This research note is from Volume 6 of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies (1992,1993). The original pagination has been kept intact, although the paragraphing has been altered to fit the web. The footnotes in the original have also been converted to endnotes for the web. This is made available with permission from the Society for Armenian Studies.
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Rewriting History: Recent Azeri

Alterations of Primary Sources

Dealing with Karabakh

George A. Bournoutian

The Armeno-Azeri conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has spilled over, as might be expected, into the academic arena. Partisans of both sides have produced polemical studies affirming historical claims to the region. Certain Azeri academics, however, have recently gone beyond the bounds of acceptable standards of scholarship by manipulating the text of printed editions of primary sources. These mutations, in what purport to be critical editions, consist chiefly in expunging most references to Armenia and the Armenians. These altered editions have been printed in press runs of tens of thousands, and will, in time, replace the now rare earlier editions. One fears that these new versions will be regularly cited by inexperienced historians, or by those with a political agenda,[[1]] to the detriment of objective scholarship for decades to come.

Most published primary sources on Karabakh were translated into Russian and modern Azeri during two different periods. Beginning in the late nineteenth and continuing into the early twentieth century, Armenian and West European materials were faithfully translated into Russian by scholars of the tsarist era. In the 1950s and early 1960s, during the Soviet period, a number of Persian primary sources dealing with Karabakh, which were located in the Baku archives, were accurately translated into Azeri and Russian by scholars of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. All of these early translations were issued in limited editions and are now out of print.[[2]]

During the 1980s and 1990s, that is, since the recent political and military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, many new editions of these earlier translations have been published by the Academy of Sciences of

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Azerbaijan, or by other state-sponsored publishers, in which most references to Armenia and Armenians have been altered or deleted.

In his edition of the Russian translation of an eighteenth- century history of Karabakh by the Armenian patriarch of the Holy See of Gandzasar in Karabakh, Academician Ziya M. Buniatov, head of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences, has blatantly and systematically replaced the noun Armenian with Albanian.[[3]]

Several travelers' accounts have also been subject to the same tampering by Buniatov. For one example, in Buniatov's new edition of the account of the German traveler Johann Shiltberger of his wanderings through Karabakh in the early fifteenth century, Buniatov has deleted critical references to Armenia and Armenians, particularly in those parts of the text which depict an Armenian presence in Karabakh. Buniatov has boldly omited chapters 63 through 66 of the manuscript, some twenty pages in all, which deal with Armenia and the Armenians, and has altered some of the text which he has maintained in his edition.[[4]]

As an illustration of a critical alteration of the text, we see that chapter 62 of the original German reads as follows:

In Armenien bin ich oft gewesen. Nach dem Tode Tämerlins kam ich zu seinem Sohn Scharoch, der in Armenien zwei Königreiche hatte. Er war gern in Armenien, denn die Landschaft dort ist sehr schön. Er verbrachte auch oft den Winter mit seinen Volk dort, da es schöne Weidegründe gibt. Ein großer Fluß, der Chur oder auch Tigris, fließt durch diese Lande. Hier am fluß, wächst die beste Seide. Die Landschaft heißt in heidnischer Sprache Karabag, und die Heiden hatten sie ganz in Besitz, wenn sie auch in Armenian lag. Auch in den Dörfern leben Armenier, doch sind sie den Heiden zinspflichtig.[[5]]

The first Russian edition, translated and published in 1866 by Professor F.K. Brun of the Imperial University of South Russia in Odessa reads:

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Ia takzhe provel mnogo vremeni v Armenii. Po smerti Tamerlana, popal ia k synu ego, vladevshemu dvumia korolevstvami v Armenii. Etot syn, po imeni Shah-Rokh, imel obyknovenie zimovat' na bolshoi ravnine, imenuemoi Karabag i otlichaiushcheisia khoroshimi pastbishchami. Ee oroshaet reka Kur, nazyvaemaia Tigr, i vozle beregov sei reki sobiraetsia samyi luchshii sholk. Khotia eta ravnina lezhit v Armenii, tem ne menee ona prinadlezhit iazychnikam, kotorym armianskie seleniia prinuzhdeny platit' ban'.[[6]]

The English translation by J. Buchan Telfer, published by the Hakluyt Society, reads:

I have also been a great deal in Armenia. After Tämerlin [Tamerlane] died, I came to his son, who has two kingdoms in Armenia. He was named Scharoch [Shahrokh]; he liked to be in Armenia, because there is a very beautiful plain. He remained there in winter with his people, because there was good pasturage. A great river runs through the plain; it is called the Chur [Kur], and it is also called the Tygris [Cyrus ?]; and near this river, in the same country, is the best silk. The Infidels [Muslims] call the plain, in the Infidel tongue, Karawag [Karabakh]. The Infidels possess it all, and yet it stands in Ermenia [Armenia]. There are also Armenians in the villages, but they must pay tribute to the Infidels.[[7]]

Buniatov has entirely omitted from his edition the above material which is in boldface type.

