Gegham M. Badalyan
Key words – Headmost villages, Holoyan-Petoyan, Talvorik, Khut-Brnashen, Hazo city, Khulp, Isyan princedom, Kharzan princedom, Taghi glukh, vicar church of Karmrak Surb Nshan, Aver meidan, Avekhu district, Tsaprkoru district, Gomotz district, St. John The Baptist of Amirdol, Khndrakatar Surb Astvatsatsin.
This article is devoted to the historical-geographical district of Sasun and to the town Bitlis. The district of Sasun, which occupies the most part of the southwestern province of Bitlis, has a unique place in the history of Armenia. Until the beginning of the 20th century, Sasun was the place where fragments of Armenian statehood were preserved. Semi-independent Armenian rule of Sasun was a federation of several noble families, where the dominant family was the Holo dynasty (Peto) with its branches. In Sasun an important role was also played by the Princes (Ishkhans) of Talvorik, Kajarents, Bermtsi and Asetsi. It should be noted that in some parts of Sasun (Khut-Brnashen, Kharzan or inland Sasun) in the 18-19th centuries there were mixed-national autonomous units, where, equally with the Armenians, the Yezidis and Kurds, who had penetrated into Sasun in the 15th and 16th centuries, had managerial rights. It should also be noted that members of the local Armenian council retained their high position and privileges in the west of Sasun (Koghb or Khulp) and in the southeast (Hazo-Khabiljos or Hazvan), where semi-independent Kurdish governments (hükümet) were formed. The most important role of Sasun is also visible in the preservation of the Armenian armed forces. A number of facts make it possible to assert that the military forces of the districts of Upper Sasun (Shatakh, Tsovasar, Talvorik, Psank, Ishkhandzor) reached 4-4.5 thousand as a whole in the 80-90s of the 19th century. Unfortunately, as a result of the treacherous policies of the Ottoman state power in the late 19th century, the Armenian rule of Sasun was significantly weakened and lost its positions. Nevertheless, in the 1890s, the Armenians of Sasun again assumed the role of the flagship of the struggle for freedom, rebelling against the Turkish-Kurdish dictatorship. The tragic events of 1894 and 1904 did not break the rebellious spirit of the Sasun Armenians. Moreover, despite the large losses, the overwhelming majority of the population in Sasun until 1915 was still Armenian, i. e. 55000-60000 people. Meanwhile, the population of Upper Sasun was only Armenian. The tragic year of 1915 was a year of severe trials for the heroic Sasun. The advantage of the enemy did not discourage the freedom-loving inhabitants of Sasun, who had been in battle for life and dignity for the last six months. With terrible losses, 11,000 Armenians from various provinces of Sasun were able to move to Taron in 1916, whence they moved to Eastern Armenia, where they made a great contribution to the noble cause of gaining Armenia’s independence. It should be noted that even the infernal conditions could not completely destroy these mighty people of the sacred land. And even today the Armenian highlanders live lives in some parts of Sasun.
The mountainious town of Bitlis (Baghesh) was a well-known handicraft and trade center of Western Armenians. But Bitlis was famous primarily for his spiritual and cultural centers. In the late Middle Ages, the monasteries and churches of St. John the Baptist of Amlordvo (Amirdolu), St. Astvadzedzin (the mother of God) (the monastery of Saint Thaddeus), Surb Karapet Tsaprkoru, Khndrakatar of St. Mary’s, Tatraakabnak St. Astvadzedzin (the mother of God) or the monastery Gomots, Karmrak (Karmirak) surb Nshan or St. Kirakos were known here. Turkish-Kurdish violence had serious negative consequences also for this densely populated Armenian city, where in 1915 the Armenian population was sharply reduced to 10,00011,000 (total of 30,000). Despite this, Armenians were engaged in trade and crafts in the city before 1915. The Armenian Genocide almost completely destroyed this part of the Armenians in their homeland.
This article summarizes the study of the demographic situation in 1914 in the three most important vilayets of Western Armenia – Van, Erzurum and Bitlis. It should be noted that the current study, which covers mainly the borders of Wilsonian Armenia, will be continued. We are planning, after some pause, to proceed to other vilayets in order to complete the study of the historical and demographic image of Western Armenia on the eve of the Armenian Genocide.