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Etymology of the Toponym Javakhk:

The oldest record about Javakhk Province of Gugark Region of Metz Hayk dates as far back as the VIII c. in the Khorkhor Chronicles of Argishty I (786-764) under the name of Zabakha. According to H. Karagyozian, the sounds underwent the following changes in this toponym: in Zabakha (the root of the toponym),“a” is the plural suffix characteristic of Indo-European languages. Thus, Zabakh is the original form of the word. Later the sound “b” turned into “v” and Zabakh became Zavakh. This kind of changes also occurred in other cases. It should be mentioned that one of the Aramaic inscriptions found in Mtskhet mentions the name Zevakh probably deriving from the toponym Zavakh which later turned into Javakh. Then Javakh changed into Javakhk acquiring the Armenian plural suffix “k” instead of the former suffix “a”.

V. Sargssian, a specialist of the Basque language, offers the following etymology of the toponym Javakhk in one of his researches: he suggests that Javakhk derives from “Japagh” his view resting upon the peculiarity of the geographical environment of the region and particularly the large valleys abounding in water.


Javakhk in the Pre-Christian Period:

Armenia map of Strabo's "Geography", 180 A. D.. Reconstruction by R. Hewsen, Chicago University Press.

Javakhk is first mentioned under this very name in “Armenian History” by the V c. historian Movses Khorenatsy in regard to the administrative reforms realized by king Vagharshak. Regardless of the different interpretations of the list of the kings of the pre-Christian period, all the researchers agree that the aforementioned events date as far back as the II c. BC. In the IV c. BC Javakhk was the summer residence of the Georgian king Parnavaz,“In autumn and spring he lived in the city of Mtskhet , in summer in Javakhet and in winter in Ganchenk”. About 185 BC, Artashes I annexed the province to Metz Hayk Kingdom , while in 37 AD it became part of Georgia .

Ptolomeo Map, 100-168. Reconstruction by R. Hewsen, Chicago University Press.

Northern Armenia in Arshakid period . Reconstruction by R. Hewsen, Chicago University Press.


IV-IX Centuries:

Armenian-Georgian boundary in 2nd c. B. C.- 4th c. A. D.. Reconstruction by R. Hewsen, Chicago University Press.

In the IV c. AD Javakhk is mentioned in the description of St. Nune's journey to Mtskhet,“... and in June I came to Mount Javakhet, and to the Parnava Sea, and when I came there I saw fishermen by the sea and shepherds on the seashore...”. When Armenia was first divided between Byzantium and Sassanid Persia (387 Ã.), Javakhk was annexed to the Georgian Province headed by the Marzpan (the governor) of the province, along with the other provinces of Gugark Region.


IX-XIV Centuries:

In the IX c., the southern part of Javakhk, Gogshen, was annexed to the Armenian Bagratid Kingdom , but the central city of the province, Akhalkalak, remained part of Georgia . In 1065, the Seljuk-Turks conquered and devastated the region. In 1236, the Mongols conquered Javakhk. In 1266, thanks to their help, an Armenian called Sargis Jaghely established his rule in Javakhk and the neighboring Akhaltskha declaring himself independent from Georgia and Armenia .


XIV-XVIII Centuries:

Collapse of theArmenian Bagratid Kingdom and blossoming of the Georgian Bagratid Kingdom. Reconstruction by A. Anderson.

The princedoms known as Samtskhe-Saatabago survived until 1637, when the Turks finally conquered these territories.(In 1579, they had already occupied the north-west of the princedom, Akhaltskha with its vicinity).

Interestingly, considerable parts of the Armenian historical monuments preserved in the region were created during the existence of this very princedom (XIII-XVII c.c.).
The Turkish rule in Samtskhe-Saatabago was a true reign of terror and a substantial part of the population had to embrace Islam to escape total extermination. Throughout the XVII c., a large number of Armenians and Georgians were converted to Islam, but in a number of settlements of the region the population, both Armenians and Georgians, remained faithful to Christianity. In 1735, the region faced a new disaster: Nadir Shah invaded the northern provinces of Armenia , among which was also Javakhk.


XIX-XX Centuries:

Javakhk remained under the Turkish tyranny until the beginning of the XIX c. being subjected to the rule of pashas whose residence was Akhaltskha. When, in 1810, the Russians moved forward from Tbilisi in the direction of Javakhk, Sherif Pasha ordered that all Christians of Javakhk should cross the Koor River and retreat into the depths of Turkey , but the population escaped emigration through the mediation of the Russians. However, after the latter had withdrawn, the pashas of Akhaltskha grew crueler towards their defiant subjects: when, in 1828, the Russian-Turkish war was over and the territory was finally annexed to Russia , only in very few villages had Christian inhabitants survived.

Once the reign of pashas collapsed, the population of Turkey and Russia started immigrating into respectively Russia and Turkey : a great number of people who had embraced Islam since the XVII c. immigrated to Turkey . On the other hand, part of the Western Armenians who had greatly supported the Russians during the war considering them their saviors had to leave their native villages for the Russian borders trying to escape the revenge of the Turks: they settled particularly in Javakhk and Akhaltskha.


Newest period:

There is no information whether the Armenian emigrants from Karin Province had received any compensation for their villages, gardens and arable fields left in their Motherland (we have great doubts in this respect). However, it is known that the Armenians often had to buy the unoccupied villages and arable fields from the emigrating Turks in order to settle in the new colony.

In the decades to follow, the Armenians got accustomed to their new settlements and improved them. A small number of Turks immigrated from Javakhk into Turkey in the years following all the next Russian-Turkish wars.

The Armenians and part of the Georgians were natives of Javakhk while the Dukhobors penetrated into the province in 1841 and settled particularly in the area of lakes Parvana and Madatapa, as well as near roads, which were of great strategic importance. After the collapse of the Russian empire, Javakhk turned into an area of dispute between the newly established republics of Armenia and Georgia , but Soviet Georgia took complete possession of it in 1921.

During the terrible period of the Patriotic War when Turkey was expected to invade Transcaucasia , all the Muslims of the area were sent into exile in 1944 by order of Stalin.
In the post-war period, the villages of Samtskhe-Javakhk abandoned by the Muslims were mainly inhabited with Georgians (about 80 villages) and partly by the Armenians (5 villages). These districts, which had a mild climate and fertile soil, were also inhabited by a small number of Georgian immigrants coming from Javakhk, while Armenians were deprived of this privilege. As a result, in the recent decades, the number of the Georgians has decreased in Javakhk instead of increasing, and in order to do something about this situation the Georgian authorities undertook the settlement of Adzharians in some villages in the late 1980s. However, the Muslim Adzharians who had abandoned their motherland in consequence of the natural disaster were not able to bear the very first winter of Javakhk despite the numerous privileges and benefits and returned to their motherland leaving the luxurious, large and two-storey residences that the state had presented to them.

After 1988, small-scale emigration could be observed among the Armenians and Dukhobors of Javakhk: the former immigrated into Amasia and Ashotsk Regions of the RA while the latter left for Russia . The situation changed drastically after the 1990s when a considerable part of Javakhk Armenians immigrated into Russia in consequence of poor economic conditions and this painful phenomenon is still in process at present.

Source: This material is based on the introduction of the book:
Samvel Karapetian and Alexandre Kananian, THE HISTORICAL MONUMENTS OF JAVAKHK, Scientific Council of Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), BOOK V.


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