The leading theory today is the Shusha hypothesis. Shusha the leading city of Karabagh and I think terming it the Karabagh hypothesis makes it more plausible. in the mid 16th century Shah Tahmasp began to use the Armenians of the Caucasus (still part of Safavid Persia) as royal merchants.
The Czarist Russians began to solidify their hold as early as 1805 - 1820 but they did not truly control the region for many years. With the capture of the great rebel religious leader Shamyl in 1859 and the end of the rebellion in 1864 did Czarist control truly solidify regional control. In 1865 to eliminate risk of future rebellion the Russians forced 1,2 million Caucasians to move to Turkey. http://www.mediaport.org/~caucasus/history/ I strongly suspect that areas such as Nagorno-Karabahk which were historically Muslim were depopulated and then repopulated with Armenians. As Christians the Armenians had an easier time with the Christian Russians.
The historical capitol Shusha was an ancient village in Karabakh that gained in importance when Panah Ali-khan Javanshir built a nearby fortress. From there he established himself as a Khan of an independent Khanate. Shusha was able to beat back the Persians in 1795 (VAR: SHUSHA -- City of Shusha, Karabakh region of Azerbaijan) but not many years later (1805) the Khanate fell to the Czarist Russians. http://scf.usc.edu/~baguirov/azeri.htm
The Shusha Hypothesis
In 1552 when Ivan the Terrible brought the Kazan Khanate under Russian control. Paksoy, Crimean Tatars it opened a northern trade route for Persian Silk. Up to this point the Ottoman Empire could exert some measure of control over Safavid Persia by opening and closing trade routes. in the mid 16th century Shah Tahmasp began to use the Armenians of the Caucasus (still part of Safavid Persia) as royal merchants. This way he could get his silk to Black Sea free ports and sell directly to Venetian Merchants. The increased foreign trade allowed Tahmasp to solidify his borders
The Armenian trade escalated under Shah Abbas. Faced with not only the Ottoman, Mughals, and the Uzbek, Abbas had to fight his own cousins. To wrest power from the tribes who through family ties made the core of his strength he had to build a power base. Abbas recruited Georgian and Kurdish soldiers and then he turned to the Armenians to pay for it. He did not just grant the Armenians trading rights he often financed them and perhaps even acted as a partner.
The Caucasus changed hands as Turkey and Persia jockeyed for control. This created a situation where Armenian merchants had money and a great deal of latitude to invest in their home region.
Ellis, Charles Grant. Early Caucasian Rugs. Washington DC: The Textile Museum, 1975.
Oriental Rugs: Practical Seminar on Caucasian Rugs by James M. Keshishian
A Dragon Pile Rug A Discussion
Thanks and best wishes,
J. Barry O'Connell Jr.
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