Artsakh – Ruins of the Palace Complex of the Avanian Dynasty

Artsakh – Ruins of the Palace Complex

We present to your attention the ruins of the palace complex of the Avanian meliks (princes) in the town of Tugh near Hadrut in Artsakh.

Recall that in the 11th-17th centuries, after the Turks destroyed key regions of Armenia, an independent Armenian state named Khachen was established in Artsakh (called Nagorno-Karabakh in the 18th century) with its capital in the city of Tsar (next to present-day Karvachar). As European contemporaries often wrote, it was “an independent fragment of the once large and united Armenia.”

In the 17th century, the Khachen Armenian state was divided into 5 independent melikdoms (princedoms).

After the fall of the single independent Armenian state, the Artsakh Armenians managed to maintain the freedom of their lands for another 700 years until the middle of the 18th century. In the 18th century, as a result of the betrayal of the Shosh melik who invited to Artsakh foreign troops commanded by the bandit Panakh, local Armenians ended up in the hands of a Turkmen robber nomadic tribe. Establishing himself in the impregnable Shosh, Panakh Khan built his fortress there (by the hands of local Armenian builders), depriving the Artsakh meliks of independence.

The Artsakh meliks were forced to start the struggle for the restoration of their power. The struggle lasted 40 years, during which the Armenian population of Artsakh declined, as claimed by reports from the 18th century, from 500 thousand people (in 1750) to 40 thousand (in 1810). The Armenian populations of Karvachar and Berdzor (the future Lachin and Kelbajar) where three nomadic Kurdish tribes settled in place of Armenians were completely lost.

The Armenian population also left Kashatagh and southern Dizak with the Tikrakert plain (the future Kubatly, Zangelan, Jabrail, and Aghdam) where nomadic Turkmens settled near the ruins of abandoned Armenian villages and churches.

The struggle of the Artsakh Armenians with foreigners lasted 40 years until the appearance of the Russian army in 1810. With its assistance, the Armenians managed to expel the Turkmen foreigners from the Artsakh throne.

During the period of the “5 meliks” in the 17th-18th centuries and before the betrayal of the Shosh melik, one of the Artsakh principalities, Dizak, was formed in the south of Artsakh.

Records mentioned the name of one certain “Vardapet Ghukas” who had a son named Avan (Yegan). In 1731, Avan received the title of melik along with lands in the south of Artsakh up until the Araks River. Avan became the founder of the Avanian (Yeganian) melik clan represented by hereditary princes Avan, Aram, and Yesayi. They built their main city, Togh (now the village of Tugh in the Hadrut region of the NKR), in the center of their estates surrounded by a powerful fortress wall.

In the center of Togh stood their family palace. Togh was one of the 5 main cities of Artsakh along with Shosh (captured by Panakh Khan and renamed Panakhabad and later Shusha. This city from the mid-19th century until the massacre of 1920 was the main city of Artsakh), Tsar (founded in the 10th century as the main city of Khachen), Parisos, and Jraberd.

Today, the Avanian palace is a tourist reserve. The palace complex is taken care of by a descendant of Avan, one Alexander Yeganyan. Yeganyan lives with his family in this ruined palace, runs a farm, tries to restore the building, takes guests in between cattle care (from ordinary tourists to eminent American archaeologists), reads his favorite books on the history of Karabakh, and hasn’t been discouraged that there has been no electricity or heating in the palace in winter for two and a half years.

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