By Frederic Macler (Professor of Armenian at L'Ecolc des Langues Orientates Vivantes)
VARANDIAN recalls the ancient battles, the deeds of valor and of devotion of the Armenian heroes, two centuries ago, in the deep valleys of Siinik, in the impenetrable forests of Khatchen and of Varand. To the secular servitude had succeeded a wonderful awakening. A great part of the country had become the theatre of heroic expeditions, of incessant and bloody struggles, in which are distinguished the names of David-Beg, of the Generalissimo Mekhitar, of Bayindour, of Prince Thoros, of Ter-Avetik, and of so many other popular heroes, such as Tuli-Arzouman and Dali-Mahrassa. The legend has developed around these names; it flies from mouth to mouth among the heroic people of Karabagh and of Siinik.
Thanks to their very favorable natural position, observes Varandian, to their spirit of independence, and also to the relatively mild Russian regime, the Armenian people of the Caucasus became accustomed relatively quickly and easily to these new martial exigencies, whilst the Armenians of Turkey devoted themselves almost exclusively to literature, national history and philology. This difference has continued to exist between these two great portions of the Armenian people; it seems even to have become accentuated in the course of latter years. Turkish Armenia, while presenting numerous types of heroes, has hardly ever produced a revolt en masse, embracing the entire country or an important fraction of it, like those which took place in Caucasian Armenia, in 1903, and especially in 1905-1906.
The prolonged Armenian revolts in the Caucasus, during the course of the Eighteenth Century, are closely connected with the programme of extension conceived by Russia toward the Orient; they are linked with the ardent hope which Armenians of the Caucasus and of Persia had placed in the great Christian State Liberator of the North.
Varandian indicates that Russia failed at this epoch to respond to the hopes of the Armenian people, who experienced a bitter disappointment. They had justly expected better treatment as a reward for their loyalty, and for the services rendered by them to Russia. For, it must not be forgotten that the Armenian people had, from the beginning, espoused the cause of the Russian flag; they followed, at the cost of immense sacrifices, the march of Russia beyond Trans-Caucasia, toward that unknown, Islamic Orient; the Armenian people were, for two long centuries, the pioneers of the Russian commerce, culture and political influence; in all circumstances they gave the greatest proof of faithful and absolute allegiance to the Moscovite throne.
When, in 1722, the Russo-Swedish War ended with the victory of Russia, Peter the Great was reminded of his promise to save the Christians of the Orient. The
hour being more than propitious — Persia was about to seek the aid of Russia to combat the schemes of the Afghans and the Ottomans against her — the Czar responded graciously. At the command of the Czar, an army of more than 50,000 men, composed of Armenians and Georgians, was raised, awaiting the arrival of the Russian troops to begin the revolt. The commander-in-chief was David-Beg, assisted by two capable and valiant generals, Melik-Yegan and AvanUzbashi. And behold, while on the route, the Czar changed his mind; arriving with his armies at Derbend, he turned back, went to Astrakhan, then to Russia, capturing on his way a series of towns on the northern coast of the Caspian Sea.
The attitude of the Czar at first astonished the Armenians and the Georgians; but, recovering from their first surprise, they decided to join their forces and even to continue the struggle. David-Beg retired to Siinik and fortified his positions for offence and defence. The situation became precarious, as the Ottomans, who had overrun the territory of Persia and arrived at the gates of Karabagh, were a more strong, redoubtable adversary than the Persians, already weakened perceptibly. The Armenians, obliged to rely upon their own resources, performed marvellous feats of valor.
In 1722, the insurrection spread simultaneously to Karabagh and Siinik. The combats that ensued, and the battles of Kafan and of Halitzor, were struggles veritably epic. The Armenians succeeded in delivering the country from the barbarous clutch threatening to stifle it; they slew the Ottomans in such vigor and numbers that Sari-Moustafa Pasha was barely able to save himself by taking refuge in Erivan. Thanks to his military prestige and his excellent staff, DavidBeg, the hero of Siinik, maintained for four years the independence of the country, spreading terror among the neighboring Mussulman populations. After the death of David-Beg and of his right arm lieutenant, Melik-Pharsadan, Armenia fell again into servitude. She was more than ever persecuted by Mussulman enemies, whether Persian, Tartar, or Turk.
Then, as in the preceding thirty years, the Armenian bands struggling for the emancipation of their country, had relied on outside intervention. Their faith in Russia, in spite of all her deceptions, continued to sustain the courage of the heroes of Siinik. The negotiations of the Armenians with the Czar multiplied. Vain efforts! No longer did he respond, no longer did his lips pronounce the "wait" of former days. No . longer was the freedom of the Armenians the concern of the autocrat of all the Russians ... He intended to have them emigrate to the newly Russified coast cities of the Caspian Sea, where the Armenian traders and artisans would develop a great prosperity. Instead of
freedom, the Armenians were offered emigration. Armenia