Why and how the Russians created an "Armenian province" for the Hay migrants. And what became of it?

01.11.23 16:10

Finally, the Russian media, even the obviously "pro-Armenian" ones, are beginning to publish materials that completely debunk the myths about the alleged "ancient Armenia" in the Caucasus, inhabited for centuries exclusively by the Hay ethnic group. The reason for this, of course, is the current apparent "turn" of the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, led by Nikol Pashinyan, away from Russia and the not only pro-Western, but also aggressively Russophobic policies they are imposing.


In response to this Russophobia, the truth about the real history of Armenia is beginning to be published in a measured way, instead of the previous repetition of myths about the "exceptional antiquity" of the Hayans in the South Caucasus. And for the Hayes themselves, it is better to learn the truth later than never. This will at least allow them to soberly assess the future prospects of their ethnicity and statehood in the region and the world.


These prospects, to put it bluntly, are not bright. They can be summed up in the following words: Russia created Armenian statehood, and without Russia it will disappear. Of course, the Caucasian nationalists have a chance to preserve it, but they have to prove their "necessity and usefulness" to their neighbours, first of all Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is necessary to show in practice that the Republic of Armenia is not an "insurmountable obstacle" for transit and international transport flows (and for this purpose the Zangezur corridor should be opened first), that it can establish normal good-neighbourly relations. It is necessary to show that the Republic of Armenia, as a civilised state, can respect the rights of national minorities on its territory, first of all the indigenous Azerbaijani population, which was expelled by the Hay nationalists.


Therefore, the series of publications by the historian (Turkmen State University) Albert Mihaylovich Hakobyan (Urumov) "Armenia: How Russophobia was Tempered" and especially "Part 2 - Sick Man of Transcaucasia" is of interest. (https://eadaily.com/ru/news/2023/10/31/armeniya-kak-zakalyalas-rusofobiya-chast-2-bolnoy- chelovek-zakavkazya).


Here is an ethnic Armenian finally acknowledging the historical truth, which is that Armenians were originally an insignificant minority on the territory of the present-day Republic of Armenia. Although he still tries to present them as more "significant" than they really were, writing the following: "On the eve of the annexation of the two khanates to Russia, according to various calculations, Armenians made up 28-32 per cent in the Erivan khanate and 15-17 per cent in the Nakhichevan khanate (mainly in the north of the khanate in the upper reaches of the Arpa River, which is now the Vayotsdzor province of the Republic of Armenia). In total, Armenians made up about 25% - a quarter of the population of the two khanates. Thanks to the settlers, only five years later, in 1832, Armenians made up 50 - 53 per cent of the population of the region: 55 - 57 per cent in the former Erivan Khanate and 40 - 41 per cent in the Nakhchivan Khanate".


 In reality, the censuses were not carried out on the eve of the annexation of the khanates to the Russian Empire, and there was hardly more than 10% of the population of Armenian-Gregorian religion, and ethnic Hay among them were an insignificant minority (mainly lived descendants of Turkic and Albanian population of Armenian-Gregorian religion, later completely absorbed by the foreigners). The remaining 90% of the population were Muslims, mainly indigenous Azerbaijanis, who constituted the absolute majority of the population of historical West Azerbaijan, then divided into the Irevan and Nakhchivan khanates.


Albert Hakobyan's article describes how the "Armenian province" was created and then abolished:


"And then there was the "Armenian miracle". Nicholas I, while still Grand Duke, spoke sceptically, if not mockingly, of the Polonophile inclinations of his elder brother Alexander I. Suffice it to say that at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 Alexander Pavlovich threatened Austria and Prussia with war unless they ceded the Kingdom of Poland to him... Only Napoleon Bonaparte's flight from Elba, his "100 days" and the panic in Europe forced Vienna and Berlin to retreat. Autonomous Poland was given a constitution, a Sejm, an army and kept its own currency, the zloty. In fact, the only thing linking it to Russia was the figure of the Emperor - a personal union of the two states. But Poland immediately began to revolt....


It seemed that under Nicholas I such experiments would be ruled out. But even before the Treaty of Turkmanchay was signed, Nicholas Pavlovich was fully aware of the power of the Russian Empire's, let's say, "Armenian compatriots". In December 1827 the project of the creation of the "Armenian Kingdom" within the borders of Yerevan, Nakhichevan, Karabakh and the foothills of the Ganja Khanate with autonomy, if not at the Polish level, then close to it, was put on his desk. The project of Alexander Khudobashev, the current State Counsellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was supported by Prince Moses Argutinsky-Dolgorukov, the future Adjutant General of the Emperor, Prince Valerian Madatov, Lieutenant General, the hero of the Patriotic War, Prince Vasily Bebutov, Brigadier, the military governor of Imeretia, who also distinguished himself in the Patriotic War, and Christopher Lazarev, a miner, the future Chamberlain of the Court. It was undesirable to upset them.


