Location of Syunik within Armenia
|• Governor||Vahe Hakobyan|
|• Total||4,506 km2 (1,740 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||3,904 m (12,808 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||380 m (1,250 ft)|
|• Density||31/km2 (81/sq mi)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+05 (UTC)|
|ISO 3166 code||AM-SU|
Syunik (Armenian: Սյունիք, also transliterated as Siunik, or Siwnik, Armenian pronunciation: [sjuˈnikʰ]) is the southernmost province (marz) of Armenia. It borders the Vayots Dzor marz to the north, Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic exclave to the west, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the east, and Iran to the south. Its capital is Kapan. Other important cities and towns include Goris, Sisian, Meghri, Agarak, and Dastakert. The National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia (ARMSTAT) reported its population was 152,900 in 2010, up from 152,684 at the 2001 census.
Historically, Syunik was one of the 15 provinces of the Kingdom of Armenia. At various times, the region of present-day Syunik has also been known by other names such as Syunia, Sisakan, and Zangezur. The area's many Armenian cultural sites (such as the Tatev monastery) testify to its rich history.
Syunik is a green but mountainous area. The high-water major rivers are the Meghri, Voghdji, and Vorotan. Summertime temperatures can reach more than 40 °C, although the average temperature is around 22 °C. Its border with Nakhchivan to the west is defined by the Zangezur Mountains.
Syunik is home to many of Armenia's largest mining operations (at Kajaran, Kapan, Agarak) as well as the largest tailing dams (at Artzvanik, Voghtchi, Darazami, Geghanoush). The prospect of a uranium mine being exploited by the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (Rosatom) in the village of Lernadzor has environmentalists and locals concerned.
The first dynasty to rule Syunik was the Siunia Dynasty, beginning in the 1st century. The first known Naxarar ruler was Valinak Siak (c. 330) and his successor was his brother Andok or Andovk (Antiochus, c. 340). In 379 Babik (Bagben) the son of Andok, was re-established as a Naxarar by the Mamikonian family. Babik had a sister called Pharantzem who had married the Arsacid Prince Gnel, nephew of the Armenian King Arsaces II (Arshak II) and later married Arsaces II as her second husband. Babik’s rule lasted for less than ten years and by about 386 or 387, Dara was deposed by the Sassanid Empire.
Valinak (c. 400–409) was followed by Vasak (409–452). Vasak had two sons: Babik (Bagben), Bakur and a daughter who married Vasak’s successor, Varazvahan (452–472). Varazvahan’s son Gelehon ruled from 470–477, who died in 483. Babik (Bagben) the brother of Varazvahan became the new Naxarar in 477. Hadz the brother of Gelehon died on September 25 482. The Syunik Province was later governed by Vahan (c. 570), Philip (Philipo, c. 580), Stephen (Stephanos, c. 590–597), Sahak (Isaac, c. 597) and Grigor (Gregory, until 640).
Late first millennium
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2013)|
A dynasty was formed, governed by a branch of the Bagratuni, with minor vassal princes from one or more previous dynasties, perhaps of Persian origin. Vasak III (c. 800) suffered an assault from the emir of Manazkert, Sevada. He established a garrison in Chalat, in the district of Dzoluk. He then called for help from the Persian revolutionary chief Babak Khorramdin, who married a daughter of the king.
After Vasak III (821) died, Babak inherited the country, which revolted against him. Babak suppressed the revolt, but was harassed by both Muslims and Armenians. Finally, he abdicated and the children of Vasak, Philipo, and Sahak regained power. Philipo governed Eastern Syunik, with the districts of Vayots Dzor and Balq (Goucha). Sahak governed in Western Syunik, also known as Gelarquniq, with capital in Khoth. These local dynasties disappeared during the ephemeral domination from Babak.
In 826, Sahak allied with his ancient enemy – Sevada, the Qaisite emir of Manazkert – against the governor of Caliph, but he was defeated and died in Kavakert. His son Grigor-Sufan succeeded him as prince of Western Syunik. In the Eastern region, Philipo died on August 10, 848. He was succeeded by three children (Babgen, Vasak-Ichkhanik and Achot) that ruled jointly. Babgen fought with Grigor-Sufan and killed him (sometime in 849–851) but Babgen died shortly after (851) and Vasak-Ichkhanik (Vasak IV) followed him. Vasak-Ichkhanik had peaceful relations with Vasak-Gabor, who had ascended to the throne of Western Syunik, replacing his father Grigor-Sufan. Nerseh Pilippean, brother of Babgen, directed (822–23)  an expedition to Aghuania defeating and killing the prince Varaz-Terdat II (of the Persian dynasty Mihrakane of Aghuania) in Morgog. A general sent by the Caliph, Bugha al-Kabir, destroyed Armenia and Aghuania in these years, and sent a detachment to Eastern Syunik where was governing Vasak IV with his brother Achot. The people of Syunik were sheltered in the fortress of Balq, but Vasak fled to Kotaiq, and was pursued to the region of Gardman on the eastern border of Lake Sevan. Gardman's prince (ichkhan) Ketridj or Ketritchn betrayed him and delivered him to Bogha (859). Achot was also seized (859). But Bogha invaded Gardman and imprisoned Kertridj. He then went to Outi where he captured the prince of Sevordiq, Stephannos Kun.
