Caucasian Albania

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This region should not be confused with modern Albania and Albanians (Shqiptarë).
Ancient countries of Caucasus: Armenia, Iberia, Colchis and Albania

Caucasian Albania (or Aghbania) was an ancient kingdom that covered what is now southern Dagestan and most of present-day Azerbaijan.


[edit] Ancient population of Albania

Image:Albanian stone.jpg

This article is part of the series on:

History of Azerbaijan

Early History
Ancient History
Albania and Media
Caucasian Albania
Medieval History
Islamic Azerbaijan
Classical History
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Independent Khanates
Russian Rule
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Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
Soviet Azerbaijan
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Modern Azerbaijan
Republic of Azerbaijan

Aran was a legendary ancestor and the eponym of the Albanians (Aghvan). Caucasian Albania were one of the Ibero-Caucasian peoples, the ancient and indigenous population of modern southern Dagestan and Azerbaijan. The Mannaeans had one of the earliest states recorded as being established in the area as far as the Kura from ca. 800 BC, and they were rivals of Urartu and Assyria, but later fell under the rule of Urartu until their destruction and eventual assimilation by the Medes under Cyaxares in 616 BC. In ancient times, they were heavily mixed with the Persian people who settled in the area during the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid periods.

Ancient tribes of the Caucasian Albania were: Abaris (Iberis) or Avars, Savir or Sabirs, Hers, Gargars, Gels, Caspians, Uties, Saks, and Sodes, who along with other tribes, constituted the Albanian tribal union. According to Strabo (1st BC), the number of the Aghvan tribes reached 26, each of which spoke a different language.

[edit] Origin and regions

The kingdom of Caucasian Albania (Aghbania, Aghvania) was founded in the late 4th - early 3rd century BC. The initial capital of the kingdom was pronounced in many different ways including Kabalaka, Shabala, Tabala, and present-day Gabala. Later the capital moved to the south to Partaw (present-day Barda).

One of the main regions of Caucasian Albania, Hereti, was a part of Georgia (the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia) since the end of the 7th century[citation needed]. For centuries, this region had been a part of Persia. Since 1918, the part of Hereti now in the districts of Qakh, Balakan and Zaqatala, has been a part of Azerbaijan.

[edit] Armenian domination

Parts of Caucasian Albania, including Utik on the right bank of the Kura river, and Artsakh, were conquered by the Armenians, the descendants of the Urartu, in the 2nd century B.C.<ref>The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Nagorno-Karabakh</ref>

Strabo, Ptolemy and Pliny all write that at this time, the border between Albania and the Kingdom of Greater Armenia was through the river Kura. However the frontier along the Kura was repeatedly overrun, to the advantage sometimes of the Albanians, sometimes of the Armenians. <ref>Encyclopedia Iranica. M. L. Chaumont. Albania.</ref>

In 66 BC, following the defeat of the Armenian king Tigranes II at the hand of the Romans, the Armenian empire lost most of its territory. At this time, the Aghvans regained control over their right bank territories conquered by Armenians. According to the 7th c. historian Moses Kalankaytuk, author of "History of Aghvank", at this time, the southern border of Caucasian Albania was along the Araks river. Thus, referring to the events in the beginning of 2nd c. BC, he mentions that "… as leader of [savage tribes to the north], by [Armenian king] Vagharshak's order, was appointed someone from the family of Sisakan, one of the descendants of Yafet, named Aran, who inherited the plains and mountains of the country of Aghvank beginning from the river Yeraskh (Araks) up to the castle of Hnarakert (on river Kura)," after whom "this country was called Aghvank" (I.4). The Armenian historian Moses of Chorene, who is considered in Armenian historiography "the father of Armenian history", also confirmed that the Sisakan family inherited the area "from the river Yeraskh (Araks) up to the castle called Hnarakert," and the region was named Aghvank after them in the early 2nd century BC (History of Armenia, II.8).

Little is known about the history of Caucasian Albania during the 1st century BC till the 4th century AD. During this time, part of Albania was conquered again by the Armenian kings, and they alternated control over the territory on the right bank of Kura (Artsakh and Uti provinces) several times until 387, when the Armenian kingdom was partitioned between the Persians and Romans. Albania, as an ally of Sassanid Persia, regained all the right bank of the river Kura up to river Araxes, including Artsakh.

