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plains through which the Arpa Chai (grain river) eats its way
to the Araxes constituted one of the granaries of Armenia in
historical times.^ At the present day they have not recovered
from the devastations of the Mussulman peoples, and the Russians
are jealous of allowing the Armenians a free hand. Extraordinary
fertility is induced by the intermixture of the lavas with alluvial
or lacustrine deposits. The black earth of the plains about
Akhalkalaki is famous - ; and the soil in the neighbourhood of
Alexandropol derives its richness from the incidence of a peculiar
kind of lava side by side with the sediment of a former lake.
The southerly extension of these vanished waters is marked by
the belt of high ground extending from Alagoz across the plains
to the Arpa Chai. The river has forced its way through this
elevation between Ani and Magaspert.^

Other effects of the violent disturbance to which the region
has been subjected are manifest on a large scale. Thus all the
way from the Soghanlu Dagh on the south to the neighbourhood
of the mountains of the Ajarson the north the ground has fallen
away to the labyrinth of valleys which feed the Chorokh by what
geologists would call an extensive fault. The edge of the plateau
region stands up boldly upon that side from the levels adjacent
on the west. A still more recent earth movement may be
represented by the uptilt towards the north-east of a considerable
block of country lying between Kars and the junction of the Arpa
with the Araxes. This phenomenon, which recalls a similar
occurrence in the Trialethian district, has occasioned the curious
course of the stream of Kars, which, rising in close vicinity
to the flood of the same river to which ultimately it becomes
tributary, pursues a course almost at right angles to that of the
Araxes for a distance of thirty miles. To the same cause is in
part due the extraordinary elevation of the levels along the

' The old Armenian province of Shirak.

- An analysis of this earth is given by Abich (()/. cit. part iii. p. 49).

3 Abich, op. cit. part ii. pp. 35-46.



Geographical 443

left bank of the Araxes between Armutli and the confluence
of the Arpa Chai.

Besides the last-named stream this lofty stage of the Armenian
tableland gives birth to one of the great rivers of western Asia.
The Kur rises from the highlands on the south of Ardahan,
between the wall of mountain which overlooks Lake Chaldir on
the west and the rim of the plateau region. In Turkish times
this district constituted a separate fief, and was governed by a
hereditary prince of Georgian origin who resided at Urut. The
name of the district, Goleh, still figures on the Russian maps. It
is subject to a rigorous climate, the snow lying during eight
months in some years. Only the hardiest of the cereals come
to maturity ; yet the olive and the pomegranate flourish in the
valley of Artvin, but thirty miles distant, and even at this altitude
and during winter the rays of a southern sun temper the cold.
One of the principal arms of the river comes from the south-west,
and is named the river' of Ardahan ; it is joined by four consider-
able tributaries, of which the most easterly is said by Koch to
have been known to the inhabitants under the name of Kyiirr.^
Even at the present day the Kur is called the river of Ardahan
until its entry into the passage of Borjom. The basin from within
which these various branches gather has a length which may be
computed at eight hours' journey on horseback and a breadth
equivalent to about six hours. It abounds in springs, and marshes
cover its floor. Below Ardahan, where it skirts the base of the
Dochus Punar system, the Kur threads a narrow valley, deeply
buried in the volcanic soil. So it flows past the grottoes of
Vardzia and the Devil's City at Zeda Tmogvi, augmented by
small affluents of which the largest is the Karri Chai. At
Khertvis it is joined by the Toporovan river, bringing the
drainage of the districts on the east, and swirling into the channel
with foam-shot waves. The united volume dwells for a short
space in wider landscapes, until it pierces the extreme base of the
Sanislo branch of the Trialethian mountains, and is again confined
in a narrow valley. Thence it issues upon the plains about
Akhaltsykh, receives assembled tributaries from the northern
border range, and disappears into the gorge of Borjom.

