Chapter Two

Armenia and the Turco-Mongol Invasions (continued)


[131] During the reign of Hulegu's son and successor Abaqa (1265-82) more examples of centrifugation among the Mongols became manifest. In the very first year of his rule, Abaqa was obliged to deal with another invasion of the Caucasus from Berke (206). With the latter's death in Tiflis in 1266, the troops of the Golden Horde retreated (207). [132] No sooner had this situation been resolved, however, than one of Chingiz-Khan's great grandsons, Teguder, rebelled in 1268. Teguder's holdings included parts of southern Georgia and the Gegharkunik' area around Lake Sewan in Armenia (208). Armeno-Georgian troops aided in the suppression of this rebellion, just as they had fought for the Il-Khans against Berke (209). In both instances the Armenian and Georgian agriculturalists were the primary losers, since [133] their particular districts were expected to feed and accomodate one or another party of Mongols, yet as a consequence of this were ravaged by the mutually inimical Mongol armies as punishment for aiding enemies.

The situation outlined above continued more or less unchanged until the reign of Ghazan-Khan (1295-1304). For the rest of Abaqa's reign and during those of his successors Ahmad, Arghun, and Geikhatu, we see Armeno-Georgian forces fighting and suffering defeat from the Mamluks (1281) (210); fighting the next year in the Far East against yet another Mongol state ruled by the descendants of Chingiz' grandson Chaghatai (211); and fighting the armies of the Golden Horde, which in 1287 once again attempted to invade Caucasia (212). In this period other woes befell the Armenians, both peasant and noble. As a result of the strengthening of the Muslim Mamluks in Egypt, Islamic Turkic elements in Asia Minor began to take heart, to form secret alliances with their co-religionists against the Mongols, and to loot and pillage whenever they thought they could succeed. The brunt of Turkmen violence was the [134] sedentary Christian population, especially the Armenians, who had distinguished themselves as Mongol supporters (213). [136] Ironically, in the late 13th century the Caucasian naxarar/didebuls too were punished—not by Turks—but by their own Mongol overlords. This must be explained by the very nearness of many lords to the Il-Khan court and their great intimacy with its members. Thus in 1289, when Arghun-Khan crushed a plot against him organized by the emir Buqa, he also executed king Demetre of Georgia who had married Buqa's daughter and was, rightly or wrongly, implicated (214). Similarly, when Geikhatu succeeded his brother Arghun as Khan in 1291, he in turn killed off Arghun's prominent supporters, among whom were many Armenians (215).

The reign of Ghazan-Khan (1295-1304) is regarded by Mongol scholars as a watershed, during which important changes took place. Some changes, such as the Islamization of the Mongols, were of a permanent nature. Others, such as fiscal reforms, were ephemeral and did not take root among Ghazan's successors.

[137] It is a known fact that at the time of the Mongol conquests in the early 13th century the Mongols were characterized by their religious tolerance, or perhaps, indifference. They themselves were for the most part shamanists, although some prominent families among them were Nestorian Christians, having received the faith from Syrian missionaries to Central Asia (216). Consequently, throughout the 13th century, certain individual Mongol leaders exerted themselves to further certain Christian lords (both clerical and secular) subject to them. The Khans themselves adroitly manipulated the anti-Muslim sentiments of their Christian subjects for their own military and foreign policy objectives (217). This situation changed with the Islamization first of Ahmad-Khan (1282-84), and then, irrevocably, with Ghazan's conversion. Christianity quickly passed from the status of a favored religion to that of a tolerated religion. Anti-Christian persecutions began almost at once, and though checked during part of Ghazan's reign, they became the rule rather than the exception under his intolerant successors (218). Now that the [138] insatiable appetite for plunder of the Mongol nomad warriors could not be assuaged in successful wars against foreign enemies, it could at least be unleashed upon a new class of domestic enemies—the Christians. In Caucasia the "instrument of the anti-Christ" was a Persian Muslim named Nauruz, whose fanaticism seems to have been as much for the amassing of a personal fortune as for the promulgation of Islam (219). [139] His depredations in Georgia and Armenia provoked yet another rebellion which, like the two preceding ones, was crushed at the expense of extreme suffering to people, livestock, crops and property (220). Religious persecution intensified during the second part of the reign of Ghazan's successor, his brother Muhammad Khuda-Banda ("servant of God", 1304-16). In 1307 Khuda-Banda, or Xarabanda ("servant of an ass" ) as the Armenian sources styled him, resumed collection of the jizya or head-tax on non-Muslims, something Ghazan had tried but was obliged to discontinue (221). The sources report that even month-old children were registered for payment of the jizya (222). Furthermore, Christians were now required to wear identifying patches of blue or black material on their clothing (223). [140] Needless to say, such unenlightened policies did indeed create a new class of domestic enemies at a time when the Il-Khanid state could hardly afford it.

