Armenian News Network / Groong

The Critical Corner - 06/03/2013


TOVMA MEDZOPETSI'S CHRONICLE OF THE FINAL DESTRUCTION OF ARMENIA

Armenian News Network / Groong
June 3, 2013

by Eddie Arnavoudian

	`Then the dear ones of those slain came and saw the incurable
	wounds of Armenia, and they lamented for the land.'


Tovma Medzopetsi's (1378-1446) `History of Tamerlane and His
Successors' (311pp, 1999, Yerevan, Armenia) though little acknowledged
is nevertheless critical and indispensable for any proper grasp of the
flow of Armenian history. The only significant historian of late 14th
and early 15th century Armenia, Medzoptsi presents us with a land
fundamentally and irrevocably reconfigured. The Armenia of the 4th
century Golden Age, the Armenia of Khorenatsi, Puzant, Barpetzi,
Yeghishe, even the Armenia of the historians of the 8th to the 11th
centuries, is almost totally absent. Defining features - social,
political, economic and military - of earlier epochs have been
uprooted and eliminated. The conception of an ancient, proud and noble
homeland that, for good or bad, shaped aspects of modern Armenian
nationalist consciousness are invisible in Medzopetsi and reappear no
more in subsequent historians of Armenia.

The Armenia of the late 14th and early 15th century has been radically
reshaped by vast political and demographic transformations that
accelerated in the wake of the 11th century collapse of the Bagratouni
Armenian State and now appear complete. Armenia is driven by totally
new historical dynamics. It is a de facto multi-national land, one
moreover structured entirely by non-Armenian political states and
principalities, in which powerless Armenian communities suffer
unending slaughter, famine, expropriation, forced migration and forced
religious conversion that threatens their very existence as a distinct
people. Yet, almost as miracle, the Armenian people survived and their
culture flourished right into our own day. To survival Tovma
Medzopetsi's contribution requires acknowledgement.


I. HISTORICAL ARMENIA RECONFIGURED

Opening with Lang Tamur's first, 1386 invasion and ending in 1440,
Medzopetsi's `History' tells of an Armenia `...entirely ruined', `torn
apart' `universally robbed', `given over to fire' with `the world' as
a result `filled up with Armenian slaves'. As he records the fierce
and ruthless violence of Tamur's assaults, his bloody battles and
savage reprisals against those who resisted, compared to his
illustrious predecessors, our 14th-15th century author treads through
an almost unrecognisable landscape.

Armenia, in any meaningful political sense, has ceased to be
Armenian. None of the noble secular estates - the Mamikonians,
Ardzrounis, Bagratounis and others - that figured as military and
political pillars in earlier periods are to be seen. If in previous
epochs the history of Armenia could in part be read as resistance
against, negotiation with or accommodation to foreign encroachments by
independent Armenian monarchies and principalities, when Lang Timur
invades, his political and military adversaries in historical Armenia
are all non-Armenians.

If classical Armenia had been demographically overwhelmingly Armenian,
by Medzopetsi's time Armenians are one community among others.
Non-Armenian elites and states, resting on rooted non-Armenian
communities, with their own distinct language, culture and religion
have divided historical Armenia among themselves. With land still the
core of wealth, this land division was additional manifestation that,
western Armenia at any rate, had also ceased in significant economic
measures to be Armenian. However, in contrast to other communities
Armenians suffer fatal disadvantage.

An oppressed, exploited, subordinate and diminishing nationality the
Armenian common people exist with little prospect of stability,
expansion or development. Savagely discriminated against, they live a
nightmare signalling eventual extinction as a national group. Even the
Church, that sturdy cat o' nine lives that had outlived the secular
aristocracy and had remained a formidable organisational institution
for Armenian communities appears teetering on the brink, racked with
corruption and buckled by the repeated blows of hostile principalities.

