UNIARTS
ARMENIAN CONTINUING HISTORY

 
The Period of Transition Until Pakradounis' Kingdom Event (690-855 A.D.)
 
In our last issue of this Directory (1989) we had reported that section of the Armenian History relative to the situation, which prevailed in Armenia after the occupation of this country by a new resurging nation called the Arabs (640 A.D.). A strong Armenian gentleman, Ashod Pakradouni, was nominated as governor of Armenia by the conquerors. Meanwhile the king of Byzance, Justinianus II, fearing to face a long-lasting friendship between the Armenians and the Arabs, that he considered could be harmful for his own interests, conceived new tactics in order to reoccupy Armenia and expel the Arabs out from the region. That was done without success.
 
On the other hand, Ashod being dead, the conquerors ignored their former solemn promises to respect the national rights of the Armenian people. They had promised, indeed, to suspend useless tax collection, and other arbitrary plunders and extortions. Regarding the Arab occupation of Armenia, we have this summarized report of their military actions in our country: The Arab domination in Armenia, says a historian, in his book "The Armenians", had three cycles.
 
  1. The first era was 640-693 A.D. (*) when the Arab armies came and conquered and left the country, taking men and material with them.
  2. The second period was 693-885, when Abdul-Malik Caliph strengthened his hold on the growing Muslim empire, became strong, and the Armenians asked him to come and reign over them to be relieved of Byzantine intrigues and the general disorder which existed in the country.
  3. The third period was 885-1045, when the Caliphs grew weak and left the Armenians to have their own kings but to pay tribute to the central treasury, as they had done with many other nations.
 
 During their stay in Armenia and before granting them the right to have kings, the Arabs governed Armenia for 180 years through constables (Armenians called these constables: Vosdigan): seventy years with Armenian constables, sixty with Arab fair constables and fifty years with foreign constables. Among the famous Armenian constables, let's remember some of them: Sempad, Sahag, Ashod and Pakrad Pakradouni.
 
 As Arab constables: Kamsh, Mahmed, Yezid, Hasan and specially Bogha, who was not an Arab, but just a Tartar, from Mongolia. From 640-1045, that means a period of domination of Armenia during four hundred years. Indeed it was a long period where Armenians experienced alternatively the bitter life of slavery, injustice and horror. In all the cases or events, deeply sad, Armenians remained faithful to their national and religious traditions, worked hardly and showed their will to live honestly and productively.
 
HISTORICAL FACTS AND EVENTS
 
A representative of the Arab Caliph, named Moavia, and later his successor Merwan (698-700 A.D.) came in Armenia, where they adopted the hard way, persecuting continuously everyone, and thus causing a general discontent and adversity. Even a rebellion was prepared against the oppressors. Fist to raise the banner of revolt was Sempad Purad Pakradouni, grandson of late governor Ashod (who died in 690 A.D.) helped by some eminent other military men, such as Sempad (landlord of Vasbouragan region) and Vart Rushduni. But the inferiority of their power against conquerors' huge war possibilities compelled them to yield prudently more than to resist openly. They preferred to leave the country and reach the borders of the Byzantine occupation (north-central section of Asia Minor), with their cavalry, and search refuge for themselves and for their families.
 
From the village of Agori, near the Mount Ararat, they tried to transit through the boundaries and reach Byzantine lands. The Arab troops, consisting of about 8000 men, followed them to stop their evasion. After a desperate fighting, Armenians planned a retreat towards the village of Vartanakerd (703 A.D.), on the shores of Arax River, where Sempad fortified all the entries, preparing a violent assault.
 
It was winter-time, and the Arab conquerors were never accustomed to its inclemency, so that the rigid cold caused heavy damages and death among the troops and their horses, when trying to cross the river, they all perished under the crackled ice and frozen waters. Some three hundred men only escaped from the disaster and fled southward, to Nakhichevan, near the castle of Yerenchak, property of a powerful landlady named Shushanik. The noble and generous woman gave them asylum, after the consent of Sempad. She took care of their wounds and procured food and clothing. She kept them in safety for a while until springtime, and then sent them to their country, serving her own mules as means of transport. Despite this generosity, no substantial change more arrangement has been established further. Even if they had some occasional victories, Armenians knew that practically they couldn't fight against the mighty Arab forces. However, such a reality wouldn't mean that they would or could continue to live in continuous harassment, nor to leave their country to face disaster.
 
By common decision, taken during a council, the Armenian nakharars (ministers) renounced to all their revolutionary intention. They preferred the peaceful means to win the sympathy of Arabs. They asked the then reigning catholicos Sahag (known in the history as Sahag III Tzoraporetzi) to intercede near the Caliph. The holy man accepted that proposition. However, on his way to Damascus, (the capital city of Arab empire, then dominated by the Omayyade dynasty) arriving to the locality named Kharan, and completely tired by the long voyage, he fell ill. There, he wrote a petition to the Arab commander and soon died (703 A.D.). The commander Mohamed Ibn Okra, coming in person to Kharan, and hearing about the death of the churchman, paid a visit to his corpse. Seeing the petition hold in the hands of the deceased, he took it to read. He promised to execute his will.
 
