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of the town and administrative division ; he received us with the
utmost courtesy. We would leave our tent to join his hospitable
family circle, to discuss the many interesting features of the
country and to drink endless glasses of delicious tea. We learnt
that the road to Akhaltsykh had been made under his directions ;
Greek workmen performed the blasting and stone-cutting, while
for the levelling forced labour was employed. The road is the
property of the Russian Government, and horses are provided by
contractors to carry the post. The administration is conducted
on a primitive but common-sense principle : a head man in every
village, responsible to a head of a group of villages, who is again
answerable to the Governor himself Besides police — among
whom the Armenians are prominent, their fierce faces belying the
reputed meekness of the race — Colonel Tarasoff has a force of
Cossacks at his disposal ; and it is of course open to him to send
for the troops of the district, should any special emergency arise.
In addition to the Governor, there is in each larger town a resident
judicial officer, who dispenses justice ex contractu as well as ex
delicto, and whose judgments are subject to revision at assize.

As usual in the Armenian provinces, the need of elementary
education is supplied from a double source. Foremost in the
field are the Armenians, with a separate organisation ; the Russian
State school is not so well attended, and, in this province, is
probably not so well served. Yet the Russian principal impressed
me as a capable and, certainly, as a most amiable individual ; he
was a Georgian, speaking Georgian as his native language ; his
wife and family affected the Georgian dress. His pupils consisted
of 150 boys and youths, all, or almost all, Armenians. The
school supplies a kind of secondary education as well as the
elementary course. Of this privilege to its rival, the Armenian
school was justly jealous ; it is only allowed the two primary

1 Monteith {Kars and Erzeroiim, pp. 85, 168, 173 scq.). Ilaxth.iusen informs us
that "not one Turk accepted his life — every man remained dead upon the spot"
{Transiaucasia^ p. 100). He had received tlie story in this truly Oriental form.

At Akhalkalaki 91

classes, which the scholars complete in their twelfth year. The
roll consisted of 250 boys and no less than 300 girls. A reading-
room and library were attached to the institution, and it was
evident that the teachers were men of greater attainments than
are required by the kind of instruction they are supposed to

I sat with Colonel Tarasoff in his Court, a well-ordered
building, in which he is wont to reverse the procedure of his
classical prototypes. Enter to us an old turbaned Mohammedan ;
status, mollah of doubtful fame. He has come to Akhalkalaki
with the object of collecting money wherewith to purchase sacred
books. But only the chief mollah has the right to take subscrip-
tions for this purpose ; and where is the written authorisation in
favour of this mendicant, bearing the seal of the most holy man ?
Enough, that he cannot produce it ; he must desist from his
collection. He must be silent : the next case is called.

Enter a roughly -clad Georgian peasant, a lean figure, a
dejected mien. He has been staying overnight at a village in
the district, and has been robbed of three cows. The Governor
has given orders that they must immediately be restored to him ;
two have been returned, he cannot recover the third. Decided
that the village itself must pay the full equivalent ; a look of
delighted surprise lights the poor man's eyes.

Enter a Georgian of the middle class who impresses us as a
stupid fellow ; but he brings a highly original plaint. It appears
that he has fallen out with his brother, and that they both occupy
the same house. They have separated their goods and do not
speak to one another. Complainant applies to the Governor to
order his brother to open a separate door. I can scarcely refrain
from betraying my host by a peal of laughter ; he knits his brows
and dismisses the case with a volley of hard words.

Enter a young man, one of two brothers who live together
and share a common employ. It so happens that both have been
summoned to perform military service ; may one of them be
e.Kempt ? Supporters of families are excused, and the conscrip-
tion in Transcaucasia is as yet conducted on a very small scale.
Still the Colonel upholds the summons ; the service covers a short
period, and will do both brothers good.



East of the town of Akhalkalaki, which almost touches the long
train of the western slope, a bold mass of mountain features the
landscape, square-seated on the floor of the plateau (Fig. 20). It
rises to a height of nearly i 1,000 feet ; but this imposing altitude
is shorn of half its grandeur by the lofty levels of the adjacent
plain (5500-6000 feet). Still the mountain overpowers all the
surrounding outlines ; the summit overlooks the neighbouring
heights. When we had issued from the chasm of the Toporovan
river and gained the surface of the plateau, our first thought was
to ascend this elevated viewing-stage, and command the flat
expanse, bordered by dim and distant ranges, which was now
unfolded before us on every side.

