During the Mongol domination de-naxararization occurred in Armenia as a result of different Mongol policies. During the 13th century, in some cases it was temporary and perhaps unintentional, such as the de-naxararization resulting from the Mongols' insistence that important lords visit the center of Mongol power (be it in Qara-Qorum in the Far East, or later in the Il-Khanid centers of Iran and Armenia). Sometimes de-naxararization occurred through deaths of naxarars in foreign wars which, as Mongol clients, the naxarars were obliged to participate in. In other cases, de-naxararization was the result of intentional policy: punishment for rebellion and for association with certain Mongol noyins who had fallen into disfavor. With the Islamization of the Mongol court in the 14th century and the concomitant inception of anti-Christian persecution, de-naxararization, by definition directed against one segment of society, degenerated into massacres (premeditated and "spontaneous") directed against all levels of Christian Armenian society.
Armenian and Georgian sources contain numerous references to the long and difficult journeys to the Far East undertaken by Caucasian lords. Apparently, the first naxarar to be sent to Qara-Qorum was Awag (334). Atabek Iwane's renowned  daughter (Awag's sister) T'amt'a was taken to Mongolia after the capture of Xlat' (1245). After being kept there for "many years" she was allowed to return and reign over Xlat' (335). Prior to the journey East of David Rusudanean, his royal mother sent Shahnshah, Awag, Vahram of Gag and Shota, the duke of Heret'i, to the northern Batu-Khan (336). At almost the same time the Mongols retrieved from captivity David Lashaean (the legitimate heir to the throne). He too was sent to the Khans, first to Batu, then to Mongke in Qara-Qorum. Accompanying David Lashaean were Shahnshah's sons Zak'are, Vahram's son  Aghbugha Gageli, and Sargis T'mogveli. Batu kept with him Zak'are and Aghbugha. David was sent East with Sargis "and a few other Georgians" (337). When David and his party arrived in Qara-Qorum, "they encountered king Narin David [David Rusudanean], atabek Awag, Surameli, Gamrekeli, and the amirejib Beshk'en (338). Awag had been in Mongolia (or at least, out of Georgia) for some five years, according to the History of Kart'li (339). In the early 1250's Hasan Jalal also made the trip, first to Batu, then home to Xach'en, then, "after some days, being harassed by tax-collectors and by [the emir] Arghun, he went to Mongke-Khan" (340). In the mid-1250's king Het'um of Cilician Armenia, with an entourage of princes and priests, made the journey to Mongke, returning home after three and a half years (341). Het'um's successors on the throne visited the Il-Khanid  court in Tabriz (342). Smbat Orbelean visited the Far East twice in that same decade, the first time (1252) remaining for three years (343). In 1274, Smbat died at the Il-Khanid court in Tabriz (344). For our purposes, it is irrelevant whether the nobles were sent to the Khans as deputies or whether they travelled voluntarily. The effect was the same: the removal from Armenia of the most powerful (and potentially the most dangerous) lords. In the absence of certain grandees, other lords could and did attempt to encroach upon their rivals' lands and rights. Though this form of de-naxararization may have been temporary, the centrifugal results promoted by it were not.
More costly in terms of human life was the de-naxararization resulting from the obligation of the lords to participate with their cavalry in Mongol campaigns (345). Because the Mongols considered their subject peoples  expendable, they usually designated them as advance-attackers. This was not, as the History of K'art'li and Grigor Aknerc'i would have us believe, because the Armeno-Georgian troops were such excellent warriors, but first, precisely because the Caucasians were expendable and second, because desertion was impossible with foreign troops fighting in front or in detachments surrounded by Morgols. Deserters were killed. This fact perhaps accounts for the "valor" so extensively recounted in the sources, and so reminiscent in spirit to those epic descriptions of naxarar single-combat exploits found in the Arsacid sources. The Caucasian troops had a simple choice facing them: life and the spoils of victory, or death from defeat or attempted desertion.
Also facing the lords (at least in western historical Armenia) were the Armenian and Georgian defenders of their own country, Rum. Armenians and Georgians fought and died on both sides (346). With the subjugation of western Armenia, the obligation of military service to the Mongol overlords did not end. The lords and their troops were taken on campaigns all over the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.  De-naxararization in this instance involved the removal of powerful military men from the Caucasus "temporarily" during campaigns of varying durations, and permanently, through death in foreign lands.
