H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

Armenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) online

. (page 45 of 49)
Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

convenient standpoint for a general survey of the structure of the
continent, and is placed at the junction of the two great divisions,
western and eastern, into which geographers have partitioned this
vast area. The Hindu Kush inclines over into the Paropamisus ;
and the southern portion of the latter range is continued, on the
north of Persia, by the mountains of Khorasan. .\ sharp bend
in the belt, just east of the Caspian, turns southwards into the
Elburz range, and the beautiful curve of the chain along the
margin of the shore may be admired from the waters of that
inland sea. The line of Elburz is protracted across the depression
of the Araxes valley into the peaks of Karabagh ; while the
Karabagh system unites with the bold and lofty ridges which in
full face of their gigantic neighbour, the Caucasus, overtower the
right bank of the Kur. These ridges again connect with the
chain we have ourselves crossed between Kutais and Akhaltsykh
— a chain which joins the mountains on the southern shore of
the Black Sea. The Pontic range forms a bow of wide span and
gentle curvature, ending in the hump of Anatolia, where it meets
the arc of the Bithynian border hills.

The parallel series on the outer margin of the elevated area
commences with the outer arc of the Hindu Kush system, the
severely bent and S-shaped Salt Range. Thence it proceeds
into the mountains which flank Persia upon the east and belong
to the outer Iranian arc.^ The bold sweep of this arc into the
chain of Zagros may be recognised by a glance at the map.
We remark the greater protraction of the north-western arm of
the bow, a feature which may be traced in the configuration of
most of the great Asiatic chains. We admire the clean and
uniform outline of the curve, broken only by a slight indent at
the straits of Ormuz, which may be answered by the bend
in the inner system which we have already noticed on the east
of the Caspian Sea. The outer Iranian arc effects a junction
with the Tauric ranges along two parallel but fairly distinct
orographical lines. Of these the inner line crosses over from
the Zagros to the Ararat system, and assumes commanding
orographical importance in the western arm of that S)'stem,
known as the Aghri or Shatin Dagh. It is in the Shatin Dagh

1 Suess makes the outer Iranian arc commence at Tank, near Dereh Ismail Khan
on the Indus [Das Aiitlitz der Erde, Leipzic, 1885, vok ii. p. 552).

424 Armenia

that the bend to the west-south-west is effected, which may be
followed through a series of volcanoes into the Anti-Taurus and
the Mediterranean range. The outer line is formed by the grand
half-circle of the Kurdish mountains ; from the parched plains
about Diarbekr you see them, as from the well of an amphitheatre,
covered or capped with gleaming snow. This principal chain of
Taurus extends to the coast of Syria, and emerges from the
sea in the island of Cyprus and in many a headland and island
of the Anatolian coast.

It can scarcely fail to impress the most casual of observers
that this double series of arcs, from Hindu Kush to Mediterranean,
meet or almost meet at three distinctly traceable and widely
separated points. Such approximations occur in Hindu Kush,
in Armenia, and in the mountainous districts which border the
Ionian seaboard. We can scarcely doubt that they are due to
the incidence of a strong opposing force, moving from the south
and causing the arcs to be constricted, the ranges to be piled up
one behind another, and mountain development to assume its
grandest forms. It is probable that the resisting pressure has
been furnished in the first two cases by the Indian and Arabian
•peninsulas. Another feature, less obvious but not less noteworthy,
is furnished by the fact that in Armenia and Asia Minor the
arcs have been fractured in the process of bending over at or
near the points where the approximations between the two series
have taken place. The closer the constriction, the sharper, of
course, becomes the curve, and the greater the tendency to split.
In Asia Minor the union of the series has resulted in complete
fracture ; the folded area sinks beneath the waters of the yEgean
to be represented by the islands which stud the Archipelago,
and, further west, by the mountains of the Dalmatian coast.

