(journal of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia), Vol. 5, No. 1-2, 2001, pp. 67-74.
THE DEMOGRAPHIC SITUATION IN KARABAKH
Senior Researcher, the Matenadaran – the Yerevan Institute of Medieval Manuscripts after St. Mesrop Mashtotz
Adjunct Senior Lecturer of Poltical Science, American University of Armenia
There is specific evidence on the demographic situation in Eastern Armenia, and particularly in Karabakh and Kapan in the 1710-20s. Thus, Vardapet Minas Tigranian, after completing his secret mission to Persian Armenia ordered by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great in 1716,1 stated in a report, dated March 14, 1717:
Surrounding the Gandzasar monastery (i. e. in Karabakh), that [i. e. Gandzasar] patriarch has under his [religious] authority 900 villages, and these are big villages, with 100, 200, 300, 400 and more households.2 It is a five-day journey on packed horses from Gandzasar to the monastery of Echmiadzin, where the other patriarch resides (i.e. Catholicos of All Armenians). The latter has even more villages under his authority than the Patriarch Yesayi has, but he [i. e. Minas] does not know their exact number. ...Altogether, under the authority of these two patriarchs there are some 200,000 [households] of Armenians, the merchants and the peasantry.3
On 5 November 1724, the Karabakh Armenian envoys made the following statement to the Russian court in St. Petersburg:
In Karabakh province alone, the Armenian nation, the military and all others, counts for 100,000 households; not counting the other Armenian province, Kapan, which is situated between Erivan and Karabakh... and the Armenian people of that Kapan province is more numerous than in Karabakh, and they are predominantly merchants.4
Later, in their 25 July 1725 letter to Yekaterina 1, the Russian Empress (1725-1727), the Karabakh leaders mentioned that their smallest villages had from 30 to 50 households, and the biggest ones – up to 600 households.5.
1. While counting the population of Karabakh, one should remember that in the 18th century Karabakh included also some peripheral territories which, in 1923, were left out of the newly-drawn boundaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). These Armenian territories were situated around NKAO's whole perimeter along the natural geographical border. These comprised Gyulistan (formerly Shahumian district of NKAO), Getashen (currently Chaykend), Getabek and Karahat (currently Dashkesan) regions to the north and north-west, Karavachar (Kelbajar) to the west as well as the southern part of the Dizak melikdom (currently, Hadrut district) lying to the south as far as the Arax river.
2. If we take five souls as the smallest least number for an Armenian household in the beginning of the 18th century, the entire population of what could be called “greater” Karabakh would be estimated about 500,000 souls in 1724.6 At the same time, it should be noted that a traditional Armenian household in the 17th-18th centuries often included 10, 20, and sometimes up to 30-40 souls.7 Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that when referring to their 100,000 households, the Karabakh Armenians took as the basis for their estimate an elementary unit of a traditional family rather than an entire traditional family.
3. We are inclined to include into these 100,000 households living in Karabakh in 1724, the Armenian part of population of the city of Ganja (Gandzak) and the surrounding Armenian villages. Our point is that, during and after the Turkish army's unsuccessful attack on Ganja in October 1723,8 the majority of the population of Ganja, both Armenians and Muslims, abandoned the city. As the Armenian priest Alexander was writing from Shamakhi on December 20, 1723, already at that junction, almost all Armenians of Ganja had left for Karabakh:
...[after the Turks] captured half of the city, they plundered all the belongings of our Armenian nation, some of them were massacred, others -- driven into slavery. ...60 households were sent to Turkey. All others became refugees, unclothed and barefooted, and left for Armenian Seghnakhs (i.e. Karabakh and Kapan)...9
According to a French-written document dated August 8, 1725, the outlying district of Ganja, which was captured by the Turks in 1723, was populated exclusively by the Armenians – faubourg des Armeniens.10 (It should be noted that there was also an Armenian population inside the walls of Ganja.) This faubourg of Ganja (in a contemporary document in Russian it is identified as armyanskiye slobodi za gorodom)11 is referred to by the Armenian priest as only "half of the city." However, historically, the part of a medieval city which lay outside the city walls usually had a population several times as large as the population inside the walls. Thus, for example, according to Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the famous French traveler, in the middle of the 17th century, Yerevan's fauxbourg was populated by 20 times as many people as those living within the city walls.12 According to the information provided by Israel Ori on September 22, 1699: "...all around that city [e. i. Ganja], there are [residing Armenian] Christians" ("...tout autour de laditte ville, se (=ce) sont des chrestien"). Evidence for the size of the Armenian population of Ganja is Israel Ori's intention to raise 15,000 Armenian soldiers from that city and the surrounding district.13
Interestingly, the Armenian army stationed in Karabakh did not hesitate to send envoys to the retreating Turkish army, demanding an immediate release of all Armenian prisoners taken in Ganja. Having considered the poor condition of his troops after the Ganja setback vs. the crack and well-armed forces in Karabakh, Ibrahim pasha, Turkish commander-in-chief, promptly met this Armenian demand.14 Hence, those 60 households of captive Armenians from Ganja (see document cited above) also ended up in Karabakh. The mass movement of Armenians from Ganja as well as from other nearby regions into Karabakh, under the protection of Armenian troops, is confirmed by later sources as well: e. g. in 1726 only 5-6 Shiite Muslim families, and about 50 Armenian families remained in Ganja, while all the Armenian villages of the vicinity were completely abandoned.15 Thus, beginning from November, 1723, Karabakh became the shelter for the tens of thousands of Armenian refugees.
