|KISH VILLAGE, SHAKI DISTRICT, REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN||1 2|
Note: We have prepared the present material out of our deep concern over the fact that the Norwegian scholars have entered into collaboration with their Azerbaijani colleagues since 2000, aiming at the restoration of the Armenian church of St. Yeghishe (also known by the name of Sourb Astvatzatzin, i.e. Holy Virgin) situated in Kish Village. Unaware of the history of the region in general and that of the village in particular, the Norwegians take the false theories put forward by the Azerbaijani "scholars" for granted without further investigation into the relevant historical sources: they keep alleging that the church is a monument of Christian Albanian culture, namely it was created by the Christian ancestors of the present-day Azerbaijani people. The material on the history of Kish Village and its church pursues the aim of exposing the falsifications of the Azerbaijani "scholars" who try to "create" their own history for purely political purposes.
Location. Kish is situated on the right bank of the river Kish, 6 kms north of Shaki City, at an altitude of 1,180 metres above sea level.
The Confusion Respecting the Toponyms of Kish and Gis. Archbishop Sargis Jalaliants, a prominent topographer, was the first to muddle up the historical village of Kish with Gis_*1, but later the same confusion also occurred in other researchers' works _*2. Led astray by the phonetic similarity between the toponyms of Gis' and Kish,' they presented the history of Gis Settlement, Hayots Aghvank, as that of Kish Village, located in Boon Aghvank, thus giving rise to a lot of misunderstanding., thus giving rise to a lot of misunderstanding.
B. Ulubabian was the first scholar to distinguish between Kish and Gis, taking into consideration the records provided by different sources _*3.
The Geographical Position of Gis. According to Movses Kaghankatvatsi, the settlement was situated "...in a swampy, salt-rich site which was called Gis..." _*4
This suggests that Gis was located in a boggy area abounding in salt, features characteristic of plains: in contrast to that, Kish, that was surrounded by wooded mountains, was situated on the right bank of the sweet, deep river Kish, at the south-western foot of the Grand Caucasian Mountain Range.
Similar natural conditions are typical of Beghamej District extending on the right bank of the river Kur, "... called Beghmej ... in a marshy area boasting a safe position, between the cities of Partaw and Belukan..." _*5
Kaghankatvatsi also mentions a number of other settlements located in Uti Province: Partaw, Dyutakan, Kaghankatuyk, Khaghkhagh, Sahar, Bagnats and Gis.
A Historical Introduction. / One of the earliest records to mention the name of Kish, a historical Armenian settlement, is found in the annals by Georgian Bishop Kyurile Donauri dating as far back as 1310 _*6 (interestingly enough, it is referred to as Kish-Nukhi as if to be differentiated from another settlement of the same name).
Faced with a death threat, the Armenians of Kish had to embrace Islam in 1727, some records stating the following with that regard:
...once the inhabitants of the villages were Armenians who converted to Islam under the khans' tyranny in the last few centuries. Even their faces bear the evident features of their Armenian identity, the elderly people also confessing it. A lot of Armenian names can still be found among their family names such as Sargis oghli, Karapet oghli, Avanes oghli, etc. The local people, particularly the women, venerate the monastery and frequently go there on pilgrimage with offerings and candles... _*7
...its inhabitants were once Armenians as the rest, but they renounced their religion and language fearing the barbarians. Their names, however, have been preserved up to the present: Karapet oghli, Margar oghli, Grigor oghli, etc. The aged people recollect that their fathers used to speak Armenian, St. Yeghishe the Apostle's Monastery, located in this village, being their guardian... _*8
...Gis Village, whose Armenian inhabitants converted to Islam together with the other inhabitants of the district, ... _*9
That village was populated by the Armenians some of whom were scattered here and there, escaping the barbarian khans' repression, the others staying there at the cost of repudiating their faith _*10.
After Russia had taken possession of the region, many converts applied to the spiritual authorities for permission to return to the bosom of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 1853 Eyvaz Allahghuliyan, a 32-year-old resident of Kish, wrote the following in his petition addressed to the Armenian clergymen:
My ancestors were Gregory the Enlightener's followers but they were forced to declare themselves Islamite like many others under the tyranny of the Muslims and Lezghins, as Your Supreme Holiness knows _*11.
Population. The available statistical data indicate that Kish was one of the most populous settlements in the region:
...according to some legends, it is the first church built by Yeghishe the Apostle... _*15
Despite this, however, different sources (1310) first of all mention the sanctuary under the name of Sourb Astvatzatzin and not St. Yeghishe _*16.
Most presumably, a still older church used to be located in the site of the present-day monument, which is also suggested by its plan and construction peculiarities. The standing church with its circular tambour does not trace back to a period earlier than the 13th, or 12th centuries (a record attests that it was founded in 1244). The same record whose original source is, unfortunately, unknown, evidences that Kish Village and the local church were devastated as a result of Agha Mohammed's incursion:
St. Yeghishe the Apostle's Monastery, which was built in Kish in 1244 by Archbishop Serapheme, was demolished during Agha-Mahmat khan's invasion _*17.
In 1839 the sanctuary is mentioned in connection with a robbery after which a list of all its movables (merely 10 items) was drawn up, including a chasuble, some surplices, a large copper fan, a copper candlestick, a gilded silver cross with the names of Apostles Thomas and Yeghishe on it, etc. _*18.
In the 1860s Prior Gevorg Aramiants carried out some overhaul in Kish's Monastery: ...Under Aramiants the sanctuary was repaired with the donations of Nukhi's pious believers: its rooms, however, remained incomplete making it impossible for the faithful pilgrims to find shelter there: as a result of that, they faced great difficulties, particularly in rainy weather _*19.
One of the stones of the monastery enclosure bore an inscription commemorating the construction of a section of its wall in 1865. Fortunately, S. Darchinian managed to photograph it in due time in 1973, for we failed to see it during our visit there in 1986.
The inscription (five-line in the Armenian original) reads:
The 17-gaz part of this wall was built in July 1865 with the means of Mkrtich Msiriants from Nukhi in memory of his parents and himself.
In 1874 on Shaki Diocese Leader Vrtanes the Archimandrite's initiative, three monastic rooms as well as the western and northern sections of the ramparts were repaired _*20, G. Mkrtchian donating a Jashots to the sanctuary:
Encouraged by the former, Mr. Grigor Mkrtchian, a city merchant from Handamej Village, Goghtan District, gave Gis Monastery a Jashots in perpetuation of his parents' and his memory _*21.
Between 1884 and 1885, the church roofs were repaired at the expense of 500 rubles _*22, the work being supervised by Diocese Leader Garegin Satunian the Archimandrite:
It is two years since the sanctuary was reconstructed and now it is in a good state of preservation thanks to the endeavours of the Reverend Father Satunian... _*23.