The Last Days of Israel Ori

The Last Days of Israel Ori

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Russians were struggling to strengthen their positions on the shores of the Baltic, Black, and Caspian Seas.

In 1701, Israel Ori arrived in Russia and presented to the Russian Tsar Peter I his program for the liberation of Armenia with the support of Russia. Peter I was busy with the Northern War at that time but encouraged Ori that after the end of the war, he would deal with the Armenian issue.

Years went by. In 1708, in order to familiarize himself with the situation in Persia, Peter the Great sent an embassy to Isfahan, the country’s capital at the time. The embassy was headed by Israel Ori who had received the rank of colonel of the Russian army.

In 1708-1709, the Russian delegation toured the eastern regions of Transcaucasia before arriving in the capital of Persia Isfahan. Encouraged by the liberation ideas, the spiritual leader of Artsakh Yesayi Hassan-Jalalian along with his two bishops accompanied Ori to his meeting with the Russian Tsar. During the meeting, a specific agreement on the tasks related to the liberation of Armenia was expected to be concluded.

Planning his trip to Russia, Ori decided to bring with him from Artsakh 70 Armenian families associated with silk production, as well as a large amount of raw materials in order to establish silk-spinning production in Moscow. He also wanted to bring with him 25 select Artsakh horses and other valuable gifts. For the transport of people and goods, Israel Ori asked for 4 ships from the Russian authorities. He, however, received only 3 – two sailing ships and one fishing ship in poor condition.

It wasn’t possible to transport the large amount of property or people on these ships, so Ori sent the horses by land and took only 20 silk-spinning families with him on board. Ori sent his retinue and part of the gifts on the sailboats to Astrakhan. He himself with Yesayi Hasan-Jalalyan and the two bishops boarded the fishing ship and headed for the Caspian Sea to Russia.

The sailboats safely reached Astrakhan. The ship with Ori on board, however, was caught in a storm and damaged shortly after departing from the port. Most of the goods sank, but people were managed to be saved. Ori and Catholicos Yesayi were forced to spend the winter in a nearby village.

In the summer of 1711, they finally reached Astrakhan. There, local authorities accused Ori of transporting large quantities of foreign goods without paying a fee. The goods were confiscated, with some of them being plundered. Ori made efforts to resolve the situation, explaining that he was a royal envoy and had valuable information for the royal court, but to no avail.

Shortly, Ori suddenly died. The Catholicos conducted a funeral ceremony in the local Armenian church and returned to Artsakh empty-handed.

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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