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Several peoples, distributed over fairly distinct zones, inhabit
these fastnesses. On the west we have the Greeks, inclined to
commerce and close to a seaboard ; they may be found struggling
upwards to the spine of the range and even in a sporadic manner
upon its southern slopes. P'urther east dwell the Lazis, a wild
people ; and their neighbours, the Ajars, in the mountains behind
Batum. These are succeeded by a population of Georgian
shepherds and small cultivators, whose picturesque chalets are
surrounded with Indian corn.

It remains to follow the extension of the mountains of the
northern border during their progress eastwards from the Borjom
gorge. The comparative narrowness of the belt in the neighbour-
hood of that great cleft is explained by the fracture of the arc to
the south of this region and the covering up of its more southerly
members by volcanic emissions. But this decrease in width is to
some extent balanced by the propinquity of the Caucasus. It is



Geographical 433

in this neighbourhood that the single link connecting the belt
with Caucasus stretches across the Georgian depression, dividing
the Rion from the Kur ; it may be known as the Meschic linking
chain. East of this barrier the vegetation diminishes in luxuri-
ance. The Akhaltsykh-Imeritian range is continued beyond the
gorge by the latitudinal Trialethian chain — a system of which
the backbone is formed by the Arjevan ridge, and which is
bounded on three sides by the course of the Kur. A branch of
this system is seen to continue the direction of the Pontic range,
inclining off at a sharp angle from the principal elevation to form
the valley of the Gujaretis. It culminates in the peaks of the
Sanislo group at an extreme height of 9350 feet, and sinks
beneath the lavas of the plateau region. The Trialethian
mountains have undergone a process of uptilt, which has caused
them to fall away abruptly towards the north and to form terraces
of plateau-like character on the south.

Just as on the west we were constrained to draw the natural
frontier inwards from the spine of the Pontic range, so on the east
the next successors of the Trialethian ridges lie outside the proper
boundary of the Armenian plains. A glance at the map will
show that a dislocation of the natural features has taken place in
this region. The inner arc, so clearly defined on the one side by
the Pontic chain and on the other by the Shah Dagh, overlooking
Lake Gokcheh, has snapped during the process of bending over ;
and the survivors of the catastrophe, the ridges which obstruct
the Khram and the Somketian mountains, are constrained to play a
subordinate part. The water-parting and principal elevation is
composed of volcanoes, reared in a meridional direction. What
an impressive analogy to the phenomena on the side of the Black
Sea ! These volcanoes pursue two lines, one line close behind the
other, and the outer or more easterly far the longer of the two.
It is the outer series, known as the Gori Mokri, or wet mountains,
that constitute the border of the Armenian highlands on this side.
The traveller who journeys westwards from the plateau of Zalka
(5000 feet) up the elevated valley of the river Kzia to the little
upland plain of the same name (7000 feet)^ will be treading on
the dividing line between the folded mountains of the Trialethian
system and the meridional volcanic series. On his left hand he
will admire the shapely cone of Tawkoteli (92 1 i feet), which

' This must be a most interesting approach to Armenia from the side of Tiflis, and
is worth suggesting to the lover of unbeaten tracks.

VOL. I 2 F



434 Armenia

constitutes the most northerly of these volcanic elevations. The
barrier is continued southwards through the Samsar Dagh (10,770
feet) to the Daly Dagh ; and thence along the eastern shore of
the lonely lake of Toporovan (6875 feet) to the dual crown of
Agrikar (9765 feet) and to the conical summit of the Emlekli
Dagh (10,016 feet). The sequence ends in the heights of
Karakach (over 10,000 feet), of which the southerly extension is
interrupted by the latitudinal ridges of Aglagan and Shishtapa.
But the border is protracted along the parting of the waters into
the westerly extremities of the Pambak chain.

