of fortifications which secured all the major roads as well as the three principal harbours at Ayas, Koŕikos, and Mopsuestia.

Through their complex alliances with the Crusader states the Armenian barons and kings often invited the Crusaders to maintain castles in and along the borders of the Kingdom, including Bagras, Trapessac, T‛il Hamtun, Harunia, Selefkia, Amouda, and Sarvandikar.

Gosdantin (r. 1095 – c. 1100) assisted the crusaders on their march to Antioch, and was created knight and marquis. Thoros I (r. c. 1100 – 1129), in alliance with the Christian princes of Syria, waged successful wars against the Byzantines and Seljuk Turks.

Levon II (Leo the Great (r. 1187–1219)), extended the kingdom beyond Mount Taurus and established the capital at Sis. He assisted the crusaders, was crowned King by the Archbishop of Mainz, and married one of the Lusignans of the crusader kingdom Cyprus.

Hetoum I (r. 1226–1270) made an alliance with the Mongols, sending his brother Sempad to the Mongol court in person. The Mongols then assisted with the defense of Cilicia from the Mamluks of Egypt, until the Mongols themselves converted to Islam. When Levon V died (1342), John of Lusignan was crowned king as Gosdantin IV; but he and his successors alienated the native Armenians by attempting to make them conform to the Roman Church, and by giving all posts of honor to Latins, until at last the kingdom, falling prey to internal dissensions, ceded Cilia Pedias to Ramadanid-supported Mamluk Sultanate in 1375. Karamanid Principality one of the Turkmen Anatolian beyliks emerged after the collapse of the Anatolian Seljuks took over the rule of Cilicia Thracea.

In 1226, the crown was passed to rival Hethumids through Leo’s daughter Isabella’s second husband, Hethum I. As the Mongols conquered vast regions of Central Asia and the Middle East, Hethum and succeeding Hethumid rulers sought to create an Armeno-Mongol alliance against common Muslim foes, most notably the Mamluks.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Crusader states and the Mongol Ilkhanate disintegrated, leaving the Armenian Kingdom without any regional allies. After relentless attacks by the Mamluks in Egypt in the fourteenth century, the Cilician Armenia of the Lusignan dynasty, mired in an internal religious conflict, finally fell in 1375.

Commercial and military interactions with Europeans brought new Western influences to the Cilician Armenian society. Many aspects of Western European life were adopted by the nobility including chivalry, fashions in clothing, and the use of French titles, names, and language. Moreover, the organization of the Cilician society shifted from its traditional system to become closer to Western feudalism.

The European Crusaders themselves borrowed know-how, such as elements of Armenian castle-building and church architecture. Cilician Armenia thrived economically, with the port of Ayas serving as a center for East-West trade.

Queen Isabella

The Hethumids, also known as the House of Lampron (after Lampron castle), were the rulers of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from 1226 to 1373. Hethum I, the first of the Hethumids, came to power when he married Queen Isabella of Armenia (Armenian: Զապել, romanized: Zabel), also Isabel (1216/1217-1252), the only child of King Leo I by his second wife, Sybilla of Cyprus.

Isabella was betrothed to Andrew, the third son of King Andrew II of Hungary in 1218, but the betrothal was later broken in favor of a more advantageous Russian marriage for her bridegroom.

King Leo I died on May, 1219. On his death-bed, he named Isabella as his heir; and released the barons from their oath of allegiance to his great-nephew, Raymond-Roupen. But the claim of his five-year-old daughter was contested by Raymond-Roupen and by John of Brienne.

Isabella emerged as the favourite of the ruling Armenian nobles and thus she was proclaimed queen by acclamation and placed under the regency of Adam of Baghras. Adam of Baghras, however, was murdered after a few months; and the regency passed to the only remaining influential Armenian house, that of the Hethumian family, whose head was Constantine of Barbaron.

John of Brienne’s claim was based on his marriage to Leo I’s older daughter Rita (Stephanie). Pope Honorius III recognized John of Brienne’s claim that his wife or her son should succeed.

John of Brienne received the Pope’s permission to leave the Crusade and visit Cilician Armenia in February, 1220. However, as he prepared to sail for Cilicia his Armenian wife died; and when their small son died a few weeks later, he had no further claim on the Armenian throne.

At this juncture, Raymond-Roupen, grandson of Roupen III (the elder brother of Isabella’s father, King Leo I) set up a claim to the throne of Cilicia. He laid claim to the throne by virtue of lineage through his mother Alice, the niece of King Leo I. Moreover, he had long been considered as King Leo I’s heir.

He approached the crusaders at Damietta in 1219 for support in claiming Cilician Armenia, and was able to return in 1221 with some of them and promises from the Papal legate Pelagius.

He found some Armenian support in and around Tarsus, notably Vahram, the castellan of Corycus. Together they conquered from Tarsus to Adana, but then met reverses and were forced to retire to Tarsus where he was captured and ended his days in prison in 1222; his infant daughters retired with their mother to Cyprus.

This event left Isabella the sole and largely incontestable heir to her father’s throne. Cilician Armenia, weakened by wars and in need of strong ally, found a temporary solution in a tie with the Principality of Antioch: the regent suggested that Prince Bohemond IV should send his fourth son, Philip, to marry Isabella, insisting only that the bridegroom should join the separated Armenian Church.

Constantine of Barbaron was soon convinced to seek an alliance with Prince Bohemond IV of Antioch, and he arranged a marriage between the young princess and Philip, a son of Bohemond IV.

Philip, however, offended the Armenians’ sensibilities, and even despoiled the royal palace, sending the royal crown to Antioch; therefore, he was confined in a prison in Sis (now Kozan in Turkey), where he died, presumably poisoned.

Philip agreed to adopt the Armenian faith, communion and customs and to respect the privileges of all nations in Cilician Armenia. Philip married Isabella at Sis in June 1222 and was accepted as king.

The joint rule of Isabella and Philip was brief; Philip’s disdain for the Armenian ritual, which he had promised to respect, and his marked favoritism to the Latin barons angered the Armenian nobility. Philip spent as much time as possible in Antioch.

When it was rumored that Philip wanted to give the crown and throne to Antioch, Constantine of Barbaron led a revolt at the end of 1224. Philip and Isabella were seized at Tall Hamdun (today Toprakkale in Turkey) on their way to Antioch and taken back to Sis, where Philip was imprisoned and probably poisoned at the beginning of 1225.

On the death of her husband, Isabella decided to embrace monastic life and fled to Silifke Castle. She sought refuge with the Hospitallers. The latter were unwilling to give her up to Constantine of Barbaron, but feared the powerful regent; they eased their conscience by selling him the fortress with Isabella in it.

Bohemond IV, in anger, was determined on war, although such a conflict had been expressly forbidden by the pope as harmful for all Christendom. Bohemond IV called in as ally the sultan at Iconium, Kai-Qobad I, and ravaged upper Cilicia in 1225. Constantine of Barbaron arranged for the regent of Aleppo, Toghril, to advance on Antioch. When the latter attacked Baghras, Bohemond IV had to return to his own lands.

Isabella was forced into marriage with Constantine of Barbaron’s son who was subsequently crowned King Hetum I in Tarsus in June 1226. She is said to have refused to consummate the marriage for several years.

The unhappy young Isabella was forced to marry Constantine of Barbaron’s son, Hethum; although for many years she refused to live with him, but in the end she relented. She was queen regnant of Armenian Cilicia from 1219 until her death.

The apparent unification in marriage of the two principal dynastic forces of Cilicia (i.e., the Roupenids and the Hethumids) ended a century of dynastic and territorial rivalry and brought the Hethumids to the forefront of political dominance in Cilician Armenia.

According to Smbat Sparapet: Chronicle: In the year 675 AE /1226/ the Armenian princes, together with the Catholicos, Lord Constantine, assembled and enthroned Hethum, son of Constantine, bailli of the Armenians, and also gave him /as a wife/ Isabel, King Leo’s daughter. Thereafter there was peace in the House of the Armenians, and year by year they strived for the heights.

Constantine of Barbaron now thought it wise to reconcile Armenia with the Papacy: loyal messengers were sent in the name of the young couple to the Pope and to the Emperor Frederick II.

Although Bohemond IV and later his son, Bohemond V attempted to persuade the Pope to arrange a divorce between Isabella and Hethum, but both he and King Henry I of Cyprus were specifically forbidden by Rome to attack the Armenians. The marriage was legalized by Rome in 1237.

There is evidence that Isabella shared a degree of royal power, for we learn from several sources that she co-signed with her husband an official deed transferring to the Knights of the Teutonic Order the strategic castle and town of Haronie.

Leo I, King of Armenia

1080 Rupenian Principality established in Cilicia

Roupen I 1080 – 1095
Gostandin I 1095 – 1099

Cilician Armenians assists First Crusade 1098-1099

Toros I 1100 – 1129
Prince Levon I 1129 – 1138

Byzantine occupation 1138 – 1144

Toros II 1145 – 1167

Second Crusade 1147 – 1149

Louis VII of France, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Emperor Conrad III 

Roupen II 1167 – 1169
Mleh 1169 – 1174
Roupen II 1174 – 1187

Roupenian Dynasty

Levon II Prince 1187 – 1198
Levon I King 1199 – 1219

Third Crusade passes through Cilician Armenia 1189-1192

Queen Zabel 1219 – 1222
Philip of Antioch 1222 – 1225

Hetoumian Dynasty

Hetoum I 1226 – 1270

Hetoum I visits Mangu Khan at Karakorum 1253-1256

Mamluk Raid Cilicia 1266-1269

Levon II 1270 – 1289

Mamluk Raid of Cilicia 1272

Hetoum II 1289 – 1293 / 1295 – 1296 / 1299 – 1306
Toros (Prince & Regent) 1293 – 1295
Smpad 1296 – 1298
Gosdantin II 1298 – 1299
Levon III 1301 – 1307 (Co-ruler from 1301-1306)

Mamluk Raid of Cilicia 1301
Hetoum II and Levon III killed by Mongol general Pilarghou 1307

Oshin 1307 – 1320

Defeat of the Mamluk at Ayas 1320

Levon IV 1320 – 1342

Lusignan Dynasty

Guy Lusignan (Gosdantin II) 1342 – 1344

Neghirian Dynasty

Gosdantin III 1344 – 1363

Mamluks capture Adana and Tarsus and devastate Sis 1360

Levon the Usurper 1363-1365
Gosdantin IV 1365-1373

Lusignan Dynasty

Levon V Lusignan 1374-1375

Cilician Armenia conquered by Mamluk 1375 – End of kingdom

Turkish Migration

Cilicia were part of the Seljuqs for a short time around the turn of the 11th century, thus were not effected from Sunni tariqa expansionism of the 13th century. Yüreğir Turks moved to Cilicia in the late 14th century, and had a distinct culture that influenced from Bektashi traditions which accompanied Shamanic rituals with Islam.

The region was continued to be called Cilicia internationally, during the Ramadanid Emirate, an autonomous administration and a de facto independent beylik that existed from 1352 to 1608 in Cilicia, taking over the rule of the region from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

The emirate were a protectorate of Mamluk Sultanate up until the end of 14th century, then they were de facto independent for more than a century, and then from 1517, were a protectorate of Ottoman Empire.

After World War I, Cilicia again appeared as a political entity during the three years’ of French rule. The name was unused after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, together with other regional names like Cappadocia and Lycia. It has been getting attention in the last few decades, as Cilicia has now been used in many brand names in the Adana and Mersin provinces. 

Cilicia (Encyclopedia)





Kingdom of Cilicia (ancient)

Cilicia (satrapy)

Cilicia (Roman province)

Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

Ramadanid Emirate

Adana Vilayet

Armistice of Mudros


Nakhchivan is a landlocked exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The region are bordering Armenia to the east and north, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest. It is an autonomous area of Azerbaijan, governed by its own elected legislature. The region continues to suffer from the effects of the Armenia-Azerbaijan War, and its Karki exclave has been a part of Armenia ever since.

Variations of the name Nakhchivan include Nakhichevan, Naxcivan, Naxçivan, Nachidsheuan, Nakhijevan, Nakhchawan, Nakhitchevan, Nakhjavan, and Nakhdjevan. Nakhchivan is mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geography and by other classical writers as “Naxuana”.

The 19th-century language scholar Johann Heinrich Hübschmann wrote that the name “Nakhichavan” in Armenian literally means “the place of descent”, a Biblical reference to the descent of Noah’s Ark on the adjacent Mount Ararat. Armenian tradition says that Nakhchivan was founded by Noah.

First century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also wrote about Nakhichevan, saying that its original name “Αποβατηριον, or Place of Descent, is the proper rendering of the Armenian name of this very city”.

Hübschmann noted, however, that it was not known by that name in antiquity, and that the present-day name evolved to “Nakhchivan” from “Naxčawan”. The prefix “Naxč” derives from Naxič or Naxuč (probably a personal name) and “awan” (the modern transcription of Hübschmann’s “avan”) is Armenian for “place, town”.

According to Armenian tradition, Noah’s tomb is located in the town of Nakhchivan. The Tomb of prophet Noah or Noah’s Mausoleum is a mausoleum in the city of Nakhchivan. Architecture of the construction is dated from the 8th century. 19th century Russian and European sources such as the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary and John Foster Fraser noted that the local Armenians considered it a holy place.

The current mausoleum was built in 2006. The tomb consists of remains of the lower storey of a former temple. There is a ladder leading to a burial vault. There is a stone column in the middle of the vault. According to legend, relics of Noah are under this column. A portrait describing the mausoleum of Noah 100 years ago painted by Bahruz Kangarli is saved in the National Art Museum of Azerbaijan.


Early History

The oldest material culture artifacts found in the region date back to the Neolithic Age. On the other hand, Azerbaijani archaeologists have found that the history of Nakhchivan dates back to the Stone Age (Paleolithic).

As a result of archaeological diggings, archaeologists discovered a great number of Stone-Age materials in different regions of Nakhchivan. These materials were useful to study the Paleolithic age in Azerbaijan.

Pollen analysis conducted in Gazma Cave (Sharur District) suggests that humans in the Middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian) lived not only in the mountain forests but also in the dry woodlands found in Nakhchivan.

Several archeological sites from the dating from the Neolithic have also been found in Nakhchivan, including the ancient town of Ovchular Tepesi, a settlement from the 5th-3rd millenniums BC, which also includes some of the oldest salt mines in the world.

The very early Kura-Araxes culture flourished in Nakhchivan before spreading to many other areas, as far as Israel. Recent excavations at Ovcular Tepesi allow the dating of the initial stage of formation of Kura-Araxes culture to 4200–3400 BC.

This region reveals the genesis and chronology of this Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age culture. Kültəpə is an important early Chalcolithic site in Nakhchivan. Another such site is Makhta Kultepe. Soviet scientists decided that Kultepe is the place where the first items made of copper-arsenic alloys, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, were found in the South Caucasus.

Alikemek-Tepesi is an ancient settlement located in Jalilabad District (Azerbaijan), in the Mugan plain along the Aras (river), belonging to the Chalcolithic period, dating to c. 5000 BC. Early levels belonged to the Shulaveri-Shomu culture.

Materials from this site are very close to the materials obtained from monuments of northwestern Iran (Dalma ware). The artifacts of the lower level are similar to those at Kültəpə I in Nakhchivan. In the upper levels, there is also pottery of the northern Ubaid period type.

Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southeastern Caucasus, that followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods (c. 4500 BC).

According to A. Courcier: “Situated respectively at the border of the Mugan Steppe and in Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), the settlements of Alikemek and Kul’tepe I were excavated in the 1950s–1970s and are not dated with certainty.

They probably represent a relatively long period and occupation seems to have started early (probably during the sixth millennium BCE). They covered the Ararat Plain, Nakhichevan, the Mil’skoj and Mugan Steppes and the region around Lake Urmia in north-western Iran. Aratashen (following level II), located on the Ararat plain in the Armavir Province of Armenia, was also part of this culture.

The first occupation phase at Aratashen was preceramic, going back to 6500 BCE. Parallels are found in the southeastern Trans-Caucasia, and in the northeastern Mesopotamia, especially based on the construction techniques and the lithic and bone tools.

Also the pottery, after it appears, is somewhat similar. The best parallels are with Kul Tepe of Nakhichevan to the south, and with the northern Near East, such as the lower levels of Hajji Firuz Tepe, at Dalma Tepe, and at Tilki Tepe.

The Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture, that developed in the neighbouring Kura basin and the Karabakh steppe, does not have close parallels with the early Aratashen artifacts.

First pottery appears at the end of the fifth millennium BC. At this time, the plain of Ararat was in contact with the contemporary populations of northern Mesopotamia, and also with those of the ‘Sioni culture’ of the Kura basin.

The later period pottery of Aratashen is becoming close to that of the Sioni culture, which locally succeeded the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. Here we already see the features of the later Kura-Araxes culture pottery.

There’s evidence of very early metallurgy at Aratashen, going back to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE. According to A. Courcier: “In the Neolithic level IId of Aratashen, dated to the beginnings of the sixth millennium BCE, several fragments of copper ores (malachite and azurite) and 57 arsenical copper beads were discovered.

Close to Aratashen, at Khatunark, one fragment of copper ore (malachite) has been discovered in a level dated to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE. This artefact, together with those found at Aratashen, suggest the nascent emergence of metallurgy in the Ararat region already during the Late Neolithic.”

Middle Chalcolithic (5000-3800 BCE.), archeologically better known than Early Chalcolithic, is divided into three spans concerning its ceramic history: Middle Chalcolithic I (5000-4800 BC.), II (4800-4200 BC.), and III (4200-3800 BC.).

The period between the end of the Hajji Firuz and the beginning of the Kura-Araxes phenomena is one of the least known, yet most important eras in the ancient history and chronology of NW Iran. Previous studies demonstrated that the Chalcolithic is still among the least understood periods of prehistoric development in the region.

The emerging picture suggests that the Chaff-faced Ware (CFW) system, whose focus was the highlands, was progressively challenged during the 4th millennium in the north as in the south, by the Kura-Araxes and Uruk expansions, respectively.

After a period of co-existence with both, the CFW culture was superseded in the highlands by the Kura-Araxes phenomenon, whose driving forces probably had some decisive advantage over its regional neighbours: judging by the importance of metallurgy and mining activities in the Kura-Araxes world, this advantage could have been technological.

Dalma Tepean archeological site in western Azerbaijan. It is a small mound located about 5 km southwest of Ḥasanlū Tepe just north of the modern village of Dalmā in the Soldūz valley at the southwestern edge of Lake Urmia.

The mound rises about 4 m above the plain level and is approximately 50 m in diameter at the base. It was excavated as part of the Hasanlu Project of The University Museum of Archaeology/Anthropology of the University of Pennsylvania.

The excavations revealed a mass of handmade, chaff-­tempered pottery with fine grit inclusions, fired to orange or pink, frequently with a gray core. A few sherds have smoothed, undecorated surfaces and have been labeled “Dalma plain ware.”

A second variety, Dalma impressed ware, was made by impressing the surface of the wet clay with fingertips, textiles, reeds, and other implements. Dalma red-­slipped ware was covered with a uniform coat of dark­-red paint; it occurred in a variety of shapes, including distinctive “decanting vessels” and horned lugs.

Dalma painted ware consists of deep globular vessels with pinched rims decorated with bold, sweeping patterns of triangles painted in plum, maroon, or brown shades on red. The small objects found at the site are mainly conical clay spindle whorls with concave bases.

Dalma pottery has been found at other sites in the Soldūz valley and along the western side of Lake Urmia. Contemporary and closely similar pottery was excavated at Tepe Seavan (Sīāvān) in the Margavar valley west of Urmia.

Dalma pottery is characteristic of period IX in the main sequence at Ḥasanlū Tepe and can be dated by radio­carbon and comparisons with other sites to around 5000-4500 BC. Imported pottery at Dalmā Tepe links it with level XVI at Tepe Gawra (= Ubaid 3) in northern Iraq.

Pottery similar to Dalma ware has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin Tepe (period X) in the Kangāvar valley to the south. Pottery of Dalma type has also been found in surveys between the Soldūz and Kangāvar valleys.

The Naxçivan Archaeological Project is the first ever joint American-Azerbaijani program of surveys and excavations, that was active since 2006. In 2010–11, they have excavated the large Iron Age fortress of Oğlanqala.

In Nakhchivan, there are also numerous archaeological monuments of the early Iron Age, and they shed a lot of light on the cultural, archaeological and agricultural developments of that era. There are important sites such as Ilikligaya, Irinchoy, and the Sanctuary of Iydali Piri in Kangarli region.

Ovchular Tepesi

Kura-Araxes culture


Makhta Kultepe.

Armenian Rule

The region was part of the state of Urartu and later of Media. It became part of the Satrapy of Armenia under Achaemenid Persia c. 521 BC. After Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC, various Macedonian generals such as Neoptolemus tried to take control of the region, but ultimately failed and a native Armenian dynasty of Orontids flourished until Armenia was conquered by Antiochus III the Great (ruled 222–187 BC).

In 189 BC, Nakhchivan became part of the new Kingdom of Armenia established by Artaxias I. Within the kingdom, the region of present-day Nakhchivan was part of the Ayrarat, Vaspurakan and Syunik provinces.

According to the early medieval Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, from the 3rd to 2nd centuries, the region belonged to the Muratsyan nakharar family but after disputes with central power, King Artavazd I massacred the family and seized the lands and formally attached it to the kingdom.

The area’s status as a major trade center allowed it to prosper; as a result, many foreign powers coveted it. According to the Armenian historian Faustus of Byzantium (5th century), when the Sassanid Persians invaded Armenia, Sassanid King Shapur II (310–380) removed 2,000 Armenian and 16,000 Jewish families in 360–370.

In 428, the Armenian Arshakuni monarchy was abolished and Nakhchivan was annexed by Sassanid Persia. In 623, possession of the region passed to the Byzantine Empire but was soon left to its own rule. Sebeos referred to the area as Tachkastan.

Nakhchivan is said by his pupil, Koriun Vardapet, to be the place where the Armenian scholar and theologian Mesrob Mashtots finished the creation of the Armenian Alphabet and opened the first Armenian schools. It happened in the province of Gokhtan, which corresponds to Nakhchivan’s modern Ordubad district.

Arab Rule

From 640 on, the Arabs invaded Nakhchivan and undertook many campaigns in the area, crushing all resistance and attacking Armenian nobles who remained in contact with the Byzantines or who refused to pay tribute.

In 705, after suppressing an Armenian revolt, Arab viceroy Muhammad ibn Marwan decided to eliminate the Armenian nobility. In Nakhchivan, several hundred Armenian nobles were locked up in churches and burnt, while others were crucified.

The violence caused many Armenian princes to flee to the neighboring Kingdom of Georgia or the Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, Nakhchivan itself became part of the autonomous Principality of Armenia under Arab control.

In the 8th century, Nakhchivan was one of the scenes of an uprising against the Arabs led by Persian revolutionary Babak Khorramdin of the Iranian Khorram-Dinān (“those of the joyous religion” in Persian).

Nakhchivan was finally released from Arab rule in the 10th century by Bagratuni King Smbat I and handed over to the princes of Syunik. This region also was taken by Sajids in 895 and between 909 and 929, Sallarid between 942 and 971 and Shaddadid between 971 and 1045.

Kingdom of Armenia

Principality of Armenia

Turkish Rule

About 1055, the Seljuk Turks took over the region. In the 12th century, the city of Nakhchivan became the capital of the state of Atabegs of Azerbaijan, also known as Ildegizid state, which included most of Iranian Azerbaijan and a significant part of the South Caucasus.

The magnificent 12th-century mausoleum of Momine Khatun, the wife of Ildegizid ruler, Great Atabeg Jahan Pehlevan, is the main attraction of modern Nakhchivan. At its heyday, the Ildegizid authority in Nakhchivan and some other areas of South Caucasus was contested by Georgia.