[141] Among the ephemeral changes instituted during Ghazan's reign was fiscal reform. This was undertaken on the prudent advice of Ghazan's chief vizier, the historian Rashid al-Din, a Jewish convert to Islam. Rashid attempted to check some of the most egregious abuses of the nomadic fiscal system, characterized by the repeated collection under force of imprecisely stipulated taxes; the billeting of hordes of official "emissaries" or elchis on local populations; and the wanton destruction of crop lands (224). But the early 14th century was already late for correcting abuses now over a century old, especially since the reforming spirit did not find favorable reception among Mongol nomad chieftains. Moreover, one should bear in mind that neither of the changes occurring in Ghazan's time—Islamization as well as the beginning and end of fiscal reform—-took place to the exclusion of those other features of Mongol nomadism outlined above. Far from it, religious persecution and economic chaos operated in addition to the other abuses. Thus, for example, in 1319 during the reign of Khuda-Banda's young son Abu Sa'id (then a boy of 15), [142] a Mongol chieftain named Qurumshi rebelled in the Caucasus. The Gegharkunik' area of Armenia and parts of southern Georgia were ravaged. The very next year another Mongol rebellion flared up, caused by a disgruntled basqaq or tax-collector. Northern Armenia and eastern Georgia were devastated (225). Il-Khanid foreign policy too was on a disaster course, with the state's powerful neighbors, Mongols (Chaghatais, Golden Horde) and Egyptians arming for war (226). Meanwhile Armenians and Georgians still were expected to fight in the army to defend the Il-Khanid state (227).

[143] Following the death of Abu Sa'id in 1335, a period of nine years of internecine warfare broke out among various nomadic elements vying for power. Between 1335 and 1344 no less than 8 Khans were enthroned, only to be deposed or murdered, shortly afterwards. But the collapse of the Il-Khans, far from signalling freedom from oppressive rule for the Armenians, meant only that that land now became the theater of warfare for the various new contenders (228).

During the first part of the 14th century, the first set of new contenders consisted of two nomadic clans, the Jalayirids and the Chobanids. The eponymous founders of both these clans had come to northwestern Iran, the Caucasus and Asia Minor during the 13th century. As a result of devastating battles fought between these clans in Armenia in 1338, the Chobanids emerged as temporary victors. The Chobanids, under the leadership of one Hasan-i Kuchak, reunited many parts of the fragmented Huleguid state (including Armenia) (229). However, their victory did not mean the disappearance of the rival Jalayirids. In 1340 Hasan-i Kuchak waged war against Jalayirid holdings in [144] Diyarbakr. The Muslim area in southwestern Armenia was ravaged. In 1343 Hasan-i Kuchak raided parts of western Armenia under Jalayirid control, capturing Karin/Erzerum and Sebastia/Sivas (230). In 1344 with Hasan's murder, real power passed to his brother Malik-Ashraf who ruled 13 years with ferocious cruelty. Not only did he battle Jalayirids, but he turned his wrath on the remnants of the once-great Armenian noble houses in Ani and Bjni in the north and northeast. These towns were ravaged in the early 1350's (213). The unwise and unpopular actions of the Chobanids estranged a sizeable portion of the nomadic aristocracy. To escape Malik-Ashraf's persecutions, many Mongol nobles fled westward from Iran to Armenian Naxijewan and to Caucasian Aghbania/Aghuania (232). Flight, however, was not the limit of their response. Mongol nobles went [145] north to Khan Jani-Beg of the Golden Horde, beseeching him to invade Azarbaijan to "liberate" them. Thus in 1357 the Caucasus once more was overrun by invasion from the north. Jani-Beg put an end to the Chobanids that year, set up a new governor, and departed (233).

Now the Jalayirids became the new contenders for the Il-Khan legacy. In 1358 Jalayirids fought the soldiers of Jani-Beg in Tabriz, Naxijewan and Qarabagh, expelling them and seizing much of the Chobanids' holdings in Armenia and Iran (234). However the Jalayirid state was nothing but an ever-shifting network of uneasy alliances among nomadic bands. Centrifugal pressures split it into numerous parts around 1374, after which nomadic tribes of Mongols, Turkmens and Kurds warred against one another and against the sedentary Armenian population (235).