II. A traveller coming from Alexandropol down the stream
of the Arpa or along the valley of the Abaran, further east, can

1 Karl Koch, op. cit. pp. 223 seq. He regards the south-western branch as the most
considerable.



444 Armenia

scarcely fail to become sensible of an appreciable change in
climate and scenery by the time he shall have rounded the
colossal pile of Alagoz. It is not, indeed, a new country or a
new clime. The shapes which rise on the skyline are due to
the same volcanic agency which has imprinted its character upon
the northern landscapes. The shelving away of the ground to
the basin-like depression which receives the Araxes recalls similar
surface features in the northern districts. The rays of the sun
fall from a heaven which remains blue. Clouds are still floating
upon the azure, or are suspended upon the higher outlines.
What has changed is the scale and intensity of the phenomena.
The hills have given place to great mountains, the down-like
expanses to one vast area of sloping ground. Into those dreamy
spaces sweep the forms of the landscape, circled round them for
a visible distance of some sixty miles.

The valley of the Araxes from the neighbourhood of
Sardarabad to that of Julfa — a space of over a hundred miles
— composes nearly one- half of the more southerly sphere of
north-eastern Armenia. We are already so familiar with its
overpowering individuality that it would be turning finished
ground to describe it anew. For many a mile it is only confined
at an immense interval by the fabric of Ararat and the pile of
Alagoz. But, even when the river — a ribbon in the expanse —
has already distanced the Little Ararat, the folds of the landscape
are ample into which it descends. Volcanoes on such a huge
scale as these two Armenian giants could scarcely be expected
to rise save on the margins of a great depression, whether
subsidence may have been the cause or the effect. To the 7000
feet of the plateau region on the north this basin-like plain
opposes a maximum elevation of 3000 feet and a minimum of
something over 2000 feet.

The vine flourishes and is cultivated in these plains of the
Araxes, and fields of castor-oil plant grace the ground. Such
oases with thriving villages soften the lap of the landscape, and
diversify the wide stretches of rich but idle soil which the
network of trenches with their fertilising waters have not yet
reached. Irrigation rather than rainfall is here the productive
agency ; and, indeed, this valley, with a yearly rainfall of only
about six inches, is probably the driest throughout Russian
Transcaucasia. The storms of the Pontic region spend themselves
before reaching this haven ; but they beat against the volcanoes



Geographical 445

of the meridional water-parting on the easterly margin of the
more northerly sphere. Even at Alexandropol the yearly rain-
fall is almost three times as great as in the neighbourhood of
Ararat. And while the climate of the city on the Arpa may
compare with St. Lawrence in North America, that of Erivan
resembles Palermo or Barcelona.^

On the north of this most extensive depression of the surface
of Armenia lies the plateau region supporting Lake Gokcheh.
The axis or greatest length of that expanse of sweet water lies
about parallel to the course of the Araxes, to which it sends a
tributary varying in volume with the season of the year through
a trench-like passage at its south-westerly extremity." On the
north the lake is confined by a long ridge of the peripheral
mountains, and its lofty level (6340 feet) is held up by the
volcanic plateau of Akhmangan, acting as a dam on the side of
the low-lying plains. The Akhmangan region consists of a
gently vaulted platform, interrupted by a series of volcanic
eminences extending over a distance of nearly thirty miles.
Several of their cone-shaped summits attain a height of nearly
I 1,000 feet, and one, the Akh Dagh, of close upon 12,000 feet
above sea-level. An absence of springs, due to the nature of
the volcanic rock, is characteristic not only of this region but
also of that part of the neighbouring Karabagh country which
lies within the embrace of the two mountainous zones.^ In this
respect it contrasts to the well-watered and wooded retreats of
the district of Darachichak to the west of the lake. The
wealthier citizens of Erivan take refuge in those pleasant upland
valleys when the plain of the Araxes has become a furnace under
the rays of a midsummer sun.

The area of the country comprised within the two spheres
of which I have been speaking is about 20,587 square miles.
With the exception of a narrow strip on the right bank of the
Araxes, measuring 15 18 square miles, the entire territory — more
than commensurate with that of Servia — lies within the dominions
of the Tsar.