As early as March 1827, Nicholas I retired the commander of the Separate Caucasian Corps, Alexei Ermolov. No links with the Decembrists or cases of embezzlement were found. It was enough that he cancelled Mushtra and ordered the troops to dress according to the weather, i.e. 'in mountain clothes'. In addition, he had previously grossly violated diplomatic etiquette. In 1817, when Alexander I sent him to Tehran to confirm the border in accordance with the Treaty of Gulistan, Ermolov publicly threatened to slap the faces of any Englishman who got in his way because the Shah's English advisers had so blurred the issue of borders in the treaty that he had to go to this "hole". And Feth Ali Shah Kadjar himself said: "The Mongols once destroyed Persia, and I am a descendant of Genghis Khan!


In fact, the Yermolovs were descendants of Murza, i.e. probably not Chingizids, but the Persians got everything right. The British mission expected to be able to water down Tehran's commitments further in the course of negotiations with the 'dull-witted warrior' on the revision of the treaty, but Ermolov suddenly offered the Shah a rather favourable treaty for Persia on duty-free trade. This, of course, specified the border points. The problem was solved on the spot. However, this did not prevent the heir to the throne, Abbas-Mirza, from starting a new war nine years later. It ended with Turkmanchay.


Prince Adjutant General Ivan Paskevich was appointed to replace Ermolov. Nikolai Pavlovich's favourite, Ivan Paskevich was not suspected of being on either side or of having any particular sympathy for the Armenians. He advised the Tsar to reject the project of an autonomous 'Armenian kingdom'. Firstly, Georgia would have no less right to such a status: it would certainly raise the issue. Secondly, it is not known how far the Lord will push Russia to extend its borders. It will turn out that the blood of Russian soldiers will only pay for the extension of Armenia's borders, even to the Mediterranean Sea. Thirdly, the Empire managed, often with difficulty, to incorporate Muslim elites into its structure. An ethnic Armenian state would have been very damaging to this policy.


Nevertheless, the document "General Rules for the Administration of the Province of Erivan", approved by Paskevich in October 1827, had a "carrot": it enshrined special rights for Armenians in the future Armenian province.


Point 6: "Establishment of armed guards for the local defence of the region by the inhabitants themselves, who will be more committed, mainly Armenians".


And point 11: "Strict observation of the actions and tranquillity of the Tatar (Azeri author) and mountain (here: Kurdish author) settlements, and immediate subjugation by military force of those who would show hostile intentions or inclination to rebel"

On 21 March 1828, within the borders of the former khanates of Yerevan and Nakhchivan, Nicholas I signed adecree creating the "Armenian region". The Armenians saw this as a recognition of their statehood. From the name to the creation of the Armenian militia - "armed guards" and their control over the Muslim population. Catholicos Nerses V, Colonel Lazar Lazarev (of Armenian origin), a special officer under Paskevich, and the writer and diplomat Alexander Griboyedov organised the resettlement of Armenians in the region. Initially, repatriation was planned from Persia, but there was also an influx from Turkey.


On the eve of the annexation of the two khanates to Russia, according to various calculations, Armenians made up 28-32 per cent of the population of the Erivan khanate and 15-17 per cent of the population of the Nakhichevan khanate (mainly in the north of the khanate on the upper reaches of the Arpa River, now the Vayotsdzor province of the Republic of Armenia). In total, Armenians made up about 25% - a quarter of the population of the two khanates. Thanks to the settlers, only five years later, in 1832, Armenians made up 50 - 53 per cent of the population of the region: 55 - 57 per cent in the former Erivan Khanate and 40 - 41 per cent in the Nakhchivan Khanate. Of course, most of the inevitable land disputes were settled in favour of the settlers by the administration with the help of the Armenian militia.


Almost immediately there were doubts about the wisdom of the region's creation. The first reason was that St Petersburg was concerned about the increasing clashes over land, which threatened to turn into Muslim uprisings, and it was particularly worrying that the reports of unrest were not coming from Yerevan but were bypassing the former Azerbaijani khanates. The Armenians knew no other means of fighting for land than those they had used in Persia and Turkey. As for the administration of the region, the distribution of land and subsidies among the settlers became so "fascinating" for the officials that it distracted their attention from minor excesses.


The second reason - the First Polish Insurrection of 1830-1831 ....

The third reason - Armenian elites regularly raised the issue of annexing Syunik/Zangezur and the mountainous Karabakh to the region of Armenia because of the predominant Armenian population there. The arguments that seemed reasonable to the colonial administration - that these lands had poor road connections to Yerevan and that the Armenians would be compensated in the form of Nakhichevan - were met with objections that mentioned the glorious history and its holy sites.


