History of Nagorno-Karabakh – From Ancient Era to the first Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute

Construction of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi was completed in 1887.

Nagorno-Karabakh is situated at the eastern edge of the Armenian Highlands, in the southern part of the Caucasus range, comprising the highland part of the broader geographical region Karabakh. Under Societ and Russian rule, the area came to be known as Nagorno-Karabakh, which means “Mountainous Karabakh” in Russian. Karabakh’s name was first encountered in Persian and Georgian sources from the 13th and 14th centuries to refer to lowlands between Aras and Kura rivers and adjacent hilly territory.

Ancient history

The Nagorno-Karabakh region was occupied by the people known to archaeologists as the Kura-Araxes and is situated between the two rivers bearing those names. Little is known about the region’s ancient history, primarily because of the lack of historical sources. Jewelry has been discovered within the present confines of Nagorno-Karabakh, inscribed with the name of Adad-Nirari, the famous King of Assyria ( from 800 BCE).

The first mention of modern Nagorno Karabakh’s territory is in Sardur II’s inscriptions, King of Urartu (763 BCE–734 BCE), found in Tsovk village in Armenia, where the province is locally referred to as Urtekhini.

According to the myth held by many in the region, the two river valleys in Nagorno-Karabakh were amongst the first to be achieved by Noah’s descendants. According to an Armenian tradition, a local chieftain named Aran (Առան) was chosen by the Parthian King Vagharsh I to be the first governor of this province. The region has extensive trade relations with Ancient India in those days, and this is proven by a few archeological findings.

In 469 CE, the kingdom of Albania was reformed into a Persian frontier province (Sassanid Persian marzpanate). In the early 4th century CE, Christianity expanded in Artsakh. At the start of the 5th century CE, thanks to the Armenian alphabet’s invention by Mesrop Mashtots, a fantastic rise of culture began in whole Armenia, particularly in Artsakh, Mesrop Mashtots having established one of the first Armenian schools at the Artsakh Amaras Church.

In the 5th century CE, the eastern region of Armenia, including Artsakh, remained under Persian control. In 451 CE, the Armenians responded to the policy of pressure of their Zoroastrian Persian overlords and organized a persuasive revolt known as the Vardan war. Artsakh took an exclusive part in that war, its cavalry having especially distinguished itself. After the suppression of Persia’s revolt, many of the Armenian forces took shelter in the strong fortresses and thick woods of Artsakh to continue the struggle against invaders.

At the top of the 5th century CE, Artsakh and nearby Utik united under the control of the Aranshakhiks (487–510s) with Vachagan the Devout at the head. Under the latter, a significant rise in science and culture was observed in Artsakh. According to the evidence of a contemporary, numerous churches were built in every province. At the turn of the 7th century CE, the Albanian marzpanate broke up into numerous small territories.

In the 11th century CE, the Seljuk aggression swept over the Middle East, which included Transcaucasia. Nomadic Oghuz Seljuk tribes that people brought with this invasion became principal constituent in modern Azerbaijanis’ ancestry. From this time till the start of the 20th century, these tribes used Mountainous Karabakh as their summertime pastures, where they lived for about three warmer months of the year and, moreover, in fact, owned the territory.

At the turn of the 12th century CE and 13th century CE, the Armenian dynasty of Zakarian’s gained control over the Khachen, but its sovereignty was brief.

In the 50 years of the 13th century CE, the Tatar and Mongols raided and seized Transcaucasia. The efforts of the Artsakh-Khachen prince Hasan-Jalal were successful in somewhat saving the land from being crushed. However, after he died in 1261 CE, Khachen became subject to Mongols and Tatars. The circumstances became more aggravating in the 14th century CE in the following Turkic federations, the Aq Qoyunlu and Qara Koyunlu, having replaced the Mongols and Tatars.

Armenian melikdoms

Armenian melikdoms were known to as Khamsa, which means “five” in medieval Arabic. While junior to Safavid Persia’s Karabakh beylerbeylik, the Armenian meliks were awarded a wide degree of autonomy by Safavid Persia over Upper Karabakh, enjoying semi-quasi autonomous control over the area for four centuries while being under Persian command. In the early 18th century CE, Persia’s military ruler, Nadir Shah, took Karabakh out of the power of Ganja khans in retribution for their support of the Safavids and placed the area directly under his own control. Simultaneously, the Armenian meliks were given supreme command over neighboring Armenian principalities and Muslim khans in the Caucasus in return for the meliks’ triumphs over the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1720s CE.

Russian rule

The Russian Empire ultimately consolidated its control over the Karabakh Khanate after the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 CE and the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828 CE, when following two Russo-Persian wars, Persia recognized Karabakh Khanate, which terminated in 1806 CE, along with many other khanates, as part of Russia.

During the first Russian revolution in 1905, bloody armed clashes between Azerbaijanis and Armenians took place in the fields.

The institution of the Russian Provisional Government transpired after the Russian Revolution of 1917 CE. Grand Duke Nicholas, with the Special Transcaucasian Committee, established the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Karabakh ultimately became an integral part of the Transcaucasian Federation.

After the October Revolution, and administration of the local Soviet, led by local Armenian Stepan Shaumyan, was founded in Baku.

Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute

In May 1918 CE, everything dissolved into the separate Democratic Republic of Armenia, Georgian Democratic Republic states, and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia claimed Mountainous Karabakh and had substantial reasoning for it.

Armenia considered Mountainous Karabakh as its important frontier that formed the easternmost part of the Armenian Plateau and clearly contrasted with the Azerbaijani plains to the east, so without Karabakh, the unity of Armenia would be slaughtered. Similarly, Azerbaijan spoke about the history, as despite having some degree of sovereignty, Mountainous Karabakh was part of the Muslim khanates of Karabakh and Ganja.

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