1 Abich, op. cit. part ii. ]). 23. 2 ggg y^i^ jj_ qJ- (]-^g present work, Ch. W . p. 44.

3 Abich, op. lit. part ii. pp. 9 and 38.



CHAPTER XXII

STATISTICAL AND POLITICAL

The solid block of territory over which Russia now rules on the
tableland of Armenia is neither a new acquisition nor the fruit
of a single conquest. At the commencement of the last century
she gained a foothold upon it by the voluntary accession of the
Georgian kingdom and its constitution into a Russian province
in 1802. This event, the outcome of the folly of the Mussulman
powers, who had driven the Christians to despair, was followed
by the rapid expansion of the northern empire in these countries
as the result of successful war. Karabagh was taken from Persia
in 181 3, and the important khanate of Erivan in 1828; from
Turkey, the district of Akhaltsykh in 1829, and the fortress and
province of Kars in 1878. Appearing as a deliverer of the
Christian peoples and profiting by their aid, Russia has succeeded
in advancing her border beyond the Araxes and to the threshold
of Erzerum, and in establishing herself behind a well-rounded
frontier which comprises the venerated mountain of Armenia as
well as the seat of the supreme spiritual government to which
the Armenians bow.

The Armenian provinces constitute a part of the great adminis-
trative system of the Caucasus, which is presided over by a single
Governor-General. Formerly it was usual to appoint a Grand
Duke to this important post, who exercised, not without advantage
to the country, a very large measure of personal initiative. At
the present day it is occupied by a nobleman of high rank ; but
his administration has become much more intimately connected
with the bureaucratic machine which is worked from St. Peters-
burg. He remains, however, the principal civil and militar}-
authority in the Caucasus, which consists of no less then twelve
Governments, and is divided into North Caucasus and Trans-



Statistical and Political



447



Caucasia. North Caucasus is composed of the Governments of
Kuban, Terek and Stavropol ; while the Governments of Cher-
nomorsk (a narrow strip of coast at the foot of the Caucasus range
between Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and a point a little north
of Pitsunda), Kutais, Tiflis, Zakataly, Daghestan, Baku, Elizabetpol,
Erivan and Kars are embraced under the title of Transcaucasia.
Five of the Governments, namely Kuban, Terek, Daghestan,
Zakataly and Kars, are still in the military stage of administration.
The territories of North Caucasus lie quite outside the scope of
the present work ; and the Government of Daghestan ought more
properly to be classed with the Northern Governments, lying as it
does to the north of the main ridge of the Caucasus range. To
the same category belong certain districts of the Government of
Baku ; but for statistical purposes it is advisable to retain them
under Transcaucasia, in order to preserve the unity of the
Government, On the other hand, the little Government of
Chernomorsk may either be left out of account, or be included
under North Caucasus. Transcaucasia will thus consist of seven
Governments, of which the names and population, according to
the two last censuses of 1886 and of 1897, are exhibited in
the following table. I must explain that the figures of 1897
have not yet been split up into the different racial elements of
which the populations of the various Governments are composed.

TABLE I. — Population of Russian Transcaucasia
(including Russian Armenia)




1 The Statistics of 1886 underestimate the population of Tiflis town. I have
corrected them on the assumption that the population of the city in 1 886 was 145,731.
See the Caucasus Calendar for 1893, p. 20.

2 I have substituted the figures of 1891 for those of 1S86. The former are given in
the Caucasus Calendar for 1893, p. 43.