The Armeno-Georgian princely house of Zacharids frequently raided the region when the Atabeg state was in decline in the early years of the 13th century. It was then plundered by invading Mongols in 1220 and Khwarezmians in 1225 and became part of Mongol Empire in 1236 when the Caucasus was invaded by Chormaqan.

In the 13th century during the reign of the Mongol horde ruler Güyük Khan Christians were allowed to build churches in the strongly Muslim town of Nakhchivan, however the conversion to Islam of Gazan khan brought about a reversal of this favor.

The 14th century saw the rise of Armenian Catholicism in Nakhchivan, though by the 15th century the territory became part of the states of Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu.

The Kara Koyunlu or Qara Qoyunlu, also called the Black Sheep Turkomans, were a Muslim Turkoman monarchy that ruled over the territory comprising present-day Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, northwestern Iran, eastern Turkey, and northeastern Iraq from about 1374 to 1468.

The Aq Qoyunlu or Ak Koyunlu, also called the White Sheep Turkomans, was a Persianate Sunni Turkoman tribal confederation that ruled parts of present-day Eastern Turkey from 1378 to 1501, and in their last decades also ruled Armenia, Azerbaijan, most of Iran, and Iraq.

In the 16th century, control of Nakhchivan passed to the Iranian Safavid dynasty. Until the demise of the Safavids, it remained as an administrative jurisdiction of the Erivan Province (also known as Chokhur-e Sa’d).

Because of its geographic position, it frequently suffered during the wars between the Safavids and the Ottoman Empire, from the 16th to 18th centuries. Turkish historian İbrahim Peçevi described the passing of the Ottoman army from the Ararat plain to Nakhchivan:

“On the twenty-seventh day they reached the plain of Nakhichevan. Out of fear of the victorious army, the people deserted the cities, villages, houses, and places of dwelling, which were so desolate that they were occupied by owls and crows and struck the onlooker with terror. Moreover, they [the Ottomans] ruined and laid waste all of the villages, towns, fields, and buildings along the road over a distance of four or five days’ march so that there was no sign of any buildings or life.”

In 1604, Shah Abbas I of Iran, concerned that the skilled peoples of Nakhichevan, its natural resources, and the surrounding areas could get in danger due to its relatively close proximity to the Ottoman-Persian frontline, decided to institute a scorched earth policy.

He forced the entire hundreds of thousands of local population—Muslims, Jews and Armenians alike—to leave their homes and move to the provinces south of the Aras River. Many of the deportees were settled in the neighborhood of Isfahan that was named New Julfa since most of the residents were from the original Julfa.

The Turkic Kangerli tribe was later permitted to move back under Shah Abbas II (1642–1666) to repopulate the frontier region of his realm. In the 17th century, Nakhchivan was the scene of a peasant movement led by Köroğlu against foreign invaders and “native exploiters”. In 1747, the Nakhchivan Khanate emerged in the region after the death of Nader Shah Afshar.

Seljuk Turks

Atabegs of Azerbaijan

Kara Koyunlu

Ak Koyunlu

Safavid dynasty

Erivan Province

Nakhchivan Khanate

Russian rule

After the last Russo-Persian War and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, the Nakhchivan Khanate passed into Russian possession in 1828 due to Iran’s forced ceding as a result of the outcome of the war and treaty.

With the onset of Russian rule, the Tsarist authorities encouraged resettlement of Armenians to Nakhchivan and other areas of the Caucasus from the Persian and Ottoman Empires. Special clauses of the Turkmenchay and Adrianople treaties allowed for this.

Alexandr Griboyedov, the Russian envoy to Persia, stated that by the time Nakhchivan came under Russian rule, there had been 290 native Armenians families in the province excluding the city of Nakhchivan, the number of Muslim families was 1,632, and the number of the Armenian immigrant families was 943. The same numbers in the city of Nakhchivan were 114, 392 and 285 respectively.

With such a dramatic influx of Armenian immigrants, Griboyedov noted friction arising between the Armenian and Muslim populations. He requested Russian army commander Count Ivan Paskevich to give orders on resettlement of some of the arriving people further to the region of Daralayaz to quiet the tensions.

The Nakhchivan Khanate was dissolved in 1828 the same year it came into Russian possession, and its territory was merged with the territory of the Erivan khanate and the area became the Nakhchivan uyezd of the new Armenian oblast, which later became the Erivan Governorate in 1849.

According to official statistics of the Russian Empire, by the turn of the 20th century Azerbaijanis made up 57% of the uyezd’s population, while Armenians constituted 42%.

At the same time in the Sharur-Daralagyoz uyezd, the territory of which would form the northern part of modern-day Nakhchivan, Azeris constituted 70.5% of the population, while Armenians made up 27.5%.

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, conflict erupted between the Armenians and the Azeris, culminating in the Armenian-Tatar massacres which saw violence in Nakhchivan in May of that year.

Russo-Persian War

Treaty of Turkmenchay

Erivan Governorate

Armenian-Tatar massacres

War and revolution

In the final year of World War I, Nakhchivan was the scene of more bloodshed between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, who both laid claim to the area. By 1914, the Armenian population had decreased slightly to 40% while the Azeri population increased to roughly 60%.

After the February Revolution, the region was under the authority of the Special Transcaucasian Committee of the Russian Provisional Government and subsequently of the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.

After the 1917 February Revolution, Nakhchivan and its surrounding region were under the authority of the Special Transcaucasian Committee of the Russian Provisional Government and subsequently of the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.

When the TDFR was dissolved in May 1918, Nakhchivan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Zangezur (today the Armenian province of Syunik), and Qazakh were heavily contested between the newly formed and short-lived states of the First Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).

In June 1918, the region came under Ottoman occupation. Under the terms of the Armistice of Mudros, the Ottomans agreed to pull their troops out of the Transcaucasus to make way for British occupation at the close of the First World War.

In July 1920, the Bolsheviks occupied the region and on July 28, declared the Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic with “close ties” to the Azerbaijan SSR, beginning seventy years of Soviet rule.

When the TDFR was dissolved in May 1918, Nakhchivan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Zangezur (today the Armenian province of Syunik), and Qazakh were heavily contested between the newly formed and short-lived states of the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). In June 1918, the region came under Ottoman occupation.

The Ottomans proceeded to massacre 10,000 Armenians and razed 45 of their villages. Under the terms of the Armistice of Mudros, the Ottomans agreed to pull their troops out of the Transcaucasus to make way for the forthcoming British military presence.

Under British occupation, Sir Oliver Wardrop, British Chief Commissioner in the South Caucasus, made a border proposal to solve the conflict. Armenian claims against Azerbaijan should not go beyond the administrative borders of the former Erivan Governorate (which under prior Imperial Russian rule encompassed Nakhchivan), while Azerbaijan was to be limited to the governorates of Baku and Elisabethpol.

This proposal was rejected by both Armenians (who did not wish to give up their claims to Qazakh, Zangezur and Karabakh) and Azeris (who found it unacceptable to give up their claims to Nakhchivan). As disputes between both countries continued, it soon became apparent that the fragile peace under British occupation would not last.

In December 1918, with the support of Azerbaijan’s Musavat Party, Jafargulu Khan Nakhchivanski declared the Republic of Aras in the Nakhchivan uyezd of the former Erivan Governorate assigned to Armenia by Wardrop.

The Armenian government did not recognize the new state and sent its troops into the region to take control of it. The conflict soon erupted into the violent Aras War. British journalist C. E. Bechhofer Roberts described the situation in April 1920:

“You cannot persuade a party of frenzied nationalists that two blacks do not make a white; consequently, no day went by without a catalogue of complaints from both sides, Armenians and Tartars [Azeris], of unprovoked attacks, murders, village burnings and the like. Specifically, the situation was a series of vicious cycles.”

By mid-June 1919, however, Armenia succeeded in establishing control over Nakhchivan and the whole territory of the self-proclaimed republic. The fall of the Aras republic triggered an invasion by the regular Azerbaijani army and by the end of July, Armenian troops were forced to leave Nakhchivan City to the Azeris.

Again, more violence erupted leaving some ten thousand Armenians dead and forty-five Armenian villages destroyed. Meanwhile, feeling the situation to be hopeless and unable to maintain any control over the area, the British decided to withdraw from the region in mid-1919. Still, fighting between Armenians and Azeris continued and after a series of skirmishes that took place throughout the Nakhchivan district, a cease-fire agreement was concluded.

However, the cease-fire lasted only briefly, and by early March 1920, more fighting broke out, primarily in Karabakh between Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan’s regular army. This triggered conflicts in other areas with mixed populations, including Nakhchivan.

Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic


Democratic Republic of Armenia

Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Soviet Rule

In July 1920, the 11th Soviet Red Army invaded and occupied the region and on July 28, declared the Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic with “close ties” to the Azerbaijan SSR.

In November, on the verge of taking over Armenia, the Bolsheviks, to attract public support, promised they would allot Nakhchivan to Armenia, along with Karabakh and Zangezur.

This was fulfilled when Nariman Narimanov, leader of Bolshevik Azerbaijan issued a declaration celebrating the “victory of Soviet power in Armenia”, proclaimed that both Nakhchivan and Zangezur should be awarded to the Armenian people as a sign of the Azerbaijani people’s support for Armenia’s fight against the former DRA government:

“As of today, the old frontiers between Armenia and Azerbaijan are declared to be non-existent. Mountainous Karabagh, Zangezur and Nakhchivan are recognised to be integral parts of the Socialist Republic of Armenia.”

Vladimir Lenin, although welcoming this act of “great Soviet fraternity” where “boundaries had no meaning among the family of Soviet peoples”, did not agree with the motion and instead called for the people of Nakhchivan to be consulted in a referendum. According to the formal figures of this referendum, held at the beginning of 1921, 90% of Nakhchivan’s population wanted to be included in the Azerbaijan SSR “with the rights of an autonomous republic”.

The decision to make Nakhchivan a part of modern-day Azerbaijan was cemented on March 16, 1921 in the Treaty of Moscow between Soviet Russia and the newly founded Republic of Turkey.

The agreement between Soviet Russia and Turkey also called for attachment of the former Sharur-Daralagez uyezd (which had a solid Azeri majority) to Nakhchivan, thus allowing Turkey to share a border with the Azerbaijan SSR. This deal was reaffirmed on October 13, in the Treaty of Kars. Article V of the treaty stated the following:

“The Turkish Government and the Soviet Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan are agreed that the region of Nakhchivan, within the limits specified by Annex III to the present Treaty, constitutes an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan.”

So, on February 9, 1924, the Soviet Union officially established the Nakhchivan ASSR. Its constitution was adopted on April 18, 1926. As a constituent part of the Soviet Union, tensions lessened over the ethnic composition of Nakhchivan or any territorial claims regarding it. Instead, it became an important point of industrial production with particular emphasis on the mining of minerals such as salt.

Under Soviet rule, it was once a major junction on the Moscow-Tehran railway line as well as the Baku-Yerevan railway. It also served as an important strategic area during the Cold War, sharing borders with both Turkey (a NATO member state) and Iran (a close ally of the West until the Iranian Revolution of 1979).

Facilities improved during Soviet times. Education and public health especially began to see some major changes. In 1913, Nakhchivan only had two hospitals with a total of 20 beds. The region was plagued by widespread diseases including trachoma and typhus.

Malaria, which mostly came from the adjoining Aras River, brought serious harm to the region. At any one time, between 70% and 85% of Nakhchivan’s population was infected with malaria, and in the region of Norashen (present-day Sharur) almost 100% were struck with the disease. This improved dramatically under Soviet rule. Malaria was sharply reduced and trachoma, typhus, and relapsing fever were completely eliminated.

During the Soviet era, Nakhchivan saw a significant demographic shift. Its Armenian population gradually decreased as many emigrated to the Armenian SSR. In 1926, 15% of region’s population was Armenian, but by 1979, this number had shrunk to 1.4%. The Azeri population, meanwhile, increased substantially with both a higher birth rate and immigration from Armenia (going from 85% in 1926 to 96% by 1979).

Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh noted similar though slower demographic trends and feared an eventual “de-Armenianization” of the area. When tensions between Armenians and Azeris were reignited in the late-1980s by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s Popular Front managed to pressure the Azerbaijan SSR to instigate a partial railway and air blockade against Armenia.

Another reason for disruption of rail service to Armenia were attacks of Armenian forces on the trains entering the Armenian territory from Azerbaijan, which resulted in railroad personnel refusing to enter Armenia.

This effectively crippled Armenia’s economy, as 85% of the cargo and goods arrived through rail traffic. In response, Armenia closed the railway to Nakhchivan, thereby strangling the exclave’s only link to the rest of the Soviet Union.

December 1989 saw unrest in Nakhchivan as its Azeri inhabitants moved to physically dismantle the Soviet border with Iran to flee the area and meet their ethnic Azeri cousins in northern Iran. This action was angrily denounced by the Soviet leadership and the Soviet media accused the Azeris of “embracing Islamic fundamentalism”.

In January 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan ASSR issued a declaration stating the intention for Nakhchivan to secede from the USSR to protest the Soviet Union’s actions during Black January (January 19–20, 1990).

It was the first part of the Soviet Union to declare independence, preceding Lithuania’s declaration by only a few weeks. Subsequently, Nakhchivan was independent from Moscow and Baku but was then brought under control by the clan of Heydar Aliyev.

Azerbaijan SSR

Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

Post Soviet

In January 1990 Nakhchivan declared independence from the USSR to protest against the suppression of the national movement in Azerbaijan, and became the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic within the newly independent Republic of Azerbaijan a year later.

Heydar Aliyev, the future president of Azerbaijan, returned to his birthplace of Nakhchivan in 1990, after being ousted from his position in the Politburo by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Soon after returning to Nakhchivan, Aliyev was elected to the Supreme Soviet by an overwhelming majority.

Aliyev subsequently resigned from the CPSU and after the failed August 1991 coup against Gorbachev, he called for complete independence for Azerbaijan and denounced Ayaz Mütallibov for supporting the coup. In late 1991, Aliyev consolidated his power base as chairman of the Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet and asserted Nakhchivan’s near-total independence from Baku.

Nakhchivan became a scene of conflict during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. On May 4, 1992, Armenian forces shelled the raion of Sadarak.[67][68][69] The Armenians claimed that the attack was in response to cross-border shelling of Armenian villages by Azeri forces from Nakhchivan.

David Zadoyan, a 42-year-old Armenian physicist and mayor of the region, said that the Armenians lost patience after months of firing by the Azeris. “If they were sitting on our hilltops and harassing us with gunfire, what do you think our response should be?” he asked.

The government of Nakhchivan denied these charges and instead asserted that the Armenian assault was unprovoked and specifically targeted the site of a bridge between Turkey and Nakhchivan.

“The Armenians do not react to diplomatic pressure,” Nakhchivan foreign minister Rza Ibadov told the ITAR-Tass news agency, “It’s vital to speak to them in a language they understand.” Speaking to the agency from the Turkish capital Ankara, Ibadov said that Armenia’s aim in the region was to seize control of Nakhchivan. According to Human Rights Watch, hostilities broke out after three people were killed when Armenian forces began shelling the region.

The heaviest fighting took place on 18 May, when the Armenians captured Nakhchivan’s exclave of Karki, a tiny territory through which Armenia’s main north–south highway passes. The exclave presently remains under Armenian control.

After the fall of Shusha, the Mütallibov government of Azerbaijan accused Armenia of moving to take the whole of Nakhchivan (a claim that was denied by Armenian government officials).

However, Heydar Aliyev declared a unilateral ceasefire on 23 May and sought to conclude a separate peace with Armenia. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian expressed his willingness to sign a cooperation treaty with Nakhchivan to end the fighting and subsequently a cease-fire was agreed upon.

The conflict in the area caused a harsh reaction from Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller announced that any Armenian advance on the main territory of Nakhchivan would result in a declaration of war against Armenia. Russian military leaders declared that “third party intervention into the dispute could trigger a Third World War”.

Thousands of Turkish troops were sent to the border between Turkey and Armenia in early September. Russian military forces in Armenia countered their movements by increasing troop levels along the Armenian-Turkish frontier and bolstering defenses in a tense period where war between the two seemed inevitable.

The tension reached its peak, when Turkish heavy artillery shelled the Nakhchivan side of the Nakhchivan-Armenian border, from the Turkish border for two hours. Iran also reacted to Armenia’s attacks by conducting military maneuvers along its border with Nakhchivan in a move widely interpreted as a warning to Armenia.

However, Armenia did not launch any further attacks on Nakhchivan and the presence of Russia’s military warded off any possibility that Turkey might play a military role in the conflict. After a period of political instability, the Parliament of Azerbaijan turned to Heydar Aliyev and invited him to return from exile in Nakhchivan to lead the country in 1993.

Today, Nakhchivan retains its autonomy as the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and is internationally recognized as a constituent part of Azerbaijan governed by its own elected legislative assembly.

A new constitution for Nakhchivan was approved in a referendum on November 12, 1995. The constitution was adopted by the republic’s assembly on April 28, 1998 and has been in force since January 8, 1999.

However, the republic remains isolated, not only from the rest of Azerbaijan, but practically from the entire South Caucasus region. Vasif Talibov, who is related by marriage to Azerbaijan’s ruling family, the Aliyevs, serves as the current parliamentary chairman of the republic.

He is known for his authoritarian and largely corrupt rule of the region. Most residents prefer to watch Turkish television as opposed to Nakhchivan television, which one Azerbaijani journalist criticised as “a propaganda vehicle for Talibov and the Aliyevs.”

Economic hardships and energy shortages (due to Armenia’s continued blockade of the region in response to the Azeri and Turkish blockade of Armenia) plague the area. There have been many cases of migrant workers seeking jobs in neighboring Turkey. In fact, emigration rates to Turkey are so high that most of the residents of the Besler district in Istanbul are Nakhchivanis.

Cultural Genocide

The number of named Armenian churches known to have existed in the Nakhichevan region is over 280. In as early as 1648 French traveller Alexandre de Rhodes reported seeing more than ten thousand Armenian tombstones made of marble in Julfa.

The number of ecclesiastical monuments still standing in Nakhchivan in the 1980s is estimated to be between 59 and 100. The author and journalist Sylvain Besson believes them to have all been subsequently destroyed as part of a campaign by the Government of Azerbaijan to erase all traces of Armenian culture on its soil.

When the 14th-century church of St. Stephanos at Abrakunis was visited in 2005, it was found to have been recently destroyed, with its site reduced to a few bricks sticking out of loose, bare earth. A similar complete destruction had happened to the 16th century St. Hakop-Hayrapet church in Shurut. The Armenian churches in Norashen, Kırna and Gah that were standing in the 1980s had also vanished.

The most publicised case of mass destruction concerns gravestones at a medieval cemetery in Julfa, with photographic, video and satellite evidence supporting the charges. In April 2006 British

The Times wrote about the destruction of the cemetery in the following way: “A Medieval cemetery regarded as one of the wonders of the Caucasus has been erased from the Earth in an act of cultural vandalism likened to the Taleban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Jugha cemetery was a unique collection of several thousand carved stone crosses on Azerbaijan’s southern border with Iran. But after 18 years of conflict between Azerbaijan and its western neighbour, Armenia, it has been confirmed that the cemetery has vanished.”

The Armenians have long been sounding the alarm that the Azerbaijanis intend to eliminate all evidence of Armenian presence in Nakhichevan and to this end have been carrying out massive and irreversible destruction of Armenian cultural traces. “The irony is that this destruction has taken place not during a time of war but at a time of peace,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told The Times.

Azerbaijan has consistently denied these accusations. For example, according to the Azerbaijani ambassador to the US, Hafiz Pashayev, the videos and photographs “show some unknown people destroying mid-size stones”, and “it is not clear of what nationality those people are”, and the reports are Armenian propaganda designed to divert attention from what he claimed was a “state policy (by Armenia) to destroy the historical and cultural monuments in the occupied Azeri territories”.

A number of international organizations have confirmed the complete destruction of the cemetery. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported on April 19, 2006 that “there is nothing left of the celebrated stone crosses of Jugha.”

According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), the Azerbaijan government removed 800 khachkars in 1998. Though the destruction was halted following protests from UNESCO, it resumed four years later. By January 2003 “the 1,500-year-old cemetery had completely been flattened” according to Icomos.

On December 8, 2010, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a report entitled “Satellite Images Show Disappearance of Armenian Artifacts in Azerbaijan”. The report contained the analysis of high resolution satellite images of the Julfa cemetery, which verified the destruction of the khatckars.

The European Parliament has formally called on Azerbaijan to stop the demolition as a breach of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. According to its resolution regarding cultural monuments in the South Caucasus, the European Parliament “condemns strongly the destruction of the Julfa cemetery as well as the destruction of all sites of historical importance that has taken place on Armenian or Azerbaijani territory, and condemns any such action that seeks to destroy cultural heritage.”

In 2006, Azerbaijan barred a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) mission from inspecting and examining the ancient burial site, stating that it would only accept a delegation if it also visited Armenian-controlled territory.

“We think that if a comprehensive approach is taken to the problems that have been raised,” said Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Tahir Tagizade, “it will be possible to study Christian monuments on the territory of Azerbaijan, including in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.”

A renewed attempt was planned by PACE inspectors for August 29 – September 6, 2007, led by British MP Edward O’Hara. As well as Nakhchivan, the delegation would visit Baku, Yerevan, Tbilisi, and Nagorno Karabakh.

The inspectors planned to visit Nagorno Karabakh via Armenia; however, on August 28, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE released a demand that the inspectors must enter Nagorno Karabakh via Azerbaijan.

On August 29, PACE Secretary General Mateo Sorinas announced that the visit had to be cancelled because of the difficulty in accessing Nagorno Karabakh using the route required by Azerbaijan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Armenia issued a statement saying that Azerbaijan had stopped the visit “due solely to their intent to veil the demolition of Armenian monuments in Nakhijevan”.

Khachkar destruction in Nakhchivan


Artsakh, officially the Republic of Artsakh or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, is a breakaway state in the South Caucasus that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Artsakh controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast along with some surrounding territory, giving borders with Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. Its capital is Stepanakert.

The country is very mountainous, averaging 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) above sea level. The population is predominantly ethnic Armenian, and the primary spoken language is the Armenian language. The population is overwhelmingly Christian, most being affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church. Several historical monasteries are popular with tourists, mostly from the Armenian diaspora, as most travel can take place only between Armenia and Artsakh.

Artsakh is located in the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus range, at the eastern edge of the Armenian Highlands, encompassing the highland part of the wider geographical region known as Karabakh. Under Russian and Soviet rule, the region came to be known as Nagorno-Karabakh, meaning “Mountainous Karabakh” in Russian.

The name Karabakh itself (derived from Turkic and Persian, and literary meaning “Black Vineyard”) was first employed in Georgian and Persian sources from the 13th and 14th centuries to refer to an Armenian principality known by modern historians as the Kingdom of Artsakh or Khachen.

Currently, most of this area is under the control of the de facto Artsakh Republic, which has economic, political, and military support from Armenia, but the region is de jure recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The final status of the region is still a subject of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This article encompasses the history of the region from the ancient to the modern period.

According to Armenian and Western specialists, inscriptions dating to the Urartian period mention the region under a variety of names: “Ardakh”, “Urdekhe”, and “Atakhuni”. In speaking about Armenia in his Geography, the classical historian Strabo refers to an Armenian region which he calls “Orchistene”, which again is believed to be a Greek version of the old name of Artsakh.

According to another hypothesis put forth by David M. Lang, the ancient name of Artsakh possibly derives from the name of King Artaxias I of Armenia (190–159 BC), founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty and the kingdom of Greater Armenia. Folk etymology holds that the name is derived from “Ar” (Aran) and “tsakh” (woods, garden) (i.e., the gardens of Aran Sisakean, the first nakharar of northeastern Armenia).

Nakharar, from Parthian naxvadār (“holder of the primacy”) was a hereditary title of the highest order given to houses of the ancient and medieval Armenian nobility. The origin of the nakharars seems to stretch back to pagan Armenia, which coexisted with the Roman and Parthian Empires, and they are mentioned to have pillaged many pagan temples when Armenia’s conversion to Christianity began under Tiridates III.