According to the History of K'art'li, the stringent requirements involved in participating in Mongol campaigns were a major cause of the Caucasian princes' rebellion of 1259-61:
...The Georgians were menaced because [the Mongols] were fighting a protracted and uninterrupted war [lasting 7 years] against the Assassins, while the Georgians were fighting along with them, divided into two sections. Each [Georgian] ruler was apportioned [to the service of] one noyin... (347).
...[The Georgian lords] all wondered: 'What shall we do without someone of the royal line to guide us and fight against the Tatars? We are disunited and unable to resist them. So wickedly do they menace us that we go off to Alamut each year, withstanding all sorts of troubles and dangers' (348).
It is true that the Mongols placed considerable trust in certain Armenian lords, such as amirspasalar Shahnshah's son Zak'are and Prhosh Xaghbakean who aided in the capture of Baghdad (1258) (349). The honors bestowed upon the prominent  military man Tarsayich Orbelean by Abaqa-Khan are also noteworthy (350).
Often the Caucasians suffered decimation. In 1261 many Armenian and Georgian warriors died when Mongol general Kitbuqa's army in Egypt was wiped out (351). Prince Sewada Xach'enc'i was killed in the battle for Mayyafarikin (352). In 1261/62 (710 A. E.) the young prince Burt'el Orbelean died in the North Caucasus, fighting Hulegu's enemy, Berke (353). Caucasians died in the war  between Arghun-Khan and Baraq in the mid-1260's in Central Asia (354). In the late 1270's, Caucasian troops suffered dreadful losses during the Mongol's ill-conceived expeditions in Gilan, on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea (355), while in 1282 Caucasian contingents fighting again in Egypt were all but wiped out (356). In 1283, in Khurasan, the Georgian king Demitre and his army participated on the wrong side in a succession struggle between Ahmad and the eventual victor, Arghun-Khan (357). Shortly thereafter the king and his troops were taken north to suppress a rebellion in Darband (358). Geikhatu-Khan crushed a rebellion in Rum with the army of Demitre's son, David, while another part of the Caucasian  troops remained on alert in Mughan (359). Around 1305, immediately preceding Khar-Banda's conversion to Islam, king Giorgi and various princes were fighting in Iconium/Konya (360). De-nazararization through participation in Mongol expeditions resulted in more than the deaths of thousands of men. In the absence of the naxarar warlords, the Caucasus was left without committed defenders to protect it from the persistent raids and sorties of Mongols, Turks and local rebels.
De-nazararization also was achieved directly by execution, the ordinary punishment for disloyalty, real or perceived. The lordly participants in the abortive Caucasian uprising of 1248/49, though arrested and condemned to death, nonetheless were released, thanks mostly to the humanity of Awag's Mongol friend, general Chaghatai. However the rebels' properties were ravaged in reprisal (361). Response to the second rebellion of 1259-61 was less restrained. Unable to vent their anger on the participants immediately, the Mongols  destroyed the mausolea of the Georgian kings at Gelat'i, and the kat'olikosate at Acghor (362), and then arrested the naxarar relatives of the rebels:
[Emir] Arghun seized the Georgian queen Gonc'a, her daughter Xoshak', the great prince Shahnshah, Hasan Jalal, lord of Xach'en, and many others because of debts and taxes [owed]. These people gave much treasure and barely saved their lives (363).
Hasan Jalal, however, was tortured to death in 1261 (367). The  next year, Zak'are was murdered (365).
As was pointed out in another connection, the closeness of certain Caucasian lords to suddenly-disgraced Mongol noyins was fatal. Thus in 1289, when Arghun-Khan crushed a plot against himself organized by the emir Buqa, he also executed king Demitre of Georgia who had married Buqa's daughter and was, rightly or wrongly, implicated. Similarly, when Geikhatu suceeeded his brother Arghun as Khan in 1291, he in turn killed off Arghun's prominent supporters, among whom were many Armenians (366).
