Armenian primary sources about the Turkmen states in the Caucasus

Armenian primary sources about the Turkmen states in the Caucasus


Two countries – Turkmenistan and Armenia, separated by mountains and the sea, and two people – Turkmen and Armenians, each with their own language and religion, national characteristics and cultural traditions, are actually connected with each other much more than is known today to the general public.

The knowledge of history among non-specialists is at best limited to the school course, and what remains outside of general education programs often becomes a real revelation for adults who discover interesting facts from the past of their people.

Meanwhile, the history of the ancient world as science by the beginning of the 21st century advanced far in comparison with the past, thanks primarily to archaeological discoveries, the discovery of previously unknown written sources and, importantly, the rejection of the ideology of historical science. It’s no secret that the old textbooks of history have sinned with Eurocentrism and talked about the past of Asian countries very briefly and fragmentarily. So is it any wonder that in Central Asia and the Caucasus generations have grown up, knowing little about their distant ancestors?

General pages of the history of the Turkmen and Armenian peoples are among such almost forgotten knowledge today. The earliest layer is associated with the era of the Parthian kingdom, created by parnas warriors – people that were part of the nomadic union of the dachas from the Sako-Massaget (Scythian) circle of tribes. Parnas inhabited a vast territory from the steppes of the Aral and Mangyshlak to the northern slopes of the Kopetdag and left a notable mark in the ethnogenesis of the Turkmen. Written mentions of them are in Herodotus, Strabo and many other ancient authors.

In the III century BC, one of the chiefs of the parnas, known as Arshak, became the ancestor of the Arshakid dynasty, which ruled in Parthia for almost five centuries. During its heyday the Parthian Power was a formidable rival of Rome and subjugated the lands of Armenia, Atropatena, Iberia and Caucasian Albania. The younger branch of the Parthian Arshakids under the name Arshakuni became the third dynasty that ruled in Great Armenia in the 1st-5th centuries. With them, Armenia adopted Christianity, the Armenian alphabet of Mesrop Mashtots appeared, and the people gained their spiritual independence from the Persians and Romans.

Medieval history, beginning with the Seljuk conquests in the middle of the 11th century, is full of dramatic episodes in the relations between Turkmen and Armenians. But already at the end of the 13th century the Venetian traveler Marco Polo described the Small and Great Armenia, and placed Turkmenistan between them, meaning the state, founded in Minor Asia by Seljuk Turkmens. He testified that three people live in this country: Turkmen are engaged in cattle breeding, raise horses and make, according to him, “the most delicate and beautiful carpets in the world”; Armenians and Greeks – townspeople engaged in trade and crafts.

In the middle of the 14th century, Turkmen tribal associations Ak-Koyunlu (Akgoyunly) and Kara-Koyunlu (Garagoyunly), rivaling each other, emerged in the territory of Minor Asia, Iraq, Iran and Transcaucasia. They left an indelible mark in the history of the peoples of the whole region, but first of all in Armenia. The first documentary information about the Turkmen emirs who ruled in the Ararat valley date back to the 14th century, when Armenia was devastated by the khans of the Golden Horde and then by Timur. Turkmen-Baharly, who lived near Lake Van in the territory of modern Turkey, led a coalition of cattle-breeding tribes that rose to fight Timur.

A black sheep was depicted on their banner, hence the name of the Garagoyunly state created by them in 1410. The Armenian chroniclers mention the leader of the Baharly Saad (or Sahat), his son Pir-Hussein, the grandchildren Pir Gaib and Abdullah. From the beginning of the 15th century, Armenian sources began call Ararat area Chuhur-Sahat, which means “Sahat Hollow”, and all the Turkmen tribes that migrated from Central Asia to the banks of the Araks during the 14th century were already called Sahatly.

