Caucasian Albania

From Academic Kids


This region should not be confused with modern Albania and Albanians (ShqiptarŽ), who are a separate people from the Balkans, and only share the name coincidentally.

Caucasian Albania (or Aghbania) was an ancient state that covered what is now southern Dagestan and most of today's Azerbaijan of the Caucasus. For much of its history, the Caucasian Albania was a part of the Persian Empire.


Ancient population of Aghbania

Aran was a legendary ancestor and the eponym of the Albanians (Aghvan). Caucasian Albanians were one of the Ibero-Caucasian peoples, the ancient and indigenous population of modern southern Dagestan and Azerbaijan. The Mannaeans had one of the earliest states recorded as being established in the area as far as the Kura from ca. 800 BC, and they were rivals of Urartu and Assyria for most of their existence, but were eventually destroyed and assimilated by the Medes under Cyaxares in 616 BC. In ancient times, they were heavily mixed with the Persian people who settled in the area during the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid periods; and beginning with Alexander's conquests, the region south of the Kura became known as Media Atropatene (after Atropates, one of his generals).

Ancient tribes of the Caucasian Albania were: Hers, Gargars, Gels, Caspians, Uties, Saks, and Sodes, who along with other tribes, constituted the Albanian tribal union. According to Strabo (1st C), the number of the Albanian tribes reached 26.

Creation of the Caucasian Albanian kingdom and its regions

The kingdom of Caucasian Albania (Aghbania) was founded in the late 4th - early 3rd century BC. The initial capital of the kingdom was Kabalaka (present-day Gabala) and then Partaw (present-day Barda).

One of main regions of Caucasian Albania, Hereti, was a part of Georgia (Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia) since the end of the 7th century. For centuries, this region had been a part of Persia. Since 1921, the part of Hereti now in the districts of Kakhi, Belakani and Zakatala, has been a part of Azerbaijan.

Another historical part of Albania, Artsakh (present-day Nagorno-Karabakh), is presently occupied by Armenian military forces. Armenian historians claim that Artsakh is and has been culturally a part of Armenia since ca. 100 BC.

Caucasian Albania and Armenian conquests

Parts of Caucasian Albania, including Artsakh and Uti on the right bank of the Kura river, were conquered by the Armenians. Armenia, according to Strabo, "a small country" on the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was expanded at this time by the kings Artashes and Zariadrij. They created an empire, often called Greater Armenia by Armenian historians.

Strabo, Ptolemy and Pliny all write that at this time, the border between Albania and the Greater Armenian empire was through the river Kura.

In 66 BC, following the defeat of the Armenian king Tigranes II at the hand of the Romans, the Armenian empire lost most of its territory. At this time, the Albanians regained control over their right bank territories conquered by Armenians. According to the ancient historian, Moses Kalankaytuk, author of "History of Aghvank", at this time, the southern border of Caucasian Albania was along the Araks river. Thus, referring to the events in 1st c. AD, he mentions "…someone from the family of Sisakan, one of the descendants of Yafet-Aran who inherited the plains and mountains of Albania beginning from the river Yeraskh (Araks) up to the castle of Hunarakert." (II, 21). The Armenian historian Moses of Chorene, who is considered in Armenian historiography "the father of Armenian history", also confirmed that Caucasian Albania's border was along the Araxes in the 1st century A.D.

Little is known about the history of Caucasian Albania during the 1st-4th centuries. During this time, part of Aghbania was conquered again by the Armenian kings, and they alternated control over the territory on the right bank of Kura (Artsakh and Uti provinces) several times until 387, when the Armenian kingdom was partitioned between the Persians and Romans. Aghbania, as an ally of Sassanid Persia, regained all the right bank of the river Kura up to river Araxes, including Artsakh.

Spreading of Christianity in Caucasian Albania

Caucasian Albania was one of the first countries where Christianity was adopted from the 4th century, when the Albanian Church was formed.

In the 4th-5th centuries Christianity became established in Aghbania, and this led to a rapprochement with Byzantium, and a corresponding cooling-down in the relationship between Aghbania and Sassanid Persia. In a battle that took place in 451 AD in the Avarayr field, the allied forces of the Armenian, Albanian and Iberian kings, devoted to Christianity, suffered defeat at the hands of the Sassanid army. Many of the Albanian nobility ran to the mountainous regions of Albania, particularly to Artsakh, that became a center for resistance to Sassanid Iran. The religious center of the Albanian state also moved here. In 498 AD (in other sources, 488 AD) in the settlement named Aluen (Aguen) (present day Agdam region of Azerbaijan), an Albanian church assembly was held to adopt laws further strengthening the position of Christianity in Albania.

Dissolution of the Albanian kingdom

In the 7th century AD, the kingdom was abolished by the Arabs and, like all Islamic conquests at the time, assimilated into the Caliphate. From the 8th century, Caucasian Albania existed as the principalities of Aranshahs and Khachin, along with various Iranian and Arabic principalities: the Principality of Shedadians, the Principality of Shirvan, the Principality of Derbent, etc.

As a result of the expansion of Seljuks (Turks) into the territory of modern Azerbaijan in the 11th century, the indigenous Albanian population was assimilated. Albanians played a significant role in the ethnogenesis of today's Azeris.

Albanian Alphabet and Language

Ancient Armenian historian, Koriun, in his book "The Life of Mashtots", wrote: "Then there came and visited them an elderly man, an Albanian named Benjamin. And he [Mesrop] inquired and examined the barbaric diction of the Albanian language, and then through his usual God-given keenness of mind invented an alphabet, which he, through the grace of Christ, successfully organized and put in order." (see Koriun, Ch. 16 (

According to Moses Kalankaytuk, the Albanian alphabet was invented by Mesrob Mashdots, an Armenian monk, theologian and linguist (see Moses Kalankaytuk, The History of Aluank, I, 27 and III, 24).

The Albanian alphabet was rediscovered by a Georgian scholar, Professor Ilia Abuladze in 1937. The alphabet was found in manuscript No. 7117, the Armenian language manual of the 15th century. This manual presents different alphabets for comparison: Armenian, Greek, Latin, Syrian, Georgian, Coptic, and Albanian among them. The Albanian alphabet was titled: "Aluanic girn e" (Albanic letters). Abuladze made an assumption that this alphabet was based on Georgian letters.

The Udi language, spoken by 8000 people in mostly Azerbaijan, and also Georgia , is thought to be the last remnant of the language once spoken in Caucasian Albania.

See also

External links


  • Movses Kalankatuatsi. The History of Aluank ( Translated from Old Armenian (Grabar) by Sh.V.Smbatian, Yerevan, 1984 (In Russian).
  • Koriun, The Life of Mashtots (, translated from Old Armenian (Grabar) by Bedros Norehad (in English)
  • Movses Kalankatuatsi. History of Albania. Translated by L. Davlianidze-Tatishvili, Tbilisi, 1985 (In Georgian)
  • Ilia Abuladze. About the discovery of the alphabet of the Caucasian Albanians. - "Bulletin of the Institute of Language, History and Material Culture (ENIMK)", Vol. 4, Ch. I, Tbilisi, 1938.




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