Medieval Armenia was divided into large estates, which were the property of an enlarged noble family and were ruled by a member of it, to whom the title of nahapet “chief of the family” or tanuter “master of the house” was given. Other members of a nakharar family in their turn ruled over smaller portions of the family estate. Nakharars with greater authority were recognized as ishkhans (princes).

In western Armenia under Byzantine rule, Justinian’s reforms removed the martial role of the nakharars, as well as attempting to annex estates from Armenian nobles. Justinian I (482 – 565), traditionally known as Justinian the Great and also Saint Justinian the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church, was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565.

The nakharars, angered at their restriction in power, began a full-scale insurrection that had to be quelled through swift military intervention, eventually sparking war with the Sassanids. The Sasanian Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Ērānshahr), also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the spread of Islam.

Though weakened by numerous invasions and the legal reforms of kings, the nakharar structure remained virtually unchanged for many centuries and was finally eliminated during the Mongol invasions in the thirteenth century. Certain aspects of the nakharar system remained intact in Armenia until the early 20th century, when the noble class was altogether abolished by the Bolsheviks.

The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 after the fall of the Russian Empire, and a brief war over the region broke out in 1920. The dispute was largely shelved after the Soviet Union established control over the area, and created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923.

During the fall of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence. Ethnic conflict led to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire along roughly the current borders. 


Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast

Republic of Artsakh

Political status of Artsakh

Foreign relations of Artsakh

History of Artsakh

History of Artsakh

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was occupied by the people known to modern archaeologists as the Kura-Araxes, and is located between the two rivers bearing those names. Little is known about the ancient history of the region, primarily because of the scarcity of historical sources.

Artsakh was the tenth province (nahang) of the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until 387 AD and afterwards a region of the Caucasian Albanian satrapy of Sasanid Persia from 387 to the 7th century. From the 7th to 9th centuries, it fell under Arab control.

In 821, it formed the Armenian principality of Khachen and around the year 1000 was proclaimed the Kingdom of Artsakh, one of the last medieval eastern Armenian kingdoms and principalities to maintain its autonomy following the Turkic invasions of the 11th to 14th centuries.

According to the local traditions held by many people in the area, the two river valleys in Nagorno-Karabakh were among the first to be settled by Noah’s descendants. According to a 5th-century CE Armenian tradition, a local chieftain named Aran was appointed by the Parthian King Vologases I (Vagharsh I) to be the first governor of this province.

Ancient Armenian authors, Movses Khorenatsi and Movses Kaghankatvatsi, name of it Aran the ancestor inhabitants of Artsakh and next province Utik, the descendant of Sisak (the ancestor and eponym next province Sisakan, differently Siunik), and through it—the descendant of Haik, the ancestor and eponym of all Armenians.

The earliest record of the region covered by modern-day Artsakh is in inscriptions of Sardur II, King of Urartu (763–734 BC), found in village Tsovk in Armenia, as the region Urtekhini. Then—in our data—a breakdown to the Roman epoch.

Urartian inscriptions referring to the region as Urtekhini. It is unclear if the region was ever ruled by Urartu, but it was in close proximity to other Urartian domains. It may have been inhabited by Caspian tribes and/or by Scythians.

After decades of raids by the Cimmerians, Scythians, and the Medes, Urartu finally collapsed with the rise of the Median Empire, and shortly after, the geopolitical region previously ruled as Urartu re-emerged as Armenia.

By the 5th century BC, Artsakh was part of Armenia under the Orontid Dynasty. It would continue to be part of the Kingdom of Armenia under the Artaxiad Dynasty, under which Armenia became one of the largest realms in Western Asia.

At its greatest extent, the Great King of Armenia, Tigranes II, built several cities named after himself in regions he considered particularly important, one of which was the city he built in Artsakh.

A following mention—already at Strabo which characterizes “Orkhistena” (Artsakh) as “the area of Armenia exposing the greatest number of horsemen”. It is unclear when Orkhistena became part of Armenia. Strabo, carefully listing all gains of Armenian Kings since 189 BC., does not mention Orkhistena, which indirectly shows that it probably has been an accessory of the Armenian empire to which it could get in the inheritance from Persian satrapy “East Armenia”.

Ruins of the city Tigranakert are near the modern city of Agdam. It is one of four cities with such a name that were built in the beginning of 1 BC by king of Armenia Tigranes the Great. Recently Armenian archaeologists have led excavation of this city.

Fragments of a fortress, and also hundreds the ancient subjects similar to subjects, found in Armenia. Fencing of a citadel and basilica of 5th–6th centuries AD have been revealed. Excavation have shown, that the city existed since the 1st century BC until the 13th or 14th century AD.

Following wars with the Romans and Persians, Armenia was partitioned between the two empires. Artsakh was removed from Persian Armenia and included into the neighbouring satrapy of Arran. Artsakh would remain part of Arran throughout Persian rule, during the fall of Iran to the Muslims, and following the Muslim conquest of Armenia.

Ancient inhabitants of Artsakh spoke a special dialect of the Armenian language, which was described around this time in the 7th century AD by a contemporary author of the Armenian grammar named Stepanos Siunetsi who lived in around 700 AD. It is among the earliest ever recorded dialects of Armenian.

Strabo and authors of the 1st and 2nd centuries—Claudius Ptolemaeus and Pliny the Elder—unanimously approve, that border between Greater Armenia and Caucasian Albania is river Cyrus (Kura).

Authoritative encyclopedias on antiquity also name Kura southern border of Albania. Artsakh is much to the south of this river. Certificates which would approve its accessory Caucasus Albania or to other state up to the end of the 4th century, does not exist.

Armenian historian Faustus of Byzantium wrote that during an epoch of the disorders which followed intrusion of Persians into Armenia (about 370), Artsakh appeared among the risen provinces, whereas Utik has been grasped by Caucasus Albanians.

Armenian military commander Mushegh Mamikonian defeated the country of Artsakh in a big battle, made many inhabitants of the region prisoners, took hostages from the rest, and imposed a tribute on them. In 372 Mushegh defeated the Caucasus Albanians, took from them Utik, and restored the border on Kura, “as was earlier”.

According to “Geography” (Ashkharatsuyts) by 7th-century Armenian geographer Anania Shirakatsi, Artsakh was the 10th among the 15 provinces (nahangs) of Armenia, and consisted of 12 districts (gavars).

However Anania writes, that during its time Atrsakh together with the next districts “will tear away from Armenia”. And it is valid, in 387 Armenia has been divided between Roman Empire and Persia; thus Artsakh together with Armenian provinces Utik and Paytakaran was attached to Caucasian Albania

At this time, the population of Artsakh consisted of Armenians and Armenicized aborigines, though many of the latter were still cited as distinct ethnic entities. Under the Arabs, most of the South Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands, including Iberia and Arran, would be unified into an emirate called Arminiya, under which Artsakh would continue to remain as part of Arran.

In 469 the kingdom of Albania was reformed into a Sassanid Persian marzpanate (frontier province). In the early 4th century Christianity spread in Artsakh. At the beginning of the 5th century, thanks to the creation of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots, an unprecedented rise of culture began in whole Armenia, in particular also in Artsakh, Mesrop Mashtots having founded one of the first Armenian schools at the Artsakh Amaras Monastery

In the 5th century the eastern part of Armenia, including Artsakh, remained under Persian rule. In 451 the Armenians in response to the policy of compulsion of their Zoroastrian Persian overlords organized a powerful revolt known as the Vardan war.

Artsakh took part in that war, its cavalry having particularly distinguished itself. After the suppression of the revolt by Persia the considerable part of the Armenian forces took shelter in the impregnable fortresses and thick woods of Artsakh to continue further struggle against the foreign yoke.

At the end of the same century Artsakh and neighboring Utik united under the rule of the Aranshakhiks with Vachagan the Devout at the head (487–510’s). Under the latter a considerable rise in culture and science is observed in Artsakh. According to the evidence of a contemporary, in those years in the land there were built as many churches and monasteries as there are days in a year.

At the turn of the 7th century the Albanian marzpanate broke up into several small principalities. In the south Artsakh and Utik created a separate Armenian principality, that of the Aranshakhiks. In the 7th century the Armenian Aranshakhiks were replaced by the Migranians or Mihranids, a dynasty of Persian origin which, becoming related with the Aranshakhiks, turned to Christianity and became rapidly Armenicized.

In the second half of the 7th century in the initial period of the Arab dominion, political and cultural life in Artsakh did not cease. In the 7th and 8th centuries a distinctive Christian culture was shaped. The monasteries Amaras, Orek, Katarovank, Djrvshtik and others acquired a significance that transcended the local area and spread across the Armenian lands

Despite being under Persian and Arab rule, many of the Armenian territories, including Artsakh, were governed by Armenian nobility. Arran would gradually disappear as a geopolitical entity, and its population would be assimilated by neighbouring ethnic groups with whom they shared a common culture and religion. Many Christians from Arran would form part of the ethnic composition of the Armenians living in modern-day Artsakh.

Fragmentation of Arab authority provided the opportunity for the resurgence of an Armenian state in the Armenian Highlands. One particular noble dynasty, the Bagratids, began annexing territories from other Armenian nobles, which, in the later half of the 9th century gave rise to a new Armenian kingdom which included Artsakh.

The new Kingdom wouldn’t stay united for long, however, due to internal conflicts, civil wars, and external pressures, Armenia would often find itself fragmented between other noble Armenian houses, most notably the Mamikonian and Siunia families, the latter of which would produce a cadet branch known as the House of Khachen, named after their stronghold in Artsakh.

Artsakh (historic province)

Kingdom of Artsakh

Principality of Khachen

House of Hasan-Jalalyan

Dizak and Khachen

From the beginning of the 9th century, princely houses of Khachen and Dizak were storing up strength. The prince of Khachen, Sahl Smbatean century became one of the most favorable periods for the land’s flourishing.

During this time, valuable architecture was constructed, such as Hovanes Mkrtich (John the Baptist) church and the vestibule of Gandzasar monastery (1216–1260; ancient residence of the Armenian Catholicos of Albania), the Dadi Monastery Cathedral Church (1214), and Gtchavank Cathedral Church (1241–1248). These churches are considered to be the masterpieces of the Armenian architecture.

In 30–40 years of the 13th century the Tatar and Mongols conquered Transcaucasia. The efforts of the Artsakh-Khachen king Hasan-Jalal succeeded in partially saving the land from being destroyed. However, after his death in 1261, Khachen became another victim of the Tatars and Mongols.

The situation became still more aggravating in the 14th century in the years of the subsequent Turkic federations the Qara Koyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu, having replaced the Tatars and Mongols. During this period the area received its Turkic name Karabakh (Combination of “black” (Kara) in Turkic and “garden” (bakh) in Persian) for the first time.

However, it is necessary to mention that as the name Karabakh referred to not only present Nagorno-Karabah (Mountain Karabah), and also (and mainly) Flat Karabakh, that is the plain before merge of rivers Arax and Kura where Turkic nomads began to prevail.

The centuries-long subjection of the local Armenians to Muslim leaders, their relation with Turkic tribal elders and frequent cases of Turkic-Armenian-Iranian intermarriage resulted in Armenians adopting elements of Perso-Turkic Muslim culture, such as language, personal names, music, an increasingly humble position of women and, in some cases, even polygamy.

The House of Khachen ruled the Kingdom of Artsakh in the 11th century as an independent kingdom under the protectorate of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. Under the House of Khachen, the region historically called Artsakh would become synonymous with the name “Khachen”.

Following wars with the Byzantine Empire, and with the arrival of Seljuk Turks in the later half of the 11th century, the Kingdom of Armenia collapsed, and Artsakh became the autonomous Principality of Khachen, ruled by the House of Hasan-Jalalyan, within the Kingdom of Georgia for a short time until the Mongols would acquire the region.

Although the Armenians of Artsakh would not rule the lands as fully sovereign entities, the mountainous geography of the location would allow them to maintain a semi-independent or autonomous status within other realms, such as the Timurid, Kara Koyunlu, and Ak Koyunlu realms.

During this time, the lands to the west of the Kura river up to the eastern slopes of the Zangezur mountain range would become known as Karabakh, with the lands of the Principality of Khachen corresponding to the highlands. During the period of Mongol domination, a great number of Armenians left the lowlands of Karabakh and sought refuge in the mountainous heights of the region.

Armenian Meliks

The Principality of Khachen existed until 16th–17th century, but was eventually divided amongst five Armenian princes, known as meliks, who collectively became known as the Five Melikdoms of Karabakh (literally “five principalities of Karabakh”), also referred to as Khamsa, meaning “five” in Arabic):

Giulistan or Talish Melikdom included the territory from Ganja to the bed of the River Tartar. Dzraberd or Charaberd Melikdom was situated in the territory stretching from the River Tartar to the River Khachenaget. Khachen Melikdom existed in the territory from the River Khachenaget to the River Karkar. Varanda Melikdom included the territory from Karkar to the southern side of Big Kirs mountain. Dizak Melikdom stretched from the southern slope of Big Kirs mountain to the River Arax.

In the 16th century, Karabakh came under Iranian rule for the first time in almost a millennium with the rise of the Safavid Empire, within which the territory of modern-day Artsakh became part of the Province of Karabakh. The Armenian princes continued to rule autonomously over the highlands of Karabakh during this time.

While initially subordinate to Persia’s Ganja khanate (ruled by Ziyad-oglu Qajars), which itself was appointed and fully subjective by and to the Safavid Persians, the Armenian meliks were granted a wide degree of autonomy by Safavid Persia over Upper Karabakh, maintaining semi-quasi autonomous control over the region for four centuries, while being under Persian domination.

In the early 18th century, Persia’s military genius and new ruler, Nadir shah took Karabakh out of control of Ganja khans in punishment for their support of the Safavids, and placed the region directly under his own control.

At the same time, the Armenian meliks were granted supreme command over neighboring Armenian principalities and Muslim khans in Caucasus, in return for the meliks’ victories over the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1720s.

According to some historiographers of the 18th century, of those five meliks, only Melik-Hasan-Jalalyans – the rulers of Khachen – were local residents of Karabakh, while the other four had settled from neighboring provinces.

Thus, Melik-Beglaryans of Gulistan were native Utis from the village of Nij in Shirvan; Melik-Israelyans of Jraberd were descendants of the melik of Siunik to south-east and hailed from the village of Magavuz in Zangezur; Melik Shahnazars of Varanda hailed from the region of Armenian Gegharkunik to the east and received the title of meliks from shah Abbas I in reward for their services; Melik-Avanyans of Dizak – were descendants of meliks of Lori, an Armenian princedom to north-west.

These allegation is however discounted by modern scholarship. Modern western scholars Robert Hewsen and Cyril Toumanoff have demonstrated that all of these meliks were the descendants of the House of Khachen.

Thanks to the meliks from the end of the 17th century in Artsakh there arouse and spread the idea of Armenian independence from Persia. Parallel with the armed struggle, Armenians in that period made diplomatic efforts, at first turning to Europe, then – to Russia. Such political and war leaders as Israel Ori, archimandrite Minas, the Catholicos of Gandsasar Yesai Jalalian, iuzbashis (the commanders of hundred; the capitans) Avan and Tarkhan become people leaders.

The absence of power and political instability in the 18th century in Persia created the threat to its integrity. Both Turkey and Russia expected to get its share from the possible breaking up of Persia, Turkey with this purpose striving for enlisting the support of the Dagestan mountaineers, Russia seeking its supporters among Armenians and Georgians.

In 1722, Peter the Great’s Russo-Persian War (1722–23) began. At the very beginning the Russian forces succeeded in occupying Derbent and Baku. Armenians encouraged by the Russians, concluded the union with Georgians and collected an army in the Karabakh.

However their hopes were deceived. Instead of the promised help, Peter the Great advised the Armenians of Artsakh to leave their native places of residence and move to Derbent, Baku, Gilan, Mazandaran where the Russian power had recently been established in the war intending to consolidate its hold on the occupied.

Khanates, attached to Caspia, Russia signed the treaty with Turkey, on July 12, 1724, giving the latter a free hand in the whole Transcaucasus (as far as Shamakha).

In the same year Ottoman troops invaded the land. Their main victim became the Artsakh Armenian population, who, headed by meliks, rose to struggle for its independence, never having received the promised support on Russian side. Yet, Peter the Great’s march gave a new impulse to the struggle of the Armenians.

In the 1720s the in Karabakh formed host concentrated in three military camps or Skhnakhs (fortified place). The first of them, called the Great Skhnakh, was situated in the Mrav Mountains near the Tartar River.

The second Pokr (Minor) Skhnakh was on the slope of the Kirs Mountain in the province of Varanda, and the third in the province of Kapan. Shkhnakhs, i.e. the Armenian host, possessed absolute power. That was a people army with the Council of military leaders, the Catholicos of Gandsasar also entering it and having a great influence.

Proceed from the demands of wartime, meliks shared their power with iuzbashis, all of them having equal rights and obligations at the military councils. The Armenian host at the head of its leaders, Catholicos Yesai, iuzbashis Avan and Tarkhan resisted the Ottoman regular army for a considerably long time.

In 1733, the Armenians, now encouraged by another military genius, who happened to be Nadir Shah Of Persia, in one special appointed day massacred all Ottoman army that stood on the winter quartiers in Khamsa. After that former position of area has been restored.

In gratitude for services rendered to it, Nadir Shah released the meliks of Khamsa from submission to khans of Ganja and appointed the governor above them Avan, melik of Dizak (the main organizer of plot 1733), having given it a title of khan. However, Avan-khan soon died.

Karabakh Khanate

In the mid-18th century, the whole of Karabakh became a semi-independent khanate called the Karabakh Khanate which lasted for about 75 years. In 1747, Turkic ruler Panah Ali Khan Javanshir, by then already a successful naib and royal gérant de maison, found himself displeased with Nader Shah’s attitude towards him during the latters later years of rule, and having gathered many of those deported from Karabakh in 1736, he returned to his homeland.

Due to his reputation as a skillful warrior and his wealthy ancestor’s legacy in Karabakh, Panah Ali proclaimed himself and was soon recognized throughout most of the region as a ruler (khan). The Shah sent troops to bring back the runaway however the order was never fulfilled: Nader Shah himself was killed in Khorasan in June of the same year. The new ruler of Persia, Adil Shah issued a firman (decree) recognizing Panah Ali as the Khan of Karabakh.

Melik of Varanda Shahnazar II, who was at odds with other meliks, was the first to accept suzerainty of Panakh khan. Panakh khan founded the fortress of Shusha at a location, recommended by melik Shahnazar, and made it the capital of Karabakh khanate. By this same time, the region and the whole wider Caucasus region was reasserted under firm Iranian suzerainty by Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar dynasty. However, he was assassinated some years afterwards, ever increasing the political unrest in the region.

The Meliks did not wish to reconcile to the new position. They desperately hoped for the aid of the Russians and had entered into a correspondence to Catherine II of Russia and its favorite Grigori Potyomkin. Potyomkin already gave orders, that “at an opportunity its (Ibrahim-khans of Shusha) area which is made of people Armenian to give in board national and thus to renew in Asia the Christian state”.

But khan Ibrahim-Khalil (the son of Panakh-khan) learned about it. In 1785 he arrested the Dzraberd, Gulistan and Dizak meliks, and plundered Gandzasar monastery, and the Catholicos was planted in prison and poisoned. As a result of this the Khamsa melikdoms finally broke down. Ibrahim-khan made the Karabakh khanate a semi-independent princedom, which only nominally recognized Persian rule.

In 1797, Karabakh suffered the invasion of armies of Persian shah Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, who had just recently dealt with his Georgian subjects in the Tiflis. Shusha was besieged, but Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar was killed in the tent by own servants.

In 1805 Ibrahim-khan signed the Kurekchay Treaty with Imperial Russia, represented by the Russian commander-in-chief in the war against Pavel Tsitsianov, according to which Karabakh khanate became the protectorate of Russia and the latter undertook to maintain Ibrahim-Khalil khan and his descendants as the ruling dynasty of Karabakh.

However the following year Ibrahim-Khalil was killed by the Russian commandant of Shusha, who suspected that khan was trying to flee to Persia. Russia appointed Ibrahim-Khalil’s son Mekhti-Gulu his successor.

The Karabakh khanate, Georgia, and Dagestan passed to Imperial Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan/Northern Karabakh in 1813, before the rest of Transcaucasia was incorporated into the Empire in 1828 by the Treaty of Turkmenchay, following the two subsequent Russo-Persian Wars of the 19th century. In 1822, Mekhti-khan escaped to Persia.

The Armenian princes lost their status as princes (meliks) in 1822. In 1826, in Karabakh the Persian armies with which was and Mekhti-khan have intruded; but they could not grasp Shusha which was protected desperately with Russian and Armenians, and have been expelled by Russian general Madatoff (the Armenian from Karabakh by origin). The Karabakh khanate was dissolved, and the area became part of the Caspian oblast, and then Elizavetpol governorate within the Russian Empire (1823).

Karabakh khanate

Khanates of the Caucasus

Russian Rule

The Russian Empire consolidated its power over the Karabakh Khanate following the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828, when following two Russo-Persian wars, Persia recognized Karabakh Khanate, along with many other khanates, as part of Russia.

The Karabakh khanate was eliminated in 1822. A survey prepared by the Russian imperial authorities in 1823, a year after and several years before the 1828 Armenian migration from Persia to the newly established Armenian Province, shows that all Armenians of Karabakh compactly resided in its highland portion, i.e. on the territory of the five traditional Armenian principalities, and constituted an absolute demographic majority on those lands.

The survey’s more than 260 pages recorded that the district of Khachen had twelve Armenian villages and no Tatar (Muslim) villages; Jalapert (Jraberd) had eight Armenian villages and no Tatar villages; Dizak had fourteen Armenian villages and one Tatar village; Gulistan had two Armenian and five Tatar villages; and Varanda had twenty-three Armenian villages and one Tatar village.

Only 222 Armenians migrated to lands that were part of the Karabakh province, in 1840. In the mountainous part of Karabakh Armenian immigrants founded a new village, which they named Maraga after the town in Persia where they came from.

During the 19th century, Shusha becomes one of the most significant cities of Transcaucasia. By 1900 Susha was the fifth on size city of Transcaucasia; there was a theatre, printing houses, etc.; manufacture of carpets and trade were especially developed, since being there for a long time. Census of 1897 shows 25.656 inhabitants, from them of 56,5% of Armenians and 43,2% “the Azerbaijan Tatars”.

For the period from 1874 to 1920 there were 21 names of newspapers and magazines, from them 19 were in the Armenian language and 2 in Russian language were published. Armenians, making the richest and educated part of the population, defined cultural shape of Shusha. During the first Russian revolution 1905, in the fields, there were bloody armed conflicts between Armenians and Tatars (Azerbaijanians).

Following the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, Transcaucasia became the stage of wars between every political entity that emerged in the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) and their neighbors (Ottoman Empire).

New Caucasian States

The set of Russian Provisional Government happened after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Grand Duke Nicholas with the Special Transcaucasian Committee established the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Karabakh became part of the Transcaucasian Federation.

Following the October Revolution, a government of the local Soviet, led by ethnic Armenian Stepan Shaumyan, was established in Baku: the so-called National Council of Baku (November 1917 – July 31, 1918).

The Armenians under the Russian control devised a national congress in October 1917. The convention in Tiflis was concluded in September 1917 with delegates from the former Romanov realm (203). The Muslim National Councils (MNC) passed the law to organize the defense and devised a local control and administrative structure of the Transcaucasia. The Council also selected a 15-member permanent executive committee, known as the Azerbaijani National Council.

In March 1918, ethnic and religious tension grew and the Armenian-Azeri conflict in Baku began. Musavat and Ittihad parties were accused of Pan-Turkism by Bolsheviks and their allies. Armenian and Muslim militia engaged in armed confrontation, with the formally neutral Bolsheviks tacitly supporting the Armenian side. As a result, between 3,000 and 12,000 were killed in what is known as the March Days.

