The Armenian-Georgian Union – 12th Century

The Armenian-Georgian Union

In the second half of the 12th century, the decline of the Seljuks allowed the Georgian Kingdom to strengthen, which extended its influence south towards the Armenian territories. By the end of the 12th century, the Armenian princely Zakarian (Zakarid) dynasty, which became the de facto ruler of united Georgia under the legendary queen Tamar of Georgia, reinforced its positions in Georgia.

Due to their military skill and political talent, the Zakarians were nicknamed “Yerkaynabazuk” (long-armed, “mkhargrdzeli” in Georgian). Under the leadership of brothers Ivane and Zakare Zakarian, the Georgian troops succeeded in liberating most of the former Bagratid Armenia from the Turks, becoming its rulers.

The Zakarians also liberated Artsakh and Utik from the Seljuk occupation, with the exception of the city of Gandzak (Ganja) which remained in the hands of the local Turkic feudal lords of Kurdish origin. The Armenian princes in the service of the Zakarians had their rights restored, and their former possessions in the territory of historical Armenia were returned to them.

During this period, the three clans of the Aranshahik dynasty – the rulers of Tsar, Aterk, and Lower Khachen – strengthened their positions. The other princely family from Artsakh, Khakhbakyan, descendants of Prince Vasak Khachentsi, moved to the territory of Vayots Dzor district in Syunik and founded a new dynasty there, Khakhbakyan-Proshyan, which would play an important role in the history of Armenia.

History shows that the princes of Artsakh provided invaluable assistance to the Zakarians during the liberation of Armenia. In a lengthy inscription on one of the walls of the Cathedral of Holy Mother of God in Dadivank Monastery, Prince Aterka Asan I Vakhtangyan writes about his wars against the Turks which he had waged for 40 years, starting in 1142.

It is safe to assume that the example of Asan I was followed by his relatives in lower Khachen, the rulers of the fortress of Khokhanaberd, whose principality is described by outstanding 12th-century Armenian philosopher and jurist Mkhitar Gosh.

The great importance of Artsakh in the Armenian-Georgian military-political union is confirmed by the fact that the founder of this alliance, Grand Duke Sarkis Zakarian, amirspasalar (commander-in-chief) of the Armenian-Georgian troops and father of the brothers Ivane and Zakare, married off his two daughters, Dop and Horishah, to princes of Khachen.

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