Armenia had not in the past been spared calamity, but with armed
Armenian estates and a confident Church as its civil administration,
with potential allies close by, hopes of recovery always kindled,
certainly amongst the most vital and energetic segments of
society. Even into the 13th century, Giragos Gantsagetsi at its
opening, and Stepan Orbelian at its close, remained historians of a
transitional era, their horizons touched still by shadows of a
Cilician-Armenian kingdom or by the Zakarian princes' ambition to
reconstruct post-Bagratouni Armenian power in the heart of Armenia.

Medzopetsi in the 15th century is on the other, darker side of the
transition. Even as he recalls facets of classical Armenia, he never
does so as hope, never as a rallying call or an urge to strive for
restoration.  Written after a lifetime of harassed wandering (Note 1),
more chronicle and eyewitness memoir than history the very temper of
the `History of Tamerlane and His Successors', its untidy art and
intellectually meagre narrative, reflects the reality of a vanished
classical Armenia. It is moreover stamped also by a terrible
resignation, an apparently helpless surrender to the prospect of the
dissolution of the Armenian people themselves.


II. `THERE WAS WEEPING AND LAMENTATION'

Central to Medzopetsi's narrative are the endless wars on historical
Armenian lands between non-Armenian principalities. Aggrandising
themselves at each other's expense and laying also to waste the last
pitiable remnants of secular Armenian landlords these warring factions
appear presiding over an apparently ceaseless decline of the Armenian
population and of the Armenian Church, that last substantial and
enduring Armenian landed estate.

As Tamur battles for control of historical Armenia, every province
fought over, once the domain of the Armenian nobility is now ruled by
non-Armenians. In Vana Hayots Emir Ezdin was sovereign, Sebastia
`belonged to Yildirim Xonghear (Ottoman Sultan Bayezid), Kurdish lords
ruled ancient Baghesh (Bitlis), Mush and Sasun, another historic
province Rshtounik was subjected to Sultan Ahmad son of Emir Ezdin,
Yerzenga was Pir Omar's fiefdom, and the list goes on (see Note 2).

Frequently at war against Lang Tamur, Turkmen, Kurdish and Arabic
principalities also criss-crossed formerly Armenian lands contesting
for command of the same plunder, the same potential serfs and
slaves. So `now (it was) the Turkmen army (that) robbed all of our
Christians' (p8) and now the `pitiless Kurd of Bitlis (who also)
(came) against the God-kept city of Artske', putting `many of our
people to the sword...'(p36).

But among all those who wracked Armenian life, in ferocity and
barbarism Tamur remained unmatched. A `merciless, cruel and
treacherous' tyrant, `filled with all the evil, impurity and
stratagems of the tempter Satan' Lang Tamur proved to be the most
deadly of those `wicked faithless kings of the East who' `brought ruin
upon the Armenian people (p1).' When he captured the fortress of Vana
Hayots, Medzopetsi felt as if he was:

    `...witness...to the...dread of the Day of Judgement (with), the
    weeping and lamenting of the entire fortress, for the evil tyrant
    had ordered that the women and children be taken into slavery and
    that men, believers and unbelievers be hurled down from the
    fortress. So much did [the valley below] fill up with the slain,
    that those hurled last did not die (p11).


In Sebastia Tamur punished those defending it with equal savagery. On
taking it despite having promised not to kill those who had resisted,
he:

    `...had them bound hand and foot - 4,000 souls - and buried them
    alive, covering them with water and ash. Their cries reached to
    heaven.' (p27)


Such bloodletting, instances of which appear countless, as destructive
as it was for all communities living in historical Armenia, was for
Armenians a bleeding to death of their society, culture and history.
Against the savagery of Lang Tamur's times the Armenian common people
could erect no defence. Unorganised, they have become a hapless mass,
payers of tax, milk cows, beasts of burden and most of all easy prey
for plunder or abduction in wars that never seem to end. Their
political leadership decapitated, they were at the whim and mercy of
every predator, mere collateral damage in others' wars of plunder.