We may, perhaps, regard this chain as the most southerly
of the latitudinal ridges which begin on the north with the
Akhaltsykh-Imeritian and Trialethian systems. It extends the
area of the highlands for some distance towards the east, when,
after commencing to incline in an east-south-easterly direction,
it effects a junction with the Shah Dagh. This last-named
ridge takes the frontier along the eastern shore of Lake Gokcheh
to the confines of Karabagh ; and the elevation may be traced
through the spine of the northern Karabagh mountains across
the Kur to the range which faces the Caspian Sea. But Kara-
bagh may be regarded as a separate geographical unit, combining
in miniature many of the characteristics of the Armenian
highlands — an inner plateau region flanked by peripheral ranges.
The immemorial home of Armenian inhabitants, the seat of
Tartar immigrants and the happy hunting-ground of nomad Kurds,
it constitutes a solid outer buttress to Armenia on the side of
the Caspian.^ The true boundary must be taken southwards
from the Ginal Dagh (over 11,000 feet) to the Kety Dagh,
where it forms a loop towards the west ; and, after almost
encircling an upland sheet of water, called the Ala Gol, is
protracted through the heights of Sir-er-syrchaly (11,298 feet)
and Salvarty (10,422 feet) to the valley of the Araxes at Migry
just east of Ordubad. The Karadagh mountains on the southern
bank of the river continue the ridges of Karabagh ; and the
natural frontier is pushed westwards up the course of the Araxes
as far as the village of Julfa. From this point you have the
choice of two methods of demarcation, both of which repose on

1 Karabagh is portrayed to us from various points of view by Smith and Dwight,
Missionary Researches in Armenia, London, 1834, letters ix.-xiii. ; Radde, G.,
Karabagh in Peterniamt's Mitt., Ergiinzungsheft No. 1 00, Gotha, 1 890; Al;ich, H.,c/.
infra cit., part iii. p. 4 ; Madame B. Chantre, A t ravers PArm^fiie Russe, Paris,
1893, chs. iv.-viii.



Geograph ical 435

geographical facts. The line may be taken south-eastwards
along the marginal ridge of the Karadagh to the water-parting
between the basin of the Araxes on the one side and that
of Lake Urmi on the other. This parting is of little
orographical relief, but it would conduct the frontier almost in
a straight line to the serried ridges of the southern peripheral
zone on the south of Lake Van/ Or the more pronounced
bulwark between the Lake Van and Lower Araxes basins may
seem to constitute the true boundary of the Armenian country.
In this case an arbitrary line must be drawn from behind
Bayazid, leading from the crest of these mountains, which at
present constitute the Turko- Persian frontier to our original
starting-point, Julfa. My reader will observe that we have
left the barrier of the northern peripheral mountains, to explore
the less certain limits on the side of Persia.

We have now pursued the northern border of the Armenian
highlands from the coast of the Black Sea to that of the Caspian,
where the belt passes over into the mountains framing Persia
upon the north to be protracted into the Hindu Kush. The
corresponding southern zone is much more simple of feature ;
but it lies outside the province of the present chapter, being
included, throughout its entire extension along these highlands,
within Turkish territory. Between the northern and southern
zones of peripheral mountains several distinct but minor members
of the orographical system we have been examining furrow the
surface of the tableland. These will receive their proper attention
in the companion chapter of the second volume, situated as they
are for the most part beyond the limits of our present survey.
But one of them may be traced to the commanding elevation
which determines the valley of the Araxes during its passage
through Chaldiran to the confluence of the Arpa Chai ; and it
is this range — for it deserves to be described as a range — that
not only constitutes the present frontier between the Russian
and Turkish Empires, but in fact divides the area of Armenia
into two parts. You must either cross the spine of this chain,

1 This demarcation has been adopted by Herrmann Abich, who, however, would
include the Karadagh. He speaks of the elevation which may be traced from the
neighbourhood of Ardabil in Persia through the volcano of Savalan all the way to the
mountains south of Lake \'an as the "natural physical frontier between Armenia and
Azerbaijan " and as the " southern border chain of Great Armenia." But be is pressing
the word chain a little unduly. See Geologische Forschiingen in den kaiik. Ldndcrn,
Vienna, 1882, part ii., introduction, pp. 10 and li.



436 Armenia

which describes a symmetrical curve, or follow along the plains
at its northern or southern flanks, should you desire to pass from
the plateau region on the north and east to the corresponding
districts on the south and west. In the preceding chapter we
have become familiar with some of its interesting features ; and
we have been introduced to it under the general name of the
Ararat system or Aghri Dagh. Shatin Dagh is another name
under which its westerly portion is designated by some writers,
and which is scarcely less well qualified to express its ruggedness.
This range carries the natural frontier between the two divisions
from the Kuseh Dagh (i 1,262 feet) in the west to Little Ararat
(12,840 feet) in the east.