Another Azeri scholar, Nazim Akhundov, has also tampered with the new editon of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-e Qarabagh (History of Karabakh). The work, written in Persian in the mid-nineteenth century, is considered a major primary source on the events which transpired in Karabakh from the 1740s until 1806. Mirza Jamal, a local Muslim official and historian, may have written his work at the request

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of the Russians who wanted to know the history of the area.[[8]] The history was written in Persian and translated into Russian eight years later. Mirza Jamal's chronicle documents a substantial Armenian presence in Karabakh during the entire period. The Persian manuscript, presently located in the archives of the Academy of Sciences in Baku, reads as follows:

Va avval shahri ke dar velayat-e Qarabagh bana shodeh shahr va qal'e-ye Barda` ast, ke dar sar rudkhane-ye Terter dar se farsakhi-ye rud Kor vaqe` ast. Va ahl an shahr dar qadim Armani va ya gheir-e mellat budeand. Dar zaman-e kholafa' sabeq-e bani- `Abbasiye, ke shahr-e Baghdad ra anha abad nemudand. . . .[[9]]

The early Azeri translation by F. Babaev, printed in 1959, was faithful to the original text and reads:

Garabagh vilayetindä salinän shähär Tärtär chayïnïn üstündä vä Kür chayïnïn üch ghachlïghïnda olan Bärdä shähäri vä galasïdïr. Gädimdä o shähärin ähalisi ermäni vä ya ashga bir millät imish. Baghdadï abad vä darüllkhülafä. . . .[[10]]

The Russian translation, included in the 1959 edition, reads:

Pervyi gorod kotorui byl postroen v Karabagskom vilaiete, eto---gorod I krepost' Barda, chto nakhoditsia u reki Terter, v trekh farsakhakh ot Kury. Zhiteli togo goroda v drevnie vremena byli to li armiane, to li kakoi- to drugoi narod. V te vremena, kogda byvshie khalify Beni-Abbasi. . . .[[11]]

The English translation is as follows:

The first city built in the velayat of Qarabagh was the fortress and city of Barda`, which is situated by the Terter [Tartar] River,

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some three farsakhs from the Kur River. In ancient times it was populated by Armenians or other non- Muslims. During the period of the past caliphs of the `Abbasid dynasty, who built and settled the city of Baghdad. . . .[[12]]

Yet the recent Azeri edition, edited by Akhundov, which claims to be an exact reprint of the 1959 edition, has deleted the crucial sentence highlighted above.[[13]]

Other grievous deletions of material relating to Armenians occur repeatedly in the new edition of the Tarikh-e Qarabagh. For example, the original manuscript reads: Hanuz ke mahalhay-e khamse-ye aramane-ye Qarabagh moti`-e u nabudand. . . .[[14]] The earlier Azeri edition is accurate: Hälä Garabaghïn ermäni Khämsä mahallarï ona tabe olmadïghï zaman. . . .[[15]] The Russian text reads: Eshche v to vremia, kogda armiasnkie magaly Khamse ne podchinialis' emu. . . .[[16]] The correct English translation is as follows: "Since at this time the five Armenian mahals (districts) of Qarabagh had not submitted to the khan. . . ."[[17]] The new edition omits Armenian and instead reads: Hälä Garabaghïn Khämsä mahallarï ona tabe [Since at this time the five mahals of Qarabagh had not submitted]. . . .[[18]]

Further on in the manuscript, the Persian original has the following: . . . befekr-e moti` kardan-e mahalhay-e khamse-ye aramane oftad. . . .[[19]] The first Azeri edition is faithful to the original and reads: Pänah khan, ermäni Khämsä mahallarïni özünä etmäk fikrinä düshdü.[[20]] The Russian translation repeats the passage intact: On zadumal podchinit' sebe armianskie magaly Khamse.[[21]] The English translation also is: "He de-

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cided to subject [to his authority] the five Armenian mahals."[[22]] The new edition now reads, incorrectly: Pänah khan, Khämsä mahallarïnï özünä tabe etmäk [Panah Khan decided to subject the five mahals].[[23]]

There are still a number of Persian manuscripts on Karabakh in the archives of Azerbaijan which have yet to be examined critically.[[24]] Some of this primary material has already appeared in edited Azeri transla- tions[[25]] and others will undoubtedly follow. Unfortunately, unless they include a certified facsimile of the original manuscript, the tententious scholarship demonstrated above will render all these translations highly suspect and unusable by scholars.