The fourth reason, of course, was rampant theft. So much so that Paskevich, in his report to the Emperor of 16 May 1829, called the "mixing of Russian laws with local ones" (inherited from Persia) "the root of the evil". Whenever it was possible to "solve a question" either this way or that way, the option favourable to the official was chosen. The unanimity of all levels of power - Russian in Yerevan and Armenian on the ground - was complete. The naibs of the former Nakhchivan Khanate also got their piece of the cake. Embezzlement and abuse reached such proportions that by the mid-1830s the flow of settlers had dried up and some returned to Persia, having been generously pardoned by the Shah.


Perhaps the  last straw that broke St Petersburg's patience was Nicholas I's trip to Transaucasia. It was announced almost a year in advance, but when the emperor entered Armenia from Gyumri on 5 October 1837, it was a disaster. The fact is that the Emperor was expected in the summer and there was even talk of watering the road so that His Majesty would not be disturbed by the dust. September and most of October are also favourable in Armenia. But this year... you guessed it. The rains came early. The motorcade reached the Catholicos' residence in Echmiadzin. But the last 20 versts - between the spiritual centre of the Armenians and the capital of the region - the All-Russian Emperor could not cover in his carriage. Nor could he forget the idiot who tried to shove a plucked rooster under his nose in Sardarabad. It turned out that the villager had not meant to offend the emperor, but only to show him the plight of the people. Nikolai Pavlovich refused to eat in Echmiadzin, took the horse from the cavalry guard and arrived in Erivan soaked to the skin...


The rain did not stop, and the impatient Nikolai Pavlovich returned to Dilijan on horseback, alone (!), without waiting for his retinue, whose carriages were pulled through the mud by oxen.....


Why didn't the Armenians, in their flawed autonomy, which was already universally called "Armenia" and not a region, bother to build 70 versts of road from Yerevan to the region's border with Gyumri and the same amount to the border with Dilijan in 10 years? Are there no builders in Armenia? Not enough stone?


There's an oversimplification here, of course. Roads, taxes, etc. are provided by the birth of a civil nation. So there was no nation. There was a "population", exhausted, unhappy, living only its daily concerns. And where were the "elites" who had just fought for the "Armenian Kingdom"? Therefore, when discussing the fate of the Armenian region, don't talk about the "violated aspirations of the Armenian nation". They missed their chance, that's all. Does this nation still exist today? Doubtful, given the enthusiasm with which Armenia is rushing towards suicide. We'll talk about that later, but for now let's just say that 200 years ago the rudiments of statehood were ruined, which of course did not lead to full statehood in the 19th century, but would give better starting opportunities later.


On 10 April 1840, in accordance with Nicholas I's decree "Establishment of the Administration of the Transcauca sian Region", the administrative bodies were unified, the "Armenian Region" was abolished and its territory was incorporated into the Georgian-Imereti province. In 1849, the province of Erivan was created with the addition of Alexandropol to the former Armenian province. The fate of the Armenian region is the second nexus (the first being the mission of Israel Ori) around which Armenian Russophobia was nurtured. In this case, it is more "academic" when the "population" receives ready-made conclusions as an axiom, but too much of Armenian history is tied to this knot.


Unfortunately, the main problem of the "Armenian world" (as Armenians themselves call it "Armenianness") was that Armenian intellectual thought was booming far beyond the borders of rural, barely surviving Armenia: in Tbilisi, Baku, St Petersburg, Moscow, Constantinople, Venice, London and so on. It was there, and only there, that "the best minds of the nation" were heatedly debating whether the future independent Armenia could fully develop without Cilicia on the Mediterranean, or whether access to the Black Sea would still be sufficient. When they received a request from villagers to help build an irrigation canal, at first they did not understand what they were talking about, and then they were terribly indignant at the "narrowness of thought" of these peasants...".


Thus, we see how the Russians not only settled the Hayans in Western Azerbaijan, but also called these lands "Armenian region" and created almost "greenhouse" conditions for the Hayans to prosper and develop the region. Instead, they devastated the region that was flourishing before their arrival, created unprecedented corruption, but continued to dream of new territorial "annexations" to the future "Greater Armenia" and its "access to the sea". A historian, an ethnic Armenian, acknowledges these sad facts.


The Russian authorities had to abolish the "Armenian province". And the reason for this was not "bad weather", as Alber Hakobyan wants to present in part, but the parasitic nature of the settlers, who received "ready" foreign land for their "Armenian project", but instead of settling it, they engaged in theft and embezzlement. The "lawlessness" organised by the settlers probably contributed to the "displacement" of the indigenous Azerbaijani population from the "Armenian province".


The name "Armenia" did not reappear on the geographical map until 1918, mainly due to Turkey and Azerbaijan, who agreed to the establishment of Hayis statehood on the original Turkish lands of western Azerbaijan, naively believing that the Hayis nationalists would "calm down" and get on with settling their "national hearth" instead of seizing new foreign lands.



Varden Tsulukidze

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