It will thus be seen that the present area of Russian Armenia
corresponds in a remarkable manner with the limits assigned by
Nature to the more north-easterly of the tv\'o extensive regions
into which she has parcelled Armenian soil. The Russian frontier
is drawn from the coast of the Black Sea along the water-parting
of the tributaries to the western bank of the Lower Chorokh
through the peripheral region, and west of the town of Olti,
to the Armenian border at the Chakhar Dagh. Thence it is
taken across the Araxes to the spine of the Aghri or Shatin
Dagh just north-west of the dome of Kuseh Dagh. It follows
the spine of the range to the neighbourhood of Great Ararat,
whose hallowed summit it embraces within the dominions of the
Tsar. From the crest of the Little Ararat, whose south-eastern
slopes are left to Persia, it reaches across the plain to the right
bank of the Araxes a little below the famous monastery of
Khor Virap. The Araxes forms the boundary between the
Russian and Persian Empires from this point to near its confluence
with the Kur.

It is a misleading, nay, a false conception of natural features
to distribute the surface of the plateau region into a number of
distinct geographical units. That is a method which is favoured
by Russian sciolists with political connections in their endeavour
to confuse the essential unity of a country which Russia has not
yet fully absorbed. Enter this region where you will and with
the eyes of any qualified traveller, the same or similar impressive
characteristics will at once appeal to the mind. The German
scientist Koch has well described these idiosyncrasies as they
may be observed from the marginal districts on the west. After
a long and laborious climb from the valley of Ardanuch fiSoo



Geograph tea I 437

feet) to the summit of the pass which leads to Ardahan (at least
7000 feet), he was astonished to observe that instead of a rounded
ridge, descending with more or less abruptness to lower levels on
the further side, the elevation upon which he stood was continued
towards the east by the gentle slope of a lofty plateau. " Here
was the commencement," he says, " of the plateau which slopes
away from the pass, and which is usually called the Armenian
plateau." The same traveller journeyed back into the Chorokh
region from the highlands of Goleh on the south of Ardahan.
On this occasion he crossed the water-parting at the Kanly Dagh
between Ardahan and Olti. He tells us that it consists of a
narrow ridge with red, porphyritic rocks. He describes the
double prospect from the summit, with its contrast of forms and
impressions. On the one side, towards the Kur, a scarcely per-
ceptible incline, forming upland valleys after a descent of only
some 1500 feet, and leading over to vague and vaulted heights.
On the other, in the direction of Olti, rent mountains, gaping
ravines — nowhere a gentle, convex shape. Where he was placed
the climate was raw, even in early September, and scarcely
tempered by a southern sun. Deep down, and far away, they
could see the river of Olti, winding like a snake through a maze
of sheltered valleys.^ The language in which Herrmann Abich
describes his impressions, coming from the side of Georgia up
the valley of the Akstafa, and reaching the pass (735 5 feet) over
the eastern marginal heights between the village of Bekant and
the town of Alexandropol, is not dissimilar to that of Koch.
He speaks of the strong contrast between the physical character-
istics of the plateau region before him and those of the peripheral
mountains he was leaving behind. He describes the prevailing
horizontality of the land -forms which he overlooked, extending
to the limits of sight. In another place he alludes to the lofty,
rim-like elevation with which " the Armenian plateau breaks away
to the valleys of Ajara." '' I might multiply the instances in
which the most competent observers have at the same time
recognised the unity of the plateau region and its sharp distinction
from the peripheral mountains.

My reader has journeyed with me from the Zikar Pass to
Akhaltsykh and Akhalkalaki ; from the canon of the Toporovan

1 Karl Koch, Reise im pontischen Gehirgc itnd tiirkischcn Aniicnieii, Weimar, 1846,
pp. 203-4.

- Herrmann Abich, Geologische Forschiingen in den kaiik. Laitdcru, Vienna, 1S82
and 1887, part ii. pp. 20-21, part iii. p. 81.



