Mostly the relationship between Armenia and Russia starts in the second half of the 18th century. Russia played an essential role in the Transcaucasia in general and in the fate of the Armenian people particularly during the last two and half centuries.
Armenia and Russia – first moves of Empire
What is more, the history of all the peoples living in the Transcaucasia was basically formed and even dictated by the imperial profits of Russia. Thus relations between countries would become more and more vital especially for the people of Armenia and Russia, which were tied by the bonds of Christian belief.
In 1720 Armenian army in Syunik and Artsakh regions started to rebel against Turkish invaders having promises of help from Tsar (in Russian “king” or “emperor” means “Tsar”), but unfortunately promised help would never arrive and Armenians would be left alone against big Turkish armies.
In the later period, the Armenian community of Russia would always be in permanent negotiations with Russian rulers with promises of help from the Armenian population in case of war.
In 1890s leader of the Armenian church, Simeon Yerevantsi gave a piece of Noah’s Ark as a present to Empress of Russia Catherine the Second as a sign of the good relationship between Armenia and Russia.
Invasion of Transcaucasia
At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 20th century, Russia concerned all its forces to conquer the Transcaucasia. It conquered the Caucuses and then went around the chain of Caucuses mountains by the Black and Caspian seas penetrating to the Transcaucasia.
Russia conquered the shores of the Black Sea, which was the territory of present Georgia, then the Caspian, that was the territory of present Azerbaijan and at last the middle territory of the Transcaucasia that was the part of historical Armenia.
This was in 1804. Thus the relationship between Armenia and Russia became much deeper. The western part of Armenia, which was conquered by Persia in 387, became part of the Russian Empire as a result of war from 1826 to 1828.
Armenians were happy for being finally free from the yoke Persian yoke and the hope of freedom from Muslims one more time shined for the entire Armenian nation, as part of historical Armenia with the population of 5 million people was still conquered by Turkey.
Armenians in the territory of Russian Empire
Why were Armenian people so much oriented to Russia? Here are the reasons. Having lost its state system Armenian people were groaning under the yoke of Persia and Turkey. More than any other people Armenians were persecuted morally, physically and economically.
They were ordered to change their language, belief and nationality. Besides their native language, Armenians knew quite well the languages of their rulers, the Persians and Turks, but they couldn’t bear the religion believed in.
That is why starting the 7th-century Armenian people would immigrate to Christian countries of Europe and to Russia. History tells us about the great immigration of Armenian people to Sochi city of Russia, which made the bases of the good relationship between Armenia and Russia.
The Armenians and other people of non-Islam religion were considered “gyavur” (that is pagans, heathens).
It is rather difficult to find any other nation in the world, that have had so much loss and was so much
oppressed for its belief as to the Armenians. In such a reality the orientation of Armenia towards Russia was quite natural and understandable.
Czarist Russia, of course, used in its interest the “delicate moments” connected with the Regions of Armenians, Georgians, and other peoples of non-Muslim beliefs in Transcaucasia to achieve its imperialistic goals.
How the Russians treated the Christians after conquering their territories is well-known to those who research the history of the Transcaucasia. There are very interesting facts concerning this problem in the works of Petto, a writer of the history of the Russian Army in the Transcaucasia.
The reality was that the Russian rulers of the Transcaucasia tried to please more Muslims and were more tactful with them and even flattering, then towards Christians, who, to their mind, ought to be obedient.
Later in this and the next article about the relationship between Armenia and Russia the concrete facts of Russian policy conducted towards the Armenians, will be represented.
Nevertheless, the fact is that before the Russian conquest of the Transcaucasia, the Armenian people were divided into two parts; one was ruled by Iran, the other, by Turkey. After this Armenia and the other Armenians found themselves under the power of three countries: Russia, Turkey and Iran. Each of them tried to use that fact for its own profit.
Economy of Armenia during the reign of Tsars
Without going into the depth of historical details, it is worthwhile noting that the part of Armenia, included into Russia, was economically the worst developed region before the October revolution. This has its explanation.
The present territory of Armenia became connected with the more developed regions of Russia by the railway 15-20 years later, than those of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The central location of Tbilisi and its status of Czar’s vicegerent residence, the rich oil-springs on the Caspian shores became the basis of economic quick advancement of the Transcaucasia eastern and western regions economic quick advancements.
Armenia was a source of raw materials, particularly coloured mining and agricultural production of Czarist Russia.
The Russian capitals did not accept any national borders, to say nothing about the fact that there weren’t any national administrative units in Czarist Russia generally. This situation would go on until WW1 when the map of Transcaucasia would be greatly changed.