Muslims were expelled from Baku, or went underground. At the same time the Baku Commune was involved in heavy fighting with the advancing Ottoman Caucasian Army of Islam in and around Ganja. Major battles occurred in Yevlakh and Agdash, where the Turks routed and defeated Dashnak and Russian Bolshevik forces.

In these circumstances the government of Azerbaijan declared the incorporation of Karabakh into the newly established Azerbaijan Democratic Republic of Baku and Yelizavetpol Gubernias.

However the Nagorno-Karabakh and Zangezur rejected to recognize the jurisdiction of the Azerbaijani Republic. Here the two Armenian national uyezd (district) Councils took the power into their hands, organised and headed the struggle against Azerbaijan.

Assistance from the Republic of Armenia to Karabakh was limited as it found itself fighting enemies on all fronts, but the Armenian irregulars in Zangezur and the territories formerly known as Khachen (Artsakh) managed to maintain their control over the lands, consistently fighting off offensives from Azerbaijan and quelling Muslim uprisings from within. Azerbaijan maintained control of the lowlands of Karabakh and some regions between Zangezur and Artsakh.

In May 1918 this soon dissolved into separate Democratic Republic of Armenia, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, and Georgian Democratic Republic states. The newly formed Republic of Armenia (declared on 28 May 1918) claimed most of the highlands of Karabakh, which was also claimed by the newly formed Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

On July 22, 1918 the First Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh was convened, which proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh an independent administrative-political unit, elected the National Council as well as the People’s government. Prime-minister of the government was Yeghishe Ishkhanian, the secretary – Melikset Yesayan.

In September, at the 2nd Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh the People’s Government was renamed into the Armenian National Council of Karabakh. On July 24, the Declaration of the People’s government of Karabakh was adopted which set forth the objectives of the newly established state power. On October 31, 1918 Ottoman Empire admitted its defeat in World War I, and its troops retreated from Transcaucasia. British forces replaced them in December and took the area under its control.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire established itself in Azerbaijan, and advocated that all of Karabakh (including Zangezur and Artsakh) should be part of Azerbaijan until the boundaries can be decided upon peacefully at the upcoming Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but the battles did not cease until the Red Army from Russia began reclaiming the former territories of the Russian Empire and created Soviet Azerbaijan out of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1920.

The Armenians of Zangezur and Artsakh had consistently maintained control of the region and intended to unite with Armenia during the entirety of the two years of chaos, with Azerbaijan only temporarily occupying parts of the regions at certain times.

The fall of Azerbaijan gave Armenia the opportunity to properly unite with the Armenian irregulars in Zangezur and Artsakh, but they were taken by the Red Army on 26 May 1920. The rest of Armenia fell to the Red Army shortly after.

The Bolsheviks tried to end the centuries-long rivalry between Russia and Turkey, and in 1921, Joseph Stalin formally transferred the Armenian-populated highlands of Karabakh to Soviet Azerbaijan to try to placate Turkey, though the majority of Zangezur remained within Soviet Armenia.

In December 1920 under Soviet pressure central authorities issued a statement that Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhjivan were all transferred to Armenian control. Stalin (then commissar for nationalities) made the decision public on 2 December, but the Azerbaijani leader Narimanov later denied the transfer. Under these circumstances, Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan were admitted to the Soviet Union on 20 December 1922.

The inclusion of Artsakh within Soviet Azerbaijan caused an uproar amongst Armenians, which led to the creation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast within Soviet Azerbaijan on 7 July 1923 (implemented in November 1924). Although the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continued to desire reunification with Armenia, the conflict was largely dormant during the Soviet era.

The government of Azerbaijan for this once tried to capture Nagorno-Karabakh with the help of the British. The new borders of Transcaucasia could not be defined without the agreement of Great Britain.

Stating that the fate of the disputable territories must be solved at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, the British command in reality did everything for incorporating Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan long before the final resolution of the problem.

Establishing a full control over the export of the Baku oil, the British sought the final secession of Transcaucasia from Russia; Azerbaijan, as it was supposed, was to play a role of an advanced post of the West in the South Caucasus to create barriers to the sovietization of the region. On this account the policy of the allied powers in the relation with Transcaucasia had a pro-Azerbaijani trend.

The solution of the Karabakhian problem was dragged out rather calculating on the development of the military-political situation that would be favourable for Azerbaijan, therefore the change of the ethnic structure of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On January 15, 1919, the Azerbaijani government with “the knowledge of the British command” appointed Khosrov bey Sultanov governor-general of Nagorno-Karabakh, simultaneously laying an ultimatum to the Karabakhian National Council to recognize the power of Azerbaijan.

On February 19, 1919, the 4th Congress of the Armenian population of Karabakh was convened in Shushi, which decisively rejected this ultimatum of Azerbaijan and expressed protest in connection with the appointment of Sultanov governor-general.

The resolution adopted by the congress says, “Insisting on the principle of the self-determination of a people, the Armenian population of Karabakh respects the right of the neighbouring Turkish people for self-determination and together with this decisively protests against the attempts of the Azerbaijani government to eliminate this principle in the relation of Nagorno-Karabakh, which never will admit the power of Azerbaijan over it”.

In the connection with the appointment of Sultanov the British mission came out with an official notification, which stated, that “by the British command’s consent Dr. Khosrov Bek Sultanov is appointed provisional governor of Zangezur, Shusha, Jivanshir and Jebrail useds [sic]. The British Mission finds it necessary to confirm that belonging of the mentioned districts to one or another unit must be solved at a Peace Conference”.

However in spite of the Karabakhi people’s protests the British commandment continued to assist and support the Azerbaijani Government in realizing the policy of incorporation of Armenian Karabakh into Azerbaijan.

Unable to force Nagorno-Karabakh to it knees by threats or by the help of the armed forces Schatelwort personally arrived at Shusha late in April 1919 to compel the National Council of Karabakh to recognize the power of Azerbaijan. On April 23, in Shusha the Fifth Congress was convened which rejected the Schatelwort’s demands.

The congress has declared, that “Azerbaijan always acted as the helper and the accomplice in the atrocities which are carried out by Turkey concerning Armenians in general and Karabakhs of Armenians in particular “.

It has accused Azerbaijan of robbery, murders and hunting for Armenians on roads, and that it “aspires to destroy Armenians as the unique cultural element, gravitating not to the East, and to the Europe “. Therefore resolution declared, that any program having any attitude to Azerbaijan is unacceptable for Armenian.

Having received a refusal from the Fifth Congress, Sultanov decided to subordinate Nagorno-Karabakh by means of the armed forces. Almost the whole army of Azerbaijan was concentrated at the Nagorno-Karabakh borders. In the beginning of June Sultanov has tried to borrow the Armenian quarters of Shusha, attacked positions of Armenians and has organized pogroms the Armenian villages.

So, nomads under leadership of Sultanov’s brother completely massacred village Gayballu. 580 Armenians in total were lost… The English troops withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh to give the Azerbaijani troops a free hand.

On those days there was concluded the agreement to convene the Sixth Congress of the Karbaghi Armenians, at which the representatives of the English Mission and Azerbaijani government were to take part.

The main objective of the Congress was the discussion of the interrelations of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan before the convention of the Peace Conference in Paris. However the representatives of the English mission and the government of Azerbaijan arrived at the Congress, after it had finished its work and the negotiations did not take place.

To find out whether Nagorno-Karabgh would be able to defend its independence in case of war, at the Congress the Commission was established which came to the conclusion, that the Karabakhians would not be able to do so. In such circumstances the Congress, being under the threat of the armed assault form Azerbaijan, was compelled to start negotiations.

Eager to win time and to concentrate the forces available, the Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh convened on August 13, 1919 concluded the agreement on August 22 according to which Nagorno-Karabgh considered itself to be fully within the borders of the Azerbaijani Republic till the final solution of the problem at Peace Conference in Paris. However the Azerbaijan armies are there in structure of a peacetime. Azerbaijan cannot enter into area of an army without the permission of National Council. Disarmament of the population stops before peace conference.

In February, Azerbaijan has started to focus around Karabakh military parts and irregular groups. The Karabakh Armenians declared, that Sultanov “has organized large gangs of Tatars, Kurds, prepares grandiose massacre of Armenians (…) On roads kill travellers, rape women’s, the cattle steal up. Proclaimed the economic blockade of Karabakh. Sultanov is declared demands entry of garrison in heart of Armenian Karabakh: Varanda, Dzraberd, break these the agreement of VII Congress”.

On February 19, 1920, Sultanov turned to the National Council of the Karabakhi Armenians with the demand “urgently to solve the question of the final incorporation of Karabakh into Azerbaijan”.

From February 23 until March 4, 1920 the Eighth Congress of Karabakhi Armenians was held and it rejected the demand of Sultanov. The Congress has accused Sultanov of numerous infringements of the peace agreement, entry of armies in Karabakh without the permission of National Council and the organization of murders of Armenians, in particular the massacre accomplished on February, 22nd in Khankendy, Askeran and on road Shusha-Evlakh.

However, in all these events, the aspirations and wishes of Azerbaijani population of Karabakh were continuously violated by Armenian inhabitants “who had no right to represent in its Congress the will of the entire population of the region”.

In accordance with the decision of the Congress the diplomatic and the military representatives of the allied states of the Entente, three Transcaucasian republics and the provisional governor-general were informed that “the repetition of the events will compel the Armenians of Nagorno- Karabakh to turn to the appropriate means for defense.”

Nagorno-Karabakh war 1920

In March–April 1920 there was a short war between Azerbaijan and Armenia for Nagorno-Karabakh. It began on 22 March (on Nowruz) when Armenian forces broke the armistice and unexpectedly attacked Askeran and Khankendi.

The Armenians assumed that the Azerbaijanians would be celebrating Nowruz and would therefore not be prepared for defense, but an attempted attack on the Azerbaijan garrison in Shusha failed because of poor coordination.

In response Azerbaijan forces armies burnt the Armenian part of Shusha and massacred the population. “The most beautiful Armenian city has been destroyed, crushed to its foundations; we have seen corpses of women and children in wells” – recollects Soviet communist leader Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze.

An officer of the Azerbaijan army, Alimardanbekov, wrote a letter to his brother, preserved in the archives, “Ermeni Shusha (i.e. Armenian Shusha), which you saw, has been completely burned down. Only 5–10 houses were left intact. More than 1000 Armenians were taken as prisoners. All the men have been killed, all the famous and wealthy people, even the Khalif. The Muslims robbed the immeasurable wealth of the Armenians and became so rich that they have become insolent”.

According to the description of Azerbaijan communist Musaev, «has begun ruthless destruction of defenceless women, children, old women, old men, etc. Armenians were exposed to a mass slaughter (…). At what beautiful Armenian girls raped, then shot. (…) On an order (…) Khosrov-bek Sultanov, pogroms proceeded more than six days, houses in the Armenian part have been crushed, plundered and reduced all to ashes, everyone lead away women where it will wish to executioners musavatists.

During these historical artful punishments Khosrov-bek Sultanov, saying speeches, declared to moslems, about sacred war and called to finish finally with Armenians of city Shusha, not having spared women, children, etc.

The Armenian sources name different figures of victims among Armenians, from 500 person at R. Hovannisian up to 35 thousand; ordinarily name figure in 20–30 thousand; number of the burnt houses estimate from (R. Hovannisian) 2 thousand up to 7 thousand (ordinarily named figure).

According to Greater Soviet Encyclopedia, during military events 20% of the population of the Nagorno-Karabakh were lost, (that at absolute calculation gives up to 30 thousand persons); mainly Armenians (which 94% of the population of area in general ade) Pogrom in Shusha was kept in historical memory of the Karabakh Armenians as largest of the accidents gone through by them.

As a result of rout, Shusha has come to the pithiest situation. Its population was reduced up to 9.000, and by the end of 20th and up to 5.000 person (and so never and has not risen above 17.000 in 1989).

Nadezhda Mandelstam so describes Shusha 20th years: ” everywhere the same: two houses without a roof, without windows, without doors. (…)Speak, that after slaughter all wells have been hammered by corpses.

If who has escaped, ran from this city of death. On all mountainous streets we did not see and have not met any person. Only below – on a market square – pottered about small group to people, but among them there was no Armenian, only muslims “.

The course of the war was as follows. On April 3, Azerbaijanians have borrowed Askeran (grasped on March, 22nd the Armenian insurgents). On April, 7th, being based on Shusha, the Azerbaijan army has led approach to the south.

At the same time there was an approach in the north, on Giulistan. By April, 12th the Azerbaijan approach has been stopped in Giulistan – under Chaikend, in the Varanda – under Keshishkend and Sigankh.

In Khachen to Armenians in general it was possible to beat off successfully from the Azerbaijanians come from Agdam, and Azerbaijanians have only destroyed some villages in a valley of river Khachen, to northeast from Askeran. Against Azerbaijan all armed manned population of Karabakh (30.000) operated; Armenia officially denied the participation in operations, that mismatched the validity.

However, the Armenian armies on Zangezur front, under command of the general Dro (Drastamat Kanayan) crushed the Azerbaijan barriers and broke in Karabakh. The strategic situation had sharply changed, and Armenians have started to prepare for storm of Shusha.

In April 1920, the Ninth Congress of the Karabakhi Armenians was held which proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh an essential part of Armenia. But, with the direct intervention of Russian troops, Azerbaijan regained control of the area.

The concluding document reads: (1) “To consider the agreement, which was concluded with the government of Azerbaijan on behalf of the Seventh Congress of Karabakh, violated by the latter, in view of the organized attack of the Azerbaijani troops on the civilian Armenian population in Shusha and villages”. (2) “To proclaim the joining of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia as an essential part of Armenia”.

In 1921, Armenia and Georgia were also taken over by the Bolsheviks who, in order to attract public support, promised they would allot Karabakh to Armenia, along with two other disputable areas with ethnically mixed population – Nakhchivan and Zangezur (Syunik) (both last de facto belonged to Armenia).

However, Moscow also had far-reaching plans concerning Turkey—hoping that it would, with a little help from Russia, develop along Communist lines[citation needed]. In its need to appease Turkey, the Bolsheviks transferred Karabakh to Azerbaijan, along with the Nachichevan area, which from 1919 to 1920 was part of the Republic Armenia.

From the areas declared disputable, only the small area Zangezur (a strip separating Nakhichevan from Azerbaijan proper) has been left for Armenia. This final decision to transfer Karabakh was made rather abruptly and arbitrarily.

On July 4, 1921, the Caucasian Bureau of the Russian Communist Party Central Committee decided during a plenary session that Karabakh would be integrated to Armenia. However, on the next day, July 5, 1921, Stalin intervened and thus it was decided that Karabakh be included in Soviet Azerbaijan – this decision was taken without deliberation or vote.

As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was established within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. Most of the decisions on the transfer of the territories, and the establishment of new autonomous entities, were made under pressure from Joseph Stalin, who is still blamed by both Azerbaijanis and Armenians for arbitrary decisions made against their national interests.

“The Soviet Union created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan in 1924, when over 94 percent of the region’s population was Armenian. (The term Nagorno-Karabakh originates from the Russian for “mountainous Karabakh.”) As the Azerbaijani population grew, the Karabakh Armenians chafed under discriminatory rule, and by 1960 hostilities had begun between the two populations of the region.”

Soviet Rule

For 65 years of the NKAO’s existence, the Karabakh Armenians felt they were the object of various restrictions on the part of Azerbaijan. The essence of Armenian discontent lay in the fact that the Azerbaijani authorities deliberately severed the ties between the oblast and Armenia and pursued a policy of cultural de-Armenization in the region, of planned Azeri settlement, squeezing the Armenian population out of the NKAO and neglecting its economic needs.

The census of 1979 showed that the general number of inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was counted as 162,200 persons, from them 123,100 Armenians (75.9%) and 37,300 Azerbaijanians (22.9%) Armenians marked this fact, comparing with it with data of 1923 (94% of Armenians). In addition to that they marked, that ” to 1980 in Nagorno-Karabakh 85 Armenian villages (30%) have been liquidated and none at all Azerbaijanian “

Also, Armenians accused the government of Azerbaijan “to the purposeful policy of discrimination and replacement”. They believed that Baku’s plan was to supersede absolutely all Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh on the example of how it, from their words, has been done in Nakhichevan Autonomous Region (which went from 40% Armenian in 1917 to 0% by 1999).

Azerbaijani residents of the NKAO, meanwhile, were complaining about discrimination by the Armenian majority of the autonomous oblast and their economic marginalization.

De Waal in his Black Garden points out that NKAO economically was worse off than Armenia SSR. However, he adds that economically Azerbaijan SSR overall was poorest in South Caucasus; nevertheless, NKAO’s economic indicators were better than overall Azerbaijan, which might be a motivation for Karabakh Armenians to join Armenia SSR.

With the beginning of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh re-emerged. On February 20, 1988, the Oblast Soviet of the NKAO weighed up the results of an unofficial referendum on the reattachment of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, held in the form of a petition signed by 80,000 people.

On the basis of that referendum, the session of the Oblast Soviet of Nagorno-Karabakh adopted the appeals to the Supreme Soviets of the USSR, Azerbaijan and Armenia, asking them to authorize the secession of Karabakh from Azerbaijan and its attachment to Armenia.

It has caused indignation among the neighboring Azerbaijan population, which began to gather crowds to go and “put things in order” in Nagorno-Karabakh. On February 24, 1988, a direct confrontation between Armenians and gone “to put things in order” the Azerbaijanians, occurred near Askeran (border of Nagorno-Karabakh, on the road Stepanakert – Agdam) degenerated into a skirmish.

During the clashes, which left about 50 Armenians wounded, a local policeman, in accordance with information from International Historical-enlightenment Human rights Society – Memorial he was an Azeri, shot dead two Azerbaijanis – Bakhtiyar Guliyev, 16, and Ali Hajiyev, 23.

On February 27, 1988, while speaking on Central TV, the USSR Deputy Prosecutor General A. Katusev mentioned the nationality of those killed. Within hours, a pogrom against Armenian residents began in the city of Sumgait, 25 km north of Baku, where many Azerbaijani refugees resided. The pogrom lasted for three days.

The exact figures for the dead are disputed. The official investigation reported 32 deaths – 6 Azerbaijanis and 26 Armenians, while the US Library of Congress places the number of Armenian victims at over 100.

A similar attack on Azerbaijanis occurred in the Armenian towns of Spitak, Gugark and others. Azerbaijani sources put the number of Azerbaijanis killed in clashes in Armenia at 216 in total, including 57 women, 5 infants and 18 children of different ages.

KGB of Armenia, however, approves, that it has tracked the destiny of all those from the Azerbaijan list-of-dead and the majority of them – earlier died, living in other regions USSR, from the earthquake of 1988 in Spitak etc.; the figure of Armenian KGB – 25 killed – originally was not challenged and in Azerbaijan.

Large numbers of refugees left Armenia and Azerbaijan as pogroms began against the minority populations of the respective countries. In the fall of 1989, intensified inter-ethnic conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh led Moscow to grant Azerbaijani authorities greater leeway in controlling that region.

The Soviet policy backfired, however, when a joint session of the Armenian Supreme Soviet and the National Council, the legislative body of Nagorno-Karabakh, proclaimed the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. In mid-January 1990, Azerbaijani protesters in Baku went on a rampage against remaining Armenians.

Moscow intervened only after there were almost no Armenian population left in Baku, sending army troops, who violently suppressed the Azerbaijan Popular Front (APF) and installed Mutalibov as president. The troops reportedly killed 122 Azerbaijanis in quelling the uprising, and Gorbachev denounced the APF for striving to establish an Islamic republic.

These events further alienated the Azerbaijani population from Moscow and ACP rule. It is fair to mention, that in the eyes of many, the Red Army was sent not for protection of Armenians, but for prevention of ACP from taking total control of the republic.

This appears true, as during the pogroms against Armenians there were enough National Guard soldiers and local militia for prevention of violence, in which almost 300,000 Armenians (the whole Armenian population of Baku then) suffered torture, massacres, violence and either died or flee Baku by miracle.

Even those Azeries in “mix-families”, their children and parents had to flee, as supported by the KGB of Azerbaijan SSR the mobs had detailed addresses and information about the exact locations of the families. Such protection order was never issued by Moscow.

In a December 1991 referendum, that was taking place along with similar referendums all around the USSR, and boycotted by most of local Azerbaijanis, the yet majority population of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh approved the creation of an independent state. However, the Constitution of the USSR was the instrument in accordance to which only the 15 Soviet Republics could vote for independence and Nagorno-Karabakh was not one of the Soviet Republics.

A Soviet proposal for enhanced autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan satisfied neither side, and Azerbaijan attacked militarily Nagorno-Karabakh which had no army at the moment. This could not leave the already independent Republic of Armenia irrelevant, so, by its support of the Armenian population in defense, a war subsequently erupted between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

The war of Nagorno-Karabakh 1991

During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was revitalized. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh declared their independence as the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh with the intention of reunifying with the newly independent Armenia.

The declaration was rejected by the newly independent Azerbaijan, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 20 February 1988 to 12 May 1994, resulting in ceasefire in May 1994 and the de facto independence of the Republic of Artsakh, whose territory remains internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated after both Armenia and Azerbaijan attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In the post-Soviet power vacuum, military action between Azerbaijan and Armenia was heavily influenced by the Russian military.

Extensive Russian military support was exposed by the Head of the Standing Commission of the Russian Duma, General Lev Rokhlin, who was subsequently allegedly killed by his wife in unknown circumstances. He had claimed that munitions (worth one billion US dollars) had been illegally transferred to Armenia between 1992 and 1996.

According to Armenian news agency Noyan Tapan, Rokhlin openly lobbied for the interests of Azerbaijan. According to The Washington Times, Western intelligence sources said that the weapons played a crucial role in Armenia’s seizure of large areas of Azerbaijan. Other Western sources dispute that assessment, because Russia continued to provide military support to Azerbaijan, as well, throughout the military conflict.

Russian Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov in his letter to Aman Tuleyev, Minister of cooperation with CIS countries, said that a Defense Ministry commission had determined that a large quantity of Russian weapons, including 84 T-72 tanks and 50 armored personnel carriers, were illegally transferred to Armenia between 1994 and 96, after the ceasefire, for free and without authorization by the Russian government.

The Washington Times article suggested that Russia’s military support for Armenia was aimed to force “pro-Western Azerbaijan and its strategic oil reserves into Russia’s orbit”. Armenia has officially denied any such weapons delivery. Both sides used mercenaries. Mercenaries from Russia and other CIS countries fought on the Armenian side, and some of them were killed or captured by the Azerbaijan army.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Azerbaijani President Heydər Əliyev recruited thousands of mujahedeen fighters from Afghanistan (and mercenaries from Iran and elsewhere) and brought in even more Turkish officers to organize his army.

The Washington Post discovered that Azerbaijan hired more than 1,000 guerrilla fighters from Afghanistan’s radical prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Meanwhile, Turkey and Iran supplied trainers, and the republic also was aided by 200 Russian officers who taught basic tactics to Azerbaijani soldiers in the northwest city of Barda.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, generally considered a notorious terrorist, personally engaged Armenian forces in NKR. According to EurasiaNet, unidentified sources have stated that Arab guerrilla Ibn al-Khattab joined Basayev in Azerbaijan between 1992 and 1993, although that is dismissed by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. In addition, officers from the Russian 4th Army participated in combat missions for Azerbaijan on a mercenary basis.

According to Human Rights Watch, “from the beginning of the Karabakh conflict, Armenia provided aid, weapons, and volunteers which were taken from Russia. Armenian involvement in Karabakh escalated after a December 1993 Azerbaijani offensive. The Republic of Armenia began sending conscripts and regular Army and Interior Ministry troops to fight in Karabakh.

In January 1994, several active-duty Armenian Army soldiers were captured near the village of Chaply, Azerbaijan. To bolster the ranks of its army, the Armenian government resorted to press-gang raids to enlist recruits.