Emirs of Garagoyunly (Gara Yusup and his son Iskander) waged constant wars with the Timurids and Shirvanshahs, greatly expanding their possessions. After the murder of Iskander, his brother Jahanshah entered the throne, who played an important role in the life of the Armenian apostolic church. He not only freed her from taxation, but also contributed to the return in 1441 of the throne of the Armenian Catholicos from the Cilician city of Sis to Etchmiadzin, where it stands up to the present day and where, one thousand years before the Jahanshah era, this one of the oldest Christian churches was born.

A number of Armenian chronicles of the 15th century contain interesting information about Turkmen emirs. They write especially warmly about Jahanshah. Movses Artsketsi, Melikset and other authors of that period dedicated pages of their annals to Uzyn-Hasan, the founder of the Akgoyunly state, which absorbed the state of Garagoyunly and existed until the beginning of the 16th century.

Twenty years ago, the scientists of the Yerevan Matenadaran prepared a collection of documents on the basis of these materials and provided it in Russian translation to the disposal of their Turkmen counterparts. In 1997, the book “Armenian primary sources about the Turkmen states Kara-Koyunlu and Ak-Koyunlu” was published in Ashgabat.

In the same years, specialists of the National Institute of Manuscripts of Turkmenistan discovered about 500 manuscripts in the Matenadaran’s funds, to some extent referring to the history of the Turkmen. Among them are such rarities as the correspondence of Nadir Shah, Timurnama Khatifi, Ykbalnama Iskanderi (about the history of the Safavids), and a number of other equally valuable literary monuments, still unpublished.

It is wonderful when the manuscripts were preserved, but information, important for historians, is also contained in stones, especially in a country like Armenia. In this sense, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the mausoleum of the Turkmen emirs of the Saadla dynasty, which was preserved in the village of Argavand near Yerevan. This tower-like twelve-sided structure 12 meters high and 7 meters in diameter was erected from the local ashlar-tufa stone, and its upper part is made of burnt bricks. The dome of the mausoleum was destroyed long time ago by the earthquake, but at one time it was completely covered with blue patterns.

It is no coincidence that the old village near the mausoleum in the past was called the Geok-gumbez (Blue Dome) – this Turkmen toponym owes its appearance to a monument that towered over the whole district and was, apparently, the only landmark. But, most importantly, the inscription survived, encircling the mausoleum at a considerable height. Her translation into Russian was published back in 1961 by the Armenian scientist Hakob Papazyan.

Judging by the text, which lists the names of Emir Pir-Hussein, the son of Emir Saad, as well as Pir-Budak Khan and his father Emir Yusup, the building was built in 1413 during his lifetime and by the decree of these rulers. Under the mausoleum there is an underground crypt, which served as the family tomb of the family of Saadla. According to the stories of the local residents, two smaller tombs were standing nearby, but their tracks have long since been erased.

On many grounds, emir Saad managed to extend his power to the left-bank districts of the Araks and almost entirely subordinate the central part of the Ararat valley. Hence it can be concluded that if not with him, then, at any rate, with his son Pir-Hussein, Yerevan became the administrative center of the region and the residence of the Garagoyunly emirs, who dominated there. Otherwise, one can not explain the fact of such proximity of their ancestral cemetery to Yerevan, from which it is only 8 kilometers to Argavand village. Undoubtedly, somewhere near there had to be a fortress, in which the Turkmen rulers lived.

Over the past two decades, the mausoleum in Argavand has repeatedly been the object of special research by Turkmen scientists. The doctors of historical sciences, archeologists Yegen Atagarryev and Hemra Yusupov, the candidate of historical sciences, anthropologist Oraz Babakov, the candidate of historical sciences, the architect Mohammed Mamedov with the group of restorers have gone to study it. After the first official visit to Armenia of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov who visited this monument, by his instructions, a project was prepared for the restoration of the dome above the mausoleum.

Further in-depth study of written, archaeological and architectural materials on Turkmens living on the territory of modern Armenia will undoubtedly provide valuable information that will be used to write an objective history of the Turkmen people on a truly scientific basis.