438 Armenia

river and the basin of the Kur to the streams which constitute
the most northerly sources of the Araxes. We have crossed the
country from Alexandropol to Erivan, from Erivan to Kars, from
Kars to Kagyzman. What an impressive unity underHes the
pleasing diversity of the landscapes, which melt into one another
as you pass ! The partings of the waters are formed by slopes
which you perceive with difficulty, so gradual has been the rise
and the decline. The territories of Akhaltsykh, Akhalkalaki,
Alexandropol, Kars and Ardahan are all bound up together
in the distribution of the space, and share features in common
to a much greater extent than they are distinguished by local
idiosyncrasies. The mountains, of which the outlines are never
absent from the landscape — soft, long-drawn, convex shapes —
stand on the floor of the tableland, like pieces upon a chessboard,
which one may move from square to square. Such are the radial
mass of Dochus Punar near Akhaltsykh (over 9500 feet), the
two considerable elevations which enclose Lake Chaldir (Akhbaba
Dagh, 9973 feet ; Kisir Dagh, 10,472 feet), and even the colossal
Alagoz (13,436 feet). All are due to volcanic action, quite
recent in geological time ; and a similar origin belongs to the
minor shapes which stud the country like bubbles upon a cooling
body. Mountains of this character perform the function of
boundary columns between the various districts, great and small.
They determine but do not separate. How different in form and
function from the folded ridges of the peripheral region, among
which a single example of such recent volcanic fabrics could
seldom be observed.

If we desire for convenience to partition the plateau region
which is Russian Armenia, it falls most naturally into two spheres.
The one will comprise a rectangular area, of which the limits on
the west and east are the meridional volcanic water-partings from
the Soghanlu Dagh to the heights of Sakulaperdi on one side and
from the Karakach Dagh to Tawkoteli on the other. The
southern boundary of this area will be the canon of the Araxes
from its entrance into Russian territory to below the confluence
of the Arpa Chai. Towards the north it includes the districts as
far as the Sanislo extension of the Trialethian mountains and the
Akhaltsykh-Imeritian border chain. The vast circumference of
Alagoz is placed on its south-eastern confines, sending out long
feelers towards the left bank of the Arpa Chai, pushing back the
mountains of the eastern border and, as it were, propping up the



Geographical 439

highlands on the north-west. This volcano may be said to lead
over to the second sphere, which is for a great part an area of
considerable depression, and, as compared with the longitudinal
axis and symmetrical shape of its companion, is of irregular form
with the greatest length from north-west to south-east. These
two spheres are distinguished by features which are sufficiently
contrasted to suggest a double image to the mind.

I. I have invited attention to the characteristics which
Armenia shares in common with her neighbours in the series of
the Asiatic tablelands, Persia on the east and Asia Minor on the
west. In the brief survey to which I proceed of the plateau
region within the Russian frontier it is necessary at the outset to
remark upon some of the idiosyncrasies which distinguish Armenia
as a whole from the other members of the series. There is in
the first place the far greater elevation, investing her territory
with the attributes of a roof to the adjacent countries, from which
the waters gather to be precipitated in different directions, and to
find their way not only to the Black Sea and the Caspian but
also by almost endless stages to the Persian Gulf The promi-
nent part which has been played by recent volcanic action is
another and not less impressive phenomenon. Which of her
neighbours could compete with her in this respect ? Where
could one meet with an Ararat, a Sipan and a Nimrud, to say
nothing of an Alagoz and a Bingol ? Both these manifestations
are exemplified in a striking manner by the surface features of
the rectangular area of the more northerly sphere.

The higher levels of this region are situated at an altitude
of some 7000 feet above the sea. I am speaking not of the
mountains but of the plains. The uplands which give rise to the
Kur in the district of Goleh must come very near to this level.
The parting of the waters of the Kur and Araxes near the village
of Shishtapa, in an open landscape which may be compared to
rolling downs, lies at about 7000 feet. Lake Chaldir has an
elevation of 6522 feet ; while of the smaller sheets of water Lake
Toporovan, with 6Z']6 feet, and the Arpa Gol, with 6706 feet,
slightly better this already considerable figure. Where the
plateau falls away to the abysmal canon of the Araxes its edge
is nearly 6500 feet high. The town of Ardahan stands at a level
of 5840 feet and Kars of 5700 feet Alexandropol, the principal
city, occupies the hollow of a vast basin -like plain ; yet it is over
5000 feet above the sea. These elevations are much greater than



440 Armenia

the average even in Persia, though they are to a certain extent
maintained in the frontier province of Azerbaijan and along the
edge of the southern peripheral mountains (Tabriz, 4650 feet ;
but Tehran, 3800 feet ; Ispahan, 5070 feet).