Draft raids intensified in early spring, after Decree no. 129 was issued, instituting a three-month call-up for men up to age 45. Military police would seal off public areas, such as squares, and round up anyone who looked to be draft age”.

By the end of 1993, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. In a national address in November 1993, Əliyev stated that 16,000 Azerbaijani troops had died and 22,000 had been injured in nearly six years of fighting.

The UN estimated that just under 1 million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced person were in Azerbaijan at the end of 1993. Mediation was attempted by officials from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Iran, among other countries, and by organizations, including the UN and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which began sponsoring peace talks in mid-1992.

All negotiations met with little success, and several cease-fires broke down. In mid-1993, Əliyev launched efforts to negotiate a solution directly with the Karabakh Armenians, a step which Elchibey had refused to take. Əliyev’s efforts achieved several relatively long cease-fires in Nagorno-Karabakh, but outside the region Armenians occupied large sections of southwestern Azerbaijan near the Iranian border during offensives in August and October 1993.

Iran and Turkey warned the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to cease the offensive operations that threatened to spill over into foreign territory. The Armenians responded by claiming that they were driving back Azerbaijani forces to protect Nagorno-Karabakh from shelling.

In 1993, the UN Security Council called for Armenian forces to cease their attacks on and occupation of a number of Azerbaijani regions. In September 1993, Turkey strengthened its forces along its border with Armenia and issued a warning to Armenia to withdraw its troops from Azerbaijan immediately and unconditionally.

At the same time, Iran was conducting military maneuvers near the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in a move widely regarded as a warning to Armenia. Iran proposed creation of a twenty-kilometer security zone along the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, where Azerbaijanis would be protected by Iranian firepower. Iran also contributed to the upkeep of camps in southwestern Azerbaijan to house and feed up to 200,000 Azerbaijanis fleeing the fighting.

Fighting continued into early 1994, with Azerbaijani forces reportedly winning some engagements and regaining some territory lost in previous months. In January 1994, Əliyev pledged that in the coming year occupied territory would be liberated and Azerbaijani refugees would return to their homes. At that point, Armenian forces held an estimated 14 percent of the area recognized as Azerbaijan, with Nagorno-Karabakh proper comprising 5 percent.

However, during the first three months of 1994 the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army started a new offensive campaign and captured some areas thus creating a wider safety and buffer zone around Nagorno-Karabakh.

By May 1994 the Armenians were in control of 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan. At that stage the Government of Azerbaijan for the first time during the conflict recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as a third party of the war and started direct negotiations with the Karabakhi authorities. As a result an unofficial cease-fire was reached on May 12, 1994, through Russian negotiation, and continues today.

As a result of the war for Nagorno-Karabakh safety and independence, Azerbaijanis were driven out of Nagorno-Karabakh and territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. Those are still under control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian military.

With the support of Soviet/Russian military forces, Azerbaijanis forced out tens of thousand Armenians from Shahumyan region. Armenians remain in control of the Soviet-era autonomous region, and a strip of land called the Lachin corridor linking it with the Republic of Armenia; as well as the so-called ‘security zone’—strips of territory along the region’s borders that had been used by Azerbaijani artillery during the war. The Shahumyan region remains under the control of Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh War

Karabakh movement

Artsakh Defense Army

Azerbaijani Popular Front


Azerbaijan, officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded by Caspian Sea to the east, Russia’s Daghestan region to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south.

The exclave of Nakhchivan is bounded by Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and has an 11 km (6.8 mi) long border with Turkey in the northwest.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence in 1918 and became the first secular democratic Muslim-majority state. In 1920 the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

The modern Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence on 30 August 1991, shortly before the dissolution of the USSR in the same year. In September 1991, the Armenian majority of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region seceded to form the Republic of Artsakh.

The region and seven adjacent districts outside it became de facto independent with the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994. These regions are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan pending a solution to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh through negotiations facilitated by the OSCE.

The Turkic tribes are believed to have arrived as small bands of ghazis whose conquests led to the Turkification of the population as largely native Caucasian and Iranian tribes adopted the Turkic language of the Oghuz and converted to Islam over a period of several hundred years.

Ghazi (Arabic: ġāzī) originally referred to individuals who participated in ghazw (ġazw), meaning military expeditions or raiding. The latter term was applied in early Islamic literature to expeditions led by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and later taken up by Turkic military leaders to describe their wars of conquest.

Following the Russo-Persian Wars of 1813 and 1828, the Qajar Empire was forced to cede all its Caucasian territories to the Russian Empire and the treaties of Gulistan in 1813 and Turkmenchay in 1828 finalized the borders between Czarist Russia and Qajar Iran.

The area to the North of the river Aras, among which the territory of the contemporary republic of Azerbaijan were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia in the course of the 19th century.

Under the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Qajar Iran recognized Russian sovereignty over the Erivan Khanate, the Nakhchivan Khanate and the remainder of the Lankaran Khanate, comprising the last parts of the soil of the modern-day Azerbaijani Republic that were still in Iranian hands.

After more than 80 years of being under the Russian Empire in the Caucasus, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established in 1918. The name of “Azerbaijan” which the leading Musavat party adopted, for political reasons, was, prior to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, exclusively used to identify the adjacent region of contemporary northwestern Iran.

The state was invaded by Soviet forces in 1920 and remained under Soviet rule until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, after which the modern-day Republic was founded.

Azerbaijan is a home to various ethnicities, majority of which are Azerbaijani, a Turkic ethnic group which numbers close to 10 million in the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. The ethnic composition of the population according to the 2009 population census:

91.60% Azerbaijanis, 2.02% Lezgians, 1.35% Armenians (almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh), 1.34% Russians, 1.26% Talysh, 0.56% Avars, 0.43% Turks, 0.29% Tatars, 0.28% Tats, 0.24% Ukrainians, 0.14% Tsakhurs, 0.11% Georgians, 0.10% Jews, 0.07% Kurds, other 0.21%.

During Median and Persian rule, many Caucasian Albanians adopted Zoroastrianism and then switched to Christianity prior to coming of Muslim Arabs and more importantly Muslim Turks. Around 97% of the population are Muslims.

85% of the Muslims are Shia and 15% Sunni; the Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest proportion of Shia Muslims of any country in the world. Other faiths are practised by the country’s various ethnic groups.

Under article 48 of its Constitution, Azerbaijan is a secular state and ensures religious freedom. In a 2006–2008 Gallup poll, only 21% of respondents from Azerbaijan stated that religion is an important part of their daily lives. This makes Azerbaijan the least religious Muslim-majority country in the world.

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Azerbaijan-related articles


Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Iranian Azerbaijan


Origin of the Azeris


Prior to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, who adopted the name of “Azerbaijan” for political reasons in 1918, the name of “Azerbaijan” was exclusively used to identify the adjacent region of contemporary northwestern Iran. Historians and scholars have argued that the Pan-Turkic agenda drove the name change.

Historically, the name “Azerbaijan” was used to refer to the region located south of the Aras River- today known as Iranian Azerbaijan, located in northwestern Iran. The region in the north of the Aras River, which is today called the Republic of Azerbaijan, had not been included within the geographical boundaries of Azerbaijan until 1918. Historians and geographers usually referred to the region north of the Aras River as Aran.

On May 28, 1918, following the collapse of the Russian Empire, a group of political activists in Aran decided to change the name of their region to Azerbaijan by calling it Azerbaijan People’s Republic.

Naming Aran as Azerbaijan caused surprise, confusion, and rage in Iran, especially, among Iranian Azeri intellectuals. Mohammad Khiabani, an Iranian Azeri political activist and some other Iranian Azeri intellectuals recommended changing the name of Iranian Azerbaijan to Azadistan (the Land of freedom] to protest the name change.

Ahmad Kasravi, an Iranian Azeri historian, also got surprised when he heard about the name change, although it seems that he was unaware of the motives behind choosing the name Azerbaijan. In his book, Forgotten Rulers, he wrote:

“It is astonishing that Aran is named Azerbaijan now. Azerbaijan or Azerbaigan has always been the name of the territory that is bigger and more famous than its neighbor, Aran, and the two territories have always been distinct from each other.

To this day, we have not been able to understand that why our brethren in Aran who strived for a free rule for their country would want to put aside the ancient and historical name of their country and transgresses towards Azerbaijan [‘s name]?”

Today many Iranian Azeri journalists, political activists, and intellectuals avoid calling the Republic of Azerbaijan as Azerbaijan. They usually call the country “Republic of Aran” or “Republic of Baku” in order to emphasize the historical distinction between Aran and Azerbaijan.

The name of the region north of the Aras River knows as the Republic of Azerbaijan was called Caucasian Albania by ancient Greek geographers and historians. Strabo (64 or 63 BC – c. AD 24), a Greek geographer, identifies Albania as a separate territory from Atropatene (the ancient name of Azerbaijan) and describes it as “a land extending from the Caspian Sea to the Alazani River and the land of Mede Atropatene to the south.”

Movses Kaghankatvatsi, the author of the book the History of the Country of Albania, which covers the period between 4th century AD and 10th century AD, describes the boundaries of Albaniaas one that does not go beyond the Aras River.

According to a modern etymology, the term Azerbaijan derives from that of Atropates, a Persian satrap under the Achaemenid Empire, who was later reinstated as the satrap of Media under Alexander the Great.

The original etymology of this name is thought to have its roots in the once-dominant Zoroastrianism. In the Avesta’s Frawardin Yasht (“Hymn to the Guardian Angels”), there is a mention of âterepâtahe ashaonô fravashîm ýazamaide, which literally translates from Avestan as “we worship the fravashi of the holy Atropatene.”

The name “Atropates” itself is the Greek transliteration of an Old Iranian, probably Median, compounded name with the meaning “Protected by the (Holy) Fire” or “The Land of the (Holy) Fire”.

The Greek name was mentioned by Diodorus Siculus and Strabo. Over the span of millennia, the name evolved to Āturpātākān (Middle Persian), then to Ādharbādhagān, Ādharbāyagān, Āzarbāydjān (New Persian) and present-day Azerbaijan.

The name Azerbaijan was first adopted for the area of the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan by the government of Musavat in 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, when the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established.

Until then, the designation had been used exclusively to identify the adjacent region of contemporary northwestern Iran, while the area of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was formerly referred to as Arran and Shirvan. On that basis Iran protested the newly adopted country name.

During the Soviet rule, the country was also spelled in Latin from the Russian transliteration as Azerbaydzhan. The country’s name was also spelled in Cyrillic script from 1940 to 1991 as “Азәрбајҹан”.

History of the name Azerbaijan

Aran to Azerbaijan name change

Ghazi (warrior)

The Land of Fire

The Land of Fire (Azerbaijani: Odlar Yurdu) is the adopted motto of the country Azerbaijan. The etymology of the phrase is thought to be related to Atropates, who ruled over the region of Atropatene (present Iranian Azerbaijan).

The name “Atropates” itself is the Greek transliteration of an Old Iranian, probably Median, compounded name with the meaning “Protected by the (Holy) Fire” or “The Land of the (Holy) Fire”.

The Greek name is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus and Strabo. Over the span of millennia the name evolved to Āturpātākān then to Ādharbādhagān, Ādharbāyagān, Āzarbāydjān and present-day Azerbaijan. The word is translatable as “The Treasury” and “The Treasurer” of fire or “The Land of the Fire” in Modern Persian.

Some critics have argued that the phrase is a reference either to the natural burning of surface oil deposits or to the oil-fueled fires in temples of the once-dominant Zoroastrianism. The symbolism of the term widely been used in most fields such as in heraldry, the shield in national emblem of Azerbaijan contains the image of a fire in the center of an eight-point star against a background of the colors of the Azerbaijani flag.

After Azerbaijan’s independence from Soviet Union, the phrase was used as a touristic campaign to promote the country as a tourist destination and as a location for industry. The phrase appeared in many touristic promotions, the most notable on Atlético Madrid’s shirts between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. In 2014, the phrase appeared on Sheffield Wednesday and Lens shirts after the clubs’ promised but subsequently cancelled takeover by Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov.

The motto “Light your fire!”, used to promote the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, which was held in Baku, was based on the “Land of Fire” concept. The “Land of Flames” expression became the origin for the literary expressions denoting Azerbaijan in a number of European languages, such as in Russian language Strana Ogney (Страна Огней, i.e. “Country of the Fires”).

The Land of Fire

Western Azerbaijan

Western Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Qərbi Azərbaycan) is an irredentist political concept that is used in the Republic of Azerbaijan mostly to refer to the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Azerbaijani statements claim that the territory of the modern Armenian republic were lands that once belonged to Azerbaijanis.

Its claims are primarily hinged over the contention that the current Armenian territory was under the rule of various Turkic tribes, empires and khanates from the late medieval period until the Treaty of Turkmenchay signed after the Russo-Persian War of 1826–1828.

The concept has received official sanction by the government of Azerbaijan, and has been used by its current president, Ilham Aliyev, who has repeatedly stated that the territory of Armenia is a part of “ancient Turk and Azerbaijani land.”

The present-day territory of Armenia along with the western part of Azerbaijan, including Nakhichevan were historically part of the Armenian Highlands. In the medieval era, the Oghuz Turkic Seljuks, Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu held sway in the region. Afterward the area was under the control of the Safavid Empire.

Under the Iranian Safavids, the area that constitutes the bulk of the present-day Republic of Armenia, was organized as the Erivan Province. The Erivan Province also had Nakhchivan as one of its administrative jurisdictions. A number of the Safavid era governors of the Erivan Province were of Turkic origin. Together with the Karabagh province, the Erivan Province comprised Iranian Armenia.

Iranian ruler Nader Shah (r. 1736-1747) later established the Erivan Khanate (i.e. province); from then on, together with the smaller Nakchivan Khanate, these two administrative entities constituted Iranian Armenia.

In the Erivan Khanate, the Armenian citizens had partial autonomy under the immediate jurisdiction of the melik of Erevan. In the Qajar era, members of the royal Qajar dynasty were appointed as governors of the Erivan khanate, until the Russian occupation in 1828. The heads of the provincial government of the Erivan Khanate were thus directly related to the central ruling dynasty.

In 1828, per the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Iran was forced to cede the Erivan and Nakhchivan Khanates to the Russians. These two territories, which had constituted Iranian Armenia prior to 1828, were added together by the Russians and then renamed into the “Armenian Oblast”.

Until the mid-fourteenth century, Armenians had constituted a majority in Eastern Armenia. At the close of the fourteenth century, after Timur’s campaigns, Islam had become the dominant faith, and Armenians became a minority in Eastern Armenia.

After centuries of constant warfare on the Armenian Plateau, many Armenians chose to emigrate and settle elsewhere. Following Shah Abbas I’s massive relocation of Armenians and Muslims in 1604-05, their numbers dwindled even further.

Some 80% of the population of Iranian Armenia were Muslims (Persians, Turkics, and Kurds) whereas Christian Armenians constituted a minority of about 20%. As a result of the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828), Iran was forced to cede Iranian Armenia (which also constituted the present-day Republic of Armenia), to the Russians.

After the Russian administration took hold of Iranian Armenia, the ethnic make-up shifted, and thus for the first time in more than four centuries, ethnic Armenians started to form a majority once again in one part of historic Armenia.

The new Russian administration encouraged the settling of ethnic Armenians from Iran proper and Ottoman Turkey. As a result, by 1832, the number of ethnic Armenians had matched that of the Muslims.

Anyhow, it would be only after the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, which brought another influx of Turkish Armenians, that ethnic Armenians once again established a solid majority in Eastern Armenia.

Nevertheless, the city of Erivan remained having a Muslim majority up to the twentieth century. According to the traveller H. F. B. Lynch, the city was about 50% Armenian and 50% Muslim (Azerbaijanis and Persians) in the early 1890s.

According to the Russian census of 1897, a significant population of Azeris still lived in Russian Armenia. They numbered about 300,000 persons or 37.8% in Russia’s Erivan Governorate (roughly corresponding to most of present-day central Armenia, the Iğdır Province of Turkey, and Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave, but excluding Zangezur and most of northern Armenia).

Most lived in rural areas and were engaged in farming and carpet-weaving. They formed the majority in 4 of the governorate’s 7 districts (including Igdir and Nakhichevan, which are not part of Armenia today and Sharur-Daralagyoz district which is mostly in Azerbaijan) and were nearly as many as the Armenians in Yerevan (42.6% against 43.2%). At the time, Eastern Armenian cultural life was centered more around the holy city of Echmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 149 Azerbaijani, 91 Kurdish and 81 Armenian villages in Zangezur. Traveller Luigi Villari reported in 1905 that in Erivan the Tatars (modern-day Azerbaijanis) were generally wealthier than the Armenians, and owned nearly all of the land. Some Azeri sources claim that currently there is not a single Azerbaijani in Armenia.

Western Azerbaijan

Whole Azerbaijan

Whole Azerbaijan is an irredentist concept of uniting Azerbaijani-inhabited territories into Azerbaijan. The idea of “Whole Azerbaijan” was formulated by Piruz Dilanchi in 1991 and defined in 1992 by Azerbaijani president Abulfaz Elchibey (s. 1992-93).

In 1991, Dilanchi founded the SANLM nationalist organization and in 1997 Elchibey founded the “Whole Azerbaijan Union” (Bütöv Azərbaycan Birliyi) organization. Elchibey published his book on the idea, Bütöv Azərbaycan yolunda, in Turkey in 1998. It claimed that the borders of Azerbaijan should extend from Derbent to the Persian Gulf.

Elchibey claimed that this was a territory of Azerbaijani historical ethnic presence. He proposed that Azerbaijan had right to rule it, under a proposed system of governance called “United Azerbaijani Lands” (Birləşmiş Azərbaycan Yurdları). After his death in 2002, it was published postmortem. He opposed the idea of a separate and independent South Azerbaijan.

The term Whole Azerbaijan continued in political initiatives including the SANLM (CAMAH) and Whole Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. Although the boundaries of Whole Azerbaijan are not strictly defined, some proponents portray them as encompassing the following areas:

«Southern Azerbaijan» (Cənubi Azərbaycan) – Iran the provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Ardabil, and Zanjan. «Western Azerbaijan» (Qərbi Azərbaycan) – Armenia majority of the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Derbent (Dərbənd) – Russia Derbent district, Republic of Dagestan. Borchali (Borçalı) – Georgia (country) Part of the Kvemo Kartli province of Georgia.

Whole Azerbaijan


The official language is Azerbaijani, which is a Turkic language. Azerbaijani is spoken by approximately 92% of the population as a mother tongue. Russian and Armenian (only in Nagorno-Karabakh) are also spoken, and each are the mother tongue of around 1.5% of the population respectively. Russian and English play significant roles as second or third languages of education and communication.

There are a dozen other minority languages spoken natively in the country. Avar, Budukh, Georgian, Juhuri, Khinalug, Kryts, Lezgian, Rutul, Talysh, Tat, Tsakhur, and Udi are all spoken by small minorities. Some of these language communities are very small and their numbers are decreasing. Armenian is almost exclusively spoken in the break-away Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijani or Azeri, also known as Azerbaijani Turkic or Azerbaijani Turkish, is a Turkic language spoken primarily by the Azerbaijani people, who live mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan where the North Azerbaijani variety is spoken and in Iranian Azerbaijan where the South Azerbaijani variety is spoken.

Although there is a very high degree of mutual intelligibility between both forms of Azerbaijani, there are some significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax and sources of loanwords.

North Azerbaijani has official status in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Dagestan (a federal subject of Russia) but South Azerbaijani does not have official status in Iran, where the majority of Azerbaijanis live. It is also spoken to lesser varying degrees in Azerbaijani communities of Georgia and Turkey and by diaspora communities, primarily in Europe and North America.

Both Azerbaijani varieties are members of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages, which is a sub-branch of the Turkic language family, spoken by approximately 108 million people. The three languages with the largest number of speakers are Turkish, Azerbaijani and Turkmen, which combined account for more than 95% of speakers.

The standardized form of North Azerbaijani (spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia) is based on the Shirvani dialect, while Iranian Azerbaijani uses the Tabrizi dialect as its prestige variety. Azerbaijani is closely related to Gagauz, Qashqai, Crimean Tatar, Turkish and Turkmen, sharing varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with each of those languages.  According to linguistic comparative studies, the closest relative of Azerbaijani is the Turkmen language.

Historically the language was referred by its native speakers as Türki, meaning “Turkic” or Azərbaycan türkcəsi meaning “Azerbaijani Turkic”. After the establishment of the Azerbaijan SSR, on the order of Soviet leader Stalin, the “name of the formal language” of the Azerbaijan SSR was “changed from Turkish to Azeri”.

Azerbaijani evolved from the Eastern branch of Oghuz Turkic (“Western Turkic”) which spread to the Caucasus, in Eastern Europe, and northern Iran, in Western Asia, during the medieval Turkic migrations.

Persian and Arabic influenced the language, but Arabic words were mainly transmitted through the intermediary of literary Persian. Azerbaijani is, perhaps after Uzbek, the Turkic language upon which Persian and other Iranian languages have exerted the strongest impact—mainly in phonology, syntax and vocabulary, less in morphology.

The Turkic language of Azerbaijan gradually supplanted the Iranian languages in what is now northern Iran, and a variety of languages of the Caucasus and Iranian languages spoken in the Caucasus, particularly Udi and Old Azeri. By the beginning of the 16th century, it had become the dominant language of the region, and was a spoken language in the court of the Safavids and Afsharids.

The historical development of Azerbaijani can be divided into two major periods: early (c. 16th to 18th century) and modern (18th century to present). Early Azerbaijani differs from its descendant in that it contained a much larger number of Persian, and Arabic loanwords, phrases and syntactic elements. Early writings in Azerbaijani also demonstrate linguistic interchangeability between Oghuz and Kypchak elements in many aspects (such as pronouns, case endings, participles, etc.).

The Russian conquest of Transcaucasia in the 19th century split the language community across two states; the Soviet Union promoted development of the language, but set it back considerably with two successive script changes – from the Persian to Latin and then to the Cyrillic script – while Iranian Azerbaijanis continued to use the Persian script as they always had. Despite the wide use of Azerbaijani in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, it became the official language of Azerbaijan only in 1956. After independence, the Azerbaijan Republic decided to switch back to a modified Latin script.

Azerbaijani language

Ancient History

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the territory of Azerbaijan dates back to the late Stone Age and is related to the Guruchay culture of Azokh Cave. The Upper Paleolithic and late Bronze Age cultures are attested in the caves of Tağılar, Damcılı, Zar, Yataq-yeri and in the necropolises of Leylatepe and Saraytepe.

The Paleolithic period is divided into three periods: The Lower Paleolithic, The Middle Paleolithic, and The Upper Paleolithic period. The Paleolithic period originated from the first human species’ habitation in this territory and lasted until the 12th millennium BCE.

The cave of Azykh in the territory of the Fizuli district in the Republic of Azerbaijan is considered to be the site of one of the most ancient proto-human habitations in Eurasia.

Remnants of the pre-Acheulean culture were found in the lowest layers of the Azykh cave that are at least 700,000 years old. In 1968, Mammadali Huseynov discovered a 300,000-year-old partial jawbone of an early human in the acheulean age layer in Azokh cave, this was the oldest human remains ever discovered in the Soviet Union.

The Lower Paleolithic period is also known as the “Guruchay culture” and has similar features with the “Olduvay culture”. The Paleolithic period in what is now Azerbaijan is represented by finds at Aveidag, Tağlar, Damjily, Zar, Yatagery, Dash Salakhly, Qazma and some other sites.

Approximately, 12.000 years ago the Stone age period was replaced by the Mesolithic period and lasted until the 8.000 BC. The Mesolithic period in Azerbaijan was mainly studied on the basis of Gobustan (near Baku) and Damjili (Qazakh) caves.

Carved drawings etched on rocks in Gobustan, south of Baku, demonstrate scenes of hunting, fishing, labor and dancing, and are dated to the Mesolithic period. Petroglyphs in Gobustan dating about 5,000 to 8,000 years back contain long ships similar to Viking ships. Uncovered ship illustrations among the rock paintings shows its connection with the European continent and the Mediterranean.