On the east of Hindu Kush we are as yet in want of
sufficient material for so convincing an analysis as the researches
of geologists have rendered possible on the west. We know
that in eastern Asia a vast area of elevated land is bounded
both along the inner and the outer margins by mountain systems
of wide extension and great height. Such are the systems of
Altai and Tian-shan ui^on the north, and the mighty bow of
the Himalayas on the south. Probably the Kuenlun range
carries over the inner series of western Asia, extending eastwards
from the Pamirs and serving as a buttress to the immensely elevated
plateau oi Tibet. If this view be correct, then the Tian-shan and

Geographical 425

Altai systems may perhaps be regarded as minor earth-waves,
following close upon the heels of the Kuenlun, and supporting
the highlands of the Tarim basin and the desert of Gobi, the
Han-hai or Dry Sea of the Chinese. The plain reader may be
content to observe the echelon of mountain ranges which extends
from Hindu Kush towards Behring Sea ; to note the constant
curvature of the arcs towards the south, until, in the Altai group,
the eastern arms of the bows are protracted ever further towards
the north ; to contrast the low-lying plains along the western
ends of the echelon with the lofty highlands of Mongolia on the
east. The necks of the valleys issue upon the depression of
Siberia and the low country through which the Oxus and
Jaxartes flow.

In western Asia the elevated area with its flanking ranges
is bordered on the north by the northern Paropamisus and
further west by the Caucasus chain. The Paropamisus may
perhaps be regarded as the most southerly of the many branches
which belong to the system of Tian-shan.^ Geologists invite us
to connect the Paropamisus with the Caucasus, and trace the
links of the broken chain to the mountains of Krasnovodsk on
the Caspian, whence a submarine ridge carries the line into the
mountains of Caucasus, to be protracted far to the west, through
the Crimea, and emerge from the waters of the Black Sea in
the Balkans, Carpathians and Alps. In this manner we see
described on the north of the Asiatic highlands, with their series
of inner arcs, a further arc of immense span and wide curvature,
which is represented on the east by the northern Paropamisus
and by the Caucasus on the west. Both these ranges may best
be viewed as independent of the inner series ; but Paropamisus
is closely adpressed to the inner arc of Persia, and Caucasus is
joined at a single point to the series, namely by the Meschic
linking chain. Lines of elevation, similar to that which we have
traced from Paropamisus, may be discovered, although with less
orographical distinction, proceeding westwards and struggling
over towards Europe from the more northerly branches of Tian-
shan ; they are almost lost in the great depression of the Turanian
lowlands, but they follow arcs of increasing width of span.

This interesting study of the structure of Asia, which is due
to the researches of recent years, not only serves to explain the
pronounced features of Asiatic landscapes, as integral members of

^ Such is the view of Suess.

426 Armenia

a vast design, but also enables us to understand many of the
movements of history and many of the phenomena of the human
world. ^ India is enclosed on all sides by the sea or by the outer
mountains, and appears reserved by natural causes for herself
China, with her teeming millions, is separated from western Asia
by the whole bulk of the broadest and least hospitable portion of
the system of lofty plateaux with peripheral ranges. The echelon
of chains, which seam the continent in a north-easterly direction,
are the nurseries of the hardiest tribes. The valleys which space
these ranges are the arteries of human movement, and they lead
from west to east, from east to west. Thus during the period of
armed migrations which is represented by the Tartar conquests
one division of the Tartar armies might be fighting in China on
the Yellow River while another was laying waste Khorasan.
The bend of the arcs towards the south places the framework of
Nature in harmony with the migrations of man. The tablelands
of Persia, Armenia and Asia Minor are members of a continuous
system of elevated plains at a temperate altitude, which extend
like some great causeway along the breadth of Asia, giving access
from east to west, from west to east. This causeway forms the
natural avenue of commerce and of conquest, by which the tide
of war or of commercial intercourse ebbs and flows between the
remote recesses of Central Asia and the Ionian shore of the
Mediterranean Sea. Only on the east is the causeway blocked
by Nature to human traffic, by the constriction of the arcs on the
north of India, leading over by a gigantic knot of mountains into
the impassable plateau of Tibet. The stream is therefore diverted
from the highlands to the lowlands ; great cities arise on the
lowlands, at the mouths of the Tian-shan valleys, Merv, Bokhara,
Samarkand. And when we contemplate and contrast the structure
of Asia and of Europe — the vast forces which have produced the
stately body of eastern Asia dying out towards the west in the
insignificant but widely ramified elevations of the European
mountain chains — we may readily understand how different has
been the influence exercised by structural features upon the
peoples of either continent. In Asia such features are a factor
of the first importance, determining climate, controlling migrations,

' Besides the great work of Suess already cited, I may refer my reader to Dr.
Edmund Naumann's admirable study : Die Gruiidiinien Anatoliens tind Centralasiens,
in Heltner's GcograpJiische Zeitschrift, ii. Jahrgang, 1896, jjp. 7-25, with two maps. Also
to a paper by the same author in the Report of the Sixth Int. Geog. Congress, London,
1895, pp. (66i)-(67o).

