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Isolated nuclei of independence and the beginnings of the liberation movement
The collapse of the kingdoms of Greater Armenia and Cilicia did not signify the absolute end of autonomy.

Various princely houses, holding fast to their strongholds deep in valley or high on inaccessible mountains, managed to maintain their own independence, some for centuries.

Among them were the princes of Siunik", a historical region in the south of present-day Soviet Armenia and Khatchen (today"s autonomous region of Garabagh between Armenia and Adzerbaijan, administered by the latter).

They maintained their power virtually until Tamburlaine"s invasion.

Later, their descendants partly took the same powers back from the Ottoman Turks of the Black Sheep (Kara-Koyunlu), who had seized eastern Anatolia during the fifteenth century.

Indeed, they were allowed to use the title of melik", in the sense of autonomous prince, even though etymologically speaking the term means "king."

With the passing of time, there were five "melikates" in this mountainous area, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, their descendants became the high aristocracy of eastern Armenia.

Some have survived to this day: among others, we many recall the Hasan-Djalalian and Aghamalian families.

A small Armenian principality that remained autonomous to a certain degree was at Hamshen (Hemsin) on the coasts of the Black Sea, in Lazistan (formerly Pontus), surrounded by Moslem principalities.

In the eighteenth century, the process of forced Islamization began, followed by a loss of independence that lasted until early in the nineteenth century.

In certain villages in the area, people still speak the ancient Armenian dialect of Hamshen, as Dumezil noted during his study trip in Turkey in the sixties.

(See Revue des Etudes Armeniennes, n.s., IV, 1967).

Yet another semi-independent centre was at Sasun (now Sason) in the inaccessible mountains south of the plains of Mush (Mus) in the province of T"aron. The Sasunians paid the local Kurdish bey an annual tribute in exchange for their internal autonomy.

This situation lasted practically until the bloody repressions wrought by the Ottoman government in the last ten years of the nineteenth century.

In Cilicia, the people of Zeyt"un were the standard-bearers of Armenian semi-independence.

In the heart of the Anti-Taurus range, Zeyt"un managed to maintain a form of internal self-government based on the figure of the p"aron, or baron, until 1862.

The barons were the heads of the four leading families. The price paid to the sultan for this independence was 5,000 piastres a years. Again in Cilicia, other principalities enjoying a certain independence were to be found at Hadjen and T"omarza.

The latter was just outside the borders of Cilicia, in historical Armenia Minor, south east of Caesarea (Kayseri).

The princes of Hadjin were able to keep their privileges until the second half of the eighteenth century, while the T"omarza prince maintained theirs, reduced as they were, until the Ottoman Constitution of 1908.

From this somewhat summary picture, it emerges that the thirst for independence had by no means ever fled the conscience of the Armenian people.

And this explains the creation of the liberation movements that gave rise to the "Armenian question."

In a recent article full of original material, Sisakian calls J.

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Writer: Hasmik Muradyan
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 Date Added: Wednesday August 02, 2006 07:54:00 

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