Albania was described as a tribal confederacy made of as many as 26 different Caucasian, Scythian, and Armenian groups. Because of its ethnic incoherence, Albania quickly came under a strong unifying ecclesiastical and cultural influence of neighboring Armenia, from where it received Christian baptism. The Church of Albania was in communion with the Church of Armenia, and the Armenian language became Albania’s literary medium. This allowed dynasts from the Armenian borderlands of Artsakh and Utik to extend their influence to the east—across the River Kura—and subordinate the Kingdom of Albania to them, in the end assimilating it politically and culturally. After the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Persia (in 387 AD), Artsakh, Utik and rest of Albania were made part of a single Persian self-governing province called “Aghvank” (Arran, in Persian). The Armenian Arranshahik princes from Artsakh, who always sought greater autonomy from the Armenian King, took advantage of this situation. They assumed the title of “King of Aghvank” and moved the center of the Church of Albania from the left bank of the River Kura to Partav.

Image:Kish Church.jpg
Albanian church in the village of Kish

By the 8th century—following the assimilations—the term “Aghvank” lost its ethnic and political meaning and came to be applied to a diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Katholicosate of Aghvank. In the Middle Ages, it also became an abstract geographic term for the territory that once comprised Persia’s Armenian-ruled satrapy of Aghvank/Arran.

[edit] Christianization

Caucasian Aghbania was one of the first countries where Christianity was adopted from the 4th century, when the Armenian Church was formed.

In the 4th-5th centuries Christianity became established in Albania, and this led to a rapprochement with Byzantium, and a corresponding cooling-down in the relationship between Albania and Sassanid Persia. In a battle that took place in 451 AD in the Avarayr field, the allied forces of the Armenian, Albanian and Iberian kings, devoted to Christianity, suffered defeat at the hands of the Sassanid army. Many of the Albanian nobility ran to the mountainous regions of Aghbania, particularly to Artsakh, that became a center for resistance to Sassanid Iran. The religious center of the Albanian state also moved here. In 498 AD (in other sources, 488 AD) in the settlement named Aluen (Aguen) (present day Agdam region of Azerbaijan), an Albanian church council convened to adopt laws further strengthening the position of Christianity in Albania.

[edit] Arab and Seljuk domination

In the 7th century AD, the kingdom was overrun by the Arabs and, like all Islamic conquests at the time, assimilated into the Caliphate. From the 8th century, Caucasian Albania existed as the principalities of Aranshahs and Khachin, along with various Iranian and Arabic principalities: the Principality of Shedadians, the Principality of Shirvan, the Principality of Derbent, etc.

As a result of the expansion of Seljuks (Turks) into the territory of modern Azerbaijan in the 11th century, the indigenous Albanian population were assimilated. Albanians played a significant role in the ethnogenesis of today's Azeris.

[edit] Alphabet and language

Image:Albanian stone.jpg
A stone with inscriptions in Albanian language, found in Mingachevir

According to Moses Kalankaytuk, the Albanian alphabet was invented by Mesrob Mashdots, an Armenian monk, theologian and linguist (see Moses Kalankaytuk, The History of Aluank, I, 27 and III, 24).

Another Armenian historian, Koriun, in his book "The Life of Mashtots", wrote: "Then there came and visited them an elderly man, an Albanian named Benjamin. And he [Mesrop] inquired and examined the barbaric diction of the Albanian language, and then through his usual God-given keenness of mind invented an alphabet, which he, through the grace of Christ, successfully organized and put in order." (see Koriun, Ch. 16).

The Albanian alphabet was rediscovered by a Georgian scholar, Professor Ilia Abuladze, in 1937. The alphabet was found in Matenadaran MS No. 7117, an Armenian-language manual of the 15th century. This manual presents different alphabets for comparison: Armenian, Greek, Latin, Syrian, Georgian, Coptic, and Albanian among them. The Albanian alphabet was titled: "Aluanic girn e" (Albanic letters). Abuladze made an assumption that this alphabet was based on Georgian letters.

The Udi language, spoken by 8000 people mostly in Azerbaijan, and also Georgia, is thought to be the last remnant of the language once spoken in Caucasian Albania.<ref>Caucasian Albanian Script. The Significance of Decipherment by Dr. Zaza Alexidze.</ref>

[edit] Footnotes

<references/> For a specimen of the 'Caucasian Albanian Palimpsest' see Wolfgang Schulze

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

cs:Albánie (kavkazská) es:Albania caucásica ro:Albania Caucaziană ru:Кавказская Албания

Caucasian Albania

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