The national tradition relates that when the commander approached the corpse, the deceased catholicos moved his hand and presented the petition. Astonished and emotioned by such a miracle, the military man said: "All your requests will be done, o man of God". In reality, the Arabs showed good behavior towards the Armenian people, and they didn't try to compel it to desperate. Orders were given only for submission and tax payment.
 
In 706 A.D. came to Armenia a governor, named Gashem, a cruel and savage man. Treacherously, he called the Armenian princes in the province of Nakhichevan (the city of Khram). Pretexting a national council, he ordered them to be present in the city's church. Then he set fire to the building and burned them all. Consecutively, he sent hordes of bandits all over the country, intensified the persecutions, massacred the inhabitants, women, young and old people, and spread devastation everywhere. Many people left their own home to find refuge on the mountains, woods, or foreign countries.
 
Such inhuman behavior caused a great discontent in whole Armenia, so that Arab authorities in Damascus, fearing further social disorders, revoked Gashem. Adopting a new orientation in their policy, they freed Armenian princes and other people exiled in Damascus, disburdened them from paying heavy taxes and sent them to Armenia, where a new Arab vosdigan was appointed. His name was Abdel-Aziz, a man of good will. With hi a period of peace was established in the country.
 
Even if succeeding vosdigans had transformed Armenia into a country of persecution and oppression, in 731 A.D. the situation was mitigated because of the internal and external pressure over the Caliphat in Damascus. The adversaries of the Omayyade dynasty tried to overthrow it. Many other nations, dissatisfied by that dynasty, waited the right time to rebel. On the other side, the Khazars, a vagabond and aggressive people, inhabitants of the Russian southern borders, were a permanent threat endangering the northern part of the Arab empire and the whole security of their country. It was urgent for the Arabs, even if temporarily, to gain the sympathies of all their subjects, in special case that of Armenian princes, and to take advantage of their military power in order to expel the new intruders.
 
A man, named Merwan, was designated as a new vosdigan in Armenia, who partly discharged the people from paying taxes, ceased the persecutions and dedicated himself to a reconstructive work. Merwan, by this way gave a positive assurance of a better life. He then gathered the Armenian princes around him, and assigned Ashod Pakradouni to the duty of chief commander (732 A.D.) Armenians and Arabs expelled easily the Khazars back to their lands. One year later, when Merwan occupied the throne of Caliphs, he proclaimed Ashod governor of all Armenia, granting him the title of Prince of Princes. But soon, new internal troubles and popular agitations grew up in Damascus and Merwan was the victim of social intrigues.
 
In that time, two Armenian important personalities, Krikor and Tavit Mamigonian, fleeing from Damascus, returned into Armenia, and with the help of some high ranked persons, they decided to rebel against the Caliph. They presented their project to the prince Ashod, with the hope to gain his cooperation. Cautiously, and arguing the weakness of the Armenian military power, Ashod overruled their suggestion, refusing to take any action which could conduct the country into an unexpected disaster. The rebels, however, reorganized themselves in the region of Dayk, extending their activity everywhere, banishing little by little all the foreigners out of the country. After the death of Merwan, the Abbasides, who then took possession of the political power, overthrew the Omayyade dynasty. The capital was transferred from Damascus (Syria) to Baghdad (Irak), a poor and insignificant village. In a relatively short time, Baghdad became a new and magnificent city, with a central government, converging toward it the whole Arab social, political and religious activity. In order to restore the power and the charm of the Caliphate, the Abbassides decided to reoccupy all the rebel countries around them.
 
The crown prince Al-Mansour (751 A.D.) came to Armenia with a huge and powerful army. Rudely he repressed the rebellion, and then he ordered to organize a census and statistics. He requested the complete and detailed listing of all towns, cities, villages, even churches, monasteries and other utilities, aiming tax collection. One year along, Al-Mansour did what he would, and then went back to Baghdad in 752 A.D. Yezid followed him as governor, surpassing his predecessor in cruelty, until he was revoked by the central commandment in Gahdad, because of an urgent protest to the Arab Caliph by the catholicos Dertad I.
 
Then came another vosdigan, Bakr, whose presence in Armenia was undesirable. Many disorders occurred, pushing the population to disobedience even to rebellion. The origin of this rebellion took place in the village of Kumayri (the modern Leninakan) in 772 A.D. The conducting chief of it was Ardavazt Mamigonian. With the help of some princes and brave men, he assaulted the tax collectors, compelling them to step back. A general rebellion followed, in the region of Daron and Pakrevant, under the new commandment of Mooshegh Mamigonian. During a heavy fight, all the intruders were expelled and the booty plucked back, and then they found refuge in their stronghold in the city of Ardakers. Even a heavy attack from the city of Dvin by the Arabs was dismantled, giving new hopes to Armenians. Following the Armenian example, Georgians and Aghvans rebelled against the Arabs, but without success, because of lack of organization and armed deficiency.
 
Meanwhile internal dissensions between the Armenian ministerial houses and other wealthy princes caused their ruin, every group trying to act separately. They all were defeated.
 

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