The process of gradual uplift of the region by earth move-
ments has been attended by eruptive action, flooding the country
with volcanic matter, levelling inequalities of the ground and
adding to the height. It has been estimated that the volcanic
deposits laid bare in the ravines of the streams which descend
from the radial Dochus Punar attain a depth of hundreds of
yards.^ A similar phenomenon is made manifest in the canon of
the Araxes — a cleft which in the neighbourhood of the village
of Armutli, west of Kagyzman, has a depth of about 2000 feet
and a width on top of at least a mile." There the Miocene
sedimentary deposits are overlaid with tuffs and lavas in a belt
over 300 yards deep.^ The points of emission of volcanic matter
are in some cases true volcanoes, in others mere pustules or fissures
of varying extent. One or other of these features is never absent
from the landscape. But the fires are extinct ; the viscous seas
have long been solid ; not a breath of smoke rises from the stark
summits which erewhile were wreathed with vapours reflecting
the glow of the flames beneath.

The distribution of such shapes due to volcanic agency may
often appear arbitrary to an unpractised traveller. Here a group
of stately forms resembling the giants of a forest, there a number
of insignificant eminences representing the small fry. All will be
found to be subject to definite and ascertainable principles, the
nature of which becomes clearer at each step forward of scientific
research. Perhaps the most interesting principle which we see
operative in this region is the outcrop of volcanoes along merid-
ional lines. Such groups pursue a course at right angles to the
strike of the rocks within the area of the peripheral mountains.
In this connection we may recall the fact that the plateau region
with which we are dealing occupies the apex of the bend over of
the inner arc. Lines of fracture have been thrown out at right
angles to the folding, and eruptive agency has fastened upon
these weakened zones of the earth's crust. Not only may these
lines be traced on the west and east of the plateau, of which,
indeed, they have largely determined the shape, but also well

1 Abich, op. cit. part iii. r. 18. - ll>id. part ii. p. 138.

^ Ibid, part ii. p. 139.



Gcograph ical 441

inside of the marginal districts. In the west we have the
Soghanlu group stretching north to Allah Akbar (10,218 feet),
whence the direction is continued through the Ueurli Dagh (9055
feet) and the Arzian Dagh to the Chibukh-Naryn-Bashi Dagh.
There the volcanic water-parting effects a junction with the
Akhaltsykh-Imeritian chain in the ridge of the Sakulaperdi
Dagh. In the east we have already followed the row of
marginal volcanoes from Tawkoteli to Karakach. Inside these
series we recognise this same north -south direction in the
Abul-Samsar system, in the mountains on either side of Lake
Chaldir, and, lastly, in the connection which we can scarcely err
in assuming between the Kisir Dagh, overlooking the westerly
shore of this lake, and its neighbour on the north, the Dochus
Punar.

Compared with Alagoz and Ararat even the absolute height
of these mountains may be termed insignificant. The lofty level
of the plains from which their slopes gather robs them of several
thousand feet. Great Abul, with an altitude of nearly 1 1,000 feet,
rises from a plain which itself lies at an elevation of 5 500 feet.
The dome-shaped vaultings of the Soghanlu Dagh near some of
the sources of the Kars river are almost entirely shorn of their
considerable stature by the height of the adjacent downs. In
such surroundings the mountains appear to the eye as little more
than hills.

The rivers as a rule flow in deep canons which they have
eroded in the volcanic soil. Their head waters meander over
grassy downs. Temperately they thread their way over the
uplands or in the canons, except where blocks of lava may have
tumbled into the trough, causing the stream to wreathe and hiss.
You pass from district to district either along such natural
avenues, with the towering cliffs, for the most part bare, on either
hand ; or, emerging from the weird scene within the hollow, over
the surface of almost limitless plains. Not a tree in the landscape,
and only patches of fallow and stubble, without a boundary, with
rarely a village discernible from afar.

From time to time you may obtain a glimpse of the
peripheral mountains — serrated summits, bush-grown slopes.
These contrast to the soft convexities of the forms about you
and the vaultings of the volcanic eminences. The surface of the
friable soil is devoid of wood and almost of vegetation ; and the
volcanic matter of which it is composed produces tints of pink



442 Armenia

and ochre upon which the shadows lie transparent and thin. The
rarefied atmosphere of these high regions braces the faculties
and sharpens the senses ; and whatever clouds may have climbed
the barrier of the peripheral ranges are suspended high in the
heaven, seldom obscuring the brilliant sun. During winter the
land is covered with snow.

It is a country admirably adapted to grow cereals. The



Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 46 of 49)