The Caliphate tried to control all these regions, and for this reason Bogha decided to repopulate the city of Chamkor in the Kura River with Muslims. Chamkor, being near Barda and Ganja, was intended to act as a regional monitoring post. By order of the new Caliph in 862, the imprisoned princes were to be released and allowed to return to their former domains on the condition of becoming Muslim. (However, they all abandoned Islam after their return.)
The prince of Western Syunik, Vasak-Gabor, was married to a daughter of the Bagratid prince Ashot the Great named Miriam, and received the title of Ichkhan from the Syunik people – delivered to him by Ashot in name of the Caliph. His successor was his son, Grigor-Sufan II (887–909). The prince of Eastern Syunik, Vasak IV, died around 887, and was followed by his brother Achot who died c. 906.
The son of Vasak IV, Sembat, that received the fiefdom from Vayots Dzor. Chahaponk (Jahuk) governed from 887 until sometime after 920. He revolted in 903 against the Bagratid Sembat I, refusing to pay him taxes. Because of this, he was assaulted by the prince of Vaspurakan, Sargis-Ashot. Sembat submitted, was forgiven and married to the sister of the prince of Vaspurakan, receiving the city and district of Nakhchivan, which in 902 was upset with the Kaysites or Qaisids.
A few years later, the prince allied with the emir of Sadjid, Yusuf, against Eastern Syunik, which they invaded together. Sembat was sheltered in the fortress of Erendchak (today Alindja, northeast of Nakhchivan) and Yusuf remained owner of Eastern Syunik. Sembat requested refuge from his brother-in-law Khatchik-Gagik, which was granted. In the same year (909), the prince of Western Syunik, Grigor Sufan II, submitted to the emir Yusuf in Dwin. Only Byzantine movements and the withdrawal of the Sadjids permitted him to recover the throne some time later. Sembat, with his three brothers Sahak, Babgen, and Vasak, governed again. Also in Western Syunik, Sahak, Ashot and Vasak, brothers of Grigor-Sufan II, were governing the country. After them the dynasty of Western Syunik became extinct and the territory was subsumed by the Muslims.
The eastern part remained divided: Sembat, which had the main title, governed the western part of the Eastern Syunik with the Vayots Dzor, bordered by Vaspurakan. Sahak governed the eastern part until the river Hakar. Babgen governed the district of the Balq, and Vasak (who died in 922) an indeterminate territory. Nasr, the emir of Azerbaijan, captured territory through perfidy against Babgen and Sahak in Dwin. After the invasion, Sembat unseated Nasr and obtained the freedom of his brothers. Sembat was followed by his son Vasak, and Sahak in turn by his son Sembat. Vasak received the royal title from the Muslims at the end of his reign, which lasted until 963.
The throne was inherited by his nephew Sembat (963–998) who was recognized as king by the emirs of Tauris and of Arran. He was married to the princess of Aghuania, Chahandoukht. At his death, he was followed by Vasak (c. 998–1019). Vasak was succeeded by two nephews (the children of his sister and a Prince Achot) called Sembat and Grigor (1019–1084). During his periods Syunik was vassal of Great Seljuk Empire. Grigor was married with the princess Chahandoukht, daughter of Sevada of Aghuania. The only successor to the two princes, was a daughter of Grigor's called Chahandoukht. Rule passed to the prince of Aghuania, Seneqerim Ioan who governed both territories from 1084 until his death in 1105. Seneqerim Ioan was followed by his son Grigor of Syunik and Aghuania, who governed until 1166, when the country was conquered by the Seljuq Turks. It was ruled by Seljuks of Hamadan, Atabegs of Azerbaijan, Kingdom of Georgia, Khwarezmshahs, Ilkhanate, Chupanids, Jalayirids, Karakoyunlu Turcomans, Timurid Empire and Akkoyunlu Turcomans successively before Safavid rule. It was also ruled by Ottomans between 1578–1606 and again between 1722–1736.
