Caucasian Albania
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Caucasian Albania, also known as Alvank in Armenian, Ardhan in Parthian, Arran in Persian, and Al-Ran in Arabic, was an ancient kingdom, which existed on the territory of present-day Republic of Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan. The name "Albania" is Latin, and denotes "mountainous land". The native name for the country is unknown. Modern Azerbaijanis tend to regard ancient Albanians as the root of their nationality.

Early history

According to the Georgian chronicle “Juansher's Concise History of the Georgians”, Armenians, Georgians and Albanians had one father named Togarmah (Torgom), who was descendant of Japheth, son of Noah. Torgom divided his land among his sons, and gave to one of them, by the name of Bartos, the "territory from the Berdahoj river to the region of the Kur river to the sea where the conjoined Erasx (Aras) and Kur rivers enter it". According to this legend, Bartos built the city Partaw in his own name.

According to tradition, Aran was a legendary ancestor and the eponym of the Albanians. Thus, referring to the events in the beginning of 2nd c. BC, he mentions that "… as leader of [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). Medieval historian Moses of Kalankatuyk explained the name Alvank as a derivation from the word Alu which was the nickname of Caucasian Albania's first king Aran and referred to his lenient personality. The Armenian historian Moses of Chorene, 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). However it is uncertain whether Aran and Sisak were real or imaginary persons.

ancient countries of the Caucasus: Armenia, Iberia, Colchis and Albania - mapThe kingdom of Caucasian Albania (Aghbania, Aghvania) was founded in the late 4th - early 3rd century BC. Albanians are mentioned for the first time in 331 BC at the Battle of Gaugamela as participants from the satrapy of Media.  Parts of Caucasian Albania, including Utik on the right bank of the Kura river were conquered by the Armenians, in the 1st century B.C.

In 65 B.C. the Roman general Pompey invaded Albania at the head of his army. When fording the Alazan river, he was attacked by forces of Oroezes, king of Albania, and eventually defeated them, killing Oroezes. Plutarch also reported that "after the battle, Pompey set out to march to the Caspian Sea, but was turned back by a multitude of deadly reptiles when he was only three days march distant, and withdrew into Lesser Armenia".

Between 83 and 93 A.D. in the reign of Domitian a detachment of the Legio XII Fulminata was sent to the Caucasus to support the allied kingdoms of Iberia and Albania in a war against Parthia. An inscription found in Gobustan (69 km south of Baku) attests to the presence of a Roman garrison in that area. During the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138) Albania was invaded by the Alans, an Iranian nomadic group.

Iran - Naqsh-e Rustam: triumph relief of Shapur I - the king's face - photo by M.TorresThe Sasanian domination

In 252-253 AD Caucasian Albania along with Iberia and Armenia was conquered by the Sassanid Empire. Albania was mentioned among the Sasanian provinces listed in the trilingual inscription of Shapur I at Naqsh-e Rustam. However Albania retained its monarchy and was designated as a kingdom, and the relationship of the local rulers with the Sasanian “king of kings” is usually referred to by scholars as “vassalage”. But despite being one of the chief vassals of Sasanian Shahanshah, the Albanian king had only a semblance of authority, and the Sassanid marzban (military governor) held most civil, religious, and military authority.

In the middle of the 4th century the king of Albania Urnayr arrived in Armenia and was baptized by Gregory the Illuminator, but Christianity spread in Albania only gradually, and the Albanian king remained loyal to the Sassanids. After the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Persia (in 387 AD), Albania, as an ally of Sassanid Persia, regained all the right bank of the river Kura up to river Araxes, including Artsakh and Utik.

Sasanian king Yazdegerd II passed an edict requiring all the Christians in his empire to convert to Mazdaism, fearing that Christians might ally with Roman Empire, which had recently adopted Christianity. This led to rebellion of Albanians, along with Armenians and Iberians. 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 Albania, particularly to Artsakh, that became a center for resistance to Sassanid Iran. The religious center of the Albanian state also moved here. However, the Albanian king Vache, a relative of Yazdegerd II, converted to the official religion of the Sasanian empire, but soon reverted back to Christianity.

In the middle of the 5th century by the order of the Persian king Peroz I Vache built in Utik the city initially called Perozabad, and later Partaw and Barda, and made it the capital of Albania. Partaw was the seat of the Albanian kings and Persian marzban, and in 552 A.D. the seat of the Albanian Catholicos was also transferred to Partaw.

