|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.
- The first era was 640-693 A.D. (*) when the Arab armies came
and conquered and left the country, taking men and material with
- 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.
- 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
|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.