Later, the Orbelian Dynasty, one of whose members wrote an important history of the country, governed Syunik in times of Timur (Tamerlan) as vassals. Between the middle of the 17th century and early in the 19th century, the region was part of the Karabakh khanate of the Safavid Empire. It was during this period in the region's history that David Bek headed an armed struggled against the Safavids and the Ottoman Empire, both of which were fighting for control of the area.
Imperial Russian rule
Following the Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813, Syunik passed into Imperial Russian possession by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 together with the rest of the Karabakh khanate. The khanate was abolished by the Russian government in 1822. The region was first divided under the Erivan Governorate and the Shemakha Governorate, after 1859 the Erivan Governorate and the Baku Governorate. When the Elisabethpol Governorate was established in 1868, the region became the Zangezur uyezd, with its seat of administration in Geryusy.
The beginning of 20th century saw an outbreak in ethnic tensions between the Armenian and Azerbaijani populations in the Caucasus, culminating in the Armenian-Tatar massacres. Clashes occurred in Nakhichevan and Sharur-Daralgez uyezdy of the Erevan gubernia and in Zangezur, Shusha and Javanshir uezdy of Elizavetpol gubernia in 1905. According to Armenian sources 128 Armenian and 158 Azerbaijanian villages were "pillaged or destroyed" while the overall estimates of lives lost vary widely, ranging from 3,000 to 10,000, with Muslims suffering higher losses. During these events, the Armenians of Syunik were massacred "without distinction of sex or age" by Azeri forces.[need quotation to verify]
Tensions were accelerated with the collapse of the Russian Empire. The region fell under the authority of the Special Transcaucasian Committee of the Russian Provisional Government and subsequently the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. When the TDFR was dissolved in May 1918, Zangezur, Nakhchivan, and Nagorno-Karabakh became heavily contested between the newly formed and short-lived states of the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). At the time, Syunik had an Armenian majority of 350,000 and a Muslim population of 180,000. According to Thomas de Waal, the dispute over Syunik resulted in the ethnic cleansing of region's local Azeri minority through direct military action by Armenian guerilla commanders Andranik Ozanian, Rouben Ter Minassian and later Garegin Nzhdeh.
Armenian forces eventually secured the region but their efforts were in vain when the Bolsheviks, successful in the Russian Civil War, pushed deep into the Caucasus. Syunik was one of the last major holdouts of the DRA whose leaders were eventually expelled by incoming Soviet authorities to Iran. During Sovietization, Syunik became part of Soviet Armenia, while the two other disputed territories, Nakhchivan and Nagorno-Karabakh became part of Soviet Azerbaijan. It then became part of Armenia under the Transcaucasian SFSR and part of the Armenian SSR in 1936. Under Soviet rule, Syunik suffered a devastating earthquake in April 1931, leaving 80% of its villages destroyed. A subsequent earthquake hit the region in May during the same year, destroying 27 of 38 villages in the Sisian district.
Despite the region's troubled early years in the Soviet Union, it gradually began to recover with much of the area's infrastructure rebuilt and improved. During the Soviet era, Syunik was noted as a source of metal and ore production. However, the region was shaken by the renewal of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with neighboring Azerbaijan. In 1987–1989, the remaining Azeri inhabitants fled the region as a result of interethnic violence. This exodus of Azeri population made Syunik and Armenia in general more homogeneous.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Syunik has been a constituent part of the Republic of Armenia. The republic's southernmost province, it has become strategically and ecomically important for Armenia, sharing a border with Iran from which vital energy resources are exported. Recently, a new 140-kilometer-long Armenia-Iran pipeline has been opened that is "projected to supply Armenia with up to 1.1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year until 2019, when that supply target is expected to rise to 2.3 bcm annually." The new pipeline has attracted Armenia's northern neighbor, Georgia which seeks to lessen its dependence on energy from Russia. Also, 2 tombs and a cemetery were found between villages of Kornidzor and Khndzoresk in Goris region. These were built by Armenian architects during Kara Koyunlu rule and were found by researchers of the Preservation Committee for Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Armenian Republic in 2000.
Towns or urban communities
|Image||City (town)||Province||Founded||Land area (km2)||Population (2011 est.)|
|Dastakert||Syunik||12th century (first mentioned)||0.5||300|
|Sisian||Syunik||8th century BC (first mentioned)||9||16,800|
Villages or urban communities
- Oksen Mirzoyan, weightlifter, Olympic and World champion
- Aksel Bakunts, novelist
- Sero Khanzadyan, novelist
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- Syunik Marz Tourist Guide
- About Syunik at the site of Ministry of Urban Development
- Syunik at Armeniainfo