As a primary source of historical geography of Armenia


Gegham M. Badalyan
The kondaks of the monastic dioceses are remarkable sources of the historical geography and demography of Armenia. Despite the fact that we have received similar documents with sporadic examples, even in that case they contain such rare and important information that is missing in the works of Armenian chroniclers. Such a primary source is the 1475 kondak of famous Khlbash St. Karapet Monastery of Keghi (Khordzyan), which is housed in the Middle East Fund of the Campus Research Library of the USA University of California, along with thousands of printed books, manuscripts and archival documents in various languages donated by Dr. Karo Owen Minasyan, a well-known Isfahan philanthropist.

The monastery was located about 5 km north of Keghi or Kghi (historical Koghoberd) borough – the center of Khordzyan, on the left bank of the Gaylget tributary of Aratsani, near the former fortress town of Apar (Arapar) by whose name it was called Getahayatz St. Nshan or Hangstuni St. Karapet). As early as the Late Middle Ages, the province was divided into about two dozen cantons or village groups. At that, in the middle of the 15th century, as indirectly suggested by the facts recorded in the kondak, the territory under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of St. Karapet Monastery of Khlbash (Apar or Arapar) was limited from the northern Okhu (Hokhu) canton of Balahovit province of Tsopk to the Aryutsnakhaz mountain range including the main central and western regions (Kotchak with Hartiv-Hertev, Keghi and Khaser (including Tarman region) cantons).

Later, when the northwestern Handerdz canton (“the land of Handerdz”) of Khordzyan also passed to St. Karapet, through which the diocesan borders reached from the Aryutsnakhaz to the Gaylakhazut or Pakhr mountains, it became necessary to introduce new changes from a “legal” point of view which was recorded in the 1475 kondak. The latter also contains information about the boundaries of the diocesan territory of St. Karapet Monastery, which, however, are recorded in a “hidden” form. This explains some of the confusion in the document, including the outdated signature of Catholicos of All Armenians Aristakes II (1465-1469). The document mentions Keghi and Apar – the main centers of Khordzyan, as well as 40 villages, only 2 of which were located in the neighboring Paghnatun canton.

By the way, the document also contains the consequences of the tragic events of 1453, which were related with the destructive invasion of Sultan Jahan Shah of the Kara-Koyunlus, when the historical territory of Khordzyan was looted and deserted. That was the reason that the number of settlements mentioned in the document is three times less than the number of main villages and non-permanent agricultural settlements (“mezre” or “gom” (barn)) found in the same area at the beginning of the 20th century.

The kondak of St. Karapet of Khlbash is important for specialists in the historical geography and demographics of Armenia, as it provides some information about the settlement of the Armenian population in the historical Khordzyan area (which in the 15th century was divided between Keghi and Kotchak cantons). Attached are two appendices that give some idea of the ethnic image of historical Khordzyan up to 1915.