Vardan A. Aleksanyan
The second half of the 9th century is the beginning of a new stage in the confrontation between the Armenian and Byzantine churches. At the beginning of the 860s, the correspondence of the Patriarch of Constantinople Photius (857-867, 877-886) with Catholicos Zakaria I (855-876) and the Prince of Princes Ashot I (862-887) began. The main subject of the correspondence was the relation to the Chalcedonian Cathedral and the attempts to create the Armenian-Byzantine church unity. It was a challenge not only to the Armenian Church, but to the entire Armenian people, since the hidden goal of the Constantinople throne was to create the ground for the final annexation of Armenia. For the purpose of discussing the proposal and making decisions, Zakaria Dzagetsi 862 convened a council in Shirakavan from numerous bishops and monks in the presence of the sparapet of Armenia Ashot Bagratuni. During the council, a tense struggle was waged between adherents of the Armenian faith and supporters of Chalcedonianism. Bishop Vahan (John) of Nicea spoke at it, trying to persuade the Armenians to accept the Council of Chalcedon. However, the Armenian clergy managed to diplomatically reject the proposals of the Greek Church.
Photius continued his efforts in the second period of his patriarchate (877- 886). He wrote a letter to the Prince of Princes Ashot and in various ways tried to convince the Armenian leadership to accept the Council of Chalcedon. In his answer, which was set forth by Sahak Apikuresh (Mrut), Ashot refutes the accusations against the Armenian Church and, in turn, accuses the Council of Chalcedon for being similar to Nestorianism. The content of Ashot Bagratuni’s answer demonstrates the unity of the Armenian spiritual and secular authorities in protecting the independence and independence of the national church. It is important that the Armenian nobility built their relations with Byzantium taking into account the interests of the Arab Caliphate, since the Arabs played a huge role in the region. By rejecting the proposals of the Greek Church, Armenia satisfied the age-old enemy of Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate. Having defended the independence and autonomy of their church, the Armenians fought for national identity, since religious identity was the basis of the national identity of the Armenians.