After the death of Vache, Albania remained without a king for thirty years. The Sasanian Balash reestablished the Albanian monarchy by making Vachagan, son of Yazdegerd and brother of the previous king Vache, the king of Albania.

By the end of the 5th century, the ancient Arsacid royal house of Albania, a branch of the ruling dynasty of Parthia, became extinct, and in the 6th century it was replaced by princes of the Persian or Parthian Mihranid family, who claimed descent from the Sasanians. They assumed a Persian title of Arranshahs (i.e. shahs of Arran, Persian name of Albania). The ruling dynasty was named after its Persian founder Mihran, who was a distant relative of the Sasanians. Mihranid dynasty survived under Muslim suzerainty until 821-2.

In the late 6th – early 7th centuries AD the territory of Albania became an arena of wars between Sasanian Persia, Byzantium and Khazar kaganate, the latter two very often acting as allies. In 628, during the Third Perso-Turkic War, the Khazars invaded Albania, and their leader Ziebel declared himself lord of Albania, levying a tax on merchants and the fishermen of the Kura and Araxes rivers "in accordance with the landsurvey of the kingdom of Persia". Most of Transcaucasia was under Khazar rule before the arrival of the Arabs. The Albanian kings retained their rule by paying tribute to the regional powers. According to Peter Golden, "steady pressure from Turkic nomads was typical of the Khazar era, although there are no unambiguous references to permanent settlements", while Vladimir Minorsky stated that, in Islamic times, "the town of Qabala lying between Sharvan and Shakki was a place where Khazars were probably settled".

Arab and Seljuk domination

In the middle of the 7th century AD, the kingdom was overrun by the Arabs and, like all Islamic conquests at the time, incorporated into the Caliphate. The Albanian king Javanshir, the most prominent ruler of Mihranid dynasty, fought against the Arab invasion of caliph Uthman on the side of the Sasanid Iran. Facing the threat of the Arab invasion on the south and the Khazar offensive on the north, Javanshir had to recognize the Caliph’s suzerainty. The Arabs then reunited the territory with Armenia under one governor.

From the 8th century, Caucasian Albania existed as the principalities of Arranshahs and Khachin, along with various Caucasian, Iranian and Arabic principalities: the Principality of Shaddadids, the Principality of Shirvan, the Principality of Derbent, etc. Most of the region was ruled by the Sajid Dynasty of Azerbaijan from 890 to 929.

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

Azerbaijan - Qum - Kum - Albanian Church - Kum Basilica - 5th century - photo by F.MacLachlanReligion

The ancient pagan religion of Albania was centered on the worship of three divinities: Sun, Moon and Zeus. Caucasian Albania was one of the first countries where Christianity was adopted. In the middle of the 4th century the king of Albania Urnayr arrived in Armenia and was baptized by Gregory the Illuminator, but Christianity spread in Albania only gradually, and the Albanian king remained loyal to the Sassanids.

The first Christian church in the region was built by St. Eliseus, a disciple of Thaddeus of Edessa, in a place called Gis (believed to be the modern-day Church of Kish, near Sheki).

Sheki / Shaki / Saxi / Sexi, Azerbaijan: Albanian Church, now a museum - photo by L.McKayIn 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.

Albanian churchmen took part in missionary efforts in the Caucasus and Pontic regions. In 682, the catholicos Israel led an unsuccessful delegation to convert Alp Iluetuer, the ruler of the North Caucasian Huns, to Christianity. The Albanian Church maintained a number of monasteries in the Holy Land.

The Arabic conquest resulted in gradual Islamization of the Albanian population.


Alphabet and language

According to Movses Kaghankatvatzi and Koriun, 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).

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 distinctive Albanian speech persisted into early Islamic times, and Arabic geographers recorded that the language which they called Arranian was still spoken in the capital Barda in the 10th century.

The Udi language is thought to be the last remnant of the language once spoken in Caucasian Albania. A member of the Northeast Caucasian language family, The language is spoken by about 5,000 people in the Azerbaijani village of Nij in the Qabala rayon, the Oguz rayon, as well as parts of the North Caucasus in Russia. It is also spoken by ethnic Udis living in the villages of Debedavan, Bagratashen, Ptghavan, and Haghtanak in the Tavush province of Armenia and in the village of Octomberi in the Kvareli district of the Kakheti province in Georgia. Udi is related to Lezgi and Tabasaran. Together with Lak, Dargin and others, they form the group of Lezgic languages.


Source: Wikipedia
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