The Mongol Invasion of Armenia

The Mongol Invasion of Armenia

After the establishment of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century by Genghis Khan, the nomadic Tatar-Mongolian tribes inhabiting Central Asia undertook invasive campaigns against neighboring and distant countries.

After several reconnaissance attacks, the 30,000-strong army of Mongols under the command of Chormagan was split into separate groups in the Mugan Plain. These groups attacked Aghvank, Georgia, and Northern Armenia in 1236.

One of the detachments captured and plundered Syunik, forcing Prince Elikum Orbelyan to recognize the rule of the Mongols. Another detachment seized the valley of the Agstev River and the fortress of Kayan. Two other Mongol detachments invading Armenia directed their forces at the city of Ani.

Having sent his ambassadors there, Chormagan demanded that the Armenians surrender the city without a fight. The request was rejected. Then, the Mongols besieged Ani, whose population defended heroically. However, in the end, the enemy captured the city, and a significant part of its inhabitants was slaughtered. The same fate soon befell Kare, as well as other cities and regions of the northern part of the country. By the end of 1236, Northern Armenia was completely conquered by the Mongols.

The western and southern provinces of Armenia were captured in 1242-1245. Mongolian troops under the command of Baycu, after scarcely suppressing the two-month stubborn resistance of the residents of Karin in 1242, broke into the city and destroyed it. In the following year, the Mongols reached Caesarea and Yerznka in the west. In 1245, along with Mesopotamia and Syria, entire South Armenia was conquered by the Mongols.

The Mongol rule had very serious consequences. Many cities and districts of Armenia were destroyed and devastated. The country’s economy experienced a strong decline. Although in some cities, a partial recovery of trade was sometimes observed, this did not have a significant impact on the general state of the country’s economic life.

The Mongols introduced numerous taxes in Armenia, as well as in other countries subject to them. Of them, the costliest for Armenians were the land tax which accounted for almost half of the income of the Mongols, the poll tax (levied on males aged from 15 to 60), and military taxes.

Part of the tax was levied in products, the other in money. Tax collectors were usually accompanied by armed units. Violence, murder, and all manner of arbitrariness were common occurrences under the Mongol rule. The social position of the peasants greatly deteriorated. A significant part of the Armenian feudal lords lost their estates, which passed into the hands of the Mongol khans. Mass migration of Armenians began again.

The peasantry and the discontented feudal nobility of Georgia and Armenia made a number of attempts to overthrow the unbearable Mongol yoke. In 1259-1261 occurred a united uprising of the Georgian and Armenian peoples led by Georgian King David. Among the Armenian princes who participated in the movement were the Zakarids.

The rebels committed several attacks on Mongol units, but the oppressors managed to detain and execute many of the movement’s leaders. The rebellion was drowned in blood. The dominion of the Mongols over Armenia and its neighboring countries would continue for a century.

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