The barely controllable, plunder-hungry Turkmen element which formed the mainstay of the armies of the Saljuq conquerors of the 11th century also participated in all subsequent Turco-Mongol invasions. It had no interest in good government or the maintenance of order. On the contrary, the nomadic Turkmens solely were concerned with the aggrandizement of portable wealth. The lives of despoiled populations were of no value to them, unless such populations could be sold into slavery. Yet, as was pointed out earlier, all Sajuqs and all Mongols did not share these aims. Consequently, centralizing forces within both the Saljuq and Mongol governments were obliged to support a very delicate balance. On the one hand, the warlike Turkmens were the best, most determined fighters and so were necessary for victorious expeditions. On the other hand, the Turkmens' impulse to destroy all and move on had to be fought—sometimes literally—in order for the more sedentary elements to impose taxation on the conquered peoples, and exploit them in a more systematic fashion. But eventually the Turkmens were victorious, destroying both organized Turkish and Mongol states. Destructive nomadism of the Turkmen type (essentially a type of economic parasitism) also was practised by some Kurdish and Arab groups operating in southern and southwestern Armenia.
 The initial Mongol expedition of 1220/21 was in the Caucasus primarily for reconnaissance. Apart from reporting the pilfering of herds and the sack of some few cities, the Caucasian sources do not dwell on unbridled Turkmen activity at that time. This reconnaissance army was disciplined and obedient to its commanders.
The nature of Turkmen activity becomes clearer with the destructive sojourn of Jalal al-Din on the Armenian highlands (1225-ca. 1230). During these five bloody years, Jalal held the loyalty of the Turkmens in his company by giving them full rein, and directing them especially against Christians. While the actual devotion to Islam of Jalal or of his rude hordes is questionable, his technique of directing rampages against Christians effectively satisfied the army's lust for plunder and simultaneously provided a religious justification for its actions. Jalal's career was that of a Turkmen brigand and he died the death of an unsucceseful brigand chief. He was abandoned by the army when he was unable to provide it with more loot. With his murder, as we have seen, Turkmens in small bands continued harassing sedentary populations and caravans all over the Middle East.
When the Mongols returned in 1236; the Turkmen element in their midst was satiated somewhat by the sack of resisting cities. However, even in this early period of Mongol rule,  when the central government was at its strongest, there is evidence of irregularities. For example, the Armenian city of Surb Mari (Surmalu) was sacked by the regular Mongol army, but then ravished a second time by a certain noble named Ghara Bahatur (367). Similarly, during the taking of Western Armenia, though it was Mongol policy to spare surrendering cities, some were sacked nonetheless, because chieftans could not control their men, or (perhaps better) because so many chieftains themselves were inclined to plunder. The centrifugal nomadic element was unaccustomed to and uninterested in sedentary government and its forms. The Turco-Mongol nomads were unhappy at the fixed rates of taxation imposed on subject populations. Indeed, their constant illegal exactions were the root cause behind each Caucasian rebellion (368). Nor, clearly, did this element fancy the exalted stations given to some of the Caucasian nobles. For example, the death of Awag's influential patron, the Mongol general Chormaghun in 1242/43 led to an increase in disorders of all sorts. Turkmens immediately plotted (unsuccessfully) to murder Awag (369). When the same  elements in the army learned about plans for a Caucasian rebellion (1249/50):
...suddenly all the nobility of the Tatar army held a council, armed, and universally wanted to ravage the lands of Armenia and Georgia, [lands] obedient to them, because the Georgian king sought to rebell with all the princes...[the Mongols] wanted generally to destroy everyone (370).
Awag's patron and friend Chaghatai prevented this, and in a drammatic appeal to the furious Mongols presented the views of the central government, barely preventing a massacre of the captured naxarars:
...One of the senior leaders, general of the entire army named Chaghatai, a friend of Awag, came amidst the armed troops and said to them: 'We have no order from the Khan to kill those who are obedient to us, stand in service to us, and pay taxes to the Khan. And the reality of their rebellion is not certain. But if we destroy them without cause, you will be responsible to the Khan (371).
Though the naxarars were not executed, the Turkmens, nonetheless, were allowed to vent their rage on the Caucasian  population (372).