The Neolithic period in Azerbaijan covers VII-VI millennium BC. Neolithic period was mainly studied on the basis of material and cultural examples were found in Damjili cave (in Qazakh), Gobustan (in Baku), Shomutepe (in the Agstafa District),Kultepe (in Nakhchivan), Toyretepe and other settlements. For the first time agricultural revolution happened in this period.

The Eneolithic or Chalcolithic period (c. 6th – 4th millennium BCE) was the period of transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Being laid around the Caucasus mountains which are rich in copper ores, there was a favorable condition for early formation and development of copper processing in the areas of Azerbaijan.

Many Eneolithic settlements as in Shomutepe, Toyratepe, Jinnitepe, Kultepe, Alikomektepe and IIanlitepe have been discovered in Azerbaijan, and carbon-dated artifacts show that during this period, people built homes, made copper tools and arrowheads, and were familiar with no-irrigated agriculture.

The Bronze Age began in the second half of the 4th millennium BC and ended in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC in Azerbaijan, while the Iron Age commenced in approximately 7-6th centuries BC. The Bronze Age in Azerbaijan is divided into the early Bronze Age, the middle Bronze Age and the late Bronze Age. These periods were studied in Nakhchivan, Ganja, Mingachevir, Dashkasan and other settlements.

The Early Bronze Age is characterized by the Kur-Araxes culture, the Middle Bronze Age also known as “painted earthenware”, or “painted pottery” culture. Late Bronze Age is characterized by archeological cultures of Khojali-Gadabay, Nakhchivan and Talish-Mughan.

During the researches in 1890 was conducted by Jacques de Morgan in the mountainous areas of Talysh near Lankaran, more than 230 burials were revealed back to Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. E. Rösler uncovered the late Bronze Age materials from Karabakh and Ganja between 1894 and 1903.

J. Hummel conducted investigations in 1930-1941 in Goygol region (Elenendorf in Soviet times) and Karabakh and revealed important sites as Barrows I and II, as well as several unknown sites dated back to the late Bronze Age.

Archaeologist Walter Crist from the American Museum of Natural History found a Bronze Age board game (4000 year – old) named “Hounds and Jackals” or “58 holes” in Gobustan National Park in 2018. The game was popular in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia at that time and was identified in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhat IV.

History of Azerbaijan

Azykh Cave

Damjili Cave

Gobustan National Park


Goytepe archaeological complex



Khojali-Gadabay Culture

Talish-Mughan Culture

Jar-Burial Culture

Leyla-Tepe culture

Kura–Araxes culture

Shulaveri-Shomu culture


The influence of ancient peoples and civilizations came to a crossroads in the territory of Azerbaijan. A variety of Caucasian peoples appear to be the earliest inhabitants of the South Caucasus with the notable Caucasian Albanians being their most prominently known representative. Caucasian Albanians are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Azerbaijan.

Early settlements included the Scythians in the 9th century BC. Following the Scythians, Iranian Medes came to dominate the area to the south of the Aras. The Medes forged a vast empire between 900–700 BC, which was integrated into the Achaemenid Empire around 550 BC. This led to the spread of Zoroastrianism.

Caucasian Albanians, the original inhabitants of northeastern Azerbaijan, ruled that area from around the 4th century BC, and established an independent kingdom. Later it became part of Alexander the Great’s Empire and its successor, the Seleucid Empire. During this period, Zoroastrianism spread in the Caucasus and Atropatene.

The Sasanian Empire turned Caucasian Albania into a vassal state in 252, while King Urnayr officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century. Despite Sassanid rule, Albania remained an entity in the region until the 9th century, while fully subordinate to Sassanid Iran, and retained its monarchy.

Despite being one of the chief vassals of the Sasanian emperor, the Albanian king had only a semblance of authority, and the Sasanian marzban (military governor) held most civil, religious, and military authority.

In the first half of the 7th century, Caucasian Albania, as a vassal of the Sasanians, came under nominal Muslim rule due to the Muslim conquest of Persia. The Umayyad Caliphate repulsed both the Sasanians and Byzantines from Transcaucasia and turned Caucasian Albania into a vassal state after Christian resistance led by King Javanshir, was suppressed in 667.

The power vacuum left by the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate was filled by numerous local dynasties such as the Sallarids, Sajids, and Shaddadids. At the beginning of the 11th century, the territory was gradually seized by waves of Oghuz Turks from Central Asia. The first of these Turkic dynasties established was the Seljuk Empire, who entered the area now known as Azerbaijan by 1067.

The pre-Turkic population that lived on the territory of modern Azerbaijan spoke several Indo-European and Caucasian languages, among them Armenian and an Iranian language, Old Azeri, which was gradually replaced by a Turkic language, the early precursor of the Azerbaijani language of today.

Some linguists have also stated that the Tati dialects of Iranian Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, like those spoken by the Tats, are descended from Old Azeri.

Locally, the possessions of the subsequent Seljuk Empire were ruled by Eldiguzids, technically vassals of the Seljuk sultans, but sometimes de facto rulers themselves. Under the Seljuks, local poets such as Nizami Ganjavi and Khaqani gave rise to a blossoming of Persian literature on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan.

The local dynasty of the Shirvanshahs became a vassal state of Timur’s Empire, and assisted him in his war with the ruler of the Golden Horde Tokhtamysh. Following Timur’s death, two independent and rival states emerged: Kara Koyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu. The Shirvanshahs returned, maintaining a high degree of autonomy as local rulers and vassals from 861, for numerous centuries to come.

In 1501, the Safavid dynasty of Iran subdued the Shirvanshahs and gained its possessions. In the course of the next century, the Safavids converted the formerly Sunni population to Shia Islam, as they did with the population in what is modern-day Iran.

The Safavids allowed the Shirvanshahs to remain in power, under Safavid suzerainty, until 1538, when Safavid king Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576) completely deposed them, and made the area into the Safavid province of Shirvan.

The Sunni Ottomans briefly managed to occupy parts of present-day Azerbaijan as a result of the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1578–1590; by the early 17th century, they were ousted by Safavid Iranian ruler Abbas I (r. 1588–1629).

In the wake of the demise of the Safavid Empire, Baku and its environs were briefly occupied by the Russians as a consequence of the Russo-Persian War of 1722–1723.

Despite brief intermissions such as these by Safavid Iran’s neighboring rivals, the land of what is today Azerbaijan remained under Iranian rule from the earliest advent of the Safavids up to the course of the 19th century.

Azerbaijan in Antiquity

Kara Koyunlu

Aq Qoyunlu

Treaty of Gulistan

Treaty of Turkmenchay

Russo-Persian Wars

Russo-Persian War (1804–13)

Russo-Persian War (1826–1828)

Contemporary history

After the Safavids, the area was ruled by the Iranian Afsharid dynasty. After the death of Nader Shah (r. 1736–1747), many of his former subjects capitalized on the eruption of instability. Numerous self-ruling khanates with various forms of autonomy emerged in the area.

The rulers of these khanates were directly related to the ruling dynasties of Iran, and were vassals and subjects of the Iranian shah. The khanates exercised control over their affairs via international trade routes between Central Asia and the West. Thereafter, the area was under the successive rule of the Iranian Zands and Qajars.

From the late 18th century, Imperial Russia switched to a more aggressive geo-political stance towards its two neighbors and rivals to the south, namely Iran and the Ottoman Empire.

Russia now actively tried to gain possession of the Caucasus region which was, for the most part, in the hands of Iran. In 1804, the Russians invaded and sacked the Iranian town of Ganja, sparking the Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813. The militarily superior Russians ended the Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813 with a victory.

Following Qajar Iran’s loss in the 1804–1813 war, it was forced to concede suzerainty over most of the khanates, along with Georgia and Dagestan to the Russian Empire, per the Treaty of Gulistan. The area to the north of the river Aras, amongst which territory lies the contemporary Republic of Azerbaijan, was Iranian territory until it was occupied by Russia in the 19th century.

About a decade later, in violation of the Gulistan treaty, the Russians invaded Iran’s Erivan Khanate. This sparked the final bout of hostilities between the two, the Russo-Persian War of 1826–1828.

The resulting Treaty of Turkmenchay, forced Qajar Iran to cede sovereignty over the Erivan Khanate, the Nakhchivan Khanate and the remainder of the Lankaran Khanate, comprising the last parts of the soil of the contemporary Azerbaijani Republic that were still in Iranian hands.

After incorporation of all Caucasian territories from Iran into Russia, the new border between the two was set at the Aras River, which, upon the Soviet Union’s disintegration, subsequently became part of the border between Iran and the Azerbaijan Republic.

Qajar Iran was forced to cede its Caucasian territories to Russia in the 19th century, which thus included the territory of the modern-day Azerbaijan Republic, while as a result of that cession, the Azerbaijani ethnic group is nowadays parted between two nations: Iran and Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, the number of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran far outnumber those in neighboring Azerbaijan.

After the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic was declared, constituting the present-day republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia.

It was followed by the March Days massacres that took place between 30 March and 2 April 1918 in the city of Baku and adjacent areas of the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire.

When the republic dissolved in May 1918, the leading Musavat party declared independence as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), adopting the name of “Azerbaijan” for the new republic; a name that prior to the proclamation of the ADR was solely used to refer to the adjacent northwestern region of contemporary Iran. The ADR was the first modern parliamentary republic in the Muslim world.

Among the important accomplishments of the Parliament was the extension of suffrage to women, making Azerbaijan the first Muslim nation to grant women equal political rights with men.

Another important accomplishment of ADR was the establishment of Baku State University, which was the first modern-type university founded in the Muslim East. By March 1920, it was obvious that Soviet Russia would attack Baku. Vladimir Lenin said that the invasion was justified as Soviet Russia could not survive without Baku’s oil.

Independent Azerbaijan lasted only 23 months until the Bolshevik 11th Soviet Red Army invaded it, establishing the Azerbaijan SSR on 28 April 1920. Although the bulk of the newly formed Azerbaijani army was engaged in putting down an Armenian revolt that had just broken out in Karabakh, Azerbaijanis did not surrender their brief independence of 1918–20 quickly or easily. As many as 20,000 Azerbaijani soldiers died resisting what was effectively a Russian reconquest.

On 13 October 1921, the Soviet republics of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia signed an agreement with Turkey known as the Treaty of Kars. The previously independent Republic of Aras would also become the Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Azerbaijan SSR by the treaty of Kars. On the other hand, Armenia was awarded the region of Zangezur and Turkey agreed to return Gyumri (then known as Alexandropol).

Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Azerbaijan SSR

Armenian–Tatar massacres

March Days

Armenian–Azerbaijani War

Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Soviet Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh War

Black January


Following the politics of glasnost, initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, civil unrest and ethnic strife grew in various regions of the Soviet Union, including Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region of the Azerbaijan SSR.

The disturbances in Azerbaijan, in response to Moscow’s indifference to an already heated conflict, resulted in calls for independence and secession, which culminated in the Black January events in Baku.

Later in 1990, the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijan SSR dropped the words “Soviet Socialist” from the title, adopted the “Declaration of Sovereignty of the Azerbaijan Republic” and restored the flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the state flag.

As a consequence of the failed coup which occurred in August in Moscow, on 18 October 1991, the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan adopted a Declaration of Independence which was affirmed by a nationwide referendum in December 1991, while the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on 26 December 1991. The country now celebrates its Independence Day on 18 October.

The early years of independence were overshadowed by the Nagorno-Karabakh war with the ethnic Armenian majority of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by Armenia. By the end of the hostilities in 1994, Armenians controlled up to 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

During the war many atrocities were committed including the massacres at Malibeyli and Gushchular, the Garadaghly massacre, the Agdaban and the Khojaly massacres. Furthermore, an estimated 30,000 people have been killed and more than a million people have been displaced.

Four United Nations Security Council Resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) demand for “the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” Many Russians and Armenians left Azerbaijan during the 1990s. According to the 1970 census, there were 510,000 ethnic Russians and 484,000 Armenians in Azerbaijan.

In 1993, democratically elected president Abulfaz Elchibey was overthrown by a military insurrection led by Colonel Surat Huseynov, which resulted in the rise to power of the former leader of Soviet Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev.

In 1994, Surat Huseynov, by that time the prime minister, attempted another military coup against Heydar Aliyev, but he was arrested and charged with treason. A year later, in 1995, another coup was attempted against Aliyev, this time by the commander of the OMON special unit, Rovshan Javadov. The coup was averted, resulting in the killing of the latter and disbanding of Azerbaijan’s OMON units.

At the same time, the country was tainted by rampant corruption in the governing bureaucracy. In October 1998, Aliyev was reelected for a second term. Despite the much improved economy, particularly with the exploitation of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field and Shah Deniz gas field, Aliyev’s presidency was criticized due to suspected election frauds, high levels of economic inequality and domestic corruption.

Ilham Aliyev, Heydar Aliyev’s son, became chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party as well as President of Azerbaijan when his father died in 2003. He was reelected to a third term as president in October 2013.

Independent Azerbaijan


Media (Old Persian: Māda, Middle Persian: Mād) is a region of north-western Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Medes, an ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran.

Late 9th to early 7th centuries BC, the region of Media was bounded by the Zagros Mountains to its west, to its south by the Garrin Mountain in Lorestan Province, to its northwest by the Qaflankuh Mountains in Zanjan Province, and to its east by the Dasht-e Kavir desert. Its neighbors were the kingdoms of Gizilbunda and Mannea in the northwest, and Ellipi and Elam in the south.

In the 8th century BC, Media’s tribes came together to form the Median Kingdom, which became a Neo-Assyrian vassal. Between 616 and 609 BC, King Cyaxares (624–585 BC) allied with King Nabopolassar of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and destroyed the Neo-Assyrian Empire, after which the Median Empire stretched across the Iranian Plateau as far as Anatolia. Its precise geographical extent remains unknown.

A few archaeological sites (discovered in the “Median triangle” in western Iran) and textual sources (from contemporary Assyrians and also ancient Greeks in later centuries) provide a brief documentation of the history and culture of the Median state. Apart from a few personal names, the language of the Medes is unknown.

The Medes had an ancient Iranian religion (a form of pre-Zoroastrian Mazdaism or Mithra worshipping) with a priesthood named as “Magi”. Later, during the reigns of the last Median kings, the reforms of Zoroaster spread into western Iran.

Words of Median origin appear in various other Iranian dialects, including Old Persian. A feature of Old Persian inscriptions is the large number of words and names from other languages and the Median language takes in this regard a special place for historical reasons.

During the Achaemenid period, it comprised present-day Azarbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan and western Tabaristan. As a satrapy under Achaemenid rule, it would eventually encompass a wider region, stretching to southern Dagestan in the north.

However, after the wars of Alexander the Great, the northern parts were separated due to the Partition of Babylon and became known as Atropatene, while the remaining region became known as Lesser Media.

Atropatene, also known as Media Atropatene, was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasties, first with Darius III of Persia and later Alexander the Great of Macedonia starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day northern Iran. Its capital was Ganzak. Atropatene also was the nominal ancestor of the name of the historic Azerbaijan region in Iran.

According to Strabo, the name of Atropatene derived from the name of Atropates, the commander of the Achaemenid dynasty. As he writes in his book “Geography”: “Media is divided into two parts. One part of it is called Greater Media, of which the metropolis is Ecbatana. The other part is Atropatian Media, which got its name from the commander. Atropates, who prevented also this country, which was a part of Greater Media, from becoming subject to the Macedonians”.

From the name of Atropates, different forms of the name of this country such as Atropatene, Atropatios Mēdia, Tropatene, Aturpatakan, Adarbayjan were used in different sources. Nevertheless, medieval Arab geographers suggested another version associating this name with Adorbador (the name of a priest) that means “guardian of the fire”.

In 331 BC, during the Battle of Gaugamela between the Achaemenid ruler Darius III and Alexander the Great, albans, sakasens, cadusians fought alongside the army of Achaemenid in the army of Atropates.

After this war, which resulted in the victory of Alexander the Great and the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Atropates expressed his loyalty to Alexander. In 328-327 BC, Alexander appointed him governor of Media.

Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Macedonian’s conquests were divided amongst the diadochi at the Partition of Babylon. The former Achaemenid satrapy of Media was divided into two states: The greater (southern) part – Media Magna was assigned to Peithon, one of Alexander’s bodyguards.

The smaller (northern) region, which had been the sub-satrapy of Matiene, became Media Atropatene under Atropates, the former Achaemenid governor of all Media, who had by then become father-in-law of Perdiccas, regent of Alexander’s designated successor. Shortly thereafter, Atropates refused to pay allegiance to Seleucus, and made Media Atropatene an independent kingdom.

Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.) came to power in the State of Seleucids which was one of the states that emerged in the east after the death of Alexander the Great. In 223 B.C. attack toward Atropatene resulted in victory.Consequently, the king of Atropatene- Artabazan accepted the ascendency of Seleucids and became dependent on it, on the other hand, interior independence was preserved…

At the same time, the Roman Empire came into sight in the Mediterranean basin and was trying to spread its power in the East and at the battle of Magnesia Selevkids were defeated by Romans in 190 B.C.

Then, Parthia and Atropatene considered Rome a threat to their independence and therefore allied themselves in the struggle against Rome. After the battle between Rome and the Parthians in 38 BC, the Romans won and the Roman general Antony attacked Fraaspa (36 BC), one of the central cities of Atropatene.

The city was surrounded by strong defenses. After a long blockade, Antony receded, losing approximately thirty-five thousand soldiers. In the face of Parthian attempts to annex Atropatene, Atropatene began to draw closer to Rome, thus, Ariobarzan II, who came to power in Atropatene in 20 BC, lived in Rome for about ten years.

The dynasty Atropates founded would rule the kingdom for several centuries, first independently, then as vassals of the Arsacids (who called it ‘Aturpatakan’). It was eventually annexed by the Arsacids, who then lost it to the Sassanids, who again called it ‘Aturpatakan’.


Caucasian Albania/Arran

Caucasian Albania is a modern exonym for a former state located in ancient times in the Caucasus: mostly in what is now western Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and southern Dagestan. Caucasian Albanians are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Azerbaijan.

The modern endonyms for the area are Aghwank and Aluank, among the Udi people, who regard themselves as descended from the inhabitants of Caucasian Albania. However, its original endonym is unknown.

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.

According to Armenian medieval historians Movses Khorenatsi, Movses Kaghankatvatsi and Koryun, the Caucasian Albanian (the Armenian name for the language is Aghvank, the native name of the language is unknown) alphabet was created by Mesrob Mashtots, the Armenian monk, theologian and translator who is also credited with creating the Armenian. This alphabet was used to write down the Udi language, which was probably the main language of the Caucasian Albanians.

Koryun, a pupil of Mesrob Mashtots, in his book “The Life of Mashtots”, wrote about how his tutor created the alphabet: “Then there came and visited them an elderly man, an Albanian named Benjamin. And he (Mashtots) inquired and examined the barbaric diction of the Albanian language, and then through his usual God-given keenness of mind invented an alphabet, which he, through the grace of Christ, successfully organized and put in order”.

A column capital of a 7th-century Christian church with an inscription in Caucasian Albanian, found in Mingachevir. The column capital is now kept on display at Azerbaijan State Museum of History.

A Caucasian Albanian alphabet of fifty-two letters, bearing resemblance to Georgian, Ethiopian and Armenian characters,[Note 1] survived through a few inscriptions, and an Armenian manuscript dating from the 15th century.

This manuscript, Matenadaran No. 7117, first published by Ilia Abuladze in 1937 is a language manual, presenting different alphabets for comparison – Armenian alphabet, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Georgian, Coptic, and Caucasian Albanian among them. The alphabet was titled: “Ałuanicʿ girn ē”, meaning “These are Albanian letters”.

In 1996, Zaza Aleksidze of the Georgian Centre of Manuscripts discovered at Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt, a text written on parchment that had been reused in a Georgian palimpsest.

In 2001 Aleksidze identified its script as Caucasian Albanian, and the text as an early lectionary dating to perhaps before the 6th century. Many of the letters discovered in it were not in the Albanian alphabet listed in the 15th-century Armenian manuscript.

Muslim geographers Al-Muqaddasi, Ibn-Hawqal and Estakhri recorded that a language which they called Arranian was still spoken in the capital Barda and the rest of Arran in the 10th century.

Iranian contact in the region goes back to the Median and Achaemenid times. During this Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania, the Parthian language spread in the region. It is possible that the language and literature for administration and record-keeping of the imperial chancellery for external affairs naturally became Parthian, based on the Aramaic alphabet.

According to Toumanoff: “the predominance of Hellenism, as under the Artaxiads, was now followed by a predominance of “Iranianism”, and, symptomatically, instead of Greek, as before, Parthian became the language of the educated”.

With the establishment of the Sassanids, Middle Persian, a closely related language to Parthian, became an official language of the Sassanid empire. At this time, Persian enjoyed even more success than the Caucasian Albanian language and the region was greatly affected by Iran.

According to Vladimir Minorsky: “The presence of Iranian settlers in Transcaucasia, and especially in the proximity of the passes, must have played an important role in absorbing and pushing back the aboriginal inhabitants. Such names as Sharvan, Layzan, Baylaqan, etc., suggest that the Iranian immigration proceeded chiefly from Gilan and other regions on the southern coast of the Caspian”. The presence of the Persian language and Iranian culture continued after the Islamic era.

The original population of the Caucasus followed different pagan religions. Under Achaemenid, Parthian and especially Sassanid influence, Zoroastrianism also grew in the region. Christianity started to spread in the late 4th century in the Sassanid era.

The Arab conquest and the Chalcedonian crisis led to severe disintegration of the Church of Caucasian Albania. Starting from the 8th century, much of the local population converted to Islam. By the 11th century there already were conciliar mosques in Partaw, Qabala and Shaki; the cities that were the creed of Caucasian Albanian Christianity.

These Islamised groups would later be known as Lezgins and Tsakhurs or mix with the Turkic and Iranian population to form present-day Azeris, whereas those that remained Christian were gradually absorbed by Armenians or continued to exist on their own and be known as the Udi people.

The Caucasian Albanian tribes of Hereti were converted to Eastern Orthodoxy by Dinar, Queen of Hereti in the 10th century. The religious affairs of this small principality were now officially administered by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In 1010, Hereti became absorbed into the neighbouring Georgian kingdom of Kakheti. Eventually in the early 12th century, these lands became part of the Georgian Kingdom under David the Builder finalising the process of their Georgianisation.

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 of Qabala, Zaqatala, Shaki, and Oguz. the Armenians of Vartashen and Shaki, the Georgians of Kakhetia and Hereti(Ingiloy), the Laks, the Lezgins and the Tsakhurs of Daghestan.

The population of Arran consisted of a great variety of peoples. Greek, Roman and Armenian authors provide the names of the some peoples who inhabited the lands between the Kur and Araxes rivers:

Utians and Mycians — apparently migrants from the south, Caspians, Gargarians and Gardmans, Sakasenians — of Scythian origin, Gelians, Sodians, Lupenians, Balasanians — possibly Caucasian tribes, and Parsians and Parrasians — were probably Iranian.

In the late 4th century, when the region passed to Caucasian Albania, its population consisted of Armenians and Armenicized aborigines, though many of the latter were still cited as distinct ethnic entities.

In pre-Islamic times the population of Arran and most of Caucasian Albania had mostly been Christian who belonged to the Church of Caucasian Albania. Under Arabic rule (7th to 9th centuries) a part of the population was Islamicized and adopted Alevism. Muslim chronicles of the 10th century reported that some of the population of Arran spoke al-rānīya, as well as Arabic and Persian languages.

Because there is no written evidence, some scholars have presumed al-rānīya to be an Iranian dialect while others have presumed it to be a remnant of a Caucasian Albanian language. The area in which there was Ganja, during the 9th to 12th century named Arran; its urban population spoke mainly in Persian.

