THE ARMENIAN REBELLION OF THE 1720S AND THE THREAT OF GENOCIDAL REPRISAL
While studying the turbulent events of the 1720s in Iran, including the successive Afghan, Russian and Ottoman invasions, I repeatedly came across Armenian warnings of being, in their own words, "totally exterminated" by the Iranian and Ottoman Muslims. Most significantly, this anxiety was experienced throughout these states whether near the military front-line or far away to the rear in Tiflis, Rasht, Shamakhi, Karabakh, Constantinople, or Erzerum. What is interesting, moreover, is that while these primary sources reflect the varied personal backgrounds and social positions as well as divergent ideological and religious convictions of their Armenian authors, they all express their apprehensions in identical terms. This study intends to establish the basis of their anxiety; whether it was founded on a balanced assessment of regional developments and certain politico-cultural realities of the early modern Iranian and Ottoman Empires or whether perhaps it was merely a largely irrational mass sentiment. If the former proves to be correct we must ask what kind of social and intercommunal relations were then in place in these two empires and what were the differences, if any, between them.
These Armenian apprehensions are all the more intriguing in light of the prevailing Western academic views on the nature of early modern, pre-genocide Armeno-Turkish relations. To summarize, this Western perspective assumes that "in the official
[Ottoman] texts, and when compared with the Greeks and Macedonians, the Armenians were termed millet-i sadika, 'the loyal nation'," a status which, as has been argued by some analysts, changed only in the late nineteenth century.1
The ultimate question is whether there are any causal, ideological, sociopsychological or institutional parallels between the dynamics of the massacres and deportations of the 1720s and that of the Armenian Genocide of 1894-1923.
This study intends to provide specialists with both historical evidence and an analysis of Transcaucasian politics in the 1720s. However, an in-depth presentation of the pertinent historical circumstances is beyond our task. The focus here is on the most essential historical aspects — those that can facilitate the further understanding of these documents on the rise of anti-Armenian attitudes. First, this study examines the rise of Armenian self-rule in Karabakh and Kapan in Eastern Armenia against the background of Transcaucasia's international setting in the 1720s, the previous military establishments of the Armenians, and the capacity of their armed forces in the 1720s and their successful resistance to Ottoman troops. These themes have been extremely underrepresented in English.2 Second, the study traces the institutional, ideological, and psychological roots of the practice of extermination in the Ottoman state, the Armenian casualties, and the basic motives for the rise of anti-Armenian attitudes.
The majority of the original Russian and Armenian documents presented below have been translated into English by the author for the first time. These sources are kept in various archives in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Venice, Vienna, Yerevan, and elsewhere. For this study, however, the Archives of Foreign Policy of Russia (AVPR) in Moscow are the richest and most valuable. Although extensive portions of this evidence have already been published (see List of Abbreviations), the research
I carried out at AVPR during September-October 1991 clearly indicated that a plenitude of relevant material is still undiscovered and unexplored. Unfortunately, even the published documentation has been analyzed insufficiently, not least because of the multilingual, diverse, disjointed and therefore highly complicated character of the sources. These materials include miscellaneous letters including once-secret correspondence, which utilized equivocal or ciphered language and sometimes even deliberate misinformation, and scattered and often controversial glimpses of data contained in diplomatic, military, and intelligence reports and in contemporary accounts of European, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, and Georgian authors. This study can serve as a useful pointer to the corpus of sources in the field; especially because the Armenian sources, both primary and secondary, are largely unknown in the West.
Armen Aivazian The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat
of Genocidal Reprisal Yerevan, 1997