Horses were impressed on the morning after our arrival to
take us to the foot of the higher slopes. We were informed that
it was necessary to make the half-circuit of the mountain and to
start climbing on the eastern side. But wh}- reject the tempting
gradients of the nearer western slope, sweeping towards \-ou
with a succession of harmonious curves ? Yet where obtain a
satisfactory answer to this question ? The actual e.xperiment
might involve the loss of a day. So we bowed to the decision of
our native conductor, and became reconciled to the long ride.
Mile after mile the great plain stretched to the westward, a solid
sea, patched in places with fallow and stubble, but treeless,
without a hedge, without a boundary of any kind. We were
approaching the stony confines of the mountainous zone which
borders the plateau on the east. The wretched village of Abul
• rears its stacks of cow-dung fuel among a waste of stones.

Seen from the side of Akhalkalal<i, the mountain presents the
appearance of a composite mass. A long trough mounts to

Prospect from Abu I 93

the summit region, dividing the fabric into two halves. Each
half is crowned by a well-defined summit ; that on the south is
single of form and considerably lower, its loftier neighbour on the
north appears to possess two peaks. In reality this double peak
conceals a third fang, which is prominent on the eastern side.
The three -fanged summit communicates with its less elevated
neighbour by a lofty col, the uppermost edge of the trough. The
slopes of Abul display the volcanic origin of the mountain, and
descend in long-drawn outlines to the plain. The lengthiest
declines w^estwards from the more northerly summit, and has the
shape of a long back or ridge. The steepest is the slope just
beneath this summit, facing north ; it is inclined at an angle of
30 degrees. The village of Abul is situated to the south of the
western slope, and would present a convenient starting-point from
which its easy gradients might be scaled. Our guide, however,
assured us, I cannot conceive upon what foundation, that the
ascent would occupy two days. So we left the village to skirt
the base of the southern half of the mountain, of which the sides
have a gradient of 18 degrees. Rounding the mass, we were
able to reach on horseback some grassy uplands of the further
slopes. This favourable nature of the ground extends to a con-
siderable elevation, and had probably been the inducement w^hich
had influenced our leader to bring us such a long way. From
these pastures it was a climb of one and a half hours over the
rocks to the pinnacles of the loftiest and most northerly mass.
We sent the horses back, with directions to meet us on the further
side, since we had decided to descend by the western ridge.

Throughout the length and breadth of the Armenian high-
lands, themselves the loftiest section of the bridge of Asia between
India and the Mediterranean Sea, there is perhaps no summit,
with the possible exception of that of Ararat, which possesses a
prospect at once so distant, so extensive and so full of interest
as that which expands on every side from the triple peak of
Abul.^ You stand on a stage which commands the fabric of the
nearer Asia, without dwarfing the propoYtions of the majestic
structure, without confusing the varied members of the vast design.

1 Abich calls it "das am weitesten umfassende des armenischen Hochlandes " with
the exception of the view from Ararat {Geologische Forschitngen in den kaiikasischen
Ldndern, Vienna, 1887, part iii. p. 39). But few have been or probably ever will be
privileged to reach the summit of the mother of the world under conditions entirely
favourable to such a panorama. And from such a height the world appears very

94 Aiinenia

The tableland with its open landscapes is unfolded before you,
swelling and falling from plain to hummock, from hummock to
rounded ridge, from vaulted ridge to the soaring arcs of an Alagoz
and an Ararat, crowned with perpetual snow. The troubled out-
lines of the border ranges encircle the mysterious scene ; and, far
away, from a gloomy background to this full sunlight and radiant
atmosphere, lurid flashes are reflected through layers of murky
vapour by the snows of Caucasus, infinitely high.

