Volga which linked Iran and Russia. The commercial power of the Armenians led to a treaty being signed between the Armenian trading company of New Julfa and Russia in 1667. Among other things this treaty made provision for the establishment of an Armenian church in Moscow. Peter the Great (16821725) showed interest in plans for the re-establishment of Armenian statehood under Russian suzerainty presented to him by the young Armenian noble Israyel Ori, but these had to be shelved in 1706 with the onset of the Swedish War.
Once the war was over Peter could turn to his southern frontiers. In 1716 he approved the creation of an archbishop for the Armenians of Russia with his seat at Astrakhan. The archbishop was to have jurisdiction over the large number of Armenians who had moved to the north Caucasus. Connected with this was the edict promulgated the following January, granting religious freedom to Armenians who emigrated to Russia. Exploiting the turmoil of the Afghan invasion in Iran, Peter launched an offensive down the Caspian coast. The original intention was to coordinate this thrust with a revolt by local Armenians and Georgians, but the tsar pulled back, leaving the area open to Ottoman aggrandisement and occupation until 1735. This in turn led to further Armenian emigration to Russia. No restrictions were now placed on the construction of Armenian churches.
The vast bulk of the Armenian population continued to live in the six eastern vilayets of the Ottoman Empire, which comprised much of their historic homeland.35 There were also substantial Armenian communities in the major cities, the largest being in Istanbul, which by 1700 numbered some 60,000. The prestige of its bishop led to him assuming the patriarchal title in the mid-sixteenth century, but he only asserted his control over the sees of central Anatolia towards the end of the following century after a protracted struggle with the catholicoi of Sis.36 In the same way as the ecumenical patriarchate, the Armenian patriarchate suffered from a rapid succession of candidates seeking to exploit its authority for personal gain, but periodically it was also able to produce the strong, principled figure, such as Yovhannes Kolot (1715-41), who in 1726 was able to have the new catholicos of Ejmiacin elected and
35 For their location, see Hewsen, Armenia: a historical atlas, 188-212.
36 Soon the catholicate of Sis would enter a long tenure of office (1733-1865) by scions of the Ajapahean family known for their anti-Catholic stance.
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