Centrifugal elements within the Mongol army of occupation were not the only ones facing Armenians and Georgians. According to Bar Hebraeus and the History of K'art'li, in the 1230's and 1240's, remnants of Jalal al-Din's nomadic Khwarazmian army entered Georgia and harassed the settled population (373). Khwarazmian mercenaries also operated in the Mayyafarikin area in southwestern Armenia during the 1240's (374). In 1255, Mongol rebels despoiled  villages around Melitene/Malatya (375), and still were active in the same area at the close of the decade (376). Furthermore, the arrival in Hulegu's realm of some seven of Chingiz-Khan's unruly grandchildren from the North, and their partial settlement in the Caucasus (mid-1250's) introduced another centrifugal force given over to pillaging. In the late 1250's the Caucasus was ravaged by one of these arrivals, Xul (377). In 1268 another of the emigres, Teguder, rebelled from the Il-Khans, causing chaos and destruction in Armenia and Georgia (378).
Because of anti-Islamic feeling among the Mongols at the time of the invasion, the shamanist Turkmens' rage often was channeled against Muslims—much to the delight of beleaguered Christians. However, Mongol religious policy was quite complex, and underwent numerous shifts. For example, at the time of the census conducted by Arghun and Buqa (1243), Kirakos said that Buqa "...had assembled brigands from among the Persians and Tachiks, who mercilessly performed deeds of cruelty  and were especially inimical toward the Christians" (379). Yet in 1258, during the siege of Baghdad, the Mongols encouraged the Christians in their army brutally to exterminate the city's Muslim population. But in retaliation for the Caucasian rebellion of 1259-61, Mongols destroyed churches and the Georgian kat'oikosate itself, and the emir Arghun (himself a Muslim) had the Christian prince Hasan Jalal tortured to death for failure to apostasize (380). Clearly, Mongols adroitly used the Christians in Muslim areas and the Muslims in Christian Caucasia for espionage and maintenance of terror.
With the increasing Islamization of the Mongols, their policy changed. Once again, as had happened during the invasions of the Saljuqs and the Khwarazmians, fanatical Islam was wed to the nomads' lust for booty. From toward the end of the 13th century to beyond the end of the 14th century, anti-Christian persecutions prevailed almost uninterruptedly. What earlier had been punishment meted out to an occasionally recalcitrant naxarar became the generalized fate of all Christians refusing to convert. Nomads of all kinds of backgrounds, circulating in different  parts of the Armenian highlands, attacked churches, monasteries, wealthy and poor Christians. Already in the late 1270's Turkmens killed Sargis, the influential bishop of Erzinjan (381). In 1290, the anti-Christian lord of Mayyafarikin had the Armenian lord of Mush assassinated and then persecuted the monks of Taron (382). In 1290/91 a peripatetic Armenian priest, Grigor, was killed at Xarberd, and 45 Armenian mecatuns in the city were arrested. It is interesting that this episode is recounted both in Bar Hebraeus (383) and in an Armenian martyrology. In the Armenian account, the Mongol governor barely restrained a Muslim mob from killing the 45 merchants. This scene is reminiscent of Kirakos' account of Chaghatai's rescue of the arrested naxarars (1249/50). It is one of the last examples of such restraint to be found in the sources:
...But a certain chief named T'at'gharay, of the Nation of the Archers, got up, mounted a horse, [came] with his troops, snatched the bound [prisoners] away from them and set them free in peace. Then he threatened [the would-be killers] saying: 'Were you to slay such citizens, what answer should I give to the world-conquering Khan by whom I was sent to guard this city'" (384)?
 In the coming decades, no "answer" would have been necessary, as anti-Christian persecution became policy. Such persecutions, executions, confiscations, and destructions of churches were reported from all parts of historical Armenia (385). Anti-Christian persecution was launched formally with the plundering and killing expeditions  of Nauruz (1295/96) during the reign of Ghazan-Khan. Whether or not Ghazan at first knew about Nauruz' activities is disputed from source to source. Granted, Nauruz eventually was hunted down and executed at Ghazan's command, with Christian Caucasians gleefully participating. But by then, the Turkmens were no longer controllable.
Return to Turco-Mongol Menu