The detail of the landscape engages the mind with the same
engrossing fascination as the panorama impresses the sense.
From west right round to south, vast tracts of level ground are
outspread at your feet. Here and there the plain is broken by
barren convexities, of which the outlines mingle with the outlines
of the surrounding chains. No wood or leafy hedgerows dull the
mobile surface, which is responsive to every mood of the sky.
But a large area is checkered with black and }'ellow patches —
alternate fallow and stubble-field and standing corn. The reclama-
tion extends to the slopes and recesses of the neighbouring
mountains, struggling upwards to the verge of the rock. Yet
this human note is lost in the immensity of the scene, which
displays no other sign of the presence of man. Lonely lakes lie
lapped in the hollows of these mountains and upon the floor of
the plain. A deep crack in the solid earth features the distance
from west to south, and is drawn towards }'ou almost at right
angles through the plain. It is formed b}- the sinuous clefts of
the Kur and the Toporovan, and it is almost the limit of the level
ground upon the west and north.

Beyond this canon of the Kur, which is distant some twenty
miles, ridge upon ridge of loft\' and barren mountains are massed
upon the horizon from south-west. They belong to the Dochus-
Punar volcanic system, and they overpower all the ranges about
us, with the exception of the dim Caucasian chain. From those
slopes, as from these slopes upon which we are standing, lavas
have streamed over the surface of the intermediate country and
levelled the inequalities of the ground. That eruptive action is
long extinct ; the fires are dormant ; no wreath of smoke crowns
the familiar volcanic forms. The .system is seen to sink to the
canon upon the north, where a gap in the outlines gives a passage
to the Kur. On the northern side the heights are resumed by
a long, serrated ridge, which belongs to the northern border
mountains, and which extends from west by south to east by

Prospect fro77i Abu I 95

north. A little west of north lies Lake Tabizkhuro, with the
dome of Samsar rising from its shores. The foreground towards
the north is filled with mountain masses, with vaulted summits
and rounded slopes. Our guide was unable to name them to us,
and I therefore busied myself with an outline sketch. A long
ridge sweeps away from Abul on the north-eastern side in a
hemicycle concave to the west. It mingles with the forms of the
nearer masses, of which the most prominent may, I suppose, be
identified with Kor Ogly and Godorebi, members of the Abul-
Samsar eruptive group. The long bulwark of the Trialethian
chain is either hidden by these nearer mountains, or only disclosed
through brief vistas to a sea of outlines beyond. The northern
horizon is closed by the snowy peaks of Caucasus, over a hundred
miles away.

Towards the east we were not impressed by any commanding
features in the mountain landscape, although we were overlooking
the eastern wing of the meridional eruptive system, flanked by
the Somkethian ridges on the further side. Between us and
those vague shapes was lapped an extensive lake, Lake Toporovan,
broken by the outline of the eastern fang of Abul. But what are
those gleaming snows, just protruding above the horizon from a
snowless vaulted ridge in the south-east ? The flat horizontal
outline is broken towards the centre by a low serration of snow-
clad peaks. It is Alagoz, seventy miles distant in a straight line ;
it is even said that from here the dome of Ararat is visible, when
it is not concealed by its faithful wreath of cloud. Compared to
these, the nearer heights in the south are thrown into insignifi-
cance ; the eye completes the circle to the point from which it
started, the lofty ridges in the south-west.

Slowly we made our way over the piled- up boulders, down
the back of the long ridge which descends to the westward, along
the northern side of the deep trough. Before us, on the plain, we
followed the fissure in the even surface which marks the course of
the hidden river of Akhalkalaki, until it was lost in the radiance
of the setting sun. Regaining our horses, we paused for awhile
on the margin of a little marsh which is situated about at the
foot of the mountain, some 4000 feet below the topmost peak.
The mournful chorus of frogs broke the intense silence, and con-
tributed to the impression of the loneliness of Nature which
inspired the mood of our homeward ride.



Discussing the projects of our future travel, I was reminded by
Colonel Tarasoff that we must not fail to make a stay in one of
the villages of Russian peasants which were situated upon the
route of our journey south. The Governor had so often sung the
praises of these villagers that we were all anxious to comply with
his advice. If only this fertile country could be inhabited by
such a peasantry ; what crops it would bear, what riches it would
produce ! He added : " Be sure to visit Gorelovka ; there you
will see what Russian colonists can bring to pass."

