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Karabakh in the early Middle Ages

In contrast to Armenia, the destiny of Caucasian Albania turned out to be more favorable at that period of time. Even if sometimes Albanian kings had to stick to the Roman or Iranian orientation, nevertheless they managed to save their independence and territorial integrity. In particular, the regular coinage of Albanian money was evidence of that. All that in its turn beneficially influenced the development of the culture and the process of uniting of Albanian tribes into a unified ethnos.

In the early fourth century, the pressure of Sassanian Iran on the countries of South Caucasus became stronger. From time to time, the territory of Albania turned out to be dependent on to the Sassanids. At the same time, Christianity was announced as the state religion in the Byzantine Empire, another leading power of the Near East. And then in 313, being guided by political considerations Albania, Armenia and Georgia simultaneously announced Christianity as the state religion. That event led to the establishment of contacts and close connections between peoples of the whole Southern Caucasus, particularly Armenians and Albania ns. As a result, in the early fifth century the founder of the Armenian alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots, created the Georgian and the new version of the Albanian alphabet. According to the ancient authors, the Albanians had their own written language at least since the first century B.C. and they sent letters to the Romans. It is also known that the new version of the Albanian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots made was, as Movses K horenatsi, the Armenian historian of the early middle ages described it, “guttural, absurd, barbarian, the rudest language of Gargarians” . Another prominent Albanian historian of that period, Moses from Kalankatuk, repeated the same some time later. Those characteristics once again proved the fact that Albanian ethnicity existed and its language belonged to the Caucasian group of languages.

It was only in our time that two versions of the Albanian alphabet consisting of 52 letters (there are 38 letters in Armenian alphabet) were found in 1937 in Armenia and in 1956 in the USA. And although after 510 Albania came to be dependent on Sassanid Iran, nevertheless the period of the fifth to seventh centuries was a time of prosperity and culture for Albanians, during which they played a remarkable role in the region and were well known in the East. It was mentioned in the “Syrian Chronicles” of Zahariya from Mitilen (VI c.) that there were “five faithful nations” in the South Caucasus and, among them, “there is Aran, a land with its own language and nation, faithful and christened, they have a king obedient to the Persian one” . It was exactly then that the self-consciousness of Albanians was formed and that was particularly pronounced in the work of the local historian Moses from Kalankatuk: he distinguished Albanians from Armenians and other nations and genetically derived Albanians from K itties, another tribe of biblical Japheth. Meanwhile he wrote that “one of the offspring of Japheth named Aran inherited the valleys and mountains” of Albania from the river Araxes to the fortress of Hnarakert on the border with Georgia. In other words, if his contemporary Movses Khorenatsi and other Armenian authors considered Hayk, great-great- grandson of Japheth, as the ancestor of Armenians, then the Albanians considered Aran such an ancestor for themselves.

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