Medzopetsi's description of the province of Ararat effectively
summarises the experience of the fifty-five years that his `History'
covers. Lang Tamur's `...unbearable tortures and bestial behaviour'
caused `the most populous district of Armenia (to) become uninhabited
(p6). Tamur's role in Armenia appears as one of `killing and
enslaving' Armenians using both `starvation and the sword'. His every
move is marked by a decimation of the land's Armenian population, a
decimation driven on by waves of mass migration to escape bloody
conflict and ensuing economic collapse and famine. Armenian numbers
were reduced further by enslavement and deportation of `countless
women and...children' to faraway places such as Khorasan (p39) as well
as a systematic policy of forced conversion to Islam.

In proportion to Armenian decline, the weight of non-Armenian
communities grew. Though focussing on the Armenian experience,
Medzopetsi is not unaware nor is he indifferent to the lives of
non-Armenians. `Unbelievers' too, were hurled down from the fortress
in Vana Hayots. In Sebastia both `believers and unbelievers alike'
died. Their presence evokes no resentment. There is no hint that they
do not belong; no suggestion that they should be removed. Non-Armenian
elites too are treated as a component of the land's unalterable
reality, a part of its natural fabric. They are evaluated and judged
not as foreign conquerors but by whether they are generous or harsh
towards Armenian Christians.

The destruction of Armenian life that Medzopetsi describes was to
continue during subsequent centuries of Persian and Ottoman
occupation. Yet right up to the 20th century to a lesser or greater
extent the region retained a multi-national design that included a
vast Armenian population in certain provinces constituting
majorities. It was left to a virulent Turkish nationalism to deploy
more ruthless assimilation, forced expulsion and then genocide to
finally cleanse western Armenia of all Armenians, a process now being
executed against the land's Kurdish population.



III. AN `INCORRIGIBLE PRIESTHOOD' - THE FOUNDERING OF THE LAST ESTATE

Cut down by the land's new political and military lords, Armenian life
was rendered even more vulnerable, disarmed internally as it were, by
the collapse of the one remaining social-organisational institution at
its centre, the Armenian Church. For reason of its particular
historical development, the destiny of Armenian communities in
historical Armenia was in important respects inextricably bound to the
health or otherwise of the Church and its 14th century degradation
that Medzopetsi describes significantly speeded Armenian decline.

A strong Church served as a buffer sparing Armenian communities not
all but some of the worst excesses of marauding vandalism. By
contracting minimal agreements with conquering powers, the Church
could ensure protection both for its clergy and its wealth. It had
done so in the post-Bagratouni era. It had not then remained intact,
but had nevertheless shored up, and sometimes even improved its
positions through the acquisition or purchase of land that had
belonged to fleeing secular nobles. By means of accommodation and
negotiation, besides securing wealth represented by Churches,
monasteries and land, it also obtained a degree of security for that
wealth represented by communities of Armenian serfs and peasants
recognised as part of the Church's flock.

And wealth the Armenian common people indeed were. It was the Armenian
serf and the peasant who filled Church coffers with taxes and dues,
serving it also as free labour. With substantial income from Armenian
communities the Church had direct interest in acting to fend off the
non-Armenian elites also targeting Armenians for their labour and
their taxes. Such was the condition of the Church even into the 13th
century when as Giragos Gantzagetsi shows it was a magnitude that
conquering rulers judged necessary to negotiate with (see Note 3).

However by the close of the 14th century everything has changed. The
Church has ceased to be an institution commanding respect, it has lost
authority and appears incapable of offering even minimal defence for
its flock. In this `History of Tamerlane and His Successors' a once
august institution stands before us wasted and wilted; a candle at the
end of its wick and wax. Possessing no central leadership,
faction-infested, corrupted internally and attacked externally it is
tilting ominously. Medzopetsi underlines the depth of Church
degeneration when expounding his theological principles of historical
causality.