Russian colonists ! But, of course, Russia is not yet in a
position to colonise, however much these distant provinces of her
Asiatic empire may be in need of new methods, of new blood.
Indeed, the rulers of Russia early recognised the expediency of
introducing into their lawless possessions beyond Caucasus a
leaven of orderly and strenuous elements from the West ; and in
the dearth at home of such material, which might be available for
the purpose, they invited or encouraged settlements from abroad.
It is possible that they were shown the way by the finger of
Providence ; it is at least certain that, when once the favourable
opportunity arose, they did not suffer it to pass them by. In the
earlier years of the present century the kingdom of Wurtembcrg
was the scene of a struggle among the Protestant community, of
which the origin was no less curious than the results were strange.
It had been solemnly announced by several popular pastors that
the second coming of Christ was near at hand. Such was the
confidence of the reverend teachers in their prophetical powers,
that they had already fixed the date when the sun and moon
should be darkened, the celestial bodies should reel, the ocean
roar, and men expire from fright before the crowning event had

Gorelovka and Oiieen Liikcria 97

been accomplished — the Son of Man appearing with glory in the
clouds. These signs and stupendous portents should be revealed
to a distracted world in 1S36.

Greater credence was attached by the people to these terrible
predictions by reason of what was passing in their little world.
Their clergy were divided on a religious question well calculated
to touch to the quick the popular mind. The predominant party
succeeded in effecting an alteration in the prayers and hymns of
their beloved Church. Passions became inflamed which appeared
to herald persecution, which rallied the faithful in defence of the
old forms. Were not the days of tribulation already upon them ;
and in what asylum among the mountains should these Christians
of a larger Judsea find the refuge which had been promised by the
word of Christ ? The same teachers assured them that such an
asylum would not be wanting, and might be found in the neighbour-
hood of the Caspian Sea. The fearful nature of the Divine warning,
the conviction that it would be early realised, the aversion which the
new-fangled forms of worship inspired in many earnest souls — all
contributed to steel the old Protestant courage ; to induce a large
body of human beings to leave home and native land behind
them, and, without superfluous forethought, to embark on the
perilous journey to that distant land where they might await in
peace and spiritual contentment the glorious coming of the
Redeemer of the human race. Their ranks were swelled — such is
the irony of our complex society — by many who were in search
of change and adventure; they left Wiirtemberg 1500 families
strong. Two-thirds of these are said to have perished before
reaching Odessa, where the remnant was reinforced by a further
body of their countrymen, to the number of 100 families. In the
Emperor Alexander I. they found a friend who extended to them
extensive privileges upon their arrival in Georgia in 18 17. They
were settled in several colonies in the Governments of Tiflis and
Elizabetpol, which have endured to the present day. They have
been tried by afflictions and internal dissensions ; some have
perished by wild beasts, some were carried into captivity during
the course of the Persian war. Still their numbers have increased,
their standards of life have been maintained, and the traveller
rests with pleasure within their villages. But neither the para-
mount object of their migration nor the wider purpose of
Alexander has been fulfilled up to the present time. The
jealousy of the Russian Church-State has deprived them of much

q8 Armenia

of their potential usefulness ; and mankind are still groping
beneath dark clouds of error, faintly silvered with the precious
promise of perfect light.^

The fate or fortune of these German settlements was recalled
to me at Akhalkalaki not only by the mention of the Russian
colonial experiment, but also through our intercourse with a forlorn
individual, whose history linked him with the early history of that
courageous company. What use to conceal his name, since I
cannot hide his identit}-, since I am only dealing with the current
facts of provincial life ? It was the mission of Sembat Baghda-
sareantz to sow abroad the seeds of the Gospel, carrying his liberty
and even his life in his hand. An Armenian by birth, he had
pursued his studies in Europe, where he had resided among the
Methodists of Frankfurt, although not a member of that persuasion
himself. A Protestant, he disclaimed allegiance to any particular
denomination ; he belonged to the society of Evangelical preachers
which had been founded some seventy years ago in Shusha, the
capital of the province of Karabagh, by missionaries from Basle.
Zaremba is the name of the teacher whom his successors most
closely associate with the origin and early struggles of their
brotherhood ; his memory is joined with that of his colleague
Dittrich, who shared his labours from the first. These mission-
aries represented a Society whose devout zeal had been directed
to the Mohammedans of distant Persia ; prudence dictated the
choice of a base within the territory of Russia ; yet the Russian
Church was a formidable enemy on Russian soil. She claimed
the right of baptizing and holding within her own communion all
converts to the Christian faith. But an exception had been made
in favour of those communities of heterodox Christians which were
tolerated by the Russian State ; it was permissible for a
Mohammedan to become converted to their tenets and to be
enrolled as a member of their sect. The Society of Basle were
therefore encouraged to attempt the expedient of a protected