Geographical 427

setting- barriers to intercourse or relentlessly fixing the highwa}'s
which it must pursue. In Europe, on the other hand, they have
done little more than diversify the scenery, and for purposes of
peaceful or hostile movements among the nations may with some
exceptions be almost left out of account. What are our European
mountains but arbitrary wrinkles on the face of the continent ?
One valley leads over into another of much the same height above
sea-level by a pass which is not more lofty than the neighbouring
ridges. One plain is succeeded by a companion expanse of
similar character, and only some small diversity in the forms of
the spires of the churches tells the tale of national distinctions.
Differentiation rather than the presence of marked ethnological
types is characteristic of the peoples of Europe. But once
the narrow strait is passed we may no longer dally with our
geography ; and the further we proceed towards the east and
the inner sanctuaries of Nature the greater grows the necessity
of comprehending phenomena which must always exercise a
dominant influence upon human affairs. It will not suffice in
Asia to observe the latitude of a great plain in order to know
beforehand the degree of heat which it will support in summer,
the rigour or the suavity of the climate during winter. You will
be freezing in Erzerum while Erivan is relaxed in sunshine ; yet
both cities are placed on the margins of level expanses, and the
advantage of latitude is in favour of the temperateness of that
first named. Not even the convenient distinction of highlands and
lowlands will carry us very far. We must enquire into the nature
of the highlands; are the mountains their prevailing feature, or are
those mountains, as we see them from the floor of the lowlands, a
mere buttress to a sequence of elevated plains ? Penetrate] the
chain, and you rise by successive steps from valley to valley,
while each ridge is higher than the last. Follow its extension
upon the map and you will see it rising from the Mediterranean
and terminating in the knot of mountains north of India. Mark
the characteristics of the people who inhabit it, be they Kurds or
Lurs or Lazes, they will not offer much divergence from a
common standard. Yet what a gulf of human nature between
these and the inhabitants of the lowlands — a gulf which is
scarcely spanned by the equalising tendencies of a long spell of
misgovern ment ! When at length these alps expand, and you
overlook a more level country, everything — climate, the aspect of
the sky as well as of the land, people, language, cities, villages

428 Armenia

are new. And yet our diplomatists who dwell on the Bosphorus,
and ruminate Asiatic problems with the aid of indifferent maps
which they would not pretend to understand, group the highlands
and the lowlands, the shepherds of the mountains and the
cultivators of the plains, all together — a strange collection of
birds and beasts and fishes — in a single scheme of administrative
reforms. The Turk is little wiser ; but we may perhaps view
with a large indifference his passive resistance to such reforms.

But to return to our plains and mountains — the country
which we may still call Armenia takes its place as an integral
member of the system of tablelands, buttressed by mountain
ranges, which extends from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean
Sea. It is not separated by any important natural frontier from
Persia on the east or from Asia Minor on the west. Moreover
most of the characteristics which are found in either of these
neighbours are prevalent in Armenia to a greater or a lesser
degree. The stratified rocks include the later Palseozoic, the
Cretaceous, Eocene and Miocene series ; and these extend across
the whole system. The salt deposits of Miocene age which are
spread so widely over Persia are not among the least remarkable
of the surface features of Armenia ; although they have not
produced that widespread devastation which attends the extension
of the great salt deserts over the Persian plateau.^ In Armenia
they are friendly to man, providing him with one of his neces-
saries ; and the various salt works, known in Turkey under the
name of turjla or salt pans, have been exploited from immemorial
times. Considerable depressions of the surface of the highlands
are phenomena common to all three countries ; and the same
may be said of the volcanoes which are dominant in Armenian
landscapes, but are not wholly absent from the contiguous
territories on either side. All participate in the benefits of a
southern climate, and are exempted by their elevation above sea-
level from the excesses of a southern sun. Slowly-flowing rivers
threading vast plains, mountains which determine districts rather
than states ; a natural penury of vegetation, enhanced by the
depredations of countless goats, but perhaps balanced in the eyes
of the traveller by the beauty of the land-forms — such are some
among the many im.pressions which may be derived in various

^ ]'"or a compreliensive account of the salt deserts of Persia, extending over 500
miles of country, I may refer my reader to Lord Curzon's Persia, London, 1892, vol.
ii. pp. 246 seq.