448 Armenia

The admirable volume of statistics for Transcaucasia which
we owe to the labours of M. de Seidlitz, and which was published
at Tiflis by order of the civil government in i 893, supplies us with
the most detailed information concerning these Russian provinces
— the numbers of the different races and of the votaries of the
various religious sects, and how the inhabitants may be classed
and labelled as nobles or clergy, as tradesmen or as tillers of the
soil. The figures are derived from the census of 1886, and we
are thus presented with a fascinating statistical picture of the
country towards the close of the nineteenth century. I do not
propose to spoil the effect of his ingenious combinations by trans-
ferring them to my own pages in a mangled form ; or to forestall
the pleasure which the perusal of his serried columns is sure to
bring to every well-regulated mind. But their aid will be useful,
and indeed indispensable, in fixing upon a surer foundation those
more general conceptions and conclusions which are suggested by
the experience of travel. The country immediately on the north
of the Armenian tableland — the plain of the Rion on the north-
west, and the wide trough of the Kur on the north — is inhabited by
various branches of the Georgian family and by settlers of Tartar
race ; while the Caucasus itself, the northern boundary of the whole
geographical system, contains within its countless recesses an
Homeric catalogue of nations whose names it is difficult to
pronounce and whose languages are as mysterious as their names.
Of a total population in Transcaucasia of 4,1 86,000, the Armenians
numbered upwards of 962,000 souls in 1886, or a proportion
of nearly one quarter. But the importance of the Armenian
element must be measured not so much by its numerical strength
as by the solidarity of the Armenian people when compared to
the peoples among whom they live. The Armenians are little
divided by religious differences ; the Roman Catholics are a
mere handful among the solid ranks of the Gregorians ; and the
Gregorian Church is not only the symbol of national existence,
but the stronghold of national hopes. Two other races in Trans-
caucasia slightly exceed the Armenians in number ; the Tartars
with 1,1 39,000, including Daghestan, and the different divisions
of the Georgian family who number over a million souls. But
the bitter religious antipathies of Sunni and Shiah divide the
Tartars, and the Georgians are in a period of transition from
their old feudal s}'stem to a new and more settled social order,
while the union of their Church with the Orthodox Church of



Statistical and Political 449

Russia has deprived them of the natural rallying point for that com-
munity of sentiment which is based on a consciousness of race pride.
Should the Russians become possessed of the Armenian provinces
of the Turkish Empire, the most numerous as well as the most
solid of the elements of population in Transcaucasia will be
furnished by the Armenian race.

The distribution of the Armenians within the present limits of
Russian Transcaucasia, but outside the area of the Armenian
tableland, may be presented in a concise manner as follows :• —
In the Government of Elizabetpol, which includes Karabagh, they
number 258,000; but only in the Governmental divisions of
Shusha and Zangezur, that is to say in the tract of country
between the Araxes on the east and the south-eastern shore of Lake
Sevan on the west, do they constitute the numerically preponder-
ating race ; while in the other divisions and in the whole
Government they are largely outnumbered by the Tartars.
The Government of Tiflis contains nearly 212,000 Armenians, of
whom I shall include 99,000 in my estimate for the tableland
itself; the remainder are distributed over the other divisions of
the Government, and in the town of Tiflis, where they attain the
imposing number of 55,000 among a total population for the
nineties of 145,000 souls. In the Government of Baku, out of a
total Armenian population of 55,000 there are over 24,000 in
the town of Baku itself, where they are engaged in commerce
and in the oil works ; they are also numerous in the town and
district of Shemakha, which lies to the west of Baku. In the
Government of Kutais they only number 16,000, and most of
these reside in the towns.

The Armenians, being a commercial and industrial as well
as an agricultural people, have spread themselves outside the
natural limits of their country, attracted to the growing centres
of industry upon its confines. They contribute a valuable and
increasing element to the urban populations. But it is only when
we have crossed the mountains which separate their highlands
from the rest of Transcaucasia that we become conscious of
treading upon Armenian soil. Throughout its extension from
Akhalkalaki and Alexandropol on the north-east to Egin
and Kharput on the south-west, that elevated stage of the
Asiatic tablelands which we may still call Armenia bears the
imprint of the individuality of the Armenian people to a greater
degree than of any other race. In the immense expanse of these
VOL. I 2 G