4. In the 1720s Karabakh and the adjacent Armenian mountainous province of Kapan were capable of raising an Armenian force of up to 50,000-60,000 soldiers16 (of which two-thirds were in Karabakh). A ratio of one soldier to 10 people is very reasonable for these two extremely militarized Armenian self-governing regions, facing and effectively resisting the larger Ottoman regular armies.17 Such a ratio also suggests that the Armenian population in “greater” Karabakh numbered about half a million.
5. If we take 315, the arithmetical mean from 30 and 600 – the greatest and smallest numbers of households in Karabakh villages mentioned by the Armenian leadership in 1725 (ARO, II, doc. 315, p. 249) – and multiply this figure by 900, the number of villages mentioned by Minas Tigranian in 1717, we will have 283,500 households, or 1,417,500 souls for the entire population of Karabakh.
If we take 250, the arithmetical mean from 100 and 400 – the greatest and smallest numbers of households in Karabakh villages mentioned by Minas Tigranian himself in 1717 (ARO, I, doc. 154, p. 370) – and multiply this figure again by 900, we will have 225,000 households, or 1,125,000 souls for the entire population of Karabakh. Undoubtedly, these are exaggerated estimations. However, they strongly support the reliability of the figure of 500,000 for the population in Karabakh in the 1710-1720s.
6. In 1783, the Gandzasar Catholicos Hovanes counted 30,000 Armenian households in Karabakh.18 This figure also corroborates the probability that there were 100,000 Armenian households in Karabakh in the 1710-1720s, because the Ottoman invasion and subsequent devastating internal fighting in Iran caused a catastrophic decline of Armenian population in Eastern Armenia. One well-informed Armenian leader said in 1792 that “during the reign of King Peter [the Great] (i.e., in the first quarter of the 18th century) the Armenians were ten times as many [as compared to the 1790s].”19
We can conclude, therefore, that 500,000 people is a reliable approximate number for the population of Karabakh in the 1710-1720s.
11. See Àðìÿíî-ðóññêèå îòíîøåíèÿ â 1-îé òðåòè XVIII âåêà. Ñáîðíèê äîêóìåíòîâ. Ò. II, ÷àñòü I. Ïîä ðåäàêöèåé Àø. Èîàííèñÿíà, Åðåâàí, 1964 [The Armenian-Russian Relations in the First Three Decades of the XVIIIth century. Collection of Archival Documents. Vol. II, Part I, Edited by Ashot Ioannissian], ¥hereafter - ARO, I¤, doc. 147.
22. Likewise, in 1721 Durri-Muhammad Effendi, the Turkish envoy to Persia, on his return reported to the Sultan that in Persia "every village has 300, 500 and 1000 households." See Turkish Sources About Armenia, the Armenians and the Peoples of the Transcaucasus. Preface, trans. from Turkish and commentaries by A. Safrastian (Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1964) (in Armenian), pp. 125.
33. ARO, I, doc. 154, p. 370.
44. Àðìÿíî-ðóññêèå îòíîøåíèÿ â 1-îé òðåòè XVIII âåêà. Ñáîðíèê äîêóìåíòîâ. Ò. II, ÷àñòü II. Ïîä ðåäàêöèåé Àø. Èîàííèñÿíà, Åðåâàí, 1967 [The Armenian-Russian Relations in the First Three Decades of the XVIIIth century. Collection of Archival Documents. Vol. II, Part II, Edited by Ashot Ioannissian], ¥hereafter - ARO, II¤, doc. 291, p. 205.
55. ARO, II, doc. 315, p. 249.
66. According to a European source, at the turnover of the 16th century, the province of Ganja, intermittently referred also as Karabakh in official Safavid documents, had 250,000 inhabitants. See Don Juan of Persia. A Shiah Catholic 1560-1604. Transl. and ed. by G. Le Strange, London 1926, pp. 41-2. Cf. Tadhkirat Al-Muluk. A Manual of Safavid Administration (circa1137/1725). Translated and explained by V. Minorsky. London: W. Heffer & Sons, 1943, pp. 44, 166.
