Bournoutian Discusses Historic Armenian Presence in Karabagh

Lecture Paid Tribute to Late Moorad Mooradian

BELMONT, Mass.—Prof. George Bournoutian delivered a detailed exposé of the efforts to distort or remove the Armenians from the history of Karabagh in the lecture “The Historic Armenian Presence in Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh): Documentation and Falsification,” on Thurs., May 6, at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Center in Belmont. The lecture drew in particular from Bournoutian’s recent translation of Esayi Hasan Jalaleants’ Brief History of the Aghuank Region (Madza Publishers, 2009).

George Bournoutian, right, with Anahith Boyajian, Beatrice Petricone, Lillian Mooradian, and Marc Mamigonian.

The lecture was given in memory of Dr. Moorad Mooradian (1936-2009), a NAASR Board Member from 1991-2004, in recognition of Mooradian’s deep interest in Karabagh’s past and present. Prior to the lecture, NAASR’s director of academic affairs Marc Mamigonian saluted Mooradian for his dedication to Armenian issues through his work as a scholar and as a widely read columnist, noting that Mooradian “left his mark, and his voice is missed.” Bournoutian also hailed Mooradian as a friend and colleague whose column was a must-read for many years. Present for the event were Mooradian’s wife Lillian, their daughter Natalie, and his sisters Anahith Boyajian and Beatrice Petricone.

Bournoutian began by explaining that the effort to minimize, if not entirely eliminate, the Armenian presence from the history of Karabagh began in earnest in the late 1980’s following the demands of Karabagh’s Armenians to secede from Azerbaijan. The academic effort was led by the late Zia Buniatov. However, Buniatov and his colleagues in Azerbaijan were faced with the problem that, as Bournoutian stated, “not only had ancient and medieval, Greek, Roman, Arab, Persian, as well as early modern Russian, German, and English historians, geographers, and travelers placed Karabagh in historic Armenia, but also that the Armenians had formed a large part of the population of Karabagh centuries prior to 1828.”

What was even more surprising, and problematic for them, was that “Muslim historians, living on the territory of what later became the Azerbaijan Republic…had clearly indicated a strong Armenian presence in Karabagh prior to 1828 or had placed the region within the territory of historic Armenia.” Bournoutian has translated two of these historians’ works in the volume Two Chronicles on the History of Karabagh (2004).

Faced with this situation, said Bournoutian, “in order to substantiate their political claim, Buniatov and his fellow academics chose to set aside all scholarly objectivity and print re-edited versions of these primary sources on Karabagh while deleting or altering references to the Armenians.”

Bournoutian then proceeded to give numerous examples from Buniatov’s work and demonstrated how they differ from the original sources. “Such acts were common during the regime of Stalin,” said Bournoutian, “but they are reprehensible in our time.” Bournoutian focused in particular on the distortion of Jalaleants’ Brief History of the Aghuank Region, written in the 1720s. Jalaleants was the Catholicos or Supreme Patriarch of the Holy See of Aghuank (Karabagh-Artsakh and Ganje-Utik) located in the Monastery of Gandzasar, from 1702-28. Bournoutian’s translation, with extensive commentary, of Jalaleants’ Brief History was published in 2009.
In his writings, Buniatov represents Jalaleants not as an Armenian but as a Caucasian Albanian, and similarly “revised” passages of the text to substitute “Albanian” for “Armenian.” Strangely, Buniatov, while asserting that Armenians only arrived in any numbers in Karabagh after 1828, ignores Jalaleants’ description of a 10,000-man Armenian army raised in Karabagh in 1722.

Drawing on material presented in his introduction to the English-language translation of Jalaleants’ Brief History, Bournoutian examined point after point asserted by Buniatov and other Azeri nationalist historians and, drawing on the evidence contained in the unexpurgated chronicles and other archival sources, pointed out their inaccuracies or outright fabrications.

Bournoutian’s translation of A Brief History of the Aghuank Region can be purchased from NAASR by visiting

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