After the Turkification of the region, the population became Turkic speaking, and thus referred to by Europeans, particularly the Russians, as Tartars. They were much later called Azerbaijanis. With the exception of some Uti, the population of Arran which remained Christian, was ultimately absorbed by the Armenians and in part by the Georgians.

The name Albania is derived from the Ancient Greek and Latin Albanía. The prefix “Caucasian” is used purely to avoid confusion with modern Albania of the Balkans, which has no known geographical or historical connections to Caucasian Albania. Little is known of the region’s prehistory, including the origins of Caucasian Albania as a geographical and/or ethnolinguistic concept.

The term Arran is the Middle Persian equivalent to the Greco-Roman Albania. The Parthian name for the region was Aran or Ardhan. It was known as Aghvank or Alvank in Armenian, and Al-ran (Arabized form of Ar/Al-Rān) in Arabic. In Georgian, it was known as Rani. What its inhabitants called it is unknown.

Armenian authors mention that the name derived from the word “ału” meaning amiable in Armenian. The term Aghuank is polysemous and is also used in Armenian sources to denote the region between the Kur and Araxes rivers as part of Armenia. In the latter case it is sometimes used in the form “Armenian Aghuank” or “Hay-Aghuank”.

The Armenian historian of the region, Movses Kaghankatvatsi, who left the only more or less complete historical account about the region, explains the name Aghvank as a derivation from the word ału (Armenian for sweet, soft, tender), which, he said, was the nickname of Caucasian Albania’s first governor Arran and referred to his lenient personality. Also other ancient sources explain Arran or Arhan as the name of the legendary founder of Caucasian Albania (Aghvan).

In pre-Islamic times, Caucasian Albania/Arran was a wider concept than that of post-Islamic Arran. Ancient Arran covered all eastern Transcaucasia, which included most of the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan Republic and part of the territory of Dagestan. However, in post-Islamic times the geographic notion of Arran reduced to the territory between the rivers of Kura and Araks.

Ancient Caucasian Albania lay on the south-eastern part of the Greater Caucasus mountains. It was bounded by Caucasian Iberia (present-day Georgia) to the west, by Sarmatia to the north, by the Caspian Sea to the east, and by the provinces of Artsakh and Utik in Armenia to the west along the river Kura. These boundaries, though, were probably never static—at times the territory of Caucasian Albania included land to the west of the river Kura.

Albania or Arran in Islamic times was a triangle of land, lowland in the east and mountainous in the west, formed by the junction of the Kura and Aras rivers, Mil plain and parts of the Mughan plain, and in the pre-Islamic times, corresponded roughly to the territory of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan.

Classical sources are unanimous in making the Kura River (Cyros) the frontier between Armenia and Albania after the conquest of the territories on the right bank of Kura by Armenians in the 2nd century BC. The kingdom’s capital during antiquity was Qabala (Gabala; Kapalak).

Gabala is the ancient capital of Caucasian Albania. Archeological evidence indicates that the city functioned as the capital of Caucasian Albania as early as the 4th century BC. The ruins of the ancient town are situated 15 km from the regional center, allocated on the territory between Garachay and Jourluchay rivers.

Up to the present time there are the ruins of the ancient city and the main gate of Caucasian Albania. Ongoing excavations near the village Chukhur show that Gabala from 4th – 3rd centuries BC and up to the 18th century was one of the main cities with developed trade and crafts.

Gabala was located in the middle of the 2,500-year-old Silk Road, and was mentioned by Pliny the Younger as “Kabalaka”, Greek geographer Ptolemy as “Khabala”, Arabic historian Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri as “Khazar”. In the 19th century, the Azerbaijani historian Abbasgulu Bakikhanov mentioned in his book Gulistani Irem that Kbala or Khabala were in fact Gabala.

In the 60s BC, Roman troops attacked Caucasian Albania, but did not succeed in capturing the Qabala territory. In 262 AD, Caucasian Albania was occupied by the Sassanid Empire, but preserved its political and economic status. In 464, it lost its independence due to years of invasions from the northern nomadic tribes and had to move its capital city to Partava (currently Barda in Azerbaijan).

The original territory of Albania was approximately 23,000 km². After 387 AD the territory of Caucasian Albania, sometimes referred to by scholars as “Greater Albania,” grew to about 45,000 km². In the 5th century the capital was transferred to Partav in Utik’, reported to have been built in the mid-5th century by the King Vache II of Albania, but according to M. L. Chaumont, it existed earlier as an Armenian city.

In a medieval chronicle “Ajayib-ad-Dunia”, written in the 13th century by an unknown author, Arran is said to have been 30 farsakhs (200 km) in width, and 40 farsakhs (270 km) in length. All the right bank of the Kura River until it joined with the Aras was attributed to Arran (the left bank of the Kura was known as Shirvan).

The boundaries of Arran have shifted throughout history, sometimes encompassing the entire territory of the present day Republic of Azerbaijan, and at other times only parts of the South Caucasus. In some instances Arran was a part of Armenia.

Medieval Islamic geographers gave descriptions of Arran in general, and of its towns, which included Barda, Beylagan, and Ganja, along with others. It was a geographical name used in ancient and medieval times to signify the territory which lies within the triangle of land, lowland in the east and mountainous in the west, formed by the junction of Kura and Aras rivers, including the highland and lowland Karabakh, Mil plain and parts of the Mughan plain, and in the pre-Islamic times, corresponded roughly to the territory of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan.

Today, the term Aran is mainly used in Azerbaijan to indicate territories consisting of Mil and Mughan plains (mostly, Beylaqan, Imishli, Kurdamir, Saatli, Sabirabad provinces of the Republic of Azerbaijan).

It has also been used by Iranian historian Enayatollah Reza to refer to the country of Azerbaijan, freeing the name “Azerbaijan” to refer to a region within Iran. (The bulk of the territory of Rep. of Azerbaijan was the historic Shirvan as well as Kuba/Qubbah).

According to some legends and ancient sources, such as Movses Kagankatvatsi, (Albanian) Arran or Arhan was the name of the legendary founder of Caucasian Albania, who in some versions was son of Noah’s son Yafet (Japheth) and also, possibly the eponym of the ancient Caucasian Albanians (Aghvan), and/or the Iranian tribe known as Alans (Alani).

The nearby Araks (Aras) river was known to Ancient Greek geographers as the Araxes, and has a source near from Mount Ararat.

According to C.E. Bosworth: The Georgians knew them [the Caucasian Albanians] as Rani, a form taken over in an Arabized form for the early Islamic geographical term al-Rān (pronounced ar-Rān).

In pre-Islamic times, Caucasian Albania/Arran was a wider concept than that of post-Islamic Arran. Ancient Arran covered all eastern Transcaucasia, which included most of the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan Republic and part of the territory of Dagestan. However, in post-Islamic times the geographic notion of Arran reduced to the territory between the rivers of Kura and Araks.

In a medieval chronicle “Ajayib-ad-Dunya”, written in the 13th century by an unknown author, Arran is said to have been 30 parasangs (200 km) in width, and 40 farsakhs (270 km) in length. All the right bank of the Kura river until it joined with the Aras was attributed to Arran (the left bank of the Kura was known as Shirvan).

The boundaries of Arran have shifted throughout history, sometimes encompassing the entire territory of the present day Republic of Azerbaijan, and at other times only parts of the South Caucasus. In some instances Arran was a part of Armenia. Medieval Islamic geographers gave descriptions of Arran in general, and of its towns, which included Barda, Beylagan, and Ganja, along with others.

Caucasian Albanian

Kingdom of Utik

Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania

Airyana Vaego

James Darmesteter, translator of the Avesta, compared Arran with Airyana Vaego which he also considered to have been in the Araxes-Ararat region, although modern theories tend to place this in the east of Iran.

James Darmesteter, in his discussion of the geography of the Avesta’s Vendidad I, observes that the 12th century Bundahishn (29:12) identified the “Airyana Vaego by the Vanguhi Daitya” on the northern border of Azerbaijan.

He did so “probably in order that it should be as near as possible to the seat of the Zoroastrian religion yet without losing its supernatural character by the counter-evidence of facts.” Darmesteter further associated the Vanguhi Daitya river with the Araxes, and compared the name “Airyana Vaego” with that of Arran.


Some connect the name Caucasian Albania with the Iranian tribe known as Alans (Alani), who in some versions was a son of Noah’s son Yafet. The Alans (Latin: Alani) were an Iranian nomadic pastoral people of antiquity.

The name Alan is an Iranian dialectical form of Aryan. Possibly related to the Massagetae, the Alans have been connected by modern historians with the Central Asian Yancai and Aorsi of Chinese and Roman sources, respectively.

The Alans spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian. The first mentions of names that historians link with the Alani appear at almost the same time in texts from the Mediterranean, Middle East and China.

Having migrated westwards and become dominant among the Sarmatians on the Pontic Steppe, they are mentioned by Roman sources in the 1st century AD. At the time, they had settled the region north of the Black Sea and frequently raided the Parthian Empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. From 215–250 AD, their power on the Pontic Steppe was broken by the Goths.

Upon the Hunnic defeat of the Goths on the Pontic Steppe around 375 AD, many of the Alans migrated westwards along with various Germanic tribes. They crossed the Rhine in 406 AD along with the Vandals and Suebi, settling in Orléans and Valence. Around 409 AD, they joined the Vandals and Suebi in the crossing of the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, settling in Lusitania and Carthaginensis.

The Iberian Alans were soundly defeated by the Visigoths in 418 AD and subsequently surrendered their authority to the Hasdingi Vandals. In 428 AD, the Vandals and Alans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, where they founded a powerful kingdom which lasted until its conquest by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.

The Alans who remained under Hunnic rule founded a powerful kingdom in the North Caucasus in the Middle Ages, which ended with the Mongol invasions in the 13th century AD. These Alans are said to be the ancestors of the modern Ossetians.

In the 1st century AD, the Alans migrated westwards from Central Asia, achieving a dominant position among the Sarmatians living between the Don River and the Caspian Sea. The Alans are mentioned in the Vologeses inscription which reads that Vologeses I, the Parthian king between around 51 and 78 AD, in the 11th year of his reign, battled Kuluk, king of the Alani.

The 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus supplements this inscription. Josephus reports in the Jewish Wars (book 7, ch. 7.4) how Alans (whom he calls a “Scythian” tribe) living near the Sea of Azov crossed the Iron Gates for plunder (72 AD) and defeated the armies of Pacorus, king of Media, and Tiridates, King of Armenia, two brothers of Vologeses I (for whom the above-mentioned inscription was made.

The various forms of Alan are derived from Iranian dialectal forms of Aryan. This word was preserved in the modern Ossetian language in the form of Allon. These and other variants of Aryan (such as Iran) were common self-designations of the Indo-Iranians, the common ancestors of the Indo-Aryans and Iranian peoples to whom the Alans belonged.

Rarer spellings include Alauni or Halani. The Alans were also known over the course of their history by another group of related names including the variations Asi, As, and Os (Romanian Iasi or Olani, Bulgarian Uzi, Hungarian Jász, Russian Jasy, Georgian Osi). It is this name that is the root of the modern Ossetian.


The Udis (self-name Udi or Uti) are a 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. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian languages depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

The Udi are considered to be the descendants of the people of Caucasian Albania. 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.

Today, most Udis belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church while others are still trying to restore the Church of Caucasian Albania. Centuries of life in the Armenian, Iranian, and Turkish spheres influenced their culture, as is expressed in Udi folk traditions and the material culture.

The Udi are first mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories (5th century BC). Describing the Battle of Marathon, during the Greek-Persian war (490 BC), the author noted that Udi soldiers also were at war as a part of nine satrapy of the Persian army. The Udis are mentioned in the Geographica of the ancient Greek writer Strabo (1st century BC) in his description of the Caspian Sea and the Caucasian Albania.

The ethnic term “Udi” was mentioned first in the Natural history by the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder (1st century AD). Further ancient information about the Udi people can be found in books by Ptolemy (2nd century), Gaius Asinius Quadratus and many other authors. Since the 5th century, the Udi people are often mentioned in the Armenian sources.

More extensive information is given in The History of Aluank by Movses Kagancatvasiy. The Udi were one of the predominating Albanian tribes and they were considered the creators of Caucasian Albania. The Byzantines cooperated extensively with their leader Sandilch in the latter half of the 6th century.

Both capitals of Caucasian Albania: Kabalak (also called Kabalaka, Khabala, Khazar, today’s Qabala) and Partav (also called Partaw, today’s Barda), were located in the historical territory of the Udi. They occupied extensive territories from the bank of the Caspian Sea to the Caucasian Mountains, on the left and right banks of the Kura River. One of the regions in this area was named “Utik”. After the conquest of the Caucasian Albania by the Arabs, the number of the Udi and their territory were gradually reduced.

Until 1991, the main Udi villages were Vartashen and Nij in Azerbaijan, as well as the village of Zinobiani in Georgia. In the recent past, Udi people also lived in Mirzabeily, Soltan Nuha, Jourlu, Mihlikuvah, Vardanli (now Kərimli), Bajan, Kirzan, and Yenikend, in contemporary times they have mostly assimilated with the people of Azerbaijan.

Vartashen was mainly a Udi village, where the Vartashen dialect of the Udi language was spoken by about 3000 people in the 1980s. The Udis of Vartashen belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church and had Armenian surnames.

During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Udis as well as the Armenians were expelled to Armenia. Some 50 Udi people remained among some 7000 ethnic Azeris in the town, which was renamed to Oğuz.

Today the only place of concentrated Udi settlement are the village of Nij in Azerbaijan and the village of Zinobiani in Georgia, which was founded by Udi refugees from Vartashen in the 1920s.

A significant group of Udi live in the Georgian village of Zinobiani, founded by Udi from Vartashen in the 1920s. Small groups reside in Russia; in Georgia in the outskirts of Tbilisi, Poti, Rustavi, in Armenia mainly in the Lori Province, and Aktau in Kazakhstan. Some also live in Ukraine’s (Kharkiv oblast).

The Udi language is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. The two primary dialects are Nij (Nidzh) and Vartashen. The people today also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, and Georgian. The Lezgic languages are relevant to the glottalic theory of Indo-European, because several have undergone the voicing of ejectives that have been postulated but widely derided as improbable in that family.

The Lezgic languages are one of seven branches of the Northeast Caucasian language family, also called East Caucasian, or Nakh-Daghestanian languages, is a language family spoken in the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia and in northern Azerbaijan as well as in diaspora populations in Western Europe, Turkey and the Middle East. Lezgian and Tabasaran are literary languages.

The Udi are commonly bilingual, and less frequently trilingual, depending on residence and work. Many use Udi only in daily life, but for official purposes, the Udi use the language of the country in which they reside, such as Azerbaijani, Russian, or Armenian.

The Udi language has two dialects: Nidzh and Vartashen. Nidzh dialect has sub-dialects that are divided into three subgroups – bottom, intermediate, top. Linguists believe the dialects originated according to geographic groupings of the Udi from the Tauz region: the villages of Kirzan and Artzah (Karabah, v. Seysylla, Gasankala) moved to Nidzh and Oguz. The Vartashen dialect has two sub-dialects: Vartashen and Oktomberry.

In the past the Udi language was one of the widespread languages of Caucasian Albania on the basis of which, in the 5th century the Caucasian Albanian script, was created by the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots.

The alphabet had 52 letters. The language was widely used, as major Bible texts were translated into the Caucasian Albanian language. Church services were conducted in it. After the fall of the Albanian state, the Caucasian Albanian liturgical language was gradually replaced by Armenian in church.

Due to their Caucasian Udi language and their Christian faith, the Udis are regarded as the last remnants of the old Caucasian Albanians. Under Persian rule, some of them converted to Islam, and soon adopted the Azeri language.

The Armenian Apostolic Church held services exclusively in the Armenian language and refused to ordain a local Udi priest, against which Udis protested: …our strong desire is that our pastor be a representative of our people, for although we belong to the Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener, our language is different: we are the Uti and we know that these people live nowhere except for the villages of Nizh and Vardashen. We do not have the slightest command of the Armenian language; nor have we any idea about what the Gospel says…

Whereas the Udis of Vartashen remained in the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Udi Christians of Nij changed from the Armenian to the Russian Orthodox Church soon after the beginning of Russian rule.

Until 11th century, Caucasian Albanian (Udi) people were main ethnic group of current Azerbaijan. Starting in 11th century, nomadic Turkish tribes massacred, displaced, and Turkified many Caucasian Albanians (Udi).

In 1880, the population of the Udi people living in the area around Qabala in northern Azerbaijan was estimated at 10,000. In the year 1897, the number of the Udi people was given around 4.000, in 1910, it was around 5.900.

They were counted as 2.500 in the census of 1926, as 3.700 in 1959, as 7.000 in 1979, and in 1989, the Udi people numbered 8.652. In census of 1999 in Azerbaijan, there were 4152 Udis. In the 2002 Russia Census, 3721 residents identified as Udi. Most of the Udi people (1573 persons) in Russia have been registered in Rostov region.

Udi people

Udi language


 In the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, the area south of the Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Caucasian Albania in the east, Caucasian Iberia in the center, Kolchis in the west, Armenia in the southwest and Atropatene to the southeast. 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.

The history of Albania before the 6th century BC is unknown. According to one hypothesis, Caucasian Albania was incorporated in the Median empire, as early as the 7th or 6th century BC. However, an increasing Persian influence on the region is usually believed to be connected with the defence of Persia’s northern frontiers, from invading nomads.

As early as the Achaemenid empire, measures may have been taken to fortify the Caucasian passes. By the mid-6th century BC, Albania has been incorporated in the Achaemenid empire; it was later controlled by the Achaemenid satrapy of Media. The building of fortifications and gates in and around Darband is traditionally ascribed to the Sassanid empire.

The Greek historian Arrian mentions (perhaps anachronistically) the Caucasian Albanians for the first time in the battle of Gaugamela, where the Albanians, Medes, Cadussi and Sacae were under the command of Atropates.

Albania first appears in history as a vassal state in the empire of Tigranes the Great of Armenia (95-56 BC). The kingdom of Albania emerged in the eastern Caucasus in 2nd or 1st century BC and along with the Georgians and Armenians formed one of the three nations of the Southern Caucasus. Albania came under strong Armenian religious and cultural influence.

Herodotus, Strabo, and other classical authors repeatedly mention the Caspians but do not seem to know much about them; they are grouped with other inhabitants of the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, like the Amardi, Anariacae, Cadusii, Albani (see below), and Vitii (Eratosthenes apud Strabo, 11.8.8), and their land (Caspiane) is said to be part of Albania (Theophanes Mytilenaeus apud Strabo, 11.4.5).

In the 2nd century BC parts of Albania were conquered by the Kingdom of Armenia, presumably from Medes (although possibly it was earlier part of Orontid Armenia).

The original population of the territories on the right bank of Kura before the Armenian conquest consisted of various autochthonous people. Ancient chronicles provide the names of several peoples that populated these districts, including the regions of Artsakh and Utik. These were Utians, Mycians, Caspians, Gargarians, Sakasenians, Gelians, Sodians, Lupenians, Balas[ak]anians, Parsians and Parrasians.

According to Robert H. Hewsen, these tribes were “certainly not of Armenian origin”, and “although certain Iranian peoples must have settled here during the long period of Persian and Median rule, most of the natives were not even Indo-Europeans.”

He also states that the several peoples of the right bank of Kura “were highly Armenicized and that many were actually Armenians per se cannot be doubted.” Many of those people were still being cited as distinct ethnic entities when the right bank of Kura was acquired by the Caucasian Albanians in 387 AD.

Roman Period

There was an enduring relation of Albania with Ancient Rome. The Latin rock inscription close to Boyukdash mountain in Qobustan, Baku, which mentions Legio XII Fulminata, is the world’s easternmost Roman evidence known. In Albania, Romans reached the Caspian Sea for the first time.

The Roman coins circulated in Caucasian Albania till the end of the 3rd century AD. Two denarii, which were unearthed in the 2nd-century BC layer, were minted by Clodius and Caesar. The coins of Augustus are ubiquitous. The Qabala treasures revealed the denarii of Otho, Vespasian, Trajan and Hadrian.

In 69-68 BC Lucullus, having overcome Armenian ruler Tigranes II, approached the borders of Caucasian Albania and was succeeded by Pompey. After the 66-65 BC wintering Pompey launched the Iberian campaign. It is reported by Strabo upon the account of Theophanes of Mytilene who participated in it.

As testified by Kamilla Trever, Pompey reached the Albanian border at modern Qazakh Rayon of Azerbaijan. Igrar Aliyev showed that this region called Cambysene was inhabited mainly by stock-breeders at the time. When fording the Alazan river, he was attacked by forces of Oroezes, King of Albania, and eventually defeated them.

According to Plutarch, Albanians “were led by a brother of the king, named Cosis, who as soon as the fighting was at close quarters, rushed upon Pompey himself and smote him with a javelin on the fold of his breastplate; but Pompey ran him through the body and killed him”.

Plutarch also reported that “after the battle, Pompey set out to march to the Caspian Sea, but was turned back by a multitude of deadly reptiles when he was only three days march distant, and withdrew into Lesser Armenia”. The first kings of Albania were certainly the representatives of the local tribal nobility, to which attest their non-Armenian and non-Iranian names (Oroezes, Cosis and Zober in Greek sources).

The population of Caucasian Albania of the Roman period is believed to have belonged to either the Northeast Caucasian peoples or the South Caucasian peoples. According to Strabo, the Albanians were a group of 26 tribes which lived to the north of the Kura river and each of them had its own king and language. Sometime before the 1st century BC they federated into one state and were ruled by one king.

Strabo wrote of the Caucasian Albanians in the 1st century BC: At the present time, indeed, one king rules all the tribes, but formerly the several tribes were ruled separately by kings of their own according to their several languages. They have twenty-six languages, because they have no easy means of intercourse with one another.

Albania is also mentioned by Dionysius Periegetes (2nd or 3rd century AD) who describes Albanians as a nation of warriors, living by the Iberians and the Georgians.

During the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138) Albania was invaded by the Alans, an Iranian nomadic group. This invasion promoted an alliance between Rome and the Albanians that was reinforced under Antoninus Pius in 140 AD. Sassanians occupied the area around 240 Ad but after a few years the Roman Empire regained control of Caucasian Albania.

Indeed, in 297 the treaty of Nisibis stipulated the reestablishment of the Roman protectorate over Caucasian Iberia and Albania. But fifty years later Rome lost the area that since then remained an integral part of the Sasanian Empire.

Under Parthian rule, Iranian political and cultural influence increased in the region. Whatever the sporadic suzerainty of Rome, the country was now a part—together with Iberia (East Georgia) and (Caucasian) Albania, where other Arsacid branches reigned—of a pan-Arsacid family federation.

Culturally, the predominance of Hellenism, as under the Artaxiads, was now followed by a predominance of “Iranianism”, and, symptomatically, instead of Greek, as before, Parthian became the language of the educated. An incursion in this era was made by the Alans who between 134 and 136 attacked Albania, Media, and Armenia, penetrating as far as Cappadocia. But Vologases persuaded them to withdraw, probably by paying them.

Sassanid Period

In 252-253, Caucasian Albania, along with Caucasian Iberia and Greater Armenia, was conquered and annexed by the Sassanid Empire. Albania became a vassal state of the Sassanid Empire, but retained its monarchy; the Albanian king had no real power and most civil, religious, and military authority lay with the Sassanid marzban (military governor) of the territory.

The Roman Empire again obtained control of Caucasian Albania as a vassal state for a few years around 300 AD, but then the Sassanids regained control and subsequently dominated the area for centuries until the Arab invasions. Albania was mentioned among the Sassanid provinces listed in the trilingual inscription of Shapur I at Naqsh-e Rustam.

In the middle of the 4th century, King Urnayr of Albania arrived in Armenia and was baptized by Gregory the Illuminator, but Christianity spread in Albania only gradually, and the Albanian king remained loyal to the Sassanids.