From the standpoint of destructiveness, two Turkmen groups played a major role in Armenia in the late 14th century. One was the Qara Qoyunlu ("Black Sheep") Turkmens who had established themselves in the central and southern Armenian districts in the late 13th century. Throughout the [146] 14th century they raided districts in southern Armenia and by the mid-1380's had extended their rule over parts of central Armenia (236). The other nomadic group was the Ottomans. The latter were a part of the Ghuzz tribesmen who had first come into Asia Minor in the 11th century, but greatly increased with new arrivals during the 13th century. By the beginning of the 14th century, the Ottoman entity had emerged as the strongest of the many small states to arise on the ruins of the Sultanate of Rum. Throughout the 14th century the Ottomans continued to expand at the expense of other Turkmen principalities. Toward the end of the century, they controlled areas of western Armenia, such as Sebastia/Sivas, Erzinjan, and Melitene/ Malatya (237).

The confused situation thus created in the Caucasus and in Asia Minor did not go unnoticed by Khan Tokhtamysh of the Golden Horde. In 1385, with an army of 50,000, he invaded Azarbaijan via Darband and Shirvan. After taking Tabriz, his marauding army divided into sections, one group going via Marand to Naxijewan and Siwnik', which latter district was plundered from south to north. Khan Tokhtamysh's divided army reunited in Qarabagh and then [147] returned north via Shirvan. With them went 200,000 slaves including tens of thousands of Armenians from the districts of Parakahayk', Siwnik', and Arc'ax (238).

From 1220, when the Mongols first appeared in the Caucasus, to 1385 when Tokhtamysh invaded, a period of 165 years had elapsed. During this time different parts of Armenia had experienced no less than 12 foreign invasions, and the severity of Mongol rule had triggered three Armeno-Georgian rebellions. Mongol centrifugation had resulted in two major uprisings of Mongol nomads resident in the Caucasus itself. Moreover, with the collapse of the Il-Khan state in the 1330's, a condition of "internal war" had existed in most parts of historical Armenia, as mutually antagonistic bands (and armies) of Mongol, Turkmen and Kurdish nomads fought one another and the sedentary native population. Religious persecution and economic chaos had long since become the norm. Armenia now lay supine. However, a new storm was about to break.

In 1386-87, 1394-96 and 1399-1403 Armenia was subjected to what were perhaps the most brutal invasions yet. These [148] were led or directed by the lame warlord Timur (Tamerlane) and constituted the last invasions of Armenia from Central Asia. In his Mongols in History, J. J. Saunders wrote of Timur:

"...His career was a singularly barren one. The great Chingiz at least created an empire that imposed order and peace and a rudimentary civilization on Asia for over a century: Timur's kingdom vanished with his life, and his imperialism was imbued with no purpose other than the agglomeration of sheer power built on the corpses of millions. Till the advent of Hitler, Timur stood forth in history as the supreme example of soulless and unproductive militarism" (239).
During the first Timurid invasion of 1386-87, Naxijewan was captured and the fortress cf Ernjak was besieged (though it did not surrender until 1401). The towns and fortresses of Karbi, Bjni, Garhni, Surmari and Koghb fell, and the districts of Ayrarat and Lesser Siwnik' were devastated (240). Tiflis was taken and sacked, and Timur had the opportunity to demonstrate his non-discriminatory policy vis-a-vis killing Muslims. Wherever he went, Christian and Muslim resistance received equal treatment: [149] either the resisters were exterminated, or entire populations were led off into Central Asia to live and die in slavery. After wintering in Mughan in Azarbaijan, Timur's generals crossed into the Kajberunik' and Chapaghjur districts of southern and southwestern Armenia, where they fought unsuccessfully against the Qara Qoyunlu Turkmens (241). Some Timurid detachments reached as far north [150] as Karin/Erzerum, looting, pillaging, and taking slaves as they went (242). In 1387 Timur besieged the Kurdish emir Ezdin at Van. When he took the citadel after 26 days' besiegement, the women and children were enslaved, while some 7,000 males of all faiths were killed by being hurled from the walls (243). After Timur left Asia Minor in 1387, severe famine ensued, since due to the disruptions he had caused, crops were not planted, and now there was nothing to harvest (244). Cannibalism was reported in some areas (245).

[151] The country hardly had recovered from this when, in 1394, Timur returned. Entering western Armenia from northern Mesopotamia, he took Erzinjan, parts of Basen district and Awnik fortress; Kars, Surmari, Koghb, Bagaran and Ayrarat were ravaged; and the Qara Qoyunlu Turkmen areas, centered at Archesh, north of Lake Van, were attacked (246). At this point Timur turned upon Khan Tokhtamysh of the Golden Horde who had been raiding Shirvan. The Timurids defeated Tokhtamysh and sacked his principal cities, Astrakhan and Sarai (247).

