The true story of Israel Ori’s life and activities

Ararat M. Hakobyan

The outstanding figure of the Armenian liberation movement and struggle of the late 17th and early 18th centuries – Israel Ori, with his selfless, but contradictory, sometimes adventurous life and activities, is considered the firstborn (herald) and initiator of the Russian political orientation of the Armenian people. On his way from the West to Russia, he sometimes resorted to falsification of documents in order to arouse the interest of Russian political leaders and encourage them towards the issue of the liberation of Armenia. Documentary records of his Western Russian political, negotiating, diplomatic activities, two “Palatinate” and “Moscow” plans for the liberation of Armenia, although unrealistic for the time, are considered an innovation in the history of the Armenian political thought. He was the first figure who brought the Armenian liberation movement and diplomatic negotiations out of the religious-confessional level (diaper) of the clergy and put them on the military[1]political foundations of a practical, secular content.

The ultimate goal of the liberating ideas of I. Ori was the complete liberation of Armenia from the Persian-Turkish tyranny and the creation of an autonomous Armenian statehood (kingdom) initially under the auspices of the Western European powers, and then of Russia, as evidenced by the two programs he drew up, as well as the map of Great Armenia presented to Tsar Peter.

A valuable documentary collection compiled by philologist, historian K. Yezyan, and other supporting materials enable us to conclude that the beginning of the Russian orientation of the Armenians is considered not the second half of the 17th century and not even the turn of the 18th century, but the 1720s, i. e.: the time when in anticipation of the so-called Caspian campaign of Peter the Great, the liberation struggle of Artsakh and Syunik flared up.

All this means that the Russian political orientation of the Armenian people has a history of three centuries. But this does not mean that the Armenians unanimously stood on the positions of this orientation. Historiographical objectivity requires noting that due to the dictates of the times and circumstances, especially at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, in particular, during the discussion of the Armenian issue, the Armenian socio-political circles mainly and involuntarily represented other – Western orientations, but in both cases did not achieve significant positive results.

At the same time, it should be noted that there is no need to put a big barrier in the issue of the Western European and consequently Russian political orientation of the Armenian people, since already Russia of Peter the Great with its system of political, state-legal and cultural values aspired to become a European country. And as for the liberation of Armenia, in practical terms it was closer to Armenia, and the latter’s liberation by Russia was more realistic. In other words, if we compare and evaluate the missions of the two political directions of Israel Ori, then from the viewpoint of civilizational orientation, in a broad sense it can be considered European-Russia.

A comparative analysis of documentary materials and historical-political events of the region indicates that during the era of Israel Ori, Armenia still had no real prospect of practical liberation with the support of foreign forces, neither by Russia nor, even more so, by Western countries. In the era of Israel Ori, the Armenian people had not yet developed an indestructible political concept that in order to have a free, independent national state and protect it, one should first of all rely on the collective consciousness of the nation, on its own strengths and capabilities. And from the perspective of learning advisable historical lessons, even now, during the Third Republic, in the conditions of modern serious challenges, it is difficult to say how irreversible the political mentality and the way of actions of the Armenian public and the state power have become among us regarding the independent statehood and defense of the Motherland