Such blatant tampering with primary source material strikes at the very heart of scholarly integrity. The international academic community must not allow such breaches of intellectual honesty to go unnoticed and uncensured.

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1. See George Bournoutian, review of The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity Under Russian Rule, by Audrey L. Altstadt, in the Armenian Review 45, no. 3 (Autumn 1992), pp. 63-69.

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2. Two of the best examples of these dependable works are Mirza Adigezal'-bek's Karabag-name (Baku: Academy of Sciences Press, 1950), and Akhmadbek Dzhavanshir's O politicheskom sushchestvovanii Karabakhskogo khanstva s 1747 po 1805 god (Baku: Academy of Sciences Press, 1961).

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3. For example, see Esai Khasan-Dzhalalian, Kratkaia istoriia strany Albanskoi, 1702-1722 gg (Baku: Elm Press, 1989), p. 35, where instead of the original "Armenian state" Buniatov has "Albanian state."

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4. Iogann Shil'tberger, Puteshestvie po Evrope, Azii, I Afrike s 1394 goda po 1427 god (Translated from Old German by F.K. Brun. New annotated edition prepared by Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijani SSR, Z.M. Buniatov [Baku: Elm Press, 1984]), p. 67.

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5. Johannes Schiltberger, Als Sklave im Osmanischen Reich und bei den Tataren: 1394-1427 (Stuttgart: Thienemann Press, 1983), p. 209.

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6. Putishestvie Ivana Schil'tbergera po Evrope, Azii, I Afrike s 1394 po 1427 g (Odessa: State University Press, 1866), pp. 110-111.

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7. Johann Schiltberger, The Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger, a Native of Bavaria, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, 1396-1427, trans. J. Buchan Telfer (London: Hakluyt Society, 1879; repr., New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), p. 86.

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8. In 1847, Mirza Jamal was asked to provide a history for the Russian administration. Certain evidence, however, points to his history having been prepared prior to 1845.

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9. Archives of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, Baku, Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi, Tarikh-e Qarabagh, manuscript B-712/11603, p. 4.

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10. Mirzä Jamal Javanshir Garabaghi, Garabagh Tarikhi (Baku: Academy of Sciences, 1959), pp. 11- 12.

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11. Mirza Dzhamal Jevanshir Karabagskii, Istoriia Karabaga (Baku: Academy of Sciences Press, 1959), p. 64.

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12. George A. Bournoutian, A History of Qarabagh: An Annotated Translation of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-e Qarabagh (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Press, 1994), pp. 37-38.

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13. N. Akhundov, ed., Garabaghnamälär I, (Baku: Yazïchï Press, 1989), p. 108.

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14. Original manuscript, p. 9.

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15. Mirzä Jamal, Garabagh Tarikhi, p. 15.

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16. Mirza Dzhamal, Istoriia Karabaga, p. 67.

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17. Bournoutian, History of Qarabagh, p. 50.

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18. Akhundov, Garabaghnamälär, I, p. 111.

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19. Original manuscript, p. 10.

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20. Mirzä Jamal, Garabagh Tarikhi, p. 16.

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21. Mirza Dzhamal, Istoriia Karabaga, p. 68.

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22. Bournoutian, History of Qarabagh, p. 52.

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23. Akhundov, Garabaghnamälär, I, p. 112.

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24. Baharli, Ahvalat-e Qarabagh; Hasan Ali Khan Qarabaghi, Qarabagh-nameh; Hasan Ali Qaradaghi, Keyfiyat-e velayat-e Qarabagh dar doran-e qadim va Jadid; Hasan Ekhfa Alizade, Tarikh-e Shusha; Mir-Mahdi Khazani, Ketab-e Tarikh-e Qarabagh; Mirza Adigozalbeg, Qarabagh- nameh; Mirza Rahim Fena, Tarikh-e Jadid-e Qarabagh; Mirza Yusef Nersesov Qarabaghi, Tarikh-e Safi; and Reza Qoli Bey Mirza Jamalbegoglu, Hukumat-e Panah Khan va Ebrahim Khan dar Karabagh.

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25. N. Akhundov, ed., Garabaghnamälär, II (Baku: Yazïchï Press, 1991).

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Volume 6 of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies can be purchased for $20 from the Society for Armenian Studies (SAS) at the following address:

SAS Secretariat
Armenian Research Center
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128-1491