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Albania and the Turks

Hunns, Sabirs, Hazars and other Turkish tribes began to appear and settle in the South Caucasus and, first of all, in Albania in the second century but particularly in the fifth to seventh centuries. From that period of time the Turkish factor began to play a serious role in the region. Very often Albanians called the Turks for help in their struggle for independence against Iran. In 515, the Albanian bishop Kardost in his turn spread Christianity among some o f the Turks, having assembled a “Scripture” in the Turkish language. After the conquest of Azerbaijan by the Arabs in the seventh century, there were several important events in the life of the population of Albania. There began the expansion of the new re ligion – Islam. O n the other hand, after the arrival of the Arabs the name “Albania” remained only in the essays of medieval Armenian and Byzantine authors. Since then, the original name of the country, not in the previous form of “Aran,” but the Arabic version, “Arran,” was used in the Muslim ones.

Meanwhile, Muslim authors of that period by Arran meant the land between the two rivers Kura and Ara xes: that was the territory of Karabakh. Finally, it is also important to point out that in Azerbaijan, including in Karabakh, the number of Turks greatly increased in that period of time. The weight and political influence of Turks in Albania were so great that when the Arabic Muslim Caliph Muaviyya I (661-680) asked one expert on the history of Azerbaijan, he hea rd that “Azerbaijan has been the land of the Turks since ancient times” (19). The Turkisation of the country also continued in the following centuries and, by the twelfth century, the Turkish language became the language of the Azeri ethnos that was alread y formed, which also included Albanians who accepted Islam as well as many other local tribes.

The union of eight     Turkish tribes known under the common name of Pechenegi (“Pachinak/Patsinak” in Armenian sources and “Badjnak”- in Muslim ones) played a particularly noticeable role among Turks who settled in Karabakh during that period of time. Already in the seventh century, two out of 12 districts in Artsakh had Turkish origins: Kolt, derived from the name of the Turkish tribe Kol and Pantskank, or Pazkank district, connected with the Pechenegs. At the same time, the Albanian historian Moses from Kalankatuk mentioned that the population of Pazkank soon accepted Christianity . Another Pecheneg tribe of Tsurs had already accepted Christianity in the fifth century and founded the city of Tsur in Artsakh (currently a village in the Hadrut district of Nagorny Karabakh), which the local Albanian historian also noted many times . But the most powerful among the Pechenegs who settled in Karabakh was the tribe – Karabag or Karabay, translated as “mighty master.” Mentioned for the first time in the tenth century in an essay by the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that tribe left its memory in many countries and regions of the East. The ruins of the city of Karabakh remain in Turkey, where the descendents of Karabags still lived in the nineteenth century. There are also populated areas and regions with the name “Karabag” in the territories of modern Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. But most of all, traces of that tribe‟s habitation were left in Azerbaijan.
In the middle ages three cities named Karabag existed at once. Moreover, according to the words of Evliya Chelebi, the famous Turkish traveler of the seventeenth century, “each of them reminds us of paradise” . Especially after the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Turks, including those from the Karabakh tribe, were fixed in Azerbaijan on the land between the two rivers K ura and Araxes. As an anonymous Persian geographical essay dated in the early thirteenth century mentioned, “Arran … is a rich and blessed place, the winter residence of the local rulers…There is no other place of such a gathering of Turks. They say there happen to be about one thousand Turkish riders”. That information was confirmed in an Arabic essay of the early thirteenth century and it was figuratively mentioned that so many Turks lived in Arran “that if they gather, then they will be like a gathering of ants or a cloud of locusts” .

It is quite natural that the complete dominance of Turks in Arran from the seventh to the thirteenth centuries led to the fact that at the same period of time that part of Azerbaijan began to be called “Karabakh” in Turkish. Truly, as there were several populated areas and regions with the same name in the Muslim East, the land between the two rivers Kura and Araxes was named as “Arran Karabakh” in Muslim sources from the thirteenth to the fourteenth centuries. The famous Muslim historian of that period, Rashid ad-Din, for the first time named that territory in connection with the events of 1284 and also as the place of wintering and rest for Eastern rulers, including the well-known Tamerlane. Other Muslim writers of the fourteenth century referred to it in the same way. It was also conditioned by the fact that the term “Karabakh” was used in two senses: in the narrow one – as the mountain part of Arran, and in the broader one – as equal to Arran, the territory between the Kura and the Araxes. That is why the same Rashid ad-Din mentioned two areas of the region: mountainous Karabakh and flat Arran. It was only later, since the fifteenth century, that the term “Karabakh” fully replaced “Arran” and already began to mean the whole territory between the Kura and the Araxes.


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