45 o Anne Ilia

Armenian landscapes — where blue lakes lie lapped in treeless
plains, swelling with ochreous surface from hummock to hill, from
hill to some long descending mountain outline that sweeps from
the summit of a snow-crowned cone — the note which is uttered
by man is lost. Yet there is scarcely a remote valley or lonely
island which does not attract a band of pilgrims to worship in
the beautiful monasteries which date from the times of the kings
of Armenia and keep alive the story of the past. The fertile
ground is for the most part tilled by an Armenian peasantry,
whose burrows, resembling large ant-hills, are scarcely perceptible
in the scene. All the machinery of whatever civilisation the land
may possess is furnished by Armenians. The language which
you most often hear is the somewhat harsh Armenian tongue ;
the legends and historical memories which attach to the great
works of Nature have for the most part an Armenian origin.
Over the area of the Armenian tableland, as it is delimited in the
present work, these people are found in nearly double the numbers
of any other race. In the preceding chapter 1 have established
the natural frontiers of the country within Russian territory ;
and in the companion chapter of the second volume I shall
hope to perform the same task in respect of the Turkish area.
Our present concern is with the population of the Russian
provinces of the tableland, which I have endeavoured to exhibit
according to its various racial elements in the following tabular
statement.

The little map, with which I accompany this table, will make
plain to my reader the statistical area with which we are dealing.
He will observe that it agrees in a general manner with the area
enclosed by the natural frontier. It would not be possible to
adapt exactly the statistical information at our disposal, based as
it is upon Governmental units, to the geographical boundaries
represented by the natural frontier ; but those boundaries are so
strongly marked that they correspond pretty closely with those
of the administrative divisions. Only in two cases does the
statistical area, as shown in the map within Russian territory,
diverge in a marked degree from the geographical ; and in both
these cases it would have been easy to have made them approxi-
mately coincide. The one occurs about south of Tiflis, where I
have preferred to include the ouezde of Borchali within the
statistical area. It comprises a transitional region between the
natural frontier and the valley of the Kur, presenting many of



Statistical ami Political



451



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e2


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Georgians .

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Total



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Statistical and Political 453

the characteristics of the tableland, and inhabited in considerable
numbers by Armenians. The other is furnished by the adminis-
trative division of Olti, belonging to the Government of Kars.
My reason for retaining it is principally because it corresponds
on the east to the eastern limits of the Turkish vilayet of
Erzerum on the west. Both these Governments, of Kars and
of Erzerum, overlap into the Chorokh region ; and in the case
of Erzerum I have not been able to determine the exact
boundaries of the overlapping administrative units. With these
exceptions the natural area of the Armenian provinces in Russia
corresponds fairly closely with the area comprised by the
Governments of Erivan and Kars together with the ouezdes of
Akhaltsykh, Akhalkalaki and Borchali, belonging to the Govern-
ment of Tiflis. Karabagh I have excluded both from the geo-
graphical and from the statistical area, representing as it does an
Armenia in miniature on the side of the Caspian Sea.

Further analysis of the figures which have just been presented
would show that the stronghold of the xArmenians, the locality
in which they are most numerous, is the rich country through
which the Arpa Chai flows on its way to join the middle course
of the Araxes. There is situated the fortress and modern town
of Alexandropol, which is inhabited almost exclusively by
Armenians ; and there are placed, a little further south, the
remains of the ancient city of Ani, of which the deserted site still
testifies to the state and splendour of their kings. The upland
plains about Akhalkalaki on the north are dotted with Armenian
villages ; while the valley of the Araxes on the south, from
Kagyzman to Erivan, and especially in the district of Edgmiatsin,
contains a considerable Armenian population. The town and
district of Novo-Bayazet, on the western shore of Lake Sevan,
is for the greater part Armenian. On the other hand, the eastern
portion of the Araxes valley, commencing from the town of
Ordubad, is held in large numbers by the Tartars, who run the
Armenians close in the extensive and important area which is
covered by the Government of Erivan. It must be remembered,
in reference to the Armenian population of the Russian provinces,
that their numbers have been considerably augmented by emigra-
tion from Turkey and Persia. It is computed that not less than
10,000 families from the district of Erzerum followed the Russian
army out of Turkey in 1829 ; and numbers of their countrymen
— it is said not less than 40,000 — had already accompanied the



454 Anne Ilia

same force from the frontier districts of Persia when it retired
from Tabriz at the Peace of Turkomanchai.

Next to the Armenians, the most numerous element in the
population are the Tartars, who extend from the Persian frontier
up the valley of the Araxes, and cover with their settlements the
eastern districts of the plateau region and the whole of Karabagh.



Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 47 of 49)