77. See, e. g., Zakaria Sarkavag, A Chronicle. Vol. 2, (Vagharshapat, 1870), p. 132 (in Armenian); Bedik Petrus. Cebil Sutun (Viennae, 1678), p. 379; M. M. Karapetian, "The Dynamics of the Number and Ethnic Structure of the Populaton of Yerevan in 1600-1724," Patma-banasirakan Handes, 1986, No. 2 (113), p. 103, note 33 (in Armenian); H. S. Eprikian. Bnashkharhik Bararan [A Geographical Dictionary], Vol. 2 (Venice, 1907), p. 386; Avgust Gakstauzen, Zakavkazskiy Kray [The Transcaucasian Region] (St. Petersburg, 1856) Vol. 1, p. 190.
In the 17-18th century, the same reality was true for Georgia as well; see N. A. Bregadze, "On the Question of Ethnic Composition of the Population of Georgia in the 17th century," Kavkazskiy Etnograficheskiy Sbornik, Vol. VI, Moscow, 1976, p. 245 (in Russian).
88. On this battle, see A. M. Aivazian, "The Events in Trascaucasia in 1723 and the First Support March of Artzakh Armenians to Siunik," Patma-banasirakan Handes, 1990, No. 4 (131), pp. 71-73 (in Armenian); ARO, II, pp. LXVI-LXXV.
99. ARO, II, docs. 195, 196, pp. 53, 54. From 1722 to the 1730s, the external powers (as well as the Armenians themselves) referred to Karabakh and Kapan by new terms which were absolutely different from their previous geographic and administrative definitions, namely -- Seghnakh(s) or Armenian Seghnakh(s) (Seghnakh signified a fortified mountain area characterized by mutually supporting defensive works and fortresses), Armenian Assembly, Armenian Army, and even Assembly of the Armenian Army. The appearance of these new designations amounts to the de facto recognition of Karabakh and Kapan's actual decade-long independence. For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Armen Aivazian, The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat of Genocidal Reprisal (Yerevan: Center for Policy Analysis, American University of Armenia, 1997). VI+87 pp., with a map and table, pp. 17-18.
1010. I. M. Tabagua. Materiali dlya istorii Gruzii pervoy chetverti XVIII veka [Materials for the History of Georgia of the First Quarter of the 18th century], Tbilisi, 1982, p. 304.
1111. Cf. ARO, II, doc. 194, p. 51.
1212. Les Six Voyages de Jean Baptiste Tavernier en Turkquie, en Perse, et aux Indes. Paris, Tome 1, 1679, p. 38. Cf. M. M. Karapetian, "The Dynamics of the Number and Ethnic Structure of the Populaton of Yerevan in 1600-1724," op. cit., pp. 95-102.
1313. See G. A. Ezov, Snosheniya Petra Velikovo s Armyanskim Narodom, (St. Petersburg: Tipographia Imperatorskoy Akademii Nauk, 1898), doc. 9, pp. 33, 36.
1414. See ARO, II, document 194, p. 51.
1515. AVPR – Archiv Vneshney Politiki Rossii (Russian Foreign Policy Archives), Moscow, Funds on "Relations with Persia," inventory 1, 1726, file 4, fols. 211a-212a. Cf. also G. G. Paychadze. Russko-gruzinskiye otnosheniya v pervoy polovine XVIII veka. Tbilisi: "Sabchota Sakartvelo," 1970 (in Russian), p. 79. V. A. Parsamian. The Participation of Polish Armenians to the Rebellion by Davit-bek. Yerevan, 1962 (in Armenian), p. 67, cf. ARO, II, docs. 358-359, 366, pp. 299, 302, 307.
1616. Armen Aivazian, The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat of Genocidal Reprisal, pp. 7-9, 60-63.
1717. Ibid., pp. 6-20.
1818. Àðìÿíî-ðóññêèå îòíîøåíèÿ â XVIII âåêe (1760-1800ãã). Ñáîðíèê äîêóìåíòîâ. Ò. IV. Ïîä ðåäàêöèåé Ì. Ã. Íåðñèñÿíà, Åðåâàí, 1990 [The Armenian-Russian Relations from 1760 to 1800. Collection of Archival Documents. Edited by M. G. Nersisian], doc. 128, p. 209.
1919. A letter written by Joseph Emin on 1 January 1792; see Patma-Banasirakan Handes 131:4 (1990), p. 193. On the Armenian casualties in the 1720s and the decline of Armenian population, see Armen Aivazian, The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat of Genocidal Reprisal, pp. 36-39.