Timur appointed Miran, his half-mad son, as governor of Iran, Iraq, Armenia and other parts of the Caucasus. In 1396 Miran continued operations against Ernjak in the south and expanded warfare against the Kurdish emir of Bitlis (248). In 1397 southern Vaspurakan was ravaged and Ani in the north fell (249). Strangely, all powers of resistance had not been completely broken by the Timurids. In 1399 king Georgi VII of Georgia attacked the Timurid besiegers of Ernjak fortress, temporarily freeing those inside from the 13 year siege (250).

[152] But when Timur learned about the retaking of Ernjak, he left Samarqand and headed for the Caucasus. In revenge he attacked northeastern Armenia and southern Georgia, killing, destroying, and taking slaves. More than 60,000 Caucasians were led into slavery this time (in 1400), and many districts of northern Armenia were depopulated (251). Subsequently, Timur headed for western Armenia where he took Sebastia/Sivas and Melitene/Malatya from his arch-enemies, the Ottomans (252). After conquering Aleppo, Damascus, Merdin, Baghdad, Timur decisively beat and captured the Ottoman sultan, Bayazid I in 1402. The next year Georgia was invaded again and its king finally submitted to Timur.

During 1403-1404 Timur wintered in Qarabagh before returning to Saraqand (253). He died there in 1405 at the age of 70, having left a trail of blood and pyramids of decapitated heads across Asia and the Middle East.

[153] Although the focus of this chapter has been on the invasions of the 13-14th centuries, the survey commenced with the Saljuq invasions of the 11th century and with the remark that they were a sort of "dress rehersal" for the later invasions. In what ways were the invasions qualitatively similar and dissimilar vis-a-vis treatment of the Armenians? All of the invasions from the 11th through to the 14th centuries contained a Turkmen element which at times was "controllable" by the leaders of the invasions, but at times uncontrollable. This element worked to the detriment of settled societies (such as Armenia's) and to later Turco-Mongol governments as well.

The Saljuq invasions and conquest of Armenia occurred over a period of 50 years (ca. 1020-70), The initial Mongol invasions and conquest occurred over a shorter period, 1236-60. Both the Saljuq invasions and the 13th century Mongol invasions were facilitated by a weakened Armenia. In the 11th century, Armenia had been weakened by the policies of Byzantium. In the 13th century, the five year rule of Jalal al-Din destroyed the Caucasian potential for resisting the Mongols. The Turco-Mongol invasions of the 14th century also encountered an Armenia weakened and exhausted—this time by the experience of Mongol domination.

[154] Consequences of the Mongol domination regarding the Armenian lords are described in the following chapter. After the Saljuq invasions, those Armenian lords remaining in their patrimonies made accommodation with the new overlords and a process of "Armenization" or "naxararization" of the Saljuq nobility took place. This was possible primarily because from the late 11th until the 13th century no major comparable invasions or disruptions occurred. Furthermore, as was noted, the Saljuq domination was not uniform across the Armenian highlands. After merely forty years, the Saljuq empire was in pieces. Already in the early 12th century, thanks to Georgia, an Armenian center existed in the northeastern part of the highlands. By the 13th century many districts of historical northeastern, central and even southern Armenia were under Armenian political control again. Such was not the case from ca. 1221 to 1403 when the Armenian highlands were subjected to frequent invasions, having as it were, no time to recover from one before the next was in progress.

The Mongol domination lasted longer than the Saljuqid and incorporated Armenia into an empire more firmly. For almost 100 years (1240-1330) Armenia experienced Mongol rule and misrule. Nor was there a protector for Armenia. If in the 11-12th centuries Georgia was the deliverer and source of strength against Islam, in the 13th century the Armenians looked to the "Christian" Mongols—to the invaders themselves—for protection. With the Islamization of the Mongols, any [155] hope for protection, or even for equal, just treatment disappeared.

Finally, unlike the Iranizing Saljuqs of Asia Minor who created an era of economic prosperity in the 12th-early 13th centuries, the Mongols commenced their domination by looting many of the Armenian cities. Subsequently they literally taxed the life out of the various societies under their control—seemingly unaware of the ultimate consequences for themselves, as well as for the subjugated population.


Footnotes 206-253

Continue to Chapter Three:
Armenia's Lords and their Reactions to the Turco-Mongol Invasions and Domination of the 13-14th Centuries


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