1 According to l*'Ji Smith {Missionary Researches in Armenia, London 1834, pp.

195 sea.), upon whom I have based this account, the whole number of these German

colonists was in 1830 about 2000 souls. Their present number may be estimated from

the published statistics of 1886. The following are the figures for the various colonies : —

Government of Tiflis : Town of Tiflis, 11 17. Administrative division [otiezde) of

Tiflis : Alexandersdorf, 384 ; Marienfeld, 396 ; I'etersdorf, 195 ; Friedenthal,

83; Elizabelhthal, 1148. Cw^ci/t- of Borchali : Ekaterinenfeld, 1209; Alex-

andershilf, 366. Other localities, 60. Total for Government of Tiflis, 4958-

Government of Elizabetpol : Ilelenendorf, 1457 ; Anenfeld, 437. Total, 1894.

Grand total, 6852 souls.

Gorclovka and Queen Lukeria 99

colony, which should receive a special charter from the Russian
Government and be invested with the character of a tolerated
sect. An example of such a colony was already before them ;
their Scotch brethren were engaged in preaching to the moun-
taineers of Caucasus from an adopted home at Karass. In the
pursuit of this purpose, Zaremba and Dittrich were sent to St.
Petersburg in 1821. They were received by the same Alexander
who had favoured the Germans, and in a spirit which partook of
their own zeal. Liberal provisions were attached to the charter
of their prospective colony, among which the right of baptizing
converts was included. They were further authorised to establish
a printing press, to found elementary schools, and to organise a
seminary in which the higher learning should be dispensed. In
the meanwhile they were invited to travel in Transcaucasia with
the view of selecting a locality for their future home.

When the missionaries arrived in Georgia in the spring of
1823, their interest was aroused by the condition of the German
colonists — their co-religionists, almost their countrymen, settled
in this remote country without spiritual direction, without the
elements of ecclesiastical order. Could there exist a prior claim
upon their own activities than was furnished by the spectacle of this
flock without shepherds, severed from the homestead and wander-
ing where it might ? Their first summer was devoted to the
charge of these brethren, among whom the slow blight of purely
worldly preoccupations had already sapped the vigour of early
zeal. The success of their efforts appears to have awakened the
Lutheran Consistory of St. Petersburg, to whom the spiritual
interests of their co-religionists in Russia are entrusted by Russian
law. The Consistory sent a pastor, duly commissioned ; and the
colonists were resigned into his hands. But the hardy Germans had
not quarrelled with ecclesiastical authority in their native country
in order to subject themselves to similar tyranny in their new seats ;
they disclaimed any connection with the Consistory, and refused
to accept its nominee. The dispute was referred to Alexander,
and was by him decided with his usual good sense. He con-
sented that the Society of Basle should supply them with pastors,
and he went so far as to endow their churches himself

When the missionaries next turned their attention to the
pursuit of their original purpose, they were confronted by diffi-
culties of a different kind. To their surprise they were informed
by the Governor-General of Transcaucasia that the Government

lOO Armenia

possessed no land on the Persian frontier which could be spared
for the settlement they had in view. The Mission itself would
be allotted a building in any town which they might select ; and,
although the privilege of receiving converts would not be legally
attachable, the Governor himself would exert his influence to
protect them in its exercise should their efforts be blessed with
fruit. Shusha was their choice for the establishment of their
Mission ; schools were opened and a printing press set up. But
in the countries west of India the conversion of Mohammedans

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 49)