Geographical 429

degrees from a visit to any of the individual members of
the group.

But, if Armenia be closely linked with her neighbours on the
west and east, she is divided by some of the most effective of
natural barriers and natural distinctions from the countries which
lie to the north and south. The zones of mountains which on
the one side separate her from the coast of the Black Sea and
the Georgian depression, and on the other from the lowlands of
Mesopotamia, possess in an equal degree the rugged character
due to intense folding and are both of considerable width. Sharp
ridges with serrated outlines rising one behind another, narrow
valleys in which the shadows lie, hissing rivers and bush-grown
rocks, grassy uplands or stretches of forest determine the scenery
both of the northern and of the southern zone. The alpine region
has a breadth of some fifty miles more or less in the direction of
the Black Sea, while the corresponding zone, facing the lowlands
about Diarbekr, extends, on the whole, over a smaller span.
Both zones are practically unlimited in length. They have been
factors of paramount influence in the history of the peoples, not
only screening the territories they confine from those which lie
outside, but also investing them with distinct climatic conditions.
For these parallel belts of peripheral mountains do in fact perform
the function of supports or buttresses to a series of elevated
plains ; the valleys in the alpine region are but the succession
of terraces which rise to the margin of a lofty platform. A
difference in level of several thousands of feet is productive of
marked features in the habits and character of the inhabitants ;
while the alps themselves must necessarily determine the mode
of life of the dwellers within them, constraining them to follow
the vocation of shepherds rather than that of agriculturists.
Thus along the section between Diarbekr and the Armenian
highlands three strongly -contrasted types of people will be
met. The. nomad Arabs or Arabic -speaking cultivators of the
lowlands are succeeded by the pastoral Kurds with their tribal
organisation, and these again by the Armenian tillers of the soil.

I have already indicated the intimate connection of these
peripheral mountains with the structural system of the Asiatic
continent. The northerly belt belongs to the inner series of arcs,
and that on the south to the outer series. The compression of
these arcs — a phenomenon which has engaged our attention —
has been effected in the tjreatest des^ree within the section of

430 Armenia

country between Diarbekr and Trebizond. You see the two
opposite arcs, one bent to the south and the other to the north,
endeavouring to meet under the stress of contending pressures ;
while on either side of the section the curves diminish in intensity
and the spines of the ranges have been allowed to expand like
the spokes of a wheel. The northern boundary of Armenia is
constituted by the mountains of the northern peripheral region,
which enter the country on the west in the Gumbet Dagh. The
line may be followed on the map on the north of Shabin
Karahisar through the Giaour Dagh and the Kuseh Dagh to the
pass over the Vavuk Dagh, lying to the north-west of the town
of Baiburt. From the Vavuk pass the spine of the chain confines
the valley of the Chorokh by a well-defined and regular parapet ;
until just east of the town of Ispir it commences to lose this
singleness of feature, and to favour a tendency towards bifurcation
and branching out. The ridges stretch across the valley in an
east-north-easterly direction, the direction which the spine has so
long pursued ; and their course may be traced through the
mountainous country on the north of Olti until they become
buried beneath the volcanic accumulations of the plateau countr}^
in the districts of Goleh and Ardahan. It is most interesting to
trace their probable emergence from this canopy on the further
side of the tableland, and to recognise in the elevations of
Shishtapa (north of Alexandropol) and of Madatapa ridges that
have survived the splitting and fracture of the Pontic chain. But
this is a feature of greater interest to the geologist than to the
geographer ; and the latter will follow the Black Sea range-
through the heights of the Khachkar and Parkhal mountains to
the Kukurt Dagh on the west of Artvin. The ridge which
stretches thence in a north-north-easterly direction towards the
seaboard, giving passage to the Chorokh and determining the
Russian frontier, has been deflected by the mass of the Karchkhal
mountains, the radial system to the north-east of Artvin. It
crosses the river close to the coast behind Batum, and may be
traced through the peaks of Taginaura, Gotimeria and Nepiszkaro
along the plains of Imeritia to the passage of the Kur through
the gorge of Borjom. These last-named peaks belong to the
Akhaltsykh-Imeritian border range, which my reader has crossed
with me by the pass of Zikar, and of which the direction is almost
due east and west.

