Since the great migration (urbanization) of tribes and nations, the Trans-Caucasus was the epicenter of great clashes of interests and implementation of military and political projects. This land saw northbound Assyrians and eastbound Scythians, Persians – moving to the west, Greeks and Romans, moving from the west to the east. The Seljuk Turks and Mongols and Tatars also passed through this land. The latter, led by Lame Timur (Tamerlane) also visited Karabakh (as witnessed by the microtoponym “Lenk Temur Manny” to the east of Badara village in Askeran region).
Here we make a small digression on the title subject.
In 17-18 centuries many Caucasian khanates, including Artsakh, were under the sway of Persia. In 1784 Nadir Shah fell victim to his court, the government collapsed, and the number of people willing to take his couch began to grow.
The khanates, which proclaimed independence, began the struggle for the throne. Despite the economic and political crisis, even before the assassination of Nadir Shah, new opportunities emerged for Ali Panah, who fled the country and wandered in the steppes of Karabakh since 1747.
Who was Ali Panah? The Persian sources, as well as in Azerbaijani ones, provide the following: “Living in the Persian backwoods and once nomadic representative of Sarudzhanlu tribe, the shepherd’s son was a messenger under Nadir Shah and was called Jarchi Panah. One day, he voluntarily made Nadir Shah’s decree public, and being afraid of losing his head, he fled to Karabakh in 1747 and was engaged in robbery” (see: Akhundov Nazim, “Karabakhnamelar”, Baku, 1990).
Apres Beknazaryan in his book “The Mystery of Karabakh” (p. 73) writes: “In 1748, Nadir Shah was murdered by his entourage, which provided a good opportunity for the robber chieftain, wandering in the steppes. He resides at Gulistan and Jraberd meliks. Having advance assurances of loyalty and consent of these Meliks, he calls about a hundred of his relatives and intensifies robbery in the Lowland Karabakh.” The following writing tells us how he appeared in Shushi: “Then, unaware of the realities, Melik Shahnazar the Third and having not received a notice from the Meliks, sells to the ataman the lower part of Shushi for 1000 Toumans.”
After establishing himself in the lower Shushi, Panah Ali intensifies negotiations with Melik Shakhnazar, gets the title of Khan in some devious ways and lets the entry of an increasing number of Turkic-speaking nomads now in Shushi. The place of their residence even in Soviet times was called Kochalyar Makhlasi (the Nomads’ Quarter). And, even residing in the town, the nomads continued their traditional way of life.
Below the information about the Shushi before nomads’ coming to the city.
- The book “Mirza Malkum Khan: A Biographical Study in Iranian Modernism” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973) written by Dr. Hamid Algar, a scientist of non-Armenian origin, provides the evidence that Khan Melkon’s dynasty lived in Shushi since the 1690s, engaged in trade and belonged to the Persian Shah’s entourage. The descendants of the dynasty, headed by a Doctor Hovhannes Melkon Beg, still live in Ghent, Belgium.
- Two branches of Melik Shahnazar’s dynasty had already moved from Avetaranots to Shushi, as evidenced by two mansions in the city and the family cemetery.
No we turn to the ancient Armenian and Muslim Shushi cemeteries of 18-19 centuries and see what the lithographies say.
Lithography on the Armenian graves are carved in Grabar (old Armenian language – Ed.), Medieval Armenian and the Karabakh dialect.
The inscriptions on the Muslim graves are carved in Arabic letters. All the tombstones at eight Christian and two Muslim cemeteries are made of local stone.
There are tombstones remained on the territory of the destroyed Armenian cemetery, which was located in the southeastern part of the Ghazanchetsots Church of Saviour. The end of one of them bears the inscription, witnessing that the ashes of Petros, the grandson of a Mets-shen priest Astzatour Mayilyan, were buried in 1751. The descendants of the Mayilyan dynasty still live in Artsakh and beyond. Perhaps there might be found lithographies of earlier periods, if the Azerbaijanis had not systematically destroyed Armenian cemeteries in the Soviet time.
Sometime in the past I tried to find out who owned a Muslim tomb, detached from the ancient Armenian cemetery in the north of Shushi gorge. I mean a tribe or nation. The studies showed from the start that this cemetery belongs to the nomads from Iraq and Persia, which is much witnessed by the lithographies. For example, according to them, the nomads from the tribes of Kerbala, Mashadi, Ghajar and others, reached Shusha in the old days.
It was also found out that in the early 20th century many people gave up a semi-nomadic life and turned to a sedentary way of life, although continued to engage in animal husbandry and the felt production.
In the Soviet period, in the 1930s, these tribes were assimilated and renamed as Azerbaijanis. On page 477 of the over mentioned book “Karabakhnamelar” is written: “After the Russian-Persian war of 1826-28 and up to 1830 there was an influx of population in Karabakh. In the Caucasus, 40 thousand of Persians were settled there, mostly allocated in Erivan and Elisabethpol Governorates.”
It is known that according to the treaty signed in 1805 at the Kurak River, Karabakh became a part of the Elisabethpol Governorate of the Russian Empire. So the Persians, settled in the province, found refuge on the eastern slope of Shushi, in the valley. This is evidenced by epitaphs on Muslim graves. Now let us introduce the readers the lithographies in Arabic, which confirm the belonging of the deceased to a particular tribe and provide the evidence of the Soviet assimilation.
Here, alongside are the graves of the brother and sister Beykhosrov and Nimdjat. The brother’s grave has the inscription: Qahmanov Beykhosrov Mirza Gajar Beygubat Mirza oglu (1914-1985); and we see on the sister’s stone: Qakhmanova Nimdjat Beynubat kyzy (1920-1974). And the sail-shaped tombstone of a some Ayyub has insciptions carved in Arabic and Azeri: Hadjiyev Ayyub Mashadi Suleyman oglu (9.VII 1900-1971 19.1).
As we can read in the first volume of the Grand Soviet Encyclopedia, Biul-Biul (real name Murtuza Mashadi Rza oglu Mammadov) born in 26.06.1897 in the village of Khani bagh near Shushi. Soviet Azerbaijani singer. Biul-biul means nightingale, and he got this name because of his voice. Died 26.9.1961 in Baku. For ignorant readers, we should note that Khani bagh (Khan’s garden, – Ed.) is located 15 km near Shushi.