Explaining Armenian misfortunes as divine punishment for sin, among
the sinners he singles out `especially' the Church clergy for its
`laxity' and for being `apostate cheats (p12).' Calamity `transpires'
`especially' because of `the wicked deeds' and `laziness of presbyters
and the fraudulence of clerics (p40).' The point is reiterated in a
concluding indictment of an `incorrigible' clergy in an age of
generalised moral decay. Disasters he writes:

    `... have descended upon us because of our sins, especially
    because of the swearing of the foul-mouthed, because of lazy, lack
    of prayer, and the hatred and lack of love manifested toward all,
    and the incorrigible priesthood. (p52)'

Small pockets of conscientious men, intellectuals and artists, to whom
Medzopetsi refers frequently, were powerless to affect direction
dictated by a majority of the clergy condemned as unprincipled
careerists donning god's frock only for personal comforts and
privileges.

Rudderless, the Church and its flock have become easy targets.
Pictured as a rampant disease, Catholicism was steadily extending its
tentacles and choking the once proud Armenian Church. Though their
advance is fought by keeping them `in prison', `in fetters', and even
by `beating' them (p16)', Roman Catholics continue to win adherents.
But the biggest threat to Church and community were Tamur and the
Kurdish, Turkish, Turkmen and other lords who, contemptuous of the
miserably floundering institution felt free to kill its servants and
rob its wealth.

At different times Tamur's armies `... had razed to their foundations
all the churches of Armenia. (p24) In Yerzenga Tamur `destroyed to the
foundation the great cathedral of Saint Sargis `and ruined all the
(other) Churches'. Christians could do nothing but `wail' in reaction
to `the order...to pull down all the Churches.' (p18). Elsewhere Yusuf
who ruled after Tamur `went against the land of Rshtunik' attacking
`the monastery complex of Varag (p29) whilst one of his opponents,
Emir Ezdin, `killed the Katoghikos of Aghtamar'. Similar raids were
conducted by Kurdish forces (p36) and by those loyal to Iskander who
robbed and plundered monasteries and churches in Kajperouni (p37)

Marauders stalking the Armenian Church also hunted down the souls of
the Armenian common people. Souls after all were wealth, religious
affiliation registered as a credit or a debit in contemporary accounts
of income. Forcing Armenians to convert to Islam would direct their
taxes and labour away from Armenian Church coffers and into those of
non-Armenian lords and religious leaders. So forced conversion became
an instrument of policy with `poverty and the bitterness of hunger',
as well as `enormous taxes' and other `harassment' used to compel
Armenians to `became unbelievers', to `turn from our faith.'


IV. `MOURN FOR THE END OF THE HOUSE OF ARAM'

To survive, weakened and disorganised, with no prospect of independent
political organisation and its flock declining, the Church resorted to
the politics bowing and scraping before so-called Muslim
`philo-Christians'. Reduced to eking out an uncertain existence the
leaders of a powerless Armenian Church after:

    `...taking counsel...go to... quench (the tyrants) bitter
    anger....They (go)... with supplications and entreaties and (give)
    him an oath so that he would not remember their former...
    disobedience...By the mercy of Christ they quenched his bitterness,
    and he vowed to do no damage to them.'

Besides such bending of the knee before `philo-Christians' that for
short periods did produce minor results, Armenian bishop and priest
also invested stocks of hope in their northern Christian neighbour,
the Kingdom of Georgia. In an early exercise in the politics of
dependency, that useless and dangerous reliance upon other states for
the protection of one's own interests, they placed such confident
`hopes on the Georgians' that they even `boast(ed) of them among the
infidels'.

But alas, as will happen, they were rapidly `thereafter disappointed',
bitterly and devastatingly so. In 1438 Alexander king of Georgia, a
`bloody cruel beast', had leading Armenian prince Beshken Orbelian
poisoned. Reflecting the age-old clash between Georgian and Armenian
landed political estates, Alexander's aim had been to block any move
by Armenians to `gather together' and `destroy Georgia' (p49).
Medzopetzi is rarely passionate, but here he erupts in uncontrolled
rage. Charging the Georgians with having ruined `the entire Armenian
people' he adds, in a moment of colossal loss of intellectual balance,
that they are a:

     `... cowardly, gastro-maniacal, drunken, lapathum-eating (a
     purgative plant)... nation...continually...intoxicated (and),
     boasting that they would vanquish all peoples (but) unable to
     pierce by arrow even one man.' (p51)

This bile from a Churchman's quill measures the depths of shattered
illusion, the gaping wound of humiliation and an unfathomable
political impotence.

