Part II: Struggle for preserving of the unity of Armenian kingdom
Arman S. Yeghiazaryan-Doctor of Sciences in History
The late 960s and the first half of the 970s became the most difficult and decisive stage of the reign of Ashot III the Merciful. The Armenian kingdom at the peak of its power was in great danger, since the Byzantine Empire at this stage showed ambitious plans for conquest in the East. The main goal of Byzantium was to conquer countries and territories, stretching from Cilicia to Palestine, and in its activities, on the one hand, it enjoyed the support of the armed forces of Bagratid Armenia, and on the other hand tried to conquer more new territories of Armenia and contribute to a split within the country.
Byzantine politics aimed at the conquest of Taron-Turuberan in the west of Great Armenia, the western areas of the Ayrarat province, and in the future, the Vaspurakan kingdom. Pursuing its policy of expansionism, Byzantium sought to maximize the problems between the Armenian local feudal lords and the central authority of the Bagratids, as well as the ambitions of some Armenian nobles. Unfortunately, the emperors were able to achieve their goals, which, on the one hand, reduced the territory of the kingdom of Armenian Bagratids, and on the other hand, the fragmentation of the united kingdom weakened its ability to resist, making it more vulnerable to neighbors.
The loss of Taron was the result of Byzantine pressure on the rulers of this region and occurred in the context of the aggravated Arab-Byzantine conflict. Under such conditions, the rulers of Taron were forced to cede their domains to Byzantium, in exchange receiving new possessions and honorary titles from the empire.
Through the efforts of the Byzantine court, the king of Vaspurakan also decided to confront Ashot III in church and confessional matters and sought to the dominate position in Armenia. But after the annexation of Taron, he abandoned his claims.
Ashot III did not conform with the current situation, as a result of which relations between the Armenian kingdom and Byzantium became tense. In the age of John Tzimiskes reign Armenian-Byzantine relations were settled, moreover, as a result of considerable military assistance from the Armenian king to the emperor of Byzantium, they even trmporarily acquired features of a military alliance.
Despite Byzantium succeeded in annexing Taron, but Ashot III managed to prevent its further advancement. But the empire was waiting for a convenient opportunity to achieve its goals.
As a result of Byzantine intervention in the affairs of the Armenian kingdom in 875, Mushegh, the ruler of the Kars fortress and the Vanand region, proclaimed himself king. Ashot III was forced to acknowledge the fact, recognizing the reign of his brother Mushegh in exchange for his submission to the Ani throne.
The spiritual life of the kingdom in the studied period was not calm either: the kingdom again faced the danger of the spread of Chalcedonism, but this challenge was neutralized.