After the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Persia (in 387 AD), Albania with Sassanid help was able to seize from Armenia all the right bank of the river Kura up to river Araxes, including Artsakh and Utik.

In the mid-5th century, the Sassanid King Yazdegerd II passed an edict requiring all the Christians in his empire to convert to Zoroastrianism, fearing that Christians might ally with Roman Empire, which had recently adopted Christianity as its official religion. This led to a rebellion of Albanians, along with Armenians and Georgians.

At the Battle of Avarayr, the allied forces of Caucasian Albania, Georgia, and Armenia, devoted to Christianity, suffered defeat at the hands of the Sassanid army. Many of the Armenian nobility fled to the mountainous regions of Albania, particularly to Artsakh, which had become a center for resistance to Sassanid Persia.

The religious center of the Albanian state also moved here. However, King Vache of Albania, a relative of Yazdegerd II, was forced to convert to Zoroastrianism, but soon thereafter converted back to Christianity.

In the middle of the 5th century, by order of the Persian King Peroz I, King Vache built a city initially called Perozabad in Utik, and later called Partaw and Barda; he made it the capital of Albania. Partaw was the seat of the Albanian kings and Persian marzban, and in 552 AD the seat of the Albanian Catholicos was also transferred to Partaw.

After the death of King Vache, Albania remained without a king for thirty years. The Sassanid King Balash reestablished the Albanian monarchy by making Vachagan, son of Yazdegerd and brother of King Vache, the King of Albania.

By the end of the 5th century, the ancient Arsacid royal house of Albania, a branch of the ruling dynasty of Parthia, became extinct, and in the 6th century it was replaced by princes of the Persian or Parthian Mihranid family, who claimed descent from the Sassanids.

They assumed the Persian title of Arranshah (i.e. the Shah of Arran, the Persian name of Albania). The ruling dynasty was named after its Persian founder Mihran, who was a distant relative of the Sasanians. The Mihranid dynasty survived under Muslim suzerainty until 821-22.

In the late 6th to early 7th centuries the territory of Albania became an arena of wars between Sassanid Persia, Byzantium, and the Khazar Khanate, the latter two very often acting as allies against Sassanid Persia.

In 628, during the Third Perso-Turkic War, the Khazars invaded Albania, and their leader Ziebel declared himself Lord of Albania, levying a tax on merchants and the fishermen of the Kura and Araxes rivers “in accordance with the land survey of the kingdom of Persia”. Most of Transcaucasia was under Khazar rule before the arrival of the Arabs. However, some other sources state that the Khazars later left the region because of political instability.

According to Peter Golden, “steady pressure from Turkic nomads was typical of the Khazar era, although there are no unambiguous references to permanent settlements”, while Vladimir Minorsky stated that, in Islamic times, “the town of Qabala lying between Shirvan and Shakki was a place where Khazars were probably settled”.

Armenian Influences

Armenian politics, culture and civilization played a critical role in the entire history of Caucasian Albania (Aghvank, in Armenian). This, due to the fact that after the partition of the Kingdom of Armenia by Persia and Byzantium in 387 AD, the Armenian provinces of Artsakh and Utik were disassociated from Armenia proper and included by Persians into a single province (marzpanate) called Aghvank (Arran).

This new unit included: the original Caucasian Albania, found between the River Kura and the Great Caucasus; tribes living along the Caspian shore; as well as Artsakh and Utik, two territories now detached from Armenia.

Mesrop Mashtots by Francesco Maggiotto (1750-1805). Mesrop Mashtots, an Armenian medieval evangelizer and enlightener, invented the Gargarean (“Caucasian Albanian”) alphabet in the 5th century, shortly after creating the Armenian script.

The Armenian medieval atlas Ashkharatsuits, compiled in the 7th century by Anania Shirakatsi, but sometimes attributed to Movses Khorenatsi as well, categorizes Artsakh and Utik as provinces of Armenia despite their presumed detachment from the Armenian Kingdom and their political association with Caucasian Albania and Persia at the time of his writing.

Shirakatsi specifies that Artsakh and Utik are “now detached” from Armenia and included in “Aghvank,” and he takes care to distinguish this new entity from the old “Aghvank strictly speaking” situated north of the river Kura.

Because it was more homogeneous and more developed than the original tribes to the north of the Kura, the Armenian element took over Caucasian Albania’s political life and was progressively able to impose its language and culture.

Armenian population of Artsakh and Utik remained in place as did the entire political, social, cultural and military structure of the provinces. In the 5th century, early medieval historian Khorenatsi testifies that the population of Artsakh and Utik spoke Armenian, with the River Kura, in his words, marking the “boundary of Armenian speech” though this does not mean that its population consisted exclusively of ethnic Armenians.

Whatever little is known about Caucasian Albania after 387 AD comes from the text History of the Land of Aghvank attributed to two Armenian authors: Movses Kaghankatvatsi and Movses Daskhurantsi.

This text, written in Old Armenian, in essence represents the history of Armenia’s provinces of Artsakh and Utik. Kaghankatvatsi, repeating Khorenatsi, mentions that the very name “Aghvank”/”Albania” is of Armenian origin, and relates it to the Armenian word “aghu” (աղու, meaning “kind,” “benevolent”.

Khorenatsi states that “aghu” was a nickname given to Prince Arran, whom the Armenian King Vologases I (Vagharsh I) appointed as governor of northeastern provinces bordering on Armenia.

According to a legendary tradition reported by Khorenatsi, Arran was a descendant of Sisak, the ancestor of the Siunids of Armenia’s province of Syunik, and thus a great-grandson of the ancestral eponym of the Armenians, the Forefather Hayk.

Kaghankatvatsi and another Armenian author, Kirakos Gandzaketsi, confirm Arran’s belonging to Hayk’s blood line by calling Arranshahiks “a Haykazian dynasty.”

The Amaras Monastery in Nagorno Karabakh, founded in the 4th century by St. Gregory the Illuminator. In the 5th century, Mesrob Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet, established at Amaras the first school to use his script.

In Kaghankatvatsi’s “History” and in the historical text of the Armenian early medieval author Agathangelos, the Kingdom of Aghvank’s feudal system, including its political terminology, was Armenian. As in Armenia, nobles of Aghvank are referred to by the terms nakharars, azats, hazarapets, marzpets , shinakans etc.

Princely families, which were later mentioned in Kaghankatvatsi’s “History …” were included in the Table of Ranks called “Gahnamak” (direct translation: “List of Thrones” of the Kingdom of Armenia, which defined Armenia’s aristocratic hierarchy.

Princely families of Caucasian Albania were also included in the Table of Armies called “Zoranamak” of the Kingdom of Armenia which determined military obligations of key aristocratic families before the Armenian King in times of war.

As in Armenia, the “Albanian” clergy used exclusively Armenian church terms for clerical hierarchy. Identifiably Armenian are also most if not all toponyms found in the “History”. Not only are the names of most towns, villages, mountains, and rivers uniquely Armenian morphologically, exactly the same toponyms were and are still found in other parts of historical Armenia.

They include the root kert (“town”) for towns; compare with Tigranakert or modern Stapanakert in Nagorno Karabakh), shen and kan (village) for villages (Arm. շեն, and կան, such as Karashen or Dyutakan), etc.

First names of most rulers, commoners and clergy in Kaghankatvatsi’s “History …” are uniquely Armenian. Many of these names survived for centuries and are still used only by modern Armenians. These include: Vachagan, Vache, Bakur, Taguhi, Vrtanes, Viro, Varaz-Trdat, Marut etc.

Some of these names can be translated from Armenian as common words: e.g. Taguhi means “queen” and Varaz means “wild boar.” In fact, Armenians to this day use the first name Aghvan that directly refers to the Kingdom of Aghvank.

After the partition, the capital city of Caucasian Albania was moved from the territories on the eastern bank of the River Kura (referred to by Armenians “Aghvank Proper”) to Partav, located in the former Armenian province of Utik. This was followed by the transfer of the Seat of the Kingdom of Albania’s religious leader (Katholicos) from territories north of Kura to Partav.

The Kingdom of Albania was converted to Christianity at the start of the 4th century by none other than the Armenian evangelizer St. Gregory the Enlightener, who baptized Armenia into the first Christian state by 301 AD.

In about 330 AD, the grandson of St. Gregory, St. Grigoris, ecumenical head of the eastern provinces of Armenia, was designated bishop for the Kingdom of Aghvank. Mausoleum interning Grigoris’ remains, the Amaras Monastery stands as the oldest dated monument in Nagorno Karabakh. Amaras was started by St. Gregory and completed by St. Grigoris himself.

According to tradition, the Amaras Monastery housed the first Armenian school in the historical Armenia, which was opened early in the 5th century by the inventor of the Armenian alphabet St. Mesrob Mashtots. St. Mesrob Mashtots was intensely active in preaching Gospel in Artsakh and Utik.

Movses Kaghankatvatsi’s “History” dedicates four separate chapters to St. Mashtots’ mission, referring to him as “enlightener” and “saint” (chapters 27, 28 and 29 of Book One, and chapter 3 of Book Two). Overall, St. Mesrob made three trips to the Kingdom of Albania where he toured not only the Armenian lands of Artsakh and Utik but also territories to the north of the River Kura.

Kaghankatvatsi’s “History” describes Armenian influence on the Church of Aghvank, whose jurisdiction extended from Artsakh and Utik to regions to the north of the River Kura, in the territories of the “original”, “pre-Armenian” Caucasian Albania.

One of the consequences of this was that Armenian language progressively supplanted Albanian as the language of church and state (and only if there was any single “Albanian” language in the first place which is doubtful because the population of Albania/Aghvank was described as consisting of as many 26 different tribes).

In the same 7th century, Armenian poet Davtak Kertogh writes his Elegy on the Death of Grand Prince Juansher, where each passage begins with a letter of Armenian script in alphabetical order.


The polytheistic religion of Albania was centered on the worship of three divinities, designated by Interpretatio Romana as Sol, Zeus, and Luna. Christianity started to enter Caucasian Albania at an early date, according to Movses Kaghankatvatsi, as early as during the 1st century.

The first Christian church in the region was built by St. Eliseus, a disciple of Thaddeus of Edessa, at a place called Gis. Shortly after Armenia adopted Christianity as its state religion (301 AD), the Caucasian Albanian king Urnayr went to the See of the Armenian Apostolic Church to receive baptism from St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first Patriarch of Armenia.

King Vachagan III helped to implant Christianity in Caucasian Albania, through a synod allowing the church legal rights in some domestic issues. In 498 AD (in other sources, 488 AD) in the settlement named Aluen (Aghuen) (present day Agdam region of Azerbaijan), an Albanian church council convened to adopt laws further strengthening the position of Christianity in Albania.

Albanian churchmen took part in missionary efforts in the Caucasus and Pontic regions. In 682, the catholicos, Israel, led an unsuccessful delegation to convert Alp Iluetuer, the ruler of the North Caucasian Huns, to Christianity. The Albanian Church maintained a number of monasteries in the Holy Land. In the 7th century, Varaz-Grigor, ruler of Albania, and “his nation” were christened by Emperor Heraclius at Gardman.

After the overthrow of Nerses in 705, the Caucasian Albanian elite decided to reestablish the tradition of having their Catholicoi ordained through the Patriarch of Armenia, as it was the case before 590. This event is generally regarded as the abolition of the Church of Caucasian Albania, and the lowering of its denominational status to that of a Catholicate within the body of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Islamic Era

Sassanid Albania fell to the Islamic conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century and was incorporated into the Rashidun Caliphate. King Javanshir of Albania, the most prominent ruler of Mihranid dynasty, fought against the Arab invasion of caliph Uthman on the side of Sassanid Iran. Facing the threat of the Arab invasion on the south and the Khazar offensive on the north, Javanshir had to recognize the caliph’s suzerainty. The Arabs then reunited the territory with Armenia under one governor.

Following the Arab invasion of Iran, the Arabs invaded the Caucasus in the 8th century and most of the former territory of Caucasian Albania was included under the name of Arran. This region was at times part of the Abbasid Caliphate based on numismatic and historical evidence.

Dynasties of Parthian or Persian descent, such as the Mihranids had come to rule the territory during Sassanian times. Its kings were given title Arranshah, and after the Arab invasions, fought against the caliphate from the late 7th to middle 8th centuries.

Early Muslim ruling dynasties of the time included Rawadids, Sajids, Salarids, Shaddadids, Shirvanshahs, and the Sheki and Tiflis emirates. The principal cities of Arran in early medieval times were Bardha’a (Partav) and Ganja.

In about 645, Partav fell under the control of the Muslim Arabs and was referred to as “Barda” or “Barda’a” in Arabic. In ca. 789, it was made the second alternate capital (after Dvin) of the governor (ostikan) of the province of Arminiya.

The name of the town derives from Arabic Bardhaʿa, which derives from Old Armenian Partaw, itself from Iranian *pari-tāva- ‘rampart’, from *pari- ‘around’ and *tā̆v- ‘to throw; to heap up’.

In the 460s AD, King Vache II of Caucasian Albania, acting under the orders of the Sasanian Emperor Peroz I, had founded the settlement known as Partav, which was initially called Perozapat, and replaced Qabala as the capital of Caucasian Albania.

According to the seventh-century atlas, the Ashkharhats’uyts’, attributed to Anania Shirakatsi, Barda was known by the name of Partav (Partaw) during the period of late antiquity and was located in the district of Uti Aṛandznak in the province of Utik’, which was at that time in the possession of Albania.

By the ninth to tenth centuries, Barda had largely lost its economic importance to the nearby town of Ganja; the seat of the Catholicos of the Church of Albania was also moved to Bardak (Berdakur), leaving Partav as a mere bishopric.

According to the Muslim geographers Estakhri, Ibn Hawqal, and Al-Muqaddasi, the distinctive Caucasian Albanian language (which they called al-Raniya, or Arranian) persisted into early Islamic times, and was still spoken in Barda in the tenth century. Thus, Ibn Hawkal mentioned that the people of Barda spoke Arranian, while Estakhri stated that Arranian was the language of the “country of Barda.”

According to medieval Arabic sources, the city of Ganja was founded in 859-60 by Muhammad ibn Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Mazyad, the Arab governor of the region in the reign of the caliph al-Mutawakkil, and so-called because of a treasure unearthed there.

By the 8th century, “Albania” had been reduced to a strictly geographical and titular ecclesiastical connotation, and was referred to as such by medieval Armenian historians; on its place sprang a number principalities, such as that of the Armenian principality and kingdom of Khachen, along with various Caucasian, Iranian and Arabic principalities: the principalities of Shaddadids, of Shirvan and of Derbent.

Early Muslim ruling dynasties of the time included Rawadids, Sajids, Salarids, Shaddadids, Shirvanshahs, and the Sheki and Tiflis emirates. The principal cities of Arran in early medieval times were Barda (Partav) and Ganja. Barda reached prominence in the 10th century, and was used to house a mint.

Most of the region was ruled by the Sajid Dynasty, an Iranian Muslim dynasty that ruled from 889-890 until 929. The Sajids ruled Azerbaijan and parts of Armenia first from Maragha and Barda and then from Ardabil. The Sajids originated from the Central Asian province of Ushrusana and were of Iranian (Sogdian) descent.

The region was at times part of the Abbasid province of Armenia based on numismatic and historical evidence. Arminiya, also known as the Ostikanate of Arminiya, Emirate of Armenia, was a political and geographic designation given by the Muslim Arabs to the lands of Greater Armenia, Caucasian Iberia, and Caucasian Albania, following their conquest of these regions in the 7th century.

Though the caliphs initially permitted an Armenian prince to represent the province of Arminiya in exchange for tribute and the Armenians’ loyalty during times of war, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan introduced direct Arab rule of the region, headed by an ostikan with his capital in Dvin.

Despite several insurrections, the Emirate of Armenia lasted until 884, when the Bagratuni Ashot I, who had managed to win control over most of its area, declared himself “King of the Armenians”. He received recognition by Caliph Al-Mu’tamid of the Abbasid dynasty in 885 and Byzantine Emperor Basil I of the Macedonian dynasty in 886.

Ashot was swiftly able to expand his power. Through family links with the two next most important princely families, the Artsruni and the Siwnis, and through a cautious policy towards the Abbasids and the Arab emirates of Armenia, by the 860s he had succeeded in becoming in fact, if not yet in name, an autonomous king. 

Bardha’a reached prominence in the 10th century, and was used to house a mint. Bardha’a was sacked by the Rus and Norse several times in the 10th century as result of the Caspian expeditions of the Rus.

Barda was sacked by the Rus and Norse several times in the 10th century as result of the Caspian expeditions of the Rus. Barda never revived after these raids and was replaced as capital by Baylaqan, which in turn was sacked by the Mongols in 1221. After this Ganja rose to prominence and became the central city of the region. The capital of the Shaddadid dynasty, Ganja was considered the “mother city of Arran” during their reign.

Bardha’a never recovered after these raids and was replaced as capital by Baylaqan, which in turn was sacked by the Mongols in 1221. After this Ganja rose to prominence and became the central city of the region. The capital of the Shaddadid dynasty, Ganja was considered the “mother city of Arran” during their reign.

The territory of Arran became a part of the Seljuq Empire, followed by the Ildegizid state. It was taken briefly by the Khwarizmid dynasty and then overran by Mongol Hulagu empire in the 13th century.

Later, it became a part of Chobanid, Jalayirid, Timurid, and Iranian Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar states which means at least from 1500 until 1828, when Iran lost a major battle to the expending Russian Empire and as a result had to sign the Treaty of Turkmenchay in which it had to concede all the Caucasus territories to Russia.

Azerbaijani historiography

The history of Caucasian Albania has been a major topic of Azerbaijani revisionist theories, which came under criticism in Western and Russian academic and analytical circles, and were often characterized as “bizarre” and “futile.”

In his article “The Albanian Myth” Russian historian and anthropologist Victor Schnirelmann demonstrated that Azerbaijani academics have been “renaming prominent medieval Armenian political leaders, historians and writers, who lived in Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia into “Albanians.”

Schnirelmann argues that these efforts were first launched in the 1950s and were directed towards “ripping the population of early medieval Nagorno Karabakh off from their Armenian heritage” and “cleansing Azerbaijan of Armenian history.”

In the 1970s, Azerbaijan made a transition from ignoring, discounting or concealing Armenian historical heritage in Soviet Azerbaijan to misattributing and mischaracterizing it as examples of Azerbaijani culture by arbitrarily declaring “Caucasian Albanians” as ancestors of modern Azerbaijanis.

In this regard, Thomas de Waal, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes about the political context of Azerbaijan’s historical revisionism: “This rather bizarre argument has the strong political subtext that Nagorno Karabakh had in fact been Caucasian Albanian and that Armenians had no claim to it”.

A key revisionist method used by Azerbaijani scholars mentioned by Schnirelmann and others was “re-publishing of ancient and medieval sources, where the term “Armenian state” was routinely and systematically removed and replaced with “Albanian state.”

American author George Bournoutian gives examples of how that was done by Ziya Bunyadov, vice-chairman of Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences, who earned the nickname of “Azerbaijan’s foremost Armenophobe.”

According to de Waal: “Buniatov’s scholarly credentials were dubious. It later transpired that the two articles he published in 1960 and 1965 on Caucasian Albania were direct plagiarism. Under his own name, he had simply published, unattributed, translations of two articles, originally written in English by Western scholars C.F.J. Dowsett and Robert Hewsen.”

Hewsen, a historian from Rowan College and the acknowledged authority in this field, wrote in his volume Armenia: A Historical Atlas, published by Chicago University Press:

Scholars should be on guard when using Soviet and post-Soviet Azeri editions of Azeri, Persian, and even Russian and Western European sources printed in Baku. These have been edited to remove references to Armenians and have been distributed in large numbers in recent years. When utilizing such sources, the researchers should seek out pre-Soviet editions wherever possible.

According to de Waal, a disciple of Bunyadov, Farida Mammadova, has “taken the Albanian theory and used it to push Armenians out of the Caucasus altogether. She had relocated Caucasian Albania into what is now the Republic of Armenia. All those lands, churches, and monasteries in the Republic of Armenia—all had been Albanian.

No sacred Armenian fact was left un-attacked.” De Waal describes Mammadova as a sophisticated end of what “in Azerbaijan has become a very blunt instrument indeed.” Both Ziya Bunyadov and Farida Mammadova are known for their anti-Armenian public pronouncements and pamphlets.

Historical revisionism in Azerbaijan supported a number of policies on the ground, including cultural vandalism directed against Armenian monuments in Soviet and post-Soviet Azerbaijan.

Armenian memorial stone crosses known as “khachkars” on the territory of Azerbaijan were regularly misrepresented as “Caucasian Albanian” both before and after Azerbaijan’s independence.

Furthermore, mischaracterization of Armenian khachkars as supposedly non-Armenian monuments of Caucasian Albania was associated with acts of cultural vandalism against Armenian historical monuments in Nakhichevan.

The Khachkar destruction in Nakhchivan refer to the systematic campaign by the government of Azerbaijan to completely demolish the Armenian cemetery in Julfa with thousands of Armenian khachkars near the town of Julfa (known as Jugha in Armenian), Nakhchivan. Claims by Armenians that Azerbaijan was undertaking a systematic campaign to destroy and remove the monuments first arose in late 1998 and those charges were renewed in 2002 and 2005.

In reaction to the charges brought forward by Armenia and international organizations, Azerbaijan has asserted, falsely, that Armenians had never existed in those territories. In December 2005, an Azerbaijani official stated in a BBC interview that Armenians “never lived in Nakhchivan, which has been Azerbaijani land from time immemorial, and that’s why there are no Armenian cemeteries and monuments and have never been any.”

Adam T. Smith, an anthropologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, called the removal of the khachkars “a shameful episode in humanity’s relation to its past, a deplorable act on the part of the government of Azerbaijan which requires both explanation and repair.”

Smith and other scholars, as well as several United States Senators, signed a letter to the UNESCO and other organizations condemning Azerbaijan’s government. Azerbaijan instead contends that the monuments were not of Armenian, but of Caucasian Albanian, origin, which, per Thomas De Waal, did not protect “the graveyard from an act in the history wars.”

Armenian cultural heritage on lands that were temporary associated with Caucasian Albania in medieval times also became targets of Azerbaijani nationalists during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Robert Bevan writes: “The Azeri campaign against the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh which began in 1988 was accompanied by cultural cleansing that destroyed the Egheazar monastery and 21 other churches.”

Anti-Armenian cultural vandalism in Azerbaijan perpetrated with the use of revisionist theories on Caucasian Albania was also noted in northern Azerbaijan, where Norwegian archeologists were involved in the restoration of an Armenian-Georgian church in the village of Kish near the city of Shaki. Azerbaijanis erased Armenian inscriptions on the church’s walls, which led to by an official complaint by Norwegian foreign ministry.

Armenian heritage was the main but not the only target of attacks of Azerbaijani historians and politicians. Revisionist theories about Caucasian Albania have been used by Azerbaijani statesmen in the ongoing Azerbaijani-Georgian dispute over the territorial status of David Gareja monastery complex, a Georgian spiritual and historical monument partially located on the territory of Azerbaijani Republic.

David Gareja is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, on the semi-desert slopes of Mount Gareja, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. Giorgi Manjgaladze, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister proposed that Georgia would be willing to exchange other territory for the remainder of David Gareja because of its historical and cultural significance to the Georgians.

Baku disapproves of this land swap, and in April 2007, Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign minister Khalaf Khalafov told a press conference in Baku that it was “out of the question” for Azerbaijan to “give up its claims to the borderlands” including David Gareja. Khalafov then stated that the monastery “was home to the Caucasian Albanians, who are believed to have been the earliest inhabitants of Azerbaijan.”

Georgian art historian Dimitri Tumanishvili dismissed this claim and stated that the complex “is covered in the work of Georgian masters.” “There are Georgian inscriptions everywhere dating back to the sixth century,” he said “There are no traces of another culture there. After that, I don’t think you need any further proof.”

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