With hopes of salvation from the Georgian state now at apparent end
and with ephemeral expectations from `philo-Christians', Medzopetsi
can see no others to whom to turn. Henceforth Armenians can only
resign themselves to what will be for:

    `The words of the prophet were fulfilled: "Cursed is the man who
    places his hopes on man," and "Trust not the prince, for that is
    not salvation."

Medzopetsi's greatest fear, the very end of Armenians as a historical
people, seems about to be realised. Abandoned by foreign powers,
wracked by those ruling Armenia and with the Church dissipating, the
fateful prophecy of 4th century Armenian Nerses the Great, to which he
alludes on a number of occasions, appears imminent:

    `The Nation of Archers will wipe out the house of Aram (p12).'

To such circumstances one must perhaps attribute Medzopetsi's lack of
political compass and most depressingly the passivity and defeatism
evident in the `History of Tamerlane and His Successors'.  Medzopetsi
writes not to collect intellect and energy, not to inspire positive
action but only to enable: `...those coming after us (to) mourn the
destruction of the Armenian people (p39).'

Medzopetsi was not ignorant of Armenian or of world history. A scholar
of broad erudition, educated by the famous Krikor of Datev, he was a
teacher, a scribe, a librarian and a historian repeatedly referring to
Armenian and international classics, among them:

    `Gregory the Theologian, Athanasius, Cyril and our (Armenian)
    theologians Stepannos of Siwnik', Anania Shirakatsi, Poghos
    Taronatsi, Yovhannes, Sargis Haghpartatsi, Dawit' the philosopher,
    Movses k'ert'oghahayr, Asoghik the translator and other blessed
    vardapets.

He also refers constantly to ancient eras of Armenian history. He
remarks on the Armenian Bagratounis, for example, who `descended
from...Jews' later `converted to the faith of Christ by the
Illuminator' and then `became the kings of Ani and all Armenia' having
inherited the crown from `the Arshakouni clan.' (p6) He also remembers
the Mamikonian nobles among them `Vardan and Mushegh' who `made the
Persians tremble'. Almost as an aside he mentions too that Garabagh
had been a `winter residence of our first kings' (p7).  But such
recollection is passive, inert, matter of fact, devoid of instructive
purpose. It is remembrance of an irretrievable past that only sets in
bold the transformed world that Medzopetsi inhabits.

The volume's prose, often tediously repetitive also displays in
addition a fatalistic, bowed aspect. Grief and misery in the face of
human suffering occasionally flares with passion, but narrative is
never marked by anger. One cannot fail to note the recurring images of
ceaseless suffering, all the more pathetic for being accompanied, with
one or two minor and localised exceptions, with no suggestion of any
will to resist. Perhaps all this is not surprising. The condition of
the times produced its own politics. However Medzopetsi, contrary to
the impression he leaves us at the conclusion of the `History of
Tamerlane and His Successors' was decidedly not one to give up, not
one to surrender or rest at ease in passive expectation of divine
intervention.


V. AND SO THE MAN STANDS UP

It would be a terrible error to judge Medzopetsi on the basis of his
`History of Tamerlane and His Successors' alone. He was not at all
lacking in fighting spirit. Quite the contrary! Prior to his eventual
falling out with Church authority in whose recuperation he had played
a decisive role, Medzopetsi had been a formidable figure, an organiser
and activist through all his years of wandering, more unbending and
more successful than can be imagined by any reading of his `History'.