It is impossible to delimit the northern frontier of Armenia

Geographical 43 1

by a slavish insistence upon the boundary of the Black Sea range.
That system is the natural boundary for a distance of very many
miles, as it extends along the course first of the Kelkid Su, the
ancient Lycus, and then along that of the Chorokh. But the
fracture of the arc which has taken place in the country watered
by the uppermost branches of the Kur and Arpa Chai, and the
eating back of the more easterly affluents of the Chorokh, which
have carved out the intricate country in the neighbourhood of
Olti, have resulted in the interruption of the normal sequence
until it is again resumed in the Akhaltsykh-Imeritian range. It
is consonant with the natural conditions to take the frontier across
the valley of the Chorokh in the vicinity of Ispir, and to lead it
by the heights which contain the sources of the Cliorokh and the
Serchemeh Chai to the Dumlii Dagh, the parent mountain of the
Western Euphrates. It will then follow, first in an easterly and
then in a north-easterly direction, the elevated water-parting
between the basins of the Araxes and the Black Sea ; and, after
effecting a union through the Chamar Dagh with the volcanoes of
the Soghanlu Dagh, will be protracted along the meridional and
volcanic elevation which confines the highlands of Goleh and
Ardahan on the west. The junction of these vaulted heights
with the Akhaltsykh-Imeritian range may be traced through the
ridge of the Sakulaperdi Dagh to the peak of Gotimeria. All
the rivers on the northern slopes of this section of the Armenian
frontier drain into the Black Sea.

The passes across this zone are of considerable elevation,
though a good number are open all the year round. I have been
unable to ascertain the height of the pass over the Gumbet Dagh
between Karahisar and Kerasun. But the valleys of the Upper
Kelkid and the Upper Chorokh may be reached from Trebizond
without encountering a greater altitude than something less than
7000 feet. To this figure must be added another 600 to looo
feet before the traveller will have crossed the block of elevated
tableland interposed between those valleys and the great Armenian
cities, Erzinjan and Erzerum. East of Baiburt the spine of the
Pontic range becomes more lofty : and the track which leads
from Rizeh to Ispir in the Chorokh valley surmounts it at a
height which has been estimated at 9000 feet above the sea.
Where the frontier has become coterminous with the northern
border heights of Erzerum and Pasin the roads are taken by
passes of over 7000 feet (Erzerum-Bar-Olti) and 8500 feet

432 Armenia

(Hasan Kala-Olti) into the basin of the Black Sea ; while during
its protraction northwards through the Soghanlu Dagh to the
Sakulaperdi Dagh it may be traversed by well-beaten paths or
tolerable roads at elevations which range between 6085 feet
(Eshak-Meidan Pass) and about 7000 feet. The principal
avenues of communication across the mountainous region are those
of Erzinjan-Giimiishkhaneh, Baiburt-Gumlishkhaneh, Erzerum-
Olti, Kars-Olti, Ardahan-Olti and Ardahan-Ardanuch. A road
has been constructed from Kutais to Abastuman, and is gaining
traffic every year.

Copious rainfall and abundant vegetation are characteristic
of the northern peripheral mountains. In some of the valleys the
clouds settle for several months in the year, seldom lifting to dis-
close a view of the sun. It may often happen that during several
weeks or even months crests and depressions alike will be shrouded
in mist. In summer there is produced the likeness of a succession
of forcing houses, the slopes and hollows being covered with a
bewildering tangle of trees and creepers and scarcely passable
undergrowth. From the branches are festooned the lichens,
grey-white streamers like human hair ; the crimson stools of a
fungus shine out from the gloomy brakes, and the pointed pink petals
of the Kolchian crocus clothe each respite of open ground. Such
conditions are most prevalent in the narrow valleys near the
Pontic coast, while the slopes which face the Rion and the
opposite Caucasus are distinguished by magnificent forests.

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 49)