Medzopetsi played, one can say, a world-historic role in salvaging the
Armenian communities in historical Armenia's new multi-national
configuration. His role in stemming or at any rate slowing the
historical decline of independent Armenian communities requires
acknowledgement. Medzopetsi himself had no political ambitions in his
enterprise. Of his own driving religious purpose, that would however
contribute to securing a future national-political revival, Medzopetsi
tells in his `Memorandum' written in 1441 and treated usually as an
appendix to his `History'.

After years of struggle against the Church clergy whose corruption he
is never shy of noting and contesting, Medzopetsi in 1441 succeeded in
triumphantly returning the central apparatus, the headquarters and
leadership of an exiled Armenian Church back to its historical seat in
Armenia, back to Etchmiadzin. There set amidst denser Armenian
communities, both Church and community proved less easily dissolvable
for within the core of Armenia sturdier floodgates were raised against
the rush of assimilation, expulsion and forced conversion endangering
the roots upon which future tree of nation would flourish.

It seems a peculiar claim - the survival of the Armenian Church as a
decisive mechanism in the revival of a modern Armenian nation. Yet it
was so.

The elimination of Armenian statehood had left institutions of the
Church as the sole educational hub and cultural warehouse of a people
sharing a common language, literature, history and religion. In the
post-Bagratouni eras for reasons of greater security, this Church had
relocated to the newly founded Armenian Cilicia where it multiplied
its cultural treasury by many times. But Armenian Cilicia was to fall
in 1375 and so once again shorn of Armenian state backing, the Church
was exposed and vulnerable, now more decidedly so as Armenian
communities in Cilicia were at risk of more rapid disintegration than
those in historic Armenia.

Re-rooting the Church back to Etchmiadzin generated a critical
dialectical dependence between the backward feudal Church aristocracy
and dense Armenian communities across the lands of historical
Armenia. It was a dialectic that contributed immensely to the survival
of distinct Armenian communities and to the development of an Armenian
culture and literature that future generations would avail themselves
of in their nation building. It was this dialectic, in addition, that
enabled Etchmiadzin to survive subsequent European, Persian and
Tsarist offensives.

The Armenian Church remained indeed a selfish, superstition-ridden and
backward caste living in ghastly backwardness and at the expense of
its serfs and peasants. But resting on the latter's labour for
substantial portions of its income, its privilege and its authority,
the Church elite had that decided material interest in organising and
defending the communities from the worst tides of assimilation and
disappearance. To secure its flock, to continue benefiting from its
religious taxes and dues it was compelled to attempt knitting
Armenians together as distinct communities that besides the Church's
own also produced its distinct Armenian secular folk culture, music
and oral literature - David of Sassoon as one outstanding example.

In the process, undertaken in the service of its narrow caste, the
Church protected and reproduced the raw material for future nation
formation. Across the land, men of wisdom, so effusively praised by
Medzopetsi, in almost impossible conditions, worked in monastic
educational centres to preserve a vast stock of historical and
literary culture. The best of Church scholars bequeathed a vast stock
of literary, philosophical, scientific, educational manuscripts, a
rich musical tradition, a legacy of painting, architecture, and most
critically the Armenian language, all of which was to be from the 18th
century on to be appropriated by the Armenian people and blended with
its own secular culture fashion its modern nationality, nationhood and
statehood. (see Note 4)

The Armenian Church as a Christian institution and its elite
leadership cannot of course claim any credit for this cultural
production or for the subsequent national revival. Many of the
dedicated Churchmen who created the raw material for Armenian
nationhood and those who along with new secular forces were to
directly use it in the 18th and 19th centuries remained a minority,
often in opposition to and persecuted by a hidebound Church
leadership. Musical genius Komitas comes to mind immediately. Indeed
where the Church as a landholding estate tolerated cultural production
it did so not for the benefit of the common people or nation but only
as a necessary measure in the training and organising of Church
leadership and cadre to administer its exploitation of its Christian
flock (Note 5).


			      * * * * *

Tovma Medzopetsi if not as historian then certainly as a Church leader
contributed monumentally to the survival of a distinct modern Armenian
people in a land now lived in by other peoples too. As minimum
acknowledgment he at least deserves a place in a revised edition of
the hugely valuable reference book `Famous Figures of Armenian Culture
from the 5th to 18th Centuries' from which he had for unknown reasons
been excluded. But vastly more importantly, for all its literary and
historical deficiencies, Medzopetsi's `History of Tamerlane and His
Successors' is an instructive reminder of the terms in which modern
Armenian nationhood, and indeed Turkish, Kurdish, Assyrian and Azeri
nationhood too, needs to be conceived.

In a reconfigured historical land Armenian nationhood even as it
absorbs and utilises it, cannot and should not be constructed
exclusively in the image of the literature of the 4th century Golden
Age or of the grandeur of 9th century Bagratouni Armenia. All that we
have inherited from those previous epochs can and must still serve as
a rich source of wisdom and civilisation that will enable Armenians to
live as equals, socially, politically and culturally independent, in a
democratic, multi-national Asia Minor. But to be used effectively our
inheritance from history must be appropriated taking into account the
new multi-national national Armenia that Medzopetsi's work draws so
decidedly to our attention at that must set the framework for our
national ambitions.

These new terms were indeed noted in various ways by the pre-Genocide
Armenian natonal and revolutionary movement (stated in clear terms
incidentally by Paramaz who was to be hanged by the Young Turks in
1915). Today not just Armenians but Turks, Kurds, Azeris, Georgians
and others too, in pursuit of their individual national ambitions, in
efforts to correct crimes of Genocide and those of ethnic cleansing
that have tragically marked much of their mutual experience, can learn
something of the political and social reality of the region that
Medzopetsi reminds us had come into existence and that endures to this
day.



NOTES

An English language version of Tovma Medzopetsi's `The History of
Tamerlane and His Successors' translated by Robert Bedrosian is
available on the internet at `rbedrosian.com'. Most of the extracts
quoted above are from this translation. This is but one of a very
large number of our classics that this redoubtable fellow has rendered
into English. Thanks and congratulations to him for his invaluable
contribution.


1.  For a brief but fact-full biographical sketch and a cultural
history of the time see Henrik Bakhchinyan `Armenian Literature in the
15th Century', 223pp, 2004, Yerevan

2.  This is a point noted by historians, among them very precisely by
Puzant Yeghiayan in his `Seljuk, Tatar and Ottoman History - 11th to
15th Centuries' (1989, Lebanon) where he writes:

    `Therefore when we speak of `the conquest of Armenia' by Lang
    Tamur, this we must understand as conquest from the now local
    Persian-Arab-Turkish-Tatar military and political princes and
    khans, rather than directly from Armenian princes, though'
    Yeghiayan adds `as natives, Armenians were the biggest
    victims'. (p227)

3. Of course, the Church was in Gantzagetsi's time also unquestionably
riddled with corruption and degraded, the vast scale and depth of
which Gantzagetsi himself does not hold back from underlining (see
`Giragos Gantzagetzi's History of the Armenians', The Critical Corner,
July 27, 2009). But Gantzagetsi defines the serious ills that afflict
the Church so as to urge determined battle to reform it and preserve
its right and status to negotiate with the powers that be.

4.  Other factors did of course act as vital forces in the Armenian
survival - the remnants of Armenian political principalities, in
Garabagh for example and the rise of Armenian capital in regions that
surrounded it. They did so however in the closest conjunction and
confluence with the Church, a sphere of history that requires its own
detailed investigation.

5.  In fact the religious profession of the Church was actually
immaterial. The determining factor was not the Church's religious
belief, but its and its flock's distinct social and economic status in
relation to other communities. The Church's faith and that of its
flock's merely defined its distinct and separate landlord relation to
its Armenian community. It was to secure its landlords' rights, not to
save souls that the Church acted as keepers of Armenian communities
and its culture as separate from those of other communities. The
dialectic of dependence that secured Armenian survival would have
operated even were the Armenian Church pagan, Hindu or Buddhist or
merely a secular estate.


--
Